3rd Last Sunday (Mt 24, 15–28)

Photo by John Cafazza on Unsplash

Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

INI + AMEN.

((5. Oops!: What a week!))

Well, it’s been a week, huh? Desperation. Uncertainty. Doubt. What’s going to happen? Who’s in charge? Who will be in charge?

Are we on the brink? On the edge? Is desolation coming? Jesus has some ominous words today. He predicts, prophesies, preaches doom and gloom. Jesus says that the “abomination of desolation” is coming. Words that fit our times.

((4. Ugh!: Jesus means spiritual not worldly desolation.))

But Jesus isn’t talking worldly desolation with these words. No, He does predict worldly destruction, too. And in the year 70 they came true. The Romans destroyed the temple and completely conquered Jerusalem. And Jesus also predicts hard times in the world, too. “Wars.” “Rumors of wars.” “Famine.” “Plagues.” “Disease.” You name it. Those will come, but Jesus words about the “abomination of desolation” aren’t about that. His warning is spiritual in nature.

“When you see the abomination of desolation set up in the holy place.” Jesus repeats what Daniel saw. This abomination, this curse, brings desolation, destruction, barrenness in the holy place. This is spiritual destruction, emptiness. It’s a spiritual drought. A spiritual famine. This is something far worse than just worldly troubles. But what exactly is this?

This spiritual desolation, spiritual destruction happens when the Gospel is rejected. When other things are put forward besides God’s mercy and favor in Jesus Christ. When something else is put before peoples eyes, something else is put into their ears, something else is set up in their hearts besides Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

We set things up, too. Sure we’ve got Jesus, but Jesus AND something else, too. Just like setting up an idol in the Temple that used to be in Jerusalem. The LORD, the Ark of the Covenant, sure, but then also some other God. In the Old Testament times it was Baal, Asherah, Molech. In Jesus’ day it would’ve been their own Good Works, their traditions. Traditions are “the things we do and have always done this way.”

What do you set up? Is it the traditions of this congregation? The traditions of the school? Is it the way you live your life as compared to the way others do? Is it your own thoughts and feelings? I feel like I’m a good person, so I am. I think God’s okay with me, so He must be? Is it the good you’ve done that outweighs your bad? And who is it that set that’s calculation? You, right? Is it our knowledge and right answers that get us into the holy place?

None of that is Jesus as your only Savior and Help and Hope. That’s Jesus and something else, and really it’s the something else that matters most. Our tradition, our thoughts, our past, our preconceived ideas. Otherwise we wouldn’t cling so hard to them! All this is empty, desolation, destruction, death, hell.

((3. Aha!: For all this Jesus became desolate.))

If there’s worldly trouble coming, and if there’s spiritual trouble coming. Wait, no! Those things are already here! Not just out in the world, but in our world! Your daily life! Your heart and conscience before God! They’ve already come home to roost. So, what hope do we even have?

For all these things Jesus Himself was desolate. He received no end of worldly trouble, and He received all the spiritual trouble of all time! “He bore your sins in His own body on the tree.” Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us. He bore the curse of the Law. He became the curse, the abomination, the desolation for us. “For it is written: ‘cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” Jesus was forsaken by His Father. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He was “despised and rejected by men,” as Isaiah prophesied.

The Holy One, God Himslef, who makes the Holy Place Holy, was all these things. The Holy One God Himself, became an abomination of desolation for you. Into your place He went. In the midst of worldly trouble we set up all sorts of things we can control—our idols, false gods, false hope. But in the midst of trouble, His heart remained fixed on His heavenly Father alone. “Into Your hands I commit My Spirit,” Jesus said.

((2. Whee!: JESUS SHORTENS THE LAST DAYS FOR YOU.))

What this once desolate Jesus says holds true. Jesus is the Lamb who looks like He was slain. He is forever Jesus “who was crucified.” His Word comes true.

It’s not just that Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed in 70. It’s not just that He’s right that there’s wars and rumors of wars. It’s not just that in these last days “the love of many will grow cold.” No, He was crucified and raised on the Third Day! That’s how we know whatever He says will come true.

He gave His life as a ransom for many, as a ransom for you. He rose on the Third Day for you. And because He’s done that we know that whatever else He says is true. And so His Word of Promise to you about the Last Days, the Days of worldly trouble, and spiritual desolation, the days when His Gospel will be hard to find. He makes this promise to you, because He’s chosen you, elected you in Holy Baptism. So, what’s His promise? “Those days will be shortened for the sake of the elect.” Let’s put it a different way: JESUS SHORTENS THOSE DAYS FOR YOU.

JESUS SHORTENS THE LAST DAYS FOR YOU. He shortens them because He wants you to be saved. He didn’t just die and rise to make it happen. He now rules the universe for you, and SHORTENS THE LAST DAYS FOR YOU.

((1. Yeah!: If He does that, He’ll carry you through them, too.))

If JESUS SHORTENS THE LAST DAYS FOR YOU, then He’ll certainly carry you through them, too. He made it through His being desolate. He rose from the dead. He delivers His unchanging Word to you. Not only to warn you about what’s coming like in our Gospel reading today. He delivers His Word of Promise to you continually, in many and various ways.

There’s no need for you to worry and keep striving to fix your worry through control. No idols needed. They’re just empty! No, you’ve got a Jesus who’s baptized you. Though His absolution He takes the doors off heaven so you get in. Through the Supper of His body and blood He brings you forgiveness, bringing you into His holy place. JESUS SHORTENS THE LAST DAYS FOR YOU, and brings you through them washed, comforted, and sustained with His mercy, forgiveness, and love.

He will gather you to Himself. “Where the corpse is, there the eagles will be gather.” JESUS SHORTENS THE LAST DAYS FOR YOU, and because He’s died and risen, and because He gives you the promise to shorten them, on top of all His other forgiveness promises, then Paul’s words are true, too!

“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so we believe that, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” We will all “meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

That day isn’t far off. It can’t be! Jesus died and rose, and He says they’ve been shortened for your sake. And so, they are!

INI + AMEN.

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