On 11/28/2010, I was honored to be asked to lead the services at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau, MO. With a focus on the Gospel of Matthew 24:36-44, I prepared and delivered the following sermon to the glory of God!
When I prepare for the Sermon, I take the opportunity to read about the origin of the Book of Gospel for the day. Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about Mark and Luke, and this week, I took time to study the origin of the Gospel of Matthew.
Scholars disagree somewhat on when the book of Matthew was written and how it came about. Why be an expert if you’re only going to agree with all the other experts?
Almost universally though, scholars agree that the book of Matthew is based on the book of Mark. The similarities of the time-line and the events documented are among the evidence that testify to Mark being basis of Matthew. There’s also the little fact that, with the exception of small portions of 7 of Mark’s Chapters, the entire contents of the Gospel of Mark are found in the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew was one of Jesus’ 12 Disciples, but there is a consensus that he did not write the book. Some say he may have written a Gospel in Aramaic or Hebrew, but I learned earlier that the whole of the New Testament was written in Greek. So, since the Gospels, when Canonized, were written in Greek, how could Matthew write this Gospel – named for him?
Scholars’ such as J.C. Fenton view the text in Matthew as written by one who did not witness the events first-hand. He writes, “…the changes which he [the writer of Matthew] makes in [or from] Mark’s way of telling the story are not those corrections which an eyewitness might make in the account of one who was not an eyewitness.” Mark, too, was not an eyewitness to the acts of our Lord.
As far as the time the Book of Matthew was written, the writer does not directly give us a date. To determine its date of writing, scholars study the references to world events and the existence of certain items in the world. For example, without a document being dated, if it referred to the destruction of the Towers of Gotham, you’d know we were at least talking about 9/11/2001. Similar references in Matthew allude to a certain time after Jesus’ death. For example, in Matthew 22:7, “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” This is believed to be a reference to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70.
Not only do Scholars review the text itself, they review other documents and their reference to the Gospel of Matthew. So, if we know that Mark was written in AD 65, and we believe the Gospel of Matthew was written based on the Gospel of Mark, we probably know it wasn’t written until several years after AD 65. They didn’t upload the Gospel of Mark to the Internet for Matthew’s writer to review the next day.
Again, according to J.C. Fenton, “The earliest surviving writings which quote this Gospel are probably the letters of Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, who, while being taken as prisoner from the East to Rome about A.D. 110, wrote to various churches in Asia in Asia Minor and to the church at Rome. Ignatius refers to the star which appeared at the time of the birth of Jesus, the answer of Jesus to John the Baptist, when he was baptized, and several sayings of Jesus which are recorded only in this Gospel (12:33, 15:13, 19:12). It seems almost certain that Ignatius, and possibly the recipients of his letters also, knew this Gospel, and thus that it [the Gospel] was written before A.D. 110.”
So, there we have it – sometime after AD 65 and before AD 110. With that and other information, the Scholars infer that the Gospel of Matthew was written around AD 80.
Why was the Gospel of Mark written?
Professor Barry Smith of Crandall University tells us, “It is safe to say that the author of the Gospel of Matthew aimed to bring together material in order to write a more comprehensive gospel than that of the Gospel of Mark. His emphasis on the fact that Jesus’ ministry fulfilled scripture and his inclusion of units of Jesus’ teaching that was only fully understandable by and of interest to Jews seems to indicate that he intended to write a gospel for a Jewish readership, rather than a gentile one.”
That’s a short Who, What, When, and Why of the Gospel of Mark. But, another ‘Why’ question I have today is…
Why are we talking about the second coming of the Son of Man on the 1st Sunday in Advent? Today is the 1st Sunday in the Church Year. Today, we start the preparation for the coming of the newborn Christ. Today, we lit the 1st candle of the Advent Wreath. Today, we sing songs of the Advent season. Today, we think of the coming stories of Mary and the Holy Spirit; of Joseph and the Innkeeper.
Today. Today. Today. Today. Today.
I can see why we’d be talking about the 2nd coming of the Son of Man and the ‘End of Times’ last week. It was the last Sunday of the Church Year. It was the time to talk about the ‘End’! But, why this week? Why today?
One reason this text might come up in the 1st week of Advent is that, if you take it completely out of context, if you don’t think about it being part of the Jesus’ ministry, if you pretend that it was said years earlier, you could almost see the Prophet Isaiah or the Prophet Jeremiah giving us the exact same warning about the coming Messiah. When I read the words, and think of it from an Old Testament perspective, I feel it could be said about the coming Messiah – not said by the Messiah.
Additionally, the word “Advent” is from the Latin word “Adventus”, which in English is the word, “come”. The computer tells us that the word “come” occurs 1462 times in the Scriptures – more than a 1000 times in the Old Testament and more than 400 times in the New Testament.
The single word, “come”.
“Advent” simply means “to come”. And, if we apply that translation to our text for today, we see even more clearly how it relates to today’s celebration:
37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the Advent of the Son of Man.
39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the Advent of the Son of Man.
42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what is the hour of your Lord’s Advent.
Be it his birth Advent or his Advent as Judge (the Second Coming), today’s text admonishes us to be ready – Today!
The time of Matthew’s writing is believed to be shortly after the destruction of Temple Mount in Jerusalem… …with ‘not one stone left upon another’. The destruction was so great many of that day felt this was the Second Coming, the Second Advent, of the Son of Man. Do you think they were prepared?
As I prepare a sermon, I read the verses that surround today’s Gospel. I was reminded of the events I’m seeing in the world today.
Beginning in Chapter 24, Verse 4, Jesus said, ‘Beware that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Messiah!” and they will lead many astray. 6And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars… …for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: 8all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
Is it true that some have already been led astray? I can’t see any answer but “Yes!” Are some following a false Messiah? A false God? In my opinion, absolutely!
In the days of these writings, you would only hear about the wars (and rumors thereof). There were no Newspapers, Televisions or the Internet to spread the 24/7 news. Today we hear about wars daily, even hourly, from the Koreas to Afghanistan to Iraq. We read of the earthquakes, the tsunamis, and the famine. Do the people in these nations think this is the Second Coming of the Son of Man? Do you think the people in those lands are prepared?
In Verse 9, Jesus said, 9‘Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name.”
How often in today’s times do we hear news stories about how Christians are persecuted and killed?
- Five suicide bombers stormed the Iraqi Catholic cathedral, Our Lady of Salvation, on October 31st, killing 56 Christians and 12 others.
- On November 10th, in another attack on Christians, 11 roadside bombs exploded in three areas of Baghdad killing five people.
- Christians are persecuted in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Jordan
I wonder, as I read these headlines, what the Christians in these nations are thinking as they read the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 24? Are these the birth pangs foretold being felt in the year 2010? Is this the persecution that was prophesied? Do you think they are prepared for the Second Coming?
We, in America, Europe and similar countries are tremendously fortunate. When tragic events strike such as the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, we recover quickly. In other lands such as Haiti and Indonesia, earthquakes and tsunamis bring on misery for years. Do we in America see such events as portends of the Second Coming? Do those Christians in Haiti and Indonesia? Do you think they are prepared? Do you think we are prepared?
So, why, as we prepare for the birth Advent of our Lord, do we, at the same time, admonish ourselves to prepare for the Second Coming – the Second Advent? Maybe it’s because, with the First Advent, we have but four short weeks and are eager and excited to prepare. We celebrate, we sing, we anticipate.
But, with the Second Advent, well, it’s been so long since it was foretold. It didn’t happen last week. It didn’t happen last month. It surely won’t happen today.
That’s just it. We prepare for the First Advent because we know it is coming in four short weeks. We prepare for the Second Advent because it may not wait four weeks. It may not wait until tomorrow. It could be today!
Today, we shop! Today, we wrap! Today, we eat, drink, marry, and give in marriage. Today, we prepare for the First Advent. Let us also prepare, today, for the Second Advent.
Today is the day to make sure we are right with God. Today is the day that we accept the Lord as our Savior. Today is the day that we celebrate His Word. Today is the day we respond to human need.