Third to Last Sunday of the Church Year – Pr. Anderson sermon
St. Matthew 24:15-28 “Christ is coming in a Flash for You”
November 12, 2023 | Christ Lutheran Church
In Nomine Iesu
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O Lord Jesus Christ, who will come again in majesty to judge the living and the dead and call forth all who sleep in the graves, either to the resurrection of life or to the resurrection of condemnation, we humbly ask You to be gracious unto us and to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness, that, when we shall depart this life, we may rest in You, and having been found acceptable in Your sight, may on the Last Day be raised up to life everlasting, inherit the Kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world, and give You glory and praise, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, now and forever. Amen. (The Lutheran Liturgy, companion altar book for The Lutheran Hymnal, p. 177)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Rom. 1:7, etc.)
The sermon text for today is taken from the 24th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. We read selected verses in Jesus’ name:
[Jesus said] “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There He is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.
“So, if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by Your truth, Your Word is truth. Amen. (Joh. 17:17)
In Christ Jesus, whose coming will be as of lightning traveling across the sky, noticeable because He is the light of the world and He will be your light forever, dear fellow redeemed:
There is a running joke in the Midwest when the severe storms roll through the area. Instead of hearing the weather siren and going to the basement to be safe, most of us head out with lawn chairs or sit on the front porch, watch the clouds roll in, searching for tornados. It seems funny how we joke about something like this, yet the storms should be taken seriously. They can cause a lot of damage; they can even cause death. In Scripture, God even describes Himself as the director of the storms. They display His power. When these ferocious storms take place, many can get worked up by them. Witnessing the world’s many problems, we are constantly reminded by the fact that we are in the end times. The world likes to do two things. They will preach about doom and gloom, or they will try to make it a better place. As we look at our text for today, Jesus wants us to be prepared in these end times. He tells us to be alert. The world will try to distract us, but “as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
Now this “doom and gloom” that Jesus is preaching has its significance. Here is Jesus, sitting on the hillside of the Mount of Olives. He is overlooking the city of Jerusalem; God’s chosen city and He knows what is going to happen to it. We have heard before that this great city is going to be destroyed. “When [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes”” (Luke 19:41-42). Jesus’ knowledge is hidden from those who won’t believe that they are in danger. As He now sits looking over this city once more, He tells His disciples what to look for and many people will have to flee! “Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.” The Romans were good at what they do. They knew how to take over and siege a city. In Jesus’ warning, many Jewish Christians fled Jerusalem in 66 and 67 AD before its destruction in 70 AD.
How difficult it must have been for the disciples and for the Christians of this time? They watched as many things were going wrong and they would have to leave the place they called home. Jesus’ warnings are very clear. “For then there will
be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved.” Unfortunately, there are many who wouldn’t heed the warning. Jerusalem would be in complete in disarray toward the end of its days. That is the problem with this sinful world. Judea and the surrounding areas were able to witness Jesus’ preaching and miracles. God’s salvation, His promise was first given to the Jews. The Jews would deny Jesus, arrest Him, and crucify Him.
It is easy for us to look at the turmoil of the time and to be caught up in it. The world is noisy. The closer to the end that we get, the noisier it will be, Jesus tells us this. The disciples witnessed as the world plunged into chaos after Jesus ascended. We see the same chaos. A lot of the time we can get sucked in. The reason this happens is because it doesn’t take much for us to fall into fear. We can fear the future, we can fear the end. The fear of the world can quickly cause our faith to diminish. Look at the verses of our text. An abomination of desolation will come. People having to flee and not only that, but barely able to take anything with them. That sounds scary. In one aspect it is. Where does this abomination want people to go, where does it lead? These distractions, they lead away from Christ and if they lead away from Christ, then they point directly to hell.
As the world drops into chaos and people see where that scary road leads, many will look for a leader to get them out. Unfortunately, there are many who will want to take control. Jesus warns of those who look to take advantage of the chaos. “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There He is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.” It’s not hard to see those who call themselves a christ. There are many religions in the world that teach you how you can earn your own way to heaven, and they are not quiet about it. The political climate has turned itself into a religion, one side wanting to be a god calling the other side the devil. Climate has turned into a religion that worships Mother Earth. Hollywood and sports also vie for power as religions of the world.
Some will say that these religions can’t be that bad, they all are only trying to teach you how to be disciplined, how to work together, be accountable, and how to most importantly, perform self-care. However, as they point us toward our inner selves, that is the opposite of what Christ teaches. He teaches selfless not selfish. We can get lost in these last days, but as Christ warns us, He also tells us that He hasn’t left us in the madness.
As madness descended on Jerusalem toward the end of the first century, Jesus’ warnings for His people stayed with them. When those fateful days came, many Christians left Jerusalem right away. As they left Jerusalem, they left not believing that all hope was lost, but believing that Christ would come again just as He said He would. They believed in the message of Christ. That He was true God and that He brought the world heavenly peace. He had not left them all alone. He taught them that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). He also commanded them to baptize people into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus instituted the supper, where he says, “This is my body, this is my blood.” Those that watched and saw the disaster that was about to happen could carry this message to those who thought they were alone in the world, telling them that Christ is still here. He comforts them now and He will return.
In this warning about the end times, Jesus still brings comfort. The Son of Man will return, and He will return in a flash. All those who followed Him spread the Gospel, even when it looked like the chaos was going to win the day. They could tell others that there was no reason to look for someone else to lead as Jesus reminded saying, “So, if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.” Christ doesn’t hide and He was never afraid. He went to the cross for the sins of the world prevailing over all the evils. You don’t have to search for Him as He has never left!
As Jesus dies for your sins, you find relief and comfort in these last days. Christ is with you in the days of chaos. The world wants you to get lost in madness. It wants you to think that Christ has left you. That you are all alone. The Devil tells you this so that you look and see the other religions, and how they can provide for your earthly needs. They want you to think that they can make you feel better. Jesus doesn’t say that the world will get better, but you see the mercies of God. Jesus tells you that, “for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” God cut those days short in the attack on Jerusalem, because among the Jews there were Christians who had not gotten out. God always is merciful. Even amongst the chaos that you see in your lives, you are still alive, and you remain. You remain hearing the true Word. Week in and out you confess your sins to God, and you hear your sins absolved by Christ, who comes to you in His Word and Sacraments.
In these sacraments you receive the blessings of heaven, and in the end, Jesus will be coming in a flash to you. He will come like a flash of lightning. “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” When those storms rage across the sky, the lightning in the clouds is very noticeable. They flash this way and that way. And as the lightning is noticeable in the sky so your Savior will be noticeable when He comes again. The false christs want you to investigate the inner rooms. In this chaos, they also will be noticeable. They gather around the corpses, swooping down on those who don’t believe. Christ brings comfort and strength, revealing Himself and giving you faith. Christ tells you that you will notice Him. You notice Him in the Word and Sacraments. When He comes again, you will see Him come in glory.
Storms and lightning, false christs, vultures and corpses. It can sound and look as though Jesus is only giving us doom and gloom. We can get lost in the chaos of these last days. Even if we find ourselves stuck in the noise, or maybe we have listened to those false christs, the Gospel continues to ring and shine through the darkness, bringing you comfort with the message of forgiveness. We will know when Jesus arrives, and we do not have to be afraid. He will be as noticeable as the lightning that flashes across the sky. Life is short, it won’t be long. And as Christ flashes across the sky, to come again to bring you home, as we already sang you can, “Arise, arise, good Christian, Let right to wrong succeed; Let penitential sorrow To heav’nly gladness lead. To light that have no evening, That knows no moon nor sun, The light so new and golden, The light that is but one” (ELH #534 v. 2). Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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