They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”
Listen to how Jesus concludes that warning at the end of Luke 21:
Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth.
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.
That is Jesus’ command for us today and it’s actually four commands:
- Be careful
- Be always on the watch
- Pray that you will be able to escape
- Pray that you will be able to stand
That is the word of Jesus to each one of us this morning.
I have to ask you this morning — How are you going? (at obeying this command) Is it even something you have thought about recently?
“I’ve got to be careful, am I on the watch, am I constantly praying that I will be able to escape, that I will be able to stand before Jesus?”
Earlier today we had that magnificent reading from Isaiah 65:17-25 but before we get the new heaven and the new earth there will be a time of judgement.
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.
So what is Jesus saying? I think he’s saying: “I’m coming back. Be ready. Watch out. There’s a universal judgement that everyone on the face of the earth is going to be under.”
So here is the Word of Jesus warning us to be careful. For some this will be a minor correction and for others it will require a massive change in direction.
It’s not a new theme though, it’s been coming a long time, look at what Moses says:
The LORD did not… choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples… but it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors…
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
|Moses is telling ancient Israel:|
|here’s what God has done||everything|
|here’s what you have done||nothing|
|here’s what you deserve||nothing|
|here’s what God is giving you||everything|
|here’s what God asks||follow me, trust me|
But does God tell us what if I do these things and what if I don’t bother? Yes, he does later in the book.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.
For I command you today to love the LORD your God…
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient… I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.
This day I… have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.
Now choose life, so that you and your children may live…
Let’s return to Luke, Jesus has returned to Jerusalem in the last days of his life and he knows it, but just now they are in the centre of Jerusalem and some of his disciples are admiring the temple, it’s beautiful, dedicated to God.
Jesus says it’s all going to go, nothing will be spared, not one stone will be left standing. It’s all going to go. Everything’s going to be scrapped and Jesus says that it won’t be some natural disaster. It’s going to be deliberate destruction of the temple of Jerusalem.
And what Jesus is saying is straight from Deuteronomy, it says that if you turn your heart from God he will destroy you. And here we are, we’ve been reading chapter after chapter of Luke and the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, all the leaders of the Jews are turning their hearts from Jesus, turning their hearts from God.
And so those with Jesus ask him: “If the temples going to be destroyed, then when and how will we know it’s about to happen?”
They forget to ask the most important question — how then should we live? Well Jesus gives them that answer even though they didn’t ask it!
The challenge for us this morning here in Church is not just to hear the when and the how but also the what should we do and how should we live?
“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? what will be the sign?”
And Jesus says you won’t know — there is no way to work it out. v8 watch out that you are not deceived, for many will come saying “I am he” or “the time is near” — don’t follow them.
And over the centuries many have come, the prophet Muhammad claimed to be God’s last messenger, Joseph Smith, L Ron Hubbard, etc — don’t get distracted.
This verse is a warning about Islam, Bahai, Mormons, Scientology, and all those other whack jobs that predict the end of the world on the 14 October at 2:33 PM etc — don’t follow them.
It’s a deception, it’s a trap, if anyone claims to be speaking in the name of God, in the name of Jesus as a further revelation, beyond what you can see in the scriptures, ignore them!
You notice that there’s going to be a delay. Jesus is expecting a delay time and he’s letting us know. He knows that the whole thing is not going to be wrapped up the day after he dies or even after his resurrection.
There has to be time for us to get out to spread the word:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
He’s expecting that there will be false prophets. He’s letting us know — don’t be fooled. What are the signs then?
- first one is social chaos
- next one is natural disaster
- then there’s persecution
- then there’s betrayal
But when you hear of wars, revolutions, and, uprisings Jesus is saying don’t be frightened, these things must happen but the end will not come right away. We shouldn’t be surprised when we see social chaos. Don’t think that God has lost control, and when I see social chaos, when I see nations in disarray. Yeah, that’s exactly what Jesus said would happen.
Second point and there will be great earthquakes, famines, pestilences, fearful events, these are all those signs. You see a bushfire, you see an earthquake, you see a tsunami, Jesus warned us it was coming.
Third point — they’ll lay hands on you and persecute you, they’ll deliver you to synagogues and prisons and you’ll be brought before kings and governors all on account of my name. We are very fortunate here in Australia, we have nothing like what other Christians in other nations have to go through. Mostly we can expect to be mocked and insulted. So, I should expect the rise of the intolerant, militant atheist and you see it in our age but you see it in every age of church history and you see it especially in the age immediately after Jesus.
So we’ve got social chaos, we’ve got natural disaster, we’ve got persecution but the forth point is disruption in family. If you’re somebody who follows Jesus, and somebody in your family does not love Jesus, well there’s confrontation. There’s an expectation that there’ll be some sort of, look at v16, you’ll be betrayed even by parents, brothers relatives and friends and they’ll put some of you to death.
Everyone will hate you because of me, “You will be hated by all because of my name” says Jesus and he says it only two – three days before he himself is killed and you know that it was one of his closest friends, Judas, that betrayed him with a kiss.
Those four things, the betrayal of Christians, the persecution of Christians, the natural disasters and the social chaos I mean you can see them in the news every night but you also can see them last generation, and in our grandparents’ generation and in every generation all the way back to Jesus and I think that’s Jesus’s point.
As Christians we must
- always be ready
- always be watching
- always be alert
- never be complacent.
But look at this next verse, it’s a controversial verse, a very debated verse
But not a hair of your head will perish.
Now, Jesus, cannot possibly be speaking physically here. For a start plenty of hairs have perished from my head!
He can’t be speaking physically because in just the sentence before he says that some will be put to death.
Jesus, what about Stephen — he was stoned for you?
What about all the apostles a whole lot of them were killed for you? Died for you.
Jesus is not speaking about physical death. He’s speaking about perishing eternally.
You won’t perish eternally — that’s Jesus’ guarantee.
They may put some of you to death, martyrdom is possible, but you have eternal life!
How do I know this? Look at Jesus is speaking of will go to the very next sentence
Stand firm, and you will win life.
This is the big one, I mean this is the one I want actually lay before us today. I mean that’s the hope for us all, take that home with you today.
When I was at uni, we had a Christian group there, and we were very enthusiastic. I mean we were really bubbling over with the Holy Spirit but when I started coming here, 26 years ago this year, everything seemed to be a bit boring, you know, a bit tired and a little bit stale.
But now, if I look up some of those uni friends, they’ve lost Christ, they’d looked really, some of them, incredibly enthusiastic but it hadn’t stuck, it hadn’t endured. They hadn’t stood firm.
But St Mark’s is still here, many of the old people, have gone but they’ve gone to a better place. What I’ve come to realise is it’s not enthusiasm that counts — it’s standing firm.
By standing firm, as Jesus says, by standing firm you will gain life. That’s real faith. It’s the faith that keeps going. It’s the faith that lasts, it’s the faith that endures.
It’s the faith that speaks out, it’s the faith that doesn’t say, she’ll be right. It’s the faith that doesn’t compromise, it’s not happy with worn out worship or worn out buildings.
You see, what we’re doing here today matters, and it has eternal consequences, be ready and be living as if the Lord Jesus could come back at any point
What we’re doing here matters.