Word on Wednesday – by John Mason
‘Prepare ye…’ – December 5, 2018
“Prepare ye the way of the Lord” – the opening words of Godspell, the Broadway musical that opened in 1971. The song captures the theme of John the Baptist’s ministry as he prepared people for the coming of God’s promised Messiah. Significantly all four Gospels record John’s ministry.
The narrative that tells of Jesus’ birth and life, his death and resurrection, reveal that he is much more than a unique man striding across the stage of history. In fact the authority with which he spoke and the miraculous power he demonstrated over sickness and the forces of nature, the powers of evil and even death itself, reveal him to be divine. Truly his resurrection from death underscores that he is the Man from Heaven, God’s King.
Further, the movement of thought in the Gospels reveals that Jesus is the One whose coming was forecast by prophets such as Nathan (2 Samuel 7:4-17), Isaiah (7:14, 9:2-7, 11:1-5, 61:1-11) and Micah (5:1-5). But they only saw dimly what this would look like, for his coming would involve two appearings across the stage of time – the first, with the incarnation of God’s Son as one of us; and the second, yet to come.
During the course of his ministry Jesus spoke of these matters. In Luke 12:35-48 we have his words about the end of time. They followed his encouragement to his disciples to look for and work towards the coming of God’s kingly rule (Luke 12:31). That said, he went on to warn his followers of the need to be prepared for his return.
“You must also be ready”, he said, “for the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour” (Luke 12:40). Two metaphors underline his point. First, he drew a picture of a wealthy man who was away at an important wedding. The man’s servants, Jesus said, must be ready for his return no matter how late the hour (Luke 12:35-36). The second picture is that of a householder whose house is broken into: if the owner had known, he would have taken the necessary precautions.
Preparedness. The pictures indicate three things about Jesus’ coming. It is imminent: the master could return at any time; there is delay: the master seems to be taking his time. And third: surprise. In Luke 12:39 the householder does not know when the thief will come.
We need to live with the tension of imminence and delay. Our problem is that we are inclined to ignore this reality. After all, two thousand years have come and gone and nothing has happened, so we let ourselves drift into spiritual complacency.
Similarly 2 Peter 3 warns, we can be certain of the return of God’s King: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, … (3:10). On that day we will all stand before God with no material props on which to rely – our degrees, our property and investment portfolios, our carefully constructed career, our physical fitness. Only one thing will stand on that day: our relationship with Jesus.
So what kind of people should we be? 2 Peter 3:11 instructs us: Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God,…?
In this meantime we need to get on with life, serving the Lord with the gifts and skills he has given us – be it at school or work, keeping on top of our expenses, and living lives of integrity that reflect our profession of faith. We will also want to play our part in introducing family and friends to God’s good news.
Peter’s words are important: …hastening the coming of the day of God,…? They suggest that Jesus will not return until his plan to rescue all his people has been achieved. We have a part to play in this unfinished task of God’s – praying for and working at ways to introduce others to the Lord Jesus.
You may want to check out 3 Modules on ‘Outreach’ on the Anglican Connection website. The Modules have been drawn from seminars I have been giving in various cities this year. Here is the link: http://anglicanconnection.com/outreach-christmas-beyond/
Will you join me in praying that all of us will use the gospel opportunities we have, especially over the Advent and Christmas seasons?
The return of the King will surprise us all. We need to be prepared, living with the expectation of it in our hearts.
© John G. Mason, Anglican Connection