Sunday, November 18, 2012

Being an Observant Christian

Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
November 18, 2012
The observant Christian not only seeks answers from Jesus but also takes Him at His word. The observant Christian does not peer into the secret things of God but hears the words of his Lord and rests in them. If someone else asks a question and after answering it Jesus speaks to one of His disciples, that disciple listens.

The Pharisees asked Jesus about the Kingdom of God and Jesus gave a brief answer. Jesus then turned His attention from the Pharisees to the disciples. He had told the Pharisees that “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed.” So what did the disciples need to know about the coming of the Kingdom of God? If you can’t observe its coming, how are you directed to approach it? The Pharisees wanted to know when it would be coming; and wouldn’t we all? Had the disciples asked a similar question? Or did Jesus just take the opportunity brought up by the Pharisees to guide the disciples in their view of the coming of the Kingdom of God?

Not only would the Kingdom of God be coming but so would their “desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man.” Here’s the deal, disciples: “you will not see it.” People will say, “Here it comes!” Or, “Look, here!, it’s coming!” But Jesus said to them, don’t follow those people. The observant Christian will observe that these people are false prophets. They are pointing away from Christ. The observant Christian will stick with the words of Christ and not be swayed by the words of men.

Here is how you will know when the Kingdom of God has come: “For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.” You don’t know when, but you will know it has happened because everyone will know. There are many who long to peer into the secret things of God. They are the ones who seek after others, who point people away from Christ. The observant Christian sticks with Christ. The observant Christian sees the signs and recognizes that some of those signs are false prophets saying, “It’s coming, this is when it will be. This is how it will be.” Stick with Christ, He knows a lot more than ordinary men, who are just like you by the way. If you are an observant Christian you know a lot more than those false prophets because you know, and stick with, what Christ has given you to know.

Notice how this whole thing started? When it will it happen, Jesus? When? We want to know. Now I will freely admit that I sympathize with those Pharisees. If I hadn’t asked Jesus myself I would have been thinking in my mind that I was glad that they had. But that is because I am so often not an observant Christian. I am often looking elsewhere. I so often want to know what God has not given me to know instead of sticking with what He has given me to know.

Be observant. Pay attention to what Jesus is saying. You need to know that it’s going to happen, you don’t need to know when. You know that you will know when it happens because Jesus will make it abundantly clear. If you’ve ever seen an electrical storm at night in the desert you know exactly how this will be. The lightning flashes and lights up the whole sky. When Jesus comes in glory on the Last Day you will know. Everyone will. That’s what you need to know. It may seem to you that it’s not going to happen because it’s been a long time already and the world keeps spinning. Be an observant Christian and stick with His words. Don’t wonder when it’s happening, be content that it will happen. He will come again in glory.

The observant Christian takes note of what Jesus says. The observant Christian recognizes that Jesus is not going to promise that He will return again glory without directing us to why He came in humility. Before this happens, Jesus says, before I return on the Last Day, I must accomplish the purpose for which I came. “But first,” He says, [the Son of Man] must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” The observant Christian recognizes that there is absolutely no point in Jesus returning again glory without Him having gone to the cross to suffer for the sin of the world. Without salvation being accomplished on the cross there is no glory for us to obtain on the Last Day.

The observant Christian looks around sees what is happening as this world spins around. But he doesn’t notice what everyone else notices. He observes that because people go about their lives as they do that there aren’t many people who are truly observant. The observant Christian will therefore realize that he is always in danger of going about daily life and forgetting about Christ and His Word. Or being swayed by others who would point him away from Christ. Jesus makes this observation: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” And how was that? “They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”

We’re used to expecting opposition from the world and wickedness. But people also have a remarkable capacity for plain old apathy. Noah warned people that a flood was coming to destroy the earth and what were people doing? Eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage. Guess what people are doing today? Pretty much the same thing. Our Lord has said that He is coming again in glory and along with it this world as we know it will be destroyed. But what are people doing? Going about their business. Carrying out their daily lives without any thought of Jesus’ promise of returning and bringing judgment. The observant Christian recognizes that being observant is constant vigilance. It’s all too easy to go about your life without giving thought to the things Jesus has given you to know and be prepared for.

The observant Christian sees that he all too often is not as observant as he perhaps thinks he is and perhaps that is the reason Jesus emphasizes things by repeating them. That’s the way it was in Noah’s time, Jesus said, and it also was the way it was in Lot’s time: “Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all.” The reason God brought His judgment upon people in those times, Noah’s time and Lot’s time, was because of the outright wickedness of the people. The people’s reaction was apathy. They just went on as they had been going on. You ignore Christ’s return in glory to your peril. He gives the warning and as an observant Christian you don’t go on as you are but go on holding fast to the word of Christ, taking it to heart, and being prepared rather than apathetic.

The observant Christian notes that Jesus isn’t just promising to return in glory but that He is saying that just as it was in Noah’s and Lot’s time so it will be when He returns in glory. There will be plenty of people going about their business and will be awakened from their apathetic slumber suddenly. The observant Christian holds to Christ’s word so that He doesn’t fall into this apathy.

Christ spoke all of this to the disciples. Are you an observant Christian? Do you recognize that when Jesus spoke to the Pharisees when they asked Him when the Kingdom of God would come that He said to them that that can’t be observed? Do you see what they didn’t, that the Kingdom of God is among you? As He said, when people are pointing you away from Christ that the Kingdom of God is in the Person of Christ Himself? When Jesus said to the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you, they simply refused to see that God makes Himself known, in other words, the Kingdom of God comes to us, in Jesus Christ, the one who was born of Mary and who suffered on the cross. Look for the Kingdom of God anywhere else and you will miss it. God comes to you in the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.

The observant Christian stops thinking about when Christ will return in glory and rejoices that He will return in glory. The observant Christian stops listening to those other voices and listens to the voice of His Lord when He says, I Baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The observant Christian more and more sees the futility of asking when and revels in the now where his Lord says to him, “This is My body, for you; this is My blood, for you.” The observant Christian is ready for Christ to return in glory and joyful that Christ comes to her, in the midst of His of people, in the Gospel that is proclaimed, the Absolution that is pronounced, the Baptism she daily lives in, the Holy Supper her Lord presides over and invites her to.

So it will be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed, He will be with you always, as He always has. Amen.


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