TEXT: MARK 13:24-37/JUDE 20-25/ISAIAH 51:4-6

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: …mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you (Jude 1:1-2).  Dear hearers of the Son of Man who will come again in judgment;

What do the five years 1033, 1496, 1794, 1874, and 2011 have in common?  Along with scores of other years – these five years were predicted for the end of the world.  Some millennial believers picked 1033 because it was seen as the thousandth anniversary of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Other millennial believers picked the year 1496 because it was calculated to be 1500 years after the birth of Jesus.  1794 was predicted as the time for the end of the world by Charles Wesley – one of the founders of Methodism.  The year 1874 was the first of many guesses about the end of the world by the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult – their last widely published guess was 1975.  And of the year 2011 – you may remember that last year – Family Radio host Harold Camping spread the word that May 21 would be the End of Days, that is, Judgment Day.  These are just a few of the scores of predictions made through the centuries – and more are sure to follow.  We shouldn’t fail to mention the Mayan calendar prediction for December 21 of this year – just a few weeks from now.

Jesus said, Stay awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come…lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” With this Sunday, the church year draws to a close.  As it does, God’s Word draws our attention to the end of this earth and the end of our lives on this earth.  The heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner (Isaiah 51:6).  O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! (The Introit – Psalm 39).

 

TEXT: MARK 13:24-37/JUDE 20-25/ISAIAH 51:4-6

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: …mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you (Jude 1:1-2).  Dear hearers of the Son of Man who will come again in judgment;

What do the five years 1033, 1496, 1794, 1874, and 2011 have in common?  Along with scores of other years – these five years were predicted for the end of the world.  Some millennial believers picked 1033 because it was seen as the thousandth anniversary of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Other millennial believers picked the year 1496 because it was calculated to be 1500 years after the birth of Jesus.  1794 was predicted as the time for the end of the world by Charles Wesley – one of the founders of Methodism.  The year 1874 was the first of many guesses about the end of the world by the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult – their last widely published guess was 1975.  And of the year 2011 – you may remember that last year – Family Radio host Harold Camping spread the word that May 21 would be the End of Days, that is, Judgment Day.  These are just a few of the scores of predictions made through the centuries – and more are sure to follow.  We shouldn’t fail to mention the Mayan calendar prediction for December 21 of this year – just a few weeks from now.

Jesus said, Stay awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come…lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.  And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” With this Sunday, the church year draws to a close.  As it does, God’s Word draws our attention to the end of this earth and the end of our lives on this earth.  The heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner (Isaiah 51:6).  O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! (The Introit – Psalm 39)

Jesus made clear the reason His disciples are to stay awake – it is because – you do not know when the master of the house will come.  The Greek word translated “stay awake” carries the meaning of alertness and watchfulness – of being attentive and prepared.  This manner of “staying awake” has nothing to do with knowing “when” the master will return.  It has everything to do with knowing who will return – with knowing the Master in faith.

No human being knows the hour or the day or the year or the century or even the millennium of Christ’s return.  Listen again to Jesus’ words – Be on guard, keep awake.  For you do not know when the time will come.  The Greek word for time (kairos) as used here indicates a time ordained by God and unknowable by us.  We are to stay awake – not by trying to guess when - and not by listening to the false teachers who try to predict when.  Rather we are to stay awake and keep watching – by knowing who is coming – the master of the house. 

The one who created you – the one who redeemed you – the one who put His name on you in the waters of Baptism – is your master.  He didn’t create you and shed His holy blood to redeem you and give you His washing of rebirth in order to shove you aside.  Your Lord and Master did all this to have you with Him forever.  Sinner that you are, He forgives you.  He is the Master of His house – the Church.  Keep watching for the Lord of the house to come again for you!

The earthly house you now live in won’t last all that long – the wood and brick.  The precious pictures and possessions in it are not eternal possessions.  The heavens will vanish like smoke; the earth will wear out like a garment.  Because this is true, the stress in our text and in Scripture is not so much on the final day but on faithful living everyday!  St. Augustine said that this one day (the day of judgment) God has concealed from us that we might keep close watch over all the other days of our life. 

This daily watchfulness is not anxious worry over a collapsing culture.  You cannot control the culture.  This daily watchfulness is not herculean efforts to make a difference that the world takes note of.  If the world hates Christ – it will also hate your faithful watching for Christ’s return.  This daily watchfulness is also not an attempt to withdraw from the chaos of daily life into a circle of trusted friends and perceived spiritual safety.  There are others who need to know of the Master of the house through you.

The watchfulness that Christ calls for – is as St. Jude wrote it – keeping yourselves in the love of God!  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.  You are to stay awake in the work God has given you to do first of all by receiving God’s love and forgiveness (more on that later).  That alertness is also to be seen in loving your spouse, teaching your children, attending to your studies, serving well your employer, confessing your sins, loving your neighbor, returning to God a cheerful portion of His gifts to you, using God’s gift of prayer, and yes even getting a good night’s sleep.  The sinner who trusts in Christ to deliver him or her from their transgressions is alert and ready for Christ’s return - even when they are fast asleep.

To watch for the master to come is to take care that no one misleads you with false doctrine and to watch how your tongue goes into action and to watch how ready you are to forgive your enemies.  To watch for the master to come is to lovingly speak and act for God’s gift of life – even if it costs you and to speak and act for God’s gift of marriage even if it costs you.  To watch for the master to come is to watch with unceasing diligence over all that God has spoken to you and given you to do - to contend for the faith once given to the saints. 

Are you watching?  Husbands, wives, parents, children, youth, students, seniors – are you ready for Christ’s return even if it were today?  Or sometimes do you feel spiritually like one might feel physically on Thanksgiving Day after too much turkey – or like the disciples in Gethsemane – asleep – while Jesus watched alone.

Jesus spoke these words of staying awake on Tuesday of Holy Week.  Peter, James and John were there.  Just two days later - the history of the world was at its summit (the hour of redemption) – and Peter, James and John couldn’t stay awake a few hours.  They nodded off while Jesus agonized in bloody sweat and deep distress!  The same is true for us when we depend upon the strength of our own watching. 

Yet you do have sure and certain hope for Jesus’ Second Coming.  Listen again!  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his own work…The Greek root for “in charge” is the word for authority.  It could be translated – when he leaves home he gives his servants authority, each with his own work.  While that word is used frequently of Christ’s authority to teach and heal and cast out demons, it is used in a most comforting way concerning the charge or authority or right that God has given you.

It is found in John 1 – speaking there of the Word made flesh we read – to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right (the authority – the charge) to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  The housework the risen Christ puts you in charge of until He returns is chiefly to be His child.  As St. Jude wrote it, keep yourselves in the love of God.  The heart of watching for Jesus’ return is to continue to receive in faith the forgiveness of sins by which He makes you His and keeps you His.  Dr. Martin Luther wrote of this text in John 1, “Jesus alone imparts this birth, granting believers in Him the privilege, the right and the power to become God’s children.”   That’s the housework Jesus has assigned you – that’s the authority Jesus has given to you - being God’s child.  He is the Master of the house and He keeps watch over you and He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121). 

He says – Be on guard, keep awake.  If you persist willfully, continually in sin and do not repent – you are not prepared!  If you despise the loving presence of the risen Christ to forgive you in Word and Sacrament – you are not prepared!  But that is not you!  You recognize the serious shortcoming of your staying awake in the vocations God has given you!  You also hope in another to present you blameless in the final judgment.   You sang it this way in today’s Introit – O Lord…My hope is in you.  Deliver me from all my transgressions.  You sang it this way in the Gradual – Blessed are those who strength is in you. 

Dear Christian, your sins do not exceed the authority of Jesus.  Your readiness depends on His perfect watching over you and on His interceding for you.  Those who try to predict when He will come again are sleepwalking – even those who might try to pray or give or work their way into spiritual readiness for December 21st.  

The last day is not a trap for you.  He who died to make you His own is not coming back to publicly expose and humiliate you.  Public humiliation for your sin of “not staying awake” is what He came to bear on the cross in your stead.  Your record was seen there – along with mine – necessitating that the holy Son of God be condemned and damned to set it right.  Set it right He did!  Give you His record – He has and does!  My salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.  The promises of Him who conquered death do not vanish like smoke.  Your sins do not exceed the authority Christ!

As sure as summer follows spring – Jesus’ return is sure!  He is near – at the very gates.  All is complete and ready since He cried out “It is finished” and rose again and ascended!  You are free to go about the housework He has given you to do until His return.   That housework is to be His child, drawing on His strength, while you serve in the vocation He has given you.  You do not know when He will come – but you do know Him!  Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time and now and forever.  Amen.  

 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a