On Your Mark
How young are we when we hear, "On your mark" and know that "get set" and "go" will follow? That's the idea behind styling the last three Sunday's of the Church Year as Third-Last, Second-Last, and Last.
On your mark', the kingdom hides in plain sight. Have you seen that Microsoft commercial for AI's ability to identify snow leopards blending in with the surrounding landscape? Picture after picture highlights the snow leopard which the naked eye at first glance takes to be rocks or terrain. Jesus responds to the Pharisees' query "when the kingdom of God would come" with, "It's hiding in plain sight." We confess as much. We say, "I believe in the Holy Christian Church," or "I believe one holy, Christian, and apostolic Church". The operative word being believe' both times. We don't say, "I see it." In 2 Cor. 5:7 Paul contrasts living by faith with living by sight. You believe in what you can't see. Flying over the Himalayas, if a wildlife biologist says, "There's a snow leopard," I will believe him or I will see it.
Jesus answers the Pharisees' question of when the kingdom comes with it's here, and you're missing it because it "does not come with your careful observation.because the kingdom of God is within you." The Greek here, entos, is only used twice in the NT. All 5 of my Greek commentaries on Luke agree here it must be read "among you." "Within you introduces a foreign theology to Jesus' theology in any of the gospels. The coming of the kingdom is never an interior event solely within the hearts of people." Translating within you' was favored by liberal theology's view that God's kingdom was only God's rule in the heart (Just, 662). Jesus in effect is answering the Pharisees question of when is this kingdom coming, with "It's here already; right under your nose" even as a snow leopard would be to me.
On your mark', these are the good old days. This is a recurring theme in song. It's there in Mary Hopkins' 1968 singing of a Russian folk song: "Those were the days my friend". It's in Carly Simon's 1971 song "Anticipation" with the refrain "These are the good old days." And I know I'm missing other songs when I jump to 2017 and Macklemore's rap "These will be the good old days." The repeating theme is that while living our days we don't appreciate the significance of them. If you're a Pharisee Jesus' message to you is, "On your mark, you're missing the kingdom that is hiding in plain sight." To you disciples Jesus says, "On your mark, don't be fooled by eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, and building, these are the days of the Son of Man." Did you catch that? Did you get where the mark' for disciples to be on is? Jesus gives us disciples a hint. "The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man."
You're there now aren't you? You want to see the reign and rule of God the Son today to put false to the Big Lie. The Big Lie of evolution has mesmerized the minds of men. The Big Lie contrary to evolution by the way that gender is a choice is repeated by politicians, musicians, stars and starlets. The Biggest Lie of all, that you can flaunt God's revelation of Himself in Law or Gospel and there is no judgment, is the gospel of today. So, you long to see what you think God should be doing if these indeed are His days. But what does God in the flesh say to you? "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man."
The fact that men all around you are eating and drinking with no thought of saying "grace" or asking, "Come Lord Jesus be our guest" doesn't mean Titus 2:11 is false: "The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men." We are not wrong, stupid, or deceived to go on, as Paul says in Titus 2:13, "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." We can go on asking for Jesus to be our guest because He came the first time to live each day perfectly before God as a true man in our place, and He died one day in place of every damned sinner that ever lived. Yes, even though our government has none the truly Antichristian thing of redefining marriage, denying reality, and destroying the basic unit of society, still your God in Christ reigns in these days, but the only indication you have of that is His Word. O that.
No, that's your mark in these days of the Son of Man even as it was in the days of Noah. For a 120 years read Genesis 6 and 2 Peter 2 Noah preached righteousness. Or read Genesis 19 and 2 Peter 2:8 and know that Lot too preached and like you he "was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard." But the only thing Lot got was the preached Word of God from the mouths of angels. Lot believed the preaching of angels; Lot's sons-in-law did not believe his preaching and in the end even his own wife turned back. As for Noah, in a world that some think had billions of people, only 8 believed his sermons. Do you believe mine? Do you believe that in this mad, mad world God's Word of grace, of salvation, of judgment carries these days? Do you believe this is the mark on which you are to kneel, to get set for the future, to go to heaven on?
On your mark', these are the days of the Son of Man, but not "the day the Son of Man is revealed." You know how disorienting it is when you get your days mixed up? It was only about 25 years ago that hospitals and homes for the elderly started to make a conscience effort to keep people rooted in the right day. Well, don't mix up days of the Son of Man with the Day. On that Day, ends all earthly eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage; all buying, selling, planting and building too. Historically, groups or individuals that mistake these days for the Last Day end all such things. Don't go there. You know how the kingdom of God in these days doesn't come with your careful observation? The Last Day does. There was no doubt when as Genesis 7:11 says, "the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened." When as Genesis 19:24 says "the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from heaven," everyone there saw it.
You are no more going to miss the Day of the Lord than you do a lightening flash that lights up the sky from horizon to horizon, but you disciples are at a place different from the disciples in the text. Your mark has moved. The Son of Man has finished suffering the many things He had to: the pangs of hell, all the tortures, shame, guilt, and pain of it, so you would not have to. The unbelieving generation that has existed ever since Cain killed Able and endures to the Last Day has already tested and rejected Jesus handing Him over to the unbelieving church to be crucified by the heathen State. This Jesus has already rose on the third day victorious over your sin, over your death, and over your devils. And He has sent into the world His Word of salvation. This is the mark for all Christians. Since He has finished all suffering and comes victorious from His being tested and rejected, the Day for Him to be revealed can be any day now.
Once Jesus finished suffering for the sins of the world, once Jesus redeemed, bought back the world from the sin, death, and devil that our sins sold us too, once God the Father raised Him from the dead declaring that He accepted Jesus' payment for the world's sins, the boundary between these days and the Last Day thinned to a mere skin, and a clear one at that. On All Hallows' Eve they say the boundary between this world and the realm of spirits thins to the point they can cross over. How the world loves this theme even though there's not so much as a hint of it in God's revelation, but God does reveal that since Easter all things are ready for the Groom Jesus to come for His Bride the Church. From Easter you can see all the way to eternity. From the empty tomb on earth you can see all the way to the new heaven and new earth. Don't believe me? Watch.
After Jesus says His Last Day will be as obvious as the Flood and Sodom's destruction, He says it will be just like this on the Day the Son of Man is revealed. Revealed is apokalypto and because our English apocalypse is a transliteration of its noun apokalypsis, you think when reference is made to the apocalypse it's to unheard of destruction on the Last Day. Certainly there will be that when, as 2 Peter 3:10 says, "the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up." But the precise meaning of apokalypto is not to destroy' or even to reveal' but "to uncover, lay open what has been veiled or covered up" (Thayer). Now go to Matthew 24, often called the Little Apocalypse (apokalypsis). There in verses 2, 27, 37, and 39 we find Jesus referring to His parousia. The first meaning of parousia is "presence". So what we refer to as the Second Coming, is the unveiling of the Son of Man who is already present. The Last Day is when the veil between what we think is reality and the eternal which Paul says is the true reality gets lifted.
To get ready for this, the mark to be on is your Baptism. It looks like plain water now but when the veil lifts what you see by faith now a water of everlasting life will be visible to the eye. And that Word of forgiveness which now only by faith can you see sends your sins away, when the curtain opens you'll hear it as the thunderous Word of grace it really is. And as for the Body and Blood of Jesus you see hidden in Communion Bread and Wine, when the mirror in which we see darkly now is broken on the Last Day, you will see not only Jesus but angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven.
To this day an adrenaline rush starts with me hearing: On your mark' That's the point of this Third-Last Sunday. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Third-Last Sunday in the Church Year (20191110); Luke 17: 20-30