When the Lord Descends from Heaven
Irish author Samuel Beckett wrote a drama, Waiting for Godot, about two homeless men waiting on the side of the road for someone named Godot who was supposed to come and save them from the meaninglessness of life.
Until he comes, life seems so miserable that they decide to hang themselves. But having no rope, one of the men takes off the cord that holds up his pants, which collapse around his ankles. Testing the cord’s strength, they pull; it breaks, and both men almost fall. They decide to find a better rope and try again later.
“We’ll hang ourselves tomorrow,” says Vladimir. “Unless Godot comes.”
“And if he comes?” asks Estragon.
“We’ll be saved.”
Godot never comes, which means they’re not saved. They weren’t, of course, supposed to be. Beckett’s whole point with the drama was to show the absurdity and hopelessness of life.
What a contrast to the view of life presented in the Bible. In particular, what a contrast to the view presented in this quarter’s lessons, which are on the apostle Paul’s two letters to the Thessalonians.
Like Beckett’s two characters, the Thessalonians faced stresses, strains, struggles, even persecution. In other words, life for them, as for us, has its hard moments. How easy and understandable it would have been for them to have fallen into the pessimism Beckett expressed. Instead, the Thessalonians had a sure hope, a hope based on Jesus.
This quarter, through Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, we’ll get a glimpse into the life of an early Christian church—an urban church—really, and see some of the struggles and challenges that it faced, including the difficulties that arose from the fact that Christ had not yet returned! Fascinating, too, is that however different their circumstances from our own, so often the principles reflected in Paul’s words to the Thessalonians deal with the issues and challenges that we, too, confront as we await—not some mysterious Godot—but the Lord Jesus, whose death on the cross at the first coming guarantees His return in glory at the Second.
Jon Paulien is dean of the School of Religion at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California.
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