25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, there will be dismay among nations in their confusion over the roaring of the sea and surging waves.26 The planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken, causing people to faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world. 27 Then they will see the Human One coming on a cloud with power and great splendor. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads, because your redemption is near.”
29 Jesus told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that God’s kingdom is near. 32 I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until everything has happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.
34 “Take care that your hearts aren’t dulled by drinking parties, drunkenness, and the anxieties of day-to-day life. Don’t let that day fall upon you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. It will come upon everyone who lives on the face of the whole earth. 36 Stay alert at all times, praying that you are strong enough to escape everything that is about to happen and to stand before the Human One.”’
Luke 21:25-36 Common English Bible
Towards the end of Jesus’ public ministry, there are a series of teachings that warn about getting too caught up in the present moment’s troubles. Marriage, money and astrological mayhem are just distractions. Jesus pointed his followers to the Promises of God, lingering, waiting, coming soon.
Earlier in this chapter, he noted with approval the widow who spent with joy and abandonment, rather than parceling out only what was required. Her focus was on what God would do, rather than what had been done. Instead of revering the work that their ancestors had done in building the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus said “As for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.” [Luke 21:6 CEB]
Celebrating the “good old days” of Jewish supremacy – that was not the point. Celebrating God’s mighty works and miracles? Of course. But Jesus sought to show his followers (and his detractors) that these testimonies were meant to push them forward in action and anticipation of God’s “next great act.”
Jesus also went after religious nit-pickers (the conservative leaders of Judaism) who were doing their best to discredit Christ and take away his credibility. After all, if you can’t SEE into the future, you can’t prove that what someone is saying is true. But you can try to suggest ethical impossibilities and stump the teacher.
“Hey Jesus, if a man dies and his wife marries his brother, to whom will she be married to in heaven?”
There is neither marrying nor giving in marriage in heaven.
“Hey Jesus, if we want to follow God more closely, should we pay our taxes to a corrupt government that acts against our religion?”
Who imprints the money you are using and what does it say? Pay God what God is due and the government what the government is due.
“Hey Jesus, prove to us that the world will end.”
If you are here, you won’t believe what you see. And you won’t know when it’s happening, unless you are Mayan…
The circumstances that surround us today and distract, those are like the flood waters that shake the coast and its inhabitants down to their very beings. Ask anyone who experienced first-hand the shocking rise of wind and waves of a hurricane. Or lived through a tornado. Or drove safely through a blizzard. At the time, all you can think about is survival. About safety. About protecting those you love.
Jesus says, “Look up!”
In the midst of your circumstances. In the midst of your pain. In the midst of your fears, tears and anger… God has made a way. And you do not walk in this storm alone. Out of the darkness, there is light and hope and… soon… joy. Great joy.