“Because of My Name”
Isaiah 65:17-25 Luke 21:5-19
Today’s scriptures give us an opportunity to address some common questions asked by believers and non-believers alike.
Hear what the renowned historian, Josephus, wrote about the Temple. “The exterior of the building wanted nothing that could astound either mind or eye. For, being covered on all sides with massive plates of gold, the sun was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes, as from the solar rays. To approaching strangers it appeared from a distance like a snow-clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was of purest white. From its summit protruded sharp golden spikes to prevent birds from settling upon and polluting the roof. Some of the stones in the building were forty-five cubits in length, five in height and six in breadth.” A cubit…by the way…was about 18 inches. Some of those stones were 67 feet long…7 feet high and 9 feet deep.
That Temple was the center of worship. Yet…it was destroyed. But…the worship of God continues today in the hearts and minds of persons who never worshiped in an ornate….gold plated temple. Instead they listened to effective witnesses like the disciples who taught wherever they could…and like John Wesley who stood in the cold rain outside the entrances of coal mines in desolate locations…and today’s neighborhood disciple who witnesses while visiting those who are shut in or serving at a soup kitchen.
The question asked: Should I go to that large church with all of the programs and activities and the beautiful buildings…a modern-day Temple. The answer: It’s the church with true witnesses for Jesus Christ who can meet you where you are on your faith journey that you should attend.
It’s not hard to find in the daily news… regardless of the source…or media type…some reports of serious calamity….earthquakes…
tornadoes…floods…disease outbreaks…massive hunger…wild fires and more. It’s also not hard to find reports of war…or threats of war…somewhere. In reality during the last 3,000 years of recorded history there have been fewer than 300 years when the entire world was at peace…when there was no war.
And…it’s not all that hard to find…at the same time…publications… or people in a pulpit…trying to tell us that these are truly signs of the end…that the apocalypse….the second coming of Jesus Christ…is just around the corner in time.
They often refer to Christ’s words we heard this morning as evidence. “When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened…. Nation will rise against nation….will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” Yes, Jesus did say all of these things would happen.
All of these words are very general…although I trust… true statements…for a very good reason. Had Jesus made clear a specific sequence of events to expect there would have been many more false prophets repeating those statements and trying to show proof…and complacent people laying back because the specific sequence of signs was not in process.
Until we see Jesus coming in a cloud as he said he would…we aren’t there yet. Our earthly life is not over. Our race is not fully run.
The question asked: Is this or that a sign of the end times. The answer: We don’t know what the specific signs are and to attempt to give a specific answer to the question would make one a false prophet.
Jesus told the disciples they would be persecuted. The Book of Acts gives us many stories that tell the specifics of their historic persecution. Jesus’ words suggest…and probably are accurate…that the persecution would go beyond the twelve disciples to persons in all times who speak in support of Jesus Christ…who act in Jesus’ name.
I don’t know whether any of you has been persecuted. We’ve certainly read reports of others who have…reports from history and reports in the daily news. Some of those who have been persecuted have been harmed physically. Some have been killed.
The question: How can this be, if Jesus told them “not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life”. The answer: Jesus was telling the disciples…and us…that our life…the life of those who truly witness to Christ…is a life eternal. Christ will put the words in your mouth to use when you speak in his name…guide you when you choose to act in his name. It won’t be hard to understand. He will be with you as you do so and as you are persecuted…but he will not necessarily free you from your persecutors. He will… however…stand up for you at the time of judgment. He guarantees for His witnesses a life eternal.
Now that the questions have been asked and answered…perhaps not in the way anyone would want them answered…let us ask this last question as we go to speak and act in Jesus’ name…to witness…wherever we might be…regardless of the beauty of the place or the people…regardless of what the false prophets have been saying…regardless of the threats of persecution.
How big is your hope?
Is the wingspan of your hope big enough to get you soaring?
Is your hope big enough…imaginative enough…human enough…to include whole nations and the entire created order……regardless of whether the other person has chosen a lifestyle with which you disagree…regardless of the color of their skin…regardless of the language they speak…regardless of the place they were born?
Hope on such a grand scale is the gospel ….truly the Good News.
It offers both the prospect of personal intimacy with God forever and a renewed world of peace and righteousness. It isn’t just one or the other. God has a plan for you and for this whole world. The Lord Jesus Christ died for this and He will not be denied.
Your true enjoyment of God can begin right now. Enter into Christ with nothing but need…just as the disciples did. And…just as Jesus did with the disciples…He will recreate you. The gospel says, “If anyone is in Christ, he’s a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” If you are in Christ, God has not just patched up your old you. He has made you new. And, you will enjoy God in endless newness.
Every day you and I are tempted to throw this hope away. But what for? For stuff? For position? For control of others? For exclusion of others? For this world in all its current brokenness? For simple comfort? It isn’t worth it. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” That’s what we’re living for. Not the weekend….but The End.
Christian believer…or not…God is saying this to every one of us. “Here I am! Are you interested? Even if you’re a bad person…I’m still here. In fact…I will save you.
Look to Christ.
If you’ll look honestly…you will conclude that Jesus can be trusted on this one.
You will yield control.
You will choose what Jesus delights in.
You will speak and act…in his name.
And…Jesus will prepare a place for you in the new heaven and the new earth.
Jesus will do it eagerly.
Not just for Jesus.