Luke 21: 25-36 (Advent One 2015)
“The Word of the LORD Will Never Pass Away”
We have begun another new year in the Christian Calendar. As clocks and calendars go we are reminded that the Lord “does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1: 17). There are certain things we can count on. The ebb and flow of seasons are reminders that our wise Creator God is a God of order and blessings. But with time, some things do change. With time come decline and the reality that we are drawing closer to the time when he will return for Judgment.
Since the disobedience of Adam and Eve there are things in life that don’t last. God had warned them about that, before and after they fell. The world is filled with the evidence of their sin and ours. Our material possessions get old, breakdown, get rusty, and become obsolete. Work and family life is not as joyful as it was meant to be. The geology of our globe has faced ongoing change and decay. We know and feel it in ourselves. Our bodies wear out over the course of life. Eventually we realize that temporal death waits for us. When people die we often say that they “passed away.”
The most alarming result of our disobedience to God is the damaged relationship we had with him. Sin separates from God (Isaiah 59:2). Temporal death is a small symptomatic issue compared to spiritual and eternal separation from God. There is an urgent message in Advent that extends above the thought of getting ready for Christmas. It is an urgency that that says “Christ is coming back.” As Jesus tells us “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all this about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (verse 36).
In four short weeks we will sit in these pews and hear John say “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1: 1-3) “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The Word of the Lord is the Lord. The Lord Jesus is the Word and both are eternal and they both give us the one thing dying people and dying world need: Eternal Life.
In the Word we have his holy birth. In the Word we have his holy life. In the Word we have his holy teachings and promises. In the Word we have his holy death and burial. In the Word we have the truth of his resurrection from death and his ascension to glory. In the Word we have “redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossian 2: 14). Together with his Word we have the power of our baptisms “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3: 5). Together with his Word we have his body and blood in the bread and the wine “for the forgiveness of our sins” (Matthew 26: 28) and the foretaste of the heavenly banquet of life with him in heaven.
One Treasure lasts forever. One thing will never pass away: the everlasting Word of Christ. The Word was, is and always will be absolute perfection. His Word is the one thing needed in this life. When our loved ones face death; when I face death; when Christ returns for Judgment; the Word of the Lord gives everlasting life and faith to trust in Jesus for his salvation.
Jesus teaches us today that that changing of seasons and the decline of things are all the signs we need to know that Judgment Day is on its way. All the signs that Jesus speaks about are things that have been occurring in this fallen world already. We live in troubled times of wars, famines, geological disasters, persecution of Christians. One of the signs is that the Gospel will flow into every corner of the earth and the Word and his Church will continue under his blessings.
Jesus uses the picture of the fig tree as an illustration. As a tree changes, people know that seasons are changing. We do things differently as each season changes. We live in a climate where the changes in season are dramatically obvious. We have a good idea what the weather will be like in the next three months. We know that spring and summer and fall will come again. Jesus says in the same way act like people who know that Judgment Day is coming too.
“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all this about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (verse 36). Jesus warns us to avoid the sinful habits of the world. The ways of the world are heavy weights on peoples’ hearts. They appear to give some comfort or pleasure, but in the end the ways of the world lead to guilt and more fears.
The Word of the Lord “will never pass away.” The Word gives faith in Christ. The Word of Lord prepares our hearts and lifts our heads up in courage. The Word of the Lord leads us to humility and a healthy prayer life. The Word of the Lord is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). The Word of the Lord gives us the power of Christ to resist temptation and the devil. The Word of the Lord gives true comfort and lasting joy. The Word of the Lord gives us trust in Christ to stand before him on the Last Day. It is Jesus, our Redeemer who says “When you see these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Store up Treasures in Heaven
The Word of the Lord lasts forever and is our true Treasure. Jesus said: “Do not store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6: 19-21).
Rejoice in the promise of our Advent King Jesus: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my Word will never pass away!”
One thing’s needful, Lord this treasure
Teach me highly to regard.
All else, though it first give pleasure,
Is a yoke that presses hard.
Beneath it the heart is still fretting and striving.
No true, lasting happiness ever deriving.
This one thing is needful; all others are vain –
I count all but loss that I Christ may obtain (CW 290: 1). Amen.