There have been moments in my life when I really, really wanted to sleep. Generally these have been academic situations, although I suppose it has happened in church too. Mind you that’s not a comment on whatever preacher it might have been necessarily, for I have fallen asleep on some fine sermons in my time. But I digress, my point is that sometimes I have really wanted to go to sleep.
I’m sure I’m not the only one. Sometimes you’re just tired. Maybe it was a late night, or insomnia struck. Whatever the situation, you find yourself longing for a horizontal position and a view of the inside of your eyelids.
I bring this up because of the closing thoughts in Mark 13. Jesus has spent a long discourse on the end of days, what will happen when he returns, at the end of time, and then he closes this way…
Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake– for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning–lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” Mark 13:33-37 (ESV)
Note carefully what He is saying here. Whatever you do, don’t go to sleep. Never. Certainly not at 10 p.m. But also not at midnight. Not at 2 a.m., when you are crying out to close your eyes, But also not at first light. Never…and do it again for the next day and the next.
Talk about tired. If I thought Social Psychology was a dozer, what Jesus is asking seems much harder. In his commentary on Mark, R.T. France says, “The metaphor is vivid, but apparently impractical. No one can stay awake all the time…How we can remain prepared while maintaining the ordinary responsibilities of life (yes, and its relaxations) we are left to work out for ourselves.”
But of course, France is right – it is obviously not a literal command. It is a metaphor…about readiness. And I think I have an idea about what Jesus is getting at – He’s warning us about wasting time…about having a seriousness of purpose…about making this one and only life count.
Diane and I were at Wheaton College to hear Josh sing in the Thundertones last Thursday. After dinner with us, he was off to rehearsal and we had some time to wait for the concert. So for the first time we wandered slowly through their beautiful and huge athletic facility. And at one point she drew me over to the trophy case and a picture of a championship team from 1950’s era. Diane teased me with a line from one of my all-time favorite movies…
“Listen,” she said, “I think they’re saying something…Carpe Deum. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” And many of those fresh-faced young men are now pushing up daisies. Their race is run, and from the portals of time, they whisper to us…to run ours well.
Ah yes, for aside from the starker warning to continue to follow Him and not fall away (surely part of this injunction to stay awake), I think this is the other part of what Jesus is saying: “Only one life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” So labor, and serve, and toil hard with all your might at Kingdom work. And of course…
For Tomorrow, Thursday, April 30: Mark 14