Christmas is right around the corner. Merchants and stores now have Christmas carols and songs playing on the sound systems. Shoppers have begun rushing madly around looking for gifts to give their loved ones. Even the media joins in as they ask the question in magazines or on television, Who is Jesus? What is the big deal about Jesus, whose birth we celebrate each December?
We hear all kinds of opinions and answers from people about Jesus. Some will say He was a great philosopher, a great teacher. Some say He was a fraud. Others say He was the Son of God. For the next few weeks, I want to examine some of the traditional Advent Gospel readings with you to help us come to some conclusions regarding this question.
In our reading for today, we find Jesus teaching His disciples some rather strange words for an outsider’s ears. The imagery is rather surreal – Jesus is describing His second coming, which will be the end of history as we know it. Christmas not only tells us of His unexpected coming the first time, but it also reminds us of the promise that Jesus will come again. We remind ourselves of this as we profess the Apostles’ Creed in our worship services: “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
In Jesus’ first coming, the kingdom of God was inaugurated. In His second coming, it will be consummated, and then His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. History is moving steadily toward that grand day. Jesus was telling His disciples about this event.
Jesus soon will be going to the cross to die for our sins. As they are leaving the Temple in Jerusalem, the disciples admire its beauty. It was quite a sight. However, Jesus comments that this Temple will be destroyed someday very soon. A little while later, when they’re on the Mount of Olives alone with Jesus, the disciples ask him about His comment. When are you coming again? (When is the end of the age?) Jesus’ response is, I can’t tell you. But what I can say is this: It will be sudden, catching a lot of people by surprise like in the days of Noah. Unexpectedly, the flood came and swept all the people away. There will be a judgment. Two people will be in the field, one suddenly taken. Two women grinding grain. Suddenly one will be taken and one left behind. Therefore, stay awake and live as if today is the last. Don’t get caught unaware like the sleeping master who was robbed by a thief one night.
In the midst of Jesus’ response to their question, we get a glimpse of who Jesus is as He talks about Himself. He answers the question of the Christmas Carol, What Child is this?
First, notice He calls Himself the Son of Man. Have you ever wondered why? It was Jesus’ favorite way of talking about Himself. He used it more than eighty times in the Gospels in reference to Himself. It actually is an Old Testament power figure from the book of Daniel. It is part of the apocalyptic readings from Daniel describing One who will come again as the Son of Man from God, the Ancient of Days, to rule all the world with dominion and authority. He will take over and make all things right in God’s sight.
At His trial, when asked by the high priest about His identity, Jesus replied, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Hearing this, the high priest tore his robes and accused Jesus of blasphemy. The Son of Man is a power figure who is coming again at the end of the age.
Jesus also tells His followers in today’s text, I am your Lord . . . As you wait for your Lord. The Lord is a kingly figure. He is in charge. Though the world may look out of control, history is His story. Scripture tells us all things have been placed under His feet. Kingdoms come and kingdoms go. Leaders will rise and fall, but His Kingdom is forever.
This is the Christian’s hope and confidence: Jesus is Lord. The Apostle Paul says, “The day will come when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord” (Phil. 2:10-11). Someone once wrote, He came as a helpless baby. He will return again as a conquering King to reign forever.
So fear not, my dear brothers and sisters. The world may look out of control and hopeless some days. After this treacherous election season, you know how it probably feels. Sometimes, as we live in this world, it seems like evil is winning. But we learn here that Jesus has the final word over this world. Ultimately all is well. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the Son of Man.
Someone might ask, How can you believe this? I have four words for you: THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS. The same Jesus who talked about himself with His disciples went to a cross. He was nailed to the cross as a payment for our sins even though His executioners didn’t even know it. And He rose from the grave! God has confirmed His identity and confirmed Jesus’ promises. He will come again in power and glory to judge the living and the dead. History is HIS story, and He has the final word. Good news!
What are we to do as we wait for the grand return of the Son of Man, Jesus our Lord? The first thing is believe in Him and be saved. Turn to Him, and entrust your life to Him. Confessing your sins and following Him, you will be forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life. You will be rescued for eternity. It’s not something to be put off, my dear friends. What if He were to come today? Would you be ready?
It has been said that Satan once called the emissaries of hell to himself and said he wanted to send one of them to earth to aid women and men in the ruination of their souls. When he asked which one wanted to go, one creature came forward and said, I’ll go.
Satan asked, If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?
I will tell the children of men there is no heaven.
Satan replied, They will not believe you for a bit of heaven exists in every human heart. In the end everyone knows right and good must have the victory. You may not go.
Then another came forward, darker and fouler than the first. Satan asked, If I send you, what will you tell the children of men?
I will tell them hell does not exist.
Satan looked at him and said, No. They will not believe you, for in every heart lies a conscience and an inner voice, which testifies to the truth that not only will good be triumphant, but evil will be defeated. You may not go.
One last creature came forward; this one came from the darkest place of all. Satan said to him, If I send you, what will you say to women and men to aid them in the destruction of their souls?
The creature said, I will tell them there’s no hurry.
Satan said, Go!
First, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be saved. Second, if you already are a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, a follower of Jesus Christ, Jesus says, Stay awake! Keep trusting in Him in all circumstances. Don’t give up. Keep yourself connected to Him in the midst of life’s distractions. Pray to Him. Let Him teach you in His Word (the Bible) what God has in mind for your life. Allow Him to remind you again and again of the promises He has for you. Stay connected with Him. Don’t give up the faith.
And act like He is your King, your Lord. May He find you obediently doing His bidding in this world, making His values your values, doing the job He has given you. Tell others the Good News of what Christ has done for them on the cross and the resurrection. Give yourself away as Jesus gave Himself away for the sake of the Gospel. Live out the great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself and remember the words Jesus said to us, I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was alone, and you visited me. As you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me (Matt. 25:35-40).
Robbie Robbins was an Air Force pilot during the first Iraq war. After his 300th mission, he was surprised to be given permission to immediately pull his crew together and fly his plane home. They flew across the ocean to Massachusetts and then drove all night to western Pennsylvania. When his buddies dropped him off at his driveway just after sun up, he found a big banner across the garage. “Welcome home, dad!” How did they know? No one had called. The crew themselves hadn’t expected to leave so quickly.
Robbins relates, “When I walked into the house, the kids, about half dressed for school, screamed, ‘Daddy!’ My wife Susan came running down the hall. She looked terrific! Her hair was fixed; her makeup was on; she wore a crisp yellow dress. I asked, ‘How did you know?’
“‘I didn’t,’ she answered through tears of joy. ‘But once the war was over, we knew you’d be home one of these days. We knew you’d try to surprise us, so we were ready every day.’
Christ has come; He is coming again. May He find you ready. Amen.
Rev. Steve Kramer