Mark 13:32-37 32“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Watch! Be alert and pray, because you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going away on a journey. When he left his home, he put his servants in charge and assigned what each one was to do. He also commanded the doorkeeper to keep watch. 35Therefore keep watch, because you do not know when the owner of the house is coming: whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or early in the morning. 36If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37What I say to you, I say to everyone: Keep watch!”
I bike a lot to church, to WLS, to Shoreland, and other places. In that biking, I’m on major roads. I want others to be watching out for me. So when the weather is nice, I wear a bright yellow shirt. Because I take my computer almost everywhere with me, I have a reflective vest from Waste Management permanently pinned to my computer bag. Because I bike very early in the morning to school or late at night from the high school, I have bright lights on my handlebars and my helmet and flashing red lights on the back of my bike and helmet.
I try to make myself visible so that others are watching out for me.
When I’m ready to leave church or school, I usually have someone give me the Hill Street Blues speech, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.” I always tell them, “I’m careful. It’s the people in cars who aren’t always careful.”
My best way to keep safe on my bike is to watch out for others. There’s been plenty of times that I was spared serious injury because I was watching. A few months ago, I was biking to church after teaching Catechism class at the Middle School. I was going west on DeKoven Ave. A big black SUV was stopped at the south corner of Center St. and DeKoven. As I was going through the intersection, that’s when the SUV decided to go through. I slammed on my brakes as the vehicle passed within feet of me.
I kept going towards church, now muttering under my breath. After a few blocks, I saw this same black SUV coming up behind me. I moved farther to the right thinking that he missed me the first time; he’s not going to miss the second time. Actually, he pulled alongside me to apologize.
The way to be safe is to constantly be watching.
That’s what Jesus was teaching His disciples on Tuesday of Holy Week. He spent most of that day in the temple courts of Jerusalem. He knew He would be suffering and dying later that week, so He was preparing His disciples first for His departure from this world through His death, resurrection, and ascension. Then, He was preparing His disciples of all ages for His eventual return.
Jesus taught: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Watch! Be alert and pray, because you do not know when the time will come.”
Jesus tells us to watch. But, our culture does the exact opposite. TV and movies are filled with sex, foul language, and inappropriate behavior. Social media is filled with venom and hostility. Christian churches are under spiritual attack from the devil, physical attack by armed gunmen, and irreverent attacks by those who feel that Christians deserve these violent attacks. The most popular preachers of our day preach false doctrine and a false Christ. The Christian music on the radio is self-centered and the Christian movies in the theaters are simplistic and boring.
Many are deceived. Many are unconcerned. Many have fallen asleep and have stopped watching.
We Christians know better. Yet, because Jesus is so long in returning, we have allowed ourselves to become drowsy. We aren’t watching like we should. When we stop watching, that’s when everything becomes dangerous – both for ourselves and those around us. I’m not talking about the danger of running down a cyclist or a pedestrian. I’m talking about the eternal danger for your soul.
Sadly, we have become products of our culture. We want to feel good, so we indulge every pleasure to gratify our sinful cravings. We gorge on food and drink, hoping to satisfy our hunger and thirst. We, like the world around us, too often refuse to listen to God’s Word and therefore we cannot see the danger that lurks all around us.
We crave what is down below, so we no longer crave what is waiting for us up above. We fill our time with pursuits that only have momentary pleasures, and so we dismiss what goes on in church and in Scripture because those heavenly pleasures are so far away. We don’t need them yet.
Jesus has told us to take up our cross and follow Him. But, we don’t want life to be difficult. We don’t want to suffer for our faith. We want life to be easy and comfortable. We see what the unbelievers around us have, so we chase after comforts and worship the false gods of our culture.
We have become drowsy; worn out; lazy and lackadaisical in our faith. Sleepy people living sleepy lives, tolerating all sorts of wickedness in our lives, within our families, within our community and nation. All because we have stopped watching.
This is not only dangerous for ourselves, but it is dangerous for our children. If we aren’t watching and waiting, there is very little chance our children are going to grow up to watch and wait. Instead, they will follow our poor example. They won’t go to church because you didn’t go to church. They won’t see the need to study the Scriptures because you don’t study the Scriptures at church, at home with them, or on your own. They won’t see the need to have a life of faith, so they may dismiss it to go the way of the world when they are in college. All because they have been watching you, instead of watching for the Lord.
Look around you! Wake up! Watch! Hear the message. The days are upon us. The Savior’s return is near. Lift up your heads, the King of glory waits, the King of kings is drawing near. (CW: 3) Those who waste their days dreaming of comfort and striving for excitement will reap their reward. When Christ returns, eternal sorrow will overcome those who closed their eyes to the Christ and turned a deaf ear to the gospel. I pray that isn’t you or your children.
Instead, everlasting joy shall fill the hearts of those who have been faithful in their watching and waiting. The gates shall be opened for those who have clean hands and a pure heart. They will receive blessing from God their Savior. (Psalm 24).
Jesus’s first advent dealt with our sins and the sins of all humanity. Our heavenly King is unlike the Caesars of our world. He conquers by dying. He wins by losing. He saves by suffering. Jesus bears the sins of our ungodly world on His godly shoulders. No sin is left out – not even our drowsiness, inattentiveness, and inactivity. All sin is atoned for. Jesus is the Lamb of God that John the Baptist pointed to – the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world
Everything Jesus accomplished in His first advent has eternal results upon His second advent. His death is the end of our death. His open grave allows our graves to open. His ascension has prepared a room for us in heaven.
The Holy Spirit woke you up in your Baptism. That’s when baptismal water was splashed in your face! Through those baptismal waters you have been forgiven, made alive, made righteous, and made right with God. Your sinful nature was drowned in that baptismal flood. A New Man arose to live within the safety of the ark of the Holy Christian Church.
You are safe and secure, that does not mean that you should become complacent. You have been washed, that does not mean you should try to get dirty. You have been saved, that does not mean you should do whatever your sinful nature wants you to do. You have been awakened from your spiritual slumber, that does not mean you should follow the world back into complacency and laziness.
To impress upon us the urgency of our Christian faith, Jesus tells a story: “It is like a man going away on a journey. When he left his home, he put his servants in charge and assigned what each one was to do. He also commanded the doorkeeper to keep watch. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know when the owner of the house is coming: whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or early in the morning. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.”
Fellow servants, the Master is returning. He left a long time ago, but He can return at any time. What should you be doing as you wait for His advent? You should be busy. Not busy with the things of this world. Rather, be busy in your vocation with the things that prepare you and your children for the Master’s return.
Fulfill your vocation as a father or mother, by raising your children with discipline and worldly education, while you are training them in the eternal way they should go.
Fulfill your vocation as an employer or employee, by faithfully completing your duties to those in the workplace, while setting an example in your words, works, and home life so that others may ask you about Christ.
What should we do? Instead of wondering and worrying about the day and the hour, Jesus tells us to keep watch. We keep watch by fixing our eyes on Jesus, by repenting of our sins, and finding forgiveness in his precious sacrifice on the cross. We can be like the servants who are ready for their master to return at all times by clinging to God’s Word and promise. We can be ready by faithfully carrying out the tasks God has given us and joyfully looking forward to our Lord’s return.
John was a night watchman. Although many people teased him about his job, he took it very seriously. He carefully watched the video monitors, and when the time came, he diligently made his rounds checking all the doors.
After ten years of service, the president of the company called him into his office. There he openly praised John for his untiring diligence. During those ten years there were no break-ins, thefts, or vandalism. Not only did John receive an award for his faithful service, he also received a bonus and a raise. When asked to say something, all John could muster was, “I was only doing my job.” John’s story needs to be your story.
Jesus has given you a clear command. He warns you to keep a careful watch. Be prepared in the evening, at midnight, or at dawn. Do your job.
The only way you do your job of watching is by using of the gifts God has given you to keep your eyes open and fixed on Him. A shower might wake you up in the morning, but your Baptism keeps you awake for the dawn of the new heavenly day. A cup of coffee might open your eyes, but God’s Word opens your eyes to see Jesus in everything you say and do. Some Kringle or doughnuts might give you a burst of energy, but the Lord’s Supper is what refreshes you for the hard work of your vocation.
Yes, it is dangerous out in the world. Be careful out there. The devil constantly seeks to distract you. Your sinful flesh wants you to gratify its every evil desire. Our world tries to lull you into a false sense of security. Only Jesus can keep you rested, energized, and awake for His return.
I have taught two of my daughters how to drive, and the other two will be learning soon. I’ve had them memorize my three tips for driving. These are tips both for a vehicle or a bicycle: 1. Drive defensively. 2. Drive predictably. 3. Drive assuming that every other driver is a Knucklehead!
I could sum up those tips into one word: Watch! That advice for driving is even more important when it comes to your spiritual life. Watch.
Christ’s last words in the temple courtyard are meant for us: “What I say to you, I say to everyone: Keep watch!” Amen.