Day Thirty-four: Thursday, July 23rd, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 24:1-51
Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:
When? That question was on the disciples’ mind as Jesus left the temple and told them, “Not one stone will be left on another.” It seems clear Jesus was referring to the temple itself, to the fall of the temple. The second temple did eventually fall in the year 70 CE. Since the gospel of Matthew was likely written sometime after 70 CE, we might simply close this chapter and say this all makes perfect sense. Jesus predicted the temple would fall and the temple did fall.
But when you read all of Matthew 24 it becomes clear Jesus is referring to much more than just the temple in Jerusalem. His words speak of cataclysmic events that will accompany a time when the earth will see “The Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky…” (Matthew 24:30) The disciples might have been the first to ask the question, “When?” but they certainly were not the last. With the Coronavirus causing a global disruption and uncertainty regarding the economy and uprisings and protests in the streets, I have heard more than one person ask, “Do you think this is the time when Christ will return?” We want to know when.
Jesus says many things in Matthew 24, and I encourage you to make your best effort to gain some measure of understanding about the words he speaks. You might refer to a bible commentary or a noted theologian to see what they make of this passage. Your bible might have footnotes that seek to shed light. But be sure to pay attention to the words Jesus says in verse 36 of chapter 24. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” When? No one knows, even though many people through the ages have purported to know. But Jesus says, “No one knows…”
Once Jesus says “No one knows…” he goes on to offer several important admonishments.
- “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” The implication is that as Noah was busy building his ark, the sun might well have been shining with full force and the sky a bright shade of blue. Not a rain cloud in sight. What is this hare-brained fellow Noah doing building a boat? There is not one chance in a hundred that it will rain. But Noah built the Ark. Noah was prepared. Noah believed God when God said, “There is 100% chance of rain.” Noah was ready.
- “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch…” If you know the thief is coming, be ready. Only by being ready can you thwart the thief.
- “Who then is the wise and faithful servant?” The wise and faithful servant will be doing what the master wants him to be doing. Then when the master returns, the servant will be found doing what he is supposed to be doing. But the servant who is not doing what he is supposed to be doing…read the final verse of chapter 24 to find out the fate of the servant who was not ready.
When? Jesus does not completely disregard the question of the disciples. Jesus tells them plenty. Unfortunately, in every generation there seems to be a tendency to get caught up in the question of when. In the midst of a complicated chapter that might raise more questions than it answers, there is some counsel that must not be ignored, some counsel from Jesus that is crystal clear.
Be doing the things our Master wants us to do.
By doing these things, when God finally reveals the answer to our question of “When?” we will be fully prepared to greet Jesus and welcome him with open arms.
The prophecies in Matthew 24 are certainly difficult to comprehend. An interesting perspective on the command to flee during this difficult time is given by Eugene Boring. “The directive in 24:17-19 to leave everything and flee is neither cowardice nor eschatological (end times) panic, but is related by Matthew to the character of discipleship and the nature of the Christian mission. The disciples left everything when they were called to become ‘fishers for people’ (Matthew 4:18-22) and when they were sent out on a mission (Matthew 10:5-10). The community scattered and fleeing is the community in missionary mode. The regathering of the community is God’s responsibility and promise at the eschaton (end time).” (Boring, The New Interpreter’s Bible, Matthew, p.443)