daily biblical sermons

The kingdom of God is within you for those that have the eyes of faith to see it
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Thursday, 32nd Week of the Year, November 14, 2019
Wisdom 7:22b-8:1, Psalm 118, Luke 17:20-25

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, “See here!” or “See there!” For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you’” (Luke 17:20-21 NKJV).



The Jews in the time of Jesus were longing for the coming of the kingdom of God in power and glory when the Messiah would suddenly appear, defeat all their enemies, and bring in an age of universal peace on the earth and the supremacy of Israel over all other nations with their Messiah as universal King over the world.



So the Pharisees ask Jesus when this kingdom is going to come, and Jesus gives them a surprising but very beautiful answer, telling him that the kingdom will not come as they are expecting it with a sudden blast of glory and triumph that every eye will see. “The kingdom of God does not come with observation,” he tells them (Luke 21:20b). In other words, you won’t notice it when it comes. You won’t see anything with your earthly eyes. You won’t be able to point to some specific place and say, “‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’” (Luke 17:21). The great and beautiful mystery of the kingdom of God on earth is that “the kingdom of God is within you (entos hym?n)” (Luke 17:21 NKJV).



Some versions translate this as, “The kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21 RSV). The real meaning of the Greek is “within you,” but since Jesus is talking to the Pharisees, and it doesn’t seem right that he should be telling the Pharisees, of all people, that the kingdom of God is within them, some versions alter the translation from its actual meaning (see Walter Bauer, William F Arndt, and F Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Second Edition; The University of Chicago Press, 1957, 1979), page 269). So they translate this line as saying that the kingdom “is in your midst,” in other words, that Jesus is in your midst.



Unfortunately, though, this misses the real depth of this saying of Jesus about the kingdom of God on earth, namely that it is something within our hearts, within us, and if you do not have the eyes of faith to see and experience it, you will see nothing except ordinary people doing ordinary things, living an ordinary life. Without faith you will not see the kingdom of God. Only those with the eyes of faith, who have the kingdom of God within them, within their hearts, will perceive its presence.



And what is that presence? It is the new life that faith in Jesus Christ gives to his followers. And what is this new life? St. Paul describes it as justification by faith; that is, that God declares believers in Jesus to be righteous (he justifies them), because by his death on the cross their sins are atoned for through putting their faith in him, for then God credits his death on the cross for human sins to their personal account as paying their debt of death for their sins so that they can now stand just and righteous before God. So they are justified not because of their good works, but because Christ has paid on the cross their debt of suffering and death that they in justice owed God for their sins. Therefore since their sins are fully paid for by Christ’s death on the cross, and since they have accepted this payment by making an act of faith in Christ, God declares them righteous.



This is what it means to live in the kingdom of God on earth, which was established on earth by Jesus Christ and his saving, atoning, vicarious death on the cross for the sins of the world. It is the Church’s mission to bring this kingdom to all people everywhere. The risen Christ gave the Church this mission, when he told them to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19) and to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). The reason for this mission was to enable people everywhere to hear what God has done to save the world by his Son Jesus Christ, so that hearing this proclamation, they might come to faith in him in their hearts.



If they then put their faith in Christ in order to be freed and absolved from their sins and have genuine repentance and sorrow for having offended God and have a genuine intention of amending their life, God will then consider Christ’s death on the cross as having fully paid for their sins, paid their debt of suffering and death that they in all justice owed God in punishment for their sins so that he can now be merciful to them without violating his perfect justice. So he, in his mercy, declares them absolved, acquitted, and righteous in his sight, for their sins have been fully and justly paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross. And since it is God himself who declares them righteous, what he declares happens in reality, and we who put our faith in Christ become righteous indeed, even though previously we were ungodly sinners. We are therefore put into a completely new state before God, a state of righteousness, and this is what it means to be in the kingdom of God on earth.



But who sees this? Nobody sees it with their physical eyes. Only those who have the eyes of faith and have experienced God’s justification perceive the reality of the kingdom. It is a new way of being in this world, a new way of living. It is to be a “new man,” a new creation, a new creature. The risen Lord says, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). And St. Paul says of these people who are now in the kingdom of God on earth through their faith in Jesus Christ, “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).



What has God done for these people who are in his kingdom? He has made Christ to be sin by loading our sins upon him so that we could be made righteous with the righteousness of God himself (2 Corinthians 5:21), because of him suffering our punishment for our sins for us who put our faith in him. Those who live in the kingdom of God on earth are those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ and are now freed from their sins, freed from guilt, pardoned by God himself, and their sins are justly and duly paid for by the Son of God suffering our death sentence that we deserve for our sins in our place, instead of us.



“The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). And why has he done this? It was so that he could be vicariously punished in our place for our sins, for “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).



Jesus then changes the topic somewhat and begins to talk about his own personal second coming in power and glory, which will happen without warning, with no signs ahead of time giving us a chance to prepare for it. “For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of man be in his day” (Luke 17:24). This indeed will be a great event, and it is something that we are all still awaiting with eagerness and hope. No one has any idea when he will come. He will come without warning, suddenly, instantaneously, and those who are ready and prepared will be taken up with him, while those who are living a sinful life will be left behind.



So what message does this have for us? It is that we should always be prepared, always be living in the way that we would want to be living when Christ instantaneously flashes upon us and is there in his glory to take us with him or to leave us behind, depending on the state that we are in when he finds us.



During these final weeks of the liturgical year, we should meditate on the need to be constantly prepared for the coming of the Lord at any moment. Even though Jesus has not returned in glory for two thousand years, that is totally irrelevant to the fact that we need to be always prepared for his coming, for this is the way that he wants his followers to live – in constant expectation and preparation, to be ready at any time for his coming. This is the type of life that a Christian should live.



Is this not what St. Paul so beautifully tells the Thessalonians, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men, as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13)? May the Lord find us at his coming unblamable in holiness before God. May this be the way that we are, “at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13b). Indeed, “may the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).



“This suddenness of Christ’s second coming, is a solemn thought. It ought to make us study a continual preparedness of mind. Our hearts’ desire and endeavor – should be to be always ready to meet our Lord. Our life’s aim – should be to do nothing, and say nothing, which could make us ashamed if Christ were suddenly to appear. ‘Look, I will come as unexpectedly as a thief! Blessed are all who are watching for me’ (Revelation 16:15)” (JC Ryle, 1816-1900).

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