Anticipating the Future

Luke 17: 22-37

And [in relation to this exchange] this is what Jesus [then] said to his disciples.
“The days will [indeed] come when you will long to see one [mere] day of the Son of Man and it will not come into view. And others will be suggesting to you: ‘Behold this!’ or ‘Behold that!’ ‘Look over there!’ ‘Look over here!’ Don’t go that way or follow such suggestions!
“For just as lightning flashes in one part of the sky lighting up all the rest of the heavens, so shall it be in the day of the Son of Man. But first it is necessary for him to suffer many things and to be judged unworthy by [the standards of] this generation.
“And as it came to be in the days of Noah [and the judgement that then fell], so shall it be in the days of the Son of Man – they were eating, drinking, marrying, being given in marriage, right up until the day that Noah [finally] entered the Ark, and then came the flood which destroyed the lot of them.
“Likewise it was just like that in the days of Lot; they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; but on the very day that Lot went forth from Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone, which destroyed all of them.
“In the same way, that is how it will be when the day of the Son of Man is revealed. In that day he that is on the roof, with all of his possession in his house, should not come down from there to fetch them, nor the one out there in the field should not return [home] back there behind him. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever is in search of preserving his life will lose it, and whoever lets go of it will preserve it.
“I tell you this: on that night two men will be reclining on the same couch – one of them will be taken while the other will be let go. Two shall be grinding corn together; one of these women will be taken, the other will be let go.”
And in reply [to all this] they asked him:
“Where Lord will that be?”
And his reply to them was:
“Where the body is there the eagles will congregate together.”

Jesus has been informing the Pharisees of his understanding of the Kingdom of God. It doesn’t come into our life from outside the city walls. It arises from within the generation-to-generation life of God’s people, those who live with faith and trust in his mercy.

And then, Luke tells Theophilus, Jesus went on to instruct his disciples, presumably those who, after the questions of the Pharisees were answered, stayed around to hear more.

There will be, Jesus says, times of great anxiety and longing among his disciples. This involves a deepened, perpetual longing for God to act to fulfil his promises; a prayer for all of life to be brought together in the blessedness promised, the fulfilment to be conferred upon the Son of Man, and the heirs of God’s promises. And so, such anxiety, such longing will have to confront those exploiting the situation by laying claim to superior insider knowledge.

Ignore them! Jesus says, Ignore them! Don’t go getting sucked in by their nonsense.
You can be sure that when the Son of Man comes in final fulfilment of God’s promises then all the earth, all creation will not be able to avoid it. But before that the only sign will be the Son of Man’s suffering. The One so designated is, according to the witness of the Law and the Prophets, headed for suffering. He will be discarded. He will be “the stone which the builders will reject”. They won’t be seeing him because they will be too busy judging his actions to uphold the standards of their generation.

And there follows Jesus’ instructions to his disciples concerning how they should read the accounts of judgement (Noah and the flood; Sodom and the fire) as they live their lives in preparation for the coming of the Son of Man.

When the time comes there is to be no hesitation, no delay, not even a turning back to contemplate what is being left behind (not like Lot’s wife). If you are on the roof resting then you’ll have to come down but not to gather your goods together but to simply and immediately join the victory train. If you are out in the field working, it will be from there that you must drop everything and get in step.

For some men enjoying a meal together it will mean being captured, conscripted, while for others its will mean their emancipation. For some women working the same state of affairs will pertain. Some conscripted, the others emancipated.

No one will be left unaffected. No one’s lives will ever be the same again. Luke depicts the disciples as not so much concerned with the “When?” of the Pharisees, as their own concern with “Where?”

And the apocalyptic image that Jesus has been drawing – of an irrevocable change in status breaking in upon people – is now pictured in graphic terms:

The gathering of eagles or vultures will be where the corpse is.

This is stange language perhaps, both for Theophilus and for us. The language of Jesus at this point is not pretty. He, Luke and Theophilus would have known that the eagle was the symbol of the Roman occupation of Israel. The prophet Ezekiel had referred to Egypt and babylone feeding off the dead corpse of Israel. And so, in answer to their question “Where?”, Jesus reminds his disciples of the revelation of God in which the coming of the Son of Man is announced in the context of Divine judgement upon the idolatry of God’s people.

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