PENTECOST 26, C – November 13, 2016

SCRIPTURES – Ps. 121; Malachi 4:1-6; 2 Thess. 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-33

 

Well: thank goodness the political campaigns are finally over! Now we can have some peace for a while. Then again, perhaps not. You’re well aware of all of the turmoil that has been going on since Trump’s election. Of course, some say that Trump himself is to blame. His words have brought this about!

 

Words can be powerful things; and this is certainly true of Jesus’ words. He tells us today that His words are going to be the cause and center of much conflict in this world. If a politician spoke like Him he would never be elected. Just listen to what Jesus says to His followers!

They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Jesus is obviously not interested in making you comfortable in this life and world. He knows that this life and world with its kingdoms and its glories is passing away. The eternal kingdom of God is coming! Jesus is coming again from heaven and is bringing with Him the kingdom of God. This is what He wants you to prepare for and live for.

 

The kingdom of God that Jesus is bringing rests upon His words. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away,” He says. Since His words are the only thing that will remain, they are the only thing that can cause you to remain and live in God’s eternal kingdom. His words bring God’s kingdom, and bring you into God’s kingdom. That is why it is so important for you to hear them and learn them and take them to heart.

 

But, don’t actions speak louder than words? Isn’t it our actions that matter most? They seem to be the things that last. Christ’s disciples were greatly impressed by the beauty and magnificence of the temple in Jerusalem. It certainly was impressive and was built to last. It contained many beautiful white marble stones measuring 37’x18’x12’. They gleamed in the sunlight. King Herod the Great had spent years building a fabulous temple for the people of Israel; but it did not save him. He died under God’s judgment for his unbelief, and about 70 years later his temple was destroyed. One can only imagine how devastating this was to the Jewish people. The temple was the place of God’s presence on this earth! It was where they met with Him and received His blessing! Where could they meet with Him and have the assurance of His blessing if it’s sacrifices were no more?

 

Jesus didn’t just prophesy the destruction of the temple. He also directed the people to a new temple, a new place where God would meet with them and be with them forever. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” He said of Himself. Jesus in His flesh is the dwelling place of God. In Him God meets with us, brings us His eternal blessing, and dwells with us forever. But, we wouldn’t know this if Jesus hadn’t told us. His words bring us to Him and the salvation He won for us by His flesh and blood sacrifice for us on the cross.

 

Listen to Christ’s words, then, and make them your focus! Don’t make your good deeds into a temple. Don’t trust in them and believe that God will be pleased with you and bring you into His eternal kingdom because of them. Christ alone, and in His flesh and blood sacrifice for you on the cross, is your temple, your salvation. He tells us this. Listen to Him and believe Him! It is only this faith that will save you when heaven and earth pass away at the coming of the kingdom of God.

 

But, what of our lives, then? Is what you do unimportant to God? Oh, not at all. How you live is important; but more for others than for yourself. You are a witness to Jesus! The interesting thing is, He is the one who brings forth this witness; and He especially does so as we suffer for His name.

Ø  I think here of a movie I just saw, Hacksaw Ridge. It’s about a man named Desmond Doss, who enlisted in the Army in WW II. But, he refused to carry a gun because of God’s commandment, “You shall not murder.” He wanted to serve as a medic and so save lives. His fellow soldiers were not impressed by his faith and considered him a coward. But, their view of him changed when he put his life on the line with them and joined in the assault on Hacksaw Ridge with them. When his unit was ordered to withdraw because of intense fire, Doss remained behind and, while under fire, brought out 75 wounded men, one by one. For this he was awarded the Medal of Honor. His faith was a blessing to the men he served with, and became a witness to them. In the movie, after his unit was ordered to go back up Hacksaw Ridge, his fellow soldiers would not do so until he finished praying and was ready to go with them. They now drew strength from his faith!

Jesus does not say that we will be spared sufferings in our lives, not even the great sufferings – the wars and earthquakes and famines and pestilences – that will precede His return. Not only will we perhaps have to endure the sufferings that are common to all; we will even face persecution for following Him. But, He says, “This will be your opportunity to bear witness.” He is in control! And, in the midst of your trials He will show forth His strong presence in your life. Don’t worry about what to say, for “I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” Do you see the hope here? Jesus makes this promise just a couple of days before His enemies bring about His death by crucifixion. He will rise from the dead, however, and will be with His people to speak to them and through them when they suffer for His name! He who endured and overcame the greatest sufferings of all – the punishments your sins deserve – will give you the strength and wisdom and words you need. “Not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.” He will also use you to gain the lives of others. This is the promise of Him who suffered, and died, and rose to gain an eternal kingdom for us all!

 

Believe this, and entrust yourself to Jesus by holding to and believing and following His words. Don’t worry about how you will be received as you do so, for He will hold you in every trial. “The Lord is your keeper,” Psalm 121 says; the word “keeper” literally means, “to watch over and guard.” Your Lord Jesus, who endured persecutions and triumphed over your sins and death, is guarding you and by His words will strengthen and hold you until that glorious day when He rises like the sun and comes “with healing in [His] wings.” You will then “go out leaping like calves from the stall,” rejoicing to see, and receive, the joyous new kingdom of your Savior! Come, Lord Jesus!! Amen.