It’s the End of the World as We Know It, or: How to Survive the Apocalypse (Luke 17:11-18:8)

It has been a while, so before we get back into our story we had better do a bit of review, so we know where we are.

Right back at the beginning of Luke a messenger from God appeared to a young unmarried girl and told her she was going to have a baby — a baby without a human father. And the messenger said that this baby, when he grew up, would rescue the people of God from their enemies. He would take the ancient throne of King David, and rule over God’s people forever. The messenger told the girl to call the baby “Jesus” — a name which means “Rescuer”, “Deliverer”, “Saviour”.

Sure enough, when this baby grew up, he went to war against Satan, the enemy of all mankind. He cast out demons, he healed the sick, he forgave sinners — he set prisoners free to join his kingdom.

Halfway through the book, Satan’s demonic army broke, and began the long retreat back to Jerusalem, where Satan had his headquarters. At the same time, Jesus began to march toward Jerusalem, which is where King David’s ancient throne was based. He began to train his disciples to take over management of his kingdom — which caused some confusion, because the disciples thought, “Hang on, aren’t you going to be here to manage your own kingdom?”

And that is when Jesus shocked them by saying, “Actually, after we arrive in Jerusalem and I win David’s throne, I’m going away for a long time, and you guys are going to stay behind to manage my kingdom. That’s why I’m training you!”

At the same time, while Jesus was preparing his disciples for management, we discovered that Satan has not quite finished fighting. His demons are basically beaten, but Satan still has soldiers on the field, human soldiers: the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the people. And they have been resisting Jesus every step of the way.

Over the next few weeks we are going to see the tension rising and rising the closer Jesus gets to Jerusalem. Satan is gathering all his powers together there, while Jesus marches inexorably forward with his army. Satan has kings, and governors, and parliament members, and priests on his side. Jesus has fishermen, tax collectors, ex-prostitutes. And three Sundays from now, when Jesus arrives at the gates of Jerusalem to claim his throne…we will see what happens.

So that is where we are in the story. Jesus has just finished his Kingdom Management Training course with his disciples. And now he is pressing forward to claim the kingdom God sent him to rule:

[11] Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.

So here we find Jesus traveling to Jerusalem with the clean Jewish state of Galilee on one side of the road, and the unclean foreign state of Samaria on the other side.

[12] As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy — a terrible skin disease — met him. They stood at a distance — because, by law, they were not allowed to go near healthy people — [13] and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

They have heard that Jesus has the power to heal leprosy.

[14] When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

This was according to God’s Old Testament Law: if a Jew discovered that his skin disease seemed to be getting better, he was supposed to go to the Jewish priests. The priests would examine him, and if they found that his leprosy was gone, they would sprinkle water on him and pronounce him officially “clean”. That meant clean enough to go home! and even more importantly: clean enough to enter the temple and worship God.

So Jesus says, “Go, do the thing with the priests!”

And as they went, they were cleansed. [15] One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.

Now, that’s odd, isn’t it? Imagine, you have been separated from your family, from all of society, for years because of this skin infection, and then suddenly you are clean. Wouldn’t you race to the temple, get sprinkled by the priests, and then race home to see your family? I know I would!

Instead, this guy comes back! Why?

[16] He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

An unclean non-Jewish man from Samaria. And…that explains why he returned to Jesus instead of going on to the temple!

See, Samaritans were forbidden to enter the Jewish temple. In fact, there were signs at the temple saying Foreigners Forbidden On Pain of Death. And it was no joke, either: history tells us that more than once during that time, Jewish worshipers literally tore foreigners to pieces for entering the temple and defiling it.

So the Samaritan cannot go to the Jewish temple! He cannot be baptized by Jewish priests! Where else can he go?

He goes back to the source of his cleansing. And where before he had to stand at a distance and shout, now he comes right up and touches Jesus’ feet and worships him. This man understands that his physical healing is actually a sign of his spiritual healing, and now finally he is free to worship God. But instead of worshiping God in the Jewish temple — which he is forbidden to do — he is worshiping God in the person of Jesus, the source of his healing.

[17] Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? [18] Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”

— and there Jesus uses the same word, “foreigner”, that is used in those warning signs at the temple.

But it’s a funny question, isn’t it? Jesus knows where the other nine are: they rushed off to the Jewish temple just like he told them to! So why is he criticizing them now, and praising this “foreigner”?

Because the foreigner has figured out what the nine Jewish lepers have not: God is not actually confined behind walls at the Jewish temple! The priests think they have to keep foreigners out in order to protect God’s holiness. But if God is really God, and God is really Holy, then it is impossible for any created thing to defile his holiness!

Which means that God himself can be out on the streets of a dusty little kampung between Galilee and Samaria, and his holiness is unaffected.

That is what this Samaritan leper has figured out: Jesus is God, and for the first time in history it is possible to go right up and touch God and worship him face to face without fear of death.

[19] Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.

And this is actually the exact same sentence Jesus said to the woman who was bleeding for twelve years; this is the same sentence he said to the prostitute who crashed the Pharisee’s party and poured perfume on his feet. In Greek, the word for “made you well” in this sentence is also the word for “saved you”:

“Rise and go; your faith has healed you.”

“Rise and go; your faith has saved you.”

“Rise and go; your faith has made it possible to join my people in worship.”

[20] Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, [21] nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”


This is the second-to-last time the Pharisees play a part in Luke’s story. They are quickly becoming irrelevant because they refuse to recognize the true nature of God’s kingdom.

When they asked Jesus, “When is the kingdom of God going to come?” they were thinking about a physical, political kingdom, even though Jesus already told them his kingdom is not going to be like that.

Remember how, a few weeks ago, those Muslim NGOs banded together against Hannah Yeoh, the MP for Subang? They read her book and they accused her of encouraging Christians to rebel against the government and take over Malaysia. How did they get this idea? In her book Hannah — who is a Christian — talked about building the kingdom of God in Malaysia. And when those Muslims read her book they made the same mistake the Pharisees made two thousand years ago: they assumed that the Kingdom of God must be political!

So Jesus answers them and says, “No! The kingdom of God is not going to start like that! It is not physical, not political!

“Actually, it is already here!”

What Jesus means is, “Hey, you know all those miracles I’ve been doing? Did you notice how I just healed that Samaritan in the last episode? Those are the signs that God’s kingdom has already begun!”

It is as if Jesus is talking to a group of blind men, and he is saying, “Uh, hello! I’m right here!” And in fact Luke is telling us — through a subtle literary clue — that the Pharisees really are blind. Notice how, in verse 15, the Samaritan “sees” that he is healed, and he returns to Jesus, the source of his healing. That is faith! But in verse 20, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “God’s kingdom is not something that can be observed.” The Pharisees cannot “see” God’s kingdom, even though the evidence is right there in front of them! They cannot see it because they do not have faith.

They hear the voice of Jesus, but because they refuse to listen and believe what he is saying, they remain blind. Unlike the Samaritan leper, they will not get the chance to see God face to face.

But Jesus knows that the Pharisees are not the only ones who think God’s kingdom will be a political kingdom: his disciples do too. Actually all the Jews thought this way at that time. So Jesus says to his disciples, [22]…“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.

Here, Jesus is telling his disciples again, “I am going away for a while. And while I’m gone you are going to go through suffering and persecution. You are going to long for my return…but you are not going to see it.”

Did you catch that? Jesus just told his disciples that they will all die before he returns. Discouraging news, perhaps…but also perhaps a way to encourage them, a way of saying, “Settle in for the long marathon, boys. Listen carefully to what I’m telling you, and pass it on to the next generation, because my people are going to be here for a long time before I come back to rescue them.”

And so, [23] People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them.

Do not have anything to do with any preacher or teacher or pastor or so-called prophet or apostle or anyone else who claims to know when or where or how Jesus will return! They are lying to you! No one has that information except God!

[24] 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.

Jesus is saying, “When I come back, it will be suddenly, without warning, and…the whole world will know when it happens. We will not be left guessing!

But, “before that,” Jesus says, [25]”…first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

So now we know when the countdown clock begins: after Jesus suffers many things and is rejected by that generation.

And now Jesus goes on to describe what those long, waiting days will be like:

[26] “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. [27] 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.

Suddenly, right?

[28] “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. [29] But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. [30] It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.


So Jesus is telling us that the days of Noah just before the judgement, and the days of Lot just before the judgement, were ordinary days. Everyone was busy doing everyday ordinary things, and then — ! Finish. Everyone destroyed, except for those who believed Noah and got in his boat; except for those who believed Lot and ran from the city.

In the same way, the days of the Son of Man — the days of Jesus — just before the judgement will be ordinary days. Most people will be busy doing everyday ordinary things, and then — ! Judgement will fall. Everyone will be destroyed, except for those who believed Jesus and joined his people.

So Jesus is describing two things here: the days of the Son of Man, followed by the Day of the Son of Man. The days of the Son of Man will be very ordinary; the Day of the Son of Man will be the exact opposite of ordinary.

And of course we want to know, “When are these days going to happen?” Because we want to be ready for the Day, don’t we?

Well, Jesus just told us, actually. The days of the Son of Man are happening now. The countdown clock started on the day Jesus was nailed to that Roman cross. It has been counting down ever since. We do not know when that doomsday clock will strike midnight. But when it happens it will happen without warning, and everyone will know that their time is up.

When the Day comes it will too late to repent, too late to have faith in Jesus. When the Day comes it will be too late to change loyalties, because that day will reveal completely where everyone’s true loyalties lie.

And that’s just what Jesus goes on to say: [31] “On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them.

“Take the outside stairs, get to the ground floor, and run!

“Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. [32] Remember Lot’s wife!

And we remember Lot’s wife, don’t we? Lot, his wife, his two daughters, escaping from the city moments before God’s judgement fell — and Lot’s wife turned around to go back, because there was some precious possession there that she had forgotten to pack, something that she thought was worth the risk to her life. And she paid with her life for that decision: she was caught in the fires of God’s Judgement on that city.

So, [33] “Whoever tries to keep their life — like Lot’s wife did —  will lose it, and whoever loses their life — whoever realizes it’s pointless to cling to earthly things — will preserve it.

When you are caught in a crisis, that is when you find out what is really important to you. You wake up, your home is on fire, you have thirty seconds to escape safely. What do you do? First, you grab anything you think might save your life, a wet cloth to help you breathe perhaps. Then you are going to grab whatever, whoever is precious to you, every resource you think you might need to survive during the days after the fire.

And in those moments, suddenly next week’s deadline, next year’s promotion just doesn’t matter anymore! All those things that we allow to consume our lives, all those things that keep us from spending time with our kids…the tsunami comes, we look up, and we realize that we have been living life completely upside-down.

That is what Jesus is pointing to here. He is not saying people will have time to run from their houses, or run from their workplaces, and escape God’s judgement. There will be no escape! But he is saying that in that moment of terror, everyone in the whole world is going to turn to whatever they think might save them. Their true loyalties, their true selfish beliefs will be revealed. He is urging us not to put our faith in anything else other than him.

Our possessions will not save us on that Day. Our families will not save us on that Day. Only Jesus can save us on that Day.

Then Jesus goes on to say, [34] “I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. [35] Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

His point here is that even families will be divided, which is what he already said back in Chapter 12: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three…” The division that Jesus began back then is still going today, and it will continue right up until the Day of the Son of Man.


And now I’m going to pause for a moment because I’m sure some of you have noticed that there is a number 36 in the text here, but with no verse attached to it! And you’re wondering if it’s a typo or something.

No, it’s not a typo. Yes, there is an explanation. We will save that explanation for the Q&A session that will follow the service. So, after you get your tea and refreshments, remember to ask, “What is going on with verse 36?”

Right. So Jesus is pointing out that on the Day he returns, everything will be revealed. And even people within the same family, people who look on the outside as if they are united by the same faith will be separated: [34] “I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. [35] Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”

[37] “Where, Lord?” the disciples ask.

Where, what? Where are the people taken that are taken? Where are the people left that are left? Where will Jesus land when he comes back? Where will the judgement take place?

What are these guys asking?

It is not clear at all what the disciples are asking. But what is clear is that Jesus thinks this is a stupid question. So he gives them a stupid answer:

He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”

Uh…thanks, Jesus. That really cleared things up!

No, it didn’t, did it!

And that is on purpose. Remember, back in verse 21 and then again in verse 23 Jesus told them, “Don’t listen to people who claim to know where or when or how I will come back! Don’t ask questions about where or when or how! When it happens, you’ll know! The whole world will know! So asking ‘where’ is a bit of a nonsense question!

“Where is it going to happen? Everywhere!

Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather. Where there is sin, there will be judgement!”

“So,” Jesus is saying, “focus, guys, on what is actually important here! Where, when, and how is none of your business!

“But you know what is your business? Being faithful. Not giving up.”

[1] Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. [2] He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought.

This judge is the kind of politician we find in our own day, the kind who walks off with billions of ringgit and doesn’t care that everybody knows he took it as long as it can’t be proven in court.

I’m not saying there actually are such politicans in our world. This is all hypothetical; this is a parable. Any resemblance to any politician real or imagined is purely coincidental etc. etc.

[3] And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

Someone powerful has robbed this widow, he is denying her insurance checks or medical care or something, we don’t need to know the details because, we already know the details: the powerful man robs the poor widow and then bribes the politician so that the court case always goes his way.

Again, any resemblance to any modern court system, real or imagined, is purely coincidental etc. etc…

[4] “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, [5] yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’ ”

And the word the judge uses here is a funny word; when he says he’s worried she might attack him, what he literally says in the Greek is, “I’m worried she might come and give me a black eye!”

Now, imagine our hypothetical modern politician — powerful, untouchable, surrounded by bodyguards — and picture some little old lady from Sentul or Chow Kit, who goes to his courtroom every day for weeks, months, years. And after a while the politician starts to think to himself, “this crazy old bat keeps coming in here! I’m starting to get worried she might go nuts one day, jump up on my bench and jam her umbrella in my eye!”

It’s a ridiculous image, isn’t it! It would never happen in real life.

But see, this is meant to be a joke. Like many of Jesus’ parables, it uses exaggeration to make a point.

And what is that point?

Jesus tells us:

[6] And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.”

This is a command from our Lord: “Listen to what the unjust judge says.” If we want to understand the point of this parable, we need to understand why the judge says what he says.

So, what is going on with this judge? He doesn’t fear God; he doesn’t fear people; he’s not worried about votes. He is not seriously afraid of getting punched in the eye.

So what is he really afraid of, then?

What do powerful men fear more than anything else in the world? The loss of their power. Powerful men only fear other men with more power, who might defeat them.

So at first the judge doesn’t care about the widow. Obviously she is not related to some powerful man; if she was, her powerful male relative would go to court instead of her. The fact that she shows up in court alone is proof that she is powerless.

But then she keeps on showing up. And little by little the judge begins to wonder how she can have so much persistent courage. She must have some powerful secret relative on her side, otherwise how could she dare do what she’s doing?

Jesus commands us, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.” Because what the unjust judge says is actually the truth. He is correct: if he does not give her justice, one day she will give him a black eye — but not with her umbrella.

Oh no! One day she is going to show up in court, and she is going to bring her father with her.

Can anyone guess who her father is?

Jesus goes on to tell us:

[7] “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? [8] I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.

In the courtrooms of that time justice depended upon who you knew, who you were related to. This widow looked like she wasn’t related to anybody important.

But appearances can be deceiving. It turns out that this widow who was really in need and left all alone, put her hope in God, her Father. She cried out to him day and night. And every day her Father answered her prayers: every day he gave her the courage to go back again, to demand justice again. She was not alone in that courtroom; she was never alone. And because of her persistent courage — because of her persistent faith in her Father — doubt took root in the politician’s heart, and he began to wonder if she might have some kind of secret weapon on her side.

And then Jesus finishes with this troubling question: “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Will there be anyone left who, like this widow, prays night and day for help, and presses on in the confidence that whatever happens, God will see that they get justice, and quickly? Will there be anyone left? or will the days of the Son of Man prove too long, too difficult for any faith to survive?

So: here we are, two thousand years later. Does this ancient teaching have anything to say to us?

Yes. Very much so. Jesus told his disciples he would be gone for a long time; we have experienced that long time.

Jesus told his disciples that they would suffer, longing to see that one special Day out of the days of the Son of Man; and here we are: we look back over two thousand years of history and we see that Christians have suffered. We look around the world and we see that in some places Christians are suffering intensely, and we long to see the Day of the Son of Man!

Jesus told his disciples that, for the most part, the days of the Son of Man would be very ordinary days; and here we are, living — for the most part — very ordinary lives: eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, building.

Jesus warned his disciples that they would be tempted to try to predict his return; and here we are, living in an age when many Christians are being led astray by false teachers who are obsessed with predicting the End Times.

So the conditions Jesus described for his disciples then is even more true for us today!

Which means that his survival instructions for the disciples then definitely apply to us today.

So, what are Jesus’ survival instructions? How are we to survive all these long difficult but ordinary days of the Son of Man?

First, remember the Samaritan. He saw that he was healed and saved; he realized that Jesus was the source of that healing; and he turned around, went back, and worshiped the one who saved him. That is faith! That is the beginning of the journey to the kingdom of God.

In the same way, we also see how we are being healed and saved. Jesus does not promise physical healing to everyone — sometimes he heals, sometimes he doesn’t — but he has promised spiritual healing to everyone who asks. So just like the Samaritan we should look for the marks of healing in our spirits, in our lives, and we should worship the one who is saving us. That is faith.

Second, remember the Pharisees, remember Lot’s wife. The Pharisees were obsessed with political power; Lot’s wife loved her life in the city: her big house, her fine possessions. They believed that healing and restoration is ultimately physical; they put their faith in this world, and God’s Judgement overtook them all.

Obviously Jesus is telling his disciples, and us, “Don’t do that! Put your faith in me! I am the only one who can save you on Judgement Day!”

But how do we do that? How can we know our faith is truly in Jesus, and not in our possessions or our career or our political ambitions?

This is how; and this was Jesus’ third point: remember the unjust judge, and remember the widow.

First, remember the Samaritan, and his simple faith in Jesus’ healing power.

Second, remember the Pharisees and Lot’s wife, and their misplaced faith in this world.

Third, remember the judge, remember the widow. It looked like the judge had all the power, and the widow had nothing — but appearances can be deceiving.

These are the days of the Son of Man. We live ordinary lives just like everyone else: eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, building. We also live under corrupt governments, corrupt court systems, just like everyone else. But unlike everyone else, when we go into court we do not go alone. Our very powerful Father goes with us. Our very power brother, Jesus, goes with us. Our very powerful lawyer, the Holy Spirit, goes with us. That is the source our persistent courage.

Now, does Jesus’ parable mean that we will always win our court cases as long as we keep hounding them for justice? No. In fact, back in Chapter 12 Jesus told us that sometimes those courts will even put us to death. We are not guaranteed justice in this age. But we are guaranteed justice.

Even now Suzannah Koh is badgering the Malaysian courts. She wants justice for her husband’s abduction. Will the Malaysian courts eventually get tired and tell her the truth? Probably not. But the day will come, friends, when the judges of Malaysia will be compelled to tell the truth, and if those men have not put their faith in Jesus before that Day comes? — it will be the last confession they ever make.

This is how we know our faith is truly in Jesus: in the day of trouble we turn to him. We cry out night and day. We don’t give up — because we believe Jesus when he says that our Father will see that we get justice, and quickly.

Often it doesn’t feel quickly, I know. But that is because we have a child’s perspective of time. Later on in the bible, we are told that for God, “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day.” For us, Jesus has been gone for two thousand years; to him, he’s been gone for two days. It feels so long from our side of the veil, but when that Day comes, we will see the world — and we will see Time — as it truly is.

It’s just like how, when we were kids, the drive to Grandma’s house felt like it took forever! “Mom, when are we gonna get there!” Then we grow up and realize, “Oh, that was just a two hour drive.”

To us, the days of the Son of Man feel like they are taking forever! We look around at the world and we say, “God, where is this quick justice you promised us?”

But when the Day of the Son of Man comes — suddenly, and undeniably — then we will realize just how quickly our Saviour Jesus has come to give us justice.

So let us have courage, brothers and sisters. Let us keep speaking up, demanding that justice be done in this world. As we live in our homes, in our workplaces, as we conduct business on the streets of this city, let us continue to stand up for what is right. We will not always succeed; sometimes we will be persecuted. But we will persist, because we know that appearances are deceiving: we know we are not alone in this world. We are not powerless.

And so, to answer Jesus’ question, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Yes, he will!

Yes, he will!

Scroll to top