Luke 17:20–21 (NRSV): 20 Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”
It would seem that the Pharisees and Jesus were referring to two different things. The Jewish notion of the kingdom of God looked like a Jewish king restoring the Jewish monarchy and a prominent place among the nations of the ancient Middle East. No more Roman occupation. A decidedly earthly event occurring in the visible, natural realm.
Jesus, however, understood the kingdom of God differently. Jesus ushered in a supernatural kingdom, much of which remains unseen, yet was revealed in Jesus’ ministry and teaching. Even John the Baptist was confused by Jesus as we see below:
Matthew 11:2–5 (NRSV): 2 When John heard in prison what (Jesus) was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.
John the Baptist was waiting for Jesus to assume a throne, which never happened. Yet the kingdom of God worked powerfully through Jesus and later through the church.
Okay so that’s a lot of explanation but I’m getting to my point. Notice that Jesus said the kingdom of God is “among you”. In other words the kingdom wasn’t something they had to wait for but a reality present in the community of disciples.
One of the things I’m missing most right now is my church community. A question I hear regularly is whether a virtual community can constitute a legitimate church. I believe the answer is yes it can. In fact it may be that “virtual” churches become a “thing” as a result of our pandemic experience. We shall see.
That said I believe, that in Jesus’ day and ours, a chief way the kingdom of God comes is through the community of believers. It would seem there is something that gets activated in the kingdom of God when we gather. And I don’t believe a virtual experience will replace it.