Summary: Encouraging believers to be disciplined in prayer and to keep their heads lifted up, because the words of Jesus will never pass away and he will indeed return with great power.
Luke 21: 25 to 36
Elvis Presley once sang, “You can burn my house, steal my car, drink my liquor from an old fruit jar; do anything that you wanna do, but uh oh honey stay off my shoes”! Elvis, of course, is dead.
Jesus said (Luke 21:33), “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” In other words, you can burn my books, you can delete my data files from my old computer, and you can crush my cassette tapes if you really want to, but the words of Jesus are indestructible. The words of Jesus cannot and will not ever pass away.
The setting of our Gospel reading is just a short while before his crucifixion which suggests that he was passing on some very important teaching to his disciples. These were some of his last words, and he is telling them that future times of world disaster will strike (21:25-26).
Nations will be in anguish (21:25). People will faint from terror (21:26). Now we might well hear these words of Jesus and think to ourselves that history will simply keep repeating itself. Nations have often been in anguish before. People have fainted from terror before and they will do so again, but Jesus is not talking about history repeating itself! Vicar’s and Preacher’s (especially ageing ones!) may well become accustomed to repeating themselves, but Jesus is here referring to events which will end with his return; and when Jesus returns there will be no repeating of history!
In a smelly animal shed 2000 years ago the baby Jesus was born – small, human, defenceless, needing protection. Only those present at the birth saw him with their eyes.
At His return people will see the Son of Man (Jesus) coming in a cloud with power and great glory (21:27)!
The natural reaction to disaster is to run, or to hide, or to cower away from the approaching threat. In the time leading up to Jesus’ return, many people will live in fear because of the situation around them. Global warming, dwindling resources, religious terrorism and a world at war are probably the main causes of fear amongst people in the UK right now, and what should our response be? When these issues get worse as they will do, what should our response be?
I am not going to predict when Jesus will return; but I am going to ask you to prepare yourselves for the fact that Jesus is coming back to this world that he loves and he has told us how to behave and how to react to stories of disaster and anguish. (21:28) Jesus said, “Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” When people around us lose hope and as the world situation appears to get darker, our master asks us to stand up! He asks us not to let our heads drop, but to lift up our heads!
Well that’s all very well, but just how are we to do that? What can we do to be people who stand up and lift up our heads when others lose hope and give up? Perhaps a good place to start is by asking ourselves whether our heads are currently up or down.
Jesus said (Luke 21:33), “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”; and as I read and hear what Jesus said next (21:34-36) my reaction is to say, “Thank you Lord Jesus”! He warns us to be careful, and as my friend Danny has often reminded me (and please excuse the pun); the Church needs its ‘warners’. Concerning the Day of Jesus’ return, he says, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap” (21:34). Earlier in Luke’s gospel (12:39) Jesus said, “If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.”
Jesus wants us to get our spiritual security measures sorted out! When I lived near Southampton I was the neighbourhood watch coordinator for my local road. It somehow seemed only natural that I should be concerned for the physical well-being of my neighbours as well as their spiritual well-being.
Jesus is concerned for our eternal spiritual safety, and he does not leave us in the dark! Jesus tells us clearly what we must do: “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (21: 36).
What I am about to say will make me wince, because I know my shortcomings concerning Jesus’ command to “watch and pray”. So, here goes! The disciple of Jesus needs to know and take this seriously: without a life of disciplined prayer, meditation and study it is likely that we will not be ready for Jesus’ return.