Summary: The hope and anticipation of Jesus’ return motivates us to be watchful and to live each day of our lives as a faithful servant of God.
Matthew 24:36-44 “Be Prepared—Watchful”
Jesus is coming again! Not only is this the subject of the gospel text for today, it is also the great hope of the Christian Church. We as Christians hope and we anticipate Jesus’ return with an eager longing. Anticipation can be life changing.
Children around the world anticipate Christmas and gifts from Santa Claus. Oftentimes this has a beneficial effect upon their behavior. Remembering that Santa has a list and he’s checking it twice to see who is naughty and who is nice, convinces some to strive to improve their behavior.
A young man with whom I was recently conversing shared how their expecting their first born changed their entire life. They used to be a fairly free wheeling couple who enjoyed travel and fine dining and didn’t give a lot of thought to the distant future. Now, they are constantly thinking about what needs to be done for the arrival of their child. Budget items have shifted from European vacations to decorating the nursery and purchasing toys and clothing. They are even talking about the need to establish a college fund. Their anticipation has molded and shaped them—just wait and see what happens when the baby arrives!
In a similar manner to children and Christmas, and expectant parents, our hope and anticipation in the return of Jesus Christ is to change us. We are to be molded and shaped by it—allowing it to empower us to be “Watchful.”
ANTICIPATION HELPS US TO FOCUS
When Jesus comes, he says that one will be taken and one left behind. The word in Greek doesn’t convey a type of rapture event where the faithful go to meet Jesus in the sky. Rather the word is the same used for when Jesus called his disciples to follow him. In other words, we are challenged to allow our anticipation to keep us watchful so when Jesus calls us to walk with him, we hear his voice and heed his call.
Jesus tells his disciples that when he returns the times will be like the days of Noah. People will be eating, drinking, and celebrating the events of life. In other words, they will go off to work everyday and come home tired. Their goal in life will be to make it to the weekend so that they can rest and have a little fun. They will struggle to make ends meet, and always want a little more in life—more money, more things, and more excitement.
Such a lifestyle lacks hope and anticipation. As Christians we have hope and we live in anticipation. Because of this, our lives are more than mere existence, and our goals are more than having money left over at the end of the month. Our hope and anticipation helps us focus on what is important in life.
In Isaiah chapter two, which is the Old Testament reading for today, the prophet tells us that the important things in life is that we walk in the path of the Lord—and that the Spirit will teach us the ways of the Lord. At the end of this gospel text, we learn that the priority of life is to be about the Master’s works, and to be faithful to our calling.
The path that God calls each of us to walk might be very different from others. There are, however, some similarities, and constants in our walks with God.
• We are intentional about incorporating spiritual disciplines such as worship, Bible study, prayer, and fellowship in our lives.
• We allow the Spirit of God to move within us, changing us, and growing the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.
• We share the gospel of Jesus Christ and bear witness to God’s love and grace in our words and actions.
ANTICIPATION DEVELOPS TIME MANAGEMENT
I sure that the people of Noah’s time had plenty of excuses for not caring about the coming flood and not making any attempt to walk along the paths that God set before them.
Perhaps most prominent among the excuses is that they simply didn’t have the time. We at times think that we are the first generation to ever have the pressure of too much to do and not enough time to do it in. When we stop and think about it, though, we are one of the first generations to have a significant number of labor and time saving devices. We don’t have to go to the market everyday because we have refrigerators. We don’t have to walk wherever we go because we have cars. We don’t have to spend hours at the river cleaning clothes because we have washers and dryers.
Because of our hope and anticipation that Jesus is returning, we place our relationship with God at the top of our priorities and manage our time in accordance with that priority.