Keep Us Watchful for Our Triumph
These are the readings for the Third Sunday of End Time—Saints Triumphant.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)
God’s Word for This Week
Like children playing hide and seek, Jesus calls out to us through his Word, “Ready or not here I come!” Thanks be to God that in his love and through Jesus’ saving work on the cross, we have been made ready. When Jesus comes in the end, we will be raised and united with all those who have preceded us in the faith. Therefore, let us continue to be vigilant in the faith until that day comes.
First Lesson – Isaiah 52:1-6
Who are the “uncircumcised and defiled” that will never enter the holy city of Jerusalem?
Throughout its history, Israel had been invaded and attacked by foreign nations (most recently by the nation of Assyria). Due to their disobedience, pagan armies entered and even conquered Jerusalem. God promised that a day would come when Jerusalem would be freed from such invasions. In the New Testament, we find that the true Israel and the true Jerusalem are God’s holy people–his Church. We will see the deliverance foretold by Isaiah when we put on our “garments of splendor” in heaven.
Verse three tells us that we were redeemed without money. Define the term “redeem.”
To redeem means “to buy back” or “to pay the price of freedom.” Jesus paid the price necessary to free us from our slavery to sin and death. He did this, “not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death.”
Supplemental First Lesson – Ezekiel 37:15-28
This lesson immediately follows Ezekiel’s prophecy about the dry bones.
God had promised Israel that he would raise them from their graves and settle them in the land. He promised to restore captive Israel to the land of Abraham. The rescue and return of the remnant provide a picture of what the Church waits and watches for. In this lesson, God extends that prophecy beyond physical Israel to the Church and the messianic kingdom of his Son. Earthly troubles like the captivity or our struggle with sin are temporary. The triumph that’s coming won’t be. Notice that in the last four verses, God repeatedly talks about the unending nature of the kingdom waiting for us. It will be a kingdom without divisions caused by sin but exemplified by oneness (one stick, one nation, one king, one shepherd—forever).
How will this be?
Look at how many times God says that he will act for us! We are purely passive in acquiring the triumph in store for us. God will act to save, to cleanse, and to renew his covenant: I will be their God, and they will be my people. As Ezekiel held his bound sticks before the eyes of his countrymen, so the Church holds God’s promises of pending triumph before us and continually cries, “Wait for it! Watch for it!”
Second Lesson – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
Who are those who had “fallen asleep”?
This word picture is often used in the Bible to describe those who have died. It seems that there was some confusion in the Thessalonian congregation about those who had died. The Thessalonians were waiting eagerly for the imminent return of Jesus. They were worried because they were afraid that those who died before his coming would not receive the same salvation.
Agree or Disagree. A Christian should never mourn the death of a fellow Christian.
As Christians, we are comforted and encouraged by the fact that those who die in Christ will receive the reward he won for them on the cross. We are consoled by the knowledge that we will see them again in heaven. A Christian will not despair as many in this world do. Yet, death is separation. A Christian will mourn and even cry. Did not Jesus cry when his friend Lazarus died? As Christians, we are comforted by the promises of our loving God.
Supplemental Second Lesson – Revelation 19:1-9
What kind of triumph are we watching and waiting for?
For the persecuted Church, Jesus gave the Apocalypse of St. John to let his people know: Jesus will win. Revelation 18 foretold the fall of Babylon and the destruction of every enemy of the Church. “After this…” John heard the reaction of the saints and angels and all creation—they cried, “Hallelujah!” The word used so prevalently in the Old Testament was not heard in the New Testament until its final vision of the saints triumphant. George Handel tried to capture the glory of what John witnessed with his “Hallelujah Chorus,” but his work will certainly pale by comparison to that distant triumph song. John lets us see behind the shut door of the parable in our Gospel for this Sunday—he lets us see what we watch for: the consummation of the marriage of Christ and the Church. Blessed are they who are called to the marriage feast of the Lamb! Keep us watchful for our coming triumph!
Gospel – Matthew 25:1-13
How did the five foolish virgins demonstrate their foolishness?
The virgins of Jesus’ parable are comparable with the bridesmaids of today. Their responsibility was to prepare the bride for the coming of the bridegroom. The foolish virgins did not bring enough oil for their lamps. They were not prepared. So when the bridegroom took longer than was expected, they were not ready for him.
How do we “keep watch” for Jesus’ coming?
As Christians, we are ready for Jesus’ coming through faith. We keep watch, therefore, by maintaining and strengthening that faith through constant use of the Word and sacraments.