32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
They read the signs into every event and remind others that He is on His way. And all the while they fix at getting themselves ready. But their tasks go unfulfilled.
35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
If you had a secret camera and could watch the home life of most people, you would observe an interesting phenomenon. Before a guest arrives, there is a flurry of activity as washing is shoved in the laundry, the dishwasher is filled and started, beds are made, shoes shoved under them and jobs like taking out the rubbish and sweeping the porch (or balcony) are done for the first time in a while. This is especially the case if the visitor is your parent or someone you’re trying to impress. I find that guests are a good excuse for a bit of a spring clean. Not that I don’t try to keep our place clean. It just helps.
What about when people drop in with very little notice. Depending how close they are you’ll run around throwing things in cupboards or pushing it into drawers. It looks clean on the surface but you know that the house is not really clean.
It is a lot easier to deal with unexpected guests if you have a relatively clean house. I think you know what I’m getting at. Jesus has just encouraged His disciples to stay alert. He has run them through some of the trials to come. But now He is encouraging them not to be complacent.
We need to ready our houses. Wait, so is Jesus telling me to have a clean house? I think Jesus is encouraging us to clean the houses of our hearts. We are servants in His house, part of His household. That feeling of panic you get when guests arrive unexpectedly is not so great when you’ve just put down the vacuum cleaner and then you get a knock on the door.
Many Christians read this passage and they become aware that Christ is coming back, so they wait and watch. It’s almost like they constantly fix their hair and straighten their clothes to greet their Master. After all, they want to be ready for the Master—standing at attention to receive Him, not a hair out of place. So they fixate on the Second Coming. They read the signs into every event and remind others that He is on His way. And all the while they fix at getting themselves ready. But their tasks go unfulfilled. They spend time looking in the mirror, instead of looking at the world around them. They make sure they are clean and ready, so God does not return to find them unprepared.
Now there is an element of this that is important. God wants us to be good. But He doesn’t want us to focus on ourselves to the exclusion of all others. The passage says we have been “left in charge, each with an assigned task.” It seems to me, part of our work is to multiply His kingdom. God wants to see us working on the task we’ve been assigned too. Now that might be different for different people. Just as a household doesn’t need everyone to clean or everyone to be a chef or a doorman, so God doesn’t expect us all to be employed by the church to preach or teach. But He does expect us all to be using our skills and talents to work for Him.
There is a slogan on T-shirts and bumper stickers that says, “Jesus is coming, look busy”. While a bit of a joke and possibly a swipe at those who follow Christ, we must take it seriously. How often do we look busy, without achieving anything? Are we waiting to welcome Christ with anticipation, as He returns to find us working for Him? Will the house of our lives be set in order because we keep it clean as we go, ready for unexpected guests? Will we welcome Him with excitement and awe, instead of missing Him as we focus on ourselves, in the mirror of piety, pride and plenty? I hope not. I pray that today, God finds us using the talents and time He has given us, to spread His love and message of redemption to the world.