Summary: Jesus warns us not to be star gazers looking for the future but rather get on with the Great Commission

TSL Benefice service 29-10-2017

Story: JWs in TSL

Just last week, I was walking the road outside the church and I saw a car parked outside the church and so I went to say hello to the three men around it.

I had thought they were going to do some work in the churchyard, but it turns out that they were three JWs taking a coffee break for their work of evangelism. They told me that Tilney St Lawrence is not interested in religion as they had had little if no success door knocking.

And I thought to myself – neither am I! For Christianity is more than a religion it is a relationship with Jesus himself.

They claimed to be Christians, they are not as they see Jesus merely as a good man but not as God.

Clearly despite their claims they are not Christians as they do not acknowledge the divinity of Christ.

And as I wanted to go on, I offered to pray with them which knew they would decline – and went on my way.

Although the Lectionary reading for today was short, verses 30-35 one has to look at the context of the passage to understand what Jesus is saying.

And that means looking before and after a text, something the JWs don’t do. To get the true meaning.

You can make the Bible say anything out of context.

For example Psalm 14 says “ There is no God” but in context it says “The fool in his heart has said “There is no God”

The key to understand what Jesus is talking about must stem from the question his disciples asked him at the beginning of Matthew 24

It was a two fold question:

1. They asked him when the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed.

2. The second part of the question was “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

So let’ have a quick look at the first question when will the Temple in Jerusalem be destroyed.

I don’t want to dwell on that question because it is now history. The Temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70.

The question was triggered by Jesus’s words at the beginning of Chapter 24:

1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings.

2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.”

The verses up to our Gospel reading this morning relate to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD – something that happened well after Jesus’ crucifixion in AD 29.

This was a real event for Matthew’s first as his Gospel was written before AD 70

And some Christians did indeed heed Jesus’ words and leave Jerusalem in time to avoid the siege of Jerusalem.

Reflecting on Jesus’ words As RT France said in his Commentary of Matthew (p.341)

“A refugees’ lot would be hard enough without extra impediments. In winter roads in Palestine were practicably impassable and on the Sabbath gates would be shut and provisions unobtainable.”

And if you didn’t believe in future predictive prophecy here is an example of it.

2. The second part of the question was “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

This has far more relevance to us today as so many people want to know the future.

Interestingly, the first thing Jesus says is this:

“Watch out that no one deceives you.

5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.

Story: When Maddy and I were lay chaplains in Wolds’s prison, we were astounded how many of the prisoners either used the pages of the Bibles they were given

i) as paper a smoke or

ii) they poured over the Book of Revelation trying to work out when the end of the world would come.

But few of them would go further and commit their lives to Christ.

Jesus wants us to focus on living the Christian life today, not dreaming of the future.

He wanted us to be secure in the knowledge that He will come again – but he does NOT want us to be ‘star gazing’.

And He wants us to be careful not to be led astray.

Story: Tonight I am going to fly to Hamburg in Germany to join in the celebrations of the quincenterary (500 years) of the Reformation that was started on 31st October 1517 by Martin Luther posting his famous 95 Theses on the door of the church (Schloßkirche) in Wittenberg.

As I am a member of the Ely Diocese-Nordkirche Committee I have been invited to take part in the service in the “Holy Ghost Church” (Heiligen Geist Kirche) in Wacken which is the church of Revd Judith Schneider who, some of you may recall, preached here recently and in café Church

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