Neo: Why do my eyes hurt?
Morpheus: You’ve never used them before.
It’s hard to read the Gospel accounts where Jesus clearly gets things wrong. Here in these verses, Luke has Jesus declaring all these creepy cosmic signs of the end times, and it’s clear in these words that Jesus thinks it all will happen sometime very soon.
People will faint from fear… the seas and the waves will roar… the Son of Man will come on a cloud…
Be on guard… the day will come and catch you like a trap…
Holy crap. Really? Jesus seemed to be a whole lot more alarmist about the end-times than we care to realize.
Bart Ehrman wrote a book called Jesus: The Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium in which he argues that Jesus was first and foremost an apocalyptic prophet who wrongly believed the end was coming soon—maybe even during his lifetime.
Perhaps he was.
Luke makes Jesus sound like all the crazies out there. The ones who are much more interested in instilling fear than in instilling faith. The ones who put judgment where love is supposed to go. The ones who are much more interested in counting the sins of others than in reminding themselves that God’s grace doesn’t know anything about counting.
What are we to do with this?
First off, with all of this language here about distress and foreboding and being alert, I don’t see anything here about judgment. I see words of warning and counsel, and, yes, they are still quite intimidating, but there’s nothing in here about who is in and who is out.
Maybe the Kingdom of God doesn’t have a cosmic bouncer standing outside of it. Maybe it’s not even a place we wait to get into. Maybe the Kingdom of God is where we already are–we just need eyes that open to it.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus seemed interested in having others realign their sight to the sight of God. To replace the priorities of the world with the priorities of a new kind of life—one where God’s desires for this world are put above all else. A kingdom that exists right here and right now as well as in the world to come. On earth as it is in the heavens.
I can only agree with Bart Ehrman on this one—Jesus got it wrong (or at least Luke’s version of Jesus gets it wrong). There may be no cosmic ending in our immediate future and time spent waiting for one is time wasted.
Advent is filled with a different sort of waiting.
Advent is about waiting for the present to reveal itself to us rather than waiting for the future to collapse upon us.
It’s a time when we wait with faithful readiness. A time to hope and listen for something new to spring forth among us and renew us. When the world gets rearranged once again by divine priority. When we are invited once more to see what God desires for it.
Advent is when we wait for new and full meaning to invade a world that too often feeds us with stale and empty meaning.
May this advent be one that throws light into the dark corners of this world. May this Advent be one that opens our eyes to the reality of a new heaven and a new earth. A new order revealing itself right in front of us, if only we use our eyes as we’ve never used them before.
A reflection by Pat Ryan.