May 10, 2012

Luke 17.20

Being asked by the Pharisees when the reign of God was coming, he answered them: "The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Lo, here it is!', or 'There!' For behold, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you."

1 Comments:

At 10:22 PM, Blogger forrest said...

A beloved proof-text both for mystics and liberals-- I was somewhat dismayed myself when someone first suggested that Jesus probably didn't mean what the common translation ("within you") suggests.

For one thing, the 1st Century meaning of the question is roughly: "When will our exile be over? When will we Children of Israel come to live in our own country under God's rule and favor?"

Because of the way these Pharisees frame this question-- (It sounds like they've been reading Daniel and similar apocalyptic material, and expect this Kingdom to arrive as scheduled by Divine chronology) Jesus first says, ~'You aren't going to see it coming the way you expect.' So, if not "on the outside", what could be more natural than to expect it "on the inside"?

That response fits nicely into the mystic intuition, that "inside" is the most fruitful place to seek God. As Jesus does confirm, in other sayings.

But it also fits into a liberal materialist agenda: "The Kingdom is only inside you; God is only inside you; don't you go around expecting spiritual manifestations out in our 'real world'!" That is not what he says. He refuses the demand to do miracles like a circus performer, but miracles are very much a part of his world view and experience!

"Among you." Another reading, for people who like to localize God within 'our Community.' Hey, these are the Pharisees he's talking to, not his followers! "Within the community of the Pharisees and their followers?"

"I'm it, and I'm among you"? That's sort of plausible, given the clear 'where there's smoke there's fire' implication, in all the gospels, that Jesus is in fact the Messiah-- the King of that restored Kingdom they're asking about. But it sounds a bit coy to my ears...

so I'm taken with NT Wright's reading ["Philologically, he says, "the meanining is likely to be a third option"]: 'within your grasp.'

"'If you had eyes to see...'" he reads this, "'You could reach out and take hold of the new reality that is already at work.' This reading is backed up by the following verses (22-37). Judgment is coming, and the presence of the kingdom does not mean automatic benefits for those who presume upon them as of right. Rather, it means an opportunity to be seized while there is still time."

 

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