Watch and Pray!
Dear Jesus, my precious Savior and glorious King. Enter my heart and rule within my life by Your grace and with Your power. Move me to worship this day in humility and with joy. Help to listen attentively to Your words of life and instruction. Fill me with zeal so that I might serve You in love by loving those around me. It is in Your saving name that I pray. Amen.
Jesus, our King, speaks to us and encourages us to listen and look to Him for righteousness and salvation, for one day this world will cease to exist, but Jesus’ kingdom will last forever!
Jesus is our King who rules over all! His love, which led Him to shed His blood for us, has made us kings and priests together with Him, as we await His return at the end of time!
Text: Mark 13:32-37
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!
In Christ Jesus, our KING OF KINGS who is coming at an undisclosed time, dear fellow redeemed:
During the past year a now retired radio evangelist in California predicted the end of the world several times, calling attention to his predictions at one point with a multi-million dollar billboard and media campaign. The end results of his false prophecies were the waste of a tremendous amount of financial resources, but more importantly the ridicule of Christ’s Church because of these false prophecies. Skeptics openly mocked not only this misguided man, but also the entire Christian faith and its message of ultimate hope and deliverance. Had the man only looked at the opening verse of our text today, he would perhaps have remained reticent. Jesus tells us: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” No one can predict the exact end of time, for no one apart from our heavenly Father knows the time that Christ will return. Any such prediction, therefore, can be labeled as false from the time that it is uttered! That is not to say, however, that there should be any doubt in our minds regarding the ultimate return of Christ and the end of time. That end is coming, as sure as Jesus Christ lives and reigns! It is of His return that Jesus speaks in our text. His words indicate that we are to bear in mind at all times the fact that He will return at some unknown point, and that we are always to be ready. To that end He urged the disciples of the 1st Century, even as He urges each of us in the 21st Century to WATCH AND PRAY!
Jesus offers three reasons why this is so very important. The first is that you know not when your King will return! Jesus says: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.”
It has been almost 2,000 years since Jesus gave His command to “watch and pray” and issued His warning that “you do not know when the time is.” Faithful Christians have been awaiting that return and looking forward to it for two millennia. Is that hope a false hope? Are we fools for expecting a return that will never happen? There are many in our world who think so. Peter predicted such skepticism in his 2nd Epistle. He wrote: “Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:3b-9). The fact that Jesus has not as yet returned, therefore, is not an indication of any inability, but rather it is a direct consequence of His eternal nature, His great patience, and His divine compassion towards us human beings. He does not want a single soul to be lost, for as Paul expressed to Timothy: “God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3b-4).
Unfortunately, we can all too easily become side-tracked by all of the activities of our lives. It is all too easy to become so engrossed in our own pursuits—our work and play that we forget that the end of time is coming. That is why Jesus commands us to WATCH AND PRAY! We are not to fall asleep spiritually as we await Christ’s return, but rather stay awake and focused. Jesus knew that this would be difficult and that it would actually be beyond our abilities. That is why He urges us also to pray—to seek the strength of the Holy Spirit Himself, so that we might be ready at that unknown time when our KING OF KINGS returns!
[Let us sing TLH 446:3-4]
WATCH AND PRAY! This is Jesus’ command. It is important that we do this, as we strive, secondly, to be busy fulfilling your appointed work!Jesus compares our awaiting His return at the end of time with the expectation of a master’s return by a group of his servants. Jesus says: “It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch.”
Note that Jesus speaks of the man giving “authority to his servants, and to each his work.” The man leaving on a long journey empowered his servants to act on his behalf and gave each of them specific tasks to perform. Jesus likewise has given a general authority to all of His believers to carry on the work of His kingdom until He returns. At the same time He has given them specific work to do within that kingdom. Jesus, specifically, has given to all of us the power of the keys—that power to forgive and retain sins, and He has told us that we are to work with one another to encourage each other in our Christian lives. This authority will at times involve Christian discipline and will certainly always involve general evangelism. For instance, after our service today, our voters will be considering a proposal to continue our mission efforts in Peru during 2012. Jesus has given us the general authority to carry on such work, if it is deemed wise, while it would be the specific work of Daniel Pfeiffer, if the plan is approved. He would carry out that work on our behalf.
The work that Jesus has given each of us to do is specific to each of us. That work is as broad as the lives He has given us to live. We each have work given to us to fulfill within Jesus’ Church to be sure. Some are called to preach and others to teach, some to serve as leaders on the Church Council, others as organists, ushers, and financial secretaries. We are all to be “lights” in this world, and so to live our lives that others will glorify God (cf. Matthew 5:14-16). Your specific work, however, goes far beyond the church doors, for it includes all of your callings. You have been given work in your homes as husbands and wives, as parents and children. You have been given work within our communities as workers and managers. In each of these callings, you are serving your God and He, through you, serves those people around you. Through our farmers God feeds people. Through our merchants God clothes people. Through our educators God instructs people. Through our doctors and nurses God heals people. Through our families God provides those intimate relationships that are to reflect His own relationship with us. In all of life we are to be exercising the authority that Jesus has given us and fulfilling the work appointed to us. We are to be busy doing what God has called upon us to do!
In this area too, however, we can so easily be distracted, focusing our attention upon all that the world has to offer and that our sinful flesh desires. We can be consumed by our desire to sit in front of a television or a computer screen or in any of a hundred other ways just to entertain ourselves, while in the end really accomplishing nothing. Satan will try to lead us into extremes—being consumed by our work simply for work’s sake, or becoming lazy and idle—doing nothing with the gifts God has given us, which is an affront to God and a waste before our neighbors. Therefore,WATCH AND PRAY, so that you may be busy fulfilling your appointed work!
[Let us sing TLH 446:5-6]
WATCH AND PRAY! Jesus’ command is important, finally, as we strive to be found faithful! Jesus concludes our text by saying: “Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
In ancient times the night was divided into four sections of three hours each with different individuals responsible for each time-frame. The master of the house, Jesus says, might return at any time, and so the servants were always to be ready—fulfilling their appointed tasks in anticipation of giving an account of their work. Jesus is thereby telling us that we are to “watch” for His return, for it too could come at any time. His is an appeal for faithfulness!
Faithfulness is to be the goal of every one of us! Faithfulness yields great blessings by the grace of God. Listen to these passages, which speak of faithfulness. In the first, the apostle Paul speaks of what God requires of each of us as His stewards: “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). Why is that faithfulness so important? Listen to Jesus Himself as He addresses the servants who were entrusted with two and five talents in the Parable of the Talents and who used them well during His absence: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21). On the final day of judgment Jesus will address all of His faithful followers: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34b). In the Book of Revelation, Jesus assures us: “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life!” (Revelation 2:10b)
My dear friends, faithfulness to Jesus does not mean that we must be perfect, but it does mean that we strive to possess the attitude of the apostle Paul, who wrote the Philippians while in prison in Rome: “I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:12b-14). To that end and in view of the certain fact that Jesus will return, let us WATCH AND PRAY! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!