I was on a coach on Ireland’s Ring of Kerry. Our tour guide asked us to put away all of our stuff. He told us to watch. He knew that if we didn’t we would be disappointed. The coach rolled on past the amazing vistas. Was this it? Was this what we were watching for? Each corner revealed a new glimmer of beauty. We kept wondering, had we arrived now? We came around the final turn and my jaw hit the floor. Spread before me was the ocean in all its splendour dotted with islands with the sun blazing overhead. The waiting, the watching had all been worth it!
“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!’” Mark 13:33-37 (NIV)
“So keep a sharp lookout, for you don’t know the timetable. It’s like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. So, stay at your post, watching. You have no idea when the homeowner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning. You don’t want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job. I say it to you, and I’m saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch.” Mark 13:33-37 (MSG)
Watching seems so passive. I’m not really doing anything while I’m watching. At times, it feels useless. I could be doing something more, something worthwhile, something important.
There’s a waiting implied too! Watching and waiting! Most of the time, I know what I’m watching for. It’s the glimmer of understanding in the eyes of a learner. It’s the hopeful look of something long anticipated to arrive. Sometimes it’s passive – eyes hooded so as to not appear interested even though the desire is there. Frequently, it’s eyes wide open, eagerly trying to understand what you’re watching for.
There’s a posture in watching. When it’s a sporting rivalry, fans are on their feet willing their chosen team on to victory. But there’s a watching that hurts the heart. The kind that has anxiety and stress written all over it. Where worse is possible and might just come.
But then there’s the watch that Jesus is asking for. It’s alert watching. This is the full attention version of watching. Passivity is not an option. The gatekeeper is on duty. Eyes alert to see who is passing by, who wants in. The servants are on duty. They have jobs to fulfill, positions requiring their unique skill sets and abilities. The homeowner is only pleased when the tasks are completed. Everything is ready for the homeowner’s return. It’s imminent, but no one in his service knows exactly when it will be. But all is to be ready. All is to be prepared. Nothing is meant to be waiting to still be completed. Jesus second coming is foreshadowed.
But there is a lesson to be learned from all of this preparation and watching. Jesus is not waiting until He comes again to be doing things in and through His people. He moves in the hearts and minds of people all the time.
But how am I watching? Am I sitting on the sidelines, idly minding my own business, completely unobservant? If so, I’m absolutely missing out on what Jesus is up to now. I’m missing where He is moving. I’m ignoring the opportunities He’s placing in front of me to be His hands and feet. I’m ignoring His not-so-subtle promptings to speak His words of life.
It all changes if I am watching Jesus with keen interest. If I’m paying attention, then I’m asking Him to open my eyes to see what He’s doing. I’m desiring Him to reveal what He would have me do. I’m pursuing opportunities that He has revealed to me. I may be taking steps that make not a shred of sense but are divine appointments beyond my understanding. Because my eyes are watching Him, I will speak words of encouragement and hope. My hands and feet will reach out to bless others in big and small ways. I will change direction because of my obedience to the One who speaks my name.
Jesus, in this season of busy-ness it is so easy for my eyes to be darting all over the place. Instead, would you fix my eyes on You. Enable me to be observant of what you are doing and where you are moving. Give my heart and mind obedience and my hands and feet swift action so that I will join you wholeheartedly in the mission You have for me. Amen.