Summary: Christians wait and watch for Jesus’ return. We know the season, but we don’t know the time, and we live in the paradox.
Mark 13:24-37 “Reading the Times”
There is probably not a day that goes by that we don’t wait. We might wait for a train at Bell and Grand, or wait in a line at the grocery store, or twiddle our time away waiting to see a doctor. Waiting is a part of lives, even though none of us like to wait.
Have you noticed that we all have different ways of waiting? Some of us pace while others bite our nails. Some respond in anger as if their time is sacrosanct. Other people respond in quiet and calm acceptance, and a few are indifferent.
The season of Advent, which we are entering today, is a time of waiting and preparing. We are waiting for the return of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. We are preparing for something more than our Christmas parties, and giving presents. We are preparing our lives and our world for Jesus’ return. We celebrate that Jesus came to earth as a child, and anticipate his return as King.
Some people respond to waiting with anxiousness and anxiety. Before men were allowed in the labor and delivery rooms, we would pace back and forth in a waiting room waiting to hear whether or not our wives were okay and if the child was a boy or a girl and healthy. Anxious people who are forced to wait in doctor offices frequently check their watches and march up to the reception desk demanding to know how much longer their wait will be.
Anxiety in the Scripture passage is shown by an obsession to know exactly when Jesus will return. They focus on events in both nature and current events to pinpoint the time. Their anxiousness has been passed down from generation to generation of Christians. Today we have a booming market in books, seminars, and Bible studies that attempt to tell us exactly when Jesus is coming.
The obsession of these anxious Christians causes them to lose the reality of the present. They miss out on enjoying and savoring the present, and in participating in the ministries that the present offers.
Some people wait by mindlessly paging through magazines, or by zoning and staring off into space. They understand that waiting is a part of life—a necessary evil—and surrender to it. Time washes over them and is lost to them forever.
It seems that if Christians are not obsessing over possible arrival dates for Jesus, they are totally indifferent to it. They don’t often ponder Jesus’ promise to return, if at all. They don’t care when Jesus comes, and may even question the idea of his returning. They believe that we will see Jesus face to face when we die and not at some cataclysmic end times event.
Indifferent Christians appear to be caught up in the present—the everyday struggles of life. Their interest is focused on speculating when the stock market will become a bull market, how they will make their next credit card payment, and whether they should go the Hawaii or the Caribbean for their vacation. The return of Christ is mere speculation and not worth the investment of time and energy. The present crowds out the future and the physical overwhelms the spiritual, in their lives.
Their indifference causes them to give up future expectations and in doing so it diminishes their hope.
A few people seek to use their waiting time constructively. They pull out a Sudoku puzzle, a novel, or their Blackberry.
The parable that Jesus shares with his disciples in this passage challenges Christians to respond to Jesus’ promise to return as faithful servants. The master leaves his home and places his servants in charge. The servants are instructed to keep things ready for the master’s return. They live everyday being about the master’s work and expecting his return
We Christians are to be about our masters business while he is gone and we await his return. We occupy our days by giving out cold water and sharing the good news with those people we encounter and who are a part of our lives.
Each Christmas we Christians have a Christmas challenge. In the middle of our preparation for Christmas and the birth of the Christ child we are invited to see and experience the hope that Jesus will come again. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the season we are challenged to see the need around us and to minister to those needs and share the good news of God’s love and forgiveness.