Have you ever had someone steal something you considered valuable or irreplaceable? If you had known when you were going to lose those items, you would have been a lot more vigilant about protecting them, right?
Jesus uses this example in discussing our need to be vigilant:
Therefore 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).
Why would Jesus compare Himself to a burglar breaking into a home? He's really not. The connection He wants us to make is the sense of disappointment and loss for not being prepared. This is a topic Jesus addressed a lot—and He addresses it again in the Parable of the Returning Owner:
"But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.
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. 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. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'" (Mark 13:32–37).
Do not let him find you sleeping
The owner of the house is being called away, and he has put his servants in charge. They're managing the owner's interests in his absence. Each servant has a distinct responsibility. One even has the job of watching for the owner's return.
Rest isn't the problem. The servants aren't expected to tend to their master's affairs 24 hours a day. Sleep represents a lackadaisical attitude toward their duties. It's a sign that they've lost the plot. The master is going to return and find that his household has slipped into disarray.
The servants should be careful not to slip into a mindset that says, "The master has been gone so long, what are the chances he's going to show up today? We can worry about preparing for his return later."
The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises
Peter addresses the topic of watchfulness in his second epistle:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8–9).
We have a different view of time than God does, and Peter wants us to realize that Christ's return is just as imminent as it was when He ascended. And if He is taking His time, it's only so we can see to His interests—namely that we can introduce more people to the beauty of the gospel.
We cannot allow ourselves to get so caught up in the affairs of this world that we forget that Jesus is returning soon. When He comes back, let's pray that He finds the church alert, awake, and going about His business.
Jesus used parables to teach us about the kingdom of God. You can learn more in the post “All the Parables of Jesus."
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