4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.”
10 And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
11 And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol him.”
12 And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Our texts today seem to have conflicting messages. This text from Romans 15 has a lot to say about endurance, encouragement, hope, harmony, joy, and peace. It’s nice. But in our Gospel lesson, when Jesus talks about the day of His return, He speaks of signs in the sun and moon and stars. He mentions the distress of nations in perplexity, the roaring of the sea and waves, and people fainting with fear and foreboding because of what is coming on the world. Our Lord declares that the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Come on, Jesus. We don’t like that imagery, and it doesn’t fill us with joy or peace or hope. We don’t like to hear about the world coming apart at the seams. But then, we turn on the news or scroll through our social media accounts and see evidence of creation collapsing and society crumbling, and we get anxious. Our fear of the end of the world probably lies in the fact that this world is all we have experienced and known. Repent and remember this world is not all there is.
Jesus tells us about all these distressing things so that when they happen, we can be filled with all joy and peace so that we abound in hope in the midst of it all. Similar to when a patient has been physically suffering for months while the doctors only scratch their heads, once the doctors can give a diagnosis there is a sense of relief even if it is a devastating diagnosis. Jesus, the God of hope, has diagnosed the situation and tells us exactly what is going on.
Jesus told us that it would happen so when we see it we wouldn’t be afraid. Dear saints, we don’t need to be worried when we see the world collapsing. It’s like Jesus is saying, “When it looks like everything is falling apart, when all creation seems to be disintegrating, it is. It is, but don’t worry about it because nothing bad is going to happen to you. Instead, be glad because all of it means that your redemption is drawing near.”
Christ warns us so we can straighten up, raise our heads, and stand before Him when He returns. These words of Christ are exactly what we need to endure and be encouraged so that we have hope and strive to live in harmony with one another.
I’ve used this picture before, but I think it is so helpful. Imagine you are in a castle at night, and suddenly all the guards and soldiers start running to their battle stations because an army is marching to attack the fortress. The boots of that attacking force stop tramping, and you hear the shouts of commanders telling the troops to load the catapults and start banging the gates with the battering ram. The castle doors and the walls are shaking. Boulders are hurled against the fortress. Windows are shattering and dust is falling from the ceiling. The floor you are standing on is rocked by the sounds of battle all around you.
Normally, you would be terrified in that situation. But not now. Not now because you are a captive in the prison of that castle. And the commander leading the invading army is Jesus coming to rescue you and all your prison mates, all your brothers and sisters in Christ. Knowing that, every crash, every clang, every shout of battle, and every wall that crumbles around you means that your release is that much closer. And as the morning sunlight peeks through the cracks of the walls, you and your fellow prisoners all know that a new day is dawning, and it is the day of your deliverance.
This world is often a beautiful place full of the good gifts of God. But remember that this world is broken and incomplete. This world is fallen and there is so much wrong with where we are. And much of what is broken, incomplete, fallen, and wrong is your own doing and my own doing. And all of this has been going on so long that you get used to it. You and I get used to sin, and we start to think that it is normal. Like a pig farmer who doesn’t notice the stink of the barn, the stench of our sin starts to not bother us anymore. Repent, but don’t despair.
The Jesus who will come again in glory has come already to bring the beginning of hope. His words and works and deeds were written for our instruction. In the Scriptures we learn that when Jesus ministered in this fallen world what was broken was made whole. What was sick was cured. What was defiled was made holy. What was dead was raised. Where there were sinners, Christ brought forgiveness. And all of that was just the beginning. All of this was written to give us encouragement to endure in the hope that the healing Christ brought to the broken of this world would be ushered into the entire creation – into the new creation.
The God of hope encourages you. He wants you to endure. And He wants you to have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you that hope because it is certain and true. The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings (Mal. 4:2). Straighten up. Raise your heads because your redemption draws near. May that same God, Jesus, the God of hope, fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you abound in hope. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.