1st Sunday in Advent

by Crossings

THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN: BAD NEWS OR GOOD NEWS?
Matthew 24:36-44
(First Sunday in Advent)
analysis by Bob Bertram


36″But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.


DIAGNOSIS: An Unexpected Hour

Step 1-Initial Diagnosis: Denial
“The Coming [parousia] of the Son of Man” keeps being delayed. So we’re lulled into thinking he may not come at all. Don’t we wish! So far our problem is just wishful thinking, denial.

Step 2-Advanced Diagnosis: Despair
But even when we recognize that his coming, sooner or later, is inevitable, then what? Even then we’re sure we cannot be ready for him unless we know when he is coming. But nobody, not even the Son himself, knows that. So now our problem worsens into despair, cynicism. And despair, really unbelief, is about as un-ready as you can get. NOTE: One of the most popular ways of guessing when he is coming is to assume it will coincide with our death, especially a sudden death. But we don’t know that. What if he has already come-and left-on some day in the past, say, when we really blew an opportunity to witness for him. But we don’t know that, either.

Step 3-Final Diagnosis: Threat
Finally, dreading his coming, we actually get the kind of Son of man we dread: a dreadful Son of man. And he can be that, a “thief in the night” who “takes” one of us, probably me, and spares you. Or maybe vice versa. That Son of man is not welcome, and for good reason: his coming is sheer threat.

PROGNOSIS: The Hour of Expectation

Step 4-Initial Prognosis: Rescue
But then we look again and, wow, this time we notice: the Son of man whose coming can be so menacing is, well, who? He is Jesus Christ, this very preacher in the gospel lesson who is standing here warning us about his later return. And why else would he do that, why else did he come the first time, except out of sheer compassion to save us from his final coming, when it will be too late to get ready. And having pleaded with us as he did, this Son of man then went on to the next thing (chs. 26-28): to “be delivered up to be crucified” (26:2). That is, he suffered himself to be “taken” in our stead. That’s what makes all the difference: How will the Son of man come-in anger or in mercy? As our Stalker or as our Rescuer? That all depends on how he came for us the first time.

Step 5-Advanced Prognosis: Watching
So we don’t know when he’s coming, that is for The Last Time. (And what if we did know. Or what if he knew and told us “the day and the hour.” Would that solve our problem?) The fact is, we do know when he’s coming this time, the first time, here and now. He, the once crucified and risen One, comes in this very moment as you hear me say to you (read my lips): “Watch.” And his word “Watch”-“Watch for me”-is not shrill or alarmist, not to terrify but to encourage, to calm, to instill trust. “Watch,” in effect, means trust.

Step 6- Final Prognosis: Publicizing
When our watching for his coming is no longer a nervous peeking over our shoulder for the Thief in the night to pounce but instead is now a hopeful waiting for our Best Friend to return, then what? Then we are a lot less apt to write off the long wait as a “delay” or the story of his coming as a ruse to scare us. On the contrary, we eagerly and cheerfully publicize his coming and maybe, thereby, even hasten it.

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  • Crossings

    Crossings is a community of welcoming, inquisitive people who want to explore how what we hear at church is useful and beneficial in our daily lives.

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