by Pastor Karl Walther, Watertown, WI
Gospel: Matthew 24:42-51
Introduction: Advent Emphasizes Readiness
The Bible assures us: Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Amen.
God's Word for today, which will prepare us for Christ's coming, is Matthew chapter twenty-four, verses forty-two through fifty-one. There Jesus himself says:
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
"But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, `My master is staying away a long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
This is God's Spirit-inspired Word from Jesus Christ.
Dear fellow Christians-- who are keeping watch and serving your master:
No doubt during the past week or so, you've noticed the pretty blue paraments at the front of the church, and the blue stoles your pastors have been wearing. This color, blue, reminds us we're in the Season of Advent. Advent refers to Christ's coming. And during Advent this color blue reminds us to tip our view to the sky in anticipation of Christ's return.
Advent, then, always asks us: "Are we ready?" Are you ready for the return of Christ this Christmas? I mean: not only, "Have you bought all your gifts?" but "Is your heart prepared to celebrate your Savior's birth?" Are you ready for the new year? Not only, "Do you have your plans all made for New Year's Eve?" but "Do you know what direction you're going with your life this coming year?" And then, the really big question: "Are you ready if this is the Christmas or this is the New Year that Christ comes back?"
Theme: Be Ready For Christ's Coming!
Well, God's Word to us today addresses exactly that. This section of Scripture urges you: (*) BE READY FOR CHRIST'S RETURN! And as quickly as Jesus urges your readiness here, he tells you how to get ready. First of all, he says (1) KEEP WATCH, and secondly, he says: (2) SERVE YOUR MASTER.
Part One: Jesus Urged His Disciples To Keep Watch
God's Word to us today comes from a section of Scripture we got quite familiar with this past summer, when we considered what the Bible says to those of us "Approaching the End of the Millennium." These are Jesus' words to his disciples on the Mount of Olives just three days before his death, when they asked about the Final Day.
These words go this way. Jesus says: Be sure to Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Although Jesus had given several signs of the end: signs of sin in this world, sin for which God will judge the world, and sin from which God will deliver us-- although Jesus had given those several signs of the end, he insists that not even the angels knew on what day the end will come.
But Jesus does say: Understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. Jesus is saying that his coming will be just as unexpected as getting your house robbed. If you've ever had that happen, you know that you can go years and years without a problem, and then all of a sudden (without the least inkling that it's going to happen): boom!-- your house is broken into.
In fact, the only way to prevent something like that is constant vigilance-- being sure to have the doors locked and probably dead-bolted, maybe leaving the lights on, but better yet: having a full-time security system. And it's exactly that kind of constant readiness that Jesus is urging when he says: So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Application One: We Need To Keep Watch (By Way Of the Bible)
So, how about you? Are you ready for Christ's return?
I mean: suppose Jesus returns this coming winter. Follow me on this. Suppose it's Three-oh-Five a.m., Wednesday, January Twenty-Sixth, the Year Two Thousand. The stars are shining, the three-quarters-full moon is towering above in the southern sky, it's five degrees out, there's a little blanket of snow across the landscape, and everything is very quiet and still. Everybody's sleeping. You're snuggled under the covers, full fetal position, head on the pillow, blanket pulled over, in the deepest rem sleep. So is everybody else.
And boom!-- Jesus Christ appears. Billowing clouds and crowds of angels fill the sky. The voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God thunder out, echoing from one end of the earth to the other. And the Lord dispatches all his millions of angel servants for the final great gathering.
And you wake up (!). Are you ready? Are you ready for that?!? Yeah!-- if you've kept watch, if you're found with faith in Christ. And at that point nothing else is going to matter; I mean: absolutely nothing!
So, how is it that you are found with faith in Christ? Well, God is very clear on that subject. He says in his Word: These words are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. God says in his Word: Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ. The Lord says in his Word: You have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
All of that means, my friends, that you don't have a more important job than getting to know God's Word.... You don't have a more important appointment of any sort any week than getting to church! And so, there's no time like the present to begin an unbroken string of occasions on which you worship your Savior weekly. Furthermore, you don't have a more important task of any sort any day than reading the Bible! And so, there's no time like now -- or at least January First, Two Thousand -- to start reading a chapter a day of the Bible, or to start the daily Bible readings we list in the bulletin every week, or to get into a Bible Class where every day you have to read God's Word, or to start reading the Meditations booklet day after day.
And then at Three-oh-Five a.m., Wednesday, January Twenty-Sixth, Year Two Thousand, you'll stand up from your bed, tip your head upward, reach out your arms, and say, "Ah, Jesus, you've come! Just as you promised, you've drowned my transgressions in your blood! Just as you promised, you've clothed me with your resurrection righteousness! Now Lord, my guilt is gone, my eternal life is obtained, and I'll join you face-to-face forever! Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!"
Part Two: Jesus Urged His Disciples To Serve Their Master
But-- but suppose that we've still got a few years left. Suppose Christ doesn't come until Two Thousand and Two or Two Thousand and Three. What then? Well, Jesus says, "Keep Watch"-- and while you're keeping watch like this: "Serve Your Master."
Here's what he says: Who then is the faithful and wise servant (any one of you Christians) whom the master (Jesus) has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? Jesus continues: It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. And listen to this promise: I tell you the truth, he (Jesus) will put him (you) in charge of all his possessions.
But then, consider the alternative to serving your master: Suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. Jesus reminds us: The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. And listen to this promise: He (Jesus) will cut him (that non-Christian) to pieces -- literally: cut him in two -- and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth-- in hell eternally.
Application Two: We Need To Serve Our Master (No Matter What We Do)
So, if Christ doesn't come until Two Thousand and Two or Two Thousand and Three, clearly we need to be serving our Master in the meantime. Now, how does a person do that?
Well, suppose you're a student. If you're a student, this means that what you're saying to yourself is this: "My job right now is to serve my Master Jesus the best I can: by learning well in school. I'm going to listen to my teacher, as if I'm listening to Jesus-- because really, I am.... I am going to treat my fellow students, as if I'm treating Jesus well-- because really, I am...."
Or suppose you're a worker. If you're a worker, what you have on your mind is this: "My job right now is to serve my Master Jesus the best I can: by laboring well at work. I'm going to help my boss, as if I were helping Christ. I'm going to care for my fellow workers, as if I were caring for Christ."
Suppose you've got a family. If you've got a family, you serve your Savior by saying: "I'm going to love my wife as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her." That's what your Master Jesus says in his Word! Or: "I'm going to submit to my husband as the Church submits to Christ ... in everything." That's what your Master Jesus says! You're saying: "I'm going to take as my chief responsibility -- right behind growing my own relationship to Christ -- getting my kids to know Jesus, and loving them deeply, and teaching them right from wrong." That's how you serve your Master Jesus.
Or suppose you're a retiree. If you're a retiree, you're saying: "I still want to serve Jesus. What can I do for him? Is it caring for my grandkids-- and telling them of Jesus? Is it caring for my ailing spouse? Is it taking some of my time and volunteering at church?" If that's it, figure out a special talent you've got, and how you can use it here at church-- and then talk to a pastor or to the office staff to get you started on your project.
Conclusion: Remain Ready-- As You Are This Advent
You see, just as abruptly as a new day dawned and Christ first appeared two thousand years ago now, Christ is coming again. When he does, see to it you are ready-- keeping watch through faithful use of his Word, serving your Master in everything you do. He is, after all, returning here for you! Amen.
The Bible assures us: Christ will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Amen.
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