A sermon preached on Matthew 24:37-44 by Pastor Jonathan Werre at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Sioux Falls, SD on December 1, 2019.
37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. – Matthew 24:37-44
Keep on keeping watch, staying awake, paying attention…to how I am listening to the Word
Gpngopeite is the Greek verb used here. “Therefore, keep watch, (gpngopeite) because you
do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Gpngopeite; means keep watch, stay awake,
pay attention. But it is a present tense imperative, so it more precisely means, “keep on keeping
watch, keep on staying awake, keep on paying attention.” Gpngopeite, from which we get the
name “Gregory, the Alert One.” “Therefore, keep watch, (gpngopeite) because you do not know
on what day your Lord will come.” This fact is to affect the way you live this day. And affect
how you live long term.
“Therefore, keep watch, (gpngopeite) because you do not know on what day your Lord will
come.” It could be Monday morning. So, this day, today, keep on keeping watch, keep on
staying awake, keep on paying attention. Meaning what?
Think of it this way. If you knew that tomorrow you would suddenly lose your eyesight and
there’s nothing you could do about it, would that affect the way you use your eyes today?
Would it affect how you notice the blueness of the sky today, how you see the incredible
graphics on your favorite video game today, how you look into the faces of your loved ones
Well, what if you somehow knew that tomorrow you would lose not your eyesight but the
life you have in this world, knew you would suddenly be standing before the King and Judge
Jesus Christ tomorrow morning, Monday morning, would that affect the way you live your life
Christ says “yes.” In particular, he means for it to affect our ears. To sharpen up, today, how
you use your ears as you listen to his Word. To listen more regularly, more personally.
So that if our Lord returns Monday morning, that you would today have spent some time
with his Word, like you are doing right now, and confessing your sins to him and receiving his
forgiveness, that would be good. But what if our Lord does not return and Monday comes?
Then live on Monday as if you expect he will return Tuesday morning; so on Monday spend
some time with the Word of God, with confessing your sins to him, and reminding him of your
baptism when he washed all those sins away and promised you heaven. But what if our Lord
does not return on Tuesday? Then live on Tuesday as if you expect he will return on Wednesday
morning; so on Tuesday, spend some time with the Word of God, with confessing your sins to
him, and reminding him of your baptism when he washed all those sins away and promised you
heaven. But if our Lord does not return on Wednesday, then…well, you get the point. Now, to
be clear, having a consistently devotional life is not what gets you into heaven—that is Christ’s
gift, that’s promised to you at your baptism, which connects you to his death and resurrection,
the price of our salvation. But it is by regularly hearing his Word that you stay connected by the
power of the Holy Spirit to the Christ who earned your salvation.
That’s what our Savior wants us to be watching for—for the way you and I listen to his
Word, more regularly/consistently being in worship and having our daily devotions, more
personally letting what we hear/read expose our own sinful attitudes and reactions so that the
gospel becomes the one thing we just can’t live without….and the one thing that shapes how we
live each day. “Therefore, keep watch, (gpngopeite) because you do not know on what day your
Lord will come.”
That fact is to affect the way you live today, this day. Because the Last Day could very well
be tomorrow. Or maybe not. You don’t know, I don’t know. Amazingly enough, even Jesus
Christ himself, in his state of humiliation, did not know when the Last Day would be, “No one
knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Isn’t that astounding? That the angels do not know when the Last Day will be is understandable,
after all, they are not omniscient. But Jesus is. However, in his State of Humiliation (that time
from his conception until he was buried), he chose not to use his divine power and knowledge–
except to serve others and to show he was the Son of God, like when he did miracles. But, and
here is the amazing thing–he never used his power or knowledge for his own advantage, not
even to make his life a little easier, like if he bent a nail when he was pounding a board. Which
is yet another insight into how perfect Jesus is—because if anyone else had access to total power
and perfect knowledge of the future, they’d use it to their own advantage, wouldn’t
they—wouldn’t you be tempted to do that if you knew right now who is going to win the Super
Bowl or what the stock market will be at on June 30, 2020? But not Christ. Because for him,
everything was about serving us and obeying his Father. Everything. He really did keep God’s
commands perfectly for us. Woe to those who think they can be good enough to get into heaven
on their own. What a harsh reality they will face when they stand before Christ on that Day and
see what the standard of “being good” really looks like.
“Therefore, keep watch, (gpngopeite, present tense, keep on keeping watch, staying awake,
paying attention) because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” This fact is to
affect the way you live this day. And affect how you live long term.
Like the house owner in Jesus’ parable. “Therefore, keep watch because you do not know
on what day your Lord will come. But, understand this: If the owner of the house had known at
what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his
house be broken into. So you also must be ready because the Son of God will come at an hour
when you do not expect him.”
The problem with not knowing when the Last Day will be is the same problem a
homeowner has about someone breaking into his/her house–you don’t know when it might
happen. So, what do you do? You don’t stay up every night, waiting with your shotgun. That
might work for one night. But not long term. No, you plan. You say, what can I do so I can
sleep securely at night and not worry about someone breaking in? You lock your doors, right?
Maybe you get a watch dog that will bark if someone breaks in, keep your cellphone by your bed
to dial 911. You make sure to live in a safer area of town and have good neighbors. That’s how
you keep yourself physically safe in a world where thieves can break in and do you harm.
But how do you keep yourself spiritually safe in a world where false beliefs can break in
and harm you, false beliefs from social media, from teachers at school, from friends and family?
First, doors need to be locked…and unlocked. And so Christ locks the door to hell and unlocks
the door to heaven for you every time you confess your sins and hear the pastor announce the
Absolution, for the pastor is using the Keys Christ gave his Church. He does the same thing
every time you remember your baptism and celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the price of your
redemption. Christ gives you some spiritual watch dogs, your pastors, whom he wants to bark
and make a ruckus when false beliefs try to intrude into your attitude and heart, pastors whom
you can also call any time day or night, a kind of spiritual 911. Christ gives you a safer spiritual
neighborhood by leading you to a church that teaches his Word in its truth and purity, which is
also how you get good spiritual neighbors.
And one more thing.
He makes you brave. And you’ll need that. Because, have you ever had someone break in
to your house? I have experienced that type of thing one time in my life. To say it made my
heart beat fast would be a gross understatement. Confronting an intruder takes courage. And it
is not unlike the courage it takes to confront spiritual intruders, like the false messages that come
at your so invitingly in social media and movies, the false beliefs that come at you from friends
and coworkers, the temptations that still hammer away inside of you and me that come out of our
own sinful nature, egged on by Satan.
And the place you want to go to get heapin’ helping of that kind of courage is….the
Word…we are back to where we started, aren’t we. Gpngopeite, “keep on watching/staying
awake/paying attention” to how you listen to God’s Word. To, starting today, be even more
consistent in worship and in your daily devotions. Starting today, put forth more mental effort to
take the Word even more personally, letting the law expose my own sinful attitudes and actions
so that the gospel is always the one thing I cannot live without, so that I reflect more closely in
the busy and often stressful day ahead, the law of Christian love.
That’s what our Savior wants us to keep on watching/staying awake/paying attention to,
as we await his return—listening to his Word. “Therefore, keep watch, (gpngopeite) because you
do not know on what day your Lord will come.” And that’s OK for you who are listening to his