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The Surprising Kingdom

Luke  Slide

In a conversation with the Pharisees, Jesus made a surprising statement when he said, “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21). Jesus made a bold claim that the kingdom of God had broken into the world in his person and ministry. Sadly, these religious leaders failed to see and behold it as the King and kingdom did not arrive as they expected.

The Gospel of Luke provides a thoroughly researched record of the arrival of God’s promised Messiah, his chosen and anointed King. Jesus came into the world, bringing with him the presence of the kingdom of God. But the manner of his arrival, the deeds he performed, the company he kept, and the words he spoke surprised many.

The king of Kings was not born in a palace but in a manger. He was not received with royal fanfare but by a group of shepherds. When it came time to gather a group of disciples, his choices included fishermen and a tax collector. At one point, Jesus entered the house of a Pharisee named Simon, but it was not the religious teacher who received him well, but a notoriously sinful woman. Time and again in Luke’s gospel, we see God’s surprising love for the poor, tax collectors, outcasts, sinners, women, Samaritans, and Gentiles.

The parable of the prodigal son, which is unique to Luke, contains a couple of surprising plot twists. The younger of two brothers rebelled against his father, taking his inheritance prematurely and squandering it on sinful living. He found himself living in abject poverty. When the younger son came to his senses after rejecting his father in a profoundly disrespectful and irresponsible manner, he humbled himself and returned to his father, which was not very surprising. However, the father responded by running to and embracing his wayward son, which was very surprising. In the end, the older brother fails to understand his father’s love, while the younger son is the one who truly loves the father.

While Luke’s gospel is full of surprises, the greatest surprise was how the king would save his people. As Jesus set out toward Jerusalem, he prepared his disciples for what was coming, telling them he would be mocked, shamefully treated, spit upon, flogged, and killed. The idea the Messiah would suffer and die in this way was so incredulous to the disciples that they could not grasp what he was saying.

Yet, just as he predicted, Jesus suffered and died, absorbing the wrath of God for the sins of his people, and was buried and laid in a tomb. But that was not the end of the story. Can you imagine the surprise of the grieving women as they returned to the tomb with spices for the body only to find it empty? How about when the angel appeared to them and said, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Jesus rose from the grave! The King was vindicated!

The Gospel of Luke is full of wonderful surprises that help us see that the King is greater than we could have imagined and that his Kingdom is more glorious than we could have ever hoped. In this gospel, we will also see what it means to live as Jesus' disciples and citizens of his kingdom. We pray that our time in this wonderful gospel will grow our love for Jesus and desire to see the consummation of his glorious kingdom.