Jesus said, “On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left." Then they asked him, "Where, Lord?" He said to them, "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."
This passage is famously difficult. It is hard to know what Jesus is saying, except that we cannot tell when “the day of the Son of Man” will come. The imagery is drawn from Old Testament prophecy; all the cosmic convulsions are there, as in Amos and Isaiah. ‘That day’ seems to mean the day on which he will return in glory.
The emphasis is on the suddenness and the newness of it. It will disrupt the normal routines of “eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building….” It will even make your most familiar companions look like strangers. When there is a cataclysm of some kind, people remember vividly what they were doing just as it struck. Those normal routines are seen now from a different perspective: from high in the air, as it were, rather than from the familiar ground.
Though we are largely at a loss when it comes to understanding this passage, its urgency is good for us, no doubt. Perhaps we become too complacent, too detached, too ‘knowing’. The impact of Kierkegaard’s writing in his own world (19th century Denmark) was explosive: he castigated his age as “an age without passion, with no values, an age that reduces everything to ideas.” It was said of Karl Barth, the 20th century Protestant theologian, that his impact on his contemporaries was “like a bomb exploding in their back garden.” He stressed the "wholly otherness of God.” We make God a kind of private ineffectual daydream or a monthly or annual liability like rent or tax. We make God ‘part of our life’, even though God cannot be part of anything; God can only be whole. Alas, we should have more fire in our bellies.
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