On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
Sept. 29, 2013
When you see the word “therefore,” you always need to ask, “What is it there for?”
In this instance it connects the whole of Jesus’ discourse about the future, given on the Mount of Olives three days before His death, with the practical action His disciples must take. Jesus uses the illustration of the owner going away and leaving his house in the care of his servants.
He is the owner, and we are the servants. We have two responsibilities: to be “in charge” — that is, to take care of the Master’s business; and “Watch!” Five times in verses 33 to 37 Jesus admonishes us to wakefulness: “Be on guard” and “Be alert” each occurs once, with commands to watch occurring three times.
Notice that the instruction to watch does not occur in the daytime. The four periods of time are all at night when we are most likely to fall asleep: evening, midnight, rooster crow and dawn. They are all the heavy sleep periods when it is most natural not to be awake.
Simply put, Jesus is saying to us there are going to be times in life when it is dark. You cannot see clearly. You’re surrounded by trouble: heartbreak, loss, despair, discouragement, depression, illness, adversity, financial need or ruin, or persecution. All you can see is the darkness of your situation. The temptation for you will be to give up, to forget that the Owner is returning and we must, even in our most desperate moments, keep watch.
In watching for Christ’s return, we are keeping the lights on in our own lives. We are making His house — our bodies, families, and places of work and worship, for in Him “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) — an attractive place for Jesus. We want our lives to be ones where He makes himself at home. The “dark” represents those moments when we have no sense of His presence, when we are most likely to sin or act in ways that do not bring honor to Him.
Christ desires to return to a “home” that is prepared for Him, a home that when He returns doesn’t have to keep the door shut and the occupant saying, “Wait outside until I clean up some things and clear away the clutter.”
We must be ready to meet Jesus at any moment — whether through His return or our going to meet Him.
So, given the five times in these short verses that Jesus instructs us to be alert — how do we watch? The expanded version of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew’s Gospel gives four ways:
Do not mistreat others for whom we have responsibility. We do not have a license to abuse people (24:45-51).
Be ready for Him to return at a moment’s notice. We won’t have time to make wrongs right; therefore we must live with a clear conscience (25:1-13).
Watchfulness does not mean idleness. We are to plan and work as though we have a lifetime of service (25:14-30).
Watchfulness means caring with compassion for fellow believers and for those who suffer (25:31-46).
Jesus’ entire teaching on the future bids us to practical service rather than prophetic speculation.
A prayer of response
DR. GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark