Why did Jesus say the Kingdom of God was in their midst?
The purpose of this Q&A is answer the question, “Why did Jesus say the kingdom of God was in their midst? Luke 17:20-21 is the only passage in the gospels that records Jesus’ statement.
Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (NASB) Luke 17:20-21
Kingdom Among You
This is a curious statement from Jesus. It must have surprised the religious leaders. But His statement should have been expected since He had already told the Pharisees that the kingdom had come upon them in Luke 11:20. The Pharisees had accused Jesus of casting out demons by demonic power, when Jesus responded with this,
But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Luke 11:20 (NASB)
Jesus’ point was that they were experiencing some of the blessing of the future kingdom because Christ, the king of the kingdom, was in their midst. While the kingdom was not present in its fullest sense, they were seeing the future king and experiencing some of the blessings of the future millennial kingdom. If the kingdom can be compared to the bud of a flower, then they had been given the opportunity to see the bud starting to open. They only saw a hint of the glory that would come when the kingdom was actually established. They were seeing a few of the blessings that would come when the kingdom finally arrived.
Kingdom Is In Your Midst
Then later in Luke 17:20, the Pharisees ask Jesus when the kingdom of God is coming. The kingdom the Pharisees were looking for was one that would occur after the Messiah defeated the Roman government and established Israel as the world’s premier or only empire. That was the their view and expectation. They were looking for a conquering Messiah or king. But Jesus’ answer surprised them. The Greek word that is translated as “midst” has the meaning of “among” or “in the midst of.” This meaning is consistent with the latest discovery from the papyri. So what was the meaning of Jesus’ reply? He told them that the kingdom was already among them, but not within them. Since they were rejecting Jesus, it is clear that they were not citizens of the kingdom; and since scripture never speaks of the kingdom being inside someone, the kingdom was not in them either. But the kingdom was among them in the sense that Jesus, the King of the kingdom was living among them on the earth!
Hints of the kingdom were present everywhere and the King of the kingdom was present. The signs that they were looking for would never arrive. The kingdom was available to them by faith. It was within their reach or within their grasp. They just needed to believe in Jesus – their Messiah and King!
1. Howard Marshall. Commentary on Luke. New International Greek Testament Commentary. The Paternoster Press, Eerdmans Publishing. 1992. p. 655.
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