Why Do You Not Know?
13th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 15) LSB #’s 868, 585 tune 655, 513 tune 672
Text – Luke 12:56
You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth & sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
WHY DO YOU NOT KNOW?
Red sky at night – sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning – sailor take warning. It’s an old adage that worked fairly well long before modern weather forecasting. At least, it worked for those ships that could only travel on the surface of the water. It was never much use for those of us sailors who spent our time operating beneath the surface.
From today’s Gospel reading it appears that Jesus knows a thing or two about weather forecasting as well: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ & it happens.” (Luke 12:54-55 ESV)
Human beings are constantly wondering what the future holds for them. To take my mind off the absolute boredom of being locked up on a submarine, I sometimes thought about where I might be ten years later.” That point is now more than 20 years ago itself. You can be sure I was hoping that in ten years, I would no longer be under water.
Some people worry about what the future holds. Others are incessantly trying to bury, or compensate for, their past. In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus chastises the people, but not for being anxious about the future, nor for being obsessed with the past. Jesus gets on their case because they don’t even understand the present time – the here & the now:
“You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth & sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” The big question for us in this Gospel reading revolves around, “What does Jesus mean by the phrase, ‘the present time’?” He’s calling people hypocrites for not knowing how to interpret it, so there must be something going on. A good place to start is Galatians 4:4-5 (ESV).
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” In the sermon text for today, Jesus is making the point that the fullness of time had come! The ‘present time’ was the fullness of time, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Jesus’ arrival on earth marks the fundamental turning point in all of human history. The rescue from sin, death & hell was being completed. As 2 Corinthians 6:2 (ESV) put it: “For [God] says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, & in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
How many of you look for the weather report each day? How many of you put an equal amount of effort into interpreting the present time? Our heavenly Father makes clear that in regards to being saved from hell, now is the day. In regards to being saved from hell, the fullness of time arrived well over 2000 years ago!
The people of His day were failing to recognize Jesus as their Savior, & their Lord. Because of what Jesus was doing, the only thing that could separate them from eternal life was their refusal to believe in Jesus as the source of that life.
If we refuse to accept that food is a source of our physical life, it is not the fault of the food if we refuse to eat. No rational person would make such an argument. In the same way, those who reject Jesus as Lord do not have God to blame when the Last Day of time draws to its close. Jesus is the Bread of Life. If we refuse to eat, we are rejecting eternal life itself.
That is the point Jesus is making in the Gospel reading from Luke 12. Everyone puts at
least some minimal effort into determining the weather. Why do we not know how to interpret our own present time? Now is the day of salvation. How much effort are you putting into that? It’s far more important, far more long-lasting than today’s humidity or its clear blue skies. If you’ve learned to expect certain types of weather, how come you aren’t expecting Jesus?
In the sermon last Sunday we considered that idea, whether or not we are expecting the Son of God in each & every area of our lives. He is already there. He is already here. Now is the Day of Salvation. Now is the present time. To blow that off openly invites this response from the Savior & the Judge of the universe, “You hypocrites!”
In the Gospel reading for today Jesus is urging both His disciples & the crowds to pay attention to the signs of the kingdom in His ministry. The time & the day for preparation is now. That is how we are to interpret the present time. It’s not rocket science. It’s not even modern weather forecasting. Just be ready. Be about laying up treasures in heaven instead of on earth.
Have you done inventory & checked up lately on the things in your life that money cannot buy? Are you allowing the distractions of these temporary earthly things to take your eyes off of Jesus? He is the sign you must interpret, & Jesus has not left us without warning:
“Heaven & earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ‘But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.’”
In those verses, Jesus is talking specifically about the end of the world, the last moment of time. In today’s Gospel reading, He’s speaking more generally about the signs of the end times. However, popular Christianity in America has misled so many people with its over-emphasis on the sensational interpretation of events to come in the closing days of time.
Jesus is warning us of the signs of the present time, the days when He was here planting
His very own footsteps in the sand, and the hours & the moments of our very own lives. These too are the closing days of time, because the Son of God has already taken on human flesh & entered in to our time & to our space. Jesus is present with us right now in the reading & the preaching of His Word, as well as in the body & the blood of the Lord’s Supper.
Those are mysteries that cannot, & should not, be explained by the human mind. Those are mysteries far greater than any creature will ever be able to grasp or clarify. They were left as mysteries by our heavenly Father in order to reflect how far the Lord of the universe surpasses all human understanding.
Yet these mysteries are so unsensational that those with itching ears will easily overlook them: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, & will turn away from listening to the truth & wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)
“You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth & sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” Those are sharp words, & they are set by the Gospel of Luke amidst an appeal by Jesus to be watchful for His coming, to fulfill one’s duties until He comes, & to recognize the signs of His return.
The present time is critical indeed. Your salvation & mine depend upon it. You’ve heard that life is not simply a destination, but a journey. In essence, all of God’s children are on a pilgrimage, from rebirth in Baptism toward The Resurrection with Christ that was begun in our Baptism. The age of God’s mercy & grace is quickly passing away.
As Jesus spoke the sharp words of the sermon text, already the last things & the last days were coming to pass in His teaching & in the miracles He performed. Yet the vast majority of those listening & seeing did not hear or see. In Ezekiel 12:2 the Word of the Lord came to the prophet saying, “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house.” Those words apply quite well to our present time. Jesus the Savior is also Judge. That’s not a welcome fact in our culture.
Jesus’ ministry, & ours, is the omen & forerunner of Yahweh’s final judgment. The time of salvation is at hand. Those who are rejecting Jesus as Lord are heaping up condemnation for themselves. Jesus strong words, “You hypocrites” are not meant to insult or belittle us. God is love, & those words are spoken in love, as a warning to turn every moment of our lives to Him.
We should expect Jesus to be here with us, & we should desire that God’s Son be with us everywhere we go, in everything we say & do. However, because some refuse to hear, & refuse to see, division comes into our world as a consequence.
When Jesus encounters people they’re confronted with their own sinful heart. Some of them then divide themselves from the ones who welcome Jesus. Today’s Gospel reading describes that with these words:
“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two & two against three. They will be divided, father against son & son against father, mother against daughter & daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law & daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53 ESV)
We can’t all get along because not all of us are working for the same God. Parallel to that is the idea that Jesus took on human flesh for the purpose of reconciling the world to the Father. Satan hates the very thought, & thus God’s peace cannot come without war preceding it.
The Ark Encounter is a case in point. It’s not the builders of the ark who are calling the protestors haters. It’s the other way around. The protestors are calling the builders of the ark those names, because at the Ark people will encounter Jesus both as Savior & as Judge. When people do not rise to the challenges of faith, such as taking up His cross & following Jesus, they often become critical of those who do. Divisions result from rebellion against God & they occur even among families. In Jesus’ coming to earth, Yahweh has taken action & that compels a response on the part of every human being – either belief or unbelief.
Jesus offers to us the gift of believing in His name. The Holy Spirit longs to create faith within your heart. He longs to turn your heart, mind & soul back to your Heavenly Creator. As we struggle to make Jesus a priority in all aspects of our living, those sins have already been paid for. The only question is do we believe that. Now is the time to find rest in that forgiveness.
Once we are rested from the weariness of our sins, following Jesus becomes possible. We have that rest freely available to us because the fire that God cast on the earth was borne for us by God’s Son. On the cross, Jesus took the full brunt of punishment for the sins of every man, woman & child throughout history.
As we believe this good news, the Holy Spirit transports us to the other side of the “division” caused by Jesus’ life on earth. As that happens we may lose some of our earthly friends & family, but we will gain a whole host of heavenly ones. In heaven, it will always be red sky at night – sailor’s delight. Amen.
In these last days of great distress grant us, dear Lord, true steadfastness that we keep pure till life is spent Your holy Word & Sacrament. To hope grown dim, to hearts turned cold speak tongues of fire & make us bold to shine Your Word of saving grace into each dark & loveless place. Restrain, O Lord, the human pride that seeks to thrust Your truth aside or with some man-made thoughts or things would dim the words Your Spirit sings. Stay with us, Lord, & keep us true; preserve our faith our whole life through – Your Word alone our heart’s defense, the Church’s glorious confidence. Amen. LSB 585:2-3, 5-6.
 Jesus refers to a similar adage in Matthew 16:2-3.
 Mark 13:31-33 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet