Anticipation, Part 1: Watch & Wait (Matthew 24:36-44)

The overarching theme of Advent is the coming of Jesus Christ, both in the manger of Bethlehem at his first coming, and in the clouds of glory at his second coming. That’s why the traditional lectionary readings of the season can feel joltingly at odds with our quaint Christmastime expectations. As one devotional writer puts it, “Rather than holly and candlelight, we read of end-times horrors. Instead of rejoicing angels, we begin with a prophet calling loudly for repentance. These passages shock us out of our cozy mindset to remind us that Jesus is the Mighty God.”

Indeed, the Savior whose birth we are preparing to celebrate is the very Son of Man who will one day return at the end of the age in power and great glory. In his famous Olivet Discourse, Jesus reminds his people he will come to earth again one day (Matthew 24:36-41). It will be a secret day—because only the Father knows when it will take place (v. 36). It will be a surprising day—because everything in life will be unfolding as it usually does (vv. 37-39). It will be a separating day—because some will be taken, and some will be left (vv. 40-41).

Jesus then instructs his followers on how to stay prepared for his return (Matthew 24:42-44). They are to be watchful—as a person deeply longing to reconnect with a loved one (v. 42). They are to be diligent—as homeowners working to protect what is most valuable to them (v. 43). They are to be ready—as a servant who would be unashamed by his master’s surprise return (v. 44). In short, God’s people don’t just wait for Christ’s return, they prepare for it. That’s because the child in the manger is actually the Mighty God whose kingdom will never end.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

He Is Coming, Part 1: “Be Ready” (Mark 13:24-37)

People don’t usually have too much trouble with the biblical description of Jesus’ first coming. The story is largely soft, gentle, pleasant, and disarming. There’s a star in the east, a gaggle of shepherds, and a baby in a manger, asleep on the hay. It doesn’t look like very much, nor does it seem to threaten anyone (except, perhaps, King Herod). People tend to have a lot more trouble with the biblical description of Jesus’ second coming because it’s exactly the opposite of the first. Instead of a star in the sky, we have stars falling out of the sky. Instead of local ruddy shepherds, we have majestic angels and saints from all over the globe. Moreover, Jesus is not a harmless little baby anymore, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Instead, he’s the returning victorious king wrapped in clouds of glory, functioning now as the Judge of all the earth. It’s a cosmic and cataclysmic scene, and everyone will recognize his lordship when it happens.

Exactly when will all this take place? Jesus gives the illustration of a budding fig tree (Mark 13:28-31) and the illustration of alert servants (Mark 13:32-37) to remind his followers, “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come” (Mark 13:33). So, the doctrine of the Second Coming is not given as a prophetic jigsaw puzzle to be solved, but as a motivation for practical faith and godly living until the consummation of history. All told, the passage reminds us that Jesus is coming again, so be ready for his appearing. Knowing the precise timing of his return could lead some to procrastinate their faithfulness—to put it on hold, or to suggest that loyalty to him is no big deal. “Not so,” says Jesus. “I’m coming again, and you don’t know when, so be watchful. Be ready for my return.” Ultimately, the doctrine of the Second Coming is a source of great hope and comfort for believers because it portrays the heart of the gospel: the Judge who will judge us has already received our judgment at the cross.

Sermon Resources

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.