Luke 21:5-19 (GW)
Some of the disciples were talking about the temple complex. They noted that it was built with fine stones and decorated with beautiful gifts. So Jesus said, “About these buildings that you see – the time will come when not one of these stones will be left on top of another. Each one will be torn down.”
The disciples asked Him, “Teacher, when will this happen? What will be the sign when all this will occur?”
Jesus said, “Be careful that you are not deceived. Many will come using My name. They will say, ‘I am He!’ and ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them!
“When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be terrified! These things must happen first, but the end will not come immediately.”
Then Jesus continued, “Nation will fight against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be terrible earthquakes, famines, and dreadful diseases in various places. Terrifying sights and miraculous signs will come from the sky.
“Before all these things happen, people will arrest and persecute you. They will hand you over to their synagogues and put you into their prisons. They will drag you in front of kings and governors because of My name. It will be your opportunity to testify to them. So make up your minds not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. I will give you words and wisdom that none of your enemies will be able to oppose or prove wrong.
“Even parents, brothers, relatives, and friends will betray you and kill some of you. Everyone will hate you because you are committed to Me. But not a hair on your head will be lost. By your endurance you will save your life.
What does the future hold? Is the world going to get worse, get better, or stay the same? Many in the United States fear the future. After events like 9/11 they are scared. Islamic terrorism remains a threat not only in the United States, but to the entire world.
The many foreclosures of homes and collapses in the financial industry have many concerned about our economy. Gasoline prices are rather unsettling. It gets frightening when such instability goes on all around us. The condition of public education and its impact on the future of this country has many concerned.
Jesus’ words found in the Gospel reading for today speak directly to us as we prepare to step into the future. His words are not meant to give us cryptic hints about WHEN He will return as some would like to say. Jesus’ words are meant to teach how God will move in what appears to be a discouraging future before us – how God will touch our world and our lives.
The picture of the future that Jesus describes for His disciples goes against the thought that Christians will be untouched by trouble.
Our idols will tumble. The Temple represented to the people of Jesus’ day the foundation of their society. It was a symbol of God being present with His people and thus was blessing them. Many Israelites placed their faith and trust in the Temple. As long as it remained standing, there was still hope. Jesus foretold a time when the Temple would be totally destroyed.
Times will come when things in which we are tempted to place our faith and trust will collapse. Those things to which we look for safety and security will be swept away.
Turmoil will rise up around the world. There will be wars and rumors of war. There will be revolutions and civil unrest everywhere. All of these things bring pain and suffering with them. The world groans under the burden of evil.
The troubles will get personal. The pain and suffering that we will witness all around us will touch our lives. As Christians, we will be persecuted, placed on trial and imprisoned.
As we face such an intimidating future, we will find ourselves asking, “What are we to do? How do we prepare for such a future?”
Though the forces of evil will be rampant in the world, God’s plan will not be altered and God will not be defeated. God will be able to bring good out of evil. When the Church is persecuted, the Church becomes more active. This does not mean that attendance and membership will increase. It means that all believers will be come more involved than they were before. In countries like Russia, China, and in some African countries missionaries found evidence of this. One of the good things that will come out of evil times ahead is that we will be able, as Christians, to witness of what our faith means in times of trouble so that the world around us can see what a difference it makes compared to anything else.
The people of the world want to hear more about God than that being One to whom we pray and hope our dreams are fulfilled. They need to hear what God does in difficult times also.
We will be able to speak to them about God’s presence and power in our lives.
The witness that we can share with those around us will change lives. Our lives will be changed and so will the lives of those who hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The letter of James tells us to count it as joy when hard times come, because the Holy Spirit molds and shapes us through them. Paul also wrote of this in his letter to the Romans. Hard times produce character, and can produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
What is needed in the midst of hard times is faithful endurance. Jesus said this to His disciples, those who endure will gain their lives.
When asked what he would do if he knew that the world was going to end tomorrow, Martin Luther responded that he would continue to do what he would normally do. We are challenged to live each day as if Jesus was coming tomorrow.
We tenaciously continue to believe in God’s love and grace. We continue to use our gifts and talents in service to others. We do not stop sharing the blessings that God has abundantly poured into our lives.
Jesus is coming again. That we know for sure.
We are called as Christians not to waste our time speculating on the time when Jesus will return. Rather we are called to live the lives that are thankful for our salvation because of Jesus life, death and resurrection.