“Just as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.” So we hear towards the end of today’s gospel (Lk 17:20-25). Charles Wesley indicates something of this awesome reality, in his beautiful hymn “Lo! He Comes With Clouds Descending,” whose verses draw liberally from John’s visions in the book of Revelation (listen to it at https://goo.gl/EU8yhS). Jesus assures us that his coming will not be something that we can point to or indicate in any external way. When we await people who say, “‘look, there he is,’ or ‘look, here he is,’” we repeat the mistake of the Israelites who did not recognize the Christ because they were awaiting an earthly, political savior. Instead, the true Christ, the true savior, was in their midst, and not only did they not recognize him, but—together with the rest of the world—they crucified him.
The one who is to come—and the Kingdom that he bears—also stands in our midst, but we do not recognize him. Yes, in the fullness of time, the Son of Man will be known as surely as lightning flashes light up the sky from one side to another, but in this age, “he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.” And so, following Revelation, Charles Wesley gets this right in this hymn. On that day, “Ev’ry eye shall now behold Him, robed in dreadful majesty; those who set at naught and sold Him, pierced, and nailed Him to the tree: deeply wailing, deeply wailing, shall the true Messiah see.”
The cross where we crucify Jesus, most often through our treatment of the least among us, will be the place from which will shine the glory of God’s love. Blessed are those who wail at this revelation, for at the very least they will realize that all for which they have striven to gain for themselves in this life has been for naught. Perhaps they might finally surrender to the true life and love that Jesus brings. The Lord comes not to save our property, or secure our political or civil rights, or to help us win battles or wars. He comes to save us in the truest, fullest sense. He comes to offer us the only life that will endure as worthy of that name, a sharing in his own life of love. His love is not the superficial, feel-good love of nice sentiments, catchy jingles, and words emptied of meaning, but the magnificently omnipotent Love that reveals its power through powerlessness, in its suffering to save a generation that rejects it.