Sunday, May 11, 2014

No One Knows The Hour (part 26)

While Matthew uses language identical to Mark, Luke, though presenting the apocalyptic words of Jesus with marked differences, makes things a bit more obvious for his audience.  There one finds, “And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth nations will be in distress, anxious over the roaring of the sea and the surging waves.  People will be fainting from fear and from the expectation of what is coming on the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then they will see the Son of Man arriving in a cloud with power and great glory.  But when these things begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because you redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:25-28).  This use of “redemption” by Luke is crucial.  Redemption, for a Jew, was equivalent to exodus.  When the Creator God delivered His people from the power of Egypt, granting them exodus, that was a redemption.  Any use of the word “redemption” would be deeply rooted in thoughts of exodus. 

When the Creator God brought the creation forth from its state of chaos, He was thought to have granted it an exodus, redeeming it from its own state of exile.  When a large contingent of the tribe of Judah was dragged off to Babylon in exile from their homeland, it was redemption for which they longed.  They looked for another exodus.  Indeed, John the Baptist built his own movement on the foundation of thoughts of exodus/redemption, as baptism in the Jordan was a re-enactment of Israel’s crossing the Jordan into their Promised Land, thus stirring thoughts of their exodus that defined a people. 

Israel in Jesus’ day, for the most part, sought redemption from Rome--- hopeful that their God would grant them another Egypt-like exodus (the Romans leaving Israel rather than Israel leaving Egypt), even though that exodus would not involve them leaving their land of promise.  A need for redemption, for exodus, implied conflict and oppression, and a situation from which the Creator God’s people needed to be delivered. 

Without going into details of the variety of situations to which Luke may have been referring, it is undeniable that the reference to Daniel, followed by mention of redemption, must be equated to the Danielic insistence that the elect holy ones of the Most High were gathered together (as Matthew and Mark have Jesus saying) to possess the kingdom, and to have a role in that kingdom that was being granted to the Son of Man.  By way of reminder, this coming to power of the Son of Man, with the gathering of the elect for redemption, takes place in concert with the fall of the Temple, which is the preface to all that Jesus has said to this point in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, the thirteenth chapter of mark, and the twenty-first chapter of Luke. 

With this said, Jesus speaks about a fig tree.  There is not a pressing need to go into any great depth of detail here about the symbolism that may be at work, though certainly the previous fig tree that has figured in the Temple-related narratives of Matthew and Mark is called to mind.  This, however, would not be the case for Luke, as he makes no mention of Jesus’ words toward the fig tree and its withering away.  Regardless, Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report this mention of the fig tree as part of Jesus’ discourse about the fall of the Temple.  Through Matthew, Jesus says “Learn this parable from the fig tree: Whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also you, when you see all these things, know that He is near, right at the door” (24:32-33). 

What things?  Obviously, it is all the things that have been mentioned that will signal, for Matthew, the coming of Jesus (as the Son of Man) to the Ancient of Days and the end of the age (the end of the present age and the beginning of the age in which God rules through His Messiah), that would occur or be confirmed by the fall of Jerusalem’s Temple.  The “things” are messianic claims, wars, rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, famines, earthquakes, the abomination of desolation, and so on.  These things are signals that “He is near, right at the door.” 

No comments:

Post a Comment