I remember those nights at college when I would stay up until the break of dawn. Parties didn’t even get started until 11 or midnight. The music was loud; the pouring was done liberally; the behavior was questionable from nearly all of my fraternity brothers. I look back and wonder how I survived.
These days I question if I could stay up all night even if I tried. New Year’s Eve is something I dread each year, hoping I will be somewhere other than the East Coast, so I can watch the ball drop an hour or two early and have an excuse to go to bed before midnight. I now read today’s scripture passage in a whole new way.
“Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come….Therefore, keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.”
These words ring in my heart, for I know what a challenge this can be. And this is not Jesus telling us to pull all-nighters, but to engage in vigilance and accountability.
Reminiscent of the cursing of the fig tree when Jesus insults the crowd, telling them if they had more faith they could move mountains like the Romans, today’s passage also digs at the crowd. He speaks of the four nocturnal watches of the Roman guard. Jesus is saying, “If you all had the vigilance and accountability of the Romans, you wouldn’t be so confused about this age!” It’s an insult to these natives who felt the “immigrant” Romans were less than welcome (or less than human).
Jesus is calling us to a life of watchfulness and readiness. He doesn’t want a bunch of sleep-deprived followers, staggering around. But he does want us to be prepared for the fullness of time. This means daily working for the kingdom, and paving a way for Christ to come again. This is something we don’t think about too much in our current practices of Christianity.
Jesus is speaking about changing one’s whole trajectory of life – refocusing – investing in God’s ways, not the ways of greed, self-fulfillment, and debauchery. How would our lives change if we lived them as if Christ was truly coming again soon? How would our lives change if we spent our time looking for the consummation of the age?