We have been this evening on a journey through the four last things: Death, judgement, hell and heaven.
And now we come to our final passage which reminds us that that which we think is so solid and certain - the things of this universe: the sun, moon and stars - are actually provisional. They will come to an end. And there will be a day of reckoning. Jesus will return, and he will gather his people to him.
And these verses are a call to us to keep watch, not to give up.
Jesus tells a story. It is a short story: An owner of a house goes away. He leaves his servants in charge. He gives them specific tasks. One of the tasks is the task of being the doorman (v34: ‘and he tells the one at the door to keep watch’).
It is part of a private conversation that Jesus has with Peter, John, James and Andrew. And he seems to be saying: “This is the job that I am giving you: I want you to be the doorkeepers”
I want you to protect the house from those who wish to steal or destroy
I want you to remind the others that one day the owner will return
I want you to call to the others when he returns
I want you to be the first to welcome the owner when he returns.
And Jesus is not suggesting that they should never literally go to sleep. Psalm 27 says, “God grants sleep to those he loves”.
But he is warning them about going to sleep spiritually. If the door keeper jumps on his camel and goes off for half the year in Eilat, then the other servants are not going to take the idea that the master will return with much seriousness. He is saying to them, ‘You have to keep watch – even when it gets very dark and the night seems so long’.
And it is also a warning to us: “v37: “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”.
We must not forget that this is his world, and that we are accountable to him
We must not forget that we are his servants, and we live and work here for him
We must not forget that one day he will return.
And I say ‘one day’ he will return. He will.
But in the meantime, Jesus comes to us in so many ways: he comes to comfort, strengthen, to give wisdom, to walk with us as we go through darkness, he challenges and directs us.
People who have been bereaved often say that grief comes so unexpectedly. They might be dreading the anniversary or birthday or Christmas, and they sail through it. And then – and it is completely unexpected - they hear something or see something, and they are crushed.
Actually that is quite a good illustration for how Jesus comes to us. There are times when we expect to meet with him (put aside time to pray, read the bible, come to communion) – but nothing happens. It is as if he is not there. And we have to live by faith. But then suddenly, unexpectedly, he breaks into our world and our life.
And none of us know when he will break into our world and take us out of it: whether through death or on that last day when he returns. Only the Father in heaven knows.
For the believer, for the person who has welcomed Jesus by faith, this should not be something that is frightening.
Some people have in their houses a slogan: “Christ is the head of this house; the unseen guest at every meal; the silent listener to every conversation”. It is slightly threatening. It is also nonsense. How can he be a guest in the house of which he is head? We in fact are the guests. He has given us everything. He loves us. He laughs when we rejoice. He weeps when we weep. He longs for us to share our burdens and desires and joys with him.
This is our hope. This is our reason for existence.
To live in this world for God
To love other people for God
To declare the praises of the God who loves us and who gave his Son for us
And we wait for him with longing.
We wait for him to come to us in our experience now. Psalm 42:2, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”
But we also wait for that final day, when we will be gathered to him.
And the bible doesn’t really tell us what heaven will be like. How can we describe something that will be beyond space and time as we know it? But it does give us pictures of heaven: it will be like a wedding, a banquet, a glorious city. And at the heart of the wedding/banquet/city is a person: The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – and a promise: ‘I will be their God and they will be my people’.
Thursday, 30 November 2006
Waiting for God