When I was a kid, punchdrunk in church by all the legalistic blows to my head, I stumbled into a warped state of mind about what’s going to happen when Jesus crashes the world’s party at the end of time.
He would squeeze all humanity into this colossal theatre in the sky. And one by one, movies of our lives would be shown on the screen. Unedited. Every stupid, bad, mean, nasty thing we’ve done would be broadcast for all the world to see.
Then, at the close of my life movie, I’d be judged on the basis of it. G-rated or PG-rated lives marched triumphantly into heaven; R-rated or (heaven forbid) X-rated lives bought you a ticket to the hot place.
Needless to say, I was really hoping Jesus would never come again. Or, if he did, it would be 3563 years after I was dead. Spare me the embarrassment, dear Lord.
As I got older, I realized this image of Jesus’s final coming was utter bunk. Our Lord will descend with muscle and might. There’ll be knee-bowing and tongue-confessing that he is Lord. He will judge. Mountains of praise will be heaped up around him. He will wow the world with his jaw-dropping glory. And he’ll strap on his apron and wait on us hand and foot.
Yes, you read that right: Jesus will wear a blue collar outfit for the end of the world.
One of the reasons I love to read the Bible is that the more we study it, the more we realize how much we’ve missed. And recently I unearthed a jewel hidden in Luke that I’d skimmed over a thousand times.
It’s true that when the fat lady sings, when this fallen world is kaput, Jesus will bedazzle us all with his appearance. No more diapered divinity cooing in a Bethlehem manger. No more man of sorrows, no more beatings, no more blood. He’ll show up in brilliance and power on his great white throne. All of that is straight Bible stuff. But Jesus himself, in Luke’s Gospel, tells us a shocking fact.
“Be ready,” he says, “when I come back. Don’t get caught with the pants of your faith around your ankles. Buckle up. Keep your eyes peeled. Make sure those lamps are lit. When I get back from the wedding feast and rap my knuckles on the front door, be prepared to open it.”
Why? Well, what we’d expect is this: when our Master comes home, he’ll want us to bow before him, take his coat, wash his feet, and rush off to the kitchen to bring him back a glass of Merlot, a ribeye, and a piece of pecan pie. After all, that’s what servants do. They serve their Master. They take care of him. They are there for him, not he for them.
But, contrary to every expectation, Jesus drops this bombshell, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them“ (Luke 12:37).
Get that? The Master, our Lord, will remove his splashy Armani suit he wore to the wedding feast and put on our Walmart garb. He’ll wash our feet, tell us to have a seat at his table, and become our waiter.
Positions are reversed: the master becomes servant, and servants are treated like masters. God acts like a slave and we are doted on like kings and queens. It’s as if the whole reason behind Jesus’s second coming was that he might love us and do more good things for us.
Actually, it’s not “as if” at all. That’s the point of this little verse in Luke. Jesus blows our expectations out of the water.
Jesus is indeed coming again to judge the living and the dead. He’s coming to separate the sheep from the goats, to be lauded by all creation, and to usher in a new heavens and a new earth. But all this he does because he loves us and wants to do more good things for us.
Jesus is not only the King of Glory but also the Servant of Inglorious Sinners.
At the end of the world, the Son of God will demonstrate once more that he’s not in this for himself. He didn’t create the world simply to flex his muscles. He didn’t save us just to boggle our minds with his godness. He does it all—creating us, saving us, and coming again for us—because from all eternity he is love. And that love is for us.
This time of year, for many churches, will be that season when there’s much ado about the end of the world and Christ’s final advent. And that’s a very good thing. But as we prepare, as we pray for constant readiness, let’s also not forget that when Jesus knocks on that final door, he’ll step inside to be the kind of God he’s always been: the one who shocks us by being last so that he might make us first in his kingdom of grace.
Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.