If you had inside information that your house was about to be broken into, you would get yourself ready to repel such an attack.
In a shocking comparison, Jesus gives insider information on his imminent and surprising return, and suggests that only the truly faithful will diligently prepare themselves for such a thief-in-the-night. As noted in our family devotional through Claiming Christ and Mt 24, Christians are told to “watch therefore”. It is a blunt imperative and one followed by a simple question from my kids: How do you watch?
My son got a kick out of the suggested image that perhaps Jesus was expecting Christians to wear wrist-watches; as if that were the secret key to getting into heaven. But my daughter’s curiosity extended beyond my distorted sense of humor.
What did Jesus mean by backing up his simple command to watch with warnings of false ministers and saviors, horrific wars and natural disasters, and even the corrosive suffocation of love that will turn many away from Christianity? Why his emphasis on staying in tune with the status of the times, like the subtle changes of seasons witnessed in a common fig tree?
It must have been an important instruction: “Therefore keep watch”, he again reiterates. While the world continues along as if all is normal, “one will be taken and the other left”. Even the faithful and wise servants in the church, if they are not diligent, will be cut to pieces with the hypocrites. Where is the sweet Jesus?
The red-letter words continue unbroken: Ten virgins of Jesus will all think they are waiting on their Bridegroom, but five will be shocked at finding they will not be allowed entrance into the kingdom of God. But isn’t he everyone’s Savior?
Again a master leaves talents to his servants, expecting an accounting of growth upon his return. Some will share in their master’s happiness; some will taste his wrath. Has the mercy of God been lost in the sound of weeping and gnashing of teeth?
The thread of Jesus’ thought continues unabated with yet another revelation demonstrated in the separating of the sheep from the goats. Some will be granted eternal blessings; some will stagger to the left in disbelief at their condemnation to “eternal punishment”.
This entire, extended passage begins at Jesus’ feet on the Mt of Olives when he said “Watch out that no one deceives you.” Watch!
Watch for the real Christ. Watch for evidence of the kingdom of God. Watch the unfolding events of politics and the convulsing of creation. Watch!
Watch your own heart and resist allowing it to grow cold. Watch your testimony of the gospel to those around you. Watch for evidence of prophecy connecting with real-world events. Watch your persistence in prayer. Watch for opportunities to sacrificially meet the needs of others. Watch your doctrine and insistence on maintaining a firm grip on the truth. Watch!
Watch for signs that support the nearing of the Son of Man. Watch for the differences in how the world chooses to live as compared to your own restrained habits. Watch, because you don’t know the exact timing, but only the certainty of his coming.
Watch that you are “so doing” when he returns. Watch that you don’t mistreat your fellow servants in Christ and instead are faithful in feeding them. Watch that your source of light overflows your jars of clay. Watch for his voice.
Is your vision of a Rolex or of a Thief-in-the-night?