“Sun, Moon, and Stars”
Luke 21:25-36 (12/6/15)
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St. Luke 21:25-36 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring…”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord… The Bible tells us that God created the sun, moon, and stars on the 4th day of creation. In Genesis 1:14 He said that they were not only to be “lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night,” but they were also to “be for signs and seasons, and for days and years.” The rising and setting of the sun marks the day, the phases of the moon mark roughly a month, the earth’s movement around the sun and it’s relation to the other stars marks the seasons and the course of a year. These heavenly bodies are God’s gifts to us that help order the times of our life.
But these things point to more than just the passage of time. They point to the fulfillment of time, to the end of time, and to Him who is the Lord of time and eternity. They point to Jesus. Remember how it was a heavenly body—a star in the heavens—that led the Wise Men to the infant Jesus. These men were drawn by the star to Bethlehem to worship the Virgin’s Son. And so, Jesus’ first coming was marked by a sign in the heavens.
Remember also how, when our Lord Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, that there were signs in the heavens. Beginning at high noon, for three hours, all the land was covered with darkness and the sun did not give its full light. This was not simply an eclipse; it was a divine re-ordering of the laws of nature. The sun, you might say, bowed its head and dimmed its light at the sight of the Son of God dying to redeem to the world from sin and the power of death.
In the same way, Jesus says, there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars to mark His second coming. There will be familiar signs in terms of eclipses and comets and meteor showers and the like. But there will also be abnormal and unfamiliar signs as well. For the very powers of the heavens will be shaken prior to the close of this age. Not only will the heavenly bodies bow down to our returning Lord Christ, but they will eventually bow out altogether as creation passes away and gives way to the new creation that Jesus is coming to bring to His people.
Today’s Gospel warns us against misinterpreting these signs or even missing them altogether. That’s the way it will be with the world. People will say, “Big deal, another comet. A partial eclipse; so what. All things continue as they’ve always been. Don’t talk to me about this second coming of Jesus stuff. He hasn’t come yet. What makes you think He’s ever going to come?” In our text today Jesus says that the hearts of such will “be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life.” (v. 34). That’s all that matters to them—having a good time, taking care of their stuff. Jesus warns us to take heed to ourselves, lest we become like them.
And that, dear friends, is the real temptation we face. We are so tempted to love our time in this world and even prefer it to the time of our Lord’s return and the glorious eternity He has prepared for us. If I were to tell you that Jesus’ second coming was going to occur in exactly 15 minutes, would there be a part of you that is disappointed because of all the things you still wanted to do and see and experience in this world? The prayer of the church is “Come, quickly, Lord Jesus.” But do you find yourself sometimes thinking, “Come, Lord Jesus, but not right away—not until after these other very important things I want to do.”
Repent. Repent that you are still so attached to this passing life. Repent that you so infrequently consider Jesus’ second coming, that your hearts are not fully set on Christ and the fulfillment of all things at His return. Watch, lest this Day come upon you unexpectedly as a snare and a trap. Pray that you may escape all these things that will come to pass and be made worthy to stand before the Son of Man when He comes.
For the truth of the matter is that, for the Christian, Judgment Day and the second coming of Christ is not something to fear; on the contrary, it is something to desire greatly and eagerly anticipate. Jesus says, “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” He speaks to you! Your redemption draws near because your Redeemer draws near. The One who will come on the Last Day is the same One who already came to rescue you from everything that would trap you and drag you down to hell.
Jesus allowed Himself to be snared and weighed down with your sin and death in order to break their power over you. He received to Himself the judgment of death in order that you and I would have the gift of everlasting life. Our judgment day already took place: on Good Friday. All of our sins were answered for there on the tree of the cross. All those who are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection share in His righteousness and His life. We who believe have nothing to be afraid of and everything to look forward to when He comes again.
So when you see these signs that the Bible describes, don’t let them be a cause of alarm for you or a sign of God’s judgment against you, which it may appear to be. Rather, with firm God-given faith, let these signs be a reminder that you must endure only a little while longer; let them remind you that your Savior is at the very gates of heaven about to return for you.
Don’t give up hope, especially when you see the wicked and the ungodly prospering all around you with seemingly no consequences for their behavior. Don’t give up hope especially when violence, hatred and rampant godlessness fill the daily newsfeeds. Remember what Malachi the prophet spoke in the Old Testament reading, how there will again be a distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and the one who doesn’t. For now, it’s all muddled and jumbled up together. But on the Last Day the wicked will be burned like stubble in the field. They will see the Lord coming and weep greatly that they rejected their only hope of salvation.
The book of Revelation tells us (Rev. 1:7), “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.” However, you who fear the Lord will be spared for the sake of Christ. The Lord says of you, “For they shall be like the jewels of a crown” (Zech. 9:16). The Lord will come with healing in His wings, to comfort His persecuted and afflicted people who are His treasure. He will come “with clouds descending” as we sang earlier, on the clouds with power and great glory, glory that He gives you to share in, power that He has exercised in love for you.
Jesus says, “Let the trees be your teacher. When you see them budding, even when it seems as if winter will never end, you know that spring and summer are near. Even so, when you see these signs occurring, and on earth distress of nations, even when it seems that you’ve been waiting forever, persevere, endure, continue trusting in Me and clinging to Me. For the kingdom of God is near.” Your faith, dear friends, will soon be turned to sight. And when Jesus appears you will be like Him, for you will see Him as He is.
Therefore, brothers and sisters of Christ, as you see the signs of His return around you, look up and lift up your heads to the heavens. Learn from the sun, moon, and stars—not in the superstitious way of the astrologers. Rather, let these markers of time remind you of the ending of time, stirring up your hearts to greater faith in Christ and a greater desire for His return and your deliverance from this world.
And as He comes to you each and every week here in the Divine Service through Word and Sacrament, he resides within you and will never leave you nor forsake you until that Day when He brings you Home.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.