Leading Question: How do we keep alive the Advent Hope after waiting for some 2000 years?
This last week’s lesson on the quarter explores ways of keeping alive the hope of Jesus’ return. If you are discussing this lesson in a group, it could be helpful to hear what the members of the group say about how they keep the hope alive.
Question: With reference to return of Jesus, what is the difference between hope and proof?
Comment: Devout Christians of conservative stripe are sometimes tempted to look for external proof for our faith. Yet the word “faith” (= confidence) and “hope” do not depend on proof. If were to try and “prove” my wife’s love and devotion to me, seeking for proof would destroy that which is most previous between us: trust. Hiring a detective to look for proof would mean the end of a trusting relationship.
Question: Could Paul’s words in Romans 8:24 help to cure us of our need for “proof”?
Romans 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Signs and Surprises: Matthew 24-25
For those waiting for the Lord to return, Matthew 24-25 is an important passage. Because of the way Matthew begins with “signs,” Christians have been tempted to make charts that would predict the end. But after Jesus gives the signs, he immediately states “the end is not yet” (24:6). He even says that the return is “near, at the very gates” (24:33). Several paragraphs and some stories follow that repeatedly state in various ways: “Be ready, for no one knows the hour except the Father” (cf. 24:36); “keep awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (24:42); you must be ready, “for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (24:44); “the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know” (24:50).
Then Matthew 25 opens with the story of the wise and foolish virgins. It’s worth noting that even the wise slept (25:5). But the difference was that the wise were ready. Jesus closes the story with this punch line: “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (25:13).
Question: What does Philippians 4:4-7 tell us about the best “mind set” for “waiting”?
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Comment: The words of Jesus and apostles make it perfectly clear that we don’t know when the Lord will return. He may be near, even at the door – yet we could wait for 2000 years! So be ready. And while we are waiting, let us rejoice!