Trinity 25 – November 12th and 13th, 2016 – Luke 17:20-30
In the Name of Christ Jesus, our coming Lord +
We are approaching the end of the Church year, and that can be an uncomfortable time of year. This Sunday and the next will deal with the end times, and we can hear our Gospel lessons and start to get nervous, get worried about when the end will come, worried that it will be here too quickly. And if we do that, we completely get everything – everything - backwards. What we will be doing instead is trying to step away, step outside of our preconceived notions of what the Last Days are like – and we will step away from the fear that the world tries to heap upon us about this, and rather we will learn to look forward to the resurrection of the dead, as we confess in the Nicene Creed. So what we will do today is look at this text of Luke, paying careful attention to what Jesus says, and see how we as Christians are to think about the end times. Let’s start at verse 22.
And He said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go out or follow them. Did you hear what Jesus warns the disciples of – what Jesus warns us of? Jesus’ warning isn’t. . . you better watch out, the scary end times are coming – oooOOOOooo. No. The warning is it’s going to take too long – and you will have the days where you sit and think, “I am tired Lord, I’m fed up with all the sin and wickedness and vice I see, I’m tired of my hurts and agonies and sufferings and I want to go home.” And Jesus warns the disciples that they are going to have days like this – and He won’t have come yet.
Isn’t this so completely the opposite of how we in America tend to think of the end times? We in America have been taught and trained to fear the end times. In many ways we are no better off than the monks in Luther’s day, terrified that God might actually come back. The end is nothing to fear. What is hard, what is difficult, is living as a Christian in a sinful world. This world, with all its vaunted pleasures, can be nice sometimes – but it can be mean and nasty and rough and painful the rest of the time. And Christ doesn’t pretend that it isn’t this way. God doesn’t play pretend with you – He is always honest. And yes, this life is rough – and you do have the days where you think, “Lord, just come back already”. You will, because as a Christian you will see the world for what it is.
And when you are hitting those points of struggle, when things seem long and weary – what do you do? You wait on the Lord – you don’t go running off after every fly-by-night scam artist with the latest and greatest heresy and false teaching designed to give you everything your heart desires. You don’t go running after the cult in Jonestown or Waco, you don’t buy into what the quacks are shouting. You simply pray “Thy Kingdom come,” and wait – because when Christ delivers us, it’s going to be obvious that He is here to deliver us. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in His day. When Christ comes back – it won’t be hidden, there won’t be a little secret coming where Jesus sort of sneaks around and talks to a few people to give them the secret decoder ring. No, when Christ comes again – He will come again and it will be right then and there.
And now we will get to some verses that I think can cause some consternation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They will be eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot – they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all – so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. We hear this, and man, it sounds bad. The end times will be like the flood – who wants that! The end times will be like Sodom and Gamorrah – I don’t ever want to see that, I don’t want God to wipe me away in a flood or smite me with fire and brimstone. We hear the punishments, we get panicky and nervous and scared.
But let’s take a moment and listen to what Jesus says. Jesus doesn’t say it will be like the flood, He says it will be like in the days of Noah. So what happened to Noah? He was surrounded by a wicked, evil world, so wicked God couldn’t stand it. And what does God do for Noah – alright, here you go Noah, I will rescue you, I will save you. You will be preserved and these fools who do you such harm won’t even know what hit them. Come into the ark, you and your family, and you will be saved. That doesn’t sound so bad – being saved, being rescued from evil. See what is Christ saying here? I’m going to do for you, o Disciple, what I did for Noah – and that’s a good thing, that’s a comfort.
And again, Jesus doesn’t say that the end times will be like Sodom – He says that they will be like it was in the days of Lot. So what happened to Lot? He was stuck in Sodom. He was stuck in a horrible place, people wanting to break down the doors of his house and abuse his guests, where there’s a real chance that his daughters will be brutalized. And so, what does God do? Alright Lot, it’s time to go, it’s time to get you out of there, let’s get you to someplace better. God rescues Lot from a wicked place. And even though Lot tries to warn the folks, tries to get them to repent – they never see it coming. See what is Christ saying? I’m going to do for you, o Disciple, what I did for Lot – and I will rescue you. Be patient, endure wickedness, and know that I will deliver you.
Don’t you see? The Last Day not a curse. It isn't something to scare you. Jesus is not the boogey-man or the monster in the closet; we shouldn’t be scared of His coming. Rather this – when Christ comes again He will do so to rescue you, to take you from this vale of tears unto the joys of eternal life – and that’s not a bad thing. And still we are nervous about it. So was Lot. He dragged his feet in leaving Sodom – the angels had to pretty much drag him out of there. But what Christ is saying, what Christ is teaching us is this. Don’t fret, don’t worry about the Last Day – indeed, don’t even worry about your own death – because I am your God, and I will deliver you, for I am with you always.
That is Christ’s promise. Listen to the beginning of the Gospel lesson. Being asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, He answered them, ‘The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Do you hear what Christ is saying? The Pharisees ask Christ – so when is the Kingdom going to come, when are we going to get the good stuff. And Jesus says, “Quit looking for signs, the Kingdom of God is here in your midst, I am here, what more are you looking for?” This, dear friends, establishes for us how we as Christians approach all things. This shows why we can be bold and confident even as life grows long and we become weary and things in the world just keep getting worse. While we wait for Christ’s second coming, we remember that we aren’t waiting alone. Christ is already here in our midst. What is the Psalm that we all know – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – which is precisely the kinds of fears and trials this text talks about – yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil – and why? For Thou art with me.
This is what Christ proclaims to you. Fear nothing, for Christ is with you – and Christ is bigger than anything that you might face in your life. Christ is with you now – for you are Baptized, you were joined to Him by water and the Word. Christ is with you now – He continues to speak His comfort to You through His Word. Christ is with you now – He comes to you in His holy Supper. Christ is always with you – and what does this mean? It means that in the end you will be rescued from every evil, every danger that this world can throw at you and you shall obtain the eternal life that Christ has won for you.
That’s how we approach the end as Christians. Not with fear, not with trepidation. We approach all these things remembering that we are God’s own children, that we are united to Christ. As we await the end – we are simply waiting for God to show to everyone, to show to the entire world what we already know, what we already have. That He is our God who saves us, who protects us, who guides us, and who ultimately delivers us from wickedness unto His eternal life. So dear friends – fear not any talk of the end – for you know what happens, and it ends well for you. Christ Jesus is your Lord, and He lives, and He has won the victory for you – let not death, let not talk of the end appall you any longer. Be confident in Christ Jesus your Lord. In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Coming Lord. Amen.