Luke Chapter 12
So much in this chapter keeps pointing back to the Kingdom. It’s no accident. I have heard some Christians describe life as one big test. Are you going to live your life in a way that honors God, and thus reap the reward? Or are you going to live your life for yourself, and be judged accordingly?
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.
A young girl that was alleged to have been asked if she believed in God during the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, with the knowledge that answering in the affirmative could end her life, comes to mind when I read those last two passages. She said yes. Around the world today, people are still being put to death for refusing to deny their faith in Jesus Christ. What would you say in these same circumstances?
A bit later, worriers (like me) are advised and encouraged NOT to worry. Your Heavenly Father will provide what you need. You don’t need to be rich or famous, and in fact, those are huge detriments and distractions from your real purpose anyway. Don’t let the worries and distractions of this world, which have no impact on your future inheritance, get you off track. Verse 31 says, “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” God WILL take care of your basic needs. I know there are plenty of things to worry about in this life, but much of our worry ends up having been completely needless. Even when you do have very serious things to be concerned about, remember that no one and no thing can take away your inheritance in the Kingdom. You need not worry about that.
Lastly we are encouraged to be vigilant, always ready to take ownership of the parcel designated as yours in the Kingdom, for we do not know the exact hour Jesus will return, or the exact hour that our time in this world will end. NOTHING in this temporary world is worth risking your place in the coming eternal world.
things are gone, the new have come. Cry no more.” God Himself, the creator of all things, will wipe away my tears.
1 Corinthians 11
Transubstantiation. It’s a big word that means the belief that when communion bread and wine are taken, they literally become the body and blood of Christ. The Catholic church holds this view.
A friend of mine was sharing a story recently of a visit to a Catholic church in which he discussed this with the priest. The priest explained how it was because of this belief that the Catholic church began the tradition of priests placing the communion wafers directly into the mouths of parishioners.
You see, if the bread literally is the body of Christ, how awful if it were to fall and break on the floor. The lay people of the church did not want to bear this responsibility. They felt more secure in only having priests handle such a precious treasure. And thus began this now common tradition.
My friend went on to share how he had asked the priest how this played out when they administer the tiny morsel of communion bread to babies upon baptism. What if the baby spits the bread up?
The priest has to eat it.
Yup. Let’s just leave that there and read a couple of verses from our chapter in Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 11: 27-28
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.
Have you ever felt that taking communion can become rote? Something you do without really thinking?
Clearly God cares that we take this exercise seriously. But can we agree that we should find a happy medium between mindlessly consuming the bread and the cup and having to eat baby spit-up?
What this passage encourages me to do, and I encourage you to do, is to be mindful during the communion service. How?
- Always always always take a moment to pray and examine your heart before the Great God of the universe.
- Humble yourself.
- Be quiet.
- Look around your church and ask God how you can build unity among the body (this instruction from Paul comes, after all, in a section of his letter instructing the Corinthian church on getting along at church).
- Think about the fact that the last time Jesus participated in this it was the night before he died for you. Maybe thank him for that.
- Realize that the next time Jesus participates in this he will have come again. Wow! Maybe ask him how you can get ready for that.
Starting with the arrest of Paul in chapter 21, Luke has been steering his readers to a grand finale, where Paul will finally stand in front of the most powerful man in the world to give his testimony. The Apostle endured conspiracies against his life, corruption in government, and finally storms at sea to make it to Rome. Paul was willing to go through all this because he had a clear vision and purpose for his life and knew Rome was where God wanted him to be and the Emperor was who God wanted him to see.
Jesus just finished telling his disciples to expect His return. Now he tells parables about how we should prepare for the return. It’s always nice to have concrete instructions. These ones are in the form of parables, but they aren’t terribly cryptic.
The first parable is about a wedding. There are a bunch of people waiting to meet up with the groom so that they can go to a feast with him. Initially, there are ten of these people patiently waiting. They were expecting him to arrive during the day, but on his way, he was delayed. Once the sun fell, only five of them stayed to wait for the groom because they were prepared for darkness. They thought ahead and brought extra supplies.
In this parable, Jesus is the groom and we are the virgins or bridesmaids waiting for his arrival. Notice that initially there were many who expected his coming. Most of us reading this believe that Jesus will come back. There have been times in the past when a biblical scholar has declared that he deduced the time at which Jesus would return (you can find a nice list of these occurrences on Wikipedia). I imagine many of the people who ended up believing these claims were disappointed when the proclaimed date rolled by without ushering the Kingdom of God. Many of them probably fell away from faith because they had expected their groom to show up during the day, yet they failed to wait through the night. The same is true now. Even if we don’t see an exact date for His return, we must continue to wait. We must be especially aware that soon the sun will set. Darkness will fall. But that doesn’t mean that the groom has forgotten his people and his feast. In fact, darkness will certainly precede His coming.
The second parable is about a hedge fund manager. This man gives his underlings various amounts of seed money and expects them to use it wisely. More precisely, he expects huge returns out of them. Two of his employees manage to achieve returns of 100%. The final employee merely broke even. Of course, the manager is happy with the first two. The returns that they managed are nearly unheard of. For example, to get a 100% return on your investment today, you would have had to invest in Apple stock 5 years ago (more precisely, April 17, 2014). The parable doesn’t tell us how long the manager was away, just that it was a long time. Long-term investment is one of the safer ways to grow your money and short-term investments are considerably riskier. Perhaps the third employee knew this and said, “Rather than take a loss on my boss’s money, I’ll just sit on it.” Perhaps this employee thought his manager would only be gone for 3 months. If he had invested in Apple stock three months ago, then he would have lost 27% of what he invested. That wouldn’t make the manager terribly happy, but the 0% gains that he presented still provoked the manager’s anger. The manager said that he would be gone for a long time, but the third employee didn’t take that to heart and decided to do nothing.
Shortly after Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out on believers. The Holy Spirit is the investment that Jesus gives us. The Spirit gives us each special gifts. In Romans 12:6-8, Paul lists a few of them: prophecy, service, teaching, encouragement, giving, leading, showing mercy. These are the talents that Jesus gives to us. He expects us to invest these gifts for the long-term. This might mean pursuing one person for years to show them the Love and Truth of Jesus. In can be risky to try to convert someone in a day, like a short-term investment. You win that person over, but you could also completely ostracize them forever. This short-term investment is certainly not ideal compared to the safer returns of long-term investment in people. Jesus wants to get returns on the gifts that he gives to you. So put them to use for the long-term.
The final parable is like the first two. Some will claim to know Jesus, and some will serve Jesus. Those who serve will be like the sheep, separated from the goats and placed at the right hand of the King. Those who never believed, or who believed but refused to serve, refused to make a return on the investment that Jesus gave them, will be tossed out. They will be tossed out just as the devil himself will be tossed out. But the righteous, those who invest wisely, will receive eternal life.
We are in the middle of the winter right now. I live in Minnesota and we are supposed to see the coldest air temperatures since the year that I was born. We have a predicted high of -13F and a low of -29F. I think I’m just going to throw away all of my shorts and short-sleeved shirts. I’m going to get rid of my swimsuits and sunglasses, too. It will probably be winter for the rest of my life, after all.
Can you imagine how ridiculous it would be for me to do that? Of course, summer is coming, and I’m ready for it. The second coming of Jesus is the same.
“Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another.” Jesus tells this to his disciples when they point out the buildings to him. They were probably trying to say how beautiful the architecture is with its gates, porticos and cupolas. Jesus had just said in Chapter 23 that Jerusalem is abandoned and desolate, so his disciples were trying to prove him wrong. Imagine that. Jesus had just gone through the tests and traps of the pharisees. He proceeded to tear them apart and use their behavior as a lesson for everyone else. And then His disciples decided to question Him too. He had to set them straight. He said “I tell you the truth.” He knew that Jerusalem was beautiful but he also knew that it would be destroyed. About 40 years later, the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem and that city was razed in the process. Josephus, a first-century Jewish scholar, said that over 1 million Jews were killed in that siege. Jerusalem truly did become abandoned and desolate. After this, Jesus’ disciples make another error; they assume that the temple will be destroyed at the end of the world and the return of Jesus. Jesus didn’t go back to the discussion of Jerusalem, but rather discussed the signs of the end of the age, as his disciples asked rather than as they intended.
There will be many false messiahs. There will be wars, famines and earthquakes. This is the beginning. We can see all of these things already. Just google “man claims to be Jesus.” You’ll find countless examples. There have been many wars, famines and earthquakes even in my short lifetime, but Jesus said that this is just the beginning of birth pains.
Christians will be persecuted, arrested, killed and hated all over the world. Sin will be rampant. We are starting to see this too. In some places more than others, Christians are being persecuted. According to Open Door USA, the worst countries to live in for Christians are North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Pakistan. In North Korea, if it is discovered that you are a Christian, you can be deported to a labor camp or even killed on the spot. In China, if churches become too large, the government will raid the church and arrest member and leaders alike. In December 2018, a house church was raided by the Chinese police and pastor Wang Yi was arrested. He is a well-known pastor of the Early Rain Convent Church. Thank God that the United States is still largely free of Christian persecution.
But certainly, we are not in the worst of it yet. Jesus says that the anguish seen at the end will be greater than any the world has ever seen. We can think of many times when the world was in anguish greater than now. In the previous century there were multiple wars covering the surface of the Earth, causing widespread anguish.
The final sign will signify Jesus return. People all over the world will be able to see it and then Jesus will gather his people.
This final sign will be so obvious that you don’t need to believe in any of the false prophets coming before Jesus. It will be seen in the east and the west. But you must not be caught off Guard. Jesus uses multiple examples here to try to get that point across. No one expected the sky to open up and to flood the world. Neither will most expect the coming of Jesus. Live righteous lives. Love your neighbor. Repent. Await his return.