Be Ready

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First Sunday of Advent

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-9
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” ESV

This reading is an extension of the parousia that starts with v. 20. 20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come nearESV These five verses describe the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, and Jesus seems to be saying that when you see that desolation, it will only be a small taste of what is to come.

But 25-28 describe the return of the King of Kings. In that sense, it fits with the first coming of the King of Kings—Christmas.

Luke sets this account inside the walls of Jerusalem instead of on the Mount of Olives as in Matthew 24:29-31 and Mark 13:24-27. We should expect the Messiah to return to Jerusalem.

29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass awayESV  

Figs were common in the region, so everyone knew what he meant by this small parable. We know spring is near when daffodils push up out of the soil. In other words, the sign will be obvious.

The word all presents us with a bit of a problem. Having said that this generation will not pass away, he then says all. Clearly that generation has passed away, so what happened to the returning Messiah? Many possibilities have been presented, none being the clear winner. Remember that Jesus did not know the details of the end either.

We try to make all the passages about us when they are really about God. Look back at v 26, the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then v 27, the Son of Man coming in a cloud; all Heaven; God related.

The key for us is to be ready. As Christians we have something greater than ourselves to look forward to. Most people see life as little more than running in a squirrel cage, getting nowhere fast. We have the Heavenly Wedding and Banquet to live for. Be ready.

The Son of Man is here. He never really left. Yes, the Holy Spirit is here as well, but Jesus is seen by thousands of people on earth today.

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth36 But 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.” ESV

I underlined one phrase for special attention. It is too easy to become so involved in living our lives that we forget God. Likewise, the problems of living can become so burdensome that we despair of ever seeing God or goodness again. Either can get in the way of living a Christian life.

A Christian life is a life of love. 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proudIt does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongsLove does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truthIt always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveresNIV If this chapter was the only thing Paul ever wrote, it would be enough.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The King of Truth

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2 Samuel 23:1-7

Psalm 132

Revelation 1:4b-8

John 18:33-37

Next Sunday will be the first day of Advent, so naturally we are looking at the crucifixion.

This will make sense, so hang in there.

I want to go back to the beginning of the segment to see what happens before Pilate returns inside to talk with Jesus, which is the main point of today’s reading.

Remember that John’s Gospel has Jesus arrested after sundown on our Wednesday, a day earlier than the Synoptics where Jesus ate the Passover meal with his Twelve on Thursday evening and was crucified on Friday (using our modern day-names). John presents the perfect Passover Lamb being killed at the same time the Passover lambs were being killed in the Temple.

John knew what he was writing. The Synoptics had widely circulated for three decades and in his approach to the account, he had other priorities. He did not intend to suggest that the others were wrong.

I am an historian [I know, an before h is old school] with a degree to prove it. I know that we who write history are bound to stick to the facts; don’t fudge or create. In ancient times, historians believed it was more important to present the story in either the best possible light or the worst, depending on who was being discussed. John knew that Christians knew the facts, so decided to give us the theology.

28 Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas’ presence into the palace. It was now early morning and the Jews themselves did not go into the palace, for fear that they would be contaminated and would not be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate walked out to them and said, “What is the charge that you are bringing against this man?” 30 “If he were not an evil-doer, we should not have handed him over to you,” they replied. 31 To which Pilate retorted, “Then take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” “We are not allowed to put a man to death,” replied the Jews 32 (thus fulfilling Christ’s prophecy of the method of his own death)Phillips

“The Jews” refers to the leaders who had been after Jesus for three years. Even if it had not been Passover, few Jews would have entered a Roman building anytime for any reason.

33 So Pilate went back into the Palace and called Jesus to him. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asked. 34 “Are you asking this of your own accord,” replied Jesus, “or have other people spoken to you about me?” Phillips

The question of Kinship is the key to this lesson. In the Christmas season it is easy to celebrate the birth of a baby and lose sight of the birth of a King; God’s own Son—King of the world.

Note that Jesus does not answer the question but asks one of his own. Jesus knows he will die before sundown, so why not do what he has always done, get at the truth of God?

Here’s a question: how did John know what was said inside the palace? As a modern historian, I cannot give an answer, only a supposition. Servants were always lingering around the high and mighty. Likely one was within hearing who was sympathetic to Jesus and told followers what he had heard.

35 “Do you think I am a Jew?” replied Pilate. “It’s your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What have you done, anyway?” 36 “My kingdom is not founded in this world—if it were, my servants would have fought to prevent my being handed over to the Jews. But in fact my kingdom is not founded on all this!” Phillips

I have the felling that Pilate was both frustrated and intrigued. There can be no doubt that he had read and heard regular reports on Jesus as he had on John the Baptist and anyone else who could have been considered a threat. Now, Jesus stood in front of him.

By the time of Jesus arrest, Pilate had been reprimanded from Rome for some excessive actions, so he knew he did not want to do anything that would lead to any other bad reports. He could not risk having the Jewish leaders mad at him, but he could not risk executing an innocent man.

Pilate went to what for him was the central point, ‘do you claim to be a king as I have heard?’ Jesus explains the truth, that he is a king but not of this world.

37 “So you are a king, are you?” returned Pilate. “Indeed I am a king,” Jesus replied; “the reason for my birth and the reason for my coming into the world is to witness to the truth. Every man who loves truth recognises my voice.” Phillips

This is the verse that John wants us to remember. Jesus claims to be the King of Truth. Truth comes from God. False hood—lies—come from those who oppose God.

38 To which Pilate retorted, “What is ‘truth’?” and went straight out again to the Jews and said: “I find nothing criminal about him at all. 39 But I have an arrangement with you to set one prisoner free at Passover time. Do you wish me then to set free for you the ‘king of the Jews’?” 40 At this, they shouted out again, “No, not this man, but Barabbas!” Barabbas was a banditPhillips

We often see those shouting for Barabbas as a hundred people of all walks of life, forgetting that the guards would not allow any but the leaders into the courtyard. It was the leaders who called for Barabbas. They preferred a dangerous criminal to the King of Truth.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence