Monday, November 23, 2015

From the Fig Tree Learn Its Lesson

24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. [1] For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants [2] in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, [3] or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (Mark 13:24-37 (ESV)

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves you know that summer is near.” Summer is near. Summer time when the living is easy, the fish are jumping and the cotton is high. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves you know that summer is near. Just doesn’t seem quite as menacing as Ned Stark chanting the motto of his house, “winter is coming.” It’s noticeable that Jesus doesn’t mention the fall colors on the trees, the migration of ducks to the south. Everyone knows this is bringing on winter, and as much as we might like our Yuletide traditions, chestnuts on an open fire, skiing, Gluhvine, Russian tea, sledding and ice skating. Ok, I’m beginning to make winter sound fun. But there is a reason Jesus doesn’t mention the coming of winter. It’s cold, hard to live through. Growing up in Minnesota, March would have the most funerals. The tail end of winter, when the living was hard.  We might look forward to Christmas trees, but we don’t look forward to the cold, the snow and slush, the short daylight hours. Jesus compares the signs to the coming of summer, when the living is easy, floating the river, walking the boardwalk, ice cream in the afternoon, shorts and sundresses, when beauty comes to life and blossoms in the sun. From the fig tree learn its lesson as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves you know that summer is near.
Yes, then you know summer is near, we live in the midst of winter. It’s true. And it has been a long winter. Winter is the season of trials and tribulations. That is the nature of the world. Oh, it isn’t that nothing about this world is enjoyable. Quite the opposite. Sometimes we get so used to the weather that signs of change make us think winter might be coming, rather than summer. I don’t know what it is, but I think most Christians today are afraid of Christ’s return. For some reason the return of Christ has been associated with winter rather than summer. We’ve become so attached to this world that we no longer look forward to his coming. Hope is replaced with fear. Why? Excitement gives away to dread, and those Jesus tells to stay awake, fall asleep.
Stay awake, it means keep the faith, hold on to hope. And what a hope it is! This hope should not be confused with wishful thinking. It is more certain than the coming summer signaled with crocus poking through the spring snow, and yellow daffodils. More certain than the coming summer signaled by the leaves of the fig tree promising summer delights. Our hope, is Jesus Christ, and the promise of his return. Our hope is in his death and resurrection for the redemption of mankind, his return in glory to judge the living and the dead. That is our hope in the face of the death and suffering we experience in this world of winter, when March comes so late upon the heels of January and February. People fear his return because they know he is holy, and they know they are sinners. They fear the judgment because the cross loses focus. The cross, there he tree of life budded and bore fruit in the death of Christ, the fruit we consume at the Lord’s Supper when we partake of forgiveness in his body and blood. Yes, the death of Christ is a sure sign of the coming summer. Yes, Jesus Christ is the Son of man who shall return in glory with clouds for chariots. He will judge the living and the dead, he will examine our works, and we all have that for which to be embarrassed for. But we need not fear. Because our salvation is secure in the resurrection of the son of man, he is our judge, the very same man who in love for you, took upon himself your sin, your cause for embarrassment and crucified it in front of the Father, that in him, you would live even now in the midst of winter ever looking towards summer when Christ returns, when this world will pass away like the snows of winter in the summer sun, because his word remains forever. His word remains, and his word is his promise, his promise of your salvation, and a coming summer when the living is easy.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. 

No comments: