Sunday

2 December 2018

Luke 21:25-36

'Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.' (v 33)

Psalm: Psalm 80

Background

How do you make sense of a world in turmoil? How do you cope when all your certainties are shaken and everything that you hold dear begins to collapse? These are questions that preoccupied many people – Christian as well as Jewish – during the period when the New Testament was written. One way of responding to them was through apocalyptic literature. The word ‘apocalypse’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘revelation’ or ‘disclosure’ and examples of apocalyptic writing in the Bible include Daniel 7-12 and Revelation. Apocalyptic uses vivid – and sometimes violent – language to point out signs of God’s future intervention within situations that seem harsh and meaningless. In this passage from Luke’s gospel, we find Jesus using the language of apocalyptic to point to the way in which the kingdom of God will emerge from the confusion and cruelty of the world. Within the chaos of natural disaster and human tragedy there are signs of God’s radical intervention and redemption. The phrase ‘Son of Man’ has puzzled biblical scholars for many years, but it seems to be a way for Jesus to identify his ministry with the coming victory of God and the establishment of a kingdom of justice and peace.

The world of 21st-century Britain is, of course, very different from that of 1st-century Jerusalem. Yet many of the same questions haunt us and those with whom we share this planet. Brexit means that we live in a period of political and economic uncertainty. Climate change means that the patterns of weather we have been used to can no longer be relied on. Around the world vast numbers of people are living in desperate circumstances because of war, famine and corruption. Advent is a season for facing up to the realities of a world that has drifted away from the intentions of God. Because we are part of the problem, we need to repent. But Advent is also a season of hope as we look for Christ’s victory over those forces of sin and evil that seem to have the upper hand. Jesus’ advice to us is the same as his advice to those he spoke to two thousand years ago: “Be alert at all times.”

 

To Ponder:

  • What are the present-day realities that you need to take responsibility for?
  • How might Advent be a time of solidarity with those whose lives seem without hope?
  • What is the good news that Jesus speaks within our context?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck

Richard Clutterbuck is a minister of the Methodist Church in Britain. Between 2004 and 2017 he served the Irish Methodist Church as principal of Edgehill Theological College in Belfast. Previously his ministry has been divided between pastoral appointments in North London and theological education in the South Pacific (Tonga), Britain and Ireland.