The passage can of course be read via BibleGateway here.
As I write, the news week has been dominated by Jeremy Clarkson. The presenter of BBC’s Top Gear has been involved in what was described as a ‘fracas’ with a producer. He has been suspended and the remaining programmes cancelled. It is alleged in the press that Clarkson threw a punch at Oisin Tymon when told after a long day of filming, that a hot meal was no longer available. There is a petition of 960,000 to reinstate him and one to dismiss him of 35,000. As yet, the facts of the case have not even been made public. Even the Prime Minister has given his opinion. Jesus is not like Clarkson. The Pharisees have been nagging at Jesus with question after question and he is still composed and completely in control.
It’s vital to understand that Jesus was talking about two things here when he answered the question about the kingdom of God. First, Jesus spoke about those who submit to God’s rule now, they still live in the world and seek to be good citizens but their allegiance is to God. Many commentators are not keen on the older NIV translation for v20-21. You can see from the margin note that the word ‘within’ in v21 can also be translated ‘among’ (the latest 2011 version of the NIV has ‘in your midst). Jesus is saying that the kingdom of God is already here!
Jesus then goes on to tell his disciples of God’s plan for the future. For Jesus the future was not uncertain, there was a plan, history was going somewhere, we learn seven things. 1. He spoke of a time when his followers would long to see him again – we are living in that time now (v22). 2. He knew that people would be claiming to know the time of his return (v23), he made it clear we should not believe them. Some groups have a habit of failed predictions (the Jehovah’s Witnesses have seven dates where great changes were predicted but passed off without incident). 3. His return would leave no room for doubt (v24), we will not be left wondering. 4. He was also fully aware that he was heading towards the cross (v25), this is yet another indication of his destiny. 5. It will be a sudden and unexpected return (v26-30). Life just seems to rumble on; babies are born, people die, empires come and go but we should not be fooled into thinking it will always be the case. God has set a day (Acts 17:31). 6. The things of this world will be swept away (v31-33). Jesus has been teaching of the importance of spiritual things and that earthly things are really worthless. 7. There will be a separation between those who follow Jesus and everyone else (v34-35).
The Pharisees had begun by asking when (v20), now the disciples ask Jesus where this will all take place (v37). Jesus doesn’t give a clear answer, although there is an argument to say the answer as to where, can be found elsewhere. I think the thrust of Jesus’ teaching on this subject both here and in other places, is that we should be ready.
“Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.” (Many Things About Tomorrow – Ira P. Stanphill)