O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
What will it take to bring your redemption?
What will it take to bring your redemption?
Based on Luke 21:5-28
Preached on November 17, 2019
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Fellow baptized saints, we’ve been journeying to Jerusalem with Jesus for a long time here in the Gospel of Luke, all year, and now we’ve come to the end. Today is the 2nd last Sunday in the Church Year. And so if next week we focus on the end, we might expect that this week Jesus is going to prepare us a little for that end, which is exactly what He does.
This is Jesus’ last public warning. The last things He will publicly teach before His arrest and trial. No. It is not a lesson in how to predict the future (though perhaps that’s what we’d like it to be). No. In love, Jesus speaks to spiritually prepare His disciples – warn them, exhort them, move them to get their hearts ready – because He’s about to die. The end times are about to begin in His death and resurrection. And there is going to be a cosmic shift when He comes out of that grave. God’s grace will no longer come through animal sacrifices at a stone temple. But will come through what He has instituted to be the worship life of His Church: catechesis, baptism, Lord’s Supper. They need to be ready, so Jesus prepares them.
There they are at the temple, and someone is admiring it. Look at the beautiful tapestries. Look at the massive gold doors. Look at the stunning artwork. Bound by time and space, that’s all we see – the earthly, the temporal. How could it be different? But when Jesus looks, His eyes see more. He is not bound by time and space, and so He sees what His disciples need – though it will pain them to hear it. His time has come. Which means the end of the Temple has come.
“These things that you see,” Jesus says, “the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” That’s a serious claim. God’s presence is in that Temple. Those stones are holy. But everything is about to change, Jesus says. The stones that matter in the temple are not the ones that form the physical building, but the true “Stone” - whose presence has dwelt among those physical stones and who now prophecies the end of those stones.
God’s presence is shifting – from the physical temple in Jerusalem to the fleshly body of Jesus where it will dwell forever. No longer will God’s presence be located in Jerusalem, for it will be found only in the resurrected body of Christ who comes to dwell with us in His Word and Sacraments. Yes, in Word and Sacrament the presence of God will go out into all the world.
And that’s a big shift, through a process you do not expect. What will it take to bring you your redemption? This is it, isn’t it? This is the question burning in our text. We’re not expecting for our redemption to come through destruction. This would never be the way we would do it. But this is the pattern Jesus ascribes to these end times. Death and resurrection. With God Himself taking the lead. First it’s His own death and resurrection, then the Temple and Jerusalem, and finally the world. Everything will be drawn through Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. Every structure. Every kingdom. Every pattern.
When will these things be? And what will be the sign when the Temple is about to be destroyed? They don’t doubt Him. But they need to know more. Tell us Teacher. Tell us.
And Jesus will tell them, but there is something He is more concerned about than the building. Their faith. That’s what Jesus cares about. That’s His primary concern. “Don’t be led astray,” Jesus warns, “there are going to be imposters. Lots of them. Many false prophets will come teaching in My Name, but leading you down another road. Don’t journey with them. They may even sound authentic because they use My Name. Test their teaching against My Word, and stay true to My Word. (pause) And don’t panic. You will hear of revolutions and wars, but the end of the Temple is not yet.
Only after He warns them about false teachers and false endings does He tell them the signs of the Temple’s destruction. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom and kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be both terrifying events and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for My Name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”
Perhaps they wished they had never asked. Because Jesus tells them they will be betrayed. Arrested. And it sounds incredibly familiar, doesn’t it? Prophetic even. This is the exact pattern of what is about to happen to Jesus. He is on the brink of being betrayed, arrested, taken before Herod and Pilate and the Sanhedrin to testify and bear witness to the truth of who He is and what He has come to do. This will continue in you, Jesus tells His disciples.
But don’t be concerned about how to defend yourselves. Don’t worry beforehand. For I myself will be your mouth and your wisdom. I will put My Words on your tongue. Bring the judgment day right into that very moment, so that no one will be able to stand or speak against you. This witness may result in your martyrdom. But you will be witnessing about Me – who I am and what I’ve done in My cosmic martyrdom for the souls of all the world. My testimony on the cross saves you eternally, so even if they threaten your physical life know this, not a hair from your head will perish. By your perseverance, gain your souls. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; whoever loses his life on account of me, this one will save it.
All of the apostles except John were martyred for their confession of Jesus Christ. There’s something about that Name, isn’t there? Jesus Christ. You can teach all the morals and commandments you like, and no one will bat an eye, but the minute you say the words Jesus Christ with faith, instantly everyone goes squirrelly – even you. Jesus is plainly telling us why. It’s because God’s presence is no longer in the Temple. God is present in the Name. Present in the promise that comes with the Name. Present among His people when they speak His Name in faith. Present even in their bodies – His new temples – those who have been washed in His Name. They are His living stones. It comes as no surprise then that the UK released a report in August stating 80% of worldwide religious persecution is carried out on Christians, and the number of Christians persecuted for their faith is nearly two billion. God will destroy His own temple, because the people refuse to believe He has shifted His divine presence. Christians will be killed because they proclaim that His presence now dwells among them.
After warning them, reassuring them, and encouraging them to remain faithful, Jesus finally describes the destruction of the Temple, and not just the Temple, but the entire city of Jerusalem. The next time you see Jerusalem being encircled by armies, Jesus says, Run. Flee. Get as far away as you can. Although normally in a war a walled city is the safest place to be. It will not be this time. Jerusalem has rejected the Gospel, so it’s the worst place to be. Jerusalem has rejected her own God who came to visit her, and so days of vengeance are coming to fulfill what is written. History has confirmed this. The Jewish historian Josephus records that over one million died in the four-month siege that saw the inhabitants of Jerusalem resorting to cannibalism. When the Romans finally sacked the city, they didn’t take over. They just destroyed it. The whole thing – Temple and all.
God has established His pattern of death and resurrection to create repentance and faith in you and me. First His Son. Then His Temple. Finally, His Cosmos – the whole world. Jesus doesn’t stop His description with the destruction of the Temple. Now He speaks of the End of the World and the beginning of your final redemption. “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, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” The world itself will come unglued. God’s order will return to chaos as He begins to withdraw His benevolence. And as terrifying and alarming as this is – on the very brink of oblivion – your Lord gives you hope.
Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and much glory. When these things begin to happen, straighten up and lift your heads, because your redemption draws near. Don’t cower in horror – don’t faint from fear – don’t run and crawl into a hole – don’t worry – don’t doubt – don’t quiver – don’t shake – straighten up – stand tall – lift your head, proud of your God and His salvation – worshipping Him – welcoming Him – singing and shouting for joy – FINALLY! This is what we are waiting for, what the Church has always been waiting for – everything else is just something pointing to this – this is it – the life you want – the love you want – the joy, peace, rest, fulfillment you want – life in the presence of the Eternal One is about to begin. No matter what terrible thing you witness in this world – God has taught you how to interpret it – as one step closer to your eternal redemption. Out with the old and in with the new. He is coming. Prepare your hearts. Don’t panic. This is the plan. And He promises, it is for you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr