We are living in the end-time! This does not mean that creation will soon come to its end, but it does mean that all the signs of the end of time that Jesus mentions are already with us: wars and revolutions, conflicts between nations and between kingdoms, earthquakes, plagues, famines, and persecutions (see Luke 21:9-12). Jesus describes the events of our world as announcements that this world is not our final dwelling place, but that the Son of Man will come to bring us our full freedom. “When these things begin to take place,” Jesus says, “stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand” (Luke 21:28)… The terrible events surrounding us must be lived as ways to make us ready for our final liberation.
Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey
It is so easy to lose sight of what Jesus said about times like ours, in the fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding us from the media and virally, on Facebook and Twitter and countless forums up and down the intertubes… I even had an email from the Christian card company CrossCards today, promoting a “free book” by a Messianic Jewish group, claiming to explain the appalling consequences facing the world as a result of the US President’s Middle East policy.
The Beatitudes contain their own hints—“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”—of the difficulties we are likely to face, yet they also contain the assurance that all is indeed in Jesus’ Father’s hands (Romans 8:28), and will lead in the end to healing and to glory.
But the healing and the glory come only by way of the Cross. It is only Jesus' obedience, death and resurrection that make any of this possible. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18) “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20) and it is only as the Cross becomes mine that I can be part of this great outpouring of mercy “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
When we come to understand this strange identification, both with the crucified Saviour and with the broken world, then we come into the intercessory dimension of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”