There are two parts to the text. The first is Christ’s response to the Pharisees regarding the kingdom of God. The second part is His words to the disciples about the end of this world.
So first the Pharisees asked when the kingdom of God would come. Now the Pharisees believed that the kingdom would be a political kingdom. In other words, they were looking for a revival of the kingdom of Judah and throwing off the Roman occupation.
But as Christ said to Pilate, His kingdom is not of this world. For people to look for Christ to establish a visible earthly kingdom is wrong. He comes to establish a hidden kingdom that is in the midst of you, or within you, as He says.
Which is it, “in the midst of you” or “within you”? Various English translations go either way. The Greek can mean either.
If it means, “among you” or “in the midst of you” then Christ is saying this: “If you want to see the Kingdom, it is already here. Do not look for an obvious kingdom with armies and crowns and borders. My kingdom comes in hidden ways. It comes through Baptism and the preached Word. Especially, it comes with ME. I am the King, and to be in the kingdom, you need to be with Me.”
This makes a lot of sense. The Pharisees were standing around Christ as they talked to Him. So He said, “The Kingdom is among you,” because HE was among them. He might as well have pointed to Himself and said, “Here it is!”
The tenth leper recognized that the kingdom was already here in the person of Christ. He bowed down before the King because he saw who He was.
But the Pharisees refused to see. Even when Christ gave miraculous signs and preached His gracious Gospel, they would not recognize Him as the Christ, the Anointed King.
Christ also is among us in Word and Sacrament as we gather around Him. May we recognize our King.
The other way of translating this phrase, “within you” or “inside of you” can be misunderstood by people as meaning that the kingdom is all about their feelings. That is the way America tends to go. What I feel must be true. If I feel that I am in the Kingdom of God, it does not matter if I go to Church or live a godly life or repent of my sins.
Even though the phrase can be misunderstood, the kingdom is still, in a sense, “within you”. The faith that receives Christ is inside you. Even though faith is a gift of the Spirit, He places it in your heart and mind. So the difference between a Pharisee and a disciple really is this: The disciple has faith that receives Christ as King.
The second part of the Gospel concerns the suddenness of Christ’s second coming. He calls it “the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”
As in the days of Noah and Lot, so it will be when Christ reveals Himself. There will be eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. Life will go on pretty much as it has for thousands of years. People will think, “Those silly Christians say that Christ will return. But life has always been the same, and it will continue this way forever.” So these unbelievers will go on in their false security.
But He will return suddenly, like lightning. He will light up the whole sky, and there will be a sound like thunder. Every eye will see Him then. Then many people will enter eternal destruction, for which Sodom’s fire and brimstone was only a small picture. The horror of the destruction of the Great Flood was a foretaste of the even greater horror of hell.
All this because they will be caught unprepared on the Day. But all of us are prepared who have repented of our sins and put our trust in Christ, our Savior. We could only do this by the Spirit’s free gift, so we do not take the credit. Because God has prepared us for eternity, we know that we are truly ready. We are prepared by holy Blood and holy washing. We are cleansed and judged innocent by the all-atoning sacrifice of our Lord.
But do not sit back and say, “I am ready. I might as well enjoy myself while I am waiting. I don’t need worship. I don’t need preaching or the Sacrament. I am ready so I don’t need anything!” Such a person is cutting himself off from the King. If you are His, then why would you abandon Him? But many do. Many put other priorities before the King. Will their faith survive their self-inflicted fasting from the Word? A better question is, Why would you take the risk of starving your faith?
Do not do that. Since you love your King, go where He wants to speak to you. Go where He feeds you. He wants to strengthen and preserve you in the one true faith. Make nothing more important than that.
Christ also speaks these words to the disciples: “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” Here He warns His disciples that they should not expect lives of bliss and ease any time soon. Christ was about to go up to Jerusalem to suffer. In time, the disciples, who would have to remain living in this generation, would have to suffer as well.
We should learn that our Christian life is not one of sitting around comfortably, waiting for Christ to come. We also must suffer with hardships and crosses.
The Day of all days may come very soon. But we cannot count on that happening at a certain time. We must live as if our lives may continue for many years to come. Set your mind to endure the burdens Christ places on you.
In this way, we live like Christ. He did not reject the suffering placed before Him. He continued to the destiny of Cross and Resurrection. The rejection He suffered from His own people hurt immensely. The rejection He suffered from His heavenly Father hurt more than we can imagine. In this way He purchased our salvation, and showed our eternal destiny by rising again.
This beloved King may appear again at any time. He did so much for us, we cannot wait to see His face. He redeemed us unworthy sinners from destruction. We should be doomed as much as the people killed by Noah’s flood, who saw the waters coming and could not escape. We should be doomed as much as the people of Sodom looking up as the fire and brimstone rained from heaven, and there was no escape.
But Christ is our escape. Christ has rescued us from death and hell. We will welcome His Second Appearing with joy and gladness, because He has won for us an eternal kingdom without sin or sickness or pain.
Therefore we continue to gather around our King until the Day when He comes to take us all home. In His Name. Amen.
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