The words were paralyzing words. They were unexpected words. He had worked in that position at the plant for 32 years. And, now, with just two words, his entire life had just changed. It happened in mere moments. As he was escorted with his box of belongings out to his car he was afraid.
It happened across town also when the young woman came home to see the broken window in the front of her apartment and the furniture overturned throughout the house. She had just started feeling comfortable in this new community, and now… Where was her cat? Her cat had never been outdoors before. Where was her cat? That night, with flimsy cardboard taped to the window, she sat awake in her bed, with a heavy flashlight held firmly in her grasp. Would she ever sleep again? Her life had changed that day. She was afraid.
Across the world, he ran from the smoke engulfed landscape behind. Just days before he, a Christian, and his Muslim neighbor were sharing a meal and good conversation in their backyard. But, now these friends were supposed to pretend to be at war as the government started shelling the neighborhood? “What kind of madness is this?” he thought. The smoke was rising from their houses. In a mere microsecond, someone else’s hatred destroyed the peace and the prosperity of their lives. His country would never be the same. His life would never be the same. Kids would now grow up to be enemies rather than friends, and the very thought of his country's culture being changed forever made him very afraid.
There are some truths in life that Jesus lays out quite plainly: There will be “distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world…” (21:25-26).
All that we know in life will fall apart. That is a truth. That is a certainty. The life that we thought we had will change, and fear will linger with our struggle to confront our new way of life.
Fear is that terrible feeling of uncertainty.
People are naturally uncertain about unfamiliar people, and they act out of fear. Just ask the Native Americans what happened to them when they saw fear in the eyes of those first Europeans.
People are naturally uncertain about the future, and they act out of character, making decisions and acting in ways that are foreign to who they are…all because of fear. Just ask those Germans who followed orders from the Nazi’s that stank of the threat of death.
Fear can drive us to flee or it can drive us to fight, but either way it will heap change upon change upon change upon change.
Do you know what is nice when caught in the grips of fear? Something stable is nice.
Seeing the stability of solid, high ground is nice when the seas rage. Seeing the stable vine and reaching for it is nice when falling off of the cliff. Seeing the stable, solid friend’s embrace coming near is nice when your life is crumbling apart on all sides.
In the exact same way, would it not be nice if you could look up to the sky, look up to God during the impossible times of life, and see that the crumbling of life is not the last word?
“Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (21:27-18).
In the ancient world, there was a literature that most of us no longer recognize or understand. It was called “apocalypse.” And, in this ancient literature the world was divided into two plains. There was the earthly plain where the struggles of the world occurred. Then, there was the heavenly plain where the gods resided. Remember, most ancient people believed in multiple gods. These two plains existed in parallel in that when there was a war between the gods in the heavens, then there was also a war between the nations below. In fact, the war in the heavens was the reason that a war on earth was taking place.
Given that, would not it be nice if someone on earth could somehow peer into heaven and see the reason that the horrors of the world were taking place? That opportunity is what happens in apocalyptic literature.
In other words, apocalyptic literature tells us that there is more to reality than we might see at first glance. Our world and our lives might be crumbling apart, but this literature reminds us of the possibility that there may be something bigger going on…maybe God is up to something that we just do not yet know.
It is similar to when someone you love dearly dies and an acquaintance comes up to you and says, “It is OK, it is all a part of God’s plan." However, this mini apocalypse in Luke is not as terribly dismissive as that. If fact, never say that. Never say that to someone who has just lost someone very close to them. The statement does more hurt than help. That is just a little piece of free grief advice for you today.
Instead, of saying “It is all a part of God’s plan,” this fragment of Apocalyptic image promises something that goes kind of like: “Even though things are all falling apart, do not worry, Jesus is coming with salvation in his heart and Jesus does not change.”
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (21:33).
Your world might fall apart, your plans may crumble, your world may change, but there is one thing that does not change. There is one piece of stable ground on which you can land. There is one vine to which you can grasp. Jesus and his love does not pass away. Jesus and his love does not fall apart. Jesus and his ability to make something new and glorious out of a crumpled mess never goes away. Though jobs are lost, homes are destroyed, and countries crumble away, nothing is able to touch the grace of God found in Jesus Christ.
Look up into the heavens and see the truth. Jesus comes riding on the clouds. His truth never passes away. Your salvation is near.
“Watch” (21:34). “Stay awake at all times” (21:36). Do not lose heart. Jesus is still our rock in a world of shifting sands.
Wait for the Lord. Watch for the Lord. Be aware and prepared. No matter what happens, do not lose heart. Do not lose yourself in despair. Do not lose yourself in drunkenness. Do not close yourself away from the world.
When the world crumbles apart, look up to see Jesus who never falls apart or fades away. Jesus is your true source of strength. He is your source of “wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict” (21:14-15).
When all is falling apart, remember that there is more going on than the pain of the world. God is forever, and Jesus is forever your hope.