Text: Luke 21:34-36
Date: Wednesday in the Last Week + 11/29/06
Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Detroit
The words of this short Gospel reading are the concluding words of our Lord’s last public discourse as recorded by St. Luke. They follow upon his promise, namely, that though heaven and earth will pass away, “my words will surely not pass away.” Therefore, to direct and encourage us to the importance of remaining in his Word he admonishes us to beware and be watchful. Beware of everything that would distract you from remaining in his Word and be watchful especially in prayer that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man when he comes in his glory.
Earlier in his Gospel St. Luke employs the warning to beware three times: first with regard to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (12:1), then of those who cause scandals and sins (17:3), and thirdly of the scribes’ love for public recognition (20:46). These are all warnings against people engaged in some form of false teaching, false doctrine that leads to unrighteousness, away from God and not toward God. In this text this final warning turns from false teachers to those things in life that cloud our awareness of his promised return and the fast-approaching end of the world, namely, carousing, drunkenness and the cares or anxieties of daily life. These are the kind of distractions that our Lord warned about in the parable of the sower, especially where the seed among the thorns represents people who are choked by the anxieties, riches and cares of this life. Rather, the disciple is to avoid these things, keep a clear mind, lift up his head and watch, for the end “will come upon all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.”
Though Jesus has issued warnings to be watchful using other words, this final warning uses a broader term used only here in Luke’s Gospel implying a more general, all-encompassing watchfulness that keeps the big picture of world history and of our lives in the perspective of the end time and the last day. He highlights one aspect of watchfulness, namely, prayer. Again, there are different words for prayer as there are different kinds of praying. There is the liturgical prayer of the Church, a more well-thought-out and comprehensive prayer for all sorts and conditions of men. The kind of prayer he is speaking of here is prayer that pours forth in times of distress as pleas to God for help. It is the prayer, specifically, for strength to flee—that is, to endure and persevere in faith through “all these things that are about to happen.” This strength comes from the words of the Lord, which do not pass away. Again, as in the parable of the soil, we are to be “those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience,” or steadfast endurance [Luke 8:15 (ESV)].
This is the goal of the Gospel: to enable the hearers, by grace, to stand in the presence of the Son of Man. To stand means not to fear death, but rather to greet Christ Jesus with head held high as he comes with redemption to usher us to the heavenly banquet table of eternal life, the resurrection of our bodies and the life of the world to come. Beware of everything that tries to lead you astray. Be watchful, see everything through theological eyes, that is, as pointing ultimately to the Lord’s return. And pray always for strength to withstand and to stand by faith in the grace of God and in the Word of Truth that will not pass away.