Sunday, 10 December 2017

Notes on Luke 21.25-33

I am told that it is terrifying to experience a serious earthquake. When the ground is shaking beneath your feet, there  is nothing that you can depend on

This passage speaks of a celestial earthquake: the powers of heaven themselves being shaken

There will be signs in sun, moon, stars, earth, sea
Jesus is using apocalyptic language, particularly Isaiah 13.9f, which speaks of the dreadful day of the Lord when the land will be made a desolation, and sinners will be destroyed: the stars, sun and moon will not shed light (cf Ezekiel 32.7, Joel 2.10). Joel 2.31 and 3.15 speak of the sun turning to darkness and the moon to blood before the day of the Lord (quoted in Acts 2.20). Amos 8.9 speaks of the sun going down at noon.

This is a vision of a dark and terrifying world.
There will be distress, confusion, fear and foreboding.

And then, in the darkness, comes the Son of Man, coming in a cloud - the symbol of the glory of God. Again, it is using apocalyptic language: the language of Daniel 7.13, of the Son of Man. It speaks of a person, who seems to embody and represent God's people; a person who will, like God’s people, have suffered but who is now vindicated and glorified.

And what I think Luke is saying, what Jesus is saying, is that before the end it will get very dark.

Commentators are not sure whether the whole of Luke 21 refers to the fall of Jerusalem (which happened in AD71), or whether it refers to both the fall of Jerusalem and the end of time. My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that it is about both. The fall of Jerusalem is a picture of what the end will be like.

But the important thing here is how we, as believers, are to respond when the sea and waves roar, when there is distress, confusion, fear and foreboding.

That is the time when we are to:

Stand up. 
We’re to get ready. Because Jesus will come.

It may be the end, or it may not be. We won’t know until it happens!
But wars and rumours of wars, famines and plagues, earthquakes and terrifying signs in the skies are reminders to us that we live in a fallen world and one day Jesus is coming. And when it seems really bad, that is not the time to creep away, but to stand up - to get ourselves right with God, to be prepared to identify ourselves with him and his people

Raise our head.
It is easy to get bowed down, to lose vision. But we are called to look ahead, to the Kingdom of God, the rule of God. If we want to have some glimpse of what that might look like, we can read Isaiah 25.6-10 or Isaiah 35 or Revelation 21

We are not to lose our confidence in the word of God.
This heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s word - his promises - will never fail.
He is with us; he will never leave us; and his Kingdom will come.

I don’t understand v32. Who are ‘this generation’? Do ‘all things’ as many commentators take it, refer to the fall of Jerusalem? That is for further reflection. But Jesus is addressing the people he is speaking to, and because are reading and receiving these words, I wonder whether ‘this generation’ also includes us?

This is a passage which warns us that our world will be shaken, that there will be distress, confusion, fear and foreboding, that it will get very very hard. But it is also a passage which urges us that when it gets hard we are not to lose hope. Indeed that is the time when we are to get up, raise our head and seriously hold on to the word of God.

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