"And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together." (Luke 17:37)
The Lord Jesus has just declared that when he is revealed there will be a division among men, “the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left” (vv. 34-36). The disciples failed to understand what the Lord was saying, as they often did and as we often do. They wanted to know where the division would take place, looking upon our Lord’s words as a prediction of something that was to take place at a specific time and in a specific place. Our Lord’s answer has puzzled many. “He said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.”
What is the meaning of our Lord’s answer? Modern translations have not helped, but only compounded the confusion. Most translate the word “body” as “carcass” and the word “eagles” as “vultures.” In both cases such translations are wrong. Our translation is exactly as it should be. — “He said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” The word “body” means the body of one who has been slain. Notice the definite article. Our Lord said, “Wheresoever the body is (not wheresoever bodies are), thither will the eagles be gathered together.” Also, notice that he speaks of “eagles” (not buzzards) in the plural. Perhaps you are thinking, “Well, that doesn’t help. Hang on. It will.
Remember the context. Our Lord is talking to us about the distinguishing grace of God. He is talking about faith in himself. The body of the One slain is our Lord Jesus Christ. “The eagles” are God’s elect who are gathered to him in faith. God’s elect are spoken of in the Scriptures as eagles (Deut. 32:8-12; Job 9:25-26). His church is given “the wings of the eagle, that great eagle” (Rev. 12:14). — “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles” (Isa. 41:31).
Our Lord’s answer to his disciples’ question, “Where, Lord?” is this — “Wherever Christ crucified is set forth in the preaching of the gospel, wherever the crucified Christ is revealed to men by the power and grace of his Spirit through the preaching of the gospel, there will his elect be gathered unto him ‘in the day when the Son of man is revealed.’” Christ’s eagles “gather” to him who is their food. He is the One upon whom we live. He is to us life eternal. The body of our slain Savior, Christ crucified, is the meeting-point of his elect. He is the great magnet, drawing needy souls like eagles to the prey. He said, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” God our Creator, in the book of Job, says of the eagle, his creature, — “she abideth upon the rock from thence she seeketh the prey; her eyes behold afar off… where the slain are, there is she.” God our Savior adds his application — “As the eagles gather round the prey, so the souls of men chosen, redeemed and called by my grace, are gathered unto me.”
Keen and swift as eagles for the prey are God’s elect for Christ crucified. These are the words of our blessed Savior. Let not one of them fall to the ground. — “Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” The eagle is a bird of prey. In all birds of prey there is great, vast quickness of eye to find their proper food, even from a great distance. Added to its keen eye, the eagle has a ravenous appetite. Compelled by hunger, it flies quickly, at every opportunity to its feast.
But the eagle is not a vulture. It does not feed on dead things, but living. And the crucified Christ, upon whom our souls feed, though once slain as our Substitute, is alive for evermore. If he has given us life in himself, if he has made us alive by his grace, he gives us a continually increasing appetite and hunger for himself. Does he not? Do you not hunger, my friend for him? — For his grace? — For his embrace? — For his face? — For his righteousness? — For his blood? — For his presence? Hungering for him, his eagles fly to the place where he is, as famished birds hastening to the prey: — His House — His Word — His Ordinances — His Throne of Grace.
Robert Hawker wrote, “If Jesus be indeed the one blessed object of thy desire, will not this be manifested by the earnestness of thy desires?” As David longed for the waters of Bethlehem when he was thirsty, O let my soul long for Christ. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks," so he longed for his God. May the same be true of us. Oh for grace to have our souls hungering for Christ crucified day and night! As the eagles gather together unto the prey, so should we be found feasting upon Christ crucified relentlessly.
Crave him! Crave him, O my soul! Like birds of prey crave their food, Spirit of God, let me crave my Savior! We have tasted that the Lord is gracious in times past. Let us feast upon him! Oh blessed Savior, give me such an appetite for you! Create a hungering in me for you, a hungering that graciously forces me ever to fly to you, like an eagle to the prey! Give me an insatiable, constant, ever-increasing hunger for you. — For everything you are! — For everything you have given me! — For everything you have done for me! — For everything that belongs to you! — For everything that touches you! — For everything that smells of you! Let me so lose my life, my great God and Savior, in you that I care nothing for my stuff in the house of this time world! O let this desire be so insatiable, so earnest, so unceasing, that nothing I have of you may so satisfy me that I long no more after you. Let all that I have of you, O blessed Christ, cause me to hunger for more, enflaming my heart’s hunger more and more, until you bring me at last to feast upon you and with you forever in Glory Land above.