No One Knows the Day

A sermon preached on Mark 13:32-37 by Pastor Michael Johnson at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD, on November 29, 2020.

What exactly will heaven be like? How many angels can fit on the head of a pin? Can God make something so big and heavy he can’t lift it? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why did God set up the roles of men and women in the church the way he did? There are many different questions in life that we want answers for from God. Sometimes the Bible gives us some answers to our questions, sometimes it doesn’t. Some unanswered questions are easier to accept than others, but some questions that God doesn’t answer can really bother us. I think the end of the world tends to be a topic that creates questions we want answers for.

Today, Jesus addresses just that topic for us today. And when we study Jesus’ words, you can see – the Bible doesn’t tell us everything we want to know – but it does tell us what we need to know. Today he shows us a bit of why this is the case.

No One Knows the Day (this is true) 1. For your protection 2. For your salvation

Did you know we shouldn’t be here? I’m not talking about Covid. I’m not talking about scientists’ realization that this world should never have been able to come into existence by evolution – I mean, did you hear the world should have ended already? For years there have been “Christians” who have thought they could decode information in the Bible – much like in the Davinci Code – and predict the end of the world. It’s been especially popular in the past couple of decades or so.

It’s not just so called pastors looking for public attention that are fascinated with the end of the world. Doomsday movies where the world ends or wipes out most of the population have been popular for a long time. And we are interested in the end of the world too – especially this time of year. Today, we’re starting the church season of Advent. Advent comes from a Latin word that means “coming.” Of course we prepare to celebrate Christmas and Jesus’ coming as a little baby. But we also prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming again on the last day.

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. We’re used to a certain amount of promotion, build up, and hype before big events today. A big concert will have billboards and commercials building up to it. There were ads and commercials for Black Friday this week all over so you could get excited about it and want to get caught up in shopping fever even in Covid times.

Does God work that way? You might expect him to – after all, God’s actions on our behalf actually deserve fanfare like the angels singing on the night of Jesus’ birth. Yet, God often works through subtle, simple means. Jesus didn’t look like much during his earthly life. But you think God would make a lot of hubbub around the end of the world so we’re not caught off guard. But, that’s not how God has chosen to act. Sure Jesus gives us some general signs of the end of the world – there will be wars and hardships and people acting selfishly – well that’s pretty general and that sounds like right now.

Jesus does tell us: “if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). So we know he is going to come back but he doesn’t tell us when. Why? To protect you.

How does not knowing when the world will end protect you? Well, it’s pretty easy to procrastinate in life isn’t it? Whether I mean to or not, I’m not perfect and I often put things off. If I put off small and big things alike, imagine if I knew the exact day and hour the world would end. My sinful nature would take that information and want to use it in the most selfish way possible. If I knew the world would end in exactly seven years, my sinful nature would decide that I then have six years and 51 weeks to live as terribly as I want. After all it doesn’t matter how I live my life as long as I die a believer.

Yet, that attitude would more than likely just end in disaster – here’s the dangers it would hold. I could become so engrossed in my sinful lifestyle that I never end up putting it off and remain in my sin. Or even if I could know exactly when the world would end, I wouldn’t know the exact time of my own death. For all I know, tomorrow I could get hit by a bus and where would that leave me if I was waiting to trust in Jesus? Or even more importantly, the Bible shows we don’t decide to come to faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts through the Word. I can’t decide to just flip a switch and come to faith after I’ve had fun in the deep end of sin.

But no, it is God who has found you. He has brought you to faith in Jesus as your Savior from sin and he never wants you to lose him. That’s why he eliminates the temptation to live my life in a sinful manner up until the very end by keeping the time of the end a mystery to me.

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. Be on your guard – you don’t know when he’s coming again. Jesus said he didn’t even know. That might sound weird since Jesus is God and knows everything and he in fact does know when he’s coming back now. But when Jesus said this he was in the middle of what we call his humiliation – the time from his conception to his burial where he set aside the full use of his powers as God. Jesus’ main message to the disciples and to you wasn’t about not knowing anyways – his main message was – watch, be prepared – expect me at any time.

Jesus was actually saying these words just three days before dying for you and me. Jesus’ time had come. He had lived a perfect life – never putting off living for God for another time – he always put his Heavenly Father’s will and your eternity first. He was about to finish the heavy lifting of your salvation by dying to pay the price your sins had racked up with God. He has won heaven for you and he desires your soul’s salvation so he says be ready – I’m coming back to take you to be with me.

Be ready – take your faith and God’s Word seriously. Put Jesus first just like he put you first. Put others first by telling them about Jesus. In fact, Jesus slips a short little parable into our reading to remind us we aren’t just sitting around waiting for him to come back – we have work to do.

It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Jesus is our master – he has visibly gone away and he is going to visibly return again. You and I, Christians, are his servants and he has given us each an assigned task to do while we wait for his returning. He’s given you each abilities and talents to use to live for him in this world and glorify him with your life. Jesus mentions someone at the door keeping watch – he gives us spiritual leaders like pastors to encourage us to live for Jesus and use those abilities he’s given us. We don’t want to just be sitting around twiddling our thumbs asking when Jesus is coming back. The Apostle Paul once said of his work on earth while he looked forward to heaven: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Let’s strive to keep each other ready and working for Christ’s return.

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” When will Jesus return? I have no idea. But he says expect him and expect him soon. It’s going to happen when we least expect it. Yet, for you and me as Christians, that will be the best surprise ever.

I wait in hope for that day – but while I wait, God has given me work to do. I’m a husband, I’m a father, I’m a friend, I’m a son, I’m a Christian who wants others to know about Jesus.

God may not answer every question I ever have – but he tells me the most important things I need to know. He is coming and he is coming soon and he is coming to save you.