January 15, 2021

Luke’s Gospel of Reversal … and distractions from his coming.

associate pastor

associate pastor

Ken Rathburn


Do you remember how (many months ago now) we all talked about the hidden gift of “time” from the pandemic? Things closing down and slowing down, for better or worse, were forcing us to do the same. Just before the shutdowns, our elders held a strategy session to set NAPC’s 2020 goals. One of them was to experience Sabbath rest. And then, bam! Everything stopped, forcing our pause. So, a year later now, how is that going? For many of us, work paused briefly but then returned quickly with new to-dos. Kids had a school break but then were back at it in new, harder-to-manage formats. Activities have resumed albeit with caveats and changes. Our life connections have gone into the social media stratosphere, as we are either doing something or consuming something or both at every moment. And so it goes. I don’t know if this is the “new normal” we’ve all been describing for so long, but I do know it is just as busy and full as it was before. We are so tied into the “doings” of this life, are we not?

At the tail end of Luke’s 17th chapter, Jesus teaches his disciples about his return in glory:

“For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”

Luke 17:24-30. Jesus speaks here to his disciples, warning them about the coming of the ‘Son of Man.’ This refers to Christ’s second coming in glory on that great future day. This is the day for which all Christians are to eagerly await—the return of our Lord and Savior when he will set all things to rights. In this passage, we see two things: We see the manner of Christ’s return, and we see the manner of the world when he returns. And these two things, should cause us to examine our lives.

The manner of Christ’s return.

A lightning storm is an amazing thing. Full of power and beauty (assuming you watch from safely inside), it is nature at its most striking. Lightning is “unexpectedly unmistakable” in that you cannot be certain where or when the next bolt will strike, but when it does its brightness is wide and it cannot be missed. So it will be, says Jesus, when he returns. It will happen suddenly—in an instant of time—and yet no one will be able to say they missed it. There is no need to wonder or speculate at the timing or manner of his return. It will happen, it will be swift and it will be obvious.

The manner of the world at Christ’s return.

Jesus next uses two Old Testament references to outline the manner of the world when he returns: the days of Noah (Genesis 6-8) and the days of Lot (Genesis 19). You might remember these two Sunday school stories at some level. In both, the citizens of the world are severely judged for their rampant and unabated immorality. The people are ruining God’s world and themselves, mired in evil and sexual sin, and so God judges them by flood or by fire.

Is that why Jesus mentions them here? Not at all. In both references, Jesus describes the world at those times by listing activities that are, well, pretty normal and pretty neutral. Eating, drinking and marrying are the daily activities of an individual. Commerce, farming and construction are the regular activities of a society. None of them are inherently bad or sinful. And yet, Jesus condemns them. Why? He does so not because of their inherent sinfulness, but because of their obliviousness.

Imagine the disciples’ shock at hearing this. They and other listeners were regular working people with regular rhythms of life, like us. So let the shock not be lost on us either. The bulk of people in our modern “day(s)” go on about life with complete indifference to the claims of Christ. They do not seem like evil or wicked people and they try to live their life decently. At their core, however, their lives are expressions of complete and repeated self-centeredness—loving their lives and the things of this world so completely that they have little if any time for God. “On the day when the Son of Man is revealed,” to be preoccupied and infatuated with the normality of this life is to be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It is to become complacent and routine with life and bored with faith. And that, friends, is a scary picture.

So, how is one to live in light of Christ’s coming return? What does a life lived in this world but toward the joy of the “day” of the coming of the Son of Man look like? Jesus commends a disposition toward this life that allows for a total willingness to abandon the trappings of this life in a moment.

Living in light of his coming

So, how is one to live in light of Christ’s coming return? What does a life lived in this world but toward the joy of the “day” of the coming of the Son of Man look like? Jesus commends a disposition toward this life that allows for a total willingness to abandon the trappings of this life in a moment. We enjoy our homes, but we remind ourselves they aren’t really our Home. We work hard at our callings, but recognize they aren’t our ultimate Calling. Just as Jesus’ main purpose in this life was to take up his cross for us, so also our purpose as his followers is to take up our own cross for him (Matthew 16:24-28). Are you too passionate about the things of this world that fill our days? Or, do you find ways to use them in light of Christ’s future return? We should connect and build relationships with others, ultimately to love them and share the Gospel with them. We should want our kids educated, but ultimately want them to know and follow the Lord. We should fill our time with the things of Christ, because our minds and hearts should be set on him.

Let us be prepared for his return. Come Lord, Jesus! (Revelation 22:20).

Awaiting his return with you,
Pastor Ken