Luke 17:20-37 (CEV)
20 Some Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom would come. He answered, “God’s kingdom isn’t something you can see. 21 There is no use saying, ‘Look! Here it is’ or ‘Look! There it is.’ God’s kingdom is here with you.”
22 Jesus said to his disciples:
The time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not. 23 When people say to you, “Look there,” or “Look here,” don’t go looking for him. 24 The day of the Son of Man will be like lightning flashing across the sky. 25 But first he must suffer terribly and be rejected by the people of today. 26 When the Son of Man comes, things will be just as they were when Noah lived. 27 People were eating, drinking, and getting married right up to the day when Noah went into the big boat. Then the flood came and drowned everyone on earth.
28 When Lot lived, people were also eating and drinking. They were buying, selling, planting, and building. 29 But on the very day Lot left Sodom, fiery flames poured down from the sky and killed everyone. 30 The same will happen on the day when the Son of Man appears.
31 At that time no one on a rooftop should go down into the house to get anything. No one in a field should go back to the house for anything. 32 Remember what happened to Lot’s wife.
33 People who try to save their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives will save them. 34 On that night two people will be sleeping in the same bed, but only one will be taken. The other will be left. 35-36 Two women will be together grinding wheat, but only one will be taken. The other will be left.
37 Then Jesus’ disciples spoke up, “But where will this happen, Lord?”
Jesus said, “Where there is a corpse, there will always be buzzards.”
Here With You … Part 2
So on Tuesday we talked about the background to this passage. And we left off with the question – what do we take from this? (If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly encourage you to go back and read it before you carry on.)
And I promised you three thoughts on what we need to take from this passage – so here you go.
First of all, Wright points out that we don’t need to worry that we’ll miss any future time of ruin or destruction.
If something horrible or horrendous is going to happen, we’re going to know – it won’t be some esoteric spiritual thing that we’re left guessing about.
So the next time someone tells you that you need to be very afraid because the end of the world is coming, or someone hands you a book full of fear about the world after the ‘rapture’ you can let that go.
If it comes, it will come – and you’ll know – but until then you have the choice of living in fear of the future or leaning in to love and joining in with the amazing work of the Kingdom that is here with you right now.
But not only do we not need to worry about something bad happening someday, this invitation to the Kingdom was an opportunity for those in Jesus’ day – and remains an opportunity for us today – to work towards avoiding, delaying or preventing the apocalyptic demise we all fear.
Which leads straight in to the second point, which is that we are each invited to reach out and participate in the Kingdom. That is God’s desire. That is what Jesus came to invite us to do.
We don’t have to go far, and we don’t have to look hard.
We just have to say ‘yes’ to being a part of this Kingdom that’s embracing love instead of clinging to fear. We need to lean into the Kingdom until we’re so full of love that we can’t help but see it slosh over and spill out of us onto those around us.
We might lean in to the Kingdom invitation by leaning in to love and grace in our relationships, interrupting the ripples of sin and brokenness that permeate our lives and the lives of our closest family and friends. Tangible expressions of love to the individuals around us enables them to catch sight of the shalom and wholeness that Jesus came to offer us all – the shalom and wholeness that helps us avoid causing more brokenness around us – and gives them the opportunity in turn to respond to the Kingdom invitation themselves.
We might lean in to the Kingdom invitation by choosing to work towards justice in our communities, in our country, in the broader world – because justice in the form of housing for the poor and marginalized; justice in the form of safe drinking water for all, regardless of the colour of their skin; justice in the form of foreign and domestic aid to places hit by natural disasters; justice in the form of racial equality and fair economic dealings locally and abroad has the best chance of providing a foundation for sustainable peace.
We might lean in to the Kingdom invitation by choosing to work towards environmental improvements – taking steps to curb and even reduce global warming – because the healthier our environment is, the better chance all of us have at avoiding natural disasters and other destructive forces of climate change, not to mention the uprooting of millions of people and the social upheaval that will come along with that massive migration.
We might do any of these things – or something completely different instead – but we are promised over and over by Jesus that the individual efforts of people leaning in to love have the power to transform our communities and our world and to unleash the Kingdom in greater and greater measure.
And finally, although we have no temple, Pharisees or a nation of Israel like that of Jesus’ time, we should not be misled – the allure of religious rules remains.
In a world that feels chaotic and full of unpredictable change, these rules offer the false promise of control and order.
In a world that feels ‘polluted’ and ‘dirty’ in its brokenness, ‘purity’ is still a seductive ideal to prioritize – even if it comes at the expense of some of the most vulnerable in our society.
And in a world that is doing it’s best to suck us into a vortex of fear, it may be easy to wrongly convince ourselves that marking the territory of what defines people as ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ feels a far safer alternative than caring for the LGBTQ+ outcast or the poor or even those experiencing hurricanes or fleeing from war.
But this way of thinking and acting stands in direct opposition to what Jesus came to invite us into.
And so this passage is yet another invitation – as well as a warning – for even the Pharisees who have been directly opposed to Jesus to come and join in with this Kingdom work that is right here with them, and with us still, today.
Have you responded to the invitation yet?
- How have you been responding to Jesus’ Kingdom invitation to love this week?
- How has fear been getting in the way of responding to Jesus’ Kingdom invitation or tripping you up in your ability to follow through?
- How encouraging is it to you that the invitation continues to be offered to the Pharisees, even this far into the book of Luke?
- In my experience, we desperately need community to be able to effectively respond to Jesus’ Kingdom invitation – if you’re struggling with this, who might you get together with this week to talk about how to move closer towards this invitation?