Jesus says a storm is coming and a sentence is being handed down. Are we prepared? According to the Bible, we have no umbrella big enough to protect us from His fiery storm, and no bank account rich enough to pay our spiritual debts.
Don’t Need Doppler
It doesn’t take long living in Southern California to learn about this guy named Santa Ana. I have an East facing window in my kitchen, and in the summer and fall, I check that window right before dawn to see if there is a breeze coming from that direction. If there is even the slightest flow of air coming in, I spring into action, closing every window, drawing every curtain shut, and generally battening down the hatches because that east wind means that day is going to be a real scorcher. Santa Ana winds undulate across those hot desert dunes to the east and blow like a bellows on a fire by the time they get to San Diego.
Southern Californians don’t need an app to tell us that a Santa Ana wind means it is going to be hot. We learn to read the weather. This is true everywhere you go in the world. People at all times and in all places learn to read the weather patterns in their hometowns without the aid of smartphones and weathermen. And they respond accordingly.
Jesus accused the people of His day of being better than doppler when it came to reading the sky, but utterly blind when it came to interpreting Him. They were experts at discerning rain and wind, and preparing for such eventualities, but they were clueless when it came to figuring out who He was and what they should do about it.
Are we any better today? I’m not so sure. Jesus still inspires fascination, even among those who casually consider is life and His teachings. There are plenty of unconsidered opinions out there. Some say He was a good teacher and nothing more. Some say He was a misunderstood mystic. Some say He was an egomaniac. Whenever I hear people say these things about Jesus, I know they haven’t actually read the gospels. These responses are classic potshots people take when they are too lazy to actually look at what Jesus said and what Jesus did. Anyone who will take the time to truly examine His life would never come to the conclusion that He was a harmless teacher, or a raving lunatic, or a self-centered egomaniac.
For those who will spend the time to open the window and check which way the wind is really blowing when it comes to Jesus, an awesome revelation is in store – a revelation that demands a response. Jesus is urging us to wake up from our complacency about Him and pay attention. And it isn’t because He’s hungry for attention – it’s because a storm is coming; a storm of judgment and justice to make right everything we’ve done wrong.
There’s an old song about fire and rain, but it may not be the one you may be thinking of. It’s a old-time Gospel song: “Way back in the bible days, Noah told the people, ‘It’s gonna rain. You better get ready and bear this in mind – it won’t be water but fire next time.’”
It’s gonna rain, and Jesus is going to bring it. We need to take cover. We need to prepare ourselves for the fire and rain that the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel and Joel and Nahum saw coming.
“Behold, the Lord has a mighty and strong one, Like a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, Like a flood of mighty waters overflowing,” (Isaiah 28.2)
Don’t Need a Lawyer
Jesus shifts gears to refine his point here about the purpose of His coming. He switches from talking about the weather to talking about a court case. Your court case and mine. Only we don’t need a lawyer anymore: the verdict is already in: we are, every one of us, guilty by reason of humanity.
When it comes right down to it, even the best of us is a deficit spender. We are all spiritually overdrawn and owe more than we can pay. There’s no lawyer that can argue against the facts. You and I are sinners, and the deadline to pay is fast approaching.
God doesn’t do a ballet around the fact that we are a mess. Even the best of us is not good enough. Nobody’s perfect, except for one Man, Jesus Christ. You can argue against God all day long, pretending to be righteous and blameless and a perfect specimen of morality. You might even convince every human being around you that you’re a great person. But you’re not going to fool God. He made you. He sees everything you’ve ever done and been.
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Romans 3.19)
“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2.10)
Do Need an Atonement
A storm is coming. A sentence has been handed down - guilty. Jesus isn’t playing around folks. Without forgiveness, we will not find shelter in the storm. Without forgiveness, we will not be released from our debtor’s prison until all is paid.
That is the bad news. And it is, truly, very bad news.
But we’re not here to proclaim bad news today. We’re here to proclaim the good news: the Gospel truth that in Jesus Christ, we find a mighty shelter from the storm; in Jesus Christ and through his atoning death on the cross, all our debts are paid in full.
In a debtor’s prison, you are held until someone pays for you. If you don’t have a friend who can cover your debt, you will remain behind bars for the rest of your life. Every last penny must be paid. Praise God, we have an advocate who was willing to pay every last penny and then some, the Lord Jesus Christ: the judge himself! Jesus’ death and resurrection is the only thing that could bring atonement – “at-one-ment” – between us and God.
Once we have been given shelter from the fury of God’s righteous wrath and been set free from our debtror’s prison, there is one very important question I believe Jesus is driving us to consider: Will we walk in freedom or return to prison?
We talk about grace being free, and in once sense it is – it is free in the sense that a gift is free from for the person who receives it. But it isn’t free to the giver. It cost Him everything. When we share the Lord’s supper, we remember our freedom with the symbol of blood as a reminder of just how expensive our salvation was to God.
The question is: why do we treat his gift so awfully? Why should any of us who have been set free return to jail by continuing to walk according to the flesh? We are so eloquent when we brag of the wonderful things God has done! His grace is truly amazing. But what is even more amazing is our disgrace when we continue to sin.
Jesus tells us this parable as a warning – our chapped hides were bought with His most precious blood. Anyone who keeps on sinning in response to his amazing grace shows nothing but contempt for His free gift of atonement.
The Lord isn’t going to mince words with your spirit today. No, sir. Like any great physician, hHe tells us like it is. The bad news is that you and I are broken. The good news that He has provided a cure. The sobering news is that you and I have a narrow road to walk to avoid returning to the broad way that leads to destruction. The great news is that we have an advocate in the Spirit who will enable us to walk in the way we should go if we will only ask.
Let’s stop sinning. Let’s start living right. The coming storm is real. The final judgment is near. May we find shelter in the shadow of His wings, forgiveness at the foot of the cross, and hope to live anew by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2.1)