Your Redemption Draws Near
St. Luke 21:25-36
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.
St. Luke 21:28 [Jesus said] “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord…I remember when I was a child lying in bed trying to fall asleep while wondering not only about the end of the world, but also about the phrase in the Creed about the life of the world to come. These thoughts would come to my head either when the catechism class was discussing these things or at this time of the Church year when the end times is a recurring theme.
I remember thinking about all the terrible things that had to happen before Jesus’ second coming. I remember wondering what life would be like without sin, and what it would be like to be in the company of all the saints that have gone before us. I would think about what it would be like to have a perfect and glorified body. I remember also wondering about losing all of my earthly possessions, my house, my church, my stereo, my toys, and everything else in this world. No more McDonald’s. No more trips to the mall. No more bacon! No more of everything I thought was cool about this world.
Now that I am older and have studied Scripture more, I am much less worried about those things, but much more concerned about how people in this world will react when Jesus returns “with clouds descending” as we just sang a few minutes ago.
But a Christian should never have to worry about Christ’s second coming. And that is because Christians live under the joy and grace of His first coming. When the signs of the end happen and are noticed, Christians should lift up their heads and their hearts because, as Jesus says, “your redemption draws near.”If you are a betting person, you may place a sure and safe wager that the signs of end of the world will be something easily recognizable to all people whether or not they believe in Jesus. The media will make a big spectacle of all the signs in the sun, moon, and stars. Experts will be brought on camera to explain everything away as “natural anomalies that occur once a millennium or so.” What will the world have to say when the signs of Jesus’ return become more and more numerous? How will the so-called “experts” explain it away? How will those who claim to be “spiritual” but not “religious” react when their theories are proven to be nothing but a pile of, as Sherman Potter on M.A.S.H. would say, “Horse hockey!”?
How will we react to the increasing signs of our Lord’s return? Our natural instinct when something big and powerful happens is to run away and hide. When we were children most of us would hide under the covers of a bed or in a closet during a booming thunderstorm with fierce lightning or a tornado threat. I know I did.
The intensity of Christ’s second coming will be much greater than any thunderstorm. The earth will creak and moan. Angels will appear visibly. The sun will cease to shine. The moon will no longer glow. Jesus, who is brighter than any heavenly body, will appear visibly to every eye. Those who do not know Him will be gathered like stubble from the harvest and thrown into the fire when He comes. The wicked will be trampled underfoot. Things will be quite different than the everyday routine, because the Lord Christ has come to take His children home. And all of this will happen in the blink of an eye.
Jesus asks us to watch and pray continuously for His coming. One minute of vigilance lost in idle thoughts, words, and deeds could very well be the minute that Jesus returns and catches us asleep like the five foolish virgins from our Gospel text from two weeks ago. Living the life of the world with all its so-called joys of the flesh brings nothing but fear and emptiness into our lives.
In this morning’s Gospel from Luke 21, Jesus used an illustration of a fig tree to explain His second coming. “When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.”
All the signs described in God’s Word will happen. Falling into the world’s trap of the broad and easy road of sin, death and Satan, and remaining there with no worries about your soul’s condition will get you nothing but a one-way ticket to hell. If you pay no attention to His first coming and think He comes only for children and simple-minded people, you will be very surprised to hear what He will say about you at His second coming: “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
John the Baptizer came as the Elijah promised by Malachi. He came for you in order that your heart would turn away from the world’s lusty pleasures and toward the God of patience, comfort, and hope. And know this: you have nothing to fear when Jesus appears. Jesus Himself tells you to look up and lift up your heads. What Jesus means is more than raising your head to the sky to see His appearing. He means that you lift up the thoughts of your mind and rejoice in your heart. Your attitude should be that of hearing good news of great joy, for when that moment comes your head no longer hangs low but is lifted high.
This is what Jesus does for you in His first coming. The Word of God descends from His Father’s side and takes on human flesh by the power of the Holy Ghost. The Word made flesh pitches His tent in Mary’s womb in order that He may pitch His tent and dwell with you forever.
This first coming ended with Him taking His flesh and hanging it on a cross to bear your sins in His body. His head hung low that dark Friday afternoon in order that your head might be lifted up forever. Your head is lifted up to see Jesus rise from the dead and ascend into heaven, knowing that Jesus will come again the same way He was taken. You have nothing to fear knowing that Jesus has destroyed sin and death forever.
Lift up your heads, dear friends in Christ, and see your salvation drawing near again. See Him forgiving your sins by drawing you back to your baptism where your sin was washed away and where you were clothed in Christ’s death and resurrection. Taste Him on your tongue where His Body and Blood feed you with His forgiveness, life, and salvation in the Sacrament of the Altar. Hear him as he proclaims your forgiveness and removes your sins from you in Holy Absolution. There is nothing to fear when the Lord comes to His children, for He comes to make their hearts and lives glad with His presence.
His first coming was lowly. In that first coming, the Son of God was wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger surrounded by animals and shepherds. His second coming will be glorious. In that coming, the Son of God will return visibly in the clouds with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven sounding His arrival. Those who wanted nothing to do with Him here will have much to fear as they are cast away to the bottomless pit of eternal separation from God.
Those who are counted worthy because of Christ’s blood and who remain steadfast in the faith until the end will be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and they will stand before the Son of Man.
Lift up your heads, dearly beloved, for your salvation draws near. Fear not, for you are the Lord’s precious child. He comes as your Good Shepherd to lead you with His flock to His everlasting life. Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come!
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.