Ready or Not (Luke 17.20-37)

I well remember the childhood game of hide and seek. It was really fun when the whole neighborhood would play. We called it “oolyoolyumpfree” or something like that. With a lot of kids playing it was always a challenge to find the best hiding place. After counting to one hundred, a kid would call out “Ready or not, here I come!”  We hoped we would not be the first one discovered. Being “it” was humiliating and could last a long time.

Of course, Luke 17.20-37 is not about a childhood game, but explains the significance of a serious event.  A new reality is coming and this world as we know it shall come to an end. Jewish and Christian people embrace a world view that is very different from the majority of people. Rather than thinking that “what goes around comes around” in a circular or repetitive fashion, Christians believe that all of history is heading toward one great climactic event – the second coming of Jesus or the coming of the Kingdom of God. Though timetables and details may vary among Christians, all expect a climactic appearing of Christ and the culmination of this fallen world. We anticipate a very new heaven and earth.

With that in mind, we can relate to the desire to know when these things will take place. The question of the Pharisees was what many are still asking – “When will the kingdom of God come?” Jesus did not rebuke them on this occasion but rather sought to press the real issue of the coming of God’s kingdom. He redirected their attention and ours by saying that “Ready or not” the Son of Man and the Kingdom of God will come unexpectedly. It is dangerous to be so intent on the question that the reader misses that answer.

First, the coming of the kingdom of God will be different from all other kingdoms that have risen to power. It’s coming will not be readily evident in observable ways, but it will be found in the midst of God’s people (v.21). Many readers may be familiar with the “already and the not yet” aspects of God’s kingdom. By that we refer to the fact that the reign of Christ is already evident in the obedient lives of believers in this world, yet it is not here in any complete sense of the word and won’t be until Christ himself appears.

Secondly, Jesus announces that significant time will transpire before the reigning Son of Man referenced in Daniel 7 comes in his full glory. The cross will come first. Further, the disciples are told that they will long to see his appearing but won’t suggesting that growing longing will be found among his disciples. We need to acknowledge that there may be still a considerable time of longing left for us too. Generations of believers have lived and died looking and longing. We still await his appearing.

Thirdly, Jesus emphasizes that you do not need a secret key or insight into his return. When he comes it will be evident like lightening in the sky. Don’t waste your money on the latest tantalizing book that makes claims about the time of Jesus’ coming. Even if they were to get it right, you don’t need it. When it happens no one will miss it.

But here is what you do need. You need to be conscious that “ready or not” he will come at the appointed time to swiftly manifest his kingly power and authority.  People will be shocked because their daily routine will suddenly be interrupted. All planning and work will be rendered meaningless. One’s eternal destiny will be forever fixed. Only those who are consciously prepared for the Lord’s coming will be able to discern the true significance of that day and respond with faith.

That is the real point of Jesus’ teaching here.  “Remember Lot’s wife” is the warning we need to hear. She fled with regret and looked back to Sodom. It didn’t work out well for her. We must expect that judgment upon this fallen world will accompany the King’s return. In order to be ready, you must be one who has already let go of this “world.” “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”  Ready or not, here I come!

Roger G. Collins, Grace Presbyterian Church, Byram; *English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.  Exported from Logos Bible Software; Originally published in the February 2015  Byram Banner, Byram Mississippi.

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