” The Waiting is the Hardest Part”
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory (vs. 31)
In our passage of Scripture today, we see Jesus continuing his teaching that began in Matthew 24. It is important to understand that Matthew 24 and 25 are part of the same teaching block. Matthew 24 begins with a simple remark from his Disciples about the awesomeness of the buildings in Jerusalem. Jesus responds by saying in verse two, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” Then Jesus begins to teach the Disciples about the Second Coming. It connects to a familiar passage in Daniel 7 about the Son of Man coming in clouds of glory. Jesus tells the Disciples that many things must take place before the Second Coming. What is obvious is that waiting is the key.
Patience is a virtue we are told. Nothing makes me more anxious than waiting for a huge sporting event of one of my favorite teams; whether that’s the Saints, the Braves or…the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m always waiting like a maniac with ants in his pants! That’s a trivial form of waiting. What if you are an Israeli hostage waiting for someone to miraculously save you or a Gazan mother praying incessantly as she waits to hear whether her son is dead or alive after another bombing. Or we need something locally: You are a parent waiting for their child to turn away from drugs or alcohol. Or you are without a job for several months waiting patiently for any place to call you back. Waiting for something to come when we are in pain is incredibly hard to do.
Jesus continues teaching with three parables related to faithful waiting. We have the master who is away, the parable of the bridesmaids, and the parable talents. All are about faithful waiting. Yes, the one we are waiting for is not here, so how do we wait? Do we do as we please like the unfaithful servants in our parables, or will we be faithfully at work when the master comes again? These parables remind the modern reader to continue doing what is righteous – to be doers more than mere hearers of the Word of God. How do we “do”? We love our neighbor, seek justice, mercy, and kindness, and love the Lord your God with all we have. We do this to practice God’s kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.
As I said earlier, it is difficult when we are waiting for Christ to come when we are in pain, when we are crying out in sorrow, and when we become callous to cries in our midst. Waiting too long has caused many to lose hope in Christ’s coming. But my friends, Advent, is a season of waiting, because Advent teaches us that the Messiah came into the world, and he promised he would come again.
Advent reorients us and resets our clocks to the advent that is to come. St. Augustine said that we live in what is known as the “saeculum,” which is the “in-between time.” We live in-between the in-breaking of God’s kingdom through Christ and the fully realized kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. In the saeculum, we expect things to not be right, for we live in a fallen world. A world where evil seems to reign. Therefore, we look at the here and now as the ultimate meaning of things. We lose hope in the Kingdom come and begin to force a kingdom to come now. We live as though there is no kingdom coming, no eternal life; all we have now is all that matters. So, we absolutize our political ideologies and figures and turn them into saviors. Again and again, they let us down and the cycle continues until we are old and bitter.
James K.A. Smith said that there are two refrains the Church has used in this in-between time: how long, O Lord and Maranatha! How long, O Lord is the cry of seeing many injustices take place. Of watching people be crushed under the wheels of consumerism, government, hate, and apathy. How long, O Lord will we suffer the injustices of this world? How long, O Lord, before you come again and wipe away every tear from our eyes?
The second refrain is Maranatha. We say this when we are waiting for our King to return. Come Lord Jesus we say. Take away all the pain and suffering. Come and end all wars, poverty, famine, and disaster. Come Lord Jesus and make all things right again! Maranatha is a cry for rescue. Rescue from this world and all the indignities that go along with it. Come Lord Jesus, we pray!
My friends, there is hope for us. Our King promised he would come again. We may languish and fear, but as Maryline Robinson says, “Fear is not a Christian habit of mind.” We must continue to remain hopeful and faithful in our waiting for Christ to come. Do not lose hope and do not put your faith in another! Do not fear what happens, for God has the whole of history in God’s hands. Christ shall come again and make all things right! Hallelujah and Maranatha! AMEN!
Rev. Zac Ritchie is the Visionary Lead for Just Love Ministries North Shore, Covington LA