Jesus’s Presence in the In-Between
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Luke 21:5-28
November 17, 2019

The Gospel reading today is sometimes known as Jesus’s apocalyptic discourse. This means His discourse regarding the end of the world. So, it gets us thinking about the end of things. The form of this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31).

In that regard, some people try to find in this passage, and other apocalyptic literature in the Bible, a blueprint for how to determine when the world will end, and Jesus will return. Jesus’s words here, however, do not provide such a blueprint. No one knows the day or hour, but only the Father, says Jesus (Matthew 24:36).

Of course, when the cataclysmic events in nature happen in sun and moon and roaring sea and Jesus appears on the cloud in great power and glory, then it will be obvious that His return is at hand. At that point, no blueprint will be necessary.

As we study Luke 21:5-28, it becomes evident that Jesus talks mostly about the in-between. And so much of what is in-between would seem like sure signs of the end. But they aren’t.

Wars and revolutions will occur, but not yet. Earthquakes, famines, and plagues will happen, but not yet. Events that strike fear into your heart will happen, but not yet. Kingdom will rise against kingdom, nation against nation, but not yet. And Jesus also speaks of persecution “on account of His Name.” These things are just the natural course of things in this fallen and broken world.

So, Jesus is mostly concerned in this passage about encouraging us with the promise of His presence with us. He also talks to us about patient endurance of faith in Him, by which we gain our lives, even as we lose them in this world.

And then there is a most important thing that comes just after our Gospel reading in Luke 21. There Jesus says, “Stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). Here is the most important thing in all this apocalyptic talk and consideration of the end of things: Every human being must stand before the Son of Man.

The promise of Jesus’s presence with us is seen in verse 15. The immediate context there is Christians being hauled before governing authorities on account of Jesus and their faith in Him. Jesus tells us not to make up our minds ahead of time how to prepare a defense of our faith in Him.

Here comes Jesus’s promise. “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom at that time how to respond.” He says, “I will give it to you.” Did you catch the “I” here?

Jesus says that He Himself will give you a mouth and wisdom. He will give you the strength and the courage. How can He do that unless He is present there with you?

This is the point. Jesus promises to you His presence. Whatever you are going through; whatever hardship, He is with you now and will be with you then. He will be your strength to stand, to endure, to keep the faith. You are not and will not be alone. Jesus is with you, so God is with you.      

This is important as Jesus talks about endurance. In verse 19, He states that we will gain our lives by patient endurance.

This is talking about a patient waiting in confident hope in God. In this patience, you resist pressure to give up the faith. In this patience, you endure difficulty and trial. You endure in the life Christ lives in you according to His promise, when you want to give up. His presence gives you the strength to endure, as you hear His word and as He connects with you through Baptism and Holy Communion.

He lives in your faith and gives you spiritual strength and patient endurance as the external form of this world passes away. And though it passes away, your faith in Christ remains because He remains in your faith. And you gain your life, forever.

We reflect today on the fact that the form of this world is passing away. It does so either with respect to our lives running their course or when Jesus returns in power and great glory at the end of all things. In either case, we must stand before Jesus.

I have this picture of an hour glass in my head. All human history and all humanity are like an hour glass. Jesus is like the narrow point in the middle through which all the sand in the top must pass to the lower part of the glass.

Thus, it is important to know Him. To know who He is and what He has done. We must know Him as Redeemer, as God the Son who came in human flesh, in humility, and hung on a Roman cross as a common criminal to redeem us to God. We must know Him as the one who rose from death to live again as the one who speaks peace to you and forgiveness.

You know Him thus, for so He has taught you through His word. You know Him thus, for He speaks forgiveness and peace to you here. He covers the ugliness of the sinful nature in His own righteousness by grace. This reality is real for you as He has connected with you here through the Gospel of peace and His body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins; for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation in Him.

What joy there will be for knowing Him thus. When you breathe your last in this world, you will meet Him. He will be welcoming you into eternal peace and joy, and your body will rest in the promise of resurrection.

And on that great and terrible day, He will look powerful and wonderful in His glorious might. He will be a terror to those who have not known Him, as you have come to know Him here.

But you know Him in His humility and suffering for you, and the forgiveness He gives. And so you smile as your heart is filled with an indescribable joy as you see Him there in His rightful glory, as you see your Almighty friend smile on you and you hear Him say peace to you, and “come my redeemed one into the eternal kingdom I have won for you.” What exhilarating joy will fill your heart.

When you see Him that day, you will look up at Him and know that your redemption is at hand. You will know it then because you know Him now, as He comes to you in the Gospel of peace and in His body and blood.

All things come to an end in this world. You are prepared for it, however, because He is present with you and because you know Him, as He has made Himself known to you. Amen.   



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