Ps. 93; Isa. 51:4-6; Jude 20-25; Mk. 13:24-37
Words, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (vv. 30, 31).
“All” what “things”; and what “generation”? The generation to which Jesus refers is the generation that would experience “the great tribulation” of 70 AD., epitomizing these end-times from Jesus’ Nativity until his final coming.
And “All these things” are: what would occur on Jerusalem’s destruction, described from cosmic perspective; “[I]n those days… the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mk. 13:24-26).
This was the revelation Jesus promises High Priest Caiaphas (14:62), the city and old temple destruction under the Roman eagle; as Jerusalem made God’s new Temple, the flesh of Jesus desolate on a Roman cross.
On the Last Day too, Jesus will return in clouds, catching all who “set [him] at naught” unaware (LSB 336 s. 2). But for you, O Believer, Jesus’ revelation will neither be terrible nor surprising; by Baptism you are being shaped anew in the great power of God’s word and Sacrament, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day.
Cosmically we are within the sixth day of God’s new creation coming into being. Like the blind man of Bethsaida whom Jesus restored to wholeness in stages (Mk. 8:22-25); our restoration is reminiscent of the first creation of man; first male, then wholeness in the female.
So, what is it that you see, more or less perfectly, by God’s word? Well, I can only remind what you have already heard in these Last Sundays of the Church Year.
By Baptism into Christ, you participate in worldly tribulations that challenge faith. Winsome, but nonetheless false teachers challenge Jesus’ clear words of the church’s unifying belief. St. Jude therefore encourages we remain in God’s mercy and love by “building yourselves up in the most holy faith” (Jude 20).
Today and every Lord’s Day we witness to the Church’s singular and universal faith by her Nicene Creed. We make this confession in advance of my (Lk. 10:16) invitation for faithful and regular reception of Jesus’ body and blood to on-going forgiveness and purity.
By being built-up we contend for the faith, encouraging brothers and sisters that they and others not be deceived, and to live in God’s gifts that shape: Word, Baptism, Absolution, and Supper. In this way the body advances in spiritual sight, that if not yet perfect, gives “endur[ance] to the end” (Mk. 13:13).
Knowing by Baptism, that you are a new creation in Christ, not of your own will or decision, and believing Jesus’ words about his Supper we advance from faith to faith for purity to purity in his body and blood.
So, what do we discern from today’s words? Our concluding hymn, “Wake, awake” (LSB 516, s. 1), conveys their undergirding imperative, that Jesus’ household diligently “watch” for her Master’s nearness; even as he is now at the door (Mk. 13:29).
Unlike the signs of “the great tribulation” upon Jerusalem, there will be no sign of Jesus’ Last Day parousia; it will occur suddenly, without warning; as children might chime, “ready or not, here I come”. For our readiness, Jesus appoints watchmen and servants among you that his household remain spiritually awake to his visible appearance.
Jesus’ nearness in hidden glory is manifested and assured to believers by God’s presence in word and Sacrament. With eyes of faith, you already observe Jesus’ creative and transforming power in your lives by his Resurrection, as in the breaking of the bread with Emmaus disciples, and eating with Apostles behind closed doors.
Today we see Jesus, albeit imperfectly, through apostolic eyes of the Church’s faith, the majesty of God’s presence in bread-Flesh and wine-Blood for merciful forgiveness, holiness, and salvation. In this generation, these are the things of God for being “built-up in the most holy faith”.
On this the Last Sunday believers are exhorted to watch and wait for Jesus’ Parousia, mindful of the leaven of false teaching (Mk. 8:15) from those purveying “another Jesus”, “a different Spirit”, and “a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4). On the Last Day all, including angelic stars of the heavens, will behold God’s final revelation of Jesus in clarity.
Faithful men and women will see the spiritual things of Jesus’ words by faith; yet angelic powers having wandered to their own place (Acts 1:25), will experience in Jesus’ descent through the cosmos their utter destruction in the unparalleled power of God by his Word.
Of that day Isaiah exhorted, “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment … but my salvation will be forever…” (Isa. 51:6) in Jesus’ eternal words (Mk. 13:31).
But in Christ we “eagerly await” the Lord (Heb. 9:28) being perfected for seeing God face to face. Our generation in these end-times therefore prays, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). Amen.