Sermon Notes – November 17, 2019

Redemption Drawing Near – Luke 21:28

   Our Gospel for today (Luke 21:5-28) begins with a prophecy of destruction and ends with an assurance of redemption. At the time of Jesus’ public ministry the temple of Jerusalem was a magnificent structure. It had been expanded and renovated by King Herod the Great (yes, the same man who tried to kill the baby Jesus). Some people were speaking of how impressive the temple was when Jesus offered a stern forecast: “The days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another…” About thirty-five years later the Romans fulfilled Jesus’ prediction. Jerusalem was besieged and the temple was destroyed completely. Many thought it was the end of the world.

   It wasn’t yet the end of the world, but the end times were certainly in full swing in the year A.D. 70 when the temple fell. The course of human history has brought other times of cataclysm filled with the very things Jesus catalogs as tokens of the end times: false teachers and messiahs, wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and persecutions. Not always, not everywhere, not everyone, but the four horsemen of the apocalypse (pestilence, war, famine, death) have wreaked their havoc in a recurring cycle which we have branded “the end times” (the time from Jesus’ ascension until His return).

   The Rev. Doctor Hermann Sasse was a great Lutheran theologian who settled in Australia. Over the years of his career he regularly wrote letters to Lutheran pastors all over the world (blogs before the internet). In 1952 he wrote one on the topic of “Last Things.” After the impact of two world wars, the pestilent scourge of the Spanish flu (1918-1919, which infected a third of the world’s population, killing at least 20 million), post war famines, the advent of atomic weapons—it would be hard to deny the four horsemen weren’t working overtime. In his letter, Sasse pointed out that those experiences rejuvenated interest in the end times. We could no longer be passive observers! The 19th century preaching on the end times “seemed like the work of a connoisseur who stands before some old paintings as if he had all the time in the world and expounds what he finds so enchanting about them. He is quite at peace with himself and his expert knowledge—or his expert ignorance.”[1]

   “Expert ignorance” defines what Jesus’ critics (then and now) have had to say against His teachings about the end times and the Day of the Lord. It is expert ignorance when someone reveals the day and the hour when the Lord will return. Jesus said, “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matt 24:36) It is expert ignorance when anyone tells us that Jesus cannot return yet because the temple has to be rebuilt or a rapture of the faithful has to take place first or every human being has to hear the Gospel. Jesus told us always to expect His return. “If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.” (Rev 3:3) It was expert ignorance that asked Jesus for a sign of His authority after He had cleansed the temple of con artists. Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The experts answered, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” Yes, He would, because “He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (John 2:18-21) He was speaking of His resurrection, His victory, His work for our redemption.

   [Meaning of redemption is “the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.” 1995 commercial for Pepsi Points] Christ redeems us with absolute certainty because He could and He did clear our debt, atoned for our sins, and removed the curse of the law. [Gal 3:13; 1 Cor 15:56-57; Titus 2:13-14]

We are enveloped by the signs of the end times. False teachers and messiahs, wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and persecutions are current realities which impact us all. Don’t listen to any expert ignorance. Listen to Jesus. Jesus said He would be raised on the third day—and He was! Jesus said the temple would be destroyed—and it was! Jesus said that at the end of the end times there would be “people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world…And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory”—and it will happen! We don’t need to faint. We don’t need to cower. Jesus said, “When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

 



[1] Letters to Lutheran Pastors, Volume II, Concordia Publishing House, ©2014, page 99.

 

 

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