if the householder had known
1st Sunday in Advent – A LSB #’s 331, 663, 348
Text – Matthew 24:43
But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake & would not have let his house be broken into.
IF THE HOUSEHOLDER HAD KNOWN
The church service has ended. The final strains of the closing hymn have faded away. The pastor walks to the front of the chancel & says he has only one announcement for today. He tells you that it came directly from God, “Jesus will return tonight at 11:30 PM.” How should you react? What should you do?
That kind of announcement might make you take more seriously Jesus’ teaching that all of us should be ready all the time. However, your pastor will certainly be proven wrong even before the rising of the sun the next morning. And how many times can someone wrongly predict an event before everyone loses faith in those predictions?
One point that Jesus is clearly making in this text from Matthew is that no one will know ahead of time when this world is going to end. Another point Jesus makes is that God is not going to be telling anyone, not even your pastor. Anyone who makes such a prediction is either completely deceived, out of their mind, or outright telling a lie. Otherwise, Jesus is a liar.
God doesn’t say why He refuses to let us know, but the way college & seminary students approach writing papers may shed some light on a possible reason. If the paper is due in one month, almost no one begins working & turns it in after just one or two weeks.
A seminary professor of mine complained about students who turn in papers without proofreading. At first, I agreed with him & thought, “That is foolish.” That was until my 2nd year by which time I was really, really tired of writing papers. Then, if the class began at 9 AM, I was pushing the print button at 8:55, & still had to run to class. No time to proofread a paper then. It is certainly possible that if God told us the world would end in six months, too many of us would be waiting until five months & 29 days to get ready. Preparing for Christ’s return is not a several hour cram session like writing a paper can be. Getting ready for the Son of Man to return is the project of a lifetime.
The OT reading understands that concept by encouraging us, “…come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Isaiah 2:5 ESV) The heavenly Father knows what sin has done to us, & to all of His creation. He knows that a 5 hour cram session on being spiritual is no help to us at all. Instead, constant vigilance is needed because the seductive power of sin is too strong for us.
Daily repentance, intentionally turning back to God over & over again, is the vigilance that is needed to watch & be ready. We are live each day of our lives on earth as if it is the last day. Otherwise, we could lose our faith in Jesus because Satan’s constant attacks are meant to accomplish exactly that. We do live in constant spiritual danger.
The warning that pride comes before the fall, isn’t merely warning us about falling into sin. It’s also a warning that we could fall into damnation. Having pride in our faith, or pride in how good a Christian we are, puts our salvation on something other than Jesus. He certainly is coming, & when He does He will judge everyone. There will be no escape, no second chances.
Next, if we forget to plan for Jesus’ return, we’ll easily put off the good deeds that God’s Son has prepared in advance for us to do. Each of us has been entrusted with different talents & opportunities for different times & places. Our love for Christ impels us to honor Him with the blessings we’ve been given.
Third, if we forget to watch for the return of Christ then His creation increasingly does not matter to us. What does abusing God’s creation matter if we are not focused upon His return? It’s easy to become careless & indifferent regarding our calling to care for our planet.
Fourth, how many of you are discouraged by what’s going on in our state, our nation & in this world? If we are not actively hoping & preparing for Christ’s return, discouragement can destroy our lives. There’ll be the temptation to pull back & stop being the salt & light of this world. We’ll be tempted to save ourselves through just surviving instead of living.
Lastly, nothing else in this life is anywhere near as important as the return of the Firstborn of the new creation. Jesus is with us now through His promises, but our fallen creation, decaying bodies & corrupted minds are longing to be restored to perfection. In the midst of our confident faith in His promises we still look forward to the complete joy of His return.
If we are not prepared when Christ comes again, He will be the thief to us. His return will be as unwelcome as a midnight burglar shattering our restful slumber. The householder stands for any given believer listening to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus compares Himself to a thief who comes unexpectedly to break into the householder’s home.
Believers, of all people, should take note & prepare. This gospel text has a grim edge to it, due to the serious nature of the fate awaiting those who are not watching & ready for God’s return. Jesus is The mighty Lord who wields all power & authority in heaven & on earth. We should not mistake His patience & mercy for weakness & gullibility.
Beginning the season of Advent is meant to help us get ready, but not for Christmas. As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ 1st arrival on earth, we are chiefly to use that preparation for His 2nd arrival. Then, there will be no tomorrows to “get right with God.”
The parable of the ten virgins comes shortly after this text. Do you remember the response to the five foolish ones who were not prepared? “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.” (Matthew 25:13) In the larger context of the Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is approaching Jerusalem to die. The darkness of His coming crucifixion is hanging over Him. Yet, He knows of another darkness, one that will come upon us. It is a very subtle, unnoticeable darkness, unless we are awakened to it by the Holy Spirit. That darkness is the dullness that comes upon people when they forget to watch for the return of our glorious & eternal King. It is the danger of going on with life as if this world is all there is, & Jesus will never return as Judge.
Rather, Jesus wants us to imagine what it will be like to be reunited with loved ones who have died in the faith. Especially as we struggle, we should dare to consider the restoring of all creation. Yes, we still eat & drink, we go to church & go home, we continue living our lives, but we do so aware of Christ’s love which awakens us to true life.
We are aware of His Spirit, who meets us in this house of God, leading us in this one small way to look to the heavens, lift up our hearts, & say, “Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” If you truly believed that Jesus was returning for judgment tonight at 11:30, what would you do with the rest of this day? That’s what Jesus wants you to consider every day.
His forgiveness of all your sins is real. Wake up, make use of it & then live. Amen.
Rise, my soul, to watch & pray; from your sleep awaken! Be not by the evil day unawares overtaken; for the foe, well we know, is a harvest reaping while the saints are sleeping. Watch against yourself, my soul, lest with grace you trifle; let not self your thoughts control nor God’s mercy stifle. Pride & sin lurk within, all your hopes to shatter; heed not when they flatter. But while watching, also pray to the Lord unceasing. God protects you day by day, strength & faith increasing, so that still mind & will shall unite to serve Him & forever love Him. Amen. LSB 663:1, 4-5.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet