The last day on what he said…
You know, if I’d written an account of the life of Jesus, I’m not sure I’d have had the courage to write the kind of account any of the four gospel writers ended up writing. I’d have wanted to only include the stories and events that made sense to me. I wouldn’t want to put in anything Jesus said that was particularly obscure or open-ended, anything contradictory or open to misinterpretation. If I was wanting to convince people to follow this Jesus, then there would be lots I’d feel I had to overlook. I would have so much material to choose from, so many personal stories that had been circulating since the death of this incredible man, I wouldn’t need to write the hard stuff.
Surely if Jesus wanted to convince people that his way was best, then he could find a more persuasive, engaging, straightforward way to do it – a way that didn’t involved us still struggling to work out exactly what he was getting at thousands of years later.
I guess that’s what makes these accounts so authentic though – they include it all. Life is messy and confusing and contradictory – and the writers make no attempt to hide that. Yes, each writes from his perspective, but each writes with an honesty and genuine desire to portray Jesus as accurately as possible.
No one life can ever be packaged up neatly into a book – or even four books! There are always going to be loose ends. We’ve spent a month studying the things Jesus said during his time on earth and we’re still pretty much scratching the surface. It’s been a full on month of writing at length every day and if you’ve managed to stick with it, I congratulate you! I’m sure it hasn’t been an easy read at times.
Tomorrow, we move our focus from what Jesus said to what Jesus did. Of course, there’s an overlap there. Words and actions are often wrapped up together. But we’ll be concentrating on the signs and wonders we’ve been talking about this month. It’s going to be quite an adventure!
To finish off this month, I’ll leave you with one of the passages – the obscure passages! – in which Jesus talks about the kingdom of God and how it will all play out at the end of time.
Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.
It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” Luke 17:20-36
The kingdom of heaven is not tangible. It’s not in a particular location that you can take people to. You can’t point to it and say ‘there it is’. It’s all around, all of the time. It’s within each one of us.
The kingdom of God is not going to come on a date that we can ever discern. The kingdom of God is already among us. When we pray ‘Your kingdom come on earth as in heaven’, we pray that because it is possible to bring glimpses of the kingdom of God into our daily lives right here, right now.
The kingdom of heaven is not something we’re waiting for. It’s something we’re engaging with God in His work to bring into everyday situations today. The transforming power of Jesus will flash like lightning all over the sky into unexpected places at unexpected times.
We can’t know when the end will come. We can’t predict when disaster will strike. All we can do is get on with our everyday lives, with what we have been given to do. We are to enjoy life, to live life to the full, to make the most of the opportunities and skills we’ve been given.
We have to keep possessions in perspective. Yes, they can give us a lot of joy, but we cannot take them with us when we die. They cannot be all that we live for.We have to invest in lives and relationships and connection and our own wellbeing – the things that really count and make a difference.
That last bit terrified me when I was a child. I was so scared of being left behind. I saw a film called ‘Thief in the Night’ when I was 8 years old and that film scared me – and many other people, I suspect – into the kingdom. I became a Christian because I was scared of being left behind. I would go through and check on my parents as they were sleeping to make sure they were still there.
I can’t accept that that’s how Jesus intended these words to be used.
I cannot tell you how and when and where this world as we know it will come to an end for each one of us and the kingdom of God will be fully established. No one can with any certainty. All I can do – all any of us can do – is trust in God’s unfailing love. Trust that He knows best. Trust that He has good things in store for us. I personally don’t feel the need to understand what the future is going to look like. I have a deep assurance that it’s going to be immeasurable better than anything I could ever imagine.
What’s important to me is to live every day to the full. To get on with living the life I was born to live – discovering more and more each day what that looks like for me. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 not to worry about tomorrow, but to focus on today. All this ‘living in the moment’ stuff is at the forefront of teaching around wellbeing in our society right now, but it’s nothing new. Jesus was well ahead of the game! We’re being urged to live mindfully because it works! Putting all our energies into living life as it was always meant to be lived today rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future: that’s what Jesus is challenging us all to do.
Right here. Right now.