Tuesday, March 24. Matthew 24:29-51.
I need to make two confessions this morning. First, I posted the wrong the reading yesterday. We read Psalm 43 two Mondays in a row. Did anyone notice? Did anyone care?
The second confession is that today’s passage is a very difficult passage to understand, and I generally steer clear of it. Matthew 24 and 25 is a passage of scripture that falls under the category that Bible scholars call Apocalyptic literature. It was very popular at the time Jesus lived. This type of literature depicts the end of the world and uses big cosmic imagery to describe how there will be a big battle between good and evil, good will triumph, and all the nations of the earth will be judged. This section of Matthew is called the Little Apocalypse and the book of Revelation is called the Big Apocalypse, and they are often combined with the Old Testament book of Daniel to describe the end of the world. It is the stuff of children’s nightmares.
When I was in middle school, I thought I had the Apocalypse figured out. I grew up in a church that loved to talk about the second coming of Jesus and how the church would be raptured (taken up into the sky with Jesus) while those who are left behind suffer a great tribulation. I could chart out exactly how it would play out, and I used it to scare my friends into accepting Jesus as their savior so they wouldn’t be left behind.
The older I get, and the more I have studied scripture and theology, the less certain I have become about all these things. One thing I do believe is that most of what Matthew describes in this section refers to the moment in A.D. 70 when the Roman Empire destroyed Jerusalem. This was truly the “End of the Age” because the temple was destroyed and it has never been rebuilt.
I take comfort in one phrase in today’s reading. Jesus says, “But concerning that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of Heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” The bottom line of Jesus’ words are that we should always be ready for Jesus.
Take comfort in this. The Kingdom of Heaven is among you. Jesus has opened that space through his death and invites you to walk in the power of his resurrection each day. That is what we are supposed to focus on, not the things that we can’t know.
If you would like a little more about how to interpret Apocalyptic literature, read my commentary here. Peace.