By Pastor Jim Nichols
Sidney Seventh-Day Adventist Church 

Interpreting the times and seasons


Considering Pope Francis’ recent world travels to South America, as well as, the soon anticipated September visit to the United States, to meet with the Congress and United Nations, I thought a little humor would be in order with some observations about discerning the times and seasons in which we live.

Legend has it, that about a century ago the Pope decided that all Jews should leave Rome. But seeing the uproar in the Jewish community, and wanting to appear conciliatory, he came up with a novel idea. He would have a debate with any member of the Jewish community they chose. If that person won the debate, then the Jews could stay. But if the Pope won, the Jews would have to leave.

With all the educated, high-powered Jews shying away from confronting this Christian Goliath, the Jewish community eventually turned to an old janitor, named Moishe. Very concerned about his speaking abilities, however, Moishe agreed to the debate on one condition: that the event would proceed in total silence. Incredibly, the Pope agreed.

As the big day arrived, Moishe and the Pope sat down opposite each other. For a full minute, they stared at each other in motionless silence. At last, the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Moishe looked back at him and raised one finger. The Pope then waved his finger in a circle around his head. Moishe vigorously pointed to the ground where he sat. The Pope then pulled out a wafer (the communion bread) and a glass of wine, and set them on the table. Moishe pulled out an apple and placed it down in front of him. At this development, the Pope stood up and said, “I give up. This man is too good. The Jews can stay.”

After the meeting, the cardinals gathered around the Pope, asking what happened. The Pope said: “First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there is still one God, common to both our religions. Then I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground, showing that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and the wafer to show that God absolves us from our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of original sin. He had an answer for everything. What could I do?”

Meanwhile, the Jewish community had crowded around Moishe, amazed that this old, uneducated janitor could do what all their scholars had insisted was impossible. “What happened?” they asked him. “Well,” said Moishe, “First, he raised three fingers to tell me that the Jews had three days to get out of Rome. I lifted one finger to tell him that not one of us was leaving. Then waving his hand around his head, he told me that this whole city would be cleared of Jews. I pointed my finger to the ground to let him know that we were staying right here.” “And then what happened?” asked a woman. “I don’t know,” said Moishe. “He took out his lunch and I took out mine.”

The moral of the story: When we consider the daily news events around the world and try to link them with the prophetic signs of the times in the Bible, we can come to different conclusions based on our own personal perceptions and interpretations. We might all be looking at the same events, the same signs, the same evidence, but these events, these signs, these evidences are all silent; they do not speak. And the interpretation we bring to them often arises from our own personal presuppositions.

That’s why it’s vital for us to go back every so often, take a seat at the feet of Jesus, and listen again with more attentive, less prejudiced ears to what He has to say concerning His return and the end of the world. What gives me concern is not what Jesus said about wars, earthquakes, famines and pestilences; but what He said about us! If we’re looking for a sign that would signal the actual imminence of His coming, then the place to find it is Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Jesus actually tied this sign directly to His Second Advent and the end of the world. It’s not a flashy sign. It does not attract hysterical attention or touch off panic buttons. But it’s utterly important for every man, woman, and child. I believe our only real security is to anchor ourselves in God and His Word today – and every day – allowing the Great Commission to be fulfilled in us and through us.

Then, we will we stand faithful in interpreting this signs of the times?

Pastor Jim Nichols

Sidney Seventh-day Adventist Church


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