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LSB Proper 29B Sermon – Mark 13:24-37

November 22, 2015

November 22, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

In today’s Gospel Reading, you heard Jesus repeatedly use the phrases “keep awake” and “stay awake.” His solemn commands are given to His servants who have these phrases pounded into their eardrums. Jesus’ repetition of those commands illustrate their importance. He doesn’t vainly repeat His words. What is so important that it gets this treatment from Jesus? It is the matter of His great and glorious return that will take place at the end of the age.

Jesus describes His return: “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” It will be a very public event. The world will not miss it. Not one single person will sleep through it, waking up the next day to a great surprise that the world has changed. And yet, Jesus makes the declaration: “Be on guard, keep awake.” Why is this so? “For you do not know when the time will come.” Even as public as Jesus’ return will be with all the pomp and circumstance witnessed by the entire cosmos, there is a hazard that can befall those who are not prepared for that Last Day.

“Be on guard, keep awake…. Stay awake.” Jesus’ words are tied to a parable that He tells about the Last Day. Jesus describes it in terms of “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.” Jesus’ parable is easy to understand. He is the man going on the journey. That journey is His great ascension to the right hand of the Father that takes place after His death and resurrection which brings salvation to the world. But when Jesus goes away, He does not leave His followers as idle people in the world. No, He assigns to them particular work to do. That work is to occupy their time as they wait for His return.

The parable ends with Jesus’ command: “Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.” Jesus informs His followers that they will all experience His return, but they will not know when that time of return will be. Because that is unknown, they should be diligently performing the tasks that He has assigned to them until His arrival occurs. For those who are doing so, Jesus’ great return will be a joyous occasion. But for those who are idle or unfaithful in carrying out their work, that return will be a matter of great embarrassment. And when speaking about eternity, such a fall is an unmitigated disaster with the gravest of consequence.

Because you have been made followers of Jesus and have been given a way of life by Him, your place in the parable is clear. You are the Master’s servants, assigned your work. You are called to know who Jesus is, what He has said, and what He has done. You have been made His disciples. That was done according to His command: “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep everything that I have commanded you.” So you have been taught the words and works of Jesus. This allows you to confess with your lips that Jesus is your Lord. You declare your identity and belief before your fellow disciples and before the world in the creedal statements that you recite.

So what is your work as Jesus’ followers? Your first assignment is to heed the instructions that the LORD gave through Isaiah: “Give attention to Me, My people, and give ear to Me, My nation; for a law will go out from Me, and I will set My justice for a light to the peoples.” It is vital that you are frequent hearers of what is testified concerning the LORD in the Scriptures. If you are not so frequent in hearing this, then now is the time to revise your actions so that you are. It may mean making the commitment to attend the Divine Service more than just quarterly or monthly. Or it can take the form of participating in the Sunday morning or midweek studies of the Scripture which are offered. Or it can be done by listening to the Internet broadcasts of shows that are dedicated to teaching the Scriptures and the Christian faith. By doing this, you fulfill the exhortation that Jude gave to Jesus’ followers: “But you beloved, building yourself up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”

The second assignment is to take up the life of good works done according to the LORD’s will. That task is fulfilled in your own personal actions. The LORD establishes His will for how He desires you to live before His righteousness. There is guidance for personal morality: how to properly use the gifts that He has bestowed to you. Where the LORD’s Law points out your misuse or abuse of His good gifts, that is where correction is given to you. To think of this in the terms of Jesus’ parable, it would not be right for the servants put in charge of the master’s property to go around breaking the china, cleaning out the pantry, and turning the house into a pigsty. But that is what happens when you misuse or abuse the gifts of using His name, listening to His word, authority, life, sexuality, property, and reputation that the LORD allows you to have. So where those actions are done, that is when it is time to repent of your sins of thought, word, and deed. Part of repentance is the reforming that takes place as you are guided by the Holy Spirit to faithful life.

The third assignment is to be instruments of divine mercy in the world. Think again on the exhortation that Jude gives to Jesus’ disciples: “Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by sin.” That exhortation guides your life here on earth while surrounded by unbelievers. They are to be treated as objects of mercy. Through your work of speaking the truth about Jesus and living as merciful people, you may lead them to salvation. You can rightly hate the sin of others, since such acts stand against the LORD’s will. Yet at the same time, you are not to despise the people. Instead, you are called to treat them the same way that Jesus treated you: “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” You can be exhibitors of that divine love by speaking about the words and works of Jesus and by performing charitable acts for those who are not His disciples.

Those assignments provide the overarching shape for your lives on earth. Your time here is lived in full mindfulness that Jesus’ return currently stands unfulfilled. For those who are Jesus’ disciples, that day is to be anticipated. For the promise about that day included the great benefit that you are meant to receive: “He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” Because that is the benefit you desire—to have your Father in heaven give you a blessed and graciously take you from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven—it makes Jesus’ return something not something that you fear, but a time that you long to see take place.

That aspect of Jesus’ return gives His words a different character. It is true what Jesus says: “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” Jesus’ words can shock and startle. They can be the stark motivation that turns people away from idleness and indolence. But for those who are desiring to see the day of Jesus’ return, His words are not a solemn warning which burdens or frightens. Instead, it is a reminder that the great day is arriving. Jesus’ statement can make His disciples become like children who refuse to sleep on the night before their birthday or the evening of December 24 because they are full of anticipation for what will transpire on the morrow.

The Lord Jesus gladly finds that attitude among those who hear His promises about the Last Day. That way of thinking is what you prayed for today: “Lord Jesus Christ, so govern our hearts and minds by Your Holy Spirit that, ever mindful of Your glorious return, we may persevere in both faith and holiness of living.” As you hear Jesus’ words and the Holy Spirit guides your thoughts and actions, then the commands “Keep awake” and “Stay awake” will not be burdensome. Instead, you will want to do so, believing that Jesus’ words will not pass away and that being counted among His chosen people is the greatest identity that you can have. Knowing this, you will be the faithful servants whom the Master finds diligently carrying out your assignments of listening to His words, living rightly, and showing mercy. And then the great benefit of Jesus’ death and resurrection performed for you will be yours: you shall be among the elect whom the Son of Man gathers from the ends of the earth.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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One Comment
  1. Elle permalink

    This is beautiful and just how I feel, anticipating Jesus’ return for us. I do want to go home and see my loved ones in Heaven. Amen.

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