Matthew 24:30-31 And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (31) And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world–from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.
A few minutes ago Jesus explained the threat of false Messiahs. The disciples were being to remember Jesus preaching the same subject in the temple. He told them, “don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah.” In the past few minutes He again repeated a warning about false teachers about to appear. It must be important for Jesus to repeat the same message three times in one day. The disciples thought, how could they ever be deceived. Past generations received only a small portion of the message, but they were certain they had received it in its entirety. It was this type of confidence Jesus warned them about. Jesus thought of the times they needed miraculous visions and undeniable signs before accepting the simplest truth. They did not understand the simple way the Spirit communicated, providing only enough information to make it from one moment to the next. The fact each lesson must be learned and lived before advancing to the next had not been mastered by the disciples. Jesus knew what the world wanted, and what it was looking for. A simple solution agreeing with its term and conditions. Jesus knew false teachers would come offering simple solutions with no real substance, only empty promises. Exactly what the world was looking for, an easy way solution requiring little or no effort.
Jesus continued to teach the subject of His coming. “And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
Every heart gathered around the fire instantly sank. As they gazed into the flames they thought about what they just heard. Jesus did not describe the event with the same details they had been taught. They believed He was the Messiah, and one day He would reclaim His throne. Why did Jesus tell them the sign of His coming will cause deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth? One thing they learned from Jesus was, He reached out to everyone, Jew, gentile, Roman, Greek, and everyone in between. Why would Jesus exert such an effort over the past year if it would result in deep mourning? They always considered the Son of Man’s return in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory to be a moment of joy, a reason for great celebration. Now the Son of God was telling them there will be deep mourning. It seemed confusing to the disciples.
By this time the disciples developed a habit of always comparing Jesus’ comments to scripture. Every disciple had listened to a number of sermons discussing the coming of the Messiah. John began contemplating verses from the book of Joel. “Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting. Bring the leaders and all the people of the land into the Temple of the LORD your God, and cry out to him there. The day of the LORD is near, the day when destruction comes from the Almighty. How terrible that day will be! Sound the alarm in Jerusalem! Raise the battle cry on my holy mountain! Let everyone tremble in fear because the day of the LORD is upon us. It is a day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick clouds and deep blackness. Suddenly, like dawn spreading across the mountains, a great and mighty army appears. Nothing like it has been seen before or will ever be seen again. Fire burns in front of them, and flames follow after them. Ahead of them the land lies as beautiful as the Garden of Eden. Behind them is nothing but desolation; not one thing escapes.” (Joel 1:14-15, 2:1-3)
In the past John had always understood the alarm in Jerusalem pointed to a time when all its enemies would be vanquished by the coming of the Messiah. Before meeting Jesus it seemed like a reasonable interpretation. After seeing Jesus reach out to people from every nationality, John had been reconsidering what the religious leaders taught. Watching Jesus teach God’s love and concern he knew it extended beyond the Jews. He remembered all the people Jesus preached to and healed. He knew God’s love was far greater than he could imagine.
John searched for that love. It was something he longed for. He spent many hours with Jesus, learning about God’s love. John remembered the early morning walks through the same garden with Jesus. He loved the way Jesus would point out little details of each plant. At times it was as if Jesus was there at creation. John loved spending time with Jesus, the insight to life he had gained from him, and the way Jesus would make him think. He always had a way of encouraging him to look a little deeper for understand. To John that was real concern and caring. He could see this in every answer Jesus gave. It was a gift John admired. John looked back and saw he had been through many more experiences with Jesus than some of the other disciples. He thought he was beginning to understand the love Jesus taught, the love He received from His Father. This is why John could not understand why Jesus’ return to power would bring sorrow.
It seemed strange to John. He had his image to maintain as the strong, silent leader. He knew Jesus saw right through his act. Inside John had such a desire to be just like Jesus. To be able to touch people’s lives the way Jesus did, not only heal them. John was given that gift for a season. It taught him many lessons. Physical healing became the easy part. Reaching people on the inside, at the emotional level proved to be more difficult. Physically people were pretty much all the same. They all have eyes, ears, hands, feet, arms, and legs. Inside seemed to be a different story. Jesus had a way with people, like He could see inside of them, all their emotions. This is what John really admired about Jesus. He knew where Jesus got this power from, His Father, from His Spirit. John wanted a relationship like that with God.
Searching for an answer John remembered something from the book of Amos. “What sorrow awaits you who say, “If only the day of the LORD were here!” You have no idea what you are wishing for. That day will bring darkness, not light.” (Amos 5:18) What was the darkness? John also remembered another verse from Joel. “The LORD’s voice will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth will shake. But the LORD will be a refuge for his people, a strong fortress for the people of Israel.” (Joel 3:16) According to scripture Jesus’ return would cause either sorrow or a sense of relief. Why and how was a question John had to search for.
Jesus could tell His disciples were in deep thought by the way they stared into the fire. He had one more detail to add. “And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world–from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.”
This confirmed the disciples thoughts. They knew Jesus’ kingdom would extend beyond the Jews. They suddenly saw a flaw in their plan to explain the scriptures to the religious leaders in an effort to unit them. In their present state of minds, there was no way they would accept such a radical concept. The religious leaders insisted only Jews would be gathered from the four corners of the world. The disciples could see, the world represented all of God’s people from every nation. They had no idea how this was going to occur, but they knew Jesus reached out to all these different people for a reason. The one question that stuck in their minds was the comparison of two of Jesus’ comments so far that evening. Earlier Jesus told them, ” the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” A few minutes later Jesus added, “the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth.” If the Kingdom of Heaven was preached to the entire world, why would His coming be a sad event?
Jesus prayed they would understand the simple message. His heart was already becoming heavy, He only had a few more days to spend with His disciples. He asked Himself, what would a man want to leave behind before His death so others would remember Him? The answer didn’t matter. He knew this was the time to pour more than 100% of Himself into the Spirit. Maybe if His disciples saw how He prayed they would learn to put their trust in the Spirit.
While the disciples were thinking about what Jesus just taught them, He began to look back on His own life and the future of the world. Very few people knew he was coming when He was born. This was something that had always weighed heavy on His heart. No one was looking for the real image of God, all the attributes He gave to Adam. All the simple lessons of love and leadership taught in the beginning were all but forgotten. He looked back at the time spent preparing a garden for Adam, all the lessons Adam had to learn before receiving his wife. The first marriage was supposed to be a living illustration of His love for man. Satan did a superb job of covering up that lesson. He also distorted the prophecies about Jesus’ birth, not to mention His life and most importantly, His sacrifice. Not to worry, God had a plan that would not fail. The shock value of what was about to happen will either make or break His disciples. Jesus loved them. He wanted to ease the pain. There was only so much He could tell them before He had to die.
Jesus wanted to come out and tell them why His coming will be a day of sorrow. It was simple. He knew they would soon understand. Jesus looked up at Peter, who caught His stare out of the corner of his eye. Peter looked straight at Jesus. Something told him Jesus was praying for him at that moment. Peter began to understand a little bit. The false prophets, teachers, and Messiahs were going to lead many away from Jesus. They will deceive more than a few. As Peter looked at Jesus’ face, the flames made His face glow like polished bronze. Without saying a word, Jesus lips moved with the words, “Peter, love them all. Please don’t let a single one perish.” Jesus closed His eyes, trying to fight back the tears.