Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. – Luke 17:22-27
This passage is a mind-bender for me in many ways. Although it is a few short lines it seems to contain a certain bending of time that is both amazing and confusing. Jesus seems to be talking about both His present coming sacrifice and His future triumphant return at the same time. This is consistent with the multi-layers of meaning common in the book of Luke so far. In some ways it is similar to the Guild navigators in Frank Herbert’s book Dune. These creatures, mutated by the spice melange, could bend space to navigate great distances instantaneously. What Jesus is doing here is bending time so that we can see two events next to one another that are intimately related.
Jesus presents a stark view of what it will be like after He leaves the earth. Jesus predicts that people will long to see “the days of the Son of Man”, the time when God walked the earth as man. It sounds like many will come who will resemble Jesus in some way and people will go running after these imitations thinking they are Him. This has certainly come to pass. History is full of flawed followers that resembled Jesus but in the end missed the messianic mark.
Jesus makes it pretty clear that despite the confusion about where He is it will be clear when the real Son of Man arrives, “For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.” This is the part that appears to be predicting a future second coming that is some time after His death and resurrection. I am not sure.
The predictions get a little more confusing toward the end when it seems that Jesus returns to talking about His death and resurrection which is to happen soon. This mind-bending translocation through time has happened before during my float, especially in the old testament when certain predictions seems to transcend time and seem to be predicting more than one event with the same description. This was most noticeable the book of Isaiah for me.
I suppose for Jesus and God time is probably very different. They transcend and traverse time the way we would swim around in a lake. We experience time linearly, more like water moving in a river. It progresses from beginning to end in an orderly fashion. What seems to be happening here is that Jesus is describing two events which are linked, but are separated by thousands of years as we measure time. This would be a little like a batch of water being both at the headwaters and the mouth of the river at the same time. An odd thing to imagine to be sure.
But isn’t that what Jesus has said about Himself and what others have described about him. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, and the headwaters and the mouth of the One River that is God. It is interesting that Jesus refers to the old testament flood of Noah when trying to come up with a situation that will be similar to the His second coming. For Him it was not ancient history but a modern, messy, and perhaps painful part of working out an ongoing relationship with His people.
Phew this passage is funny water to be sure and I am not sure what it means. Perhaps after the passage of time it will become more clear. For the moment I am content to take away that God is in control even when it seems He is not and He has a temporal perspective that is very different than mine.
Prayer: God grant us the ability to see both into the past and the future with clarity and purpose so that we will not be deceived by impostors who may come in your name.