Monday, December 08, 2008

The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars


As long as I seem to be doing such a good job of being misunderstood (as in the threads found here and here, for instance), I may as well venture forth and ask for more.

How about this one. In yesterday's Gospel, Jesus waxed apocalyptic in his reference to the sun, the moon, and the stars: "There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken" (St. Luke 21).

And the key, I repeat, is that Jesus is being apocalyptic here. As in, Danielic, Ezekielic, or, well, Apocalyptic (as in, last book of the Bible). He even references Daniel specifically earlier on in the Matthean counterpart to this chapter (St Matthew 24), so it is not at all unreasonable to suggest (here goes):

These are not references to heavenly phenomena like eclipses, falling stars, comets, etc.

How about references to the powers in place over God's people, i.e., the leaders of the nation of Israel, a la Joseph's dream. Remember that Joseph had once referred to the sun, the moon, and the stars as references to his own family? Well, how about here?

Consider: the fall of Jerusalem, referenced in Jesus' prior remarks, is to give way to the utter realignment of the heavenly authority of God, and this will cause men's hearts to fail them for fear and expectation, etc. Indeed, the Matthean version adds "immediately after those days" to this prediction. Now comes the age of the Church, which is something to which even the most devout of Jewish believers would have trouble adjusting. Gentiles qua Gentiles will be grafted in (interestingly, the Epistle for yesterday, from Romans, references that).

And then comes this: "And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Note that phrase "begin to come to pass"; in other words, the coming of the Son of man is something that will begin with . . . what?

St Matthew helps us again: "then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven." What sign? He shall send forth his angels, who shall gather the elect.

But the Day of Judgment is a day of separating. What, then, might these gathering angels be? Again, this is apocalyptic language. So, how about angelic messengers? As in, preachers?

In short, the sign that the Son of Man is in heaven would then be the preaching of the Gospel. When you see (i.e. hear) this preaching, you may know that the Son of Man is in heaven (he ascended on the very day he sent the preachers, after all), and that his return in glory is immanent.

I must offer a tip of the hat to Professor Jeff Gibbs for first alerting me, years ago, to the possibility of this interpretation, which I have embraced wholeheartedly.

That said, I'm still going to run for cover. I expect recriminations for this wild and unacceptable interpretation to fly . . .

7 comments:

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

I have thought similarly, even to the extent of seeing the Church as the sign. Think about Revelation 12. You have a woman, clothed with the sun, with a crown of twelve stars (obviously portraying Israel), and she is called a "portent," or a "sign." Interesting, eh?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Not that I would know, but it sounds a very reasonable, even probable, interpretation to me.

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

Lucky me! Everyone agrees today! Woo hoo!

Petersen said...

Brilliant! Thank you.

You have changed my preaching on this text forevermore.

Susan said...

Isn't it both?

Pr. H. R. said...

That's how I teach it in Catechism class when we get to Mark 13 in Bender's material. It's a great introduction into reading the Bible as it was meant to be read.

Jesus didn't preach in a vacuum - he preached in the context of the OT. . .

So also: a mountain being drown in the heart of the sea, Sinai drowns in Baptism, etc. etc. Those Alexandrian fathers are not all wet. . .

+HRC

Rev.Fr.Burnell F Eckardt said...

The Alexandrian Fathers were, in the words of my boys, ballin' . . .