Jesus is talking about the downfall of his nation in 70AD [note Luke 21:32]. In apocalyptic and non-apocalyptic speech He speaks of its ruin. Surely if that were to happen the disciples would think it their worst nightmare come true and it would mean the failure of God’s promises to and through Israel. Jesus assures them otherwise and for the moment all they have to depend on is His word. His assurance to them in that day is assurance to us in ours. Read of the fearful things he speaks of and then hear his startling promise.
Luke 21:28. “When you see these things…” Read the section, please.
When you see these things lift up your heads—redemption draws near.
He doesn’t say: “When you see financial stability return and global financial chaos disappear like a morning mist before the sun.”
He doesn’t say: When you see progress in political talks and national leaders gathering to sign peace treaties and agreements to destroy nuclear weaponry and all the war-mongering ends.”
He doesn’t say: “When you see a tremendous change for the better in the moral climate and towns and cities and countries change for the better and truth and kindness becomes the order of the day.”
He doesn’t say: “When you see medical and scientific advances that truly make a difference to the daily living of the hundreds of millions of the vulnerable and marginalized.”
He doesn’t say: “When you see national and international leaders arise who work effectively for peace with righteousness and prosperity with honor and justice and blessing for all.”
He doesn’t say any of that! And He isn’t happy about what He knows is happening and will happen! He sits on a hill sobbing about these things! See Luke 19:41-44 and parallels.
Who can’t or won’t rejoice at such things that He might have said? These are and would be the work and blessing of God. We’d have to be sour to the core not to rejoice in them and want them. Let me say it again: such things are God’s good gifts [Acts 14:15-17 and 17:24-28] and they are reminders of God’s intention toward His human family.
But we won’t base our hopes on the latest political, social and international headlines. We may rejoice in democracy but when the voting majority becomes one of “the beasts” we are given the opportunity to see with greater vision and to trust only “the Son of Man” [Daniel 7].
God has not created us to labor in vain. He has not purposed that we suffer forever. He created us to love and be loved and not to abuse or be abused. While human sin is rampant in the world there will be hurt and loss as God works to bring us to a glorious finale under Jesus but pain and suffering is no eternal plan of God. We know in our bones that the agony the human family sees and experiences is not the end of the Story. Beyond sin, peace and prosperity and fullness of life is married to righteousness—they are the outcome of and invariable companions of righteousness and God has so ordained it.
When we see peace and prosperity here and there, when we see health and blessing here and there, when we see women and men of integrity in places of power and things looking as in our hearts we know “they should be” we ought to rejoice!
But until the day when the glory and smile of God cover the earth as the waters cover the sea we’ll wait, trusting, all our lifetimes, generation after generation despite the wars and cancers and broken marriages and abusive parents and abusive children and predatory power-brokers and sly, greedy officials who exercise authority against the defenseless simply because they can.
When we see all these things we’ll lift up our heads—redemption draws near.
In Luke 21 [see for yourself] Jesus has just painted a picture of national and international terror and fear and chaos. The foundational structures of their world would totter, uncreation would blaze there before them everywhere they looked and despair would rush at them like a tsunami. It was in the light of all that that Jesus said, “When you see all these things” lift up your heads—redemption draws near.”
Only fools make light of such terror and only the insensitive look at the crosses others are dying on and call them “a challenge”. Jesus didn’t make light of those terrible days. He thought them real and He wanted them to know they would be real and terrifying.
Nevertheless, Jesus has shown us that God too is real and he calls us to trust! Trust is always good and right—in the good and prosperous times as well as in calamity but its gold is purer in times of heartache and confusion and fear. Trust sees the pain and loss for what it is—
But enabled by God they lift their heads believing that they can either judge God by these events or judge these events by God.
Jesus did not say: “When you see all these terrifying things happen throw in the towel; trash your faith, spit on your dreams, curse your God or live your little life dominated by news headlines and worry.”
That wasn’t what He said!
In lonely bereavement in your little house, in your jobless bewilderment, in your own private agony that no one but God and you know about and about which you can’t speak to anyone—in the middle of anything like that Jesus still has the nerve to say:
Lift up your head—redemption draws near!
He not only said it, He said it from the cross!
[You want to talk to someone? You think I might do? I might not be able to help but I’d be glad to listen if you’d like to talk.]
jim mcguiggan: firstname.lastname@example.org