Summary: A message on the tasks of the Christian life as believers await the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Matthew 21:1-13; Rom. 13:8-14
December 1, 2002
The Rev’d Quintin Morrow
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Fort Worth, Texas
You are all quite familiar with the old saw about how a watched pot never boils. It isn’t true, of course. A watched pot does boil. It only seems to us waiting on it like it takes an eternity to do so.
Einstein’s famous Theory of Relativity posits that time may not be the constant we think it is. Here on earth a minute, is a minute, is a minute. But Einstein argued that elsewhere in the cosmos a minute may not be a minute, at least not as we perceive a minute. Time may be relative. And there are certainly moments in our own experience where time seems relative. Take for example how time seems to stretch out interminably when we are children; it feels like an eternity between Christmases. And consider how time appears to almost exponentially contract as we get older; the time between Christmases just speeds by. Consider also the differences in time we feel when we are enjoying an activity and when we are waiting for that proverbial kettle to boil.
And of course we must consider the difference between God’s perspective of time and our own perspective—especially now as we enter this Advent season, the time when we as God’s elect look for, hope for, and prepare for the triumphant and glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
You recall in the Gospels that following the Lord’s resurrection from the dead He appeared to His disciples; He ate with them, taught them, and prepared them for the next task appointed for them: the evangelization of the known world.
In the opening chapter of Acts Jesus appears to His disciples again, charges them to remain in Jerusalem awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit, and commands them to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world. Then, suddenly, while the disciples were watching Him, Jesus was taken up and cloud received Him out of their sight. Acts 1:10-11:
And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them rin white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, swill so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Jesus Christ is coming again. He Himself said so. But it has been almost two millennia since He said He would return. Why the delay?
There are two reasons for His delay. Peter records them both together in chapter 3 of his second letter. Listen:
Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
The Lord’s delayed return, according to Peter, isn’t actually a delay at all. It only appears to be a delay to us. Form our perspective, time-bound as we are, it seems as if there has been an eternity of time passed between when Jesus promised to return and the fulfillment of that promise. From God’s perspective—He the author time, standing outside of time—it’s only been two days.
Moreover, the Lord’s delay—or seeming delay—is grace. When Jesus comes again He will not come as He did the first time as a humble carpenter from Nazareth, an itinerant rabbi proclaiming the Good News of God’s favor toward sinners, and a willing sacrifice for sin. When Jesus comes again He will come gloriously, triumphantly, as God’s instrument of salvation for the saints and as God’s agent of justice and wrath for sinners.
In the Nicene Creed we proclaim our belief in one Lord Jesus Christ, very God of very God, born of the Virgin Mary, suffering under Pontius Pilate, buried, resurrected, ascended into heaven, and coming again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead.
John, the Beloved Disciple, opens his apocalyptic letter, Revelation, with this news, chapter 1 verse 7:
Behold, He is coming with rclouds, and every eye will see Him, even sthey who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Why will all the nations of the world mourn when Jesus returns? Because the time of grace will be over. Because this humble sacrifice for sin, whom they scorned and rejected, is coming as their judge and they are unprepared. Because the time to repent has passed and all that awaits them is outer darkness, and weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.