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Gospel according to Matthew 24: 36-44 (NIV)
36 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Last week our choir performed in a shopping centre the first of this year’s Christmas carols – more than a month out from Christmas Day! Fake snow* was sprayed over the gathered children.
The commercial world, it seems, is paying attention to the first coming of the Son of Man – as a baby in Bethlehem – however the world of commerce has tried to associate a new meaning, fraught with self-interest, to this momentous event.
This passage from Matthew 24 focuses not on the first coming, the incarnation of God on earth, but on the return of the Lord of all of Creation on “that day” (verse 36), “the coming of the son of Man” (verses 37, 39, 44).
In this country the majority of the population will focus on summer days off work, feasting to excess, high-profile sporting events, gathering with family members and, perhaps most of all, spending money on unnecessary and, in many cases, wasteful gifts. In Scripture’s words, most people will be “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” and knowing nothing until they are all swept away (verses 38, 39).
Jesus has urged his disciples and all who are of the elect (verses 22, 24, 31) to “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (verse 44). What is it to “be ready”? Jesus told his disciples, “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (verse 43a). What did he mean?
We can derive guidance from earlier verses in this chapter. He told his disciples that “the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (verse 13). Perseverance is required, regardless of what the world is doing. Even if the world is ignoring God and persecuting his people (Matthew 5: 10-12), those who trust Jesus are to “stand firm” in their faith in him.
There is further guidance: “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (verse 14). Preached by whom? Preached by each one of Jesus’ people on earth, through how we live our lives, how we address one another and those not yet of the kingdom, and how we speak of Jesus so that the world may come to realise he is Lord.
* Northern hemisphere readers, this comes at a time of severe drought and extremely high temperatures and after three weeks of devastating fires across four States of Australia.