I’ve written before that I really enjoy the TV show The Walking Dead. I find it fascinating to see what life might be like in a post-apocalyptic scenario. Many of us wonder if we would be able to survive without electricity, grocery stores, and indoor plumbing. How do you think you would do if the end of world came today? Would you survive?
There have been numerous people in recent years claiming that they know the precise timing of the end of the world. So far they have been wrong every time. Frankly all these doomsday prophets that I have heard have been Christians. They say Jesus will return on a certain day. They should have known better, because Jesus says over and over again that no one knows the day, time or hour of his return.
If you hear a preacher saying that he heard from the Lord or he figured out secret knowledge in the Bible about when Jesus would return, you have my permission not to believe that preacher. Every time Jesus talks about this, he said that it will be a surprise. So why do people think they can know the timing of Jesus return? Jesus tells a parable in Luke 12:35-59, including some teaching in which I think he gets at why people are so caught up in the signs of the times. In this parable he also teaches us how to survive the end of the world.
The first principle he illustrates in the parable is that the timing of his return will be a surprise. That means we need to be ready all the time, and not get lazy. He says he will come to us like a thief in the night. Thieves don’t make appointments with us to rob our homes.
As I mentioned last week, if we can’t know the timing of his return, isn’t it impossible to be ready? Jesus says it IS possible to be ready. In a parable he tells of a master who had given his servants much to do, and we can learn from this what we can do to prepare for Jesus’ return. The master had given the servants the great responsibility of caring for the master’s property, possessions and household. We are those servants. We have been given much to do. But what is it that we have been given?
God has entrusted to us the mission of his Kingdom. Even thought he doesn’t respond, I suspect Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question in verse 41 “Who are you speaking to, Lord?” is probably, “I am speaking to you Peter.” Jesus was going to entrust the mission of his Kingdom to his disciples. He said to them “make disciples”. He started this mission by investing in their lives. One day he wanted those 12 disciples to continue his mission by making more disciples. That is the mission we still have from Jesus to this day. We are to make disciples. That is the vast privilege that he has entrusted to us.
So let’s review what we learned so far. What we are to do to get ready for Jesus’ return? We are to advance his Kingdom. We are to make disciples. We’re not to just talk about making disciples. We’re actually to do it. Francis Chan makes this point in the following video:
Some of you might be thinking that being ready for Jesus return is a personal thing. That’s basically the impression I got when I was a kid growing up. Don’t we just need to believe in him, have our sins forgiven, so when he returns we are saved?
Jesus isn’t talking about an inward readiness here. He is talking about a great gift that we have been given, a gift that is to be used how he wants it to be used. And that gift is salvation, no doubt, but it is not to be kept secret. It is a gift that is to be shared. That’s why I see a connection here to the task of discipleship. We are to make more disciples. How do we make disciples? We look at how Jesus made disciples, and we do what he did.
As Jesus continues teaching, it is what he says in verses 54-56, that is likely why people get so fired up about the signs of times. Jesus points out that we know if rain is coming just by looking at the skies. We can see when things are getting bad.
I had lunch with a friend of mine recently who told me seriously, no joke, that he believes America has 10 more years. That’s it. And then the good ole USA is over. He was absolutely serious. Why would he give this dire prediction? He is watching the signs of the times, and that’s what he thinks.
Should we worry? Should we be scared? Are the signs of the times telling us that we are living in the end times? I choose not to get too worked up about signs of the times. There have been signs of the times all throughout history, and I don’t think our current signs of the times are anything close to what was going on in World War 2. It seems to me that if there ever was a time to say that Jesus was coming soon, that was it. And there were other times that were bad too. Almost 700,000 people died in our own Civil War. Then there was Napoleon. Keep going back in history and you find lots of signs of the times in just about every era.
So what am I saying? That we should stop caring about the wars and earthquakes and trouble? No. I think we need to hear what Jesus is saying. Watch the signs of the times. In fact, those signs of the times should motivate us to get ready like he wants us to be ready. Then we won’t be surprised when he returns. Instead, when he does return, if it is in our lifetime, we will be the servants who are dressed, waiting, and ready to open the door for their master.
How do we do that? We make disciples, as I mentioned above. Another way Jesus tells us to get ready, in verses 58-59, is to make things right with people. Be committed to mending relationships.
This is why before communion I always mention this. Don’t take communion if you know you have a relationship you could fix. Go fix it. But if you have tried and tried and the other person is holding out, God knows, and you are able to take communion.
I recently heard the story of someone who heard these words each time we have communion, and finally they decided to reach out to heal a broken relationship in their life. They took the person out for a meal. That’s awesome!
So you can be ready anytime for Jesus’ return, if you make disciples and heal relationships.