The story of the genius and the simpleton may not be exactly like the Kingdom of God question, but there are similarities. The Kingdom of God is a mystery to those who don’t understand/those that don’t see it; for those who get it they may not fully see. The answer to the simpleton’s question is that there is no answer, which is an answer.
As I tackle this scripture, my great desire is to try and understand the practical application of this passage ~ what difference does it make in daily life. Jesus is inviting His disciples to live with a Kingdom mentality. Kingdom of God means God is King, ruler, the one in charge.
- “Kingdom” in Luke first appears in Luke 1:33. Mary is told she will give birth to Jesus. Mary is confused; the angel says, READ Luke 1:32-33. The reign of the Son of Mary will be forever. Mary did not fully comprehended all that means at that time, or maybe she is something like the genius that has the answer to the simpleton’s question but doesn’t know it.
- The Kingdom of God is referenced in Luke 4:43. Jesus is a grown man, going from town to town. Some of the folks tried to get Him to stay with them. He explains, READ. The news of the Kingdom of God is for all who hear. Jesus did not come only to be a personal blessing to improve life. To accept Jesus is to live in His Kingdom, His rule, His authority. Kingdom thinking is to live life under His reign.
- The Kingdom is for the poor. READ Luke 6:20. I take poor to mean something like broken, only those that have hit the bottom and have nowhere else to turn will at last understand the Kingdom. As long as you live in the illusion that you can control your own life you will not full embrace Kingdom Living.
- We learn in Luke 7:28 Kingdom living is humble living. In Luke 8:10 Jesus seems to be saying some will understand the secrets of the Kingdom; others won’t. “Do you get the Kingdom?” is a major question of Luke. Are you ready to abandon living for yourself, in your strength, thinking you are a genius that can figure out the answer to every question? READ.
- The Kingdom of God is tantalizingly close to many. READ Luke 9:27.
- Kingdom Living is a priority for those that see it, Kingdom living is to be a single-minded focus on God. READ Luke 9:60, 62.
- “The Kingdom of God is near” Jesus says in Luke 10:9. The famous Lord’s prayer in Luke 11:2 emphasizes the desire for the Kingdom, “Holy be your name, your Kingdom Come.” Reign. Rule. Satan cannot shake the Kingdom (Luke 10:17-20).
- Jesus asks what the Kingdom is like in Luke 13:18-21. He compares it to a mustard seed that grows; yeast that gets in the dough. Only those who embrace the Kingdom get what it means because the Kingdom of God is to be lived.
- Kingdom living is like eating at a great banquet in Luke 14:15-24. The guests of the feast are those that are struggling, “go into the streets and the alleys and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (Luke 14:21). The way up is to go down, to come to the end of your rope, to run out of wisdom, that’s how you get it…
Turn to Luke 17:20-21. The great invitation of Jesus is Kingdom Living. His rule. His authority. His guidance. His values. Submit to King Jesus. He is the good King. The one who loves you. I know the end of the story: Jesus is a king that dies for you?
In today’s bible verses, we can learn to not be too judgmental of the Pharisees. When you study the Bible a lot you tend to think the Pharisees, (religious leaders, pastors) are easily threatened as they constantly try to trip Jesus up/trap. Look no further than Luke 16:14-15 READ. That happens a lot. But not here.
The Pharisees want to know about the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus takes it as a sincere question (Luke 17:20). Here is my takeaway: we live in a difficult world; people are searching; tons of answers about how to find peace, many solutions to unlock the tension. In our world too many people are giving up: depression is rampant, anger, terrorism, violence, fighting, shouting, withdrawing, confusion… The Pharisees of Jesus day want to know answers too. Israel is occupied by the Romans in those days. Israel is not masters of their fate. They are allowed to continue worship of God, but only under the watchful eye of the Romans, paying taxes, accepting puppet rulers of Israel set up by the Romans. Even today, if you visit the temple sight, on the corner of the temple mount, sits a police station… Back in 1987 when I visited Israel and stood on the temple mount I can still hear what sounded like a man being beaten coming from the police station… I don’t have any idea what that was about but for me it made an impression/symbolic of the tension that has always existed.
When the Pharisees ask about the coming Kingdom, many were power hungry, threatened by Jesus, but deep down surely this question in Luke 17:20 represents a desire for the wrongs of society to be set right. Surely the question about the Kingdom represented a sincere desire for God to visit His people one more time in power, in authority, to rule again the nation. Many people today, in one form or another, are asking questions, “When will all this end?” “When will I have peace?” When will the nation get on the same page?” When will nations live in peace with one another? That’s all the Pharisees really want to know: When can we get back to living for God. Kingdom living. It’s a good question.
My takeaway from the Pharisees for today? Listen for the sincere questions people are asking. In all the noise, the frustration, the posturing, sincere questions are out there. Listen. That’s why I do my best to not give up on people. Even the frustrating people that seem to be going nowhere. I listen for the questions. That’s where most evangelism starts you know. The message of salvation cannot be imposed on those not ready to hear the good news of salvation. Only those that are ready to here will here. Listen for the questions. It is amazing how often Jesus words/teaching is in response to questions. People may not ask today directly about the Kingdom, but there are those who are asking, “Where is God?” How do I make sense of the world? Listen for the right questions. The Pharisees wanted to know.
Jesus answer is insightful. READ Luke 17:20b-21. The answer is different from what they were looking for…The answer to the simpleton’s question was different from what the genius expected. The Pharisees were likely expecting an overthrowing of the Romans as the answer. When will Israel become independent again?
Jesus is saying the Kingdom goes beyond the bounds of this world; the measure you use to judge the presence of Christ is different from what you expect… Kingdom living is unlike anything you have ever experienced… the Kingdom of God is like a parallel Kingdom that exists beyond the rules and patterns of this world, yet it is here. Do you get it? The genius could not come up with an answer to the question, the answer turned out to be beyond his logic, beyond what he expected, the answer was there was no worldy answer.
If you are looking for signs of the Kingdom of God in this world, you will not see it. Or maybe you will. If war proves to you that God doesn’t exist then you can’t see God. If personal prosperity and peace is your definition of a loving God then you’ll have a hard time seeing the Kingdom of God as a present reality. I don’t fully understand the Kingdom. The Kingdom is beyond this world, but the Kingdom is here!
I glimpse the Kingdom. As I learn to trust God perhaps I’ll be aware of more. I see the Kingdom of God in small daily graces ~ last month during Pastor appreciation month, I say this in amazement, the kindness of half a dozen notes that I hope are even half true. The daily grace of seeing a dying person smile one more time. The right word, the right person, at the right time. I have a glimpse of the Kingdom as I look back at the arc of history, my personal story, our community, this church, and although I did not see God knitting our world together at the time, when I look back I see God directed me/us/ our world to this place now, using this person, that situation, bringing good out of bad. Even me being the pastor of this church I only became pastor when I gave up on the idea.
I can’t always see God in the moment, can’t always observe it as Jesus says. I often wonder what God is up to, but I try to live a Kingdom Living mentality, believing he is in charge and directing our path even if I don’t get it.
I don’t believe the Kingdom of God is a spiritual reality separate from this world because Kingdom living informs our attitudes and conduct in the world. I think a better way of explaining the Kingdom of God is that it is a spiritual reality that is greater than this world; this world is enveloped by the Kingdom, exists within the Kingdom. I like the illustration of passengers on a cruise line. The ship is headed for a destination. On and on it goes through the day, the night… the passengers can live any sort of life they want while a passenger on the ship, even while asleep the ship is still focused on the ultimate destination. In this world we may not see the larger Kingdom, but God is here, directing the ship, guiding day and night. Some get it. Many are searching for answers. Listen for the questions.
Kingdom living is to live with confidence. One person was excited this past week to share with me a saying she found at the Drugstore and put on her door:
Phil. 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
That’s Kingdom living because that is looking to Christ to guide today. If anyone doubts you won’t be able to prove it, you can’t say “here it is” or “there it is” but you believe it, live it, God is here, God is present, His Kingdom has come!
“The kingdom of God is in your midst,” Jesus thunders. These are monumental words! I obviously don’t know Jesus’ tone when he spoke the words, but I imagine a thundering voice: THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS HERE (note: Some translations say “within”. There is a debate about which is correct. I am not a great theologian so I am not equipped to go into great detail, but to me it makes more sense to say it is here, The Kingdom is Now). The Kingdom is beyond this world yet it envelopes all that is in the world. God is here. The Kingdom is here. Do you get it? It’s a different sort of answer ~~ you discover the answer when you live it!