St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Another Year of Grace Lies Ahead

Sermon on Mark 13:32-37

Text: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 “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. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Happy New Year! Am I jumping the gun just a bit? Not really. The new year that I am talking about is the church year. Today is the first Sunday of the new church year. Just as on January 1 we stand on the threshold of a new year, today we stand on the threshold of a new church year. This morning let us look at this new year and see that ANOTHER YEAR OF GRACE LIES AHEAD. It is 1. A Year Of Watchfulness, 2. A Year Of Opportunity and 3. A Year Of Expectancy.

Jesus’ disciples had just asked Jesus when the Last Day would come. They wanted him to give them a specific time. But Jesus does not do so. As a matter of fact, he said in verse 32: “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” It might seem strange to us that the Son of God didn’t know when the Last Day would be. We must remember that, when Jesus came to the earth, he voluntarily gave up the full use of his heavenly powers. Also, we must remember that, though there is one God, there are three Persons. As God, Jesus knew. However, as the Son, who is separate from the Father, he did not know. Although this is impossible to completely understand, we believe it to be true, because of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as it is taught in the Scriptures.

Instead of telling his disciples when the Last Day would be, Jesus, instead, gave them a command. He said in verse 33, “Be on guard! Be alert!” What does it mean to be on guard, to be alert? They were to be conscious of what they were doing all the time. They were to be like soldiers who are on guard duty. They are to be living lives that are pleasing to God. They are to be keeping away from sin. They are to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Mark 14:38) The Christian is to be wide awake and aware of the fact that Jesus will return again.

Does this mean that, if a Christian happens to be sinning when Jesus returns, he will be lost forever? Not necessarily. Our salvation does not depend on our works. If it did, we would most certainly be lost. Rather, it all depends on what Jesus has done for us. His perfect life, his innocent suffering and death, his glorious resurrection – these are all that matter. With Jesus, there is forgiveness of sins. Now, this doesn’t mean that we have every liberty to sin, because we know that we will be forgiven. Rather, because of our thankfulness to God for all that he has done for us, we will make every effort to be watchful and pray to God for the strength to flee temptations to sin. This upcoming year can be a year of watchfulness as we wait for our Lord to return.

This year is also a year of opportunity. To help his disciples to understand what sort of attitude they should have at the end of the world, Jesus tells them a parable. “It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.” (Verse 34) Before the man leaves, he gives each of his servants a task that they are to be doing while he is gone. Perhaps one of them was to be in charge of the cleaning, another in charge of the animals, and still another was to cook for the other servants. Whatever it was, each of the servants had a particular task that they were to do until the master returned.

So, also, each of us has been given specific tasks that we are to do until the Lord returns. Not each of us has the same task, but whatever the task is, we are to do it to the best of our abilities. He may have given you the task of being a father or mother. If so, you are to be a God-pleasing father or mother. If your task is to be a son or daughter, be a God-pleasing son or daughter. Perhaps your task is to be a student. Do it to the best of your abilities. Perhaps you are employed by someone else. If so, do your job faithfully. If you are self-employed, you are still to use your abilities and talents, which is pleasing to God. Rather than go through every possible situation, we turn to the words of 1 Corinthians 10:31, which say, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Not matter what task you have been given, do that task to God’s glory, out of thankfulness for all that he has done for you.

We, also, want to make the most out of every opportunity to help others. If you know that someone is having a problem, don’t look the other way. Go to them and offer to help them in whatever way you can. If someone is sad about something, we can go and cheer them up. We want to help those around us. We help those in our congregation and those who believe as we do. In doing so, we are encouraging them in their walk of faith. As Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:10, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” This new year is another year of opportunity. Let us seize every opportunity to do what God wants us to do.

Jesus continues his parable, “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.” (Verse 35) Notice that all the times that are mentioned are at night. You would not expect the master to come back in the middle of the night, especially in Jesus’ day. Now we think little about driving at night. But then there were few well-defined roads. There would only be the light of a lantern or torch. The people of Jesus’ day rarely traveled after sunset. Yet, Jesus sets up the possibility of the owner coming back unexpectedly.

Jesus continues, “If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.” (Verse 36) If the one who was to be the doorkeeper was found sleeping, he would suffer a grave punishment. The master wants his servants to be wide awake and watching for him. Jesus also wants his servants to be wide awake. We are to be doing the things that are pleasing to God. Unfortunately, human nature likes to put this off until tomorrow. ‘Never do today, what you can put off until tomorrow.’ Sometimes we also show that procrastinating nature in our Christianity. ‘I’ll start living the way I’m supposed to tomorrow. I’ll start reading my Bible tomorrow. I’ll do this or that tomorrow.’ Jesus’ parable shows us that we should not wait until tomorrow. We should not be drowsy or sleeping. We are to be active in our duties. We are living expecting our Savior to return to this world.

Jesus again stresses the idea that we are to live in a way that is pleasing to God. “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Verse 37. Jesus, again, reminds us to be watchful, expecting him to come again. This expectancy is not looking up at the clouds, wondering if this is the day. It is an eager and prayerful alertness, which is intelligent, continuous, and active. It is an alertness to the present and the future, as we attend to our present duties in joyful anticipation of receiving the crown of life that will be received from the Lord’s hand. We live every day, fully expecting Jesus to come. When he does, we want to be ready to receive him. We believers want to be ready, not just to avoid eternal punishment, but to enjoy eternal salvation.

When a new year starts, many people make resolutions of things that they want to do or not do in the upcoming year. Perhaps you’ve made some yourself in the past. As we stand on the threshold of a new year, let us make some resolutions about the YEAR OF GRACE THAT LIES AHEAD. Let us make it a year of watchfulness as we watch and pray so that we will not fall into temptation. Let us make it a year of opportunity as we seize every opportunity to do the things that God has given us to do. Let us make it a year of expectancy as we wait in joyful anticipation for our Savior to return to take us to heaven to be with him forever. Finally in the end, it is not these actions that will make us prepared for Jesus’ return. They are symptoms of the faith that is inside of us. Believing in Jesus as our Savior makes us truly prepared. May God keep us safe in the year of grace that lies ahead of us. May he keep us strong in the faith until he calls us home. Amen.