Sermon on Matthew 24:37-44
Keep Watch! Be Ready!
Text: Matthew 24:37-44
You better watch out! Better not cry! Better not pout! I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is comin’ to town. He’s making a list and checking it twice. He’s going to find out who’s naughty and nice. Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town. He sees when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake!
The point of the song? Keep Watch! Be Ready! Santa Claus is coming soon with his massive pile of presents. He has been watching to see if you were good or bad, and he is going to reward you with presents based on your behavior. So Keep Watch and Be Ready because Santa is coming soon!
I hardly know where to begin on this song. First of all, I still have Thanksgiving leftovers in my fridge, so to think that Christmas trees and lights and music and door-busters are raging across America already is a little crazy. Secondly, this is Advent. Advent is a word that means to come or coming. But we aren’t preparing for Santa to come. (For the sake of the children here today I won’t mention the authenticity of Santa—or lack there of.) But much more important than waiting on an old man with a white beard is our Advent preparation for Christ’s coming. But preparing for Christ to come doesn’t mean Black Friday shopping and tinsel all over the house either. During Advent we certainly anticipate our celebration of his birth. But that happened already. He’s already come once. So now in Advent, we look for Christ’s second coming on Judgment Day. As we do, we need to Keep Watch and Be Ready!
One of the premises of that silly Santa song is that children need to be good because Santa knows whether you are naughty or nice. Yet another sad part about the song is that it isn’t Santa who is watching. God is watching. And God knows if you’ve been bad or good. God knows if you have been naughty or nice. You can’t pull a fast one on God. You can’t sneak anything when he isn’t watching. He’s God. He sees everything. He doesn’t need to make a list. He’s God. He knows everything.
That’s a scary thought, isn’t it? It’s even more scary to think what it might look like if God did make a list of all the bad things we have done. Imagine if God wrote down every bad word you have ever said—every bad thought, every bad action, every bad intention. How long would your list be from this last month? How about just this morning?
It is very much so human nature to think that we are good people. Maybe we have done a few bad things in our lives, but otherwise we are pretty good. After all, the real bad people are in solitary confinement or on death row. Or the real bad people of this world are the ones that use their wealth and power and status to abuse the less fortunate in the world. “I mean we may have done some not-so-nice things before, but we are pretty good people,” we tell ourselves.
But what if God did keep a list of all your wrongs? Remember a sin is any infraction of his holy will. Let’s say you wake up in the morning and stub your toe. Out comes the bad word! You’re in a bad mood already so you lose patience with your kids and blow your top in anger. Then on the way to work you drive by some really nice houses and you become very envious of what those people have and discontented with what you have. Just before you get to work someone quickly cuts you off and all of a sudden there are some hand signals flashing back and forth. At work you just refuse to show care or love to that one person who is so annoying! Just like that—five sins before your work shift even begins! They may not be “big” or “bad” sins by the world’s standards, but they are still wrongs in God’s sight.
So if we can sin five times that quickly and easily, perhaps it would be a very conservative estimate to say that we sin about 50 times a day if you count every thought, word, or action. 50 sins a day times 365 days a year times 80 years of a life time comes to about 1.5 million sins. And we’re just counting the bad things we have done. What if we counted the good things we could have done but didn’t do? Now we’re talking in the two to three million range!
Two to three million sins in a lifetime! So much for talks about being “good people.” The truth is, no one in this world is “good.” Every single person is a sinner, and judging by the numbers—even our conservative guesstimates—we aren’t even close to good. Thus, the first step to preparing for Christ’s return on Judgment Day is to understand who we are. We are sinners.
Back in the days of Noah, the people of the world had no grasp on their sins and the consequences of those sins. Jesus says in verse 38 today, “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; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.” They lived their lives with no concern. They ate and drank. They got married. They had kids. They lived it up. They lived their lives with no concern for consequences. Even when God gave them 120 years to repent before the Flood, they didn’t repent. They continued living their lives without concern or regret. But then suddenly the Flood came and washed them all away to death and to hell.
Keep Watch and Be Ready for Jesus’ return by listening to Jesus’ warning in verse 37: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” In the same way, people today are living their lives with no regret and no concern for consequences. They eat and drink. They get married and have kids. They live it up and do a whole lot of other things. But as Jesus explains in the last two verses, he’s going to come like a thief in the night: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
We too can get caught up in our busy lives, and our sinful lives. I would venture a guess that most of us do not wake up in the morning and think, “I wonder if Jesus is coming back today. I should make sure I’m ready for Judgment Day.” Listen to Jesus’ warning today. Keep Watch and Be Ready for his return first of all by understanding who you are. We are all sinners in the worst way, and we need to repent of those sins. Keep Watch and Be Ready by knowing who you are!
That still leaves us with a big problem though. That still leaves us with a list several million sins long. God doesn’t say that we should be mostly good. God doesn’t say that we should be more nice than naughty. God doesn’t say that we should just try hard. God tells us that he wants us to be perfect. That’s a problem—because we aren’t even close to perfect! But this is the other reason that Advent is a special time for us. As we prepare for Christ’s coming on Judgment Day, we also remember Jesus’ first coming.
Today we hear Jesus refer to himself over and over again as the “Son of Man.” Jesus is emphasizing that he is truly human. But he is much more than that. The Son of Man is also the Son of God. He is true God and true Man in one, making him the perfect Savior of all.
He is true man who is one of us, human in every way. He was born of a woman. He was subjected to God’s laws and demands. He was expected to live perfectly just like we are. Yet he is also true God, which means that he could do what we could not—live a perfect life without sinning. His list of sins is completely blank. Never once did he fail. He is the perfect Savior that lived for us and in our place.
As true man who is human in every way, he also suffered immeasurable pain. He was beaten and tortured. He was nailed to a cross. He bled and died. Yet he is also true God, which means that all sins of all people could be placed onto him. Three million sins per person times seven billion people in the world right now is 21 x 10 to the fifteenth power. That’s just the sins of the people living right now. There isn’t even a number that exists that could count all the sins of all people of all time. Yet whatever that near-infinite total of sin and guilt, they were placed on Jesus. They were suffered for by Jesus. They were paid for by Jesus because he isn’t just the Son of Man, he is also the Son of God. He is the perfect Savior that died for us and in our place.
You see, this is the second key to Keeping Watch and Being Ready for the last day. We have to know who we are. We aren’t just sinners. We are forgiven. So if God had a list and opened it up on the last day, he wouldn’t see millions of sins from our lifetime. It would be blank. The sins were erased. They were washed away by Jesus blood.
Jesus said, “Because I live, you also will live.” Because he rose to life, we will rise to life. Thus, if we are alive when Jesus returns on Judgment Day, he will take us right to heaven. Jesus explains in verse 40: “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”
Some people wrongfully think that these verses are teaching something called the rapture. I mentioned this in a sermon about three weeks ago. Some believe that people will be zipped off to heaven in the rapture as we wait for Jesus to return. But as I said then I’ll say again now—there is no such thing as the rapture because the Bible doesn’t teach it anywhere. These verses have nothing to do with that. Jesus is describing Judgment Day itself here. Jesus is saying that on Judgment Day, believers will be taken to heaven. The unbelievers will be left behind for hell.
But you don’t need to worry if you will be taken. You don’t need to wonder if you will be left behind for hell on Judgment Day. You know that Jesus has paid for all your sins. You know that Jesus has covered all of your wrongs. You know that Jesus rose to life to prove that you will rise to life. So Keep Watch and Be Ready for Christ’s second coming! Know who you are. You are sinner. But know what else you are. You are a forgiven child of God for whom Jesus died. When he comes back, he will take you to be with him forever in heaven.
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town has a specific purpose for all the little boys and girls. The song is a warning that they need to be ready for Santa to come. Again, I won’t even go there right now. (Otherwise this sermon might last 60 minutes and not 20 minutes!) But there is a concept that we as Christians can agree with—we need to tell others! Not about Santa. We need to tell others about Jesus.
There is a world filled with sinners. Every single person is just as sinful as you and I are. Every single person is just as guilty. Every single person is just as deserving of eternal punishment. And now today we hear that Jesus is coming soon. Not only is he coming soon, but he’s coming unexpectedly! We don’t want it to be like the days of Noah, that people eat and drink and marry and have kids and live life with no regard or concern for consequences. We want others to Keep Watch and Be Ready with us.
We need to tell others. We need to tell others to be ready. We need to tell others Jesus is coming. We need to tell others Jesus is their Savior from sin so they can be ready for his coming. Maybe that means having that conversation you’ve been waiting to have but maybe a little afraid to start. Maybe that means telling friends and family members and neighbors what they don’t want to hear—that they will be lost eternally without Jesus. Maybe that means inviting them to church so they can simply hear the good news. I promise they’ll hear about Jesus here. Maybe it means simply giving their contact information to me. As many of you know, I make house calls!
As we watch and prepare for Jesus to return on Judgment Day, others need to Keep Watch and Be Ready too! They need to know they are sinners. They need to know they have a Savior. You can be the one to tell them! As you prepare, help others prepare!
I suppose we can have some fun pretending to prepare for Santa to come. But during Advent we prepare for someone real to come—our Judge Jesus Christ. And we don’t prepare by setting out milk and cookies. We inspect our hearts to see our sinfulness, and then we turn to our Savior who died to take it all away. Washed in his blood, you are prepared. You are ready. So come Lord Jesus, come!
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