The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Love of God, and The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you All. Amen.
Luke 21:29 “Then He told them a parable: ‘Behold the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 34 Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; 35 for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. 36 But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’” (NASB)
The signs of the coming season are all about us. The leaves have pretty much fallen. Two snows. A record low of 8 above over one night. We are leaving one season and entering another. With the departure of one season and the start of another time leave its mark and marches onward.
In this morning’s Gospel lesson, Jesus uses the change of the season from winter to summer as an analogy for the coming of the kingdom of God. “Behold the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near.”
As we go through the year, one season after another approaches week by week and day by day. It’s just that as the weather changes we become more aware of the time and make the adjustments necessary to live in the new season.
Jesus is using this very image to teach Christians and non-Christian alike that the world and the church in the world that the kingdom of God is coming.
In the four verses before our assigned lesson, Jesus spoke in both terrifying and comforting terms about the last day. The picture is terrifying to the unbelievers, but comforting for the Christian.
Jesus said, 25 “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Jesus calls natural disasters “signs.” The word that is used here in the Greek is seimeion. This is the same word that gets translated as “miracles” elsewhere in the New Testament. In those cases Jesus performed miracles, signs to show that He was God in flesh, the promised Messiah.
The disciples saw Jesus signs and believed. Other saw those signs and refused to believe. They saw Jesus’s ability to perform those miracles as a threat to their worldview and religious system and responded accordingly.
So also now people see all kinds of things going in the world, but they don’t interpret them as Christ does or as the Christian ought to. Here is something very interesting. Today under the religious articles of faith of environmentalism and progressivism many people see these natural occurrences as a call to repent of our capitalistic republic which they argue is the cause of greed change political systems to socialism and communism. They see natural disasters and shifts in nature as a warming and call to usher in a political and utopian border-less one world system. Their view of “heaven on earth.”
The progressive secularist sees the same events that we Christians see (changes in the world and natural disasters), but they see these things as calls to elevate their god (stateism). The people of this generation see problems that we have caused and that we can fix if we just tax and regulate people enough. They take God out of both sides of the equation– that He has ordained such things to happen as signs and a call to repent and that the old is passing away so that the new will come.
The Christian sees these events as God’s and nature’s call to repentance, that is a call to a contrite heart and faith in Christ Jesus for the remission of our sins and as a reminder that time is always growing shorter. Jesus is coming to bring all sinful things to an end and to usher in the new heaven and new earth of His making and not of ours.
Jesus teaches here that we are to see these things as a sign of the shortness of the time and a prologue to what is to come. This world is coming to an end. There isn’t anything human beings or government programs can do to stop it.
Verses 25-28 tell us what is going to happen leading up to and on Judgment Day itself. Verses 29-30 urge Christians to pay attention to what is taking place in the world around us.
Security experts constantly preach “situational awareness.” Jesus is teaching here that Christians are to have situational awareness. Just as there are signs that one season is passing into history and another is about to arrive, there are also signs that this age/world is passing away and a new one is on its way.
I am not saying that Judgment Day is eminent, but we’d all do well to do what Jesus urges us to do in the Gospel lesson. Take a look around and see what is happening to the church, to the beliefs, moral codes, and church attendance of family and friends, and look at what is happening to our communities and country. Then given the signs we see in nature and in the actions of men, we ought to speak to and deal with family, friends, and neighbors as if our time (and their’s) is running out. Because one way or another, it is.
Not only is humanity’s violence, baseness, hatefulness, and its forsaking of that which is good and right increasing exponentially with the population, but even nature itself is warning us that the end is on its way.
Wildfires incinerated everything in their paths in a matter of mere hours and are made more worse by activists and governments that worship the creation rather than the creator. Hurricanes not only wipe out cities, but entire regions. Tsunamis wash away hundreds of miles of shoreline and with it people who dwell in those places. Earthquakes, tornados, floods, and all the rest remind us of two fundamental truth about human existence.
First, even the ground we walk on has been cursed by God on account of our sin. “Cursed is the ground because of you” God said to Adam. Secondly, all these things ought to remind us that sinful humanity’s time and this universe are drawing to an end, even as our own individual lives are always moving toward our end.
Jesus is using nature and natural disasters in the same way He used the collapse of the tower of Siloam (Luke 13:4-5) “Do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Jesus used the disaster of Siloam as a call to repentance, to confess their sins and to trust in Him.
This is what He is doing here. He is using the signs in nature as a call to repent because Judgment Day is coming.
Jesus began with signs of the end of the age. After that He moved to the ordinary distractions that take our eyes off the signs of nature and it’s call to repent to our natural inclination to get caught up in our own little world.
34 “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; 35 for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth.”
On Thanksgiving and Christmas day families and friends are going to show up at each others homes. They are probably expected to arrive so when they arrive it should not catch anyone by surprise. They will be welcomed and celebrate, but the hosts won’t be out running around doing something else because they know people are coming. So also the Christian with Christ.
Christians need not be afraid of the signs or of the return of the Son of God. While everything else is going to pass away, the power that gives life, continued existence in the new heaven and new earth will continue on. It will never pass away. 32 “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Christ’s words, all His words are eternal, so also is the Christian’s life in the kingdom of heaven. 1 Peter 1:23, “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.”
John 6:63, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” Rev. 22:7 “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”
The Christian’s salvation, eternal life, is entirely dependent on the Word and words of God, the Son of God. It is not dependent on the will of man. Romans 9:16 “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”
The Word was in the beginning. The Word created all that exists. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… 3 All things came into being through Him.” The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
When all else fails; when all else passes away, the sure and certain Word of God Jesus Christ and the words of the same remain forever. In the here and now, we have Christ’s words of promise, words that will not pass away. John 14:3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” In the moment of our death, we Christians have Jesus’s sure and certain words that will not pass away, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”
The heavens and the earth will pass away. Our sinful bodies will pass away. But with them, both our sinful condition and all our sins will pass away, but the words that declared us justified, the words that sanctified– made us holy– remain forever. “It is finished” were the words that Jesus spoke on the cross of Good Friday. These too are words that will never pass away.
The signs of this world’s expiration are all around us. Straighten up. Raise your head. Look to and hold fast to the words of God. I have said it before. One of the biggest problems facing the Christian church today is that both church bodies and individual Christians like to claim to follow the incarnate Word of God, Jesus, but don’t care for much the words that have been recorded in written Word of God by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Yet Christ’s words are life.
That’s why we look to the words of Holy Scripture. That’s why we look to the words spoken over us in the sacrament of Holy Baptism. That’s why we look to the words Jesus spoke on the night in which He was betrayed and why we speak those same words over the elements of bread and win on the altar. Look to the words.
Through our God-given eyes of faith and God given ears of faith we recognize that the Lord God is not in some far distant heavenly corner, but is right here and right now in His Word and Sacrament Ministry.
St. Paul observes that life for the Christian Church and for Christians is going to be a rough ride between now and the Second Coming of Christ. We all need to be of good courage, but the season of God’s reign and Word, the new heaven and new earth is on its way.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.