Look at The Leaves / Luke 21:5-36 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 13th 2022 / Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 13th 2022: The Season of Pentecost, Luke 21:5-36. "Look at The Leaves Trees"
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, [Jesus] said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked Him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And He said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I Am He!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”
Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for My name's sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for My name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
And [Jesus] told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. "And [Jesus] told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near." We of course are not looking at leaves today, the leaves are buried under a layer of snow, those leaves have fallen, we now see the dry and cold branches of the trees reaching out into the frosty air of winter and seeing this we know it will be a while before the spring comes and the snow melts away. We trust that summer will eventually come because it has returned each year, but we might wonder - if we think of it - will March come in like a lion and out like a lamb; when will the snow shovel be put away; when will I be able to go outside without a coat? Things will start to happen that will let you know that those days are drawing near; we would be surprised if that day – the day the snow shovels are put away for the year – was December 25th, even still we know summer will come and the leaves will be green again, but when exactly? It may come early, it may come late: we must be patient.
The disciples who were marvelling at the construction of the Temple complex of king Herod the Great in Jerusalem seem taken a back when Jesus tells them, "the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Believing His words they asked Him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” They want to know what to look for ... and Jesus does point some things out. His answer points to the destruction of the Temple that they were admiring, that Temple was destroyed in the year 70 A.D. by the Romans during the lifetime of some of the very people who stood shoulder to shoulder with Jesus and His disciples that very day in Jerusalem when they asked the question.
But Jesus also wants them to be to be prepared for more than just that. He wants them to be prepared to avoid false doctrine, false teaching, false Christs, false fears. He wants them to be ready for whatever situation they might find themselves in. He knows that in just a few days He will be hung upon the cross, nailed there to die for them and for us all, and that these men after Jesus' death, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven will face opposition on account of the name of Jesus, on account of His name. As much as these men admired the Temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, they couldn't put their hope in that Temple of stone.
In the Gospel of John when Jesus clears the Temple of the moneychangers John records this interchange when Jesus is confronted about His authority to do such a thing, John writes, "So the Jews said to Him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But [Jesus] was speaking about the Temple of His Body. When therefore [Jesus] was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken."
Their confidence couldn't come from a Temple, our confidence can't come from the things of this World. In today's Gospel Jesus says, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." As the book of Hebrews confesses and teaches, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Again in today's Gospel Jesus says, “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Jesus is the Son of Man and Jesus says here, when you see Me return "straighten up and raise your heads" find your confidence in Me and in Me alone! Jesus says. This Temple of stone will not be here for you on That Day, it will not save you. His crucifixion was coming, His resurrection was coming, His ascension into heaven was coming, all but Judas would be there on the day of His ascension to see Him taken into heaven, and all but Judas who would betray Jesus would hear the angles that day say to them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” Right then they were given an advanced preview of what That Day would look like.
There is a children's song that has the lyrics, "with Jesus in the boat you can smile in the storm," ... "straighten up and raise your heads," Jesus can return at any moment the conditions of His return are fulfilled and ongoing. In the Creed we confess that He will come again to judge the living and the dead. So we watch and pray, we live and love, knowing that He will come. Before the end comes, before Jesus returns, "nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. [Jesus says don't be alarmed, these things must take place, He says,] All these are but the beginning of the birth pains." Saint Paul talks about it like this too, saying, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.” And Saint Paul continues saying, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." Waiting patiently in Christ, is a far cry better than waiting for The End without Christ, "with Jesus in the boat you can smile in the storm," ... "straighten up and raise your heads."
When a mother is expecting, husband and wife watch the signs along the way during the pregnancy, father and mother keep track of everything and they pray that all will unfolded the way it should. Then when that day comes the wait is over and even though they had passed the time with mounting anticipation for months and months the moment … the water breaks and labour begins, the moment when that first cry comes forth these moments are surprise upon surprise. The whole family waited with eager expectation for what they trusted was coming. On the other side of life when one is struggling with a slow moving chronic illness, when the diagnosis is terminal and the end of this life looms then the person and those around them, their friends and family, likewise watch and wait. The Christian in those days watches and waits for the day when Jesus comes to take the one who is dying unto Himself just as Jesus promises in the Gospel of John when He says, "I go and prepare a place for you, [and] I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also." In both cases, with birth and with death, we watch and we wait, we know what's coming; however our feelings and emotions are different. Whether you are at the beginning of your earthly life or the end having Christ Jesus makes all the difference. With Jesus we trust that "the redemption of our bodies," in Him is ever drawing near, but when exactly? It may come early, it may come late: we may be an infant, we may be 31 years old, or we may be 87 years old: whatever the case may be we must be patient.
No amount of political upheaval or uncertainty, no amount of famine or pandemic or plague or distress, no amount of ecological turmoil, no amount of personal persecution for His name's sake, "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Listen to Jesus when He says, "I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict." Listen to Him when He says, "straighten up and raise your heads," don't be distracted by the cares of the World and the magnificent stones of this day, the great stones and accomplishments of this day can be just as easily overturned as the stones of the Temple which Jesus' disciples so admired, and what will they matter on The Day of Jesus' return? Jesus' return can come at any moment in the twinkling of an eye at the sound of the trumpet, when it happens you will have long watched the trees budding, then all at once there will come The Day when the leaves are green and full on the branches of the trees and Jesus will stand before you, That Day shall come upon you suddenly: You will long feel the pain of labour and then all at once there will be the baby in your arms and Jesus will stand before you, That Day shall come upon you suddenly. The cares of this life will pass away, the sufferings of this life will pass away, but Jesus does not pass away: He comes for you, and you are His in your baptism.
Underpinning the question of the disciples is some anxiety about The End. So it is natural to wonder about The Day of Jesus’ return: does That Day, The Day of His coming, need to be something to fear? Think on this: Jesus comes to you quite regularly: He came to you in your baptism, He comes to you in Holy Communion today, He comes to you in His word, and on The Last Day when He comes to you, you need not fear, He is your Lord and Saviour and He comes to take you to Himself. He brings eternal peace and life without end. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 John 2:18-22
 Hebrews 13:8
 Acts 1:11
 Matthew 24:7-8
 Romans 8:18-25
 John 14:3
 Romans 8:39
 1 Corinthians 15:52
 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 21:1
Photo Credit: Main Photo Green Leafs with Buds from pexels; Winter Snow and Trees from pexels; detail of Model of the Temple in Jerusalem from wikimedia commons; detail of El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) painting "Christ Cleansing the Temple" from wikimedia commons; deatil Hand and the Sun from pexels; detail of Stained Glass of Jesus Calming the Storm in the Boat from pexels; detail of Mother and Father from pexels; detail of Patient in Hospital Bed from pexels; detail of Green Leaves from unsplash.