When the Son of Man Appears
(Matthew 24.29-31; Luke 21.25-28)
24 In those days, right after this time of suffering,
“The sun will become dark,
and the moon
will no longer shine.
25 The stars will fall,
and the powers in the sky
will be shaken.”
26 Then the Son of Man will be seen coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27He will send his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the earth.
A Lesson from a Fig Tree
(Matthew 24.32-35; Luke 21.29-33)
28Learn a lesson from a fig tree. When its branches sprout and start putting out leaves, you know summer is near. 29So when you see all these things happening, you will know that the time has almost come. 30You can be sure that some of the people of this generation will still be alive when all this happens. 31The sky and the earth will not last forever, but my words will.
No One Knows the Day or Time
32 No one knows the day or the time. The angels in heaven don't know, and the Son himself doesn't know. Only the Father knows. 33So watch out and be ready! You don't know when the time will come. 34 It is like what happens when a man goes away for a while and places his servants in charge of everything. He tells each of them what to do, and he orders the guard to keep alert. 35So be alert! You don't know when the master of the house will come back. It could be in the evening or at midnight or before dawn or in the morning. 36But if he comes suddenly, don't let him find you asleep.
In Uganda, where my family and I have lived for some years, night guards are commonly hired. Institutions, businesses or even private residences hire guards for protection from thieves who otherwise would carry out their business without resistance or fear.
Everyone needs to be alert. And nobody wants a guard who just wants to sleep the night away. Neither does anyone appreciate a guard who will pound on your door in the middle of the night to warn you of things that turn out to be only shadows or harmless trees.
Jesus, in his final comments to Peter, James, John and Andrew about the end times, reinforces what he has already told them in various ways: stay alert. Stay alert not only for the end itself, but stay alert for false rumours and false prophets.
I once a read a blockbuster book that argued with conviction that Christ would very likely return within one generation, or forty years after the 1948 birth of the modern state of Israel. Millions of others also read this book, first published in 1970 and then reprinted repeatedly. Its argument that the 1980s were likely “the end” was supported by a long list of biblical references. But the authors were wrong, just like other, similar misguided prophetic predictions.
Jesus’ words remind us that there will indeed be an end time, a time of intense suffering cut short only because of God’s great love for humanity. It will eventually lead to an entire new earth. But Jesus’ words also remind us that nobody except God the Father knows the precise timing of these events.
This is how we are kept watchful and humble and also focused on what is most important: living in “the now,” with a spirit of thanksgiving and service.
Loving Heavenly Father: Thank you for watching over me and the entire earth, watching like a guard, and, even when you are silent, knowing exactly what is happening. I put all the world’s tomorrows into your hands. And I put my every today into your care too.