“Stay Awake” Sermon / Matthew 24:36–44 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 1st 2019 / Season Of Advent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 1st 2019: Season of Advent / Matthew 24:36–44 "Stay Awake"
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. The Gospel today is again from Holy Week, the week leading up to Jesus’ cross and passion and so it was that early on Friday morning of that week after that first Holy Communion, the first Lord’s Supper, when Jesus’ disciple Judas had left the supper and headed into the night to betray His Lord, “Then [it was that] Jesus went with [His remaining disciples] to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to [them], “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, [Jesus] began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with Me.” And going a little farther [Jesus] fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” And [Jesus] came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And He said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, [Jesus] went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And again [Jesus] came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, He went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then [Jesus] came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, My betrayer is at hand.”
Earlier that very week Jesus taught His disciples these words, “If the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into,” but as you may be thinking ‘because he doesn’t know in what hour the thief is coming the wise thing to do is to be ready at all times’ this is why Jesus continues by saying, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Basically the one who is ready at all times is wise and the one who lives life unready focused on “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage,” putting those things over and above the spiritual and religious life devoted to Christ Jesus, those ones are fools. Jesus isn’t saying you can’t have those things just don’t put them first above God.
Now when you contemplate all of this it would stand to reason that even a fool if he knew when the thief was coming in the night might prepare for that hour and stay awake with a shotgun on his knee, however God is not going to say, hey everyone I’m coming next week on Tuesday at 1:30am Central Standard time. Remember dear ones if someone comes to you and says Jesus is returning on April 23rd at 3:15pm in the afternoon don’t believe them, they do not know what they are talking about and likely have ulterior motives. The Father is free to call for The End when He desires, as we talked about a couple weeks ago, and is only slow in bringing about The End for your sake and the sake of the lost that more and more people might have time to believe and that we all would have time to repent of our wrongdoings, and sins, therefore the return of Christ Jesus will not be telegraphed and signalled in advance because God doesn’t want to have false faith placed in Him by fools who simple straighten up and fly right out of necessity. If you don’t fear God when you don’t know when He’s coming will you really fear God when you do know when He is coming? When Jesus asked His disciples to stay awake and pray He didn’t say, ‘because Judas is coming with “clubs and swords” and torches to arrest Me like a common criminal.’ Had He said that they might have stayed awake but they would not have been doing it out of love they would have been doing it out of self preservation.
The disciples knew the wisdom of King Solomon, King David’s son, those sayings collected in the book of Proverbs where Solomon says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” However whether in the disciples days or today in our days the fool doesn’t want to hear it when Jesus says, “stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming,” the fool in the pew at Church doesn’t like to hear the pastor in the stead and by the command of Christ Jesus says, “stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming,” because that might mean that they would have to take the Bible seriously and change their way of living. This is why Solomon also writes in Proverbs, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Are you listening to the advice of Jesus? Do you live each day as Christians prepared for The End, or at the very least prepared for your end, your death? Some of you may have used this little prayer for yourself, maybe with children or grandchildren, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my Soul to keep, If I should die before I 'wake, I pray the Lord my Soul to take.” That is a pray of readiness, yet some will say it’s morbid, that it’s too focused on death and dying and we don’t what to say that kind of thing with the kids or even with those in palliative care. Listen you're free to pray something different with your kids, with the dying, even as you fall asleep at night, but ask yourself, am I a fool when I live my life like there are no consequences and the end can’t come in this very hour, am I a fool when I teach my kids that the spiritual and religious life of faith in Jesus is something for later in life and not for right now? Am I a fool when I pretend with the dying that they aren’t in fact dying? And for myself am I a fool when it comes to living my Christian life, do I think to myself: I’ll come to church when I have more time, when it suits me, when I have nothing else to do? I’ll read my bible when I have more time, when it suits me, when I have nothing else to do? I’ll pray when I have more time, when it suits me, when I have nothing else to do? I’ll teach my kids and grandkids the faith when I have more time, when it suits me, when I have nothing else to do? I’ll attend to the needs of the aged and dying when I have more time, when it suits me, when I have nothing else to do? Are these the thoughts and plans of the wise or of the foolish? Is such an approach cautious or reckless? Solomon also says in Proverbs, “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.”
What is better a flawless Stanley Cup winning 7th game overtime blue line slapshot crowd pleasing goal and all the effort and ice time that goes into being able to make that shot?, or Eternal Life in Christ Jesus? What is better a fresh cup of Sunday morning coffee looking out over a glassy quiet lake from your deck at the cottage or the peace that surpasses all understanding in heaven with Christ Jesus in Paradise for Eternity? Listen those are just two examples, there are thousands of them, they might not be your thing but I’m sure you get the point; you know what your thing is, the foolish thing you put off dealing with in your life, the thing (or things) you know need to change, the things that act as a distraction from being prepared. This is why Solomon says in Proverbs, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” If you are foolishly unprepared in some aspect of your life, or if you are hilariously unprepared in practically all aspects of your life either way when confronted with your unpreparedness you will likely also fit into what Solomon says in Proverbs, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” This is why you will be tempted to make excuses for the foolish things in your life, the things that keep your eyes off of Jesus, that distract your preparedness in Him, that rob you of your joy and peace today in this very hour.
Dear ones Advent, like Lent, is a season of time meant for preparation and not just preparations for eating and drinking, not just for the kinds of preparations people make when they are planning a wedding or large family gathering, it primarily is an opportunity for spiritual preparation, for honest evaluation of your religious and faith life in Christ Jesus. For that reason Solomon, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit provides this advice, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.” How will you ever know if you are doing evil if you never hear God’s Law, if you seldom do what the Psalmist says in Psalm 119, “I will meditate on Your precepts [O LORD] and fix my eyes on Your ways.” Or as it also says in Psalm 119, “I will lift up my hands toward Your commandments [O LORD], which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes,” that is on Your law O LORD. As for me in my service to Christ Jesus and to you His people I have no choice but to preach the law and the gospel, the very good news of Jesus, even though I know and confess, what Proverbs 9 says, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” The scoffer, the fool doesn’t want to hear that he is living his life ill prepared for the return of Christ Jesus; the fool doesn’t want to hear that she is foolishly practicing ungodliness, In the book of Ezekiel we read how God gives this command, a command that certainly applies to the work of a pastor, “If [the LORD] say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” How often have pastors been encouraged to keep quiet on certain topics, or how often have you kept silent with friends and families for fear of losing them or getting into a fight when they actually need to hear what God’s Word says? If they listen and take the advice than they are not fools, they are in fact wise. Remember “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction,” yes “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Are you afraid they won’t listen? What is better life with your family now even though they are chained to their sins and abused by the evils of the world or Eternal life with them in Christ Jesus free from their sins for all eternity? Are you wise enough to listen to advice when it comes from God’s Holy Word, the only true source of wisdom?
Much earlier in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says to His disciples, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Let us not be fools, let us be repentant for that is wise, turn from the foolish things of life, turn from them to Jesus because Jesus has never turned away from You. When Judas did come in the night to the garden of Gethsemane Jesus didn’t run for His life, He didn’t hide, He didn’t fight when the end of His earthly life arrived. Jesus’ cross and passion had arrived as “Judas came, [this Judas who was] one of the twelve, and with [Judas] a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.” St. Matthew tells us that “the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize Him.” And [Judas] came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” When His hour had come Jesus perfectly trusted His heavenly Father, He was wise He was no fool. The World and His captors may have thought He was a fool for not saving Himself if He could do it, which He could, but if Jesus had used His power to save Himself He would not have been saving you. Jesus rather used His power to fight temptation, to remain humble and “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus did this without sin, without fault, without failure. What does St. Paul also say? “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise [says the LORD], and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where [then] is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the World?,” St. Paul asks.
Dear ones in a World, and time, and society that foolishly says you must take care of your needs, your feelings, and your emotions first (as were the days of Noah) instead of honouring God above all things, instead of learning His wisdom, instead of remaining awake be wise. When the World wants you to sleepwalk through life to its bitter end, which it will be if that life is one with no fear of God, with no trust in Him, then dear ones we all the more need to heed the word Jesus says to us when He says, “stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming,” for if you follow what He says the end of life, The End of the World, The End of Time, The Last Day will not be bitter for you it will be sweet. Therefore as we strive to stay awake, ask always for forgiveness when you realize, when it is pointed out to you, that you have indeed fallen asleep. Jesus will forgive you as He forgave His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. And remember for all the times we foolishly sleep when we ought to be awake Christ Jesus is awake as He watches over you, as Psalm 121 says, with all wisdom, the LORD will keep you, The LORD will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber or sleep. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Matthew 26:36–46
 Matthew 26:55
 Proverbs 1:7
 Proverbs 12:15
 Proverbs 14:16
 Proverbs 26:11
 Proverbs 18:2
 Ecclesiastes 5:1
 Psalm 119:15
 Psalm 119:48
 Proverbs 9:8
 Ezekiel 33:8–9
 Matthew 10:16
 Matthew 26:47–54
 Philippians 2:8
 1 Corinthians 1:18–20
 Psalm 121