20. November 2022
But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight, a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
Wake up! Jesus is here! Your knight in shining armor, your prince, your savior, is here. He brings forgiveness for your sins, rescue from the demonic forces, and resurrection from the dead. Awake, arise, and meet Him as He speaks His Word of Life, restoring and renewing you. “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph 5:14).
This is Jesus’ specific catechesis for His disciples as they listen attentively to Him on the Mount of Olives. They asked privately, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Mt 24:3). The disciples do not want to be caught off guard. They want to be wide awake and ready for the day of judgment. They want to watch their world’s times, seasons, and events and know what they mean. They don’t want to be blind-sided when everything goes sideways on the final day.
What they hope for from Jesus is a secret knowledge revealed to them, a new paradigm to understand themselves and the world. And Jesus doesn’t disappoint. He enlightens their minds with a rich tapestry of interwoven parables and promises, drawing together the Scriptures’ themes, imagery, and prophecies. Chapters 24-25 of St. Matthew’s Gospel is a tour de force of catechesis into the last days.
Jesus finally answers their question specifically and directly at His conclusion. The Evangelist records: Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, that He said to His disciples, “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified” (Mt 26:1-2). What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age? Is it all the doom and gloom of apocalyptic judgment we’ve heard the last few Sundays and Wednesdays? Yes, it is, but all those prophetic promises focus on one Friday afternoon from noon to three.
As enlightened as they are, they all fall away when the sign is given in just a few short days. Christ’s coming is at hand, yet they fail when they see it. Only John and the women stand at a distance, but Peter and the rest forsake Him on the day of judgment. They saw the signs in the sun, moon, and stars. They felt the fear and foreboding. They shook in terror as the earth quaked and the tombs were broken open.
Even Jesus’ simple message to watch and pray, lest they enter into temptation, went unheeded. Despite the catechesis and direction in the parable, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming,” they all fell asleep on the night that began that Good Friday. While Jesus prayed in anguish on the same Mount of Olives and under the weight of His office of Passover Lamb, they all slumbered and slept. They failed in such a simple task, and no wonder we fail to remain awake, attentive, and vigilant for the day of His coming. Here are Jesus’s Word and gifts for our life and salvation; wake up!
Today the confusion has worsened, as the idolizing pagans have coopted, distorted, and disfigured Jesus’s instruction to wake up with their term “woke.” Today it is used as an adjective for those alert and concerned about social injustice and discrimination. Those who are not “woke” are blind to the real history of our nation. They cannot see the systematic failures in front of them all along. They do not know what is really happening because they live in their enclaves and silos, blissfully unaware of the reality.
Nor can they know, see, or believe unless someone outside them comes along to tell the real history, show the injustices previously hidden, and overcome systematic discriminations baked into our culture. They need to be “awakened” by secret wisdom so that they can refer to themselves in the past tense, “woke,” as in they were “woke” (passively) from their sleep.
The “woke” cult is apocalyptic. Unless people are “woke,” pervasive injustice and discrimination will finally bring about the end of the minority races, enlightened people, or freedom-loving nations. There is no need for God because we are gods and masters of our collective destiny. We have our own prophets of doom and priestly class who need donations to their non-profit action organizations. We can overcome if only we finally wake up, do what must be done, and wage war against our enemies, including our ancestral heritage and personal biases.
As good as it is to work to overcome social injustice and discrimination through political action and cultural efforts, it never quite gets the job done. No apocalypse of our making can usher in the utopia we hope for. These efforts to “wake” people up give them another opiate to appease their conscience that neither last nor addresses the root cause. Even the “woke” proclaimers know that the change must come from outside, passively received. But they naively think of themselves as superior and capable of effecting the needed change. Yet, there is no human action that can correct the human heart.
What Jesus has for you no imagination could envision, no mind engineer, no heart long for, and no words articulate. The prophets of Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel struggle to articulate what God gave them to see. John the Revelator is given to see, yet even His Spirit-given vision is beyond comprehension. Jesus promises no lame heaven like the woke agitators or globalist tyrants. They want to change management but deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
But you are the truly “woke,” who have been awakened to faith by Jesus through His Word and Spirit. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor 2:9). You see even now by faith a new heaven and new earth opened up before you. You are gathered with people from every nation, language, and tribe before the throne of God. The angels and archangels and all the heavenly host sing with you a new song. We proclaim our love for Christ Jesus, our bridegroom, in confession, psalms, and hymns.
Wake up! Jesus is here! He brings forgiveness for your sins, rescue from the demonic forces, and resurrection from the dead. Awake, arise, and meet Him as He speaks His Word of Life, restoring and renewing you. “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph 5:14). Remain awake, attentive, and vigilant for the day of His coming. Jesus’s Word and gifts are here for our life and salvation; wake up!
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin