Jesus often asked loaded questions. He did this to teach, preach, and provide eternal answers. After all, He was called teacher (Matthew 8:19), went about preaching (Mark 1:38), and was called Messiah (Matthew 27:22). Jesus is a master educator. The many great principles taught in modern university-level cognition courses (the study of thinking, learning, and reasoning) were in His repertoire. He used these fundamental concepts very deftly in His ministry two thousand years ago and still practices them today through a legacy of the written word and in the witness of those who have embraced Him.
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the messiah.”Mark 8:29 (NIV)
As a teacher of divine certainties, Jesus used object lessons in the world of His day that would communicate these truths that earthly words could not. For example, agriculture was something many people could relate to. Jesus spoke of shepherds, sheep, soil, seeds, plants, and so on. Preachers today do the same thing using the same narrative material of the first century, relating today’s stories and experiences to some topic God wants to emphasize. Shepherds still manage flocks, soil still needs care, seeds still need to be planted, and mighty oak trees are still standing on deep roots. Today, a five-hundred horsepower tractor rising up on ten-foot tires, billowing smoke, and launching with a thirty-foot tiller is a picture of majestic power. All those things preach, don’t they?
“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”Luke 18:8 (NIV)
Now, then, let us look at a loaded question. Son of Man was a title given to Messiah in the New Testament. This question should provoke some thinking. If Jesus, the Messiah, asks the question, then He has come. This question implies that He will come again. The only conclusion one can make if the Bible is truly inerrant is that there are two divine arrivals. In the second advent, God is not looking for sheep to take care of, but He is looking for faith or a belief in a trustworthy God.
The thing is, the Bible details all sorts of calamities just before the second advent. Those who have faith, or those who put their trust in the Son of Man, are rescued from the terrible troubles of the day (See 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and 1 Corinthians 10:13). People who had predetermined in their hearts and minds to trust Jesus with their lives and future are caught up in the air to meet Him. This event is referred to as the Rapture. Those who believe and have not given their lives to Jesus at this point still have an opportunity to make it to Heaven; however, they are not spared the Great Tribulation of the Last Days. John the Revelator saw some of these believers before the Throne of God.
“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.”Revelation 6:9 (NIV)
God will find faith, but it will be from a people nation that did not acknowledge the first coming. These people still believe in the promise of Messiah and have trust in the God of their ancestor, Abraham. They just missed the connection between a baby born in a sheep shed and the man who healed people, delivered poor souls from demons, and raised people from the dead. The Bible says there will be 144,000 of them. You see, they believed the promises that there would be a King in Israel, a son of Juda (Genesis 49:10) that would rule forever, and he would put everything in order, with justice.
The parable associated with Luke 18:1-7 is about persistence and justice. There are different levels of faith and different implements of faith. The person who hopes for tomorrow operates a different set of tools than the one who casts out the demons of today. The parable of persistence has two main participants, a widow and a judge. There is the woman’s adversary but only functions as a contributor to the plot. Here is a rabbit trail thought: the Devil and his troubles are not the main characters in the interaction of a person and The Judge.
The widow had been wronged, and she was asking a judge to execute justice. The judge in this story was resisting; however, after the widow kept coming back, he chose not to fool with her, even to the point of fear that she would take justice into her own hands and attack him first. He did it not because he feared God or out of an obligation to righteousness; He didn’t want to fool with the consequences and outcomes of a mad widow who goes mad.
Jesus explains that The Judge, God, will quickly provide justice for those who cry out to Him “night and day.” God rewards those who keep believing and hoping and are not afraid to keep asking, especially in the arenas of fairness and truth. There will be justice.
Abraham is identified as a man of faith. He trusted and believed in God’s justice, one that flows from the well of salvation and mercy. In Genesis 18, there is a story of Abraham’s persistence in asking for a pardon of a city-state full of evil. Abraham kept returning to the Lord on behalf of the righteous, or those who were virtuous, good, and worthy. God relented several times and assured Abraham that He would spare the city if he found fifty righteous people there, then forty-five, then forty. Abraham kept asking six times, incrementally reducing the required number of qualified people to ten. God didn’t find that many, and Sodom was destroyed; however, God honored Abraham’s persistence by rescuing his nephew, Lot. The Judge dispensed justice, mercy, and faithfulness all at one time. Attention, there is more to answered prayer than one simple outcome.
The judgments and justice that the righteous cry for day and night for today’s world have no simple outcome. God cannot ignore the penalty for wrongdoing. He has provided a way of rescue through trust and belief in the promise of salvation for those who accept that provision, the life of Jesus Christ. Those who sit under the trees as Abraham did and saw God coming will be covered by a divine exodus from this world. These faithful believers in mercy also have an opportunity to intercede for others caught in the spider web of evil; God will execute judgment, and those found worthy will have a last chance to repent and cry out to God for mercy. This last chance will have to stand an uncommon test of fire, for they will be martyrs, ones who will not recant faith in Jesus in the face of death.
The loaded answer is that the Son of Man finds faith before He returns, not when. Jesus was and is straight up; He will return. Shalom.