Holy Week #4: Be watchful!

In that last week, the week leading up to Jesus’ death, Jesus continued to teach the people about the kingdom of God. A key theme in his last messages was a warning to be watchful. Jesus prophesies about the destruction of Jerusalem, but then He also speaks of last days, and His coming again. I can’t help but wonder what the people thought as they listened to this message. The imagery is stark, even frightening.

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Matthew 24:12-14

Prophecy is interesting because of its now and not yet features. The ancient church was severely persecuted, disciples martyred, the temple destroyed. Paul may have taken the gospel to the whole known world at that time. But there is a “not yet” in Matthew 24:14 as well – a precursor to the great commission Jesus issues before He ascends to the heavens. We are commanded to go, making disciples as we are on our way!

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood … they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

Matthew 24:36-39

As Jesus teaches on the mount, the focus changes. He no longer seems to be speaking of an imminent event, but of one in the future – end times. Jesus quotes Isaiah when He describes the sun being darkened, the night lights dark as well. It’s interesting how the sky was dark when Jesus was crucified, conquering the powers of evil. When Jesus returns again – the sky will darken again! Then Jesus will exert His final rule over those powers that have already been conquered!

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Colossians 2:15

W. B. Yeats writes about our “age” in his poem, The Second Coming.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? 

W. B. Yeats

Yeats’ poem reflects well the darkness preceding Jesus’ return.  It’s important, vital, life-giving to note that while dark times are coming, those in Christ have great hope!  Not a shaky “I hope everything will be OK” kind of hope, but a confident assurance that God is working out His plan, an eternal plan to bring together a new heaven and a new earth!

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4

The emphasis in Holy Week is to be watchful, ready for Christ’s return! We don’t know, can’t know the day, so it is imperative to live everyday as if this is the ONE!

But you do know this: You know that if the homeowner had known what time of night the burglar would arrive, he would have been there with his dogs to prevent the break-in. Be vigilant just like that. You have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up.”

Matthew 24:43-44 MSG

While I am excited about end times, I am grateful that Christ tarries. The Scripture says …  God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change. ~2 Peter 3:9 MSG. He is a good and gracious God!

Father, we are grateful that you long for all to come to know you personally. Use us as salt, light in our world, reflecting well your glory so that those with whom we come in contact will want to know the God we serve! We look forward to your coming again. May we gladly lay aside all entanglements, fixing our eyes on Jesus as we eagerly await that day! Amen.

When Jesus comes to reward His servants,
Whether it be noon or night,
Faithful to Him will He find us watching,
With our lamps all trimmed and bright? 

If, at the dawn of the early morning,
He shall call us one by one,
When to the Lord we restore our talents,
Will He answer thee–“Well done”? 

Have we been true to the trust He left us?
Do we seek to do our best?
If in our hearts there is naught condemns us,
We shall have a glorious rest.

Blessed are those whom the Lord finds watching,
In His glory they shall share;
If He shall come at the dawn or midnight,
Will He find us watching there? 

Fanny Crosby
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