Assumptions get made about certain passages and concepts. The belief in the Second Coming is cemented into the consciousness of Christians. So much so, that if you approach an accepted Second Coming passage and think it is about something different, people become irate. You are probably thinking that I am not going to approach Luke 17:22-37 as a Second Coming of Jesus passage. And you would be right. Just so you know, I know that I could be wrong. Also, I believe Jesus is coming back. I hope and trust in that all culminating coming. I can’t wait for it. I’m just not sure that every passage that gets accepted as a Parousia passage is in fact about the Parousia. Or, let me say it in a different way. I think there are many Parousia moments; moments when the coming of Jesus is manifested; moments of breaking into our reality. And all of these moments will culminate into one final coming. Weird, huh?
The passage begins with tension filled longing. Jesus tells the disciples that days will come when they will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but they won’t see it. The word see can mean experience. What is with the phrase one of the days? Most of the answers to this seem unsatisfactory to me. The concept of a day can refer to any moment in time. They were blessed with many moments with Jesus while he was in the flesh. Days are coming when they will long for those moments, but will not see them. In the vacuum of expectation some will say, “Look, there! Pay attention here!” Don’t be fooled. When the Son of Man comes it will be like lightning flashing in the sky. Suddenness can be part of what is being said here, but the emphasis is probably the unavoidable visibility. The coming of Jesus will not be tucked away in a corner somewhere. You will not have to travel and turn over rocks. The phrase “in his day” may allude to the coming day of Yahweh passages, which often have to do with judgment.
First, the Son of Man must suffer and be tried and rejected. The Passion must happen before the Parousia. From the examples of Noah and Sodom, we can be confident that this coming has to do with judgment. In Noah’s day people went about their business; they did life. When Noah entered the ark and was taken out of the path of judgment, judgment came in the form of a flood. And all of those going about life people faced destructive judgment. The same thing happened in Sodom. There was eating, drinking, planting, building. And then when Lot was taken out of the judgment, judgment came in the form of burning sulfur raining down from heaven. And when the Son of Man comes the same going about life will happen. Oh, and here is another truth about Noah and Lot: they had to act upon God’s word. So, in the midst of the judgment, there is hope. When it comes, act. If you are on your flat roof, scurry yourself down the stairs on the outside of the house and resist the temptation to go into the house to gather possessions. If you are in the field don’t turn back like Lot’s wife who became the Morten Salt spokesperson. Many see this coming judgment as the destruction of Jerusalem. Maybe, but it is possible something else is happening here. The exalting of Jesus brought about a crisis in which ignorance would no longer be over looked; in which going about daily life ignoring the Christ will bring judgment. Jesus’ resurrection is one of the Coming moments.
And in this new reality, the person who seeks to hold onto his life; his eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; will lose his life. On the other hand, if he lets go of all of those daily life moments, he will preserve life. The Son of Man event will find a husband and wife; one who is taken out of judgment and the other left behind in the midst of it. One will lose the things of life; and the other will be like Lot’s wife who looked back unwilling to let go. Verse 37 is difficult. The disciples ask, “Where Lord?” most likely asking where the taken will be taken. And Jesus answer? “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.” Well, that clears it up Jesus. What if Jesus is talking about his own body? What if he is saying that like vultures will gather around a corpse, he will gather people to his crucified body? Maybe he is saying the same thing as when he said, “And I, if I am lifted up, will draw all men to myself.” If you gathered to the body of Christ, you will be taken out of judgment. Well, that’s good news.
Jesus is coming again. And when he does, it will be the culmination of all things. But his coming has already brought about a crisis of faith. Will you be gathered around the body? Will you come down off of the roof of your house and leave all the stuff behind? Or will you go about life as if nothing has changed? Will you be chomping your supper as the water begins to rise or the sulfur rains down? Nah. Not you.