August 20

Text: Matthew 24:23-28

"Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,' or 'There He is,' do not believe him.  For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.  Behold, I have told you in advance.  If therefore they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go forth, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them.  For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.  Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”   (NASB)

A Jewish Jesus spoke to 12 Jewish men about the destruction of the most significant Jewish symbol.  To me, it seems Jesus’ teaching would be based on Jewish expectations regarding the promised Jewish Messiah and the kingdom he would establish.  To me, it makes no sense for Jesus to address 21st century      gentile concerns instead of first century Jewish expectations.

From the captivities (Assyrian and Babylonian), the Jewish people had suffered enormously at various times.  Often, they expected God to send them a conqueror who would deliver them from their current distress.  At times they even tried “to force God’s hand”—they tried to make God act.  Often they thought if the situation became bad enough, God would have to deliver them. 

There are two significant consequences to that kind of thinking.  (a) Who determines when the suffering is too great—people or God?  (b) When suffering is great, deception is great.  A group’s expectation of divine acts makes that group easy to exploit.

Jesus did not want the difficulty of the situation to deceive the apostles.  These men were accustomed to Jesus having great power and would be accustomed to “private” appearances (Matthew 28:7, 10, 16; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 21:5-8).  There would be false reports of the Christ’s appearance.  False christs and false prophets would have astonishing, convincing powers.

However, when Jesus Christ returned, it would be obvious to everyone—there would be no mystery attached to the coming of the Son of Man.

Suggestion for reflection: How should we both maintain faith AND guard against deception?  (Read Psalm 24:1-6.)

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