After Matthew 23, the dread warning that faces those who block a full and natural knowledge of God, Matthew 24 comes across as a peaceful, if stern, interlude in what we know is about to happen.
I’m getting this sense of foreboding. And I know it’s because I know the ‘end’. Sorry to trivialize, but I’ve seen so many thrillers and action flicks, things like Terminator, or Air Force One, where the cliff-hanger still enthrals, still entertains. I know that Arnie gets dropped slowly into a vat of molten metal. I know that Harrison ford saves the free world. And still I fret, still I’m on the edge of my seat.
I know what happens at Easter. I know what it symbolizes and I know how it encourages me to live. And yet I am still distraught at the way things develop. It’s such a powerful story. But what I had missed in the overall narrative is this particular scene. I have read it (or some of it) before. I know about the angels and that no one knows the hour (Mat 24:36). I have read that the disciples (that includes us?) will be hated and killed because of Jesus (Mat 24:9). But always out of context. reading the passage here is so powerful, so personal and so dreadful.
I picture the scene. They’re all sitting around on the Mount of Olives, privately. And Jesus is, for the final time almost, filling in the basics, once more. How many times had he said these words before, one wonders? He tells of what is to come. He sets it out starkly. Again: not gently. Quietly, perhaps, but firmly. There is no avoiding this. We may know all about Mat 28:19-20, but this is the grimy, painful, harsh reality. Things will be difficult. It will be hard. It will test us all.
But we need to be ready. Because the Kingdom will be with us. Are we ready?
How easy it seems to read it in such a way as this, cinematically. The context, the contemporary experience would have been terrifying. Even the slowest-witted disciple would have got this message. Before Easter comes Good Friday.