Mark 13:32-37 (NIV): “No one knows about that day or hour, 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 his 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!‘”
Many people spend a lot of time and energy studying the Bible trying to figure out when Jesus is going to return. And in every generation, there have been those who profess to have figured out the day and hour of His return.
But Jesus’ emphasis, and the emphasis that He tried to instill in His followers, was completely different than that. Jesus knew that God always tells His people everything that we need to know, clearly, and at the precise time that we need to know it. Jesus did not spend His life, or any portion of it, poring over ancient texts, trying to sort out the threads of various prophecies, using numerology and “hidden wisdom” to try to figure out when things were going to happen. He merely pointed out that “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
This statement has caused impassioned debate among theologians about the nature of the incarnation and the balance between Jesus’ divinity and His humanity, but that wasn’t Jesus’ point. He was simply stating that, even for Him, knowledge of the day and hour of His return was not need to know information. And He, in His complete submission and obedience to His Father, was fine with that.
Jesus refused to focus on or become obsessed with what the Father had not divulged to Him. Instead, He simply focused on doing the job that He had been given to do, on obeying the Father day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, and was content to leave all the rest in the hands of the Father.
And that’s the approach that He recommended for all of His disciples, as the parable He told clearly shows. When a man goes away and leaves his servants with work to accomplish before his return, he does not want those servants to spend a single moment searching through his papers looking for clues as to how long he might be gone, and arguing among themselves as to when his return might happen. Nor does he want to find them sleeping or goofing off, figuring that they’ll get right on the job as soon as they see him coming up the walkway. He wants to return at his own time and find those servants hard at work on the job that he left for them. The work left with the servants is important to the master, more important than anything else that the servants could do in his absence, or he wouldn’t have commanded the servants to do it in the first place.
In the same way, Jesus has left a very important job for all of His disciples to do in His absence: to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). And He wants us to be focused on that work while He’s gone. He wants to find all of those who go by His name hard at work at it when He returns. If someone spends all of their time and energy trying to figure out the day and hour of His return, and neglecting that most important work, even if they get the date and time exactly right, they are most likely to hear from Jesus’ lips not “Well done good and faithful servant,” but “That’s nice, but did you do the work that I commanded you to do? Did you go and make disciples of all nations? Where are the ones who have come to me through your work and your witness?”
Many believe that evangelism is only the work of a few in the Church, the professionals, or those called specifically to be evangelists. But all we need to do is to look at the lives of those first-century disciples to see that the vast majority of them excitedly spread the gospel wherever they went. Whole communities of believers sprang up all over the Empire (including Rome) from those who received Jesus at Pentecost and carried their faith back to their homes with them. And even after the stoning of Stephen, when persecution broke out, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1 NIV), Luke goes on to tell us that those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went (Acts 8:4 NIV). They understood that the work of making disciples was vital. If people didn’t hear about Jesus, they couldn’t believe. And if they didn’t believe, they would end up separated from God in hell for all eternity. They didn’t know when Jesus would return, but that wasn’t so important to them. They had been given a job to do, to go and make disciples of all nations, and when Jesus returned, whenever that might be, they were determined that He would find them on the job, with fruit to show from their labors.
Father, forgive us for letting this job too often fall by the wayside, while we allow ourselves to get pulled aside into other things: our work, our entertainments, our hobbies, and even trying to figure out when Jesus is coming back. Instill in us anew a deep understanding of how vital it is that we be making disciples, each and every one of us. And vital not just for those we help into the kingdom so that they can be saved, but vital to us as well, that when Jesus comes back, whenever You determine that will be, He finds us faithfully on the job. Amen.