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“Stay awake.” Four times this morning we heard Jesus repeated this command to His listeners. “Stay awake!” “Stay awake!” “Stay awake!” “Stay awake!” What a perfect introduction for a sermon.
To “stay awake” means, ‘do not be led astray,’ ‘do not be alarmed,’ ‘be on guard,’ ‘endure to the end.’
• How easy it is to fall asleep.
• How easy to become distracted by things that ‘lead you astray’ from ‘the goal of your faith, the salvation of your soul.’
• How easy to become so absorbed by the ways of the world that you are ‘alarmed’ that God’s ways could be so incredibly contrary to your ways.
• How easy to ‘drop your guard’ and before you know it certain activities and responsibilities have taken over your Sabbath day so that you no longer honor it as holy.
• How easy to become so distracted, so absorbed, so caught up in other things that we do not ‘endure to the end.’
One of the disciples made a seemingly innocent remark about the wonderful stones that the Temple was built with, and the wonderful buildings that were built upon the wonderful stones. But Jesus is not nearly as impressed with these things. “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
He’s not so impressed with magnificent stones cut from the mountains because after all, He made the mountains that these stone were cut from. He’s not so impressed with the architectural and engineering abilities of men because after all, He made the men and wired their minds.
“Stay awake!” It’s always better to be more impressed with Creator than with the creation. One is the object of true faith and the other is the object of true idolatry. One endures forever, the other ends in a pile of rocks.
“Be on your guard!” Or you’ll miss the fact that these things only point to something much greater, much more wonderful. John was one of the disciples who was impressed with the stones and the buildings of the Temple. But in his Revelation of heaven, John writes, “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God, the Almighty, the Lamb.”
Why are you so impressed with those things that do not even exist in heaven and miss whom them point to, the One who fills all of heaven?
The disciples wanted to know when the destruction of the Temple would take place. Jesus says, “do not be led astray.” ‘Not just the Temple, but the sun and moon and stars are all coming down too.’ In the beginning, God said, “let there be light,” and there was light. God’s word always does what it says.
And God gathered the light into the sun and moon and stars and hung them in the sky to rule over the day and the night and the seasons. But when the time comes, He’ll take them all down like you take the ornaments off the Christmas tree after the season is over, because “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of the God gives it its light and the Lamb is the lamp.” (Rev.21:22-23).
Why do you worship those things that do not exist in heaven and miss the One whom they point to who fills all of heaven?
“Do not be alarmed.” “Heaven and earth will pass away but My word will never pass away.” The Triune God was before the beginning and is after the end and is the same, unchanging reality, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Why do you get so wrapped up in what will ‘pass away’ and neglect God’s Word that ‘never pass away?’
Jesus warns that a lot of scary stuff is going to happen when the end finally comes. But He also says, “do not be afraid.” Why? Because He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and in between those two eternal points of time, He has entered into this world and laid down His life for you. And He has baptized you into His death and into His resurrection and He has already brought you out of this “great tribulation” and into, not His marvelous stones and marvelous buildings, but into His marvelous light and marvelous life and marvelous forgiveness for all of your sins. “Endure to the end.”
Sometimes we wonder, ‘what is this world coming to?’ “Do not be led astray!” This world is coming to Jesus. Either kicking and screaming or singing and rejoicing, either for eternal death or eternal life, the whole world is coming to Jesus. So, “stay awake!”
When that final day of the world as we know it is scheduled to arrive is a question that the Bible says we should not be asking or concerned with. “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” It’ll come when it comes, not a split second sooner or later than God ordained it from before the creation of the world. “Stay awake.”
But how easy it is to “fall asleep.” How easy it is to get so wrapped up preparing for the future that you neglect the present. Parents can spend so much time and energy preparing for their children’s future that they miss their children’s present. Which of us have never said, ‘someday,’ ‘when things settle down,’ ‘I’ll get serious about coming to church, or reading my bible?’ ‘Someday when I catch up with my bills and pay off my credit cards I’ll start to tithe on my income to the Lord?’
To “stay awake,” means, live in the present because you trust that God is in control of the future. “Behold, NOW is the favorable time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation.’ (2 Cor. 6:2). “TODAY, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Heb.4:15) And “today, if you do not hear his voice,” then you better “wake up.”
“It’s like a man going on a journey when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.” Has God give you a spouse? “Stay awake!” Be a good husband or wife. Has God given you parents? “Stay awake!” Be a good son or daughter. Honor your father and your mother. Has God given you job? “Stay awake!” Be a good employee and put in an honest day’s work. Has God given you income and wealth? “Stay awake!” Be faithful stewards.
Don’t worry about when the end of the world and when it will come. You let Him take care of His universe. You just take care of what He has entrusted to you to take care of. “Therefore stay awake! For you do not know when the master of the house will come… lest He find you sleeping.”
Like I said, it is easy to get so focused on future that you fail to realize the incredible blessings that you have right now in the present. It’s easy to become so focused on Jesus’ coming on the Last Day that we fail to recognize the fact that He is present with us today, actively at work in this world, in this place, in your life. “Lo, I am with you to the very end of the age.” (Mat.28:20).
Let’s be sure that we understand something here. The 2nd coming of Jesus will not bring anything that His 1st coming hasn’t already brought. There is not more of Jesus who will come in the clouds than who came in the manger. There is not more power in the person of Christ when He comes on the clouds than when He came in the womb of the virgin Mary.
The only difference will be that no one will mistake Him for being ‘just’ a man, or ‘just’ a teacher, or ‘just’ a blasphemer, or a lunatic or in league with Beelzabub. Then, every eye will see Him and every knee will bow to Him and every tongue will confess what your tongue has just confessed, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. But it will be the same Jesus who “had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him… As one from whom men hide their faces and esteemed Him not.” (Is.53:3-4).
It was with all of His divine power that Jesus carried the cross to Golgatha and atoned for the sin of the world and your sin. For no other power on earth could do this. By the power that is rightfully His, He lifted the sin of the world onto His shoulders and bore it in His body on the cross.
And for now, while we still live in “these last days,” His great power and glory is hidden under the great weakness and foolishness of His cross. And is how He comes to you, not in the clouds surrounded by angels, but on the cross, surrounded by pain and suffering and sin and death – your pain, your suffering, your sin and your death.
And this is where you draw upon His power to “stay awake,” and “be on guard,” and “endure to the end.” From His death and resurrection joined to you in Holy Baptism. His body and blood given to you in Holy Communion. His promise made to you in Holy Scriptures.
And whoever greets Him with great joy NOW, TODAY, as He comes to us hidden under these very earthly means of grace, will surely greet Him with great joy when He comes again on the clouds and in all His glory.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25).