Year A – Advent 1 – Matthew 24:36-44

Advent According to Matthew (01) – The Advent of Judgment

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. 45 “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Matthew 24:35–46

Summary –  Most ancient literature used devices of structure embedded in the content, such as repeated patterns, allusions, recapitulations, parallels, etc. Therefore it should not be surprising as a Gospel written to primarily Jewish readers by a Jew, Matthew contains deeper structure. Ireneaus said that the life of Jesus recapitulates the history of Israel. James B. Jordan provides an elaborate parallelism of the structure (the chiasm).

A. Genealogy (past), 1:1-17
B. First Mary and Jesus’ birth, 1:18-25
C. Gifts of wealth at birth, 2:1-12
            D. Descent into Egypt; murder of children, 2:13-21
E. Judea avoided, 2:22-23
F. Baptism of Jesus, 3:1–8:23
G. Crossing the sea, 8:24–11:1
H. John’s ministry, 11:2-19
I. Rejection of Jesus, 11:20-24
J. Gifts for the new children, 11:25-30
K. Attack of Pharisees, 12:1-13
L. Pharisees plot to kill the Servant, 12:14-21
K’ Condemnation of Pharisees, 12:22-45
J’ Gifts for the new children, 13:1-52
I’ Rejection of Jesus, 13:53-58
H’ John’s death, 14:1-12
G’ Crossing the sea, 14:13–16:12
F’ Transfiguration of Jesus, 16:13–18:35
E’ Judean ministry, 19:1–20:34
            D’ Ascent into Jerusalem; judgment on Jews, 21:1–27:56
C’ Gift of wealth at death, 27:57-66
B’ Last Marys and Jesus’ resurrection, 28:1-15
A’ Commission (future), 28:16-20 –  from James B. Jordan

Christ’s descent into Egypt (ch. 2) parallels His ascent into Jerusalem (chs. 21-25). Very early in Matthew, there are allusions to judgment (2:15, 18, Herod; 3:1ff John, ). It is clear that the coming of Jesus was not a Hallmark affair with red bows and finery.  Christ came to offer salvation/deliverance, but as had been the case with Israel before, this would include judgment. Our text (Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary) is part of the Olivet or the Apocalyptic Discourse, the climactic passage of judgment in Matthew. Jesus speaks of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and his coming in judgment (24:1ff). The time-frame is stated, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (24:34). This a very clear first century indication of the fulfillment, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Josephus’s Jewish Wars (written by an eyewitness to the events) gives seven cosmic signs (of sun, moon and stars) which happened as this destruction approached. This judgment was like the flood of Noah. While the prophetic word had been spoken, those unbelieving were going about their lives “normally” (24:38), then judgment happens when it is not expected. Those “taken away” were not Raptured. They were taken in judgment (e.g., like the flood, 24:40). Therefore, the main exhortation is to “be on the alert” (24:42), “be ready” (24:44), and to be found as a faithful servant when He comes (24:46).

Insight – If this passage is about 70 A.D., does it apply to us? Yes, for two reasons: 1) The destruction of Jerusalem is a “type” of the end of the world (Matthew Henry, Wesley, Jamison Faucett Brown, et al). Wesley says “the great day, which was typified by the destruction of Jerusalem.” 2) The emphasis here is on the calamity and judgment that will befall those who are not “on the alert” (24:42), or “ready” (24:44), or not being faithful servants when He comes (24:46). While we may not now face an historical judgment: say, the fall of USA – yet being ready and alert spiritually always applies. We need to confess our sins and walk in love. We need to put away bitterness and love others. We always need to get our house in order spiritually and relationally so that we can joyfully meet our Lord Jesus at any time. Jesus may not be coming soon, but you may soon go to him.

Child Catechism – How does the first century judgment of Jerusalem affect the way that we live? We are must live and always be “ready” and faithful since we do not know when Christ will come for us or when we will go to Him.

Discussion – How did Jesus demonstrate to those who killed Him that He was the Anointed King? [He predicted His coming in judgment in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Jesus said in His trial: “hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” Matthew 26:64]

Prayer – Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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