Enough! (Luke 21:5-28)
Rev. David French
You can tell a lot about a person by the way they carry themselves. Depression and low self-esteem are not as hard to identify as some would have you think, nor is pride and arrogance. A person who thinks very highly of himself has a certain way of letting the rest of the world know about it. Like a peacock fanning his feathers, the proud man puts himself on display for all the world to see.
In the same way, people who are struggling, who look like they’re carrying a heavy load, they have a beat down look. Their face is a bit long. Their shoulders are usually a bit slouched and sagging. It’s almost as if you can see the invisible but heavy burden they bear. The truth is, the posture of the whole body reflects a certain sense of defeat, despair, and dejection; a lack of self-worth.
You don’t have to be a trained psychologist to pick up on these visual cues. You just have to care enough to notice. Now, I know that there’s not one of us here who couldn’t see those signs in someone we love. You’d know that something was wrong long before they say that everything’s good.
As we turn to our gospel lesson for this morning, we hear Christ referring to this defeated attitude, giving us a very straightforward command to “straighten up and raise our heads.” Now, I suspect these words didn’t sound any more comforting then than they do now. I mean, when all the horrific events that will occur as the end times start to play out before our eyes, we’re to do what? Get ready for action?
Now, before we go too far down that road, it’s important to understand that while this is a firm and clear command, it is not a militaristic type of command. I say that because that’s how this text is often interpreted and taught … sort of a “It’s Armageddon time!” kind of mindset. But that’s not what Jesus is talking about here.
You see that word that’s translated as “straighten up” is only used four times in Scripture (twice in John and twice in Luke). The other time Luke uses this word is in chapter 13, where we hear about a woman who was disfigured with a crippling spirit. Jesus recognizes this disfigurement for what it is, a symptom of sin; the sin that leads to death, the sin that infects each and every one of us. As He was teaching, Jesus calls to this woman to come to Him and says to her, “You are set free from your disability.” He spoke these healing words and laid His hands on her and “immediately she was made straight, and she praised God.”
Now, I want you to think about that for a moment. Think about the crippling realities of sin in your own life, be they physical, emotional, or spiritual realities. And what do I mean by a crippling spiritual reality? Well, there’s not one of us here who hasn’t stood by quietly when we could have boldly made a stand for Christ. Why? Because the truth hurts! Standing with Christ in the face of sin means that you will experience pain and suffering, that is tribulation. That’s why Jesus assures us that He is always with us.
One of the most obvious things that we often fail to realize is that the deadly, crippling effects of sin infect and affect every person of every time in history. God’s people have never been free of sin since sin came into the world. We know this, and I honestly think we believe it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we fully understand just how deadly our sin really is.
It’s usually easy to spot … sin in other people that is, especially those who we don’t care about. It does become more difficult to spot sin in people we do care about. It becomes even more difficult, sometimes even impossible, to spot that same deadly reality staring back at you from the mirror. Why is that? Well, because we’re very good at rationalizing, classifying, and justifying for the one we love the most, that is, the person in the mirror. It’s easy for us to see our sin and say, “Yes, I’m a sinner” … but still, we think, “but it’s not like I’m a drug dealer or a pedophile or something. Sure, I gossip now and again, and I may sometimes overstate things, but really, let’s keep a little perspective here.”
So yes! Let’s put things into proper perspective! Let’s look at sin—all sin—through God’s eyes and from His perspective. From God’s perspective, all of humanity, from the moment of conception to the grave, is a disfigured, tangled mess of sin and death. God takes one look at our fallen and corrupted nature and sees us just as He saw the hunched over and disabled woman. Each and every one of us are so sinfully crippled and knotted up, that what God sees is nothing more than a tangled mess of death, a disfigured corpse riddled with sin. Now to state the obvious, corpses make for lousy soldiers. “Ineffective” doesn’t even come close to describing a corpse’s ability to stand and wage war. Again, that whole militaristic notion of “it’s Armageddon time, so let’s get ready to rumble!” just doesn’t work. That’s just not what Jesus was saying here.
“Straighten up and raise your heads, for your redemption is drawing near.” This is a firm and reassuring message of comfort in the midst of terror. And here’s the thing, this message isn’t just reserved for Judgment Day. My friends, Your Lord calls out to you this morning with this same life-giving message of comfort, healing, and restoration; right now in the midst of your sin and sorrows.
“Straighten up! Lift up your heads.” Lift up your eyes to the One who brings you life and peace this very day. Through the eyes and ears of faith, we recognize our Lord and Savior. We know that our redemption, who is Christ, is in our midst right now, feeding and nourishing us with His life-giving Word and sacraments.
This present tense reality is important to remember! All too often, we hear these passages of terrible tribulation and think only of apocalyptic, “dooms day” end-of-time things that haven’t happened yet. I challenge any of you to tell a parent who had to bury their child that their tribulation wasn’t great. I challenge any of you who haven’t had to deal with the crushing effects of marital infidelity or poverty or terminal illness to tell someone in those circumstances that their trials and tribulations aren’t what God has in mind when He says, in effect, no matter what’s happening in your life, keep your eyes on Him, and He will deliver you from all your sorrows.
My friends, sin is all around us. The trials and tribulations that shake and test and cripple saving faith have been around as long as sin has been around, and they will continue to stalk and prey upon mankind until that blessed day when our Lord says, “Enough!” Until that day, our Lord continues to call out to us, “Straighten up and raise your heads, for your redemption is drawing near….” In fact, it’s so close you can see it, touch it, and taste it right now. Your redemption is right here because He is right here among us. He is always with you and will be until the very end of the age. That, you see, is real peace, the kind that surpasses all human understanding, the peace that is received and treasured by faith alone, the peace that comes from knowing you are forgiven child of God, redeemed by the precious blood of His Son, your Savior, Jesus, who is the Christ.
Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.