Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky; and all the peoples of earth will weep as they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
[This is the one of 15 scriptures in which Jesus provides his disciples with some details about the Second Coming of Christ. For more on the Second Coming see Day 150. For more on the Messiah see Day 145. For more on the End of the Age see Day 128.]
Clue #13: The Son of Man will descend from the skies.
Signs and wonders. These have to be among the most controversial aspects of Christian tradition and the spiritual life. If you haven’t seen something like this it’s very hard to believe in it. I assume that “the sign of the Son of Man” would be what is usually referred to as an apparition – a ghostly figure appearing in the sky.
When I hear the word apparition I think of Medjugorje, a town in Bosnia that is famous for its apparitions and it has subsequently become a religious pilgrimage site for Roman Catholics. In 1981 an apparition known as “Our Lady of Medjugorje” appeared to six young girls. The girls (now grown, of course) continue to receive messages from the Virgin Mary asking for them to tell people to pray, fast, and do penance. More than 30 million people are estimated to have visited the site of the apparition.
While Our Lady of Medjugorje seems to appear and speak only to the original six visionaries, many have witnessed strange things in the sky overhead. From Wikipedia:
Many phenomena have been reported at Medjugorje, such as the sun spinning, dancing in the sky, turning colors, or being surrounded by objects such as hearts or crosses. Many have reported that they have been able to look at the
sun during those times without any damage to their eyes. The tall cement cross erected on Mount Podbrdo (where many of the apparitions had taken place) has reportedly disappeared and reappeared or else glowed as if lit with lights, although there is no electricity on the mountain. Not everyone reports seeing the same miracles at the same time. Miraculous healing has also been reported.
Here’s another Wikipedia quote:
Jesuit Father Robert Faricy has written about his own experience of such phenomena, saying, “Yet I have seen rosaries which have changed colour, and I have looked directly at the sun in Medjugorje and have seen it seem to spin and turn different colors. It would be easier to report that it is just hysteria except that I would then have to accuse myself of being hysterical, which I was not and am not.”
I find it amusing that the Roman Catholic Church is in the process of making its official ruling about whether or not it considers this apparition to be “valid.” It concluded its official proceedings in January 2014 and is expected to make its pronouncement any day. Will this change the minds of either the doubters or the believers? How naïve of them to think their pronouncement will matter..
In their hearts I think people are always looking for signs from heaven. On December 9, 2009 a big spiral light appeared over Tromso, Norway. This is an actual picture of it. Norwegians are not known for being particularly spiritual, but many believed it was a sign. The most widely-accepted theory was that it was caused by extra-terrestrials and that it had something to do with the fact that President Obama had arrived in Norway on that day to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Although they originally denied their embarrassing failure, the Russians eventually admitted that they were responsible. It was a failed rocket launch. What is interesting to me is that the Norwegians didn’t automatically assume that it was something like that. Instead, they immediately thought it was a sign. Scratch beneath the surface of our technological, rational, scientific society and you will find people who are hungry for signs. They want to believe that there’s something out there bigger than themselves. Of course the UFO people still think it’s all a conspiracy. They say there was never any Russian rocket. You will never convince them otherwise.
The sign in the sky that Jesus talks about sounds like the one described by the prophet Daniel:
During this vision in the night, I saw what looked like a human being. He was approaching me, surrounded by clouds, and he went to the one who had been living forever and was presented to him. He was given authority, honor, and royal power, so that the people of all nations, races, and languages would serve him. His authority would last forever, and his kingdom would never end. (Daniel 7:13-14).
I’m also reminded of the Ascension of Jesus in the Book of Acts. It sort of seems like the vision Jesus describes in this scripture, except that it’s in reverse. He’s going up not down.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. (Acts 1:6-9).
There is one phrase in today’s scripture that intrigues me: “all the peoples of earth will weep as they see the Son of Man coming.” I wonder why they will weep? Actually the Greek word is koptó, which means to “lament, mourn, sometimes with acc. of person whose loss is mourned.”
It doesn’t literally say that the peoples of the earth will weep. It says that they will mourn. I wonder how the disciples felt when Jesus ascended into Heaven? I wonder if they were happy knowing that eternal life is possible, or if they mourned the fact that he was leaving? It really doesn’t say how they reacted.
I bet there would have been a lot of people mourning and weeping if they could have been there to see the Ascension. Like the chief priests and teachers of the Law who persecuted him. Like Pilate, who had the opportunity to save him and didn’t. Like Herod, who had so much to feel bad about that I don’t know where to start. Like that mob that came after him with clubs and spears on the night he was arrested. Like those people who voted to crucify him even though he loved them. Yes, there would have been a lot of mourning and regrets, I’m sure. Then again, maybe they would have probably rationalized it somehow. Because you know what they say – To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
Or maybe it’s all more metaphorical. Maybe Jesus has already descended and is walking around with us right here, right now. Maybe it refers to the fact that he is alive and present every time we pray, or gather for communion, or meditate on his words, or perform an act of kindness. I think he’s here right now in the middle of all of that. All I know is that if he came back I don’t think I’d mourn. I think I’d be pretty excited, and if there was any weeping it would be tears of joy and relief.
What does this scripture say to you?