Jun 11, 2017

“Eventual, Sudden, and Certain” 6-11-17

Matthew 24:32-51, Genesis 6:11-22
June 11, 2017

This sermon is really part two of the sermon I preached two weeks ago.  I did not entitle it as such because it has a slightly different emphasis.  The entirety of Matthew 24 deals with the end of the world and the beginning of the kingdom of God.  All of it is Jesus’ answer to the question posed by his apostles in verse 3.  They wanted to know when the temple would be destroyed and what would be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age.
In my sermon two weeks ago I mentioned that in his answer, Jesus really answers two questions, that of the destruction of the temple and that of the signs of the end of the age, but that it is a difficult passage to understand because he speaks of both things at the same time, alternating between the two in no particular order.  But since some of the things that came before the end of destruction of the temple are to have a second fulfillment before the end of the age, at least it seems so from my reading of Revelation, it doesn’t matter too much in the long run.
But it might matter in the short run.
Some scholars and readers of the bible have made some faulty conclusions from these passages, especially the one we look at this morning, and have misunderstood Jesus as thinking that his return would be soon, and that it would take place shortly after the destruction of the temple.
Or, as he says in this passage “This generation shall not pass away until all these things have taken place.”
So, was our Lord wrong?  Did he believe His return would be during the lifetimes of those who were then living?
Well, with that question in mind, let’s take a look at this passage from its beginning in verse 32.
Jesus used the fig tree, one of the most prominent variety of trees found in Palestine as a parabolic or metaphoric saying.  He said that the coming of the end as well as the destruction of the temple would be like the fig trees in spring.  Their branches put out shoots and then leaves during spring and it is a sure sign that summer is coming.
So it is with the signs that Jesus spoke of in the first half of chapter 24.  Jesus was telling the apostles and us that the signs will be seen and will be evidence that the end is coming.
But then there is that troublesome verse 34.  That generation would not pass away until all “these things” had taken place.  Remember, in the first 31 verses, Jesus had spoken of the end of the world and return of Christ, and of the destruction of the temple.
I think that here he is referring to some of what he had said, things relating to the destruction of the Temple as “These things.”  Those things and the destruction of the temple took place before and during 70 AD or well within 40 years of when Jesus spoke these words.  That was within the life spans of some of those younger ones to whom Jesus spoke. 
But then in verse 35 I think Jesus is referring to some of the other things he had said in verses 1-31, the things that would precede the return of Christ.  Those he refers to as “That Day.”  When Matthew wrote these sayings of Jesus down he used different Greek terminology to differentiate and the English language translations have done a good job in maintaining the differences.  So in the NSRV we have “These Things” which would occur within that generation, and “That day” which refers to the return of Jesus and the end of the age,
The timing of the destruction of the temple was known by Jesus.  It would occur within the life spans of those living with Jesus.  But the event Jesus referred to as “That day” is not on the calendar.  The timing of that event is unknown even to angels and to the Son.  In other words, even Jesus when he was on earth did not know.  Only the Father knew.
Now, those of you who did not find any of this important or interesting, it is time for you to pay attention, because starting in verse 37 the tenor of the passage changes.  In verse 37 Jesus begins to counsel how we should respond to the information he has given.
We are not to be like the contemporaries of Noah.  Noah was told of the coming of the great flood and the almost total destruction of the human race.  He responded by building a huge ark.  And the people around him ignored his behavior.  They took no warning from Noah’s knowledge or his strange behavior and they kept on with life as usual, they daily ate and drank, they occasionally celebrated marriages.  But they did not prepare for the flood.  And they all drowned.
The return of Jesus will be like that for a large portion of humanity.  They will be unprepared and they will not be redeemed.
I find it interesting that Jesus did not elaborate on Noah, which is why I had his story from Genesis as our first passage.  The biblical passage highlights Noah’s belief and response to God’s message and his obedience in building the ark.
We have been given information that might be more important than the information that Noah received.  If we are smart, we will be obedient to the message, not just continue life as usual.
Jesus portrays his return as a great dividing point.  People will be together, working, playing, resting, and at the coming of Jesus they will be separated from each other based on whether or not they believe in Him.
Jesus asks his hearers to be alert; they are to be careful as to what they believe and how they live.
If a man knew when a burglar would come to his house, he would be waiting for him, but we do not know when Jesus is coming, so we need to be constantly ready.
Then Jesus asked a question “Who is the faithful and wise slave whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give to the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time?”  Now remember, Jesus was speaking directly to the Apostles, those who were to build his kingdom after he left.
Jesus gave two scenarios, that of the faithful servant who will be doing his assigned duties and caring for the needs of the other slaves when the master returns, even if the master returns unannounced, because he is always tending to his duties.
But if the servant counts on the master being delayed and begins to mistreat his fellow slaves and misspends the assets of the master’s bank accounts on socializing with drunkards, the master will come at an unexpected moment and will cut him into pieces and put him with the hypocrites (remember, Jesus had already pronounced 7 woes on the scribes and Pharisees whom he named as hypocrites.)
With them the servant would suffer a great deal.
So what is the general teaching of this passage?  Those who are faithful to Jesus are to be working for him and ready for his return at any moment because they are constantly obedient, using what the Father has given to build up God’s kingdom and taking care of the ones whom God loves.  The Faithful are always prepared for the coming of Jesus in victory and for judgment.
But since this is the Sunday after Pentecost, which is a day to honor the fact that God is in 3 persons, I also want to see if you can see the trinity in this passage.
We see the Father as the planner, the only one who knows the date when Christ will return.  He will send the son when the time is right.
We see the Son as the one who will return and claim those who will be in the kingdom and remove them from corruption.
But where do we see the Holy Spirit.  Well, He is where he always is.  In the Faithful Servant, helping him and encouraging him to be faithful and to support and assist the other servants.  Do you feel Him working in you?


Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906