Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
Every year I take a group of about eighty schoolboys to the battlefields of the First World War in Belgium. It’s always a great trip; the boys respond very well to the sights that we see, and gain a much better understanding of the horrors of war than simply sitting in a warm classroom in Sussex. During the course of the trip, we visit two locations – the Somme, in France, and Ypres in Belgium. As we drive through northern France to Belgium, the boys always want to know where one country ends and the next begins. Most of the time, they simply cannot tell, because the countryside, landscape and buildings all look pretty similar. They had been expecting to see some great change in their surroundings, but it doesn’t happen. Most of them, unless they’re looking particularly closely, even miss the small road sign that announces we are arriving in Belgium.
The boys’ expectations as we travel from one country to another in some way replicate the expectations of the Pharisees when God’s kingdom arrives. They are expecting fanfares, maybe someone descending from heaven on a cloud, and perhaps even a triumphal king who takes over the world and declares that God’s kingdom has arrived. They are mistaken, however. As suggested in the parable of the mustard seed in our current Mark Marathon article, God’s kingdom arrives slowly and gradually. Unless you were looking very closely, you might miss the discrete signs that, in fact, God’s kingdom has already arrived! Rather than being a large earthly kingdom, however, God’s kingdom is found in all who truly believe. Those little acts of love and generosity that believers show to one another, that willingness to love a neighbour, even if that neighbour is not particularly loveable, that act of friendship to a lonely person – all of these things are actually small signs that the kingdom of God is already here!
That’s quite a difficult idea to grasp – that we are in some way a part of God’s kingdom, right here and right now. It’s difficult to take it in that God’s kingdom is within us. Ponder on that a little today, and think about what the implications of this might be for us all – as individuals and as members of the global community.