Distress over the future again weaves itself through popular culture. After all, one wants to be left behind! (My apologies to Tim LaHaye). Uncertainty engulfs those on the fringe with paranoia and colors the majority with cynicism. So, what’s new? For the past two millennia, Christians have looked to the future and asked, “When, Lord, when?” To this question, Jesus had an answer.
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus addressed the coming day of the Lord in two ways: active anticipation and faith. Look for signs, Jesus told his followers, but trust in the Lord’s time, not your own.
Viewing the end of time, Jesus saw the event as the visit of the divine King. God would prepare the visit with cosmic signs and events as a means of announcement. The King would arrive in a way that reflected his power and reputation (on the clouds); his messengers-criers (“angels”) would go throughout the known world to gather all the faithful. Remember that the Jewish people had been displaced throughout the known world because of economic opportunity or oppression. Jesus implied that the injustice of Jews living on foreign soil would be corrected during his lifetime.
How did his disciples know Jesus spoke the truth? Jesus gave a farming analogy of the fig tree (green before the summer) to support his belief in God’s immanent judgement. Then he compared God’s creation to his words. Nature changed, but his words would not; they were eternal and, so, trustworthy.
After all that, Jesus said that only God knew the day (the time frame) or the hour (the exact moment) of these events. Doesn’t this contradict his preaching and assurance? To the impatient Westerner, the answer would seem to be “yes.” But Jesus challenged his disciples to see the process through God’s eyes. These things would happen in God’s time, not ours. The teaching of Jesus challenged both his audience and our uncertain time to trust God with the future. Anxiety and paranoia were futile responses to a situation that requires faith.
When are you coming, Lord? When!? While we might not be consumed with the question of the end time, personal anxiety in life will cause us to ask the question. Jesus’ answer to us is the same one he gave his followers two thousand years ago. Look for signs of his coming in the chaos of life. And trust in his time of your deliverance. Rest assured, he will come at the right time!