Thursday, December 31, 2015
We are a nation that likes to watch. I know that sounds funny, but hear me out. Consider the events of one-day last week. During one day 7 different flights were re-routed because people were afraid of the weather including the pilots. Some saw what they thought might be dangerous. So many were watching the flight schedule, because connecting flights were postponed or cancelled. There wasn’t a terrorist threat and still, people were watchful.
In our day and age, we watch news, sports, weather any day of the week at any hour of the day. There’s a lot out there to watch. With so much watching we can get numb and keeps us from watching for what’s truly important.
Today, the Lord reminds us to always be watchful, not just watching what’s on TV or what might threaten our lives here on earth. We’re to be watchful for the important, that is the return of Jesus. We’re to be alert for Jesus’ return. There are people that watch the things and events of this world and become so wrapped up in those things of this world, that they forget about what’s important. We know who we are.
By the way, in case you’re interested, chapters 11 and 12 of Luke are almost all red-lettered. These chapters contain the words of encouragement and warning from Jesus Himself. In the verses right before our text, Jesus had told the disciples not to worry. He told the disciples that Solomon in all his glory was still not dressed as beautiful as the flowers of the field. In verse 31 right before our text begins He says: But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. We see Jesus directing the disciples’ attention to look to God’s kingdom.
In today’s Epistle to the Romans: "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who didn’t spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? God sent His Son to die on the cross and freely gave us forgiveness. God sent His Son to die on the cross to be our treasure that we would inherit the kingdom. If He’s willing to do that, we also know He’s willing to take care of us, to watch over us, to guide us and protect us, and most important of all, to love us.
The strength of the Christian church isn’t really in the number of believers. The strength of the Christian church is in the faith that God has planted in the hearts of believers. Your strength is your faith that God by His grace has given you. True, there’s going to be tough and difficult days, but God still loves us. Our earthly future may not be so rosy; but our eternal future, is what is important.
Jesus reminds the disciples of God’s grace and love for them as He tells them how they can look to the future without fear. Jesus adds: Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning. We have to remind ourselves that to keep the lamps burning was a job that took devotion. They didn’t flip any switch or replace light bulbs when they burned out. They had little oil lamps and miserable wicks. Today’s wicks in our candles on the altar may last for two or three years. Not so with these oil lamps and wicks. They didn’t have matches to light them, so they had to make sure that at least one lamp was kept burning or a fire so they could relight the lamp. They didn’t burn that long, so they had to replace the oil and relight them to keep them burning. But there was a purpose, it reminded them they were always watching and always prepared.
Jesus says to be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes they can let him in.
For those who are ready and prepared and had their lamps burning they’ll be blessed. Jesus mentions this twice, so it’s important. Look up the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, those who let their lamps burn out and those who didn’t. Jesus says He could come at any time. He says, even if He comes in the second or third watch of the night. The second watch was before midnight and the third watch was after midnight and could be anytime.
The servants and the owner would be there. If they knew the thief was going to come at 2:15, they would be there at 2:10, wouldn’t they? If they knew the thief was going to come in the second watch, they would be there watching. If the thief were going to come just before daybreak, the house would be protected. But they don’t know. No one knows when a thief is going to come. So he says, you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him. He’s going to come and come when many won’t expect Him.
Jesus will return. In order to be ready for His return we need to be prepared. It’s good for those who are prepared and the master finds them watching. The disciples knew exactly what Jesus meant. If they didn’t, they’d hear it again, the Son of Man didn’t come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. And on the night before He was betrayed, Maundy Thursday, He washes the disciple’s feet.
On the Last Day it’ll be the same. The Master, our Lord, our Judge, will come in us, He’s prepared His eternal kingdom for us. So we’re to be watchful and alert for Jesus’ return. We’re watchful. But sometimes our watching is for the things in this world. We’re watchful for the things that might come. It’s a good thing to be prepared when we’re warned a tornado is coming. It’s good to get into shelter to be protected. The Lord just gives us general signs of His return. Each generation seems to get closer for in each generation the signs are fulfilled. We’re to be always prepared for what will happen when He returns. As we get older, we see and know that we can expect the Lord any day, any hour. Jesus will arrive a little unexpected probably for every one of us. Jesus won’t be totally unexpected. We’ll remember what we’ve heard in God’s Word, we’ll remember when Jesus suddenly appears. We’ll see Him without any fear, because we know, as He says, our Father has been pleased to give us the kingdom.
Now, how are we supposed to always be prepared? Study and learn God’s Word and pray. I think one of the saddest times for Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane when He took His disciples with Him to pray. It was late at night so they were tired. Jesus knew what was going to happen. Judas was coming to betray Him. Jesus was going to spend the next hours awake all night in court and the next day be nailed to a cross until dead. But during the time the garden, the disciples fall asleep. Jesus goes to pray, and they fall asleep. Jesus comes back and wakes them up. He goes to pray and comes back to find them sleeping again. Jesus prays one more time and comes back. Finally, He says to them, can’t you keep watch with me just one hour, to be prepared? Maybe sometimes we’ve heard those same words of Jesus on a Sunday afternoon or Monday morning when we missed our time of worship. We hear Jesus’ words, couldn’t you keep watch just one hour or visit God’s house for just one hour? Then Jesus also says to us: watch and pray so that you won’t fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. Jesus says our sinful flesh is weak even though our spirit is willing. We’re to watch and pray as we expect the Lord to return.
We watch knowing that our future is certain. We watch knowing that no matter what happens in this world, no matter if our nation would fall or nations around us crumble and fall, God still is in control and is directing it all for our purpose. As evil grows in this world, it’s for a purpose letting us know that the Lord is closer. Jesus is coming sooner than many might even think or expect. We look forward to that without fear and always prepared.
Colossians tells us how to prepare: set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. That’s what got the disciples through their persecution. When they were about ready to be put to death for their faith, they realized that they were going to appear with God in glory. They no longer had to wait for Jesus’ return. We have today and into the future when Jesus returns. Rest assured that when Jesus returns, we’ll also appear with Him in glory. Christ is our life.
Today, Jesus says to each and every one of us, Fear not, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom, a kingdom that is yet to come. So until Jesus comes and our true treasure appears, we’re to be alert for Jesus’ return without fear of the future. God’s future is always certain. God’s plan for us is always certain. God’s kingdom is our kingdom. We’re always to be prepared. Paul wrote to Timothy when he was in prison ready to face the end of his life and didn’t think he would ever get out alive. He says, now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing. Jesus says, stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning. We’re to be alert without fear and always prepared realizing on that day there will be many others who also long for His appearing. Now until that day, may we always be alert, watching without fear for Jesus’ return. Amen.