Well, probably the most famous movie line of all time is a line that if I say the line, you’ll instantly know the movie title and you’ll know who said it. And I’m convinced you’ll even know what the person was wearing when they said the line in the movie. It’s a big line. And so here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna say the line of the movie, and then I’m gonna point to you and you tell me the movie title. All right. All right, let me get in character. Luke, I am your father and the movie is Star Wars. And more specifically, empire Strikes Back. Consider one of the greatest plot twists in movie history. This moment here when Half Cyborg sift Lord Darth Vader. Shares that he is the long lost father of heroic farm Boy Luke Skywalker. It’s a moment when Luke discovers the reality that, uh, yes, his father is alive, but bad news, he is his mortal enemy. So that’s not a good turn of events for him, but it’s also an epic line for me personally. Because it is the very first thing that I said to my son when he was born. Anyone want to guess the name of my son, Luke? We named him after the Luke of the Bible, not the Luke of Star Wars. But I couldn’t resist. Uh, In my best James Earl Jones esque kind of voice to greet my son for the first time, saying, Luke, I am your father, and I have it on video for generations to enjoy in the future. I. Well, whether it’s, uh, a movie or a book, there’s just something about the plot twist that makes your heart beat fast, that makes you lean forward, engage in the movie or the story. It’s when, uh, you discover that the good guy was really the bad guy, or that some information is revealed that causes you to look at the end of the movie completely different and to look at the previous part of the story differently as well.
A plot twist completely changes your perspective on the story. In fact, let’s take a look at a definition of a plot twist. It goes like this. A plot twist is a sudden change in the expected outcome of the story that reveals a previously unknown truth about the plot. Well, recently I’ve been thinking that uh, this literary device called the plot twist is a really good way to describe the spiritual life, the spiritual journey, because God loves surprises. God loves a plot twist. And if you’ve been following Jesus for any amount of time, you, you’ll start to discover, or you know full well that he likes to throw surprises into the mix in our life. He likes to kinda give a surprise ending and show us something that we didn’t see coming. I know. When I was eight years old, my family, uh, weren’t active in a church, but my dad, he worked in the autobody industry and his coworkers said, why don’t you come to our church? I was sitting there in the, the children’s ministry room and they very plainly and creatively described what it means to know Jesus and invited us if we wanted to know that, to raise our hand. I raised my hand and they took me to the back of the room behind this partition wall. Then I started to get nervous and someone who would’ve been in age, a grandfather to me just very plainly and relationally said, this is what God has done for you in Jesus, and this is what eternity looks like with him. Is that something that you want? And of course I said, wow, that sounds amazing. Yes. So then after that, uh, after the service got in the car and said, mom and dad, uh, I’ve been saved. And they’re like, oh, okay. What does that mean? And, uh, gave me a Bible and it was this plot twist that completely changed the rest of the story for me. Or later on, much later on. Um, I’m a pastor, uh, leading a church in Central Michigan and we were looking for a way to make an impact in the orphan crisis that was, Growing and becoming more of a, a reality, a need in, uh, Southern Africa. So we were looking for a way to make an impact and somebody said, uh, Hey, let me, let me buy you lunch and let me just warn you, when someone asked to buy you lunch. Be careful saying yes, it might change the whole trajectory of your life. And that was the case for me. Um, told me about a vision trip that they had just been on in South Africa through Orchard Africa. We went and saw it and we knew that was the kind of impact we wanted to make, equipping churches to care for the vulnerable, and then that was a trajectory change.
In my life, the story changed. You, you, you have those same stories in your life of a moment when God intervened or circumstance happened, and all of a sudden your story changed and maybe even so much so that you begin looking back at the previous part of your life differently now that you see God’s story at work. And then we flip through the pages of the Bible and we see. Story after story, after story of plot twists and surprise endings like a Hebrew baby who, uh, is raised in the household of Pharaoh of Egypt, and how he surprisingly grows up to rescue his people from slavery in Egypt. Or a story of a young boy who was a shepherd and just had a sling. And no one saw it coming, but he takes down this Philistine giant and saves this nation. Or a story. You should know this by now, very well, uh, story of surprising turn of events when a prophet named Jonah gets swallowed a hole by a whale and then is spit out on dry, uh, ground and then saves and redeems a city or maybe the greatest. Plot twist when a baby born in a manger grows up to be the savior of humanity. God, in human form Bible over and over again talks about these unexpected, surprising terms of events that change the story, and we completely look at what’s ahead differently. God loves surprise endings. He loves plot twists. And Jesus. Uh, he was this master storyteller, master teacher who would always, uh, throw in a plot twist in his parables and his teaching that kept his listeners engaged, kept people, uh, wanting to know more about what was coming in his teaching. And today we’re gonna look at a moment when Jesus does this, he throws in a really significant plot twist. That causes the disciples to completely look at the future differently. So lemme give you a little context for where this takes place. Uh, it is one of the last conversation, uh, con conversations Jesus has with his disciples. He’s just a matter of days away from his resurrection. And so the words that Jesus shares with his disciples, they’re ringing in the disciples ears throughout all the events of that.
Those final few days of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the day the conversation happens, Jesus has been teaching in the temple courtyard and they’re on their way out of the city. He and the disciples, and Jesus kind of in passing says the temple that you see here, it’s gonna be torn down brick by brick and rendered essentially useless. Well that peaked the disciples. Um, uh, curiosity for sure. And Jesus had also been mentioning kinds of things like, I’m gonna die three days later. I’m gonna come back. Um, I’m gonna go to the Heavenly Father, and then I’m coming back one day. So the disciples are wondering, Jesus, you’re leaving. Okay. Uh, we kinda like having you around. Could you tell us when you’re coming back? That’s really important to us. So with that on their mind, they find Jesus later in the day. And this is where we pick up the story here in Matthew 24, verse three. It says, as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately tell us, they said, when will this happen? When will the temple be torn down? And, uh, what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? Of the end of time? So the first Century disciples, they’re asking a question that a lot of 21st century disciples, all of us like to ask as well. So when is Jesus coming back? Part of our creed and part of our belief is that, uh, Jesus, uh, died rose again, and he’s coming back and we kind of wonder, well, Jesus, when, when are you coming back? And maybe even sometimes think, I kind of see the world falling apart. It, it seems like it’s coming soon. And, uh, there’s lots of books that have been written on it, lots of theology been, um, spoken about, about when and how. Um, but we often ask the same questions that the disciples are, are asking here. And so Jesus, uh, he humors them a little bit and does give them some information about what to look for and maybe some signs, and it’s kinda ominous.
You might wanna read that a little later in Matthew 24. But ultimately he comes to. This statement in verse 36, it says, but about the day or the hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father. So he’s saying, sorry disciples. It’s gonna be a surprise. No spoilers here. I can’t tell you when it’s gonna happen. You just, you’re going to be in a waiting period. And then he’s just artfully. Turns the conversation. He’s a master at this. He turns the conversation away from trying to predict when he’s coming back to, well, how do you live your life now in preparation for his return? Jesus saying, that’s the real question. How do you prepare your life for the return of Jesus? Well, let me, let me pause here for a moment and, um, make, make an end times prediction. Can I? Can I do that? I, I haven’t. I hope that’s okay, pastor John. Okay. I believe we will see Jesus sometime within the next 100 years. I believe the evidence is good based on kind of what we see in this world, and here’s how it’s going to happen. Either we’re going to live through the end times, we’re gonna see Jesus return in his glory and it. It’s gonna be amazing. Or sometime in the next 100 years, our life is going to come to an end that we’re gonna see him. So guaranteed, I think it’s a pretty good prediction in the next 100 years, we’re gonna see Jesus one way or another. Either he’s coming to us or we’re going to him. So the question remains for us. So how do we prepare? For that moment when we see Jesus, what do we do now in preparation for his return? So this is what Jesus starts talking about. And Jesus, over the rest of the chapter of 24 and into chapter 25 of Matthew, he gives parable after parable kind, rapid fire, three in a row. And let me just give you the quick scr notes, kind of the quick highlights on these. First parable is the parable of the faithful and the foolish servant. And the story of the owner leaves, he comes back, and some are faithful, some are not. And here’s the big idea on this. Here’s the lesson. He says, in preparation for Jesus’s return, take personal responsibility for the priorities of God.
So that’s the first lesson, first parable, second parable, parable of the 10 virgins and 10 lamps. It’s about a wedding that’s gonna happen. The groom’s gonna come. We don’t know when he’s going to come. You gotta wait and uh, when he comes, um, some are ready and some are not. And here’s the lesson for the second parable. As you wait for Jesus, don’t put off doing what’s most important because you don’t know how much time you have. Don’t put it off. Do what’s most important now. And then third parable, parable of the talents. And I’m going through these fast. You can read them when you get home this week. And, um, business owner leaves, he gives money to his employees and comes back and settles up. And those who invested were honored and those who didn’t, um, were fired. And, uh, he says this, here’s the lesson, invest your time, your money, your life. In what matters most. So prepare Jesus is coming back. We don’t know when it’s gonna be a big plot twist. It’s gonna be a surprise, but take responsibility for the priorities of God. Don’t put off what’s most important and invest your life in what matters most. Okay, so the disciples are like, okay, so what do we do? What? What matters most? What’s the highest priority? Uh, what do we do that’s important? And then Jesus goes on to kind of give another parable and he, he’s building tension here over and over again, just waiting for the big reveal. And so this is what, what he says next, Matthew 25. And continuing in verse 31, when the son of man comes in glory and all the angels with him. He will sit on his glorious throne so quick before he was telling parables about waiting and waiting and waiting for this person to come back, waiting for Jesus to come back.
The, the waiting’s over here. Now the son of man comes back. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and it put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. So Jesus hasn’t really revealed it yet. He’s still kind of getting them ready, but he says, uh, there’s coming a moment at the end of all time when God, like a shepherd, when Jesus like a shepherd will divide the sheep and the goats. And essentially what he’s saying here is just like a shepherd knows what a sheep is and what a goat is just by their outward appearance. Uh, it’s gonna be really clear who are sheep and goats when it comes to his followers. It’s gonna be really clear from an outward perspective what God has been doing in our lives as we’ve been waiting. And so the disciples are saying, so tell us what is a sheep? Then what, who are the righteous who are on the right side? What do they look like? What does their life look like? How do we prepare? Do we need to pray more? Do we need to fast? Do we need to study God’s word more? Do we need to eliminate certain sins from our life? What, what do we do? And then finally, Jesus lets ’em off the hook and he tells them, okay, here’s how to prepare. And they’re like, finally, Jesus, you, you’re telling us. And it goes like this. Then the king will say to those on his right, come you who are blessed by my father, take your inheritance. The kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you, you came and visited me. Then the righteous will answer him. Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? And the king will reply. Jesus said, truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me. Plot twist. Now, think about this scene. Jesus is describing the last moment. He has returned and all of the world is standing before him, and this is the first moment you get to see Jesus eye to eye. And Jesus says, he says, what we don’t expect, you know, as he doesn’t say, you know, I noticed all the Bible studies. That you attended way to go, or you, you had the perfect attendance pin on Sunday morning, so you, you, you attended faithfully or, uh, you, um, your theology was perfect. You got it. All right. No one else. These folks didn’t, you nailed it. Uh, or how successful you were in your business, or how influential you were or how you avoided certain sins. He doesn’t say any of that now. I, I, I believe that if we were to, um, ask Jesus about those things, he would say, it is so important to cultivate a life with Christ, with in your faith. To read the word, to pray, to attend worship as a community, to live a life of purity.
Those are valuable and important. We need to do those things, but he, he doesn’t mention those in this moment. Instead, he says, at the end of all time in this moment, how did you treat people? Who are the least? That’s the first point of conversation. How did you treat those? Who had the least? In our world who had the least materially or the least physically or the least opportunity or security? What did you do with the time that you had related to them? It is this plot twist moment in Jesus’ teaching, but then also in sort of the whole spectrum of the humanity story. Where when we hear that it changes the way that we think about the rest of our life. Change is what we should focus on and maybe even reflects back on how we think about the life that we’ve lived already. Jesus is saying, how did you see and respond to the needs in the world? And it’s interesting how Jesus talks about this because he doesn’t say, To the sheep. He doesn’t say, you fed the hungry, you gave drink to the thirsty. You, you visited those who were sick. No. He says, when I was hungry, you fed me. Did you catch that when I, I was thirsty when I was a stranger. You invited me in. And so he turns the story in a surprising way that again, makes the disciples wonder, so what? What do you mean? And here’s what Jesus is saying. He’s saying, I know you love me. Disciples had been with him three years, day in and day out, sacrificed themselves, served with him. I know you love me. I know you honor me. I know you’ve given yourself for me. I know if we were at a. At dinner, you would give me the seat of honor in the room. And he’s saying, I want you to see those in the world who have the least that same way in a place of honor, of love and service.
Ultimately, here’s kind of the surprise ending of his teaching and um, it goes like this. Treat those with the least in this world. The way you would treat Jesus. Treat those with the least in the world, the way you’d treat Jesus. So imagine this, you go home this afternoon and uh, you, you’re sitting on the couch just kinda resting. You’re on your phone, you’re playing, you’re playing a game on your phone. Whatever you do in the afternoon, you’re reading a book, you’re doing a crossword puzzle, and you hear a knock on the door. You go to the door and there is Jesus at the door. You’re kinda surprised you didn’t see that coming. Uh, you know, it’s him, miss Jesus. You’re not sure why he’s there. And he says, you know, I was wondering if you had any food to eat. I’m a little bit hungry. Could you make me a sandwich? Uh, so what would you do in that moment? You, you’d probably go to the cupboard, right? Jesus is at your door and he’s hungry. You’re, you’re going, you’re gonna make him a sandwich. If, if you don’t have any food in your cupboard, you’re going to fries, you’re gonna go find whatever you think Jesus would like to eat. You’re probably gonna buy some fish and bread. It’s, you’re just trying to figure it out. Grape juice that you don’t know, but you’re, you’re gonna bring it back and, uh, and you’re gonna give him a meal, right? Or uh, Jesus says, I, I need a place to stay. And what are you gonna do? Well, there’s a Holiday Inn down the road. I heard there’s a coupon you can look up online. No, you’re gonna invite ’em in. And especially you think about the disciples. I mean, they’re there with him. They can imagine Jesus knocking on their door. But essentially he’s saying, when someone comes to you who has need, treat them the same way that you treat me. Treat the least like the way you treat Jesus. And one of the first things that this means is it means that we have to see people in need. It’s really easy to see people who are. People who have honor in this world, people who have a position or a title or means of some sort, but those who have very little are mostly invisible. And there are people in places in our world that completely go unnoticed in their desperate need. So to be able to see them kinda like we would see. Someone of great honor and esteem. But here’s a few reflections on this page, Turner kind of moment when, uh, Jesus says these words, the first is that service doesn’t save the saved serve. And sometimes it’s easy to read this passage. It’s like the end of all time and Jesus comes back and you’re standing before him and he says, well, how did you do feeding the poor? How did you do caring for those who are sick? And it kind of feels like maybe that’s the qualification to get into heaven, but it’s not what Jesus is saying here.
Beginning of this passage, he says, come those who are already blessed by the father, he’s talking to people who, his disciples, they’ve already loved him and followed him or the sheep. They already have said yes to him. They’ve already committed him. Now he’s just saying, this is how you use the leverage of your time between now and then. It’s not a salvation issue. Service doesn’t save, but this is what a sheep does. This is what happens when we experience this plot twist in our life when we say yes to Jesus and he starts to transform the inside of us, and all of a sudden the love of God starts to become more and more reality in our life, and it’s out of that, that we serve and we give and we show compassion. Here’s a second thing to think about. God sees and values the small moments. It’s interesting that, uh, again, the first thing that Jesus describes he’ll say when we see him face to face is, I, you know, I wonder if you gave anybody a meal. Sometimes we think about what enormous things did we do for God that qualifies us in some way to just be honored by God. I. And he says a very small thing Did, did you give a meal? Did you give somebody a drink of water? And I think that for some of us, when we feel like, I don’t know where to begin, I don’t know how to start. Well, God is saying, start small. Give a meal. Give a drink of water. And those small moments matter. Another way to say this is never underestimate the impact and power of a small act of compassion, a small act of kindness. As I mentioned earlier, orchard Africa has been, um, doing ministry in Southern Africa for 30 years, and the scope of the impact has been enormous. As churches like Victory and others have. Kinda linked arms together in generosity and service and churches in South Africa have served and given to their community that the literally hundreds of thousands of people that have been impacted, which feels big. But you know how it started 33 years ago, Mike and Michelle Tess Endorf in a little small group from their church, saw a group of children that were hungry. And they made a meal and they fed them. Little did they know or even attempt to develop or create all that came after. So you never know what God might wanna do through one simple act of kindness, one simple act of compassion, you may have, uh, no ability to see the, all the fruits of it. Like sometimes we can. But God uses that in extraordinary and profound ways. Never underestimate your kindness and your compassion in small ways. Maybe you’re standing in the grocery store line and someone doesn’t have enough to kind of meet the bill, or you just see somebody in your community, in your congregation who’s in need and you, you take a step and you show compassion.
Here’s, here’s another one. Uh, the best way to wait is to wait on people, to serve people. All these stories and these parables, Jesus told her about someone waiting, waiting for the owner to come back, waiting for the groom to come back, waiting for the employer to come back, and sometimes people waited. Well. In those stories that some people didn’t wait well and got into all kinds of trouble, or were paralyzed by fear. And one of the lessons we can take outta this is when we’re in a season of waiting, which we all will find ourselves in, waiting for a prognosis, waiting for something financial to happen, waiting for a family member to come back, waiting for, uh, something to, uh, develop that you’ve been hoping for. Uh, the best way to wait. Is to be a waiter, waitress, and serve people. My daughter, she’s uh, working as a waitress right now. It’s her kind of, her first job. She’s 18. She was, uh, working last night and she was saying, uh, just it was packed. It was a six hour shift and she was on her feet the whole time. And she said, just went by so fast ’cause she was serving lots of people. I think the same thing is true and. We’re waiting for the next thing to happen. Wait on people in your waiting. Okay, here’s the last, last reflection. Expand your kindness a step at a time. We see that Jesus, the first thing that he says is a simple act and sometimes, uh, in order to kind of cultivate a life of. Service and compassion, we need to start somewhere. And so he starts with, well feed somebody in, need, uh, give a gift of something material, and then he goes on. Well, maybe then be willing to invite someone into your home or into your life in a little bit more of a relational way, a little bit more of a commitment. And then maybe you see somebody who they’re really financially struggling. They can’t, they don’t even have clothes. And maybe you walk with them to try to figure out these financial problems. Well then maybe you actually visit someone and sit by them at their bedside. Or you go to prison and you visit someone. Who has a really difficult story, and you see how Jesus kind of lays it out step by step. Each step kind of like a little bit more relational, a little bit more of a risk, maybe a little bit more out of your comfort zone. And sometimes it happens that way. You start where you are or maybe you’ve, um, you’ve served in some ways a long time and God is saying, oh, I want you to take the next most uncomfortable step for you as you live and you wait for Jesus’ return.
A step at a time. That was the reality for Orchard. Some of our biggest impact has come from this one word. Some of the biggest transformation in the communities that we serve has been focused on this one word patients in serving patiently over time. Uh, watching little kids who came to the feeding program who are desperately in need of a meal grow up and have preschool education provided to them. Their parents couldn’t afford that. And we see churches do that and help them. And then after school mentoring and helping them with their classes as they’re in secondary education and helping them with grief counseling because their mom and dad died eventually growing up. To be the leaders and the pastors of the community, and that’s the story of Orchard Africa. Children in desperate need growing up over 20 years to become the leaders of their community. Victory Lutheran, that’s your story. You’ve been partnering with Orchard Africa for over a decade. And you have walked with these little kids who now are grown up in the young adulthood and a step at a time has helped them make an impact in their own community. Thank you. Thank you for preparing well for Jesus’s return. Thank you for your willingness to give and to serve and to make not only the reality that we have seen in the past happen, but. With this next stage to be able to impact thousands and thousands of more people so that when we are at the end of all time, we gather as the church before Jesus, we all can give Jesus a big old high five and say, well done. Thank you for treating the least. Jesus will say like, you treated me. Jesus ends with this passage. About a day later, Jesus shares this with his disciples. I wanna end with this. He says, let me give you a new command. Love one another in the same way, I love you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize you are my disciples. When they see the love you have for each other. Would you pray with me? God, we thank you for your love, your unending, unfailing, immeasurable love, and we thank you that you give us the opportunity to share that love with those around us. Those maybe sitting next to us, those in our community, and those in faraway places, in places like South Africa. Help us to prepare well as your church for your return. And we pray this all in Jesus’ name. Everybody said Amen.