Most often, what Jesus says is simple, but the simplest things are difficult. What Jesus says is simple, but difficult, and that causes a kind of friction. For example, "Be alert at all times. Don't get bogged down by life's many worries and cares. Pay attention. Watch, all the time, for me to come" (Luke 21:36).
What Jesus says is simple: "Be alert." "Pay attention." "Watch for me." But, it's not as easy as it sounds. Be alert for what? Pay attention to what? Watch for what, and where? The questions generate a kind of friction. What Jesus says is simple, but the simplest things are difficult, and difficulty causes friction.
What Jesus says is simple, but the simplest things are difficult, and difficulty causes friction.
Questions about time and place generate friction. For example, if we don't know how to stay alert, what to pay attention to, or what to watch for, then what happens if He comes back in seven days? Seven days isn't much time, but is it enough time for someone to make amends to family and friends? What if Jesus comes back in seventy-seven days? That's more time, but is it enough time for two people to piece together the fragments of a broken marriage? What if He comes back in seventy years? Is that enough time for somebody to get sober, patch things up with the kids, and make peace with his Maker? How much time does a person need to get right with God and others? What if we don't have time? What if it's already too late, but we just can't admit defeat?
No one knows the time when Jesus will come. Nobody knows the place where He will come. There’s no way to confirm or deny whether it will be in seven days, seventy-seven days, or seventy years. Even Jesus discourages us from playing that game.
But, we don't have to play that game. Questions about time and place have their answer in the here and now. Jesus already comes to us. He comes to us in His Word, and in the water, and under the bread and wine. He operates at full capacity for us, here and now. He brings the past and future to us, now, in the affirmative. The whole of time and place comes to us now. Jesus, the Lamb of God, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of all things, comes to us now as Giver and gift. And now that He is for us as Giver and gift, all that friction caused by the simple (but difficult) questions is pacified.
So, you don't know how to stay alert, or pay attention, or what to watch for? Simple, listen to what Jesus says to you through His preacher. You haven't had time to make amends? Simple, use your baptism. Go, confess your sin, ask for forgiveness. You can't manage to piece together your broken marriage? Simple, go to the Lord's Table and hand over your marriage to Jesus. Receive His promise of forgiveness and new life, a new shot at life in the power of His blood given and shed for you. Now, go, and both of you sacrifice yourself for your beloved just as Jesus died for your sin.
These things are simple, but the simplest things are difficult. That's the hard truth: the hard truth that Jesus doesn't come to rescue us from our failures, or our ruined relationships, or our crushing defeats. He comes to be our life in the midst of failures, ruined relationships, and crushing defeats. When there’s nothing for us to depend on except Jesus, then we're in the right place at the right time. We're in the right place for Him to speak words of comfort and encouragement to us. We're in the right place for Him to give us His body and blood, forgiveness and new life.
Jesus doesn’t come to rescue us from our failures, or our ruined relationships, or our crushing defeats. He comes to be our life in the midst of failures, ruined relationships, and crushing defeats.
Even during the times we think we’re beaten, done for, and lost, we’re really free in Christ Jesus. The hard truth is that Jesus is with us every day in the midst of our failures, ruined relationships, and crushing defeats, but we've been too exhausted from fighting for a lost cause to notice. We've been so bogged down by life's many worries and cares, so busy asking, "God, why is this happening to me again," we didn't pay attention to the fact that He's been with us the whole time.
This is hard, and it's difficult because it hurts, but it is the simple truth. In every moment Jesus is with us in the midst of our failures, ruined relationships, and crushing defeats. He's always been there for us. If He weren't, we wouldn't be here now. He's here, now, for us too. He’s there, at the end, for us. He's always there for us, our Lord and Savior who's the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world in whom God chose us to be His beloved children so that we may escape everything that is about to happen and so that we may stand joyous and free in front of the Son of Man, Jesus, who is Giver and gift for us today and always.