Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Waiting for Our Master

Looking for Jesus

By Dennis Pollock

There are two great tragedies (one might call them viruses) rampant in the body of Christ concerning the doctrine of the return of Jesus Christ. The worst is the mocking we sometimes hear coming from Christian leaders, who not so subtly suggest that anyone who gets excited about the rapture of the church is surely wimpy and not at all spiritual. They try to make us feel that a love for Christ’s return is a sign of weakness; if we were truly strong and spiritual, we would be so busy evangelizing and trying to change the culture we wouldn’t have time for such foolishness.

The other error is to simply ignore the doctrine altogether. Many feel that the entire subject is too complicated, too vague, too esoteric, and too irrelevant to the real-world problems people really have. So, they simply keep their mouths closed regarding the idea that Jesus will one day come back and take His people to Himself. By their silence, they negate this important doctrine.

And it is an important doctrine, if the multiplicity of verses and passages about it found liberally sprinkled throughout the gospels and the epistles of the New Testament are any indication. In this study we will look at a passage from the gospel of Luke where Jesus gives a charge to His disciples to always watch for His return.

Gird That Waist!

He begins with the words:

Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning… (Luke 12:35).

Let’s consider the first command: “Let your waist be girded.” Jesus was referring to the common practice of the men in His culture of “girding their waist” before going out to work or to walk a long distance. Men in those days wore robes that often fell to the ankles. This was not particularly functional for walking or working. So, as a matter of practicality, the bottom of the robe was pulled up and between their legs like a big diaper, and wrapped around their waist when they went out of the house. But when they came home, the robe was loosened, which meant they were not planning on going anywhere or doing any active work. They were home; it was time to relax, sit around, talk with their families, and generally take it easy.

Jesus was using this common practice as an illustration of the mindset He desires for His followers. We must not get too comfortable and relaxed; we must be girded and ready to leave at any time. He may come today!

He goes on to say that we are to keep our lamps burning. Of course, there were no electric lights and switches in those days. Israelites typically lit their houses with small clay lamps which burned olive oil. These did not provide much light, but at least they kept the house lit enough that you could dimly see your wife and children. But at night, when it was time to go to bed, the Jews did what people always do – they “turned out the lights,” or more specifically they blew out the lamp. Now it was time to sleep; now all the day’s activities were over. But Jesus tells His disciples that they must not do this. Of course, He was speaking figuratively here, using another illustration that those who belong to Him must always be awake, alert, and prepared for His coming. Our lamps must always be burning. No spiritual slumber is allowed.

Waiting Servants

But Jesus wants to push this point even further, so He goes on to say:

…and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately (Luke 12:36).

He employs yet a third illustration. This time He speaks of a servant who is waiting at home for the return of his master, who has gone out for his wedding. Servants were never supposed to precede their masters to bed. If the master went out, the servant waited for him, ready to open the door for him as soon as the servant heard him approaching the house and provide him with whatever he might need before he retires. For a servant to be found sleeping when the master arrived home would be scandalous and would often result in some form of punishment.

Jesus tells us that we are His servants and we must not allow ourselves to become drowsy and spiritually sluggish. We must be ready for His return at all times, eagerly waiting for Him to take us to Himself. We are to be men and women who “wait for their master.” This does not mean that we walk around constantly looking at the sky and bumping into people. It does mean that we live in a state of anticipation and readiness.

Let’s imagine that you knew for certain that Jesus Christ would come for all His people and take them to Himself tomorrow at 3 p.m. When you awoke that morning, you would hardly be able to get Jesus off your mind. The idea of His return would be constantly before you, as you ate your breakfast, as you dressed for work, as you drove your car… whatever you did, Jesus would be on your mind. And not only that, but you would surely be on your very best behavior throughout the day. You would attempt to live “squeaky clean.” No foul language, no bickering with your wife, no allowing your eyes to linger on things that were not pure and wholesome… this day, you would live entirely for Christ, knowing that you would soon be with Him. And that, of course, is exactly the point!

Homeowners and Thieves

As Jesus speaks of these things in Luke 12, He continues with still another illustration. Jesus is the ultimate Master-teacher, and He uses illustrations, which we have traditionally called parables, freely, to drive His points home. He states:

But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Luke 12:39-40).

Now Jesus uses the idea of a thief and a homeowner. He states that homeowners who know the exact time their local thief plans to come and burglarize them will stay alert and not be the least surprised at the thief’s arrival. It seems a strange illustration, since Jesus is the very opposite of a thief. But our Lord wants us to get the idea of expectancy, and to see the dangers of complacency. We are to stay watchful and alert, in complete readiness for the “glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” But since we have no idea just when that glorious day will be, this means we must be alert and watchful every day: work days, holidays, weekends, birthdays, rainy days, sunny days, the days of our youth, the days of our old age… in short, for the believer every day of our lives should be lived in a state of watching and longing for the return of Jesus.

In a short few verses of the Bible, Jesus has driven home His point with force and clarity. The meaning of His words is beyond dispute. Pastors and Christian leaders who mock the return of Christ and ridicule those who love His return are in truth defying the express command and unquestionable desire of Jesus Christ for His people. It is so patently wrong, anti-Scriptural, and essentially anti-Christian, that one wonders how any man or woman who names the name of Jesus could ever do such a thing. And yet it is done every day by impressive Christian leaders, men and women with advanced theological degrees, and countless titles and abbreviations written before their names. These folks attempt through scorn to rob the flock of God of their blessed hope. To put it in the words of James, “These things ought not to be so!”

Words for All

These words of Jesus, and this command to watch for His return have echoed across the centuries. They are applicable not just for us but for all people of every age and every culture. Watching for Jesus is what Christians do – right along with being honest, praying, reading the Scriptures, living sexually moral lives, and showing compassion to all. It is part and parcel of what it means to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.

But this brings up the question, “What about all those believers from previous generations who lived out their lives, watched for Jesus, and then died of old age or cancer or some other disease?” Jesus did not come in their lifetime. Was their watching for Jesus a waste of time? Was it a delusion to think that He might come while they lived? The apostle Paul eagerly looked for Jesus to return, and yet He was at least about 2,000 years off. Why should Jesus want all of us to watch for Him, when in truth only one generation of believers, comprising a relatively small percentage of the total Christians from all ages will actually see this glorious event? Is it not better to mind our own business, live decent, honest, honorable lives, and let Jesus come whenever He wills?

But according to Jesus, this is the very thing we must not do. He does not suggest that we might want to watch for Him; He commands us to watch for Him. How can this be?

The simple truth is this: the idea of living every day with a recognition that Jesus could come at any moment is incredibly healthy for us. People who live in a state of watchfulness and anticipation for the return of Jesus are the truly smart ones in this world. And this is for several reasons. First, He really could come today. And one of these days He will. How horrible if He came and took the church and found you in a state of ongoing adultery or fornication. What if He came and found you abusing your children or cursing your spouse or stealing from your employer? What if the glorious return of Jesus took place this very day – and you were left behind?

When Jesus Comes – For You!

Secondly, when we die, this is in some way equivalent to the coming of Christ. It is the coming of the Lord – for you. We all suppose that we will live to a ripe old age and die peacefully in our beds. But it does not always happen that way. Princess Diana died totally unexpectedly in a car accident while in her thirties. Movie star James Dean died in the peak of his popularity in his twenties. Popular rock singer Janis Joplin overdosed and died at the tender age of 27. Carl Switzer played the lovable, goofy Alfalfa in the “Our Gang” film comedies made in the 1930’s, and was about as famous as any actor of his day. But at the age of 31 he was killed in a fight over money.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Millions and millions of ordinary, non-famous men and women have died of heart attacks, strokes, car accidents, and sudden tragic circumstances, and never made it to old age. Many of these people never had the luxury of a year or more to contemplate their demise, repent, give their lives to Jesus, and be born again. Sadly, many quietly slipped into that terrible place Jesus described as the outer darkness. They were totally unprepared; they had not been eagerly waiting and watching for the return of Jesus. Their death was far more tragic than simply the fact that they hadn’t lived out their years; it was the harsh reality that whether 22 or 92 they died unprepared, like the homeowner who had no clue when the thief would come.

Therefore Jesus tells us to always watch, for “you do not know when your Lord is coming.” Live every day as though this might be the day. Be on your best behavior, and walk closely with Jesus on Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday, and every day! Whether you will be alive when the Rapture of the church finally happens, only God knows. But one thing is sure: one of these days will be your last day in this present world. You will eat your last breakfast, have your last cup of coffee, drive your car for the last time, and then… eternity begins for you!

So Jesus declares, “What I say unto you, I say unto all – watch!” (Mark 13:37).


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