Today’s Lectio Divina: Luke 21: 29-36 (MsgB)
He (Jesus) told them a story. “Look at a fig tree. Any tree for that matter. When the leaves begin to show, one look tells you that summer is right around the corner. The same here—when you see these things happen, you know God’s Kingdom is about here. Don’t brush this off: I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too—these things will happen. Sky and earth will wear out; My words won’t wear out. But be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man.”
Over the years I’ve seen it all. Most of it on bumper stickers. Beware. Repent. Jesus is coming back and He’s not happy.
As I’ve mentioned earlier in this blog series, back in the 1980’s when I managed a Christian bookstore, I was bombarded regularly with requests by well-meaning Christians looking for the latest and greatest best-seller on the second coming of Christ. The book 88 Reasons Why Jesus is Coming Back in 1988 stands out in my memory as the most laughable effort drawing people’s attention away, in my opinion, from the primary Kingdom message found in the scriptures. The author’s second book, released in 1989, was a ‘whoops, I miscalculated’ type of book and, as expected, sold much less than the original! It’s obvious that good Christians can so easily be caught up in the prophetic ‘yet-to-come’ nature of the Bible that we can actually end up missing the practical realities of the scripture which call us to live wisely for today. As I see it, Jesus makes this point clearly here in this final paragraph or so of Chapter 21 of Luke’s gospel.
“Be on your guard,” Jesus proclaims. In other words, be aware of the times we live in, folks. Know that ‘the end’ started 2,000 years ago. Every day from the moment Jesus dies on the cross until today is considered ‘the last days’. We just live in the latter part of the last days! So rather than spending so much time worrying about all the prophetic details that point to ‘the end,’ just know that we’re already there! We’ve been there for two millennia now! The question should never focus on if we are in the last days, but, more importantly, how are you and I living now that we know that we are in the ‘last days’?
Theologian N.T. Wright explains it this way. From the beginning of time until the end of time on this planet, we are all acting out our parts in a glorious three-act play. The play has been written, produced, and is being directed by God, our loving Father. The script for Act One is found in what we Christians call the Old Testament. That really is a poor title for this act, since everything in this section of the play gives substance, meaning, and purpose for the other two acts. Act One has the creation story and contains the earliest narratives of how God plans to redeem this lost world of His, calling some very specific men and women on planet earth to join Him in His glorious plan of worldwide reconciliation.
Act Two, which is written on paper in what we call the New Testament, gives us the real inside story on God’s plan for world-wide redemption and reconciliation. Jesus of Nazareth is revealed as the lead character in the entire trilogy. The surprise awaiting us in Act Two is that when Jesus, our hero, arrives on the scene, He doesn’t end the story but just begins the Third Act. As the curtain comes down on Act Two, the theatre is abuzz on how Act Three could top what we’ve seen and heard thus far. But the orchestra plays, the curtain opens and there, to everyone’s surprise, is us! Act Three begins. We are all standing on the stage. We all have important parts to play. We have lines to speak and actions to accomplish. The plot thickens. The story becomes richer than anyone might have first expected when they first took their seats back in Act One. Unlike the first two acts, Act Three is more of an ‘improv session’. There is much freedom for us on the stage to play our parts, but we must be very careful not to act ‘out of character’ or outside of the consistency of the stories found in Acts One and Two. As N.T. Wright states, we have the freedoms to explore our parts, but must, as an actor or actress working under the tutelage of the master director, stay in character when on the stage. Just as professional actors must study their scripts, we must know well the consistencies found in the bigger story as presented to us in Acts One and Two. We must stay ‘in character’ with everything that has occurred on the stage before us. Otherwise, the audience will have no way of understanding this grand story God has written for all of us!
And as Jesus states here, Act Three will, indeed, come to an end. This play will not go on forever. It has a beginning, a middle, and it has an end. All of the players on the stage must stay on their toes. Playing our part to the end. Staying in character the entire way. Consistent and persistent to the author’s marvelous trilogy, even to the final curtain.
I hear, Jesus, standing off stage, whispering to us that the final curtain is drawing near. Let’s do this thing with a strong finish, folks. Not falling asleep at the switch, as Jesus says. On our feet, as the final curtain comes down.
Bravo! Bravo! God, what a masterpiece you’ve created!
My prayer: Jesus, I see the signs. I know the times. The end began 2,000 years ago and now we’re 2,000 years closer to the very end of the play! Help me, Holy Spirit, to not fall asleep at the switch during this vitally important part of Your drama. The climax of the story is at hand. May I play my unique part for the glory of Your great Kingdom! For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Am I more consumed with the details of the second coming than actually playing my part on the stage today? What is my character all about? Why have I been chosen to be ‘on stage’ during this unique part of God’s trilogy epic? How can I play my character with gusto, knowing that with God, there are no small parts…only small actors?
So, what are you experiencing today as we are journeying through this Lenten Adventure?
Over a 48-day period (from Ash Wednesday through the Monday after Easter), you and I will be taking a deeper look at the stories surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus (especially the last week known as Holy Week) as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Our Lenten Journey home page for ease of use.
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!