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Be Ready


Consider this question for a moment – What is the toughest job in all of sports? What position, what role in what sport is the most taxing and demanding? Chances are you could make an argument for many of them – the ultramarathoner, those who compete in any number of events in the rodeo, maybe a decathlete, maybe even an everyday catcher in baseball. And yet I think there’s an argument to be made for the surprising of positions, it’s the role of the backup quarterback.

Now, to this you might think that it would be just the opposite. Someone who gets paid millions of dollars to stand on the sideline during game days holding a clipboard, what could possibly be easier and cushier?

However, the backup quarterback is faced with a unique challenge. They must be ready to play and stay ready to play, without ever knowing if and or when they’ll in fact ever get to play. They must know the playbook inside out, they’ve got to capitalize on the limited number of reps they get in practice, they’ve got to warm up in a moment’s notice when the starter gets hurt, and they must perform and perform well. And if they don’t, if they squander their precious opportunity, their destined to become backup quarterbacks like the rest of us. Within the position comes a mental and emotional demand that is unique across all sports.

Overall, the name of the game for the backup quarterback is to be ready and to stay ready. And that is, in many ways, the theme of our passage today – it’s about you and I as followers of Jesus getting ready and staying ready for his future return, even though just like it is with any backup quarterback, we don’t have the slightest clue when that day will actually come.

As has been the case for the past 8 months, this morning we continue on in our long running sermon series in the gospel of Luke, and throughout this chapter Jesus has been speaking to both the crowds and to his disciples, chapter 12 serves as a long running sermon and monologue of sorts. And throughout it all, there’s been this running theme, this running question, of “What does it look like to live in light of eternity and future realities?”

As we’ve seen in recent weeks, we’ve considered what it looks like to steward our resources, our money and possessions, in light of eternity, knowing that we will one day die and that we cannot take any of our possessions beyond this earthly life.

Today, we consider another future reality and how we are to live in light of that, this reality that the Jesus who currently rules from above, who is seated at the right hand of God will one day come again to judge the living and the dead. Jesus, who dwells in heaven, will one day return again.

And so, it brings about this question, what are we supposed to do, how are we supposed to live right here, right now, knowing that Jesus will one day return? Well, simply put, we must be ready and stay ready.

And that’s what the rest of today’s message will be about: about being ready and staying ready until either we pass away or until Jesus comes again.

And yet before we discuss the specifics as to how we can be ready for Jesus’s return, abstract a concept that may be, it’s critical that we understand why being ready for Jesus’s return is so important, and one reason is simply this: We do not know when Jesus will return.

For as Jesus says in our scripture today, 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Though Christians throughout the years have tried to read between lines in the Book of Revelation trying to pinpoint a date as if they were Indiana Jones in the search for buried treasure, truth is, we have no clue when Jesus will return. Therefore, like the backup quarterback we must be prepared at all times.

The backup quarterback is not told before the season begins that the starter will go out with an injury in Week 4 and you have from now to then to prepare. No, he’s got to be ready at any time.

The same is true with us as followers of Jesus. We must be ready for Jesus’s return at any time.

So, what does this mean for you and me? It means we ought to consider all the more how we spend and allocate our time each and every day.

For example, consider your schedule and how you fill your day in light of this question. If Jesus came back right in this instant and walked up to wherever you were, would you feel embarrassed or proud? Would you feel horrified for him to be in your presence or excited to see him? Consider that question the next time you ask yourself - Should I do this or that? Should I scroll through this website or that one? Should I spend another night working at the office or should I go be with my family?

Now, to be clear, that question has its own limitations. If Jesus just so happens to return when you’re out on the golf course, you don’t have to feel embarrassed. God has given us good things to enjoy, and so long as recreational things like golf doesn’t take priority over our God given obligations and responsibilities, go enjoy them.

And yet, for example, I know for me personally I would be embarrassed for Jesus to find me mindlessly scrolling on Twitter, and yet that’s one of those very things I find myself doing more often than I’d like to admit.

You all, we don’t know Jesus will return. Therefore, we must always be ready. And so, if Jesus came back right in this instant and walked up to wherever you were, would you feel embarrassed or proud? Horrified or overjoyed? It just might be a question worth considering more often.

The temptation for all of us is to get complacent, impatient, distracted and doubtful when it comes to Jesus’ future return. It’s been 2,000 years since Jesus ascended into heaven and he hasn’t returned yet, and so it’s easy to wonder if he ever will.

It in fact, happens to be the same temptation that the servant in on our parables today fell into, saying, “My master is taking a long time in coming” and consequently choosing to squander and mismanage the rest of his life in the process.

The temptation is the same with the backup quarterback, the understudy in the school play, the second chair in the concert band, the person above us at work whose position we want but never seems to retire – we believe that day when we’ll final get our opportunity will never come, and so we put our guard down, throw in the towel, and stop preparing like we used to. We’re no longer ready when the time comes.

This can be true of us in the Christian life as well. We think to ourselves, “Oh, I’ll take my faith more seriously when I have kids.” “Or maybe when things aren’t so busy” “Or for sure after I retire” All while none of us know 1) how long we’re going to live and 2) when Jesus will return. Those are things will happen. We don’t know when. And sometimes those events feel so far in the distance that it feels like a waste of time to get ready now.

However, if we are going to be people who take Jesus at his word, then we must be ready for Jesus’s return at any time.

Which brings before us a crucial question, “What does it look like to be ready and stay ready in the Christian life? What does that actually entail?”

When Jesus says, It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.” It all sounds a little vague and impractical doesn’t it?

Our oldest son Noah, who’s 3.5, is beginning to read time in the smallest of ways, and sometimes when Callie or I put Caleb down for a nap, we tell Noah that he gets to watch a show while that happens. And sometimes when Noah gets impatient, we’ll tell him something like, “When this hand gets to the six, it’ll be show time.” And Noah sometimes will literally sit on the floor, stare at the clock, and watch the minutes tick away until it’s show time.

You kind of wonder if that’s what Jesus means when he says to “be ready.” But of course, that’s not quite it. On one level, it looks like living a life that embodies all that Jesus has been calling us to throughout Luke’s Gospel thus far. Loving your neighbor. Befriending the outsiders. Showing radical hospitality. Forgiving one another. Being saturated in prayer. Hearing the word of God and obeying it. Or as Jesus said last week, “Seek first the kingdom of God.”

In another sense, being ready probably entails not getting too comfortable with our lives here on earth. Sometimes, we functionally get in this mindset that this world on earth as we know it, will be all there ever is, and yet our time here on earth, will be so very short in light of eternity. So don’t hold too tightly to the things of this world.

And yet, in addition to those two possibilities, Jesus does give us something we can grab a hold of. In responding to Peter, one of his disciples, Jesus says this, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants?“ Notice here we are introduced to a third party. Not just a master in Jesus, who returns to his servants, you and I. But now also introducing a manager, someone who is responsible for and entrusted with caring for other servants.

It’s a reminder to us as Jesus’s disciples to care for and lead those we’re responsible for and whom God has placed under our care. Whether it be a parent with their children, an employer with their employees, a teacher with their students, and yes, even a collective responsibility that we as church members have before our fellow church members.

Being ready in this sense does not mean that we ensure that the people under our care love Jesus and put their faith in Him – that after all is something the Holy Spirit can do and no one else in changing someone’s heart. But at the very least, we can at least point people to Jesus, and obey his word and show his love in both word and deed. That we can certainly do.

All this to say, when you think about what it looks like to stay ready for Jesus’s return, ask yourself, “Who are you responsible for? Who has God entrusted under your care?”

After all, as Jesus says, From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” or as Uncle Ben will later remind his nephew Peter Parker as Spiderman, “that with great power comes great responsibility.”

As followers of Jesus, taking Jesus at His word, we must be ready for His’s return at any time.

And we’ll ever so slowly begin to finish with this:

This is a hard passage in many ways. And I haven’t shared with you the hardest part.

Jesus says, 47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows.”

It’s a sobering reality. That the Jesus who will one day return will one day come to judge the living and the dead and establish the full glory of His kingdom. That those who are apart from Christ will be forever separated from God’s presence, facing eternal punishment. Those who have been united with Christ will live with Him for all eternity in all its heavenly splendor.

It’s a reality that brings about a little fear and trembling. Are we ready to meet Jesus? Are we ready to stand before him and give an account of our lives here on earth? It should all feel a little weighty, because it absolutely is. And so, how is that sinful and flawed people like you and me can be ready and withstand that moment of truth?

I find tremendous comfort in an article written in National Geographic several years ago. Where after a forest fire in Yellowstone, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the damage. And one ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked it over with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze arrived and the heat scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings would live.

Friends, so it is with us and Jesus. In midst of future judgment, we find shelter under his wings. And though we will get many things wrong, we must get this one thing right – being ready by continually putting our faith in Christ.

For as the classic hymn goes, When he shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found, dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne. On Christ, the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.

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