Picture this: you’re taking a family road trip with your kids. Now, parents, I know you’ll be able to answer this question: What are the four words you DO NOT want to hear out of their precious little mouths?. That’s right “Are we there yet?” When our kids were little, Alexandra and I used to offer a financial reward if they could make it through the long drive and not ask that question, or any variation on it. If they succeeded (and they always did), they got some spending money for souvenirs. But you know, everyone gets impatient at times.
One of the marks of youthful immaturity is the inability to savor a moment. You see it at the zoo, for example. Little kids have no patience for details. They want to run from the primates to the giraffes to the lions; and it never dawns on them that they might want to stay for a few minutes in one place and notice the subtler things – such as the fascinating way the pattern on a cheetah’s coat moves as it walks and the muscles flex underneath, or to wait to see how some creatures interact with each other.
But impatience isn’t just the vice of children. Some of you may know people who are always waiting for the big ‘thing’ to happen and never seem to stop to appreciate their situation. We euphemistically describe some of these folks as ‘driven’ but the fact is that even many adults are marred by perpetual discontentment; always waiting for the next, better ‘thing’ or the better situation.
But, in contrast to that, there is a kind of discontentment that is good and proper. Do you remember Yeshua’s words, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”? We usually assume those words are meant in the context of grieving the loss of a friend or a loved one, and I’m sure it encompasses that, too. But I believe that in context it has more to do with grieving the sorry condition of the world; at once magnificent and awe-inspiring, yet violent, chaotic and despairing because of our own selfishness and sinfulness. We rightly should be discontent at the state of the world in this age – you could call it “sanctified impatience”. There are two aspects to this. Let me frame them in the form of questions. The first one is this:
I. Yeshua, When Will You Come Back and Fix the World?
Our dear brother of blessed memory, Moishe Rosen, once wrote a booklet entitled, The Universe is Broken: Who on Earth Can Fix It? How did it happen? In the Garden of Eden God warned Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, saying, “In the day you eat from it, you shall surely die”. That was the truth. Sure enough, the moment the man and his wife rebelled against the command of God and ate from the tree, sin entered the world. And much like a deadly virus, sin spread rapidly, causing sickness and death. Suddenly there was fear and embarrassment, excuse-making and blame-shifting, and in the very next generation there was murder.
Sin continues to spread throughout humanity, and though, like a virus, it is invisible, the effect of it is seen and felt everywhere, and is on display every day in the news headlines. It’s why you lock your door when you leave the house, and lock the car when you park on the street, and it’s why you can’t just walk into a bank and say you’re “so and so” and ask to withdraw money without showing ID. It’s why you need passwords and PIN numbers for the ATM and a 3-digit security code on the back of your credit cards. Sin is why people won’t stop to help someone whose car is broken down on the street, but will slow down grotesquely so they can see how bad an accident was. It’s why there are hundreds of thousands of laws in countless bound volumes on the weight-strained shelves of who-knows-how-many lawyers’ offices.
Because of sin, all these laws and regulations are necessary, as are the police who enforce them. Even traffic lights are essential in a world where self-interest reigns. A lot of people died before we finally got that handled.
Sin accounts for every act of selfishness; for the wanton disregard for the health and safety of others leading to death and destruction, for every theft and form of fraud, for every expression of greed and every act of vandalism; for the callous indifference to the plight of those who are suffering, and for every betrayal of vows and act of violence that has ever taken place on planet earth to this very hour!
Within just a few generations, sin had become so pervasive that in Genesis 6:5 it says, Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. What a pathetic commentary on the state of the world! Of course, God eventually sent the Flood on the Earth, destroying all life but preserving righteous Noah and his family. A fresh start, and yet mankind was still beset by a bent nature – original sin is what it is usually called. It is imperative that we understand, and take to heart, what the Scriptures say about our fallen condition. People in positions of responsibility, who are idealists and naïve about man’s corrupt nature, often come up with well-intentioned but flawed ideas, and the results can be disastrous!
We are not sinners because we commit acts of sin. We commit sin because we are already bent in that direction. Let me illustrate it this way: If you started sneezing and your complexion turn pallid and you were stuffy and didn’t have much energy, it would be ridiculous for me to say, “Hey, if you don’t stop sneezing, you’re going to catch a cold.” Silly me – you already have a cold! All the sneezing, the stuffiness and weakness are just outward symptoms of the invisible virus already at work inside you.
The human race suffers from an equally invisible but real inner condition the Bible calls ‘sin’. And everything that’s wrong with the world is symptomatic of it. Our sinful condition has plunged the world into violence, injustice, greed and arrogance, complacency and strife. It is why King David had to urge us in Psalm 37:1-2, Do not fret because of evildoers. It is why in Psalm 73 Asaph lamented that in this world so many evil people seem to get off scott-free and seldom is justice accomplished. Gratefully, he held his tongue and upon walking into the Sanctuary of God gained the proper perspective. There is a day of reckoning ahead of us, and it isn’t far off! But are you prepared to meet that day, or should I say, prepared to meet the Judge? We’ll talk more about that in a minute.
But it’s that knowledge that the world is askew, and the deep yearning within us to see even a little part of it made right, that forms the plot of countless classic novels and drives the storyline of nearly every movie. In fact, have you ever gone to see a movie, maybe one you had really looked forward to, only to have the movie end with the bad guy walking away and justice is left wanting? We might reason with ourselves that such an ending is more realistic, but isn’t it also unsatisfying? We long for justice, we hope for resolution, we yearn for goodness to finally prevail.
And it isn’t just us. Rabbi Paul tells us that Creation itself yearns, as it were, to be delivered from corruption and to be restored to its original perfection.
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:19-23).
Beyond mankind’s relentless warring and strife, even the predatory nature of many of the animal species is also attributable to the Fall, as is the inevitable decay of organic life and the presence of destructive and opportunistic viruses and bacteria that cause sickness and death.
So it’s understandable that those who love the Lord would wonder when Messiah Yeshua will return to this pained and imperiled planet and, according to His Word, usher in 1,000 years of righteousness, peace and abundance. That very hope and longing was at the root of the questioning of Yeshua’s disciples, both before His death and after His resurrection. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 24 we read:
Matthew 24:3-5 and 23-27
As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Yeshua answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will mislead many…
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Messiahs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
‘The Blessed Hope’ as we sometimes refer to Messiah’s Second Coming, is rooted in the Jewish expectation of the coming Redeemer, the One who will reverse the damage caused by the original rebellion; the Second Adam, who will set aright what was undone by the first Adam.
But along with the promise of His return was the warning from Yeshua that there would be imposters beforehand; counterfeit messiahs, some of whom would even perform signs and wonders in order to deceive the undiscerning. His first words in responding to their question were “See to it that no one misleads you!” Yeshua declared Himself to be the Messiah, and in the same breath declared that anyone else, across the corridors of time, who claims to be the Messiah is a liar and a deceiver, and we are not to believe them.
Now these words were spoken prior to His trial and torture and crucifixion and death. And for the three days He remained buried, you can just imagine the grief and disillusionment the disciples were going through. They didn’t yet understand how Messiah’s suffering was necessary, or yet comprehend that He would rise from the dead. So imagine their overwhelming joy when He appeared to them after coming back to life. Luke tells us that Yeshua spent 40 days among them, instructing them, before He was taken into Heaven. And just before He ascended to Heaven, He was with them, and they asked Him again about fulfilling the Great Messianic Hope.
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or dates which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Some people, in hindsight, wonder why the disciples would even suggest that that might be the time. But in light of the ancient promises made by the prophets, and the oppression that our people had already endured for so many years at the hands of the Roman Empire, can you really blame them for asking? After all, wasn’t the coming Kingdom of God, the Messianic Age of peace, prosperity and righteousness the very hope of every faithful Jewish person? Who wouldn’t hope for it? And, after all, here He was, Yeshua, alive again after having been put to death before all Jerusalem’s very eyes!
And consider where they were standing! We find out in verse 12
They returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city…
They had been on the Mount of Olives! Why is that significant? Because according to the prophet Zechariah, the Mount of Olives is to be the very location of Messiah’s return, when He comes to rescue Israel from those who seek her destruction. It isn’t mere circumstance that the very last place Yeshua’s feet touched the earth before He ascended to Heaven will be the very first place His feet touch the earth when He descends from Heaven.
But that raises another question: Are you ready for that? Are you prepared to face Him? Messiah Yeshua came the first time as the Lamb of God. He came in humility and gentleness. Not so His Second Coming. This time around He is coming as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and with all the power and majesty He possessed from all eternity. Not with humility, but in order to judge the Earth. Are you ready for that judgment? Truth be told, most of humanity isn’t ready. God has patiently given all this time in order for people to repent, to turn from unbelief to faith, from disobedience to loyalty to the Son of David.
Those of us who have already signed on are looking forward to Yeshua’s return. We have already declared openly and publicly our loyalty to Him, even at the expense of the good graces of our own community. We are already His loving subjects. We have nothing to fear at His appearing. But if we’re going to be honest with ourselves and with each other, our lives are far from what they ought to be. We have left too many things undone, and have allowed the distractions of the world to diminish our zeal for His mission.
This morning’s sermon on ‘sanctified impatience’ is actually part one of what is a two-part message. Our question was, “Yeshua, when will You come back and fix the world?” I’ll preview the second question for you and, God-willing, we’ll consider it next Shabbat. The question is:
II. When, Lord God, Will I be the Person I’m Supposed to be?
Let me close with these thoughts:
Some people long for Heaven because their earthly experience has been so bitter.
Some people long for Heaven because they mourn the evil that pervades the world
Some people wrongly assume their experience in the afterlife will be pleasant.
And too many people are playing religious games, while the fate of their eternal soul hangs in the balance. Let me urge those of you who have been sitting on the fence to make your decision. These days are about to be cut short, and excuse the expression, but when all Hell breaks loose on Earth, as Scripture says it will prior to Messiah’s return, you will have missed your opportunity. Now is the acceptable time. Today is the day of salvation. And if you are still uncertain about the condition of your soul, I want you to come and speak with me before you leave.
You know, it’s amusing how kids impatiently ask “When’s dinner going to be ready?” There is really no need to ask. Every good mother works diligently to prepare dinner for her family. There’s no need to worry that it won’t happen, and there’s really no need to ask when. Believe me, she’ll be calling you in when it’s ready, and she won’t be happy with you if you keep her waiting while the food gets cold.
God is preparing everything for us, and we should look forward to it and desire it, but we need to be confident that He’ll call us home when it’s our time, and Messiah Yeshua will return to Earth at precisely the right time! What you do in the meantime – that’s the question.