Christ Coming with Contrast
Rev. Kurt Lantz Advent 2 Luke 21:25-36
December 04, 2022 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear disciples of this generation,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The next coming of Christ into the world will be in a manner of great contrast to His first coming. Not only did Jesus come in a humble birth at Bethlehem, but at the climax of His ministry He entered into Jerusalem “humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden” (Matthew 21:5). But when our Lord and Saviour returns, as He has promised to do, “they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27).
When Jesus first came into the world, His arrival was announced by the angel Gabriel to Mary. It was such a humble entrance into the world that Gabriel had to tell Mary that the Child she bore “will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). Gabriel emphasized Jesus’ divine nature to Mary because His birth would not put that divine nature on display. It would be a lowly birth. In contrast, when Jesus announced to His disciples that He would come again, He identified Himself as “the Son of Man,” emphasizing His human nature because in the manner of His Second coming “with power and great glory,” it will be His divine nature that will be obvious to all.
To highlight this contrast: Jesus entered into Jerusalem on “the foal of a beast of burden,” but He will come again “in a cloud.” A beast of burden is an animal whose purpose is to carry a heavy load. Jesus came at first to carry the heavy load of our sin. He did so and bore it to the cross where He suffered and died for the sins of the whole world. But a cloud is the manner in which the Almighty and eternal God appeared to His people when He brought them out of Egypt (Exodus 13:21). He came with great power and glory to destroy the enemy of His people and to bring them to a promised land of rest.
When Jesus comes again in a cloud, there will be a display of that same power and glory that was shown when God delivered His people from Egypt. He will deliver us from all of our enemies, all of our persecutors, from the plagues of this fallen world, and His judgment upon it. He will come with power and great glory to lead us to our eternal home.
“Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7). In contrast, when He first came into the world it was only the maiden Mary that was overshadowed by the power of the Most High (Luke 1:35). When He comes again the whole world will be overshadowed by that cloud of glory as Son of Man comes to bring His people of all nations and languages to eternal life in the Paradise of God.
On that day when the Lord Jesus comes in a manner of contrast to His first coming, so also there will be a contrast in how He is received between the heathen and the faithful. He will come accompanied by signs in the sun, moon, and stars, and in the sea, and among the nations (Luke 21:25). These signs will have a contrasting effect between those who have faith in the promises of Jesus and those who do not.
Upon those who do not place any hope in the promises of Jesus there will fall a great distress. We can already see this in the great todo that has been made about the so-called super moons that have been highlighted in recent years, and the experimentation of firing a rocket at a passing asteroid in order to see if it would be possible to divert the course of such a cosmic body on a collision course with earth. Likewise, the concern over global warming has driven some into a frenetic panic, as has the distress of nations caused by wars and even various protests in places like Iran and Russia and here in Canada, too.
In reaction to such things there will be a contrast between those who believe Jesus and those who do not. Those who do not will be fainting with fear and foreboding (Luke 21:26), for what else can they do? There is no human solution to global warming, just ideas about how it might be slowed down a little. And humans themselves are the problem behind the distress of nations. The beginning response to an unwanted government is a call to action, which is overcome by panic and fear, and finally results in a fainting of despair.
But Jesus directs His disciples to ponder these things in their true context. They all point to the joyous coming of our Saviour to deliver us from all of these dangers and to set right everything in creation that has gone awry. Jesus reminds us that this is not the end of all things, but the beginning of the eternal, imperishable treasures that shall be ours as we are redeemed from this falling, fainting, fearful existence.
“Straighten up and raise your heads” (Luke 21:28). Your Redeemer is coming with redemption for you. He paid the price in full when He came in lowliness and died upon the cross, bearing the burden of your sins. In contrast to that coming to pay the price, He will come again to claim the prize. He comes to cash in and to carry you home with Him. Look up and look forward to your promised paradise.
That reveals another contrast that Jesus highlights. He said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33). In contrast to a world that is suffering the accumulative effects of wars and natural disasters, the Word of God is not affected by any of these things. It doesn’t change if the global temperature rises. It does not lose its authority if one government overcomes another. But this world is so easily shaken. A sun 150 million kilometres away can cause it so much upheaval. The sins of petty human beings can bring devastation on a global scale.
It is not only ungodly, but also foolish to place our hopes in a world that is so fragile. It will all pass away and even now it holds little strength. In contrast the eternal, unchangeable, truth of the Word of God gives us a solid foundation, not just for life in this shaking world, but for everlasting life beyond the destruction of this fleeting creation.
It is this unchanging Word of truth spoken at your Baptism that has declared you to be God’s child, and one redeemed by Christ the crucified. It is this solid foundation upon which you stand firm against all the assaults of every evil thing. This solid and firm Word of God shows you how to truly love your fellow man and the truth of a God of love and mercy who is coming for you with all of His power and glory. His Word “was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4)
The activity of the eternal Word of God upon you reveals another contrast as we draw near to the coming of our Lord Jesus. In response to the signs in heaven and earth the ungodly and wicked only further burden themselves with things like drunkenness and the cares of life, while those with faith in God’s true Word receive strength by praying to Him in response to His promises (Luke 21:34, 36).
When our hearts are burdened with grief or frustration and even despair, it is all too easy to find an illusion of peace and rest in drunkenness and dissipation. It doesn’t necessarily have to involve alcohol or even drugs, although they are ever close at hand in our society. We can also get drunk on power and drown our sorrows in sales. Sinful mankind will turn to any diversion in order to blur the reality of the effect of sin in his life. We know all too well that these intoxications are just that, they bring in toxins to our life. They don’t get rid of any. They add to our own depression and inability to do any constructive thing. Their temporary numbing leaves us with more pain for ourselves and inflicts more pain on those around us, too.
In contrast, the faithful will turn again to the promises in God’s sure Word and cry out to Him in prayer in order to plea for strength when their hearts are heavy and they are weighed down by the cares and concerns of this fleeting life. We have a Saviour who is coming with power and glory, who is not only able to lift our burdens but, with love and mercy and power and great glory, will remove them entirely.
All of this points to the end result of that day which will be experienced in contrasting ways between the unfaithful and the godly. It will either come as a sudden snare, or as a great escape. The ungodly who have spurned God’s Word of warning and salvation will be trapped in this world that they loved more than they loved Him. But those who have watched with faith in His unfading Word will escape from the jaws of destruction. The prophet Malachi said that for the arrogant and evildoers it will be as if they got trapped in an oven and were burned up like grass. But for the faithful it will be like someone finally opened the barn door to let us out into the green pasture and sunshine (Malachi 4:1-2).
There is a great contrast between the coming of our Lord in humility and lowliness to bear the burden of our sins, and the coming of our Lord with power and great glory to lead our escape from this fallen world destined for destruction. There will be a great contrast between the righteous and the wicked in how the day of His coming will be received. May we receive Him with faith and joy and eager expectation. Yet, along the way with the trials and tribulations of life in this wicked world we will need to be reminded of Who is coming for us and that even now He is present with us. Those topics are addressed in the Gospels for the remaining two Sundays of Advent.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.