Saturday, November 17, 2012

for Sunday (November 18th): the signs

Scripture: Mark 13:24-32
24 "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. 28 "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 32 "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

How good are you at reading signs? The people of Jesus' time expected that the coming of the Messiah would be accompanied by extraordinary signs and wonders. Jesus' first coming was clouded in mystery and wonderment – a son of David born in a cave at Bethlehem, magi from the East guided by a star to worship the newborn king of Israel, a carpenter miracle-worker who gave sight to the blind and raised the dead, a Suffering Servant who bore the sins of many upon a cross, a Risen Lord who stormed the gates of Hell to release its captives.

Jesus on a number of occasions prophesied that he would return again at the end of the world to finish the work he came to accomplish through his death and resurrection. The image of a "Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" is taken from the vision of the prophet Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14). Daniel's vision is a royal investiture of a human king before God's throne.

This king, whose authority comes from God, is given world-wide rulership and power which lasts forever. The Jews of Jesus' day were looking for a Messianic king who would free them from foreign oppression. Jesus tells them that when he returns he will establish a universal kingdom of peace, righteousness, and justice for all.
Jesus' prophetic description of the end of time and the day of judgment  was not new to the people of Israel. The prophets had foretold these events many centuries before. "Behold the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger to make the earth a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it" (Isaiah 13:9-13; see also  Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:14-18).

Jesus speaks of the second coming as a known fact, a for certain event we can expect to take place. This coming will be marked by signs that all will recognize; signs which will strike terror in those unprepared and wonder in those who are ready to meet the Lord. When the Lord returns he will establish justice and righteousness and he will vindicate all who have been faithful to him. His judgment is a sign of hope for those who trust in him.
What lesson does the Lord Jesus want us to learn from the parable of the budding fig tree? The fig tree was a common and important source of food for the Jews. It bore fruit twice a year, in the autumn and in the early spring. The prophet Joel mentions its fruitbearing as a sign of favor from the Lord (Joel 2:22). The Talmud said that the first fruit came the day after Passover.

The Jews believed that when the Messiah came he would usher in the kingdom of God at Passover time. This parable fortells the joy of God's kingdom – the joy of new life and the promise of a new age of peace and blessing. The signs of spring are evident for all who can see.

 Just so are the signs of God's kingdom. The "budding" of God's kingdom begins first in the hearts of those who are receptive to God's word. Those who trust in God's word will bear the fruits of his kingdom. And what are the fruits of that kingdom? "The kingdom of God righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

We do not know the day or hour when the Lord will return again in glory. But the Lord does give us signs, not only to "wake us up" as a warning, but also to "rouse our spirits" to be ready and eager to see his kingdom come in all its power and glory.

The Lord wants us to be filled with joyful anticipation for his coming again. He surely comes to us each day and speaks to our hearts like a lover who whispers in the ear of the beloved. As he promised, the Lord will surely come again in all his glory.

Do you look for the signs pointing to the Lord's return and do you pray that he come quickly to establish peace and justice on the earth?

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