I am writing this on Good Friday when we remember that Jesus died for us and then rose from the dead. It is a time when we cast our mind in the past, to remember the most significant event that ever took place on our planet. Yet, as I was praying to be led in what I read from the Bible this morning, the Lord led me into a different perspective. He led me to focus on His return, and how to be ready.
I was led to the various parables in Luke 12. All these parables focus on the tension we, human beings, face between wanting things for now or focusing on our self preservation for now or focusing on what we can have for eternity.
It starts with a warning about hypocrisy – where we want a good name and reputation now, even though we hide sin, thinking we can keep pretending and have no consequences. Jesus warns that this is not how it will turn out. Everything will be uncovered, whether in the future on the earth or in heaven. So, whatever you think you can get away with without others knowing, you are very wrong about it, it will be exposed. Better come to the light and repent.
Then the passage turns to those who are being persecuted for their faith. It tells them to value their faith more than self. To keep their faith even if it means death, rather than focus on self-preservation. It encourages us to put fear of God above fear of man, reminding us that everything is under God’s control and care.
Later it turns the attention to the rich fool who stored treasures on earth, but was not rich towards God. This is a big temptation that many in the church have also succumbed too. God’s solution to killing this idol is to give alms, donations to others, in other words: act in the opposite spirit to the spirit of greed. It reminds me of doing and 180 degree turn which we call repentance.
Then Jesus turns His focus to those who don’t necessary want to get rich, but worry about not having enough. They become so focused on their survival, that it obscures God out of their picture, simply out of anxiety and worry. Jesus’ solution to this is to seek the Kingdom of God as a priority and trust that God cares enough to provide all you need. He again, encourages even though who worry of not having enough, to give alms as a way to overcome this obsession with temporary things.
Jesus then turns His speech to the climax of what He wants us to focus on: been ready for His return, being prepared to enter eternity. He gives us a clear picture of how to prepare when He says:
“Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning, 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. … Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12: 35 – 40)
Jesus used some imagery here that the jews in His day were very familiar with, in order to make His points:
To gird your waist involved pulling the the hem of a robe so you could run (it involves urgency of readiness). Keeping the lamp burning would enable you to see where you run and not stumble in the dark when you hear the knock on the door. Both pictures of readiness.
The picture of waiting for when the master comes from the wedding to open him immediately refers to the custom of the jewish wedding, where the bride and the groom, after they have spoken their vows, traditionally go to a room for 10 – 15 minutes and are alone – this is considered the consummation of the marriage. In some traditions, without this event, the marriage was not considered completed.
In this room, since they have been traditionally fast till this point of the wedding ceremony, they get served food to eat, they consummate the marriage and prepare for the wedding feast.
So, we can take from this that Jesus is saying: be prepared cause I am coming to consummate the marriage to my bride (which we are the bride of Christ). Even though we are the bride, Jesus here compares us with the servants that wait in this place ready to serve the bride and the groom their meal. They have the hem of the robe pulled up in one hand so they can run and the lamp in the other hand so they can see as they run. This is because they have to serve them immediately when they knock. Jesus uses this picture to tell us to be ready like these servants are. He is painting a picture of urgent readiness, where we can act immediately. There is no time for waiting, for preparation at the last minute, the picture is very clear, there is no time for delay.
I find it interesting that this picture of urgent readiness comes after a number of parables where people are encouraged to not focus on things here and now, on how they look to others, whether they have a good life now, to not focus on riches or even the worries of not having enough, but on eternity, on the love that comes from generosity, on God who cares for them, on things above. The preparation entails taking your eyes from things temporary and putting them on things eternal.
The parable of Jesus’s return is set in a background of the night, where most people are sleeping and unaware of things around them. Jesus contrast this with the readiness He expects from us as servants awake at night, ready with a second notice to respond to Him at His return. In other words, as the world around us will be dark, uninterested in God and unaware of the signs of the times, we are to stand up as lights in the darkness: awake, alert and ready.
So, in conclusion, how do we get ready?
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
- repenting of hidden sin
- not fearing persecution and sharing the Good News anyway, even if it leads to death
- not hoarding riches, but giving instead
- not getting absorbed with survival needs to the point that God is squeezed out of your life, but rather giving and trusting God
- seeking first the Kingdom of God
- have oil in your lamps – which represents being filled with the Spirit – this involves taking time to pray regularly
- have your waist girded – be ready and alert to what God wants you to do and do it, obey the Word and fulfill the will of God for your life.
So, this Easter, how about we take some time to consider the above points one by one and see how they relate to our life and our need for repentance and let’s get ready. We do not know when our last day is, whether Jesus returns or we go to Him. We do not have tomorrow guaranteed, so let’s be ready as if today is our last day. And let’s daily live this way.
God bless you,