25“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
29Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
What I Am Learning:
Jesus said this in a time when human beings were violent to one another, economics were full of inequity and the leaders sought to divide people so they could conquer them.
That was the order of things.
Most of the time we like order. As it is written in the Proverbs, "a ruler is good for a planted field." We like our garbage pick up to take place on a regular schedule. We like our grocery stores to have full shelves and to have what we need to feed our families. We like things to be orderly because chaos is not conducive to life.
But what do people long for when the current order is itself full of chaos? What do you do when the current order means you are on the bottom of the pile? What do you do when the future you see means your children and grandchildren cannot thrive?
Well, you hope for a BIG change!
Jesus is speaking a prophetic word in these passages.
First, to be prophetic is to speak truth about the public order. It is not to tell the future or figure out "God's calendar for blasting the earth to rubble."
Second, to speak a prophetic word one must love God above all else and all others.
Third, to speak a prophetic word one must long for the wellbeing of all people, including those that benefit from the chaotic order of the present.
Jesus is using a poetic way of speaking which we call "apocalyptic."
Notice the way nature images are used. The sun, moon and stars and oceans are symbols for the larger natural environment. They are used in tandem with the cultural environment that nations and rulers create. In this poetic language when one of these environments is changed, so are the others.
The text is not saying that the earth will be destroyed, but rather is a poetic way of saying that when cultural, economic or political environments change, that we are just as freaked out as if the sun, moon, stars, and the oceans were changed.
Jesus is calling for and even predicting that the chaotic order of the Roman Empire will be overturned and a new order will arise - an order marked by peace, equity and neighborly love.
But change, even when it is a change within a chaotic order, evokes fear in us. Such cosmically huge change makes us wonder if the sown field and the grocery store will still have what we need. This fear comes from our core - our desire for life rising to meet the challenge of life.
But notice what Jesus says at the end of every paragraph.
28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
34“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap.
Jesus is encouraging us not either numb ourselves with alcohol or drugs or fantasy sports or denial or to be overcome with despair, but to stand up, raise our heads.
God's redemption, a word that means "to rescue us from a dangerous situation", comes precisely in the midst of such change.
Today we also live in a time of a chaotic order. We can also see that this order is falling apart.
Stand up, raise your heads, and live in love for yourself and your neighbor for the God that loves you is moving, even in these challenging times, to bring healing and wholeness (salvation) to all people - even to us.