“The Long Wait”  Matthew 24:36-44

First Sunday in Advent  November 26-27, 2022

“The Long Wait”  Matthew 24:36-44

Rev. John R. Larson  Ascension Lutheran Church  Littleton, Colorado

            I bet you have friends, neighbors, relatives and others that you know, who are Christians.  And I bet you have some friends, neighbors, co-workers, and relatives, who are not Christians.  So, how can you tell the difference between the two?  Is it found in how they dress?  Where they live?  What car they drive?  What they eat?  Who they voted for?  No.

            You can tell the difference between these two groups of people in how they wait.  That is what Jesus said.  Just a few days ago one of our folks was telling that same truth about the difference between a Christian, and one who is not, in how they wait as one approaches the end of life.  The account they told came from the mouth of a person who was not a Christian.  This person, a nurse, in fact a hospice nurse, said that they noticed a difference between how a Christian died, and how one who was not, died.  They saw a difference between the families of the believers and the families of those who were not.  The believer and their family waited in a more peaceful and calm composition than the one who didn’t believe something better was coming for the one who was about to die.

            It is all in how you wait.  Jesus said, “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.”  (Matthew 24:42-44)

            Jesus is speaking about people who were unaware that they were going to meet God.  They didn’t know that He was going to return.  They were not expecting Him at all.  They were unprepared.  And they found themselves in a terrible place.

            I bet you have found yourself unprepared at the worst time sometime in your life.  “Oh, I didn’t know that assignment was due today.”  “What, no one told me that taxes were to be paid by the 15th!!”  “Oh, was I supposed to bring the main course?”  Someone told you.  Someone reminded you.  But you forgot.  Or, you didn’t really want to do it.  And now you are unprepared and things are a mess.

            Jesus is talking about matters that are even more important than a late fee on your library book or your teacher marking you down for a late assignment.  This is the matter of your eternity.  This is about heaven or hell.  Prepared or unprepared.

            Jesus, just a few verses following our text tells this parable about being ready for the day of our death and the day of the return of Jesus Christ, “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take only oil with them.  The wise, however, took oil in their jars along with the lamps.  The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.  At midnight the cry rang out” ‘Here’s the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him.’  Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.  The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’  ‘No, they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you.  Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’  But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived.  The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet.  And the door was shut.  Later the others also came.  ‘Sir!  Sir!’ they said.  ‘Open the door for us!’  But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’  ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.’”  (Matthew 25:1-13)

            No one can be unprepared in the matter of faith in Jesus.  Either Jesus is your Savior or He is not.  Either you wait with confidence in life and in death or you don’t.  In the either/or of this all Jesus in our text uses these words, “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.”  (Matthew 24:39b-42)  Taken?  Left? These are the words for saved or damned.

            I don’t think that any of us find any joy in being unprepared for the daily things of life.  And Jesus was pointed when He insisted that our lives are prepared for life now and also forever.  In John 3 Jesus speaks, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  Just a few verses later Jesus would say, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’”  (See John 3:3, 5-7)  There are a number of phrases that begin with the word, “must”.  Matthew 18:3 is like that, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  St. John is as direct as he can be in matters that matter, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”  (I John 5:12)

            The difference between a Christian, and one who is not, is how they wait.  We wait not unprepared but fully prepared.  We wait with expectation and anticipation.  We wait now in peace and with God’s grace given in Jesus and when the day of our dying and the day of Christ’s return occurs we are not unprepared but waiting to experience God’s promises fully and confidently.

            In the New Testament we read about a man named Simeon who had a long wait until he met Jesus.  On the 40thday of Jesus’ life Simeon’s life was changed. “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout.  He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.  When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”  (Luke 2:25-32)  The long wait was over – Simeon could die in peace.  He held the promise of God in his hands.

            I guess I beat the drum today – you cannot be unprepared for your eternity.  I’d better see you in heaven.  But there was someone else who was prepared for all of this.  Jesus was prepared to do the work, and it was work, to bring us this full life.  I spoke about how Jesus used the word, “must” about our relationship of trust in Him.  There are also passages related to Him and the work that He “must” do.  In Matthew 16 we read this, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”  (Matthew 16:21)  Must.  Must.  Must.  He had to be prepared for that.  When Jesus speaks about His coming suffering and crucifixion, we hear His words, “Now my heart is troubled and what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  No, it was for this reason that I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!”  (John 12:27-28a)

            Paul, in his first words to the Corinthians, speaks about the final things and how we live with such confidence, “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.  He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (I Corinthians 1:7-8)

            We are a month away from Christmas.  It might be a long four weeks for you.  Or it may be here quickly and you will find yourself unprepared.  Maybe all the cooking, cards and gifts won’t all get done within the next month.  But get your heart prepared – turn to Christ and trust in His deep love for you.  The long wait is over.  Amen!!           

1 comment

  1. Janet says:

    Thank you.


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