Summary: Year A. 1st Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2001 Matthew 24: 36-44
Year A. 1st Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2001 Matthew 24: 36-44
Heavenly Father thank you for giving us the power to contain and control evil through your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Title: Jesus has given us the power to contain and control evil.
In this second part of Jesus’ “eschatological discourse” three parables announce its major theme: vigilance as preparation for the Parousia, the coming of the son of Man.
Matthew records a fifth and final discourse of Jesus in 24:1- 25: 46, called by scholars the “eschatological discourse” or sermon. It is not really a sermon delivered by Jesus on one occasion, rather a collection of material, on the topics of the end of the age and or world, the coming of the son of man, and judgment. This would be material Jesus taught throughout his ministry. Matthew depends on Mark for much of it, at least 24: 1-36. To Mark he adds material from “Q” and from his own source, “M.” In the first part, 24: 1-36, he uses all the apocalyptic props, especially as found in the Book of Daniel, to indicate that there will come a point, whether a flash point or a prolonged or progressively developed period, when no one, believer or non-believer, will be able to deny the presence of God. The usual negative experiences of any age- war, famine, pestilence, storms of earth, sea and sky, moral and social ills, etc- will come together in such a way as to make the presence of God undeniable. He equates that condition and the set of conditions which precede it, with the Parousia. The coming of the Son of Man, here identified with the mysterious figure in Dan 7: 13-14 who receives glory and dominion from the Ancient of Days and the end of the age will happen together. However, they will not happen now and will not necessarily happen whenever the usual negative conditions of earth and earthlings become intense. There will be false messiahs erroneously announcing an “end.” Matthew counsels Christians not to be gullible and believe every prediction of the “end,” no matter how great and compelling the “evidence.” On the other hand, Matthew counsels that Christians should not become complacent or worse, non-believing because the “end,” has not yet come or because it has been loudly and confidently predicted many times and has not happened. Thus, in the first part of the “discourse,” Matthew counsels patience until the end and perseverance through the many trials and tribulations that inevitably precede the great day or period.
Verse thirty six, is pivotal. Jesus says that not even the Son knows the day or hour. That means that all the antecedent signs –cosmic, natural, social, political and religious- signs in and of every age are to be understood by Christians as effecting an improvement, if painful, reminders of the end, an end that could come at any time. Therefore, the second part of the discourse counsels watchfulness, vigilance, a constant sense of urgency, but not a state of emergency, as the only wise thing to do given the unpredictability, yet inevitability, of the closing of the age and coming of the Christ. Most will be caught unawares, but disciples must be in constant readiness.
Verses thirty-seven to forty-four present three parables- Noah’s generation verses thirty-seven to thirty-nine, the two pairs of workers verses forty and forty-one, and the thief in the night verses forty-three to forty-four,- to illustrate the need to be alert, alive, awake, watchful at all times.
In verses thirty-seven to thirty-nine, as the days of Noah were: The people of Noah’s time were so immersed in their ordinary, every day pursuits that they were blind to the imminent disaster, a disaster which Noah’s attentiveness to God’s word and personal righteousness caused him to see what they did not or could not. The implication is that it is possible to prepare for the Parousia or even one’s personal death and judgment, not by calculating a date or knowing a date in advance, but by a life of constant readiness to be judged by God, a constant willingness and openness to his warnings. As this and the next parable teach, there will be only two categories of people when that time comes: the prepared and, therefore, saved and the unprepared the lost.
Verse sixteen, makes a similar point and ties in with these verses.
In verses forty and forty-one, two men…two women: Both men are involved in the same work. Both women are grinding at the mill. Both sets of people look the same on the surface, by human judgment and standards. The separation, the difference, the judgment, is not on the basis of work or appearances, but on the basis of readiness. Only God can judge this difference, yet it makes all the difference, not in this world but the next. One will be “taken,” into the Kingdom, while the other will be “left,” behind. This judgment will come upon a person quite suddenly. There can be no other preparation but readiness. Verses eighteen and nineteen, make much the same point and tie in with these verses.