Commentary on Luke 17:20-25
Jesus was asked by some Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come.In their mind, it was a definitive time that would be suddenly realised by the arrival of a triumphant Messiah-King. Jesus says it is not going to be like that at all. The Kingdom cannot be found by looking around for telltale signs so that you can say it is ‘here’ or ‘there’.
No, says Jesus, “the reign of God is already in your midst”. In other words, it is right in front of them. It is first of all in the very person of Jesus, who is the embodiment of the God’s Reign. He is the Messiah-King. He is the living incarnation of God’s loving power revealed in his authoritative teaching, in his many healings of the sick, in his freeing of those from the power of evil spirits and in his compassion for the sinner and the outcast. All are clear evidence of the reign of God “in their midst”.
In every age, there are people who get worked up about the “final coming of Christ”. The recent end of the millennium was such a time. But, instead of focusing on a date in the calendar we should be focusing on the realities of our everyday lives where, to those with eyes to see, the reign of God can easily be discerned working in other people’s lives and in our own. Wherever people are reflecting in their lives the vision of life, the values that Jesus revealed to us, the Kingdom is there. And such people are not confined to the Church. They can be and are found everywhere.
Jesus then turns to his disciples telling them they will long to see the “one day of the Son of Man” but will not see it. In the very early Church many were convinced that Jesus would make his final coming in their own lifetime. It is likely that, from time to time, certain events were interpreted as signs of that final coming. People were saying that “he is to found in this place or that”. But by the time Luke’s gospel was written most of that first generation of Christians had died and there was still no sign of Jesus’ coming. The ‘days’ following his expected coming may have all the more been longed for during times of severe persecution when they looked for relief and help from their pain. An anxiety reflected in the story of the disciples’ trying to wake a sleeping Jesus while their boat is threatened by mountainous seas (Mark 4:35-41).
Jesus says that, when his day does come, it will “be like the lightning that flashes from one end of the sky to the other”. It will be both sudden and everywhere. In the meantime, Jesus “must suffer much and be rejected by the present age”. Words which clearly refer to his own suffering and death but which can also be applied to the whole Risen Christ, including the Church, his risen Body, down to our own age.
So, on the one hand, the reign of God is already here among us and we need look no further than the daily experiences of our own lives to know and experience the power and presence of Jesus. On the other hand, the time of that final coming which will “wipe every tear from our eyes” and be the end of all suffering and rejection is not for us to decide – nor to be anxious about.
Commentary on Luke 17:20-25