For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and
will not tarry.
Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.
Luke 12:32-40 > Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Today's readings, Hebrews 10:32-38 and Luke 12:32-40, share the theme of Christ's Second Coming, but each passage reveals a distinct spiritual discipline that enables you to live by faith in the promise of Christ's second coming. Jesus, in the passage in Luke, is emphasizing the spiritual quality of "watchfulness", while St Paul, in Hebrews, is encouraging us to embrace "endurance" while we wait for Christ to appear.
Let us consider four truths that these two passages communicate that will fill you with inspiration and purpose. 1) We must know the reality of Christ's Second Coming. That Jesus is really coming again; to raise the dead, judge everyone according to their works, and establish his everlasting kingdom. We must live this life in the light of his second coming. We are to be looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-2:16; 2 Timothy 4:1,6-8; Matthew 24:29-31; John 5:25-29; Philippians 3:14-20; 1 John 2:28-3:3; Colossians 3:1-4; Romans 8:14-25; Acts 1:8-11; 2 Peter 3:1-18) 2) We must acquire the spiritual quality of "watchfulness". Watchfulness means alertness, attentiveness, being vigilant. It is the spiritual quality of "inner attention" (nepsis in Greek) and is based on the words of Jesus. "Watch, therefore, for you do not know what hour the Lord is coming." (Matthew 24:42). "Watch, what I say to you, I say to all: WATCH." (Mark 13:33,37) "Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation." (Matthew 26:40-45). Watchfulness is our conscious effort to not be sleepy, but to remain alert, awake (Ephesians 5:14-1; Romans 13:11-14). We are not to allow our minds to drift (away from Christ), but instead we are to think on things that are true and good, we are to keep our minds set on things above, and we are to take all thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. (Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:2; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). 3) We must embrace "endurance" as a spiritual quality of genuine faith. To follow in the footsteps of Jesus we will be hated by this world, we will face persecutions, and be reviled and spoken against; we will experience trials and afflictions, but we are to endure them according to the will of God. God will sustain us in this life with joy and peace, and great will be our reward in heaven. (John 16:33; John 14:27; John 15:18-25; Matthew 5:10-12; 1 Peter 2:19-25; 1 Peter 4:12,19). 4) We must live by faith in Christ's Second Coming. When we truly believe that Jesus is coming again, when we have a solid hope in the promises of Christ, then our actions will validate our faith, and our lifestyle will reflect eternal values. Love, evidenced by sacrificial living, will produce peace and rejoicing in our hearts. We will begin to live this life in light of eternity. We will take Christ at his words, "Sell what you have and do alms". We will examine our hearts to see whether our modern American lifestyle, gathering possessions, is compatible with the values of the Kingdom of God. If we truly believe that Christ is coming and this world is temporal, then let us acquire the mind that renounces this world, detaches from the things of this world, and see ourselves as pilgrims and strangers in exile, waiting for that better country, our heavenly home. (Romans 5:1-5; James 2:14-20; 2 Corinthians 4:13-18; 1 Timothy 6:12-19; Mark 4:14-20; Hebrews 11:8-16; 1 Peter 2:9-11; The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Steps 1,2, and 3).
QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
1) Am I living my life with eternal values?
2) How frequently do I think of Christ's second coming? Do I take note of this reality when I confess the Nicene Creed?
3) What is your response to Christ's words, "Sell what you have and give alms"?
4) In what ways can I increase my watchfulness?
VERSE-BY-VERSE COMMENTARY ON HEBREWS 10:32-38
In verses 32-34 St Paul* wants the Hebrew believers to remember what it was like when they suffered willingly, when they were first illuminated (baptized), and had made a firm stand for Jesus Christ. St Paul reminds them how they were made a spectacle (a gazing stock, see 1 Corinthians 4:9), fools for Christ's sake. They were placed, as it were, on a stage in a theatre or a stadium, to suffer reproach, mockery, and ridicule. They were willing to be identified with the hated Apostles, those notorious traitors from Judaism. St Paul continues, reminding them how they had been willing to suffer financial loss, and how they actually had suffered the loss of their possessions for the cause of Christ. And why were they willing to suffer loss? Because they KNEW they have, in HEAVEN, a better and enduring (eternal) possession. They followed in the footsteps of Abraham (read Hebrews 11:8-16) who was looking for a heavenly city, a heavenly country, a city prepared by God in heaven. But while in this life on earth, he confessed, he was a stranger and a pilgrim. Then in verses 35,36 we see that because these eternal promises were a reality to them, they were told, "Do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of ENDURANCE...". St Paul wrote to Timothy "You must ENDURE hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who has enlisted him as a soldier" (2 Timothy 2:3). So, regardless of the persecutions, afflictions, sufferings, and sacrifices, we are to persist in doing the will of God. For it is written, "Let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator" (read 1 Peter 4:12-19). In verse 37 St Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, quotes Habakkuk 2:3, evidently from the Septuagint** translation (Greek Old Testament), telling the Hebrew believers that Jesus's promise to come again is sure. The Prophet Habakkuk says, "For there is still a vision for an appointed time, and it will rise up at the end and not in vain. if it should tarry, wait for it, for when it comes it will come and not delay." St Paul interprets this passage that says a revelation is coming, reading into the passage, the divine truth that the person of Christ is that revelation. And this revelation, Jesus Christ, will come from heaven (read also 1 Peter 1:3-9; 2 Peter 3:1-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). St Paul's final exhortation is that the believers must "live by faith", otherwise it will be inevitable that we would draw back into perdition. St John Chrysostom adds these words of warning in his comments on this verse which tells us of the absolute certainty of Christ's coming again, "Let us say both to others and to ourselves as well: 'There is a resurrection, and a fearful judgment awaits us.' If we see someone puffed up and aglow because of temporal prosperity, let us say the same thing to him, to warn him that all this remains in this world. On the other hand, if we see another person downcast and afflicted with misfortune, let us address the same words to him, also, to remind him that his ill fortune will have an end, And if we see someone who is lazy and slothful, let us chant the same theme to him, to admonish him that he must render an accounting for laziness. This sentence is more potent than any remedy to cure the disease of the soul. And I say this because there is a resurrection and the resurrection is at the door, not far distant or far away in time. 'For yet a little while,' says Paul, 'and he who is to come will come, and will not delay.' (St John Chrysostom on Hebrews)
VERSE-BY-VERSE COMMENTARY ON LUKE 12:32-40
Verse 32 > Jesus desires that we not be bound by fear, but rather that we be secure in the promise that our Father in heaven desires to give us the kingdom. In this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33), but we have, reserved in heaven, an inheritance that is undefiled, and that does not fade away (1 Peter 1:4). Verse 33 > Jesus commands us to sell what we have and give alms. This command only seems extreme because of our own sinful clinging to the things of this world. Jesus continues, so as to explain, how he means this command to be employed. We are to provide ourselves with bags that do not grow old like the miser's money bags do. Our money bags should not grow old because we frequently empty them to do alms. Our money bags are in heaven, where they do not grow old, because we have given alms here on earth! The Prophet Haggai warns, "And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes." (Haggai 1:6) Christ would have His followers put their money up in other bags, not in bags that rot through age, or are worn out, and full of holes through use. Instead of into bags, we are to put our money into the hands and bellies of the poor. Verse 33 continues > No thief can approach our bags in heaven, but on earth our money bags are always in danger of thieves of various kinds. Moths cannot corrupt our garments in heaven, but they can and do corrupt the best garments worn here on earth. But the robes of glory and immortality can never be corrupted. Verse 34 > So, if our treasure is here on earth, stored in bags, or banks, or under our mattresses, that is where our heart is. But if our treasure feeds the poor, comforts the persecuted, digs wells for the thirsty, supports the gospel, and builds the church, these alms become "the fruit that abounds to our accounts" in heaven (Philippians 4:17), and are "a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God (Philippians 4:18). Verse 35 > Long flowing robes were the garments of the day in the time of Christ. A belt was worn around the waist and when it came time for action, for work, or for movement, the robe had to be gathered and secured beneath the belt so the person would not be hindered. Jesus is saying we must be constantly ready for action by always having our waist girded (read Ephesians 6:14). Also, Jesus says, the servant must have his lamps burning so that he can see the Master coming at his return from the wedding. So we, like the five wise virgins (Matthew 25:1-10), must keep our lamps filled with oil, and the wick always trimmed (aflame). This means that we are to continuously be being filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit (read Ephesians 5:17,18), and keep your flame ablaze so you are not overtaken by the darkness. From The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles we read, ""Watch" over your life. Do not let "your lamps" go out, and do not keep "your loins unbelted," but "be ready," for "you do not know the hour when our Lord is coming." Meet together frequently in your search for what is good for your souls, since "a lifetime of faith will be of no advantage" to you unless you prove to be fully responsive to the very end. In the final days, many false prophets and seducers will appear. Sheep will turn into wolves, and love into hatred. With the increase of iniquity, people will hate, persecute, and betray each other. Then the world deceiver will appear in the guise of God's Son." (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles 16:1-4).Verse 36,37 > When the Master, Jesus Christ, returns he will find the faithful "watching", holding vigil, being attentive to their spiritual lives. The Master, upon his return, does not expect to be served, but displays his eternal love by once again serving his faithful followers. St Cyril of Alexandria writes, "When he comes and finds us girded, awake and our hearts enlightened, then he immediately will make us blessed. "He will gird his loins and serve them." By this, we learn that he will reward us proportionately. Since we are weary with toil, he will comfort us, setting before us spiritual banquets and spreading the abundant table of his gifts." Verse 38 > Many of the church fathers say that the three night watches symbolize the three stages of life; childhood, adulthood, and old age. In his Commentary on Luke, St Cyril of Alexandria elaborates, "We typically divide the night into three or four watches. The sentinels on the city walls, who watch the motions of the enemy, after being on guard three or four hours, deliver the watch and guard over to others. With us, there are three ages. The first is childhood. The second is youth. The third is old age. Now the first of these, in which we are still children, is not called to account by God but is deemed worthy of pardon, because of the innocence as yet of the mind and the weakness of the understanding. The second and the third -- the periods of adulthood and old age -- owe obedience and piety of life to God, according to his good pleasure. Whoever is found watching and well belted, whether by chance he is still young or has arrived at old age, shall be blessed. For he will be counted worthy of attaining to Christ's promises." (Commentary on Luke, Homily 92). Clearly, Jesus is teaching us that the believer is to be constantly keeping watch, not just looking for the coming of the Master, but loving his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8), longing for it. As we confess in the Nicene Creed, "We look for the resurrection of the dead (at Christ's Second Coming) and the life of the world to come. Amen." Those of us found watching, faithfully praying, holding vigil against the evil one (1 Peter 5:8,9), Jesus says we will be in a blessed state. Blessed meaning you will be grace-filled, divinized, partaking of his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Verses 39,40 > KNOW THIS!!! Jesus is pointedly telling all people an important truth! That he will be coming at an hour we do not expect -- SO, BE READY! This truth applies to all people of all times -- we all are to remain in a constant state of readiness and watchfulness every moment of our lives! St Basil writes, "What is the mark of a Christian? It is to watch daily and hourly and to stand prepared in that state of total responsiveness pleasing to God, knowing that the Lord will come at an hour that he does not expect." (The Morals 22).
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* Concerning the authorship of the book of Hebrews: Clement of Alexandria says, "By the style of writing, Luke may be recognized both to have composed the Acts of the Apostles and to have translated Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews." (A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs). "In the early centuries of the Church, several differing opinions circulated as to who wrote Hebrews. By the fourth century most witnesses ascribed Hebrews to St Paul, including St. John Chrysostom (d. AD 407) and St. Athanasius (d. AD 373)." (The Orthodox Study Bible, page 1652). Doubts about Pauline authorship arose around the end of the second century, predominantly in the west. The chief contenders besides St Paul were St Barnabas, St Clement of Rome, and St Luke the Evangelist. Modern scholars do not think that the style and vocabulary of Hebrews is a match for St Paul, and the consensus among them is that the author is unknown.
** Most English translations of the Bible are from the Hebrew Old Testament, but the Old Testament of the time of Christ, and of the early Church was the Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint (LXX). When the New Testament writers quoted from the Old Testament, they nearly always quoted from the Septuagint, not from the Hebrew text. For further information on the Septuagint, in a concise form, see "A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs" (pages 607-609).
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