Initial Text – Luke 12:54-56: He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
Introduction: Last fall, the scientific magazine Discover ran an article entitled “30 Ways the World Could End.” The subtitle of the article was: “Crank up the gloom and doom: Global apocalypse could be just around the corner—and we might never see it coming.” The author speculated on 30 global disasters that could plausibly wipe out human life including what he called a super-bomb, an asteroid impact, a magnetic field reversal, a global epidemic, a global war, the collapse of our ecosystem, solar super-flare ups, and he even added an alien space invasion (“30 Ways the World Could End” by Corey S. Power in Discover Magazine, October 2010). Well, the Bible does predict the end of the world—and Luke 12 records some private teachings Jesus gave His disciples on this subject (v. 1). There is an eschatological subtheme to Luke 12. While we can’t know the future, we can get pretty strong hints of what’s coming, just as we do the weather. Here are the three points our Lord makes based on a natural outlining of the chapter:
1. Don’t Be Wobbly (Luke 12:1-12) – In the last days, there will be a lot of religious people but without true godliness (v. 1). Jesus told us not to fear persecution or those who can kill the body; rather we should fear Him who has the power to both kill and cast into hell (guess Jesus didn’t know about the “no one will go to hell” theories we keep reading about). We can trust God when endangered, for He counts even the hairs of our head (v. 7). This isn’t a time to deny Christ, but to acknowledge Him openly (v. 8). The Pharisees rejected the message and conviction of the Holy Spirit (v. 10), but the Holy Spirit will give us the needed words to speak when persecuted for our faith (v. 12).
2. Don’t Be Greedy (Luke 12:13-34) – We must also guard against covetousness, for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses (v. 15). The rich fool was rich in the world, but not rich toward God (v. 21). We shouldn’t be anxious about the outward possessions of life (v. 22), but seek first His kingdom, for our Father knows our needs (v. 30-31). We have “treasure in the heavens” (v. 33).
3. Don’t Be Lazy (Luke 12:35-48) – Jesus then told us to keep our lamps burning till He comes (v. 35-36). Notice the double beatitude in this passage (v. 37-38 and v. 43). Blessed are those servants whose Master finds them awake when He comes (v. 37 & 38); and blessed are those servants whose Master finds them faithful as His stewards when He returns (v. 43).
Conclusion: Rev. Akira Sato is the pastor of the Fukushima First Baptist Church, which is only three miles from the stricken Fukushima power plant in Japan. Recently he was quoted as saying: “Will we ever be able to worship in our church again, or will the town simply be abandoned? Like the Israelites in the desert, all we can do is follow God as He leads us with pillars and clouds…. Brothers and sisters are bringing us food and clothing from all over Japan. I feel like Elijah, sustained by God with food carried by a raven…. Two days ago a brother who works at the plant but has been with us was called back to work. We prayed together with his family and sent him off. Other church members are working there risking their lives. From the 160 members I have been in touch with, all I hear are words like, ‘God is great. I want to trust Him as I walk with Him from now on.’ I marvel at the strength of their faith in the Lord. Yesterday, three of those who are with us prayed to receive Jesus into their hearts.” (“Nuclear Disaster Brings Tribulation to Japanese Church” by Wesley Ernst in The Christian Post, April 3, 2011). None of us are in exactly that situation, but all of us are living in the shadow of apocalyptic times. Let’s live as though Christ were coming tomorrow… or today!