An Hour You Do Not Expect

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day. We are currently reading through the life of Christ as recorded in the four Gospels.

Reading the Word

Matthew 24:37–44 (ESV)

37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Parallel Text: Luke 17:26-36

What Are You Living For?

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Reading the Word

Luke 21:34–36 (ESV)

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In yesterday’s reading, we looked at Mark 13:33-37 where Jesus told his disciples to “stay awake.” In today’s reading from Luke, the message is the same. Jesus’ followers are to stay awake. In Mark, the emphasis was on fulfilling the tasks that the Lord has given, which include holy living and preaching the gospel. The emphasis in Luke is different. Now Jesus teaches that disciples must not become weighed down with the cares of the life. We must seek first the kingdom of God before everything else.

Reading these words of Jesus, one might come to the conclusion that Christians should only concern themselves with prayer, Bible reading, and evangelism. While these are all good things, and even essential things, we must admit that it is impossible to spend every minute of every day doing only these tasks. We also have to eat, sleep, clean, work, take care of our children, and mow our lawns. The list goes on and on. In fact, the list of other things that we must do probably takes up the majority of our time. So what is it that Jesus wants from us? What are the cares of this life that we are to avoid?

Jesus’ instruction in this passage is very similar to yesterday’s. It is about setting proper priorities. Christians should have priorities that are different from the world. Our highest goals and desires should not be materialistic or based on a short-sighted view of life that ends at the grave. We must realize that there are greater things to live our lives for. There is an eternal world for those who believe. It should be our priority to live in light of this truth and spread the news of the kingdom of God to all who will receive it. We must not become so bogged down in the everyday tasks and pursuits of this world that we forget the world to come and fail to tell others. One day, Jesus will return and he will want to know what we have done with all of our time.

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Stay Awake

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Reading the Word

Mark 13:33–37 (ESV)

33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 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. 35 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— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the previous passages, Jesus told his disciples that he would return. He did not tell them when this would take place, but assured them that his word was certain. He will return, gather his people, and judge evil. Knowing this, in today’s passage, we read Jesus tell his followers to “[B]e on guard” and “keep awake.”

Jesus uses the illustration of a master who leaves his servants to do the work while he is away. One servant is commanded to be doorkeeper. As such, the doorkeeper must stay awake to accomplish his job. The master could return at any time of the day or night. What if he were to return and find the doorkeeper sleeping?

It is easy to see why the doorkeeper must stay awake and we understand what that means. However, we must know what it means for us today. How do we stay awake and on guard? The servants in Jesus’ illustration had been given certain duties. When their master returned, he expected to find them carrying out his instructions. Jesus also left his servants with instructions on what to do until his return. We must be busy with living holy lives and proclaiming the gospel to the world. To neglect these things is to not be on our guard. To neglect these things is to forget that our Lord could return at any moment and find us asleep and failing to do what he has commanded.

Jesus’ teaching on the end times was not to present us with a timeline, but to encourage us to live with the right priorities. When we truly understand that we could be standing in the presence of our Lord at any moment, it should change how we live. If you knew that Jesus was coming tonight, what would you do?

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Stay Ready

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:37–40 (ESV)

37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

We must be ready at all times. Our Lord will return one day and we must not be caught unprepared. When he comes, those who have remained awake (i.e. those who are ready) will be rewarded for their service. He may come later than we expect, but we must remain diligent. We must be like a homeowner who is aware of a thief coming to break into his house. The homeowner would be ready when the thief came. So, we too know that the Lord will return and we must be ready.

Being ready is not a call for us to try to figure out the timing of Jesus’ return. It is a call for us to spend our lives in service to our Lord. Jesus began this chapter speaking about possessions and coveting. It is no accident that we are now reading about Jesus’ return. The two topics go hand-in-hand. When we have a proper understanding of the Lord’s return and when we focus our lives on what is truly important, coveting becomes less of an issue for us. Earthly possessions become less important when we consider them in the light of eternity. Our focus must always be on Jesus’ return and our service to him until that day. When our focus is on Christ our hearts turn to what truly matters.

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Ready for Christ’s Return

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Reading the Word

Luke 12:35–36 (ESV)

35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus followed his teaching on possessions by telling his disciples that they must “stay dressed for action” and “keep your lamps burning.” Christ’s followers understand that there will be a day when he returns and mankind will be judged. Knowing this should affect how we live our lives today. We must live in such a way that we are ready to stand before the Lord when he returns.

The phrase “stay dressed for action” is literally “let your loins stay girded.” The imagery is of a man who has his long robe tucked into his belt so he is able to run. We must be ready at a moment’s notice. Jesus compares our readiness to that of servants waiting for their king to return from a wedding feast. The servants must be ready to serve with lamps burning to light the way no matter what time of the day or night the king returns. Servants who prove to be unready and unprepared are of no service to their king.

Scripture tells us that our Lord will one day return. We are not told when, but we are told to be ready. Being ready does not mean we should be trying to figure out when Jesus will return. It means that we live each day for Christ and place his plans and purposes as the priorities of our lives. Would you be found ready if Jesus came today? If not, what needs to change?

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