A Pharisee poses a question we at Shmoop have been asking quite a bit as we read the story: when is God's kingdom supposed to arrive?
In response, Jesus says that God's kingdom isn't going to come "with things that can be observed" (17:20). There's no TV Guide for this. No one's going to be saying, "Lo, here!" or "Lo, there!" (17:21 KJV).
Why? God's kingdom's within y'all.
Jesus gives his disciples a few more instructions on this topic.
It won't be long until they're feeling nostalgia for the good old days when Jesus was with them. People will say, "See here; or, see there" (17:23 KJV). They're really not supposed to run after such reports or track them down.
Why? The day the Son of Man returns is as unmistakable as a flash of lightning. You're not going to miss it.
But a lot is destined to occur before this. The Son of Man has to undergo suffering and be rejected by this generation.
When the Son of Man does return, it will pretty much be business as usual for everyone. They'll be eating, drinking, and getting hitched.
It will be similar to events in Noah's day, when the flood destroyed everyone except Noah when they least expected it. Jesus sure knows his Genesis 6:5-8:22.
It will also be a lot like events in Lot's day. All the inhabitants of Sodom were eating, drinking, doing business, planting, and building. Then it started to rain fire and sulfur, and everyone perished. That's another Genesis shout-out: 18:16-19:29.
Anyway, that's exactly how it's going to be when the Son of Man comes back. That is, business as usual, yet no one's going to miss it.
Okay. We're scared. But how does this jive with what Jesus said in 17:20?
When it happens, they definitely shouldn't try to hurry up and pack or finish whatever task they're doing. They are advised to keep the example of Lot's wife in mind. She looked back at Sodom and turned into a pillar of salt. Really, she did. Read it for yourself in Genesis 19:17, 26.
It's kind of counterintuitive. By trying to secure life, it's lost. By losing life, it's preserved. We've heard something like this before… oh that's right: 9:24.
It's also unpredictable. If two people are in one bed, "One will be taken" (17:34) (by whom? where?), while the other sleeps right through it.
If two women are busy at the mill together, one will be taken, while the other will be like, "Huh? Where'd she go?"
The disciples ask the million-dollar question: "Where, Lord?" (17:37).
Jesus responds very cryptically: "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather" (17:37). Um, thanks for clarifying.