Preached Sunday, January 29, 2006
(You can listen to this via RealAudio at http://www.boonescreekchurch.com/sermons) .
There are few things worse than missing a connecting flight to your intended destination. Back in 1996, one of my friends in Miami (Perrine, more specifically) was getting married and they asked me to play for their wedding. My flight took me from Louisville to Cincinnati to Miami. Simple enough, right? Not so much apparently.
The flight from Louisville to Cincinnati was running late, which meant that I missed my connecting flight to Miami. So they shuffled me off to a flight heading to Ft. Lauderdale, some 45 minutes north of Miami. I had a fairly smooth flight, but I began planning on how I would get to Miami where my friends would meet me.
To accommodate this, the airline arranged for me to ride in a limo to the Miami airport so I could meet my friends who were to pick me up. I arrive at the airport expecting to be greeted by friends that I hadn’t seen in a while, but alas they were not there. I had no cell phone then and did not have my friend’s number where they were staying. So I looked up in a phone book and just went down the line. Finally, I got a hold of my friend’s mother who greeted me with, “Matthew!” in that beautiful Hispanic accent she had. She then proceeded to tell me that my friends heard that I was landing in Ft. Lauderdale, so they went to get me. All the while I was driving to Miami. We passed each other on the way and didn’t know it. So instead of seeing them around 2:30, I saw them around 8:30.
How frustrating it is when we miss our airport connections that promise to take us to our intended destination! But there are other ways to miss it. We can be running late! Someone calls on the phone just as you’re walking out the door. One of your kids makes a mess and you have to change their clothes. Or maybe your car, which had been so reliable in the recent past, decides not to start. Or maybe you get behind because you can’t find the right outfit in your closet!
There are lots of reasons why we run behind and cannot seem to get ready in time. It’s frustrating … and maybe if you find this happening over and over, you are beginning to take steps to remedy this pattern. But do you find yourself getting frustrated for being late for an event, an appointment, a get-together — but do we find the same urgency in being ready for the Ultimate Appointment? Will we be truly ready when Christ returns for His children?
As we come to the end of Christ’s instruction to His disciples about the end times, He ends it with some dire warnings and pictures of how the end times will look. We have been in Mark, but a parallel passage with some more details are contained in the Gospel According to Matthew in Matthew 24:32-51.
This morning, we need to heed Jesus’ words and ask ourselves, “Are we truly ready when Christ makes His glorious appearing?”
1. Study the signs … and heed His Word (Matthew 24:32-35).
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.  Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
One thing the world must glean from the teachings of Christ is that we need to be observant — a point that Jesus will make repeatedly in these passages before us. He desires us to learn, to study, to evaluate what is before us in light of His holy Word and we will not be caught off-guard.
He directs us to the fig tree — and the lesson is quite simple. When you start seeing leaves on the tree, you know immediately that summer is near. Then Jesus says, “So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.” All these things? What does Jesus mean? What things?
Here you have to go back and look at what Jesus mentioned would happen as the end approached: the abomination of desolation, false Christs, the darkening of the sun and moon, the coming of Christ, the gathering of the elect from the four winds — these are the things that Jesus desires us to be aware of. The ‘leaves’ of the fig tree represent all the issues Jesus spoke of leading up to this point.
But then Jesus says in v. 34, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Some hold to the view that Jesus intended all these things to be accomplished during the generation in which He spoke. But ‘this generation’ can also mean the generation in which all these things begin to take place — and this is how I understand it. These things that Jesus mentioned to His disciples did not take place during their lifetimes nor really during any time since!
How disastrous it would be for us to be so blinded and unobservant to the things around us that we do not look and see whether the end is near. How irresponsible it would be for us to simply say, “Well, they’ve been talking about this for generations… it didn’t happen then and it won’t happen in my generation … it’s still a long way off.”
Are you so sure? We will find out there is no way to be sure of when … but there must be one thing we are sure of — the endurance and authority of God’s Word. “Heaven and earth with pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Have you noticed that people seem to spend so much time looking into the end times realm of Christianity and the Scriptures, that some neglect the other parts? I’ve seen it when pastors begin a series on studying Revelation or Daniel or any of these other books, crowds just seem to swell!
2. Stay alert for Christ’s return, even if you do not know when it will be (Matthew 24:36-44).
Jesus tells us that no one knows the day or the hour except the Father. He clearly states that not even the angels who attend to the Father, and not even the Son. Most find this an issue. They say, “If Jesus is truly God, then He would know everything, right? If His Father knows it and He is God, then Jesus should be aware of these plans as well.”
When Jesus came to earth, He willingly set aside some traits of His Godhood in order to come and bring redemption and salvation to His people — yet never in one bit relinquished his Godhead. For instance: there were times when Jesus knew the thoughts of people. (Mark 2:6-7) and even the conversation, though out of earshot (Mark 9:33-35). So it wasn’t as if he couldn’t know what was going on, but He chose not to know this particular information.
Plus, Jesus gave up parts of not only his omniscience, but His omnipresence when He took on flesh and bone, and His omnipotence (he hungered, thirsted, was tired). So don’t let anyone convince you from this passage that Jesus was not God — He always has been, is, and will be. He just willingly set aside some attributes in order to identify with us as humans.
But Matthew continues, yes? “As in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of Man.” Jesus doesn’t refer to the state of wickedness necessarily, but he uses this event to trigger the last great worldwide cataclysmic judgment. The execution of the judgment itself will be quick and decisive, but the warning time will be sufficient. He preached and built an ark for 120 years as a testimony to the upcoming judgment — but they ignored him.
So what did they do? They carried on with their life regardless of the warning to “get ready.” The mundane and ordinary things of life carried them away. They lived to eat rather than ate to live. Jesus even points out ‘marrying and giving in marriage.’ For some, their wedding day is the greatest day of their lives! I know it was for me — other than coming to Christ, there was no greater day that marrying Cindy! But sadly, for some, they live and die for this. Some girls, I understand, begin planning their weddings from when they were small girls. Yet for so many, they spend their time looking for Mr. Right and Mrs. Right and that consumes them. It can consume so much, that the relationship with Christ suffers.
Notice Jesus even mentions those who are working — both at home and outside the home. How many folks do you know who identify themselves by their work. For men, especially, what we do tends to define who we are. It’s in our conversation. “Hey, my name’s Matt.” “Oh, hey, Mike here.” “So … what do you do?” The idea is to find out where we work. Not only does workaholism affect your relationship at home, but you can become so fixated on your identity at work that you neglect who you are in Christ Jesus.
So Jesus tells them once again, tells them to be ready and to stay awake!
Jesus says, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master 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.”
Some of you may remember the movie “Home Alone” — it was on a number of channels during the Christmas season. It’s the story of a seven-year old boy named Kevin from a big family who was left behind over Christmas while the rest of the family went to Paris. Halfway to Paris, the mom realizes she has forgotten her youngest son.
As Kevin is walking back home the next day, two known robbers (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) notice he is by himself. So they following him and notice he lives in a very rich house and suspect he is alone. Kevin sees them outside of his house and happens to overhear that they will return at 9:00 that evening.
The result: Kevin maps out a plan to protect his house, complete with torches, iced steps, searing hot doorknobs, flying paint cans, trip wires, tar and feathering, and an iron dropped from an empty dumbwaiter about 25 feet above. If you have seen the movie, you see that this guy was prepared. He prepared, made a plan, and when they arrived he was ready.
Jesus says, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
3. Stay faithful for eternity’s sake.
The faithful servant is the one who will endure, even when the Master is away for a great amount of time. He has the Master’s house and his own Temple in order, for the Master could return in a moment’s notice —- ‘in the twinkling of an eye.’ What’s the reward?
Verse 47 tells us, “Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.” In other words, what belongs to the Master will belong to the servant. Notice in Ephesians 1:18-20:
“having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.”
So Christ will be raised up, exalted, and given authority at the right hand of God. Now, notice Ephesians 2:4-6:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved
us,  even when we were dead in our tres passes, made us alive together
with Christ— by grace you have been saved—  and raised us up with him and
seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Here, we see that we will be raised up, exalted, and seated with Christ in the heavenly places. What belongs to Christ will belong to those who trust in Christ! You will be treated as an adopted son and will bear your Father’s name.
The wicked (unfaithful) servant takes the Master’s delay for granted. He is the epitome of Romans 2:4-5:
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbear ance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  But because of your hard and im penitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
And does this ever come true. The so-called ‘servant’ of the Master then begins to treat the other faithful shamefully and even engages in activities that are not identified with the master. His reward?
First, he will be cut to pieces. Then he will be put out of the Master’s house and put rightly with the fakes where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This servant was a true hypocrite —- he acted as if he was faithful, but the longer the Master delayed, the more for granted he took his supposed loyalty and drifted away to his heart’s desire —- violence toward God’s people and a desire to live as the world’s system dictates. His destiny was being apart from God’s favor and grace forever in a place called hell —- where the regrets of not heeding God’s warnings are ever in place!
On one occasion, Col. Robert Ingersoll, the noted agnostic lecturer, was to give a lecture on the ludicrisy of the doctrine of hell. He stated that this doctrine was made up by theologians who desired to keep uninformed Christians at bay. As he got up to speak, a half-drunken man stood up and say, “Make it strong, Mr. Ingersoll, make it strong. There’s a lot of us poor fellows depending on you. If you are wrong then we are all lost, so make it strong, make the case plain and clear.”
The case has been made clear by Jesus Christ Himself — we will be held accountable if we fail to give our all to Him!
Yesterday, a crowd of 250 people gathered at the Kennedy Space Center to honor the seven Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts who died in the explosion 20 years ago yesterday. This happened only 73 seconds into their ascent into space. It was one of those moments where you remember exactly where you were when it happened. I was in the lunchroom as a freshman in high school when Steve Larner (see, I even remember his name) told me ever so eloquently, “Hey, the Shuttle blew up!” I called him a liar and didn’t believe it. But when I went into my 7th period class, we suspended the lesson for the day and just watched the news where they showed it over and over and over again.
When they looked into the reason for the Shuttle’s disastrous ending, it came down to a poorly designed gasket in one of the shuttle’s main fuel boosters. According to an AP article, the temperature at liftoff was 36 degrees, causing the gasket to freeze and thus malfunction. When they began investigating this, “a space agency more concerned with schedules and public relations than with safety and sound decision-making.”
This describes so many of us. Rather than being sound in our Christian life, we find ourselves more concerned with our schedules and our “PR” — that is, what others think of us and dictate from us. Are you like this? Does your day-to-day life so control you that you are not alert, awake, and ready?
Jesus said, “My word will not pass away though all else will.” He tells us to be faithful, good stewards of our time and resources — why? Because over and over we are told that we do not know the day nor the hour. But what do we know? We know His Word and His Word says, “Be ready.” I wish we all could be ready… I pray you are ready this morning.