The beginning of the end – Matthew in Advent day 15

This is so like God. Before a season of blessing comes a season of waiting. It has been so ever since creation.

In the first three days God separated light from darkness, separated the sky from the sea and made the dry land appear. In the second set of three God populated the light and darkness with the sun and moon and stars, populated the sky and seas with birds and fish and populated the earth with animals. The blessing of life had to wait. Our creativity is a pale imitation of God’s creativity. The Mona Lisa was not painted is a day.

The Exodus: The people said to God, “we don’t want to go into the land you are giving us, there be giants.”God said, “OK.” But don’t think the wanderings were punishment. God’s presence was physically with them the whole time, even when they grumbled. How can that not be a blessing?

When people reject God he says, “OK.” That is God’s judgement, it has already happened, but there is a more complete judgement to come. To those who reject God and say after death there comes nothing God will say, “OK.” This is a theological theory called annihilationism, which is the theory of God’s judgement that I find is the best fit to the Bible.

This is Advent, a time of waiting. This is a pandemic, vaccines are being produced. Even if we are the first to receive it we will still have to wait until the majority are immunised.

Photo by Valeriia Miller on Pexels.com

The Gospel of Matthew is written as a series of six narrative sections, telling the story of Jesus’ life, interspersed with five sections of teaching. The beginning of the Gospel links back into the past of the Old Testament. This, the last of the teaching sections, links forward to the future. Advent is a time when we look forward to the return of Christ.

No one knows

36 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Matthew 24:36-44 NIV UK

When you have been asked two questions you can ignore one of the questions, try to answer both at the same time, or answer the first then the second. To mark when you are moving on to the second question it is best to say something that lets people know that you have moved onto the second, such as asking yourself the second question again, or at least referring to it. Jesus refers to the second of the disciples questions saying, “But about that day or hour,”

To the disciples, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ was a single question. They had just cheered Jesus into Jerusalem as a king, and when Jesus spoke of the temple being destroyed they thought that was a sign that Jesus’ kingdom was about to come. How could it not be?

But we are in a time of waiting. God has become a human, Emmanuel, God is with us, and when Jesus went back to the Father he sent us the Holy Spirit to be with us. Like Israel in the wilderness we do not escape the hardship, but God is with us. This is a time of blessing, but greater blessing is to come.

We wait.

This is not like waiting for Christmas, we know that in nine days the day we are waiting for is here. It’s Christmas. The first problem is that we are waiting for something that we do not know when it will happen. The sign of Noah here is significant, the people in Noah’s time went about their daily lives, eating drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, ordinary things, nothing special about them at all. When Jesus returns things will be carrying on as normal. Some Christians are looking for extraordinary times for Jesus to return, but Jesus has already warned that wars and rumours of wars are not signs of the end, “Watch out that no one deceives you.” he said. Now he is saying that when he returns things will be be carrying on as normal, no one knows and no one can know.


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