November 27, 2016
Pastor John Hering
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
“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.
“What am I going to wear?”
I know you’ve asked yourself this question before. And probably the answer lies hidden in another question: “What are they wearing?” This is such an important question that we included “What to wear” in our new web site.
“What are they wearing?” More than likely the scenario would go like this: She walks out the door knowing full well that she can’t make the wedding ceremony due to work, but she is super excited about the wedding reception. The answer to her question will set her preparation gears into motion: She’ll have to touch up her nails and while they dried she’ll pick out what to wear. The outfit, shoes, jewelry. Next comes the hair—which has to be just so because there’s no way she was going to be seen in public with a bad hair day. Next the make-up: a stroke of concealer for the dark circles under the eyes, the foundation layer, eyeliner, eye shadows (plural) and mascara. Next the eyebrow pencil, touch of blush and last but not least she leans into the mirror to lacquer on the lipstick. All of this was essential to be ready for the wedding reception.
However – the trigger for this whole preparation deal was triggered by the questions she asked as she left the house that morning. When does the reception begin? When should I leave the house? Once the when was answered she could then plan out her time spent to get ready for the event. Once she knew the “when,” then she would know the “how.”
This Sunday marks the beginning of a New Church Year and the 1st Sunday in Advent. Advent is a time that looks both near and far. In the near term we look to Christmas, but we also look farther to his second coming because what he did on earth the first time makes it possible for his return to be the start of the eternal wedding reception at which he is the groom and we his bride. It is today’s Gospel where Jesus calls out:
- When to be Ready
- How to be Ready
Jesus’ followers had now marched with him into Jerusalem and recently heard him say at least 3 times that he had to suffer and die. Jesus has told the parable of the two sons, the parable of the tenants and even pleaded for Jerusalem:
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you,how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
They knew there was danger in Jerusalem. To understand Jesus’ comments before us, it is good for us to know these words.
“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
You see, the disciples have already seen the anger in the eyes of Jesus’ enemies and tried to talk Jesus out of returning to Jerusalem. But Jesus was so determined to go and now the disciples want to know when it was going to happen and how it was going to happen. In their minds it was time to for Jesus to “let ‘er rip” and give it to those enemies!
Jesus has given his church all sorts of billboards to announce when it was going to happen. Wars and rumors of wars, disasters, disease, false teaching, etc. so that God’s people would not be surprised that the end is coming and that his terrestrial ball was not their eternal home. But when?
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Some have struggled over Jesus’ answer in regard to his divinity. But, there are two marvelous things going on here:
- Jesus is true God and here to sacrifice his precious blood for the payment of the sins of the whole world.
- Jesus is true Man to sacrifice his holy blood for the sins of the whole world.
However, while here on earth Jesus chose NOT to make full use of his divine power all the time. He was born, lived, slept as true God and true man. It seems like a puzzle, but not really – it’s Jesus! True God and true man. You don’t have to figure it out. We simply believe it! And marvel that God sent the perfect Savior we needed.
So we pause this Sunday from our regular time in The Story to also remember where we are. Yes, it is time to get ready for Christmas, but why, when and how do we even want to get ready?
Some will focus on getting ready for the party, the cookies, and presents by cleaning, decorating and cooking. But, you know better. You recognize this season as a season of repentance because you recognize who Jesus is.
- He is the Judge of the whole world.
- When he returns in glory to judge both and living and the dead you want to be ready.
- You know how uncomfortable your heart has become when you hear Jesus tells you how he expects you to love others.
- How he expects you to obey.
- How he expects you to live.
- He knows your thoughts of anger and lust against others, your words that disrespect authority, or potty mouth words that show your immaturity, when you looked at others as lower and thought yourself to be so high and mighty.
And then there is the list of things that God has asked us to do that we haven’t. We haven’t been perfect as citizens, fathers, mothers, children, employers or employees, or haven’t eagerly shared the gospel of Jesus with our neighbor. Yes, the season of Advent is a season of preparation – but let it be a season of repentance to prepare our hearts when Jesus returns.
And when is Jesus returning? Listen:
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”
The main point: Jesus wants us to be ready. The people in Noah’s day were not ready and when the door of the ark was shut by God it was too late and they drown. God does not want us to behave like that. He wants us to be ready even though we don’t know the “when.” “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
So, let’s always be ready even though we don’t know the when. However, Jesus does teach us the How.
How to be ready
You can relate to the disciples asking Jesus their questions about when because we are curious people. Just ask those who slow down to look at an accident on the other side of the highway. When you see the accident you might ask yourself, “I wonder when that happened?” but even more so don’t you ask, “I wonder how that happened!?”
So, we may not know the when of Jesus coming, we just know he coming. So, Jesus answers the “How?” Did you catch it?
For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage
Nothing wrong with that, right? No! But the scene has an edge to it. Can you imagine Noah peering over the edge of the ark while putting on another layer of pitch and seeing his neighbor? He’s got a turkey leg up to his mouth and Jalapeno poppers on his plate and catching Noah out of the corner of his eye, “What’s that you say Noah? I can’t hear you, the music is too loud! What? And then whispers to his neighbor, ‘I don’t know why I give this fella a second of my time anyway – he’s such a crackpot to be building this ark in the middle of our neighborhood!’ What is it your saying? I should do what? Repent? Why? Because you say God is going to destroy this world with a flood? Even my big screen stage, my home and my decked out chariot? He better not – just paid off the mortgage and plan to enjoy myself! Besides your global flood talk is all boloney anyway!”
There it is. God wants us to be ready HOW? So that when the heaven explodes with the sound of trumpets and the ground erupts with universe melting heat that we are not found like they were: “…they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.”
The obvious question for us is this: So How do we get ready for the eternal wedding reception of the Lamb even though we don’t know when it is starting?
First, we’ll repent of our sins against our holy, just God. Then we’ll watch for the signs and please don’t ignore them.
If you’re driving down the road and see a “Road-closed” sign and ignore it you’ll run into orange cones or worse! If you see a “Red Light” and ignore it you’ll cause an accident or worse! If you are living like the people of Noah’s time and see the signs of the end of time and ignore it, you’ll miss the boat or worse!
And the reason people ignore the signs is unbelief. You see, faith receives what God has to offer. It’s not the faith that saves, but the object of that faith.
Don’t believe God doesn’t care whether or not you keep his commandments. Don’t believe you can save yourself. Don’t believe that God doesn’t provide for us enough. Don’t believe that God isn’t serious about your sin and mine.
Actually, the Bible is clear:
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it”
“I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me”
The point is to be ready! Believe you are imperfect and believe that you need a Savior. Believe that Savior came to rescue you. Believe that Savior will come again to take you to heaven. That’s how to be ready!
“What are you going to wear?” Well, I don’t know. Let me ask, for what are you getting dressed?
If you’re dressing to go on evangelism calls this Saturday I would wear layers because the weather is supposed to be partly cloudy with highs in the low 60’s. If you’re dressing to put decorations on your house I would probably wear a sweatshirt and jeans.
But, if you’re getting ready for the eternal wedding reception prepared for us by Jesus, then I would answer these two questions first. “When?” and “How?” To answer those questions I would look to the cross of Jesus and pray, “Lord, I don’t know when you’re returning, but I believe you are returning. Make me ready. And Holy Spirit, thank you for answering the “How I can be ready?” by giving us your Word and Sacraments so I can be spiritually dressed and ready to enter the eternal wedding reception of the Lamb.
Yes, dear believers, being ready is not about what we can do, but being ready is all about what Jesus has already done for us. Because Jesus came here to live, die and rise again for you and for me, we’re dressed and ready to go! Amen!