Return to Sermons | Home

“The Kingdom of God Is Within You”
Luke 17:20-21


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost—November 14, 2010

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our text is from today’s Gospel Reading in the seventeenth chapter of Luke: “Having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, “Here it is,” or “There it is,” for the kingdom of God is within you.’”*

There is a story by Mark Twain called “The Prince and the Pauper.”  Two little boys look exactly alike.  But one is a wealthy prince and the other very poor—a pauper.  One day these two boys meet face to face.  They realize they look exactly alike, so they decide to change clothes and switch places.  The wealthy prince becomes a poor pauper and the pauper becomes a prince.  Suddenly the pauper has everything he wants: plenty of food, fancy clothes, a big palace.  But the prince is now living out on the streets in filthy rags without even enough food to eat.

Which do you feel more like?  The prince who always gets everything he wants, or the pauper?  Because of our sins, all of us deserve to be like the pauper, cast out in the filthy rags of our sins.  For we are poor, miserable sinners, not deserving of any blessings, either in this life or in the world to come.  But, just as the prince and the pauper in the story exchanged their clothes and the pauper became a prince, the Good News is that you have been clothed in the royal robe of Christ’s righteousness. 

Paul says in Galatians: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.”  Revelation says, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  Just as the prince and the pauper exchanged their clothes and the pauper became a prince, in Holy Baptism Christ exchanged the filthy rags of your sinfulness for the royal robe of his own righteousness, and granted you a place in the kingdom of God. 

Paul puts it this way in Colossians: “The Father has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  Peter says: “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept for you in heaven.”

The filthy rags of your sins are gone forever, replaced in God’s sight with the royal robe of Christ’s righteousness.  The King of Kings has made you born again as his own child.  You are like a prince who will inherit the royal riches of the kingdom of God.

But, if we are princes, why don’t we get everything we want?  If we are princes, why don’t all of us have right now great wealth and power and prestige?  If we are princes in the kingdom of God, why do we still have to struggle everyday, with all sorts of problems in our lives?  If we are princes, why do we so often still feel like paupers?

That’s the question the Pharisees were asking Jesus in our text: “We’re supposed to be the chosen people!  Why do the Romans rule our country?  Why do we live in this desert wasteland?  Why are we so poor and all the heathen nations around us so rich?  Why does God let everyone despise us and mistreat us?  When will the kingdom of God come?”

The Pharisees expected the Messiah to set up a powerful earthly kingdom: overthrowing the Romans who were occupying their country, ushering in a wonderful new age, miraculously transforming the desert into a land of plenty, conquering and subduing all the heathen nations, making the earthly kingdom of Israel the most glorious, wealthy and mighty on earth.  “When will all this happen?” they ask Jesus.  “When will the kingdom of God come?”

Jesus’ reply wasn’t what they expected to hear.  It was because of this disappointing reply that they could never accept him as their Messiah: “The kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ for the kingdom of God is within you.”

Jesus Christ did not come to earth to establish a worldly kingdom.  He came to be crowned not with a crown of gold, but with a crown of thorns.  He came to be enthroned upon a cross.  He came not to conquer the kingdoms of this world with military might, but to defeat kingdom of Satan, sin and death, by his own suffering, dying and rising again.  He came not to establish an earthly kingdom of worldly power and prestige, but a spiritual kingdom of mercy and grace.

The only territory Christ the King desires to rule over is right here: your heart.  “For the kingdom of God is within you.”  Christ brings the kingdom of God to you in his Word and Sacraments, through which he proclaims to you the Good News: “You were like a pauper, but I have made you a prince.”  Revelation puts it this way: “He loved us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father.”

Maybe in this world you don’t feel like a prince or look like a prince.  “The kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’”  Being a Christian doesn’t mean instant success, fame or fortune.  Being a Christian doesn’t mean all your problems go away. 

Being a Christian does mean that within you is territory Christ the King claims as his very own.  “For the kingdom of God is within you.”  Your heart belongs to him.  He gives you faith to trust in him and his promises.  As James says: “God has chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he has promised those who love him.”

Being a Christian does mean that God cares about your problems and promises to help and comfort you.  Being a Christian does mean that your heavenly Father hears and answers your prayers.  Being a Christian does mean that in the midst of the worst problems of this life you look forward in hope to the bliss of the life to come.  Being a Christian does mean that no matter what the world may throw at you, you can have peace, “For the kingdom of God is within you.”

In the story of the “The Prince and the Pauper” the two boys end up trading back places, and the prince is once again seen for what he really is.  When Christ returns he will bring his kingdom of glory.  Then the hidden, invisible kingdom that now resides only in our hearts will become glorious and visible in the splendor of heaven.  We may be like paupers in this life, but in the eternal kingdom of heavenly glory you will be seen for what you really are: like a prince in the kingdom of God. 

In this life you may not always feel it, you may not always see it.  “The kingdom of God does not come visibly.”  But you are clothed in the royal robe of Christ’s righteousness, in God’s eyes you are already like a prince in the kingdom of God.  “For the kingdom of God is within you.”

Amen.

*The 1973 first edition of the New International Version translated Luke 17:20, “The Kingdom of God does not come visibly.” The 1978 edition was changed to, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation.”  The meaning in Greek is probably not either/or but both/and, i.e. “Does not come visibly, nor with your careful observation,” and can be translated either way into English.  This sermon follows the 1973 NIV translation.

  Return to Top | Return to Sermons | Home | Email Pastor Vogts