Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.
There are two important ideas in this passage:
• Jesus will return.
• People need to be on the lookout for Him.
Jesus says humanity will see Him coming in a cloud in power and glory. There has been much discussion about this since the statement was made. Some scholars have asserted that this is a description of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Yet there are no historical records of such events having occurred at that time, nor was He seen returning in such a way. These are future events that are still to take place. Jesus tells us even He does not know when all this will happen. Only God the Father knows. But it does mean there is an ultimate end to history in sight – a goal when Jesus will be Lord of all. It may be a mystery, but it is not a secret. God has told us it will happen and day by day we are moving towards Jesus’ return.
Jesus describes various events that will take place as precursors to His return. The sun, moon and stars will react; nations will be distressed; people will be afraid of what is to come. These things must happen, yet Jesus says when they do, those who follow Him must not despair but look up and be assured that their Lord is near.
He goes on to speak of the signs we read every day. When a tree bursts into leaf, we recognise that summer is coming and there will be a harvest. Whilst the fig-tree is often a symbol of Israel the reference to ‘all the trees’ may indicate that this comment is not specifically aimed at Israel. However, when we consider Israel today and the flourishing fields and trees of that land, in comparison with what it was around 70 years ago (when the state of Israel was declared), we can see it blooming. When the signs about which Jesus speaks are visible, His people can know that His return is near. Jesus declares that His words will stand true forever, whether people believe or reject them.
Jesus encourages those who follow Him not to despair or drown their sorrows when these things happen. If they do, they may be so distracted by events that they miss the main event of His return for it will happen suddenly like a trap snapping shut. Such distractions may prevent them from noticing until it is too late. Those who follow Christ need to be aware of this and be alert. Every Christ-follower needs to live in expectation of this event.
Jesus’ followers must be ready.
He warns them not only to be alert, but to pray they may be able to persevere in the face of the coming events, so they may stand before the Son of Man (one of His favourite names for Himself is Son of Man – used 80 times in the Gospels).
Those who are ready will escape the events which will follow for this is the first part of Christ’s return. The Gospel writers and Paul describe Jesus at this time as coming on the clouds to ‘gather His elect’ (see Mark 13:26-27; Matthew 24:30; and also 1 Thessalonians 4:17). His second return will be to judge the world, accompanied by His Church as John recorded in the Book of Revelation. On this occasion He will stand upon the earth (Zechariah 14:4)
As Christ-followers we should recognise the signs about which Jesus speaks. It is up to the Church to alert others and be a prophetic voice in these days as to what lies ahead.
Application for Advent
• How does the thought of Jesus returning on the clouds in the next five minutes make you feel?
• If you had woken up this morning knowing He was going to come back, what would you have done today – or not done today – in response to that knowledge?
• Spend some time today considering your roots – both family and faith. What do they mean to you? How have they shaped who you are?
• Make a list of ten things for which you are grateful this advent, especially in regard to your relationships with other believers. Why are these relationships so special to you?
• As you look forward to 2022, what excites you? What makes you concerned? Where is Jesus in your planning and anticipation for next year?
• How ready do you feel for Jesus return? Who do you know who may not be ready? Spend some time today in prayer for these people and any others who will be left behind when Jesus comes on the clouds to gather His people
Service in the coming week:
Ask God to lead you to someone He wants to be alerted to these events and chat with them gently about them.
Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Luke. The Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, 1981