28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[d] is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert[e]! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
Does Jesus command that we make charts and try and plot the exact portents of the end times? What does Jesus tell us to do? He tells us to be watchful and to stay awake. In the many years since his death we have seen much persecution of the church. Christians today suffer in various locations around the world. Earthquakes and wars still happen. All these things will happen and they are things that Jesus foretells, but he does not command that we tally them or order them in order to be wise to the exact moment that Jesus returns. In keeping the time of Jesus’ return a mystery, God the Father gives us reason to live as though any day could be our last. This parallels the Book of Ecclesiastes’ focus on death. If we live with the constant awareness of our own mortality we are more likely to seize the day. If we live with a constant awareness that Jesus could return, we will seize the day. However, just like the superfit jogger running along the road never expects their life to be snuffed out by the speeding motorist, so a generation that thinks of 2,000 years as a long time will be caught unaware when Jesus comes on the clouds of heaven.
Our lives do not last forever and the world will not continue forever. There are multiple reasons to live life awake.
Many of my students become sleepy in class around October and November is often a wash. They do not seize their opportunities to study and focus on this moment in their lives. Instead the semester seems long to them and for some of them do not grasp the import of their opportunity (others are dog tired from having to work 30 hours a week as well as study full-time) and the value of the education their parents are paying for. I feel sympathy because I was such a student and I look at how I focused on my social life in college and missed the opportunities that were at my fingertips. The question to ask is, “What is God’s vision for my life?” not the life of the future, but the life of now. Many Christians live a life of deferred giving. They will give their all to Jesus at some future point. However, they fall asleep and some of them die in their sleep. Whatever God has placed before you to do now, do with all your heart as a love-gift to God. Present each day to God with its priorities ordered and its time rightly assigned. In such a way of living, we find our own constant renewal. More importantly, the Kingdom of God is built through an ever-present awareness, not an ever-present drowsiness.
God, keep me awake. I feel sometimes like there is something wrong with my system that sends me to sleep. However, I can never tell for sure because I get distracted and my life is always disordered to some degree. You lavish your grace upon me as I rearrange my day around my children, but I take your grace for granted as I do not stay aware of your presence. As I walk in your Spirit, he guides me in ways that I do not see when I sleepwalk.
- What commands does Jesus give in this passage?
- What commands do people give themselves after reading this passage?
- Why did a persecuted church need to hear this message in their suffering?
- What sends Christians to sleep today?
- How can Christians stay awake? When are you most ‘awake’?