Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church, Kenosha, Wisconsin
Trinity 25 (Nov. 9, 2008)
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “Finding God where He Truly Is”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is from the Gospel lesson just read, with focus on the final words, Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
When God told Noah to build an Ark, it took Noah 120 years to do it. He was six hundred when he started. During that whole period, Noah preached. He was a prophet. He preached repentance and salvation. Come and be saved from the waters! But when the day of destruction came, no one was ready for it. They drowned in their own stubbornness and unbelief.
When the children of Israel fled from the true God and went lusting after false Gods, they were warned that their stubbornness and unbelief could cause their destruction. Jeremiah and Ezekiel especially preached, confessed and lived so that the nation would see their hardheartedness, repent of their sins and live. But they would not.
In Jesus day, the destruction of the nation was coming. Would they reject the Messiah in their midst, or would they repent and live? Jesus warned them. Over and over again Jesus warned them of their coming destruction. Jesus said not long before our text,
““O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matthew 23:37 ESV)
Here in our text today, Jesus warns them of the coming doom as well. He warns of a time when false messiahs will come. He warns of a time when idolatry and unbelief will be at its highest. He warns of a time when people will be looking for answers to their problems, and when they will go to any length to find them.
Sound familiar? He is speaking of today. Now I don’t mean post-2008 presidential election United States of America. I mean He is speaking of the time from His ascension into heaven until His second coming for the final judgment. It is during this time that the Church is constantly under attack. It is in this time, the times of our lives, when God’s kingdom and righteous reign extends throughout the world, but when it is also rejected at almost every hand. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed in 74 A.D., but the whole world is on the path to destruction apart from the mercy of God.
Now there, of course, lies the rub. We remember our Lord’s return and coming for the final judgment, but how do we look at it? Are we impatient for His return? Do we hope he’ll wait until there is a more convenient time for us? Remember again Jesus’ words from our text,
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” (Matthew 24:23-28 ESV)
Our impatience and unbelief work against us all the time. Christians get impatient with God. We don’t want Him to come in His time. We want Him to come in our time and in our way. Think of the people in Noah’s day, who couldn’t sense the rising water. Thing of the people in Ezekiel’s day, who couldn’t tell that their refusal to trust in the God of Israel alone would be their end. So the question of when He comes and where He comes and maybe even why He comes are all wrapped together in our text. Jesus gives us the answer to these things in verse 28, Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
It’s a very ugly picture, and I think one of the most perplexing statements in the book of Matthew. The vulture is a carnivore and a scavenger. It lives off of death. It is through death that the vulture sustains it’s own life. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
Now let’s think about this in another way: where Jesus is, there his Church will gather. You are the vultures, and Jesus is the one who died to feed you and make you live. And where is Jesus? Jesus is to be found in the pure preaching of His Word and the right administration of His Sacraments. In other words, Jesus is here. Right here. Right now. You don’t need signs and wonders and miracles to encounter God. You need Jesus. And here He is.
But Satan knows this. He knows that our sinful nature makes us impatient and weary of waiting for God. So what Satan does is He tries to put up false christs and false messiahs to get in the way. Anyone who claims to have a handle on God apart from Jesus and His death is not from God. And in the same way, anyone who claims to know the will of God apart from the Scriptures is not from God.
You and I seek God in our own ways and in our own times, when it is convenient for us. But God does not work that way. He has a better way. While you and I would hunt and search for God in the strangest of places, He promises to you that you will find Him in His death and resurrection. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. That is to say, you and I, His Church, gather around His death. As St. Paul said, as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s Death until he comes.
So while you and I face uncertainty and questions about the end times, wars and rumors of wars, cling to Christ. The fads and fashions of this world come and go, but the Rock of our Salvation is certain and sure. You know where to find him. He’s right here, where He promised to you that He would always be. He is here. He is coming again soon. And His return will be the greatest day ever. On that day all of your hopes are fulfilled, death will be destroyed once and for all, and you will live and be with the Lord forever. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.