Lord Jesus, Help me to be Ready When You Come (December 1, 2019)

Sermon Text: Matthew 24:37-44

Pastor Steven Hillmer

God’s Grace and Mercy and Peace are yours in the name of our Advent King, Jesus Christ.

Welcome to Advent, a time when we get ready for the coming of Jesus our Savior.  WHEN? Well, of course, December 25th.  While it is true that in 24 days we plan to celebrate the birth of Jesus, today’s Gospel clearly points our eyes to the skies for Jesus’ return on Judgment Day. Now, if I told you that that day will come in just 81 minutes, you’d probably throw me out of the pulpit. Even so, people in every generation have wondered when that day will come. Some have even gone so far as to actually predict the day ~ and been wrong. Even though we don’t know when, that ought not stop us from living life as though thee day were coming in 75 minutes. In fact – doing so, truly helps us prepare for Christmas.

In our text for today, the disciples wondered when the last day would come; but Jesus did not answer that question. Much more importantly, he helped them to realize how to prepare for that day. Not surprising, the way in which all disciples of Christ are to prepare for both Christ’s birth and Christ’s return is the same. The Four Sundays of Advent each address an aspect of this. Today we’re called to “be ready at all times for whenever Christ returns.” Next week John the Baptist helps us to prepare with the word “Repent.” Today it is our fervent prayer that God the Holy Spirit would speak to our hearts through his Word, preparing us to meet Jesus in the manger and whenever Christ returns in glory.  We reread the first verses from Matthew 24:36-39.

36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  38 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;  39 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.

  1. Help me not be preoccupied with the things of this life (vv. 36–39)

Jesus answered the disciple’s question perfectly. Go back in history and consider Noah. Can you believe the terrible things people were doing in those days??? They were eating… and drinking; some of them even got married!!! Have you ever seen such a dreadful list? Such things aren’t necessarily sinful, so what went wrong? Their disastrous sin was indifference. They didn’t take time to notice the great big, ginormous, football-field-and-a-half long aircraft carrier that Noah was building in his front yard! They didn’t care to listen to the sermon that Noah’s boat-building project preached: “A flood is coming. It will destroy the earth and you! Repent! Turn to the Lord!”

Were those people really any different than folks today… folks who eat, drink, marry… who go to work, who rake leaves, who Shop the Pig to put food on their tables? One commentator called Noah’s neighbors “a descent god-lessrace.” Each of us know descent people; we have good neighbors and fine coworkers who simply don’t know Jesus. They are indifferent to the Word of God and the fact that one day they will face judgment. Why? It’s because they simply aren’t paying attention to the signs that God gives.

Our text says of those in Noah’s day, “They knew nothing about what would happen.” The Greek is much stronger than that. They chose NOT to acknowledge or even pay attention to the obvious signs. When your neighbor builds a 450-foot long boat in his front yard, you stop and ask! Read through the rest of Matthew 24 and you’ll see the blatantly obvious barge on display for the world to see…  It’s not a boat, it’s the signs of the end times: wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes and so on. Hurricanes hit the coast; waring continues in the middle east; drive-by shootings are on the nightly news, but people pause only long enough to shake their heads before returning to “normal” life. With indifferent and unbelieving hearts, they miss yet another sign that God is coming back. They are just so wrapped up with the things of this life – to consider Judgment Day and its eternal consequences.

And while these words of warning are intended for all people – how timely they are for our hearts, our ears, our lives. December becomes one of those super busy months with the many special services, the intensified outreach efforts along with all the other events, concerts, outings and gatherings. It’s the same for everyone involved with these fine efforts… it can become all too easy to get wrapped up in “doing ministry” instead of meditating upon and taking to heart the very words and promises we’re trying to convey to others. What a horrible irony that would be – that we become indifferent to the very promises we want others embrace?

Spiritual disaster happens when we’re too preoccupied with ourselves and the things of this life to be concerned with the life to come. Right now, today, is a great time to ask ourselves, “What is getting our prime attention these days? What’s on our front burner? Getting the presents bought and wrapped? Planning the details of the Christmas party? Worrying about how to pay for it all? Are these things preoccupying our hearts so much that we’re indifferent and ignoring the signs the Jesus could return at any moment?

Being too preoccupied can happen to pastors too. Just because we study God’s Word to write sermons and prepare Bible classes doesn’t necessarily mean we’re extra ready. We’re in the same boat just as you are. We need that time to let God’s Word convict and heal our sin sick souls first, before we can proclaim it to others. That requires time, personal time, quite time – so that God can attend to our soul, so that he can steer us from the transitory things of this world and point our eyes to the things that really matter: eternal things, heavenly things, the spiritual truths of God! His Words are only things that will prepare us to kneel at the manger in 24 days and to raise our eyes in joy whenever Jesus comes again, besides, eternity could be here in 52 minutes.

And really, isn’t that life’s biggest question: “Where will I spend eternity?” Jesus has an interesting way of addressing this question in verse 40-41. “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.”

  1. Always Aware of the eternal significance of your coming (vv. 40, 41)

In God’s book, there are only two kinds of people: those who believe that Jesus is their one and only Savior from sin and those who don’t believe in Him. Only God knows who is in which category because only God can see into the heart. Even though we cannot see into other’s heart, that does not diminish the eternal significance of his coming! This fact urges us to be very conscious, sympathetic and concerned for the eternal welfare of ourselves, our family, of our neighbors and for all!

That’s the point Jesus makes of these two people. On the outside people will be carrying on in normal fashion. Two men in the field… two women making flour… two teens working at Fleet Farm… two elderly folks greeting you at Walmart… one will be taken to be with the Lord in heavenly bliss, the other will go to eternal destruction, for some are believers, while others are not.

The point is clear: Today is the day our Savior calls us to heed His holy Law that exposes our sinful indifference. Today is the day our Savior calls us to realize how utterly helpless and lost we would be without him. Today is the day of repentance. Today our Lord comes to us and with his saving Gospel message which shows us how much He cares for you and me and all. Today our Lord calls us to put our faith and hope and trust in Him so that should He come in the next 39 minutes… we know that because of His blood shed for us, we will be safe in heaven’s holy ark with all believers around the throne of our Savior.

  • Eagerly Expecting your return (vv. 42-44)

So that’s it? Amen, sing another hymn, stand up and go home? Not so fast, Jesus has more for us. To be clear, our salvation is sure in the blood of Jesus and his righteousness, but UNTIL Jesus comes again, he leaves us with a job to do. He says to his disciples and to us in verse 42-44, 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  43 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.  44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Jesus gives three very clear Gospel-driven directives to keep us eagerly expecting his return. Think of these not at chores, but as the ongoing mindset of every disciple:

  1. “Keep Watch” To keep from getting caught up in the day to day routine, keep watchful in the Word. Pay attention to those end-of-time signs in Matthew 24. They’re like traffic lights which goes from green to yellow to… you know what’s coming next. In the same way, those signs are reminding us that Jesus is coming back. 
  2. “At all times” If a homeowner knew that a thief was planning to invade at 2:36 am, he would be alert. The day or hour Jesus’ return is not known, so we keep alert at all times. Preparing for heaven isn’t something to put it off until just before you die… because we don’t know that day will be either. For this reason too we don’t put it off teaching our children until they get older. It’s just not the safe route to take. NOW is the day of salvation!
  3. Which is why Jesus says: “Be Ready” This restates the point which all three words together express: You and I have the need to be intently alert and conscientiously preparing at all times. The question, “When?” is unanswerable. Any attempt to predict is presumptuous and a sign of unbelief. Ignoring it – is simply asking for eternal disaster. Simply keep yourselves ready… which leads to only one conclusion:

Let us be ever vigilant in praying, “Lord Jesus, help me be ready for when You come.” Lord help me so that I don’t become so preoccupied with the things of this world. Lord, help me to listen carefully, intently, regularly, daily, at all times… to your Holy Word. This is why we encourage everyone to take advantage of the Bible Study opportunities here at church, not just on Sundays. That’s why we provide the devotional booklets, like Meditations, for you to read each day. That’s why we have Sunday school and a Christian day school and Catechism classes and Bible Information Classes. That’s why we have special midweek Advent services. We do all this, not to clutter up the schedule… no it’s the opposite – so that we can help one another live out this prayer in our lives, “Lord Jesus, help me be ready for your return” so that should our Savior come in the next 8 minutes, by God’s grace, we will be ready. Amen.

Sunday Take-away

Today is a great day to ask ourselves, “What’s getting our prime attention these days… presents, parties, school, work, credit card payments…?” If these things preoccupying our hearts so much that we’re indifferent to the signs that Jesus could return at any moment, we’re headed for spiritual disaster. Today is the day we need to hear what Jesus has to say.

Today he calls us to realize how utterly helpless and lost we would be without him. Today is the day to repent our sinful indifference. Today our Lord comes to us and with his saving Gospel message which shows us how much He cares for us. Today our Lord calls us to put our faith and hope and trust in Him so that should He come in the next 39 minutes… we know that because of His blood shed for us, we will be safe in heaven’s holy ark with all believers around the throne of our Savior.