Sermon Transcript - Wednesday, December 4, 2019
Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL ~ Pastor Jay Zahn ~ Matthew 24:37-44 ~ Wed, Dec 4, 2019
Well, it’s official. Christmas is going to be held on December 25th once again this year. You knew that already, though, right? And yet how many people, how many of us will spend December scrambling because we feel like Christmas just sort of snuck up on us? My goal in raising this point isn’t to holiday shame you … or raise your level of anxiety about where you’re at in your holiday preparations. Rather my point is to call your attention to something far more important! If we struggle to be ready for Christmas, a date that we know and is clearly marked on our calendars, something that happens on the same date every year, how can we possibly hope to be ready for Judgment Day, a date we don’t know, a date that happens only once, and a date that holds eternal significance?
God doesn’t let anyone know everything. And the secret knowledge He guards closest to His heart is the date when the sands of time on this world run out. While He knows how to keep that date and time as this universe’s best kept secret, He does often and regularly give snippets and hints about the End. Jesus compares the Last Days with those around the time of the cataclysmic Flood, when every living creature on earth was wiped out except for Noah and his family and all the animals in the ark. God sent the Flood because He saw “how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become” (Genesis 6:5). But when Jesus makes reference to the Flood in our text, the emphasis is not on man’s wickedness but on his indifference and apathy.
“120 years and then the Flood,” God told Noah (Genesis 6:3,13). Certainly Noah didn’t keep this breaking news to himself. Saint Peter calls Noah “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). During the decades it took to build a houseboat 1½ football fields long, 75 feet wide and four stories high—well away from the water and without any means to transport it to the water—that ark served as a kind of gigantic pulpit, a reason for Noah to tell passersby the kind of destruction God would rain down on the world and also share the only path the safety: repentance and faith.
Yet even with so much time to prepare and sounding such a clear and consistent message calling people to prepare, when the Flood came, only eight souls were saved in the Ark. Thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands, of people living on the earth before the Flood. Only eight survived. Only eight believed the warnings. All the rest of the population didn’t pay attention. Not even when the storm clouds rolled in. “For as in the days of the Flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the Ark, and they were unaware until the Flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Everyday life was going on while Noah built the Ark and brought the animals in. No one believed that life as they knew it was going to change abruptly. They didn’t believe in God, or didn’t believe that God would judge. They felt no urgent need for repentance, for rescue. Noah was just some foolish prophet spewing his words of gloom and doom to try and scare some sucker into believing him.
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man…” (v. 37) According to a 1999 Newsweek poll, only 18 percent of Americans expect the world’s final days to come in their lifetime. In the 20 years hence, I doubt that percentage has increased. Either people feel that, since Jesus promised to return nearly two thousand years ago and it hasn’t happened yet, it probably won’t happen for another two thousand years, so what have they got to worry? Or they are just as obstinate as that John Lennon musical quote: “There ain’t no Jesus gonna come from the sky.”
Notice how Jesus describes those days before the flood. He doesn't emphasize the wicked behavior of the people. When the Flood came, it was a regular, ordinary day, and people were busy doing regular, everyday things. And we all know what happened to them when it rained and gushed and poured those forty days and forty nights. Their indifference to God’s warning led to their own destruction.
What a warning for you and me, dear friends! It’s easy to be alert when the enemy is easy to identify. When the enemy is drunkenness or drug abuse, when it’s pornography or hooking up with someone who isn’t your spouse, when its stealing or causing someone else physical harm, it’s easy to see the damage such things cause and see why we should steer clear. It is much harder to identify the enemy around us and within us when the enemy is creature comforts, obsession with having the best for my family, always chasing after the newest, fastest, fanciest stuff of life, turning life into the pursuit of one pleasurable experience after another.
But heed and take to heart Jesus’ clear, consistent warning! Outwardly there may be little difference between those who are ready and watching for him and his return and those who are not, he says. Notice how Jesus describes people going about their every-day work: two men out in the fields, two women grinding grain. We could even add: two people sitting in church. One will be taken; the other left. Which will you be? When Jesus visibly returns in his glory on the Last Day, will you be swept away in the judgment because you were distracted by life, even life’s good things that you really weren’t ready for the Lord’s return? Or are you watching and ready to meet him when he comes again? Are you watching continuously, ready for Jesus?
Do you want to know that that looks like? You can tell when someone has prepared their home for Christmas – you see lights, trees, garland, decorations, bows, fake snow – you look at that house and you say to yourself, “that’s what a house prepared for Christmas looks like.” But what does a person look like, who’s prepared for Christ’s second coming?
Jesus says in the last verses of our text: 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.”
To watch continuously, ready for Jesus, doesn't mean simply knowing the facts about him and the lessons they teach. Rather, it means to keep on thinking about what Jesus has done for you, dear friend, even though you already know it. It means to keep on saying in your heart: “He came from the Father for me. He lived and died even for a sinner like me. He rose to bring eternal life to all who believe, yes even to me.” It means to keep on contemplating and meditating on this Good News of forgiveness you know so well. It means to keep on applying his truth to your life and to keep up the struggle of putting his words into action, of wrestling and grappling with how to live your faith each and every day. Such a life is indeed watching continuously, ready for Jesus.
Where does such an inner life of watchfulness and readiness come from? It comes from regularly taking in his Word and inwardly digesting it so that your heart is being refreshed and refueled by his Spirit through Word and Sacrament that energizes and sustains the eyes of your heart to stay awake and ready to welcome Jesus! His word is God's gift to us. That's why he has given us the Bible. That's why he has connected his word to water in Baptism and to bread and wine and Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper. Through his word the Holy Spirit focuses our hearts so that we can watch continuously, ready for Jesus. Our Bible classes delve into his Word. Our congregational worship brings us that word in the Scriptures and the Sacraments. Our worship has developed over the centuries tested and proved by Christian experience across the years and around the world to focus our hearts on Jesus. Do more than just follow the order of worship. Contemplate how it brings you Jesus week after week.
We wake up every morning hoping and praying that Jesus will come and catch us where we are at, catch us in his loving arms and take us home. Every morning we can open the curtains, look outside and wonder to ourselves, “This may be the day that my Jesus is coming in glory to take me home.” The last day will begin like any other ordinary day. The roosters will crow, the alarm with go off, the coffee will brew, and the kids will get ready for school. Then it will happen. The heavens will open and Jesus will come on clouds of glory. Live this day, live every day in view of eternity. Live today in the comfort and warm embrace of God’s grace, knowing full well that He has clothed our nakedness of sin and guilt with the blood and righteousness of His Son so that we stand before God as one of His saints. This is why we cling to Jesus. It’s why we encourage, when necessary: admonish, and urge one another to strengthen faith’s hold on him each day! In this way we will always be ready to see him when returns on the Day! Come Lord, Jesus, come quickly, for we are watching and ready to meet you! Amen.
 Newsweek, Nov. 1, 1999, p70.
 John Lennon, “I Found Out,” from his 1970 album, Bagism.