Monday, November 18, 2013

Sermon on Luke 21:5-8, for the 26th Sunday after Pentecost, "The King of Our Redemption"

Sermon Outline:
·         Today is the 2nd last Sunday of the church year, before we start the new church year with the season of Advent. At the end of the church year, and beginning of the next, themes turn to the final judgment, the end of time, and Jesus’ return. Jesus teaches in the Gospel reading about the signs of the end. And they’re not pretty. There’s the total destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the coming of false christs and false prophets, wars, natural disasters, persecution for the faith, the siege of Jerusalem, death, slavery, signs in the heavens and people fainting with fear for the things that are coming on the world.
·         Did Jesus paint such a frightening picture, to terrify us and put fear in our hearts? One might wonder, at first glance. But upon closer examination, Jesus says precisely, “When you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” Do not be terrified. He instills courage instead of fear. Then at the end of the passage, He describes two dramatically different reactions to the same event. The first reaction is of fear and dread, of people fainting with fear for what is coming on the world. But Jesus calls us to a second reaction: “now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
·         It’s almost startling to think that Jesus wants us to be unafraid when such dreadful things happen. But clearly Jesus is showing us that He does not intend to create fear but rather to warn and prepare us, so that we may face these things with confidence. How can that be, with such dreadful things to come? Isn’t fear a natural response to such things? Isn’t it necessary for our safety and protection? But against these dangers, there is only One sure refuge. There is only One who can protect us through all these dangers ahead, and who therefore can instill in us courage in the face of the end times. The source of our Christian confidence is none other than Jesus. He alone lifts up our heads to see His redemption brings. He alone dispels all our fears by the comfort of His Word and the presence of His Spirit. It is His kingdom that is coming, and these signs all come first. He calls us to stand tall as our redemption nears.
·         Notice that up through verse 24, the signs are almost all referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in 69/70 AD, some 30-35 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Most of those signs have already been fulfilled. And this is remarkable confirmation of Jesus’ words in itself. Yet some signs still appear today—like the appearance of false teachers and false christs, who come to lead people astray, or the presence of persecution against the church. And as each sign unfolds, everything is shaken; the Temple is toppled to its foundation, people are led astray, nations are shaken by wars and conflicts, the earth is shaken with earthquakes, famines, and natural disasters. Christians are shaken in their families as they face persecution, arrest, betrayal, and trial, just as Jesus did. The city of Jerusalem, the sea, and even the powers of the heavens are shaken. In short, every heavenly or earthly thing that seemed stable, safe, or secure, is shaken and rattled to its core. No human fortress and no earthly stronghold stands firm against this shaking and war. Nothing on earth proves worthy of our ultimate trust and security. But on the heels of even the powers of heaven being shaken, the Son of Man comes in a cloud with power and great glory.
·         Jesus arrives in the midst of a scene where we have no hope and cannot find any foothold, and He ushers in His kingdom that has no end. As the book of Hebrews tells us, God has promised that “‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:26-29). Everything will be shaken, and removed. The heavens and the earth will pass away—as solid and enduring as they may seem, they too will be shaken and destroyed.
·         But let us be grateful that we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken. This kingdom that the OT promises will never be destroyed, and shall stand forever (Dan. 2:44). Jesus is the Forever-King of this unshakeable kingdom, and He comes to defeat His enemies and bring redemption to His people. We take heart because He is greater than any of the fearful things that befall us on earth. He stands unchanged and immovable, against the changes and disasters of time.
·         We worship Him for His power and His glory—we worship Him with reverence and awe, because He is a consuming fire. God has a great and awesome power—yet He uses it for our rescue, our redemption, our good. But first the church must endure great hardship and difficulty. But even through this, He promises to be with us, to give us the words and wisdom to speak for Him, and that through it all, by our endurance, we will gain our lives. Just like Jesus, the way toward glory went first through the cross. Jesus gained this kingdom not by military might, or by wielding a sword on the battlefield, but by going to the cross. He gained it by humble self-sacrifice, and a death that seemed all but defeat for His kingdom. But by conquering sin and death through His innocent blood, and by rising from the grave to new life, He sealed the victory for His kingdom. For Jesus, and for believers in His kingdom, glory comes only through the cross.
·         So when you see signs of the end; when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, when false teachers and false teachings abound, and sin seems to have its day of triumph as the world slowly decays, don’t hang your heads in gloom and despair, don’t cower in fear and be terrified. Straighten up! Raise your heads! Because your redemption is drawing near! We have nothing to fear with Christ as the king of our unshakable kingdom.
·         Do we longing for the kingdom? Do we live in expectation, rejoicing and standing tall at Jesus’ coming? Or are we clinging to a world that is passing away? Are we trapped in fear? The way we answer those questions depends on whether our trust and confidence is in Christ alone, or whether we’re hoping for security in the passing things of this world. But only Christ and His kingdom can endure.
·         Does Christ come to bring fear, or comfort? For the believer, it is obviously comfort. His is the steady arm of the Savior, reaching out to rescue us in the terrible storm. His is the Light of the world coming down into our darkness, and stilling our fears. He is the Almighty King coming with the dawn of the morning, His light triumphantly breaking in on the darkness of this world. When the collapse of our disordered and faltering world seems imminent, Jesus Christ will come into the chaos and bring redemption, rescue for His people. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” (Luke 12:32).

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. In Luke 21, Jesus recounts signs of the end of times, but also in the nearer future (for Jesus’ original audience) He foretells the destruction of Jerusalem in 69/70 AD. This event would be so terrible that many people would think that the end of times had already come. Though the disciples took great pride in the grandeur of the Temple, this was the central feature of the city that would be destroyed down to its very foundation. Why did God allow the Temple to be destroyed? What would be the new center for worship, for believers in the True God? John 4:20-25

  1. What other types of signs would mark the end of times? Cf. Matthew 24. What might you conclude is the reason why most of these signs have been present throughout history since Jesus’ ascended to heaven? Matthew 25:13; Luke 21:31-36.

  1. How can there be such a sharp contrast in the way that people react to the same event, of Jesus’ return/the end of times? (see description in Luke 21:26-28). What is the difference in whom they have trusted? Why should the Christian be filled with confidence as the Day approaches? Romans 8:18-25; 13:11.

  1. While many of the signs in Luke 21 were fulfilled historically in the destruction of Jerusalem, which signs are still evident in our day? How does Jesus promise to help those who are persecuted for His name? What is His purpose for them facing persecution? Luke 21:13-15. What losses may they face? What rewards lie in store? Luke 21:16-18; Matthew 5:12

  1. After everything that seemed strong and solid is destroyed or shaken—even the powers of the heavens—what remains firm and unshaken? See Isaiah 34:4; 2 Peter 3:10-12 for the destruction of the universe. See Hebrews 12:26-29; Psalm 46; 1 Peter 1:25; Matthew 16:18; Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 2:44; 7:13-14 for what cannot be shaken. 

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