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Are there songs you wish you wrote? A while back, Alicia Keys did a performance of songs she wished she had written and it got me thinking about some incredible songs that I wish I wrote. Some songs feel as if they reach deep into your soul because the keys stir up something inside of you or the lyrics speak directly to your heart. I bet you can think of songs like that. Songs like… (sing snippets of three songs).
Even though a part of me wishes I wrote those songs, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t because they never would have turned out as beautifully as they did. I couldn’t write it in the same way the artist did. When it comes to God’s plan for creation, it’s the same way. It’s beautiful, far more beautiful than any song I’ve ever heard. And a part of me wishes I wrote that, but then I realize again it’s a good thing I didn’t. It wouldn’t come out quite right. Today we see God has written the most beautiful plan for us. It is exciting and intelligent and crafted to perfection. Only he could write something so perfect. But we ourselves don’t know all the details of it. We must be ready for God’s beautiful plan and if we are, we will be blessed.
Before our text for today, Jesus had warned the people around him against hypocrisy. He urged people to be bold with their faith (12:1-12), warned them against riches and being too concerned about earthly needs (12:13-30), and encouraged his people to seek God’s kingdom first. After all, that is where the real treasure is (31-34). All of this sets up and leads directly into our text for today as Jesus begins talking about something people will not want to miss.
He starts, “Be dressed and ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.”
I’m not sure all of us are familiar with Jewish bridal customs, so let’s paint that picture. In a Jewish marriage, it seems the groom would pick up his bride and eventually bring her back to the house in which the servants were expected to be ready to serve them. That makes sense. It’s a special occasion. It’s a celebration and the married couple would want everything just right, ready and waiting for when they come home to start their lives together. The lamps should be burning so that the couple wouldn’t come to a dark house and start their married life with a couple of stubbed toes or accidentally bumping into walls because they couldn’t see anything. The servants should be ready to wash the newlyweds’ feet so they can get cleaned up from their journey. A meal should be prepared once they arrive so the couple’s first meal doesn’t have to be a shared microwave dinner. You get the point. This event was a big deal and was treated as such.
But all of this working out to perfection hinges on the servants being ready. If they are not, the lamps will go out, the couple will return home dirty and smelly, and the food will be cold, if it was even prepared in the first place. The servants must be ready. Other options are not acceptable. And this requires work.
Our English translation has been modified a bit for our understanding. It says, “Be dressed and ready for service.” The original Greek which the New Testament was written in says something a little different. It has “Let your loins be girded.” What? The Israelites would wear robes. If they wanted to move quickly, they had to tuck part of their robes into their belts so they wouldn’t trip or fall. It might have looked a bit funny, but it worked. It was essential to do this to be ready to move. The lamps had to be made ready too. These are not modern-day electric lamps being used. These lamps require oil that constantly had to be filled. All of this had to be prepared and maintained to be ready for the master coming back.
On top of this, waiting for the master could go deep into the night. In our text it says he could come in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. Based on the original Greek terminology used here, that means the master could come anywhere from 10 PM to sunrise. There would be times when the servants got tired, times where they got bored and wanted to wander off, but they had to remain ready. They knew the master’s return was certain, even if the time was unknown.
In this parable, you are the servants. Jesus is the master. We know Jesus is coming back one day. The world will end and our Savior will return. But we don’t know exactly when he will return. It could be a thousand years from now. It could be before I finish this sermon. (Those might feel like the same amount of time, but trust me, they are different.) But when Jesus comes will you be ready in your faith for his return or will you have wandered off?
In the book of Hosea, God has Hosea marry an unfaithful woman. Hosea marries her and sure enough, she goes and cheats on him again and again. She is not faithful, not trustworthy, and doesn’t deserve his love. And yet he continues to show it. Now think about that. Would you stay with someone who constantly cheats on you, feels no remorse, feels no need to be better, constantly looks elsewhere other than you. Would you stay with someone who wouldn’t put you at least in the top twenty of their priorities? Would you stay with someone who only comes back to you when they need something, but doesn’t actually care about you at all? Maybe you would, but would you want to? Who would put up with all of that, especially if a marriage commitment had not been made. If you were dating and all those things were happening, would you choose to marry someone like that, knowing full well everything that would happen? God had Hosea do this as a sign to show God’s love and his want and his desire for us even when you and I have been unfaithful. Because let’s be honest with ourselves. We have prostituted ourselves to so many things other than God. And often we treat him like a genie in a lamp who we only come to when we want something or when life is hard. And then as soon as it’s done, we go and run away again to do our own thing, putting God nowhere close to our top priorities. God reminds us in this text that he is meant to be first in your life, he is the one who is faithful and true. And he wants you to watch, to be ready for his beautiful plan for you to unfold. When Jesus comes, he doesn’t want your greatest relationship to be Netflix and a bowl of ice cream. He doesn’t want your priorities to be with riches that will pass away. Those can be misleading songs in our lives. Jesus wants something better for you, something he has orchestrated for us. He wants you to be ready in faith.
In order to be ready we have to take precautions against the things that might take our faith away. It would be foolish not to. I’m going to go out on a limb this morning and assume no one has received a handwritten letter from a burglar telling them exactly what they will steal and when they will do it. And yet, even though that hasn’t happened, even though we may not ever be expecting a burglar to come, we still take precautions. You probably don’t have all your money taped to the outside of your front door. It might be in a safe or the bank. Your door might even be locked because even though you aren’t expecting anybody, you understand that it could happen.
Now Jesus is no thief, but we know he is coming for certain, though at an unexpected time. It would be foolish not to take precautions against the devil and others who would love to take our faith away and make us not ready. We need to stay in the Word and continually be reminded of Jesus and what he did for us.
Last week Pastor Wolfe talked about how Jesus’ return can be a scary thing for unbelievers, but how for those wearing the white robes of Jesus righteousness it’s not scary. Jesus coming is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.” Have you ever been really excited for someone to come home? Maybe it was when you were smaller and your mom or dad was finally coming home from work so you could give them a great big hug. You may have even watched the door handle in joyful anticipation of them. How about when you have a huge vacation planned and you are just waiting for that family member to come home so you can enjoy time off from the worries of life? I bet you look forward to that. Or a friend is coming over and you are so ready to enjoy their company through food, games, and other fun festivities. This is the same way we can look forward to Jesus arriving again. He’s our Father, he’s going to take us away from the troubles of this life, he’s the friend whose company we will enjoy through all eternity. Just look at what Jesus does in the parable.
“Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them (the servants) recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak.”
A master serving a servant was unheard of, especially on the night of his wedding. And yet Jesus, the master of all, came to serve us. He didn’t need anything from us. We couldn’t improve him or make him better in any way. But he came out of love despite our imperfect love. Each moment he lived in our place in order to give his life up to die for us all so we can join him in heaven. In the words we talked about earlier, he has won righteous robes for us all. Being ready through faith is worth it. We are blessed through Christ. When you think of Jesus’ life is any of this really surprising? This master left heaven’s glory in the first place, making himself nothing and taking on the very nature of a servant. This master is the one who said he did not come to earth to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). This master is he who repeatedly tutored his disciples that true greatness in God’s kingdom is servanthood, not lordship. This master is he who girded his own loins for the lowly task of washing his disciples’ dirty, smelly feet (John 13). This is the master who had his disciples recline for the Passover meal as he served up his own body and blood with bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins. This is Jesus showing you this whole faith thing is worth it. Even as you wait patiently through troubles in life for God’s plan to unfold, it’s worth it! You are blessed through him as you cling to his promises with the faith he gave you or perhaps may give you in the future. This has all been part of the beautifully crafted plan the Master has for his people.
Don’t let the devil whisper things other than God’s plan into your ear. Don’t get distracted. Go ahead and tell those distractions you are going to watch for God’s plan, for Christ’s return. That you want it. That you need it. That it’s worth it and they can’t take it from you. The Alpha and Omega has written the perfect song for your life from beginning to end. Keep listening to God’s beautiful plan, through the highs and lows all the way up to its perfect ending in heaven, written by Christ’s blood on the cross. Amen.