Sunday, November 30, 2008

Need to Know Basis

First Sunday in Advent
Andrew, Apostle
November 30, 2008
Mark 13:24-37

Beginning tomorrow the month of December will occur. Today is the last day of this month and after December it will be the first day of January. These two days, January 1 and today, have something in common: both days begin a new year. New Year’s Day, of course, begins the new calendar year and today begins the new Church Year. On January 1 we will look ahead, wondering what new challenges and opportunities the new year will bring. Some things will stay that same, but there will be new things that come our way. In the Church Year, we know exactly what will happen. We know the festivals and the seasons, when they’ll happen, what we’ll be celebrating and observing on particular days. The Church Year is all about what has happened.

The calendar year is all about what is ahead of us, what we will do. The Church Year is all about what God has done for us and what that means for us in our lives and for eternity. The reason God gave us the Bible is so that we could know what we need to know. Sometimes that means being aware of what we don’t know. Jesus is telling us in the Gospel reading of things that we know and of things that we can’t know. We will know when we’re in the End Times, but we don’t know when the end will come. Jesus lays out the things we will know and the things we won’t.

What we know is the signs of the times; that’s how we’ll know when we’re in the End Times. Looking at His description, what we know is that we’re in them. The end is near. Jesus is warning of us of the end and that it is near. He’s equally clear that we don’t know exactly when it will come. On that we’re on a need to know basis, and we don’t need to know. The angels don’t know either. I wonder if they spend time time wondering why they don’t know, that they’re in the same boat with us on this. I doubt not. Because they’re content. They’re on a need to know basis also, but content that they know all they need to know. Being in the presence of Jesus Christ is enough for them because it’s everything. The fact that He knows is enough for them. They know that His knowing, and His decision that they don’t need to know, is enough for them. And that should be enough for us, as well. We don’t need to know because our Lord has told us that we don’t need to know. If we did know, where would our need for trust in Him be?

Still, it’s hard, isn’t it? Children always want to know what they’re parents are keeping from them. We’re the same way with God. When He keeps something from us, that’s what we want. We’re not content with what He gives us—which is countless blessings.

Perhaps it will help us to know that Jesus speaks of that which He knows, so to speak. In other words, when He is saying that no one knows the hour of His Return in glory, He says that even of Himself! What?! He doesn’t know? How can that be? It seems to be a denial on His part of His deity. He is true God—we believe that, we confess it, He claims it. And yet, here He is, saying that even He doesn’t know when He Himself will return in glory on the Last Day. Remarkable. Even troubling. Why does He say it? And how is it true?

He says it because it’s true. It’s true because He is God and can do anything. Including becoming man. Including laying aside the full use of His glory and power in order to live on this earth as a man, in flesh and blood as you and I do. Including humbling Himself to be born of a woman and suffer at the hands of men like you and me. Including submitting Himself to the Heavenly will of His Father even though He is one with Him. Including placing Himself in the position of being on a need to know basis, although He Himself is true God of true God and knows all things in heaven and on earth.

Jesus is not just saying that you and I don’t know. Not just that the angels don’t know. He is saying that He Himself doesn’t know. He is saying that though He is very God of very God He has humbled Himself to lay aside the full use of His glory and power so that He could become one with human beings in order to save them. He is true God and true man. He is fully God and fully man. As God He knows all and can do all. As man He is limited, truly one with us.

That is how we are saved. Not by anything we do. Not in some grand fashion by the Almighty Power of God. We are saved by the humility of our Lord Jesus Christ. By His becoming flesh and living the moral life we have not; obeying God’s holy will in perfection as we have not; submitting His will to His Heavenly Father’s will which we certainly have not. It is not beneath Him to serve us though He has created us. It is not drudgery for Him to submit to the One with whom He is one so that we may be joined with Him in eternity. It is not remarkable to Him at all that He would humble Himself to be born of a woman and suffer in our place; only what makes perfect sense to Him: to do all within His power to save us—including serving us as the Lamb of God.

Maybe this is why Jesus mentioned the angels. As they are content, so we can be. What do they know? What they need to know. So with us. We know what our Lord has given us to know. We are indeed on a need to know basis and we give thanks that we know all that we need to know. We give thanks for the beginning of a new Church Year where we are guided on our lifelong journey of fixing our eyes on Jesus. Where we are constantly guarded in our faith with the holy Sacraments our Lord gives us. This is what we know: we know our Lord has saved us and we know how. We know the Holy Spirit gives us faith to receive that salvation through the Gospel and our Baptism and the Supper of our Lord. We don’t know how He works these things in us. We can’t quantify them or scientifically explain them.

But we can be content—we’re on a need to know basis. And just as our Lord was content in His sojourn on earth not even to know the day and hour of His Return in glory, so we can be content in not knowing the same. All we need to know is that He will indeed return in glory. All we need to know is that He comes to us often with His grace and forgiveness in the Gospel, our Baptism, and His Holy Supper. All we need to know is what the angels know: that they are in the presence of the Lord because He has welcomed them into His presence, even as He will us. Amen.


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