Luke 17:20-30: Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here is it,' or ‘There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." Then He said to His disciples, "the time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, ‘There He is!' or ‘Here He is!' Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in His day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed."
For me, Halloween just isn't complete without being able to watch the Peanut's special, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. I'm sure you've all seen it, probably many times. The basic theme of the show is that, instead of trick or treating, Lucy's little brother Linus goes to a pumpkin patch each year waiting for The Great Pumpkin to rise up and go through with lots of toys for the children. Of course, while Linus is at the Pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin, he misses out on both the door to door collection of candy as well as the Halloween party. The climax of the show has Linus and Sally in the pumpkin patch, when Linus sees a figure rising on the horizon. He is so excited, he yells, "there he is, there he is!" and then proceeds to pass out, and does not see that the figure is only Charlie Brown's beloved dog, Snoopy.
Jesus warned of false expectations concerning the coming of the Kingdom of God in our text. The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,' or ‘There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you. Linus missed Halloween because instead of going to where Halloween goodies could be found, door to door in a costume saying "Trick or Treat", he waited in a pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin. Jesus' point in this text is, if you look for the coming of the Kingdom of God expecting it to be on your terms, you're likely to miss the reality that it's already here.
We pray about the coming of God's kingdom in the second petition of the Lord's Prayer. Thy Kingdom Come. In the text, Jesus says, The Kingdom of God is among you. What does He mean by that? Jesus was trying to teach those who were looking for God's kingdom that it is not simply something coming someday -- such as the end of the world. Nor can we pinpoint its coming by numbers and calculations and dates and other signs. Certainly, one way we look for God's kingdom to come is to look for Judgment day. But if we concentrate only on that, as the people in the text were doing, we miss something very important: God's kingdom is already here! It had come in the person of Christ. The presence of Jesus, with His teaching and His miracles among them was a clear indication that the kingdom of God was already present among them.
So if a major part of the kingdom of God is the presence of Christ with His disciples, then what exactly are we praying for when we say, Thy Kingdom Come?
Luther tells us that the kingdom of God is all that is opposed to the kingdom of Satan. The kingdom of Satan is all sin and evil. The kingdom of God is the spread of God's Word, triumph over sin and Satan. So not only was the kingdom of God right there among those people listening to Jesus in our text, showing itself by the various miracles Jesus did while He lived among His people in His earthly ministry, but it was about to become even more evident. Jesus said of Himself and His work, But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Lately, we've heard lots of things about "holy war", or jihad, as it is called in the Muslim world. Basically, Holy War or Jihad means the triumph of the forces of God over the forces of evil. Over the years, the temptation is to fight such a war here on earth, and to use force to try to spread the influence of God's will or God's kingdom. And so we see things like the terrorism going on in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Roman Catholics. We see things like violence against homosexuals. We see things like abortion clinics being bombed and people who work for them being injured or killed. Those zealous to wipe out abortion are basically taking the law into their own hands, claiming that the violence they do is justified by the great evil that is abortion. Or, the white powder that showed up at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Champaign... probably to scare those involved in abortion. Well, I want to see abortion curtailed as much as possible, but God certainly does not approve of methods of violence that are against the law in order to bring that about. The Holy War that Christians are called to engage in is a holy war against Satan. Jesus fought and won that war with His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. But Satan continues to fight the on, trying to take as many casualties as possible. St. Paul says, in Ephesians 6, 10 ... be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. The tools in this war are God's power in His Word and Sacraments. When God's Word is preached, God's power is waging holy war against Satan. When God's Word converts someone to become a believer in Jesus as the only way to heaven, God's power is waging holy war against Satan. Even though this war has been won by Jesus , Satan still fights on. We are foot soldiers in that jihad, that holy war. But it is not with bullets, or bombs or force or threats or persecution or anything physical. And it's not being fought in Afghanistan or any other single place. This is a cosmic battle between good and evil, between God and Satan. Satan's victories are people who do not believe and are headed for hell. We fight for God as we spread God's Word, as we witness for Him, as we live our lives as examples of God's love.
So we pray Thy kingdom come to pray that God's kingdom, the influence of the church and promise of salvation, would live and reign in the hearts of His people. That kingdom first became very evident in this world as Jesus was born and lived His life and conducted His ministry here on earth. Luther says it this way in his Large Catechism: God's Kingdom is none other than God sending His Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil and to bring us to Himself and rule as a king of righteousness, life and salvation. Salvation. Forgiveness. Thy Kingdom Come. You realize that you, as an individual Christian, that we as the church have the opportunity... no, we have the obligation to facilitate God's Holy War here on earth by being instruments of God's power and love and peace. We do that by sharing our faith, by showing God's love to others, by being a loving community one to another not only in the way we treat each other, but also in how we reach out to others. Yet we also see how far short we fall of that ideal. We look at our lives and realize just how often Satan wins victories in this jihad, this holy war between God and the devil, as the devil is able to swing us over to his side, so that our lives are not always Christian, and our example not always godly. That's where we can be thankful that the kingdom of God first came as Jesus lived among His people. Jesus Christ brings the kingdom of God into our lives for the express purpose of bringing the free forgiveness He won on the cross, the salvation He personally paid for IN BLOOD! His Holy Precious blood was poured out on Calvary's cross so that you and I would have eternal life. Thy Kingdom Come. It is His Kingdom, but Jesus gave up that kingdom for a time so that He could deliver it to us. He works not just to convict, to make you sad over your sins, but then to bring you into a more intimate relationship with Him, forgiven and restored to His love.
Frederick the Great of Prussia was in the habit of visiting the schools of his country to satisfy himself that they were doing the right kind of work. On one occasion he singled out a little girl, held up a stone in front to of her, and asked, "To which kingdom does this stone belong?" "To the mineral kingdom," came the quick reply. "And to which kingdom does this apple belong?" "To the plant kingdom." Next the king pointed to the picture of a horse and asked her to classify the horse. "It belongs to the animal kingdom," said the girl. Then, after a pause, the king demanded, "And to which kingdom do I belong?" Now the girl hesitated. Finally, she answered, "you belong to the kingdom of God." The king was deeply moved by this unexpected reply and said to the girl, "Pray God that I may be found worthy of such an honor."
Thy Kingdom Come. In these words that we pray so often, we pray for the coming of Judgment day, when all the forces of evil will be forever banished in hell. Praying "Thy Kingdom Come" also prays for the success and spread of God's kingdom today – His forgiveness and salvation. God's grace abounds to us to enable us to spread God's kingdom into the lives of many more people. Amen.
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