Prophecy #2 – Clouds on the Horizon

“When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?” —Jesus (Luke 12.54–56 NIV)This week, I want to continue our look at the final eight prophecies of Jesus concerning the two fates that lay before Jerusalem for her choosing. Remember, our look at these eight prophecies is an attempt to understand more deeply what Jesus’s kingdom is all about—this kingdom that is not simply a new way of doing life, but a way that is deeply rooted in a radically different way of seeing God, ourselves, and everyone around us, even our enemies.

Also, I’d like to remind you once again about the two paths Jesus laid out before the people of his day in Matthew 7.12–14. We have the eye-for-an-eye, retaliation-and-retribution way of doing life that intrinsically escalates till it ends in death. And we have the enemy-love, enemy-forgiveness, doing-to-our-enemies-what-we-would-want-them-to-do-to-us way of doing life that brings healing, peace, and life eternal.

This is our context. This week we are looking at the second of the eight prophecies:

He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? (Luke 12.54–57)

This second prophecy is the foundation and preliminary prophecy for the third prophecy recorded by Dr. Luke in Luke 13.1–9. I’d really like to discuss the third prophecy this week because what Jesus says in that prophecy is astounding! But in order for the third prophecy to make sense and to have its proper impact, we’ll have wait on that until next week and first do some pre-work this week with this passage.

The weather-wise Israelites of Jesus’s day could tell by watching the clouds over the Mediterranean or by observing the wind direction changes (when the wind veered around to the south) what the imminent weather would be in their region, and they planned accordingly. What Jesus is drawing attention to here is their keen ability to reason from cause to effect when it came to matters of weather, but their utter blindness and inability to reason from cause to effect when it came to the path they were on in relating to their political enemies, the Romans.

Jesus then uses a contemporary analogy, a metaphor if you will, of the then current court system to illustrate the trajectory of the path they were on with Rome, a path of retaliation, retribution, and violence.

As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Luke 12.58–59)

What Jesus suggests here is not militaristic rebellion but, on the contrary, peacemaking and reconciliation, rooted in love for one’s enemies and forgiveness. Who was their adversary at this time? Rome, represented in the person of Pilate the Roman governor. Without stealing too much away from next week, this is exactly why Jesus’s listeners object in the very next verse (Luke 13.1) on the basis of Pilate’s atrocity against some Galileans. They were in essence saying, “You want to us to practice enemy-love and forgiveness, peacemaking and reconciliation with Pilate? You have got to be kidding us! Don’t you realize what Pilate recently did to the Galileans who were offering sacrifices? How can you expect us to turn the other cheek, not retaliating but following the way of peace?”

In Matthew this instruction is placed within Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount:

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5.25–26)

In Matthew’s account, this is directly in the context of leaving your gift at the altar when offering a sacrifice if you remember that you have an adversary who is against you. Jesus commands, “First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift.” Twice in Matthew, Jesus is recorded as saying, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9.13; 12.7; cf. Hosea 6.6) This is the path that leads to life, and the God of nonviolence that we see in Jesus is intently working with Israel at this stage, endeavoring to have them to repent, to leave the path of eye-for-an-eye retaliation, and to embrace the way of mercy toward one’s adversaries or enemies. This is the way of enemy-love, enemy-forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. This was the path that would lead them to life eternal. If they did not change paths in relation to their present adversaries (the Romans), the trajectory of the path they were one would end in their “not getting out until they had paid the last penny.” It would end in their utter annihilation.

The options before them were transformation or annihilation. Remember, this was not an imposed annihilation force on them by a violent God, but rather a warning about an annihilation that would be the natural result of a course of action toward their adversaries that would escalate into their utter destruction and death in AD 70.

Jesus will say it again:

If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. (Luke 19.42)

Today we plan our daily activities around listening to weather forecasts or checking our weather apps on our phones, while we are strangely ignorant of the clouds of our own making that are gathering on the horizon of our lives in both our personal and global relationships. Last week we looked more personally at following Jesus’s way of nonviolence, of enemy-love and forgiveness, the way of mercy in relation to our family, friends, coworkers, or fellow students. This week I want to ask more global questions. Whether we ask these questions regarding our private relationships or our global ones, the implications are the same.

Next week we will be looking at Jesus’s words concerning a tower that fell in Siloam. Last week in America, the nation spent time remembering those who lost their lives when two towers fell in New York City in 2001. For many, the way of retaliation is the only logical response. Anything else does not make sense. Anything less would possibly be “dangerous.” But Jesus is whispering to us to take a different path than that which is intuitive to us. There is a way that seems right to us, but its end is death. More violence, according to Jesus, only ensures, not our safety, but our own destruction. War-making has today become a kind of “religion” rooted in sacrifice. Jesus calls us to peacemaking rooted in mercy. (Matthew 9.13; 12.7; cf. Hosea 6.6) What would happen if instead of supporting a military-industrial complex, Christians began spending billions on feeding the world’s starving? What would happen if instead of supporting more loss of life in Iran and Afghanistan, Christians went to work to establish new schools and hospitals in Iran and Afghanistan? What would happen if Christians today stopped funding Israel’s occupation of Palestine and began embodying Israel’s Messiah in teaching and demonstrating enemy-love and forgiveness, the way of mercy rather than militaristic sacrifice, to Israel the same way Jesus did so long ago? What would happen if Christians stopped believing that Jesus’s way is impractical, naïve, or insufficient and flatly stating that it “doesn’t work” in the “real world” and began to follow the way of life Jesus came to teach us, no matter how difficult? What would happen if Christians simply began believing in Jesus once again?

The Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is still whispering to the world today, “Overcome evil with good. Reject your tribalism, and love everyone on the planet. Reject your way of violence, and become people of enemy-love, forgiveness, mercy, and nonviolence. If you do not do this, you as a global community, will be destroyed. It will not be God’s doing. Your own violence will come down on you.”

Much to ponder for sure.

HeartGroup Application

1.This week I would like you to go back and spend some time prayerfully meditating on these two passages:

As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Luke 12.58–59)

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5.25–26)

2.Get out a piece of paper, and with inspired imagination, tap into your creativity. Begin to brainstorm, writing down whatever comes to mind about what nonviolent conflict resolution might look like with those in your immediate life that you find most difficult to get along with. Begin by simply putting down on paper what ideas come to your mind, whether you think they are foolish or not, logical or not, practical or impractical.

3.Share and discuss with your HeartGroup what you come up with, getting constructive feedback and further creative options on ways you can follow Jesus’s path of nonviolent conflict resolution in your life.

Jesus gave us a way to heal the world, (Luke 9.2; John 3.17). Jesus did not come to this world to condemn this world, but so that this world, through Jesus and His teachings, might be saved. May it begin with each of us in our daily lives.

Wherever this finds you this week, keep living in Jesus’s other-centered, self-sacrificing enemy-love till the only world that remains is a world where love reigns.

I love you guys.

See you next week.