In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Isn’t that why you are here today? To praise Him for how He has delivered you from sin and death? Or to entreat Him to deliver you this day/ For we are weak in faith. We wonder, “Can He deliver me? Or is it really as the atheists say, that He isn’t actually there? And even if He is, does He actually get involved in human events? Can He save me? Will He save me if I ask? Will He answer me when I call on Him? For in my heart I know I am not worthy. Why would He save me?”
He saves because He promises to. He is faithful. He is not a liar. He is your loving Father, who like a Father seeks you out, guides you, protects you, and saves you from your own mistakes. Not because you haven’t earned your current situation, but because He cares for you. When He formed you in the secret place, He knew you and loved you. Loving you He planned for your salvation. He knew what it would take. He counts you as innocent on account of His love which in His Son reconciled you to Himself. Though your sins are as scarlet, His Son’s shed blood blots them out, nullifies them, covers your sin. He clothes you in righteousness, making you white as snow. This is His nature. As a forgiving one, He forgives. As a saving one, He saves. As a loving one, He loves. He is also just, but that is alien to Him, for He is first and foremost a lover, not a justice giver. He does not delight in justice, in giving His children what they deserve. For He is the Father. And as the Father He takes the just deserts of your sin upon Himself, sucking all of sin, all of decay, and all unrighteousness into His Son’s body, nailing it to cross, shedding the righteous and innocent blood of the Lamb of God for you. Swallowing up sin in righteousness, overflowing our cup with that blood of forgiveness.
But we, according to our nature, doubt. We are doubters. As Christians with a new nature at work in us we want to believe. But we don’t. Repent. Pray with me, “Lord, I believe help me in my unbelief so that I might trust in you and might receive your gracious mercy to me today, so that my lips do not bring further disaster upon me but instead cry to You for help and ultimately glorify you for your salvation of me. Amen.”
So, of that day of His ultimate salvation and glory the Lord tells us a parable about the fig tree. When you see the fig come out in leaf you know summer has arrived. To understand this you need to know that the fig is special plant in Israel. It has to be cultivated or it won’t produce fruit. But when it is cultivated it produces fruit that is highly prized. It is sweet, rich in nutrients, can be dried, preserved, and formed into cakes. It was a staple in the Israelite diet. And of importance to this parable, its fruit starts growing before the leaves come out. The leaves don’t come out till after the fruit is on tree. The leaves don’t come out until summer is about to break upon you. It’s leafing out signals the imminent start of the summer season.
This is a tree so highly prized by the Israelites that together with the grape vine it is an image of prosperity and security. The image of sitting under the fig tree and grape vine is an image of living in security and peace with all your physical needs met. This tree not only provides for you, but signals to you the arrival of summer.
In the same way, another tree signals for us the arrival of the end. For the wood of the cross blossomed just days after Our Lord said this, producing the fruit of His body and blood shed for you for your forgiveness. To sit underneath the tree of the cross is to have your spiritual needs met. This tree shields you from what is to come upon the earth. It warns you, wakes you up to the fact that the sinful world will continue to decay and fall apart. Its budding forth and leafing out at His death means the end is upon us. For since His death and resurrection, we are now in the end times, the final chapter of the earth`s history.
As He said, that generation—those hearing Him—, would not pass away without these things happening. And just days later there were signs in the sun, moon, and stars, literally, as the sun was blotted out. It refused to shine when the Son of God, who is the sun of righteousness, died. The earth shook. The nations who saw the sight were in perplexity. A shockwave went forth from Jerusalem to all corners of the earth so that even in the centers of power this one man’s death was reported and recorded in the annals of history (by historians like Tacitus, Seutonius, and Josephus).
But for we who know Him, who trust in His enduring Word which does not pass away, who in faith sit under the tree of the cross, provided for and warned by Him of His imminent return, we are not in perplexity. We are covered by His righteousness, clothed with the sun, comforted by His loving providence, sitting secure with Him who is our light in darkness, our protection in turmoil, our provider in need. For though this world pass away His promises to you are eternal. They will not pass away, nor decay, nor falter or be shaken. Though the nations of earth crumble, shake, and are toppled, though seasons of war and of peace, of prosperity and want come and go His promises to you endure.
His promises endure and accomplish what they say. They provide exactly what they promise: forgiveness today; life right now; eternal salvation. And so we are secure, forgiven, provided for in all our needs by Him, with life to the full that will not end even though our bodies might die.
So stay awake. Do not literally become an insomniac. Instead, do not become drowsy, and uncaring about your faith. Continue to sit under the tree of the cross. Continue to be fed, provided for, warned by this tree, by its leaves that His return is imminent.
To be drowsy or asleep is to be weighed down by cares of this world so that you get so fixated on things here that you forget about what the cross warns you of. You forget to trust in Him. You get seduced away from your first love. Watch, wait, pray that you stay in the faith which clings to His cross. For when He comes, even as the nations are in great distress, by that tree and its Word at work in you, you are secure in Him. You are strengthened to stand and praise Him in that Day. For on that Day your lips will not sink ships, but sing His praise for so great a salvation.
In +Jesus`name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON