I’ll admit it. This is a difficult passage to meditate on. Difficult because we are immediately faced with the difficulty of having to apply such a passage that has eschatological (pertaining to the “Last Things”) implications.
I would like to continue Saturday’s perspective, which requires us to avoid twin errors: first, that the passage is so completely connected to the past events of Jesus and His disciples that we can find no relevance for us today, and second that it is so hopelessly futuristic that it also is disconnected from our lives today.
Let’s remember, first, that in His teaching today, Jesus is continuing His answer to His disciples about when will the Temple be destroyed and what will be its sign. We have seen that He is talking primarily about a 1st century fulfillment because it is His 1st century Jewish/Christian disciples who will be thrown out of synagogues, thrown in prison, and speak before kings – and not necessarily us.
Second, let’s remember that whatever Jesus is saying to His 1st century disciples, He expects them to understand and act on. This means that His primary meaning can’t be about things that will happen 2000 or more years after they have all passed from this earth. Jerusalem – the Jerusalem the 1st century disciples know – the one with the Temple that would soon be destroyed – will be trampled by the Gentiles in their lifetime, and not ours. It is the Christian Jews in Judea that He tells to flee to the mountains – not 21st century Christians who don’t live in Judea.
He expects His 1st century disciples to see these things: He is speaking to real, 1st century disciples. Notice, as well, that Jesus clearly tells them that this generation will not pass away until all these things took place.
This is the starting point for this passage. It may be a let down for some of you. You may find it less exciting than to speculate about the Rapture.
But personally, I find it a lot more exciting and relevant! The language Jesus is using is the language of the Old Testament prophets, of “wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.” This is Joel’s prophecy (2:30-31.) It sounds like the book of Revelation, as if the physical world will see incredible and dramatic signs in the sky. And yet Peter believed this was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:20-21).
Like Joel and Peter, Jesus is speaking cosmologically, and cosmologically, in terms of the foundation of all the universe, something absolutely cataclysmic and earth-shattering happened in the 1st century: God became man. He inaugurated the Kingdom of Heaven, and He brought redemption near. It is hard for us to understand this because we don’t understand the cosmological and metaphorical language of the Old and New Testaments.
But the truth is that there was a revolution in both heaven and earth from A.D. 30-70. As Jesus says in verse 26: the powers of the heavens would be shaken. The Old Covenant with its imperfect Temple, priests, and sacrifices was destroyed, and the New Covenant with its perfect Temple, High Priest, and Sacrifice was raised up. These are not realities that we must await: they are both here and now. The fact is, that the 40 years from when Jesus was Crucified around A.D. 30 until the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 were the most revolutionary decades of world history (we should probably also think in terms the roughly 70 years from the birth of Jesus until the destruction of the Temple): it was in the time period that the old heavens and earth were destroyed and the new ones created. Jesus, the Second Adam, revolutionized the world by redeeming what the first Adam had ruined.
And this is the meaning for you this very morning: that the Kingdom of Heaven is here and now, in your life and mine. The King of Kings is ruling at the right hand of the Father; the High Priest is interceding for you in the true Temple not made with hands, and the perfect Sacrifice has been accepted by the Father once and for all.
Rejoice! Lift up your heads! for your redemption is here!
Therefore, read the times correctly. Live, not as if Jesus has been defeated for the last 2000 years or as if the Sacrifice for sin has not already been made. Rejoice – and go spread the Good News!
Let us, like the 1st century disciples in verse 38 come early in the morning to the true Temple to hear the King of Kings and worship Him once again.
Prayer: All glory be to You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for You have redeemed Your people! All praise be to You because You have made all things new and through the Son have made a New Covenant with us. So renew our hearts this day, Lord, that we may manifest Your kingdom, Your glory, and Your power in our daily lives, that the Good News of Jesus Christ may be published in every place where Your people dwell.
Point for Meditation: How much do I think and act and live as if Jesus Christ is already seated at the right hand of the Father? How could my life more faithfully reflect this truth? Find a practical way to incarnate this truth into your life.
Resolution: I resolve today to practice looking up to Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father. I resolve to practice joy as I do this.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day