“And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.” (Luke 17:22 KJV)
Jesus spoke to a group of Jews with the foreknowledge that within roughly forty years the entire society and religious customs of the Jewish people would be upended as conquering Roman legions marched through the streets of Jerusalem and destroy the glorious Temple plunging the Jews into an era in which there is no sacrifices and no Temple worship. Not only that, but many of His faithful followers will have to endure persecution and opposition from both religious Jews and Roman authorities. Knowing all this, He speaks to one of the great tragedies of human nature: The tendency to glorify the past, take the future for granted, and neglect the present.
He speaks to Pharisees who largely reject Him because his actions do not fit with their “sacred” traditions. Perhaps more tragically, He speaks to disciples who, despite their professed faith and commitment will sleep through their last hours of opportunity to pray with their Savior. The Pharisees disregard his presence now as worthless and the disciples take for granted that He will be with them later. But there will come a day when the disciples will long for their master’s teaching, His miracles, just His presence.
In his short story, “The Last Lesson”, Alphonse Daudet tells of a young French schoolboy who despises his studies until the schoolmaster announces that the occupying Prussian forces will no longer be allowing the pupils to learn their native language. He realizes he has lost an invaluable opportunity. How very much like the Jews of the first century. And how very much like us.
Do you remember the last church service before Covid-19? I remember distractions that seemed so significant then, but so insignificant now as I have not been physically in a church service with other believers outside my own family for over two weeks. Do you remember the last altar service you shared with your congregation? The last hymn you sang together?
It seems Providential, but as I attempted to compose these simple thoughts, my oldest daughter, seemingly randomly, reminded me of an instance where I stopped at a house and knocked on the door with the purpose of inviting an individual to church. When she asked why I did this, I replied, “Because I had the opportunity.” That is an opportunity I do not have today. But instead of focusing on opportunity lost, let us look at the opportunity we do have. I still have a congregation to minister to in my own home. There are still saints to be encouraged even if through a phone call or text message. And there is still a Gospel to be preached wherever we happen to encounter a lost soul in these times of social distancing. We don’t know when we will assemble as congregations again, or engage face to face with others in a group setting but when we do let it be as Christians who are eager to take full advantage of the opportunity given to us by God.