22 And He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 They will say to you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go away, and do not run after them. 24 For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.
This next section turns a bit apocalyptic and would be something that Luke’s sponsor and the church would be very interested in. Christian eschatology expected the imminent return of Jesus Christ to judge the living and dead. There were rumors that Christ would return before St. John’s death. Rumors that he tried to put out. The early church believed that the return of the Lord would be within their lifetimes. They were obviously mistaken, but the expectation was that Jesus would be back shortly. They longed to see Him again and longed for the promise of the kingdom of God as an actual kingdom rather than a spiritual one.
With such expectations, a diverse grouping of churches, slow lines of communication, and no central authority, it’s not difficult to imagine that all sorts of charlatans would be making claims that the kingdom was now or that Jesus had returned.
Jesus dispels that notion that He would return gradually or in secret. His return would be sudden, unexpected, and visible like lightning in the night sky.
25 But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
Almost like an aside, Jesus stops and hints at His crucifixion. Being a disciple of His and being a member of the Kingdom of Heaven would not mean status, wealth, and privilege. It would mean rejection by the world. This was something that also weighed heavily on the early church and would have been an encouragement to them. Though the King was rejected and though they were rejected, they would be vindicated by the sudden appearance of Christ and the judgment that followed.
26 And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; 29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.
31 On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will be taken and the other will be left. 36 [Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other will be left.”] 37 And answering they *said to Him, “Where, Lord?” And He said to them, “Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered.”
Two past examples are cited. The story of Noah details how the entire world’s population save for one family was wiped away in a catastrophic flood. The one family had heard word from the Lord about the coming judgment and obeyed His commands to build an ark to preserve their lives. Likewise, in the tale of Lot and Sodom, Lot was declared the sole righteous man in the whole city and was warned by angels to flee before the judgment arrived. In both cases, their neighbors continued on with business as usual before a sudden judgment destroyed their lives.
Christ compares His second coming with those. Again, the imagery of something swift and unexpected happening that literally upends the daily routines of our lives, is used. The return of Christ will not be an unnoticed thing. It will literally mean the end of the world as we know it. All the stuff we cherish, all the temporal things we’ve spent our time building will be wiped away. Those who try to save their lives will lose them. Abandoning the way of Christ to invest in the things of this world will mean utter loss in that day. While those who gave up their lives for others will still have their lives. Lot’s wife is used as a cautionary tale in that regard. For those early Christians who were suffering at the hands of the state, who were tempted to go back to the old ways and return to their old lives, the tale calls back to the woman who reportedly longed for her old way of life in the comfortable city of Sodom and all her goods that had to be left behind. She lingered behind and was caught up in the fate of the doomed city.
So the image is that at the return of Christ, the world will be divided between those who gave up their lives to others and those who invested in the temporal things of this world. Those who followed Jesus’ example and those who did not, sometimes living within the same house. For the early church, this would have been an encouragement to remain faithful and hold fast. When the end came, it would be sudden and everything that their persecutors had trusted in would fade away like a vapor.