In the early part of Easter Week, the gospel accounts indicate that Jesus spent the majority of His time teaching and preaching. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, those gospel writers give us these accounts because Jesus wasn’t merely teaching and preaching for the benefit of those who were there. He was also doing so for our benefit. Maybe the distinction between teaching and preaching can seem a bit arbitrary, but most of us prefer teaching over the preaching…particularly when it comes to Jesus. Yet in today’s passage, He preaches a message of preparation, and it is one we need to hear today.
Wednesday, APRIL 8th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Luke 21:5 - 22:6
Focused Passage for Reflection - Luke 21:34-36
Reflecting on the Text:
At some point, while teaching in the temple, Jesus turned His focus from battling the religious leaders to preparing the worshippers. His message was simple: Watch out and stay awake. But what were the people to watch out and stay awake for? His setting proved to illustrate His point. The temple complex was a place of beauty, but it was meant to be a place of worship rather than an object of worship. Jesus taught the people that the day would soon come when it would all be taken away. The same will one day be true of our grand buildings. Will we be ready then to meet our intended Object of worship?
So what is the true object of your worship? You probably know the Sunday School answer, but what is the answer your heart would give if it could speak on your behalf? Jesus spoke about the temple’s destruction because the day was soon coming when its God-ordained purpose in the sacrificial system would be fulfilled. But I believe He also spoke of the temple’s coming destruction because He knew our temptation to love the beauty and architecture of the building more than the God who inhabited it.
In our focused passage, Jesus transitioned His focus from love of the temple to the love of sin which can also take over as our true object of worship. Jesus came to save sinners. Fundamental to that salvation is the gift of a new heart that desires the Savior more than the indulgences and trappings of this world.
So, He tells us to watch ourselves lest our hearts be weighed down by the desire for lesser things. What are those desires? On one hand, they are the desires for destructive sin (dissipation and drunkenness). On the other hand, He speaks of desires which lead to anxiousness over the concerns of our lives (excessive desire for control). On His way to make atonement for sin, Jesus essentially told His people (us), “don’t let your desire for sin take over your desire for me.”
With the exhortation came a warning. There will come a day, for all mankind, when these lesser objects of desire and worship will come to an end. On that day, we will stand before King Jesus. Near term for the original audience, Jesus spoke of the day when the temple would be destroyed. But he also spoke of the day when we will stand before Him.
He wasn't finished preaching though. He offered a second, similar exhortation for us. “Stay awake at all times.” Have you ever struggled to stay awake, only to find yourself fighting a losing fight? You probably know when the weight of sleep closes in, it is nearly impossible to fight it off. The struggle is real, but Jesus wasn’t warning about sleepiness. He was calling us to be spiritually alert. But most of us know the difficulty is the same.
That is why we should take comfort in His next words. Jesus followed up the exhortation by telling us how to stay awake… “praying that you may have strength to escape…” When we pray, we are acknowledging that we can not do this thing in our own strength. When we pray, we are acknowledging our helplessness and our dependence upon the Lord. Isn’t it comforting to see that Jesus acknowledged the same thing? We can’t do the thing that He is telling us to do, so He told us to prayerfully depend upon Him.
In the days leading up to His death, Jesus was not shy about telling us all that we would one day likewise face death..unless of course, He comes back before that day. Either way, we will all stand before Him. Will that be the day when you finally receive your greatest desire? In His preaching, Jesus seemed to be preparing us for that day by challenging us regarding our desires on this day. So with His words before us, let us “watch ourselves” and “stay awake at all times.”
Questions for personal reflection:
Does the thought of standing before the Son of Man bring fear or joyful anticipation?
What desires might your first answer be revealing?
The Savior is gracious and good. Are you willing to bring these lesser desires before Him in prayer?