Text: Mark 13:32-37
When Christ Returns
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon this morning comes from the Gospel, which was read earlier.
The Last Sundays of the Church Year anticipate Christ’s soon return. While presently suffering tribulation and temptations, the Church prays in godly fear to be kept in faith until that day. The Last Sunday in the Church Year, the Sunday of the Fulfillment, calls pilgrims traveling through this vale of tears to remain faithful until the day of our salvation. Today, throughout the whole Christian Church on earth, believers are contemplating the return of Jesus Christ. Today, the Church looks toward the future – to the consummation of the age. On this Sunday, the Christian Church talks about preparation – about being ready for the return of Jesus.
The Lord will return, and we want to know when. Bookstores are filled with paperbacks interpreting biblical signs through current events, trying to determine when Jesus will return. Don’t waste your money buying predictions about the Last Day. This will only lead you astray, since Jesus promised that you will not know when He returns until He returns.
God’s Word talks much about being ready for the return of Christ. Jesus took the time to prepare his followers. The Lord provided them with details about what conditions would be like when He returned. He talked to them about the signs of the end of the age. And Jesus warned them about the challenges that believers would face as the end of the age approached.
For your faith’s sake, He warned you of things to come, even things now here, because you will be tempted to drift from faith, to fall away in persecution, to doubt God’s love when suffering, and to doubt when He will return. Therefore, don’t stumble on these things that you fear, the speculations of the end that are so uncertain, or the troubles of today that seem so threatening, but WATCH FOR THE END BY RECEIVING CHRIST’S PROMISES TODAY.
It is pointless to try to predict or determine when Christ will come again. Even Christ Himself tells us that is pointless: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” The only thing that we need to focus on is not the when, but that He will come again, just as he promised.
The parable that Jesus tells to His disciples is one that is very appropriate for the Last Sunday in the Church Year: an owner of a house who goes away, leaving his servants in charge, each with their assigned tasks. The doorkeeper’s task is simple: watch to alert everyone that the man of the house has returned.
As end another Church Year and begin a new Church Year, it is a year of watchfulness. We watch for the return of Christ. The reason for this watchful attitude is given. The specific time, the end time that Jesus has been talking about in this entire chapter relating to His second coming, is unknown. The uncertainty connected with this lack of knowledge is no reason for carelessness or indifference. The very opposite is true. Uncertainty calls for increased watchfulness, as Jesus illustrates in the parable.
The man who has gone away is no other than Jesus Christ. Christ left this world in His ascension, just as He said He would. But He also said that He would return again. In our Gospel text for last week, Jesus told His disciples that “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” Christ Jesus, who once came to save all humanity, who comes to us even now in Word and sacrament, is most certainly coming again. We do not know when that will be. It could be at anytime. The sinful world, which goes on its outwardly merry but purposeless way, is totally oblivious to this fact. In making predictions and the like of when Christ will return, we try to set a date to which Christ Himself could not determine. The Scriptures are abundantly clear that only God knows when that is to be. Not even Jesus, in His humanity, claimed to have that knowledge. And yet many have attempted to set a date and to lead others into believing and accepting their view.
All of us are destined to stand before Christ. It might be one second after this [snap fingers here]. It may happen before Christ returns as we come to the end of our life. But make no mistake, Christ will return to put an end to all things as we know them and to fulfill the promises made by God in Scripture.
Well again, what is Jesus’ advice? Simple, be ready! Be alert. Know that Jesus is returning and live in His forgiveness and grace. Know that the cross was about making us ready to stand before Jesus. Know that God draws close to keep our hearts ready for that great and awesome day that is coming. Know that God has more at stake in us being ready for the end of time than we have. He sacrificed His one and only Son on the Cross to make us ready!
Jesus tells us to be ready because one day He will return. This time He will not be the humble Savior who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, only to be killed on a cross. He came then to be our Savior, to give up His life on the Cross. When Jesus returns next, He will come to judge. He will come to destroy the present world and to establish the eternal Kingdom where all believers are to live for eternity. You have a place in that Kingdom as God washes you clean through the forgiveness that Jesus won on the Cross. And if you are a believer, and if when Christ returns you are having a weak moment, it is that same forgiveness that Jesus won on the Cross – once for all believers for all time – that assures you that Jesus will usher you into the Kingdom.
As this Church Year ends and we look to the coming of a new Church Year, we watch expectantly. We keep watch because we do not know when Jesus will come back. Regardless of His return, we do not want Him to find us sleeping. We stay awake and watch vigilantly by coming to church so we hear the Word of God and receive the gifts which He has given to us in His sacraments. We watch by attending Bible study where we learn more of who Jesus is and what He has done for us.
When we understand the situation that confronted the 12 disciples at this moment, we can appreciate the Lord’s personal concern that they be especially alert. In short order the Lord was to be anointed by Mary of Bethany for His death and burial; He was to institute His Holy Supper; He was to be arrested, tried, condemned, crucified, and buried; He was to rise triumphantly on the third day; He was to commission His disciples to preach the good news to all creation; He was to ascend into heaven. Each event fit into the master plan for the salvation of the world, and all was to take place in the light of His second coming, when all the pieces would finally fit together for all eternity!
We look to the words of Jude in our Epistle reading for today: “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” It is in that faith, that we can look to Christ’s return with joy. It is in that faith that we can look to that return of Christ as a great reunion with all who have gone on ahead into the eternal Kingdom. It is in that faith that we can look to the return of Christ as our deliverance from this world.
As we look to the future, let us hear and follow the words of Jesus: “Watch!” Amen.
Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until life everlasting. Amen.
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