Reading: Luke 17.20-25
Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’
Then he said to the disciples, ‘The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or “Look here!” Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. 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. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation.’
We all like to think that we are ‘in the know’. We like to think that we know something of which those around us are ignorant. We like to use this ‘knowledge’ as a way of gaining superiority over those with whom we share our lives. As I speak to people, I often hear people use such language … the language of ‘knowing’ something that others don’t … the language of ‘if you knew what I know then you would be as “powerful” as me’. As we live through the current pandemic we are constantly bombarded with opinions and ‘expertise’ that presents itself as the ultimate in ‘knowledge’. Sadly, all that knowledge is really just personal opinion, usually based on flawed or incomplete data. Today, the Pharisees are seeking knowledge from Jesus. They are seeking knowledge that would enhance their authority and their status … they want to know when the kingdom of God is going to become manifest in this world.
Just imagine what such knowledge could do for those who attained it. Imagine being in a position of really knowing when Jesus would return and God, in all his glory, would be revealed in this world. Yes, you would probably be viewed as some sort of crank if you were tempted to share that knowledge but … just imagine if you really, really knew! That is the position the Pharisees want for themselves. Those who already dominated society with their expert knowledge of Jewish history and law now wanted the last piece of the jigsaw, they wanted Jesus to tell them the very moment. Imagine the power that would give them, because that was how they were thinking!
Of course, the question really reveals the ignorance of those religious experts. To ask Jesus such a question is to ask the silliest question imaginable. In Jesus himself the kingdom of God has come. In Jesus himself the divinity of God has become manifest in this world. Jesus spent much of his earthly ministry teaching about the true nature of the kingdom of God, and yet the Pharisees did not understand. From the moment of his Incarnation in a lowly stable until the moment he hung on the cross and subsequently conquered death through his resurrection, the kingdom of God was revealed in this troubled world. But … the Pharisees could not recognize that there scriptures were being fulfilled in their own times. Their scepticism and their grasp of worldly power distanced them from the divine kingdom they sought to understand.
Jesus knew that they were journeying through life wearing blinkers. Jesus also knew that the day would come when those blinkers would be removed and they would realize what they had missed. Jesus also knew that it would not be until he suffered the ignominious death of crucifixion that people would come to realize the message that he had been sharing with them throughout his earthly life.
Where are we in this encounter between the Pharisees and Jesus? Are we wanting to gain that scrap of knowledge that will give us power of others, or are we certain in the knowledge that the kingdom of God is around us, and that it is our duty to share that knowledge in order that many may come to know and love Jesus as we do?