Why Are You Surprised?

5 Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, 6 “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

7 “Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”

8 He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life. (Luke 21:5-19)

What a beautiful church we have, don’t we? The windows. The stones. Christians before us weren’t afraid to take on a big project and make a beautiful building for God. But it’s got nothing on the temple in Jesus’ day. The Jews just had one church—the big temple in Jerusalem. It was a massive stone structure. The pride and joy of the Jewish people. Some of its stones were 37 feet long, 12 feet high, and 18 feet wide. Can you imagine that? Whatever wasn’t overlaid with gold was purest white. You can’t blame Jesus’ disciples for “remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones…” We get that. “What a beautiful church we have!”

You’d expect Jesus to shake his head and say, “Yeah, it’s great!” But he didn’t. Did you catch what he said? “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” Jesus can be such a downer, can’t he? He turns our expectations upside-down. “You like this temple? It’s all coming down! Not one stone will be left on another.” Can you imagine your pastor saying that about your church? “See these beautiful windows? See these stone walls? It’s all coming down.” I’d probably be arrested!

But Jesus got his disciples thinking. That’s what Jesus wanted. He turned their expectations upside-down to get them thinking: “Really? Something so bad is going to happen that even these unbelievably massive stones from God’s own temple are going to be thrown down?” They asked, “Teacher, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?” If something this bad was going to happen, they wanted to be ready for it. When was this destruction going to come? What were the signs it was coming? They needed to know!

So Jesus gave them a list of signs. “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.” What’s the first sign? False teachers. The greatest danger to Christianity isn’t people outside the church. It’s false teachers within Christian churches who lead people away from Jesus. “Christians” say God didn’t create the world in six days. “Christians” say if you believe hard enough, you’ll be rich. All the lies are frustrating, aren’t they? Know what Jesus says? “Why are you surprised? That’s exactly what I said would happen! Watch out that you are not deceived. Do not follow them!

It’s good to know what to expect, isn’t it? So Jesus continues, “When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away…. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” That sounds like it could have been written today, doesn’t it? In the past two weeks, WELS missionaries have had to flee two different countries because of uprisings. When we see wars and uprisings all over, how do we feel? Afraid. Confused. Worried! Know what Jesus says? “Why are you surprised? That’s exactly what I said would happen!” The nearness of war reminds us that Christ is near.

Just like the signs we see in nature. Jesus said, “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” Even nature is getting more and more off kilter, isn’t it? Fires out of control. Massive hurricanes. Rising global temperatures, and yet it’s always cold in Wisconsin. When we see that, how do we feel? Afraid. Confused. Worried. Know what Jesus says? “Why are you surprised? That’s exactly what I said would happen!” The Bible says “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22). Isn’t that a great description? Nature is going through childbirth…

The final signs really start to hit home. “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.” Jail for Jesus? Dragged here and persecuted there, just because of your faith in God? When you hear that, how do you feel? Afraid. Confused! Worried. Know what Jesus says? I bet you’re starting to catch on! “Why are you surprised? That’s exactly what I said would happen!” Then he adds this promise: “Make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” What a promise!

It’s just that saying the right words won’t make the persecution go away. In fact, it might even make it worse. “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me.” Divided families because of Jesus. Parents rejecting children because of Jesus. Sisters avoiding sisters because of Jesus. “Everyone will hate you because of me.” When you hear that, how do you feel? Afraid. Confused. Worried! Know what Jesus says? “Why are you surprised?” Then he adds this promise: “But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.”

Understand the signs of the end? Actually, we’ve missed something. I’ve done something with our lesson that we do way too often. We read God’s Word and jumped right away to today, to us. We skip what Jesus’ words meant to the people who heard them. We hear Jesus describe signs of a coming judgment, so we jump right away to Judgment Day. But that wasn’t what the disciples were asking about. Remember their question? They were talking about the temple. They asked about the signs that would happen before the temple would be destroyed. What are they? False prophets. Uprisings. Natural disasters. The disciples would be persecuted. Hated. Put to death.

All those signs were fulfilled in the 1st century. So do you know what happened? The temple was destroyed. The Jewish people foolishly revolted against the Romans in 66 A.D. In 70 A.D., the Roman army attacked Jerusalem. Hundreds of thousands of people were massacred. The temple was set on fire. The gold in the temple melted and seeped into cracks between those huge stones. Can you guess what the Romans soldiers did? They tore every stone apart to get the gold. Not one stone was left upon another. Just like Jesus said. It was God’s judgment for rejecting Jesus.

So we need to ask: These signs we’re talking about—do they refer to that destruction of the temple or to the end of the world? Yes. Both! When God prophecies things in the Bible, it’s a little like driving toward the mountains. Have you ever driven out west? You go across Nebraska and Colorado—boring! Finally, you look up and see mountains. Yes! But when you get closer, you realize something. The first mountains you saw weren’t the real mountains. They were just little foothills. Beyond the foothills are the real mountains that are way taller. But when you’re far away, they look the same. That’s how it works for God’s prophecies about Judgment Day.

Jesus gave his disciples signs to know that judgment was coming. They saw those signs, and the judgment came when Jerusalem was destroyed. That was like the foothills. Jesus says those same signs also tell us that another judgment is coming, only bigger. The destruction of the temple was a preview of the end of the world. Understand? Like the disciples did, we ask Jesus, “What are the signs that judgment is coming?” Jesus tells us: False teachers. Wars and uprising. Natural disasters. Persecution of Christians. Families divided because of Christ. Those are the signs!

How many of those signs do you see today? All of them! Only Jesus tells us what the world is really like. How often aren’t we told that the world is getting better? That we’re progressing? That we’re headed toward world peace? That’s one of the ideas behind the theory of evolution: The world is getting better and better all the time. At least that’s what we’re told. Is that really true? Only Jesus tells us what the world is really like. It’s broken. It’s sinful. Would you agree? As the world fills up with more sinners, how is the world getting? More and more sinful!

Can you see how our false expectations fill us with doubt and fear? If you expect human beings to create peace, you’re going to be surprised at wars. If you expect goodness to overcome evil, you’re going to be surprised at persecution. The answer to the world’s problems isn’t found in human progress. The solution to the world’s problems is actually found in the worst thing that human beings ever did—crucify Jesus on a cross. Jesus died to forgive you and me once and for all. Jesus rose again to rescue us from the coming judgment and give us life in heaven. Today Jesus graciously tells us exactly what to expect before Judgment Day, and he promises he will give us the strength to face every trial. So why are you surprised at what you see? Jesus told us!

Know what is surprising? How blessed we are as Christians in the United States. What’s really surprising is that we’re able to worship God in peace. It’s not always going to be like this! What’s really surprising is that we’re not really persecuted for being Christians. It’s not always going to be like this! What did Jesus say? “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death…. All men will hate you because of me.” It’s surprising how blessed we are. Don’t be surprised when it gets harder!

So how can we stand? The same way Jesus’ disciples did when they faced the same signs. When you know what to expect, you know where to find your strength. In Jesus. When you’re accused because of your faith in Jesus, remember his promise: “Make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” When everybody hates you, remember Jesus’ promise: “By standing firm you will gain life.” When you see judgment day coming closer, don’t be afraid. In fact, Jesus says, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). That’s going to be a good day!

Remember how Jesus turns our expectations upside-down to get us thinking? We think we have peace as long as there is peace. Jesus wants us to realize we have peace as long as we have him. There will be wars and uprising, but don’t be frightened! You will be seized and persecuted, but don’t worry about what to say! You will be betrayed and put to death, but you will win life! One day you will open your eyes in heaven. You’ll be amazed at the goodness. Overwhelmed by the peace. With Jesus wiping away every last tear from your eyes. And I wonder if Jesus in heaven won’t look at you and me with a smile and say, “Why are you so surprised? It’s just like I said!”

#Luke #Struggles #Persecution #Heaven #JudgmentDay

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