The Second Sunday in Lent
[Jesus said,] “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29-31)
Additional Daily Bible Readings: Genesis 39; Psalm 52; Matthew 24:15–35
Weekly Reading: http://bit.ly/2BPwFmP
For many Christians—and most Lutherans—today, these words of Jesus seem foreign and distant. The eventual return of Jesus, the Son of man, after tribulation, with power and great glory, is almost unimaginable. Certainly, the image presented here is one of cosmic proportions, as the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, stars will fall from heaven. Some believers think they have this all figured out, with a very specific timetable detailing how and when this will happen, down to the day. Many through the ages have publicized their predictions; so far, none have proven to be correct. Indeed, Jesus says “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32; Matthew 24:36.) So what do the images and visions in this section of Matthew tell us?
The well-known Scottish New Testament scholar, William Barclay, in his Daily Study Bible commentary, points out that these pictures present three great truths. First, they tell us that God has not abandoned the world. God’s purpose is still being worked out in the world, despite all its wickedness. Second, the images tell us that even a time of evil, a time of great tribulation, ought not discourage us or cause us to lose hope. Third, passages such as this remind us that both judgment and a new creation are certain! Jesus tells us that in God’s timing, he will return and draw the elect—the chosen—to himself from the four winds, from one boundary of heaven to the other!
Although the usual human reactions to visions of increasing evil, tribulation, turmoil and the second coming are anxiety and fear, such images are shared by our Lord to uplift and encourage the elect! The book of Revelation is not intended to strike fear into our hearts, but to reassure us that God is in control, Jesus is risen and lives, and that, regardless of what transpires, the victory over sin, death and the devil is won! The whole message of Revelation is said to be contained in two words: “Worship God” (Revelation 22:9b). Do not give in to false teachers or false teaching. Do not worship false idols. Do not fall into unbelief. Despite persecution, evil and trial, “worship the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” That’s the message of every vision of the end time, Jesus’ return and the final judgment.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, come and come quickly! Strengthen us so that no matter what comes, we will worship you and only you! Amen.
Lenten Response: Read Revelation 22.
Video Devotional: From Ashes to Easter
Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.