How to wait for the return of Jesus
‘…keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’
Matthew 24:42-44 (NIVUK)
In a rather startling illustration, Jesus describes his second coming like a thief in the night. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at such a description as elsewhere the Bible uses the same imagery. Paul says, ‘…you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Peter concurs with, ‘…the day of the Lord will come like a thief.’ (2 Peter 3:10). And in the final book of the Bible, John includes, ‘…I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come…’ and ‘Look, I come like a thief!’ (Revelation 3:3; 16:15).
The point these passages make is clear: Jesus’s second coming is going to be unexpected – like a thief breaking into a house at night. But if we knew that a thief was on his way then we would stay awake, we would keep a lookout, we would be on our guard, and we would be ready for his coming.
The penetrating question Jesus is asking of us here in Matthew 24 is: are we doing these things? Are we keeping watch for Jesus’s second coming? And if so, how?
Perhaps we could think about it this way. When a woman is pregnant, she is given a date of confinement, the date when the baby is due to arrive. But the expectant parents don’t know for sure that this will be the day the baby is going to arrive, only that he or she is coming. With a couple of weeks to go, they will be watching and waiting every day. The husband will be asking his wife how she is feeling. At the office, he’ll have his mobile phone on, watching and waiting for a call. He’ll check periodically that everything is in place for the dash to the hospital. It will affect everything they do: whether they do any strenuous exercise, when and where they go out, how far they will travel and so on. It’s not that they stop and put all of life on hold, but they will be living with a constant expectation that today could be the day and this moment could be the moment when the baby they love and long to see will be born.
Do we think about the coming of Jesus like that? Is his coming on our minds and hearts, not in such a way that we stop everything we’re doing, but in such a way that it affects everything we’re doing? If not, what might that say about our perspective on the things of this world? What might that mean about where our priorities and passions lie?
Let’s endeavour to think expectantly about, and pray regularly for Jesus’s return, because we love and long to see him.
Father, may we long for the coming of Jesus, and may we live in anticipation and expectation of that day, every day. In Jesus’s name, we pray, Amen.
Study by Barry Robinson
About the writer:
Barry Robinson is a minister in Grace Communion International and Regional Pastor for Southern England.
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