November 16, 2008
Proper 28 (A)
Suppose you attend a play in a great theater. Before the play begins, noise, bustle, confusion and movement can be heard from behind the curtains. In the orchestra pit the sounds of instruments warming up emanate. Ushers seat latecomers; friends greet each other; others find their seats and study the program. Then the lights flicker on and off. The time is at hand. How much longer? No one can say exactly. Before long, the house lights go down, a hush falls, the conductor lifts his baton, the overture begins and the curtains slowly rise.
In the course of human history, where are we in this sequence? The curtain is still down; the music has not started; people are still coming in. But it is only a matter of time before the play will begin.
Jesus is about to return. It is imminent. As believers and students of God’s Word, we know it is going to happen.
I. Know that Jesus Will Return (
We have God’s word on that. Granted, 20 centuries have come and gone since our Lord gave the promise of His return. While He has not returned yet, it does not mean that God does not keep His promises. It simply means God does not follow our calendar.
We know that He will return, we just don’t know the exact time the curtain will rise. We do know that His return will be like a thief in the night, meaning that it will be sudden and with surprise. The thief does not announce himself before breaking into your house; he arrives when you least expect it. Likewise, God alone knows when Christ will return.
When Jesus returns, we should say like people often say of certain events and certain actions of certain people: “It doesn’t surprise me!”
II. Be Prepared (
How do we avoid being surprised by a thief in the night? We make preparations.
Some don’t make the preparations.
Paul warns those who are spiritually ill prepared. Those desiring peace and safety will suddenly be destroyed (v. 3); those who are residing in spiritual darkness will be totally confused (v. 4); and those indulging in self-centeredness will be utterly condemned (v. 7).
Some do make the preparations.
They are spiritually alert (v. 6). They don’t live sleepily. Knowing the Lord will return like a thief in the night, they live with their eyes open. They will not be caught napping. Since they do not know when the Lord will return for His people, they live in a constant attitude of watching and waiting, while they are busy working and witnessing.
They are spiritually controlled (v. 6). They don’t live smashed. The spiritually controlled people have a calm, sane
outlook on life. They are not complacent, but neither are they afraid. They hear tragic news but do not lose heart. They experience difficulties but know that their future is secure.
They are spiritually armed (v. 8). They don’t live unprotected. They use the equipment Christ has provided them: faith and hope are the breastplate, and the helmet is “the confidence of our salvation”-the assurance that God will ultimately be victorious over sin and death, and that they will share in that victory because they are in Christ. This hope is not a faint wish but a firm assurance.
They are spiritually alive (vv. 9-10). They don’t live sloppily. They live each day in the light of Jesus’ return. Unlike a sleeping world, they are expecting Jesus’ return, living each day as if it were the one in which Christ would return.
In the 1987 NCAA Regional Finals, LSU was leading Indiana by eight points with only a few minutes left in the game. As is often the case with a team in the lead, LSU began playing a different ball game. The television announcer pointed out that the LSU players were beginning to watch the clock rather than wholeheartedly playing the game. As a result of this shift of focus, Indiana closed the gap, won the game by one point, and eventually went on to become NCAA champions.
While Jesus called us to be aware of His return, He clearly called us to expend our energies in faithful, active service. As we wait for Jesus’ promised return, we are not so much to watch the clock as to be diligent and faithful servants filled with zeal and optimism during the time we have available.