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Wake up! Jesus is returning. Matthew 24.36-44

Matthew 24.36–44
Romans 13.11–14

The illustration for today is this!

If you forget everything that I say, remember this.

Listen here to the audio of this sermon

Morning is coming.
The alarm clock is ringing!
This is not the time to be pulling the duvet over our head. It is the time to wake up.

“Now is the moment for you to wake from sleep” (Romans 13.11)

1. Wake up! Hold on to the truth that he will come again.

“Therefore you must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming …” (Matthew 24.44)

The crucified and risen and ascended Jesus will return again to this creation as King, and he will bring in God’s kingdom in all its fullness.

We say in our creed: "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end"

I used to struggle with the idea of the return of the Lord Jesus.
How could it be possible?
If he returns to Jerusalem, how would we know here in Moscow?
And how will it work if I’ve already died?
Will people float up into the air to meet with Jesus as he returns to the earth?
Will he come down like a rocket descending on a parachute?

The problem is that it is rather foolish to try and imagine how it will be.
Unless we are genius mathematicians (and I suspect that there are several here!), we can only think in three, or in four – if we include time – dimensions
But because the return of the Lord Jesus will be the end of space and time as we know it, it will be beyond our imagination.

The Bible gives us picture language, and that is enough for us.
When we experience the actual event – we will be able to say, ‘Yes, I understand how what the Bible said is true’. But it will be so much bigger, so much more amazing.
At the moment we are like two-dimensional cartoon characters trying to imagine what the person who drew us is really like. They might be shown a photo of the person and think: ‘that is what they are like’. But when they are transformed, and when they can see in three dimensions, they will realise that the person is like their picture but is so much more than their picture.
So I have given up trying to work out what it will be like, but I hold on to the truth that one day the Lord Jesus will return in glory

2. Wake up! Hold on to the truth that Jesus Christ will return at the right time.

Only God knows when that will be.

Be very cautious of any organisation or individual who claims to know when Jesus Christ will return. The only thing we are told about when it will happen is that nobody will know, and that it will be at the time that no one expects

“The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (Matthew 24.44)

Matthew implies that even Noah did not know when it would rain.

Noah knew that there would be a flood, and he prepared for that by building an ark. But he did not know exactly when the flood would happen. And as for the other people at the time, no doubt they thought that Noah was crazy preparing for a flood – building an ark. They carried on: eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage: getting on with life. And then the flood came.
Or another illustration Jesus uses: The robber who comes to burgle your flat. He doesn’t ring you the day before and say, ‘I’m going to do your house at 2am tomorrow morning’.

It is interesting that there are not that many of the sayings of Jesus that are directly quoted in the letters. But Peter does remember this saying when he writes about the return of the Lord Jesus. He says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Peter 3:10)

Of course, it is 2000 years since Peter wrote, and Christ has not yet returned.

And there are times when we think that we could really do with the Saviour right now.
The news seems to get worse and worse each day.
Many people see no hope for the future
And we wonder why God delays.

But we have to remember that both in history people have suffered, and today people are suffering, far far worse things than what we are going through, and that God is still in control of history.

In our Tuesday zoom Bible Study last week, we looked at 2 Peter 3, where Peter is writing to Christians who are facing dreadful suffering for their faith – and some of them were being tortured and executed.
And some in the community are complaining that God is slow in coming. They are saying, ‘where is he?’
And so Peter speaks about how God’s timing is very different to ours: how one day to God is like 1000 years to us; and that what we think is a delay is, in fact, God’s patience – Jesus Christ does not yet return because God longs for all to be saved.

But we need to wake up. Because it will happen and it could happen any moment – ‘the night is far gone, the day is near’ (Romans 13.12)

We see glimpses of the Kingdom of God here and now, but at the right time we will see the Kingdom of God come in its fullness.
And we continue to pray: ‘Your Kingdom come”.

3. Wake up! Hold on to the truth that when he comes there will be a judgement

The coming of the Son of Man will be a time of judgement and division.
Some will be taken and some will be left.

“Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.” Matthew 24:40-41

People speak of this as ‘the rapture’, and books have been written trying to imagine the unimaginable. Indeed, some have gone further and tried to make money out of it. I gather that in the US there was such a thing as ‘rapture’ pet care insurance. What happens to your animals if you are one of the ones to be taken? Well, if you insure them, someone – one of the people who has not been taken – will look after them!
There is a saying in English, ‘A fool and their money are quickly parted’.

More seriously though, Jesus is saying that when he returns there will be a separation. Some will be taken, some will be left; some will be with him, some will not. There is no third option.

At some point, we need to have made the decision as to whose side we are on

And we need to wake up. We do not want to find, in the end, that we have been sleep walking onto the wrong side.

4. Wake up. And live as people of the light

“Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13.12-14)

Don’t give up on God
Don’t grow weary in doing good.
Persist in worship, in daily prayer and bible reading, in coming to receive God’s word, in coming to receive communion, in receiving God’s blessing and in blessing God.
Persist in living Godly lives, in living honourably as in the day

It is about not treating the world as if it is one big party, with no thought for tomorrow

That is a challenge to the philosophy which says:
‘Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’
Or perhaps the version of that which we meet today is:
‘You only have one life – so do what makes you happy’.

No, that is not true.

There is life here which is to be lived to the full and for which we praise God. It is LIFE version 1.
But there is another life, LIFE version 2 - a deeper, richer, bigger life that we can begin to experience here and now, and one day when Christ returns, when the Kingdom comes, we will experience in its fullness.
And for the sake of that life there are times when we need to hold back on the things of this life.

It means we try not to give in to our lusts or satisfy our desires with the things of this life, this world.
It means that we recognise that there are boundaries and limits, and that if we go beyond those limits we will be destroying others and destroying ourselves.
It means we try to live at peace with each other: not jealous of others or quarrelling with them. We do not always need to make our point or get one over them or prove that we are bigger than them.

Instead we are called to ‘put on the Lord Jesus’

It is a bit like we put on the cloak of the Lord Jesus, we put on his uniform.

I still remember, after I had been ordained, and I wore the dog collar. For the first few months I was incredibly self-conscious. I had become a public Christian. What happened if I drove badly – what would people say about me, no – about Jesus? What happened if I lost my temper
And then there was the time when I was in the supermarket with one of our boys. He had a tantrum in the crisp aisle. He was lying on the floor screaming. And what was I to do? I had the dog collar on – people would look at me and know I was a vicar. They would expect me to behave like Jesus, but they would think I was a terrible father, or that I was even abusing the child? How was I to respond?
Well, I took the dog collar off!

To put on Jesus is not like that.

There is a story that Jesus tells of a banquet.
It is a banquet for beggars, to which the poor, blind, and lame are invited.
And to each one – because they are wearing torn and tattered rags – a gift of a glorious precious robe is given.
But when the Lord of the banquet comes to visit the banquet, he sees that one of the guests is not wearing the robe.

We don’t know why. Maybe he didn’t think he needed it, or it was not good enough for him or it didn’t mark him out as sufficiently important. Maybe he thought his own clothes were good enough. But because he is not willing to wear the robe, he is cast out of the banquet.

To put on the Lord Jesus is recognise that our clothes are torn and tattered. We really do have nothing to wear to the party. We are not good enough or clean enough or religious enough. We’re not good enough parents or partners or vicars or whatever.
But it is OK, because he takes off his robe and offers it to us.

And when we wear his robe, then we begin to want to live like him.

It is about asking him to fill us with his Spirit so that we are conscious of him, that he is with us, beside us, in us; so that we become aware of God our Father, so that we see things as he sees them, and desire things as he desires them.
It is about trusting him and not trusting ourselves

So yes. The night is long. It seems that for hours we have not been able to get to sleep. Even now it is very dark.
But the alarm clock has rung

Wake up
- He is coming
- He will come at the right time
- There will be judgement
- And we are called to live as children of the light

Wake up! Morning is coming.
In the compassion of God, the dawn from on high is breaking upon us.
He is very close.


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