Luke 17:32 is not the shortest verse in the New Testament, I believe that belongs to John 11:35 “Jesus wept.”, but it might be the next easiest verse to memorize because of its brevity. Recently, I’ve been studying this passage in the book of Luke that seems to apply so well with so many of things that all of us are experiencing during these strange unprecedented days of the Coronavirus pandemic. It is a verse that really begins with the Pharisees questioning Jesus about when the coming of the Kingdom of God would be. They were looking for an actual time, a date, and perhaps even a place. Jesus’ answer to them wasn’t really what they were expecting. He responded that the kingdom of God isn’t really observed like that, but that the Kingdom is something that is in the midst of you. As we try and decipher what Jesus means, He goes on to talk about the human condition, and how mankind is always looking in the wrong places for a Messiah. They are looking for flashes of light and rolls of thunder. They are looking for some catastrophic event or some cataclysmic, supernatural occurrence. The other problem with the human condition is that we often live our lives in such a way as to ignore the signs of the times. In other words, when we aren’t looking for supernatural miracles, we ignore the still small voice of God. Jesus said, just like the people did in the days of Noah, so too we will ignore the coming judgment. Just like the people who lived in Sodom and Gomorrah, we will build, plant, eat, drink, marry, and do so many other activities that we won’t have time to notice what is literally staring us in the face when it comes to God’s coming Kingdom. Jesus wasn’t saying that marrying, and living our lives is wrong, but He was pointing out how people are so concerned about their physical existence, that they fail to get ready for their eternal existence.
As we consider Christ’s admonition and command to “remember Lot’s wife”, I thought it would be best to remind ourselves of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. I will begin the story not at the beginning of it, but rather at the final stage of it. The angels have come, they have protected Lot, his wife, and his children from the sexual predators outside their doors, and now it is time for the judgment of God and for the fire from heaven to fall upon the two cities. And as the angels try to convince Lot and his family to escape, they have to literally take them all by the hand and drag them out of the city to escape their death. Were it not for the intercessory prayers of Abraham these angels would not have even been there at all. But nevertheless they drag the family outside the city, and one of the angels warns them saying, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills lest you be swept away.” Lot begs that he might escape to Zoar, and the angel comments that is fine, and that he won’t destroy Zoar. But you know the rest of the story. That as the family escaped, God’s judgment reigned down sulfur and fire upon the two cities and all that inhabited the valley of those cities. But Lot’s wife, as they continued through the valley, began to lag back, and then she looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. What was in the heart of Lot’s wife to cause her to look back even when the command came that to do so would mean death? Why did the angels have to take Lot by the hand and drag him and his whole family out? What is it about the stuff of our lives that has such a hold on us? Many pirate stories, and treasurer hunting stories have this same sort of similar scenario where they compare the power of promised wealth to whether or not the hero will choose to save his own life or die clinging to his new found priceless treasure.
J.R.R. Tolkien tells the story of Gollom clinging to His “Precious” ring in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, only for the reader to discover the ring is actually destroying him slowly. Perhaps many of these storytellers are trying to teach us something about the hold that possessions can have on the human heart. Jesus is certainly trying to cause us to remember Lot’s wife, and the pull that her house, her possessions, and her previous life had on her. She couldn’t keep her gaze on her future home, but was focused on what God was destroying, and on what she was losing. How many of us have our hearts captivated by the present, by our possessions, by our lives here, and when it comes to heaven - we aren’t ready. It is almost as if God would have to drag us away from this life to get us to even want the next. Jesus says, that’s a dangerous way to be. Remember Lot’s wife. Don’t let this world captivate you. Don’t let it get its claws into you. Don’t be tricked by the glitter of fools gold. “This world is not my home. I’m just a passing through,” as the old church hymn declares to another generation of people who are building, planting, eating, drinking, marrying, and living - but not ready for the life that is coming.
Brian Taylor began his ministry as a young man on the foreign mission field of Togo, West Africa serving with the International Mission Board of the SBC. He spent almost a decade serving as a music and youth minister in the Panhandle of Texas. He loves preaching and pastoring on the southside of Sherman. He has been married to his wife Sarah for 17 years, and they have five children. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.