Friday 30 November 2018

Advent 1 Luke 21:25-38

In this strange passage from Luke’s gospel we have the signs of the end and the coming again of Jesus. It’s a very strange text for Advent. 

Having spoken of the destruction of Jerusalem, the disciples ask Jesus "when will this be and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?" Jerusalem was surrounded by armies." Jesus goes on to outline the signs of dreadful portents and persecution, and then identifies the sign that heralds the end. 
There will be the shaking of the powers of heaven, v25-26;
The coming of the Son of Man v27.
Saying, v28:"when these things begin to take place .... your redemption is drawing near."
Parable, v29-31:The parable of the fig tree;
Saying, v32-33:"this generation will certainly not pass away until ......... my words will never pass away."
Saying v34-35:"that day will close on you suddenly like a trap"
Saying v36:"be always on the watch, and pray."
The back ground of the passage is Daniel 7:13. Jesus will come back. 
The destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem happened in  AD 68-70 so it occurred in the generation of those hearing Jesus words. The prophets used such imagery of judgement on Israel’s enemies but Jesus has turned it on its head and applied it to Israel itself. 

The nations will be distressed. The seas will be distressed, a possible illusion to global warming.  (The Jewish people then feared the power of the sea). People will faint with fear and panic.  Even the stars will appear to shake. 

So then Jesus alludes to Daniel 7:13-14 and the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus, God, the Ancient of Days. Gods kingdom will come. And this coming heralds the end times. And he comes with his angels, just as at his birth, and the people of the earth will be gathered together. 

 So when these things take place, stand up, look up, your deliverance is near and you will soon be free,  

Then we get the parable of the fig tree. As new sprouts on the fig tree tell us that summer is near, so the presence of these signs tell us that God's eternal reign is upon us. The early Christians witnessed Jerusalem surrounded by armies and they knew well that the end of the restored kingdom of Israel was at hand. History tells us that the believers fled Jerusalem before its destruction by Rome in 70AD. These same signs will herald the end of our age and the realization of the kingdom of heaven. Let us pray that we too will be able to read the signs in that day. So, read the evident signs and don't be caught out.

This is a teaching parable, a lesson from nature. when they sprout leavesyou can see for yourselvesthat summer is nearWhen you see these things happening, Gods kingdom is near. (Mark uses the phrase “at the door”).

Now the symbol of the fig tree coming into leave is a sign of Gods coming blessing (Joel 2v22). So Jesus emphasis was to direct the hearers to the blessing that was the coming salvation. The fig tree is spindly and looks dead in the winter so it is easy to notice the sudden change to growth with the green shoots ( I know Ive got one!) . The dead fig tree is suddenly green and has life. The winter is over and summer has come. A new season has begun. 

In the same way God will give signs of change if we watch. What signs of new life can you see? What signs, green shoots of change? What possibilities of a new season, hope. Light in darkness? 
So be careful that you are not weighed down with the anxieties of life because that day will come suddenly. it will come upon all of us, everyone in the whole earth.

So be always on the watch, alwayspraying, 

We are living in a time of darkness, a time of waiting for the light but don’t get used to the darkness because better times are coming. Look out for them.  
And in the meantime, be the light in the darkness yourself in your lives and light up your corner of Gods world. 

(with thanks to Bryan Finlayson and Joachim Jeremias)



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