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Sunday, June 13, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Be Ready for Jesus' Return"

“Be Ready for Jesus’ Return”
Certain of Jesus: The Gospel of Luke
June 13, 2010
Luke 12:35-59

We’re back to our study of the Gospel of Luke. This is the 30th message in this series on Luke.  The last one was on verses 13-34 where Jesus was teaching on riches, money, and stuff.  He told us not to be greedy and not be worried.  And to store up treasures for ourselves in heaven because there is a new kingdom coming that we should seek and seek first.

Now, in verse 35, Jesus begins to talk more about that kingdom–especially being ready for the return of the king.  For His return.  For Jesus’ return.

He hasn’t left yet, but He’s already getting His followers ready for His departure and His return.

If the next section could be summed up in one sentence, it would be the title of this message, “Be Ready for Jesus’ Return.”

Are you ready?

Are you ready for the return of Jesus Christ?

Jesus came once, and He is coming again. And He wants us all to be ready.

There are a lot of details in the doctrine of last things which theologians call “eschatology.”  A lot of details.

And Christians can get confused and mixed up about those details because there are so many of them to put together and because the future is, by definition, something that hasn’t happened yet.

So Christians often can disagree about some of the details of what is going to happen in the future.

But one thing is crystal clear about the return of Jesus Christ–it is going to happen, and He wants us to be ready for it.

The main purpose of eschatology is application.

And the main point of application in eschatology is to live our lives in readiness for Jesus’ return.

Are you ready?

Let’s begin in verses 35-40 of Luke 12.

“‘Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night.  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’”

Are you ready?

Can you see how much Jesus is concerned that His followers are ready?

The word “ready” appears in the NIV in verse 35, 38, verse and 40.

Verse 40 says, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man [that’s Jesus] will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Be Ready for Jesus’ Return.

Now, what does that mean?  To be ready?

What do we do specifically to be ready?

In the history of the church, there have been some pretty wacky ideas of what to do  to be ready.

Some people have set dates that Jesus would return.

Does anyone remember “88 reasons why Jesus will return in 1988?”

There are people now that are making a big deal out of 2012, supposedly that’s another date that has been set for Jesus’ return.

Some people have been so convinced of a specific date that they have put on special robes and stood on housetops–on the roof!–with arms upraised, waiting for Jesus to wisk them away.

Deadly serious. And terribly silly.

But what does it mean for us to be ready?

Let me suggest at least 4 things from this passage Luke 12:35-59.

The first is to “Be Expectant.”

#1.  BE EXPECTANT.

Jesus paints two different pictures to get this idea of readiness across.

The first is a picture of servants ready for the their master to return from a wedding banquet.  Verses 35-38.

“‘Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.” Stop there for a second.

Do you get the picture?  These are expectant servants.

Their master has gone to a Jewish wedding and those are notorious for going long.

It’s hard to know when he’ll be back.

It might be (v.38) the second or third watch of the night.  The dead of night.  The time when no one is awake unless you’re on watch duty.

But these servants are awake and they are all watching.  They dressed. They have the lights on.  They are ready to whip open that door the moment their master arrives.

They are expectant.

Now, what do they expect?

Well, mainly, they expect their master’s return.

But they also expect some delay in his return.

Did you notice that?

It would not be unusual for him to take longer than usual.

I think that’s helpful for us when we think about the Lord Jesus’ return.

We are to expect it, to be ready for it, to live in constant expectancy.

But, we also shouldn’t be surprised if there is a delay.  And there has been a 2,000 year waiting period so far.

That should both encourage us that there might be more waiting and encourage us that we very well might be in the second or third watch of the night!

Expect the Lord’s return.
Expect a delay.
And expect reward.

I love the way that Jesus teaches.  He tells a story about something normal, like staying up until the boss gets home, and then He says something that you would never in a million years expect!  V.37

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.”


Really?!

The master will serve the servants?  He will come in and say, “Thanks for waiting up, now it’s your turn.  Sit down.  I’ll bring you something.”

You and I would never expect that one.

That’s grace.

That’s amazing grace!

That the master would serve the servants.

That’s a reward for staying up, but it’s not a reward earned.  A reward earned might have been to get to go to bed.  But to get to sit down and be served by the master?  That’s grace!

But who gets that?  The expectant.

Expect the Lord’s return.
Expect some delay.
Expect gracious reward.
And expect the unexpected.

In v.39, Jesus changes the story.  Now it someone whose house was broken into. 

V.39  “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’”

Who is like the thief in this story?

Jesus is.

Jesus is the thief.  Not that he breaks into homes and steals things, but that he comes unexpectedly.

Expect the unexpected.

The world will not expect the return of Christ.  It will not be on CNN that Jesus is coming soon.

Your unbelieving neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers will not expect it.

But you and I are to expect the unexpected.

We are to be ready for Jesus’ return.

Again, what does that mean?  Specifically?

What do we do?  Do we stay up at night reading end-times blogs on the internet to try to figure it all out?

Do we quit our jobs and get up on our roofs?

#2.  BE FAITHFUL.

Be expectant.  Be faithful.  Look at verse 41.

“Peter asked, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?’”

And the answer is “everyone, but especially to leaders.”  V.42

“The Lord answered, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.  I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”


Do you get the picture?

Jesus says that we are like managers put in charge of a household, a business, given certain management tasks to perform while the master is away until the master returns.

And verse 42 is the kicker.

“It will be good for that servant [manager] whom the master finds doing so when he returns.”

It will be good if the master finds you faithfully doing your job when He gets back.

Be faithful.

We keep in mind the return of Christ, but we don’t stop working, we keep working.

We keep doing the things that Jesus has called us to do.

We work while we wait and watch.

Be faithful.

The return of Jesus Christ should have the opposite effect on us than it did on those who gave up their jobs and got on their roofs.

Instead, it should make us busy.

Busy doing the basic things that Jesus has called us to do.

Make disciples.

Worship, Instruction, Fellowship, Evangelism, and Service.  Like we talked about last week.

Doing our jobs.
Taking care of our families.

Learning to forgive.

Sharing the gospel with people.

Being faithful to our callings.

Faithful to our relationships.

Faithful to our Lord.

Whatever He has asked to do, we should do with all of our might because we know that He is coming back and soon.

And we will be rewarded.  I love the reward in verse 44.  The reward is more responsibility–and that in the Kingdom!

“I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”

I don’t know what that means in the Kingdom to come, but I want to find out.

So, the call on my life under the return of Christ, is to be faithful.

This is very serious.  You see that by looking at the opposite of faithfulness in verse 45-48.

“But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. [Unfaithfulness.  Sinful unfaithfulness.]  The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.  That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Wow.  That’s serious.  Cut in pieces.  Assigned to a place with the unbelievers.  Literally, that word in verse 46 is the “unfaithful.”

“Beaten with many blows.”

And there is perfect justice here. The more you know, the more you are responsible for.  There are degrees of punishment to go along with degrees of culpability.

The main principles is in that last sentence in verse 48.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Be faithful.

Are you ready?

If the Lord returned today, would He find you faithful to the tasks that He has given you?

Or are you beating the menservants and maidservants so to speak?

Much has been given to us, much will be demanded.
Much has been entrusted to us, much, much more will be asked.

Are you ready?

If not, what do you need to change?

Because the master will come when we do not expect it.

Be faithful.

This next one might surprise you. 

#3.  BE DIVIDED.  V.49

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!”

I’m not 100% sure what that fire is.  In part, I think it’s judgment.  Because this is about the return of Christ.  But I also think about what John the Baptist said in chapter 3, verse 16 about Jesus baptizing US with fire.  Maybe it’s a little of both.

But Jesus wants it. It’s the right and good thing.  He longs for it, but there is something standing in the way.  It’s His baptism.  His Crosswork.

“But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!”

Jesus lived in light of the Cross.  He knew what was coming.  He knew.  And He chose it.  V.51

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.  From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’”

I always laugh at that last one.  As if we needed anything more to come between mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws!

Jesus says, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth.”

What’s the answer to that?

Of course, He did.

What did the angels sing in Luke chapter 2?  “Peace on earth” because this baby was born.

But that peace hasn’t come yet.  And it’s not going to be for everyone.

Right now, Jesus brings division.

Jesus divides people.  You are either with Him or against Him.

There is no middle ground.  There is no fence to be on.

You say, “I’m on the fence.”  That means you’re against Him.

There is no fence!

“I tell you...division.  From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.”

Jesus is saying that He will divide people even in the most intimate groupings on earth–the family.

And the call here for us is to stay faithful to Jesus even if the people we love don’t follow Him.

That’s what I mean by “be divided.”

In light of Jesus’ return, stay faithful to Jesus even if the people you love don’t follow Him.

I’m told that in India, if you claim to be a Christian, that’s okay, you’re just adding another god to your life.

But if you get baptized as a Christian and publically forsake all of your other gods, then persecution will quickly follow.  And your family will disown you.

I know of Jewish families that when a son came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the family held a funeral for him.   Even though he wasn’t dead.

They counted him dead.  Divided off from them because of Jesus.

I know that in this room, some of you have experienced some of the same kind of treatment–just because you belong to Jesus.

That’s the way He said it would be.

Don’t falter.  Don’t give up. Don’t pretend like everything is okay.

Follow Jesus even if it means division.

Because He’s coming back soon.

In verses 54 through 59, Jesus begins to call for a decision.  He thinks that the choice is obvious.  V.54

“He said to the crowd: ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west [off the Mediterranean], immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and it does.  And when the south wind blows [a sirocco], you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and it is.  Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?  Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?”

Jesus thinks that it’s obvious.

It’s like looking out your window and seeing the storm on the way, and saying, “It’s going to storm.”  Yes, it is.

It’s like that with Jesus at this “present time.”

It’s obvious Who Jesus is. It’s obvious what His authority is.

It’s obvious that Jesus is in a battle with the religious leaders and that they are wrong and He is right.

It’s obvious that the kingdom is coming and has even come in Jesus.

It’s obvious, but these people were willfully ignorant of it.  They were repressing the truth when they should have been repenting and being reconciled to God.

#4.  BE RECONCILED.  V.58

“As you are going with your adversary [or accuser] to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.’”
           
At first glance, this seems to be about good relationships with other people.

But I think that the adversary or accuser in this teaching is God Himself.  And the debt in verse 59 is our sin debt, a debt that it will take Hell to pay.

Eternity in hell to pay for our sins.

I think this is a vivid pictorial way for Jesus to call his hearers to repentance and reconciliation WITH GOD.

Don’t pretend that Hell is not coming, that the judgment is not coming, that the payment will not come due.

Right now, be reconciled to God.

Eternity is on the way.

The Return of Jesus is coming and coming soon.

Be reconciled to God.

Are you ready?

Are you ready to see Jesus?

If you have not received Jesus and been reconciled to His Father, you are not ready for Jesus’ return.

But you don’t have to be unprepared.

Be reconciled to God.

Jesus Himself, in His baptism that He underwent on the Cross, paid the penalty for your sin.  Every last “penny” like v.59 says is paid for by Jesus’ sacrificial death.

And He invites you to turn from your sins and trust in His payment for you and be saved.

And be reconciled.  A enemy turned into a friend.

Turn and Trust.

Turn from sin and trust in Him.

And be reconciled.

It’s the only way to be ready for Jesus’ return.


Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff


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