November 28, 2004

Matthew 24:36-44

[35] Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

[36] But as for that Day and that Hour, no one knows when it will come, not even the angels of God nor the Son, but only the Father.

[37] At the coming of the Son of Man it will be just as it was in the time of Noah. [38] In those days before the Flood, people were eating and drinking, and marrying, until the day when Noah went into the ark. [39] Yet they did not know what would happen until the flood came and swept them away. So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. [40] Of two men in the field, one will be taken and the other left. [41] Of two women grinding wheat together at the mill, one will be taken and the other left.

[42] Stay awake, then, for you do not know on what day your Lord will come. [43] Just think about this: if the owner of the house knew that the thief would come by night around a certain hour, he would stay awake to prevent his house to be broken into. [44] So be alert, for the Son of Man will come at the hour you least expect.

= = = = = = =


In this discourse the Gospel uses the style of apocalyptic books (see the Introduction to Revelation). In this kind of literature signs announced great events. Hence the question of those closest to Jesus: "What will be the sign of your coming at the end of time?"

The discourse that follows comprises words pronounced by Jesus in very diverse circumstances. Jesus refuses speculation and reminds us that Christian history is one of persecution; he encourages us to be faithful.

The comparison of the two men (or women) working together means that, upon the coming of Jesus, the Judgment will take place, and there might be a separation within the same social or family group: some headed towards the Lord, others to be condemned (vv. 37 and 41).

Why is it that the Gospel draws a parallel with the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of time? Simple, because Matthew addresses Christians who have just experienced the first event and are awaiting the second. It is the moment when there emerges the Christian vision of the history of these two great stages.

First, we have the time of the Old Testament. God taught the people of Israel and nurtured their development in order that their history and experiences be enlightening for other peoples. At the end of this period, Jesus came during a national crisis to give them the full knowledge of their mission as a people of God. A minority believed, but the nation did not convert and crashed.

The message is then presented to other nations, and thus began the time of the New Testament. The Church teaches all peoples who must mature as nations and Christians. The Bible implies that New Testament times are leading up to a universal crisis where the Gospel will more than ever be a reality: "Believe or you will die." It is then that both the New Testament and history will end.

[The Community Christian Bible]

= = = = = = =

1. We come to a year of journeying with Matthew. Matthew's very name, meaning "gift of God" suggests that our search for understanding the signs of the time will finally show up as a gift – unearned, undeserved, unexpected.

2. There is an expectation in our questions and perspectives that demands a crisis. This expectation is at the crux of the matter for us. The crises of life keep asking us to decide in this way or in that way. They tend to be vehicles of duality, of either/or.

3. If we will stay awake we may find out that our night-fears that are driving us into nonsensical choices can be dealt with in a third or fourth or some other way. Jesus and other prophets and wholy people not only come at an unexpected time, but they come from an unexpected direction with unexpected new resolutions to ancient dilemmas. To only talk about unexpected time without speaking also of unexpected matter, misdirects our attention.

 Advent, as a time of waiting, is a time, also, of readiness to turn into a new dimension of living. Out of all the interpretations of the past and in the face of all the possibilities of the future, we urge one another to be alert to a new word that beckons us to live now.

Sermon Index | wesleyspace Home