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Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost

November 17, 2019 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Pentecost

Passage: Luke 21:5–21:28

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Luke 21:5-28 (Ideas and portions of this sermon are from a sermon preached by Rev. Cwirla)
Date: November 17th, 2019; Pentecost 23; Series C
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • We are coming to the end of the Church Year and that means our focus turns to the end of all things - the destruction of the world as we know it.
  • This is not an easy thing to focus on.  But it is important.
  • The Last Day is coming - burning like a blazing, fiery furnace. 
  • A day when the arrogant and evildoers will be reduced to stubble. 
  • It will be a day when the heavens will be shaken, the seas will roar, the sun, moon, and stars will fail, the nations will be in upheaval, and people will literally faint with fear and dread over what is coming. 
  • This is hard for us to comprehend.
  • It was also hard for the people in Jesus’ day to comprehend that Jerusalem would be destroyed.
  • It was God’s city, the place of the temple - how could he let his city and temple be demolished? 
  • Yet Jesus prophesied that it would happen. 
  • He even warned his disciples to head for the hills when the Roman armies surrounded the city, because he knew that everything and everyone would be destroyed. 
  • Jesus was preparing his disciples for the hard times ahead and for things that no one would have conceived possible.
  • When Jesus spoke these words, the temple in Jerusalem was being rebuilt by Herod. 
  • It was a huge project.  Enormous stones had to be quarried and moved. 
  • All sorts of craftsman and artists were employed to make the temple into something grand and glorious. 
  • For Jesus to say, “Not one stone will be left on another” would have seemed inconceivable.
  • And yet, in 70 AD it happened.  The temple was destroyed and was brought to nothing by the Roman army.
  • Jesus warned his disciples that they would be persecuted, arrested, hauled before religious and civil tribunals. 
  • They would be imprisoned and brought to testify before kings and governors. 
  • But he assured them that they did not have to worry about what they would say, “for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” 
  • Notice that Jesus doesn’t spare them from persecution, but he promises to see them through it, to supply them with words and wisdom for when they have opportunity to bear witness. 
  • God’s people are not spared from the tribulations of the end times.  Christians do not get a free pass.  
  • In fact, Jesus warns that it could be worse.
  • His people will be betrayed by friends and family. 
  • They will be hated for his name’s sake. 
  • So, we shouldn’t be surprised when we experience resistance and hardships because of our faith - Jesus said that it would be this way.
  • The Christian faith has a cross at its centre – Jesus Christ and him crucified. 
  • Suffering, hardship, and loss all go hand in nail pierced hand with the cross of Christ. 
  • We are baptized under the sign of the cross, forgiven under the sign of the cross, fed the Body and Blood under the sign of the cross. 
  • We awaken and go to sleep and do everything in between under the sign of the cross. 
  • Christianity isn’t so much a way of life as it is a way of death. 
  • It is to die with Jesus in order to be raised with him. 
  • It is to live as dead to sin and self - but alive to God in Christ.
  • Jesus warned his followers “some of you, they will put to death.” 
  • This happened then, and it is happening today - people are martyred for being Christian. 
  • And yet notice the very next sentence – “But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.” 
  • Jesus warns that his people are going to die for his name’s sake.  They will be crucified, fed to the lions, burned at the stake -  but he promises that not a hair of their head will perish. 
  • That’s the imbedded comfort in these last Sundays of the Church Year and the end of the world as we know it. 
  • The end is also the beginning. 
  • For those who fear the name of the Lord, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” 
  • The destruction of the old brings the revelation of the new. “Behold, I make all things new,” Jesus says. (Revelation 21:5) 
  • Imagine scaffolding around a building that’s under construction.
  • It hides the work that’s going on in, with, and under that scaffolding. 
  • When the work’s done and the building is complete, it’s time to tear down the scaffolding and reveal what’s been going on.
  • The destruction at the end times is a destruction of things temporary - so that the things eternal might be revealed. 
  • Jerusalem was precisely like that. It had a purpose in God’s plan of salvation. 
  • It was the place of Israel’s temple, the dwelling place of God with man until the coming of the Christ - when the Son of God took on human flesh and dwelt among us. 
  • And then the scaffolding came down.  The temple was no longer needed. 
  • Not only was the curtain torn in two from top to bottom at the moment Jesus died, but forty years later, not one stone of the temple was left standing. 
  • And while you can still weep at the outer wall today, there’s no point in weeping over the scaffolding that has been taken down.
  • The same is true for the things of this age – this temporal life is a scaffolding of history - in, with, and under which God is making all things new in his Son. 
  • So when the nations are in turmoil and the whole creation seems to be groaning in earthquakes and floods and famines and disasters, when even the steady sun, moon, and stars are shaken - this is the tearing down of a temporary structure to reveal the permanent, eternal kingdom of God.
  • This is even true for us.
  • The sinner must die in order for the saint to be revealed. 
  • God doesn’t kill for no good reason.
  • He kills in order to make alive.  He brings down in order to raise up.  He tears down what is temporary in order to reveal what is eternal.
  • Whether it’s the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the end of the world on the Last Day, or the day you breathe your last breath, whenever that is - that’s the work of God using death to destroy death.
  • “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me lives even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
  • So when you see signs of the end, when you experience the groaning of the old creation, when the church appears weak and persecuted, then “straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 
  • Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

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