Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Luke 21:25
In the year 64AD, Rome burned to the ground. This is the famous fire that we’ve all heard that Emperor Nero “fiddled” through. The Christians were blamed for the fire, and a most awful persecution broke out because of that.
In the year 70AD The Army of the Roman Empire destroyed Jerusalem. It was so brutal and complete that the scars can still be seen in the city to this very day. Besides the destruction of buildings, they ended up crucifying so many people that it is said that they ran out of wood.
For someone living through those horrific events—especially someone who was Jewish or Christian—it must have felt like the whole world was ending.
Now, Luke is writing a good 15-20 years later. The fires had cooled. The horrors were nothing but memories. People had moved on with their lives. In fact, from what we can gather, Luke was writing for a community of Jesus-Followers who were in a good place.
Of course, this didn’t mean that the memories had faded all that much. How many times have we said to ourselves, “I can’t believe it’s only be 10 years since…”
The images would still be burned into their minds. The sounds. The smells. The sensation of fear that emanated from every cell in their bodies. They had moved on, but how much can you really ever move on from something like that?
These are the events that Jesus is referencing in the 21st chapter of Luke. Of course, when Jesus was speaking, it was decades before those events had occurred. Luke was writing these words down decades after the events.
One would be forgiven if they thought of such horrific things as evidence that God had forgotten them, or was absent. But Luke’s Jesus tells us: “Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near…When you see these things taking place, you know that the Kingdom of God is near.”
That almost sounds ridiculous. It’s practically crazy-talk.
When our whole world is going topsy-turvy how can we ever find evidence of redemption? How can we ever find the Kingdom in the ashes of destruction?
I don’t know. I really don’t.
Though it must be in the same way that the first are last and the last are first. The same way that the greatest among us are the servants. The same way that a death on a cross can culminate in the victory of an empty tomb.
It doesn’t make sense. Unless we have eyes of faith.