"'Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you , on that night two people will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.' 'Where, Lord?' they asked. He replied 'Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.'" ~ Luke 17:33-37Strange reply to the question, "Where, Lord?" Don't you think?
If that's all I read of this section of scripture, I might walk away feeling like I had done my "Christian discipline" of daily Bible reading but it wouldn't do much for me in the rest of the day.
Once again, I looked for the scene changes. Where was Jesus? Who was he talking to throughout the scene?
He was traveling along the border between Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:11) then passed through Jericho (Luke 19:1) before entering the temple in Jerusalem (19:45).
He begins by healing 10 lepers - one, a Samaritan, returned to praise him. Then the Pharisees are asking when the kingdom of God will come. A miracle has just happened and they want to know when the reign of God is going to start. Think on that a bit.
Jesus then talks about how obvious God's presence should be to everyone. He reminds them of the people in Noah's day and in the days of Lot. People chose to die instead of seeing the reign of God in their midst. Then he gives an example of two people living in current day circumstances and being separated. Do you see the two groups throughout this passage?
Then comes the "Where, Lord?" question. They are back to asking, where is this kingdom Jesus is talking about.
"Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather."
Now Jesus gives them a parable "to show them that they should always pray and not give up." (Luke 18:1) Within this parable, Jesus speaks of perseverance, justice, and faith. Then he talks about two different types of prayer. The next parable teaches that the man who humbles himself in prayer will be justified before God. (18:14)
Ah, then Jesus makes his point a little more obvious by telling the disciples to let the children come to him. Why? "Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
Do you hear the question again? Where Lord? Where is the kingdom? When will we see it?
Then comes the "certain ruler" who wants to know how to inherit eternal life. This lesson on total surrender in the present circumstances with a seemingly upright and moral ruler is followed by another miracle - a blind man received his sight - and then Jesus hanging out with tax collectors who apparently like the kingdom of God stuff Jesus reveals to them.
At 19:11 we're back to the people thinking the kingdom of God will appear at once in a very easily recognizable way for all to see. Nope, that's not the way it is.
Jesus once again speaks in a parable about two types of people - servants and subjects. And he's back to the more obvious theme of perseverance, justice, and faith.
Keep reading and you will find Jesus teaching his disciples about the faith that sees things before they are based on trust and knowledge of the one in charge, perseverance that could bring peace right now, and justice that always comes as a result of faith and perseverance.
Sometimes we are so blind that we don't even realize we are giving up on our faith. We want to say faith is accepting things as they are until the kingdom comes. But God says the kingdom is here. "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (18:27) We assume justice comes with God's wrath when all is said and done.
The truth is our perseverance and our trusting that God reigns today brings justice in our lives and in the world around us today.
There is much on my mind this morning as to what God has revealed to me about my lack of faith and perseverance. His kingdom is here. I don't have to wait for it. A dead body is one that has given up on seeing God's justice in the current circumstances. Jesus Christ came to give us life.
There are dead bodies all around - some are even upright and moral leaders. If I give up, the vultures will gather around me too. I think I've seen them circling.
I want to chose life which comes from the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. That is where my strength to persevere must come from. My faith is built on knowing that Jesus brought the kingdom to earth and he persevered among the dead around him to the point of dying on the cross.
My faith is destroyed when I choose to give up because I've been wounded or I choose to hide what Jesus has given me and just wait for his high in the sky return because I'm afraid of what might happen if I live from a heart of sincere trust in God.
He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. ~ Isaiah 33:6
Are you dead or alive? He is our sure foundation. Persevere with faith and you will see justice lived out in front of you.