|Luke 17:11-37||Read Online|
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God will come, He answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with something observable; no one will say, ‘Look here!’ or ‘There!’ For you see, the kingdom of God is among you.”
Things don’t always go as expected. That’s one of the consistent realities of life. It’s why we have a “Plan B” and sometimes a “Plan C.”
Between my sophomore and junior years of high school, my father’s job required us to move from Arkansas to Virginia. Needless to say, such a move didn’t fit into my expectations. I was comfortable where I was amongst the familiarity of friends, family, church, and so on that I’d known all my life. In my mind, whatever might be in Virginia wasn’t as good as what I had in my hometown.
There was nothing I could do, of course, and we moved. It took a few months, but fortunately, I let go of my expectations. When I did, my eyes and heart became open to the opportunities Virginia offered that would’ve never been available had I stayed in Arkansas. I might have missed out on some of the greatest friends, experiences, and memories of my life—not to mention taking the path that has led me where I am today.
Expectations can be good. They help us plan and provide a certain level of motivation. However, they can be bad as well. If we hold on to them too tightly, they can cloud our judgment and hinder us from seeing what’s true and real. In today’s passage, the Pharisees are in just such a position, holding on to expectations and missing what was right in front of them.
Israel was in a pretty rough spot in the first century. It had been around 400 years since God had spoken. Since the return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, Israel had failed to regain its former grandeur. The city, walls, and temple they’d built were only echoes of what they’d been. After being ruled by the Greeks and later the Romans, Israel longed for the promised restoration of the kingdom and its fortunes.
The glory days of Israel were when David sat on the throne. He was a king who had defeated giants and brought about a time of prosperity that truly realized the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey. It was when silver was of little value and gold was beaten into shields to decorate the House of the Lord, which weren’t lost on the popular imagination of the Jews.
The Messiah, it was expected, would reclaim the thrown of his father David and free Israel from the gentile rulers. He’d restore the kingdom of Israel to the status that had once been enjoyed and beyond.
Jesus talked more about the kingdom of God than He did any other topic. In fact, it was arguably the central theme of His ministry. What’s more, he taught with authority (Matthew 7:29, Mark 1:22) and performed miracles the likes of which haven’t been seen in Israel (Matthew 9:33). Could He be the one to restore the kingdom that Israel longed for? Something wasn’t adding up, and the Pharisees had to ask.
Jesus wasn’t there to restore the Kingdom of Israel. That had worked out so well the first time around, right? God’s plan through Jesus was to establish His kingdom, a kingdom that isn’t observable. It wasn’t about a shift in the socio-political tide or the material fortunes of a people.
God’s kingdom and plan went much deeper than that to the heart, to liberate Israel and the whole world from the tyranny of Satan and the slavery of sin. The kingdom of God looked nothing like what the Pharisees were expecting. Many of them, and many Jews, missed it because they trusted their understanding and expectation rather than God and the One He sent.
God “works in mysterious ways.” And He often does things we don’t expect or does them in ways we don’t expect. However, we can always trust God to remain consistent with His character, though the details of how He’ll accomplish His will can’t be pinned down.
In Isaiah 43:19, God says, “Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”
Let us not hold too tightly to our expectations. We might miss something incredible that God’s doing and the chance to come along side and join in with His kingdom’s work.
- Can you recall a time when God did something in your life that wasn’t what you expected or didn’t go how you expected?
- Has Jesus shown up in your life in unexpected ways or places?
- Is it possible that you’re missing out on something God is doing right now because it doesn’t look like what you would expect?