Posted on November 5, 2014
78: Are You Sleeping?
As kids, most of us learned a simple song that went,
“Are you sleeping, are you sleeping,
Brother John, Brother John?
Morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing,
Ding ding dong, ding ding dong.”
Remember it? The problem wasn’t that Brother John slept soundly. The problem was that he was sleeping when he ought to be awake!
In today’s post, Jesus gives an eleventh-hour warning to His followers to be alert and awake—always watching for His return. He was about to finish the work He’d come to do, then leave the world. He Himself didn’t know how long He would be away from them (Mk. 13:32). But He knew that the longer time went on, the less watchful they would be.
Welcome to Knowing Jesus, our study through Mark’s gospel. Get your Bible and let’s take a look at today’s passage. Read Mark 13:32-37. (The parallel passage in Matthew 24:36-44 continues with several parables and teachings through the end of chapter 24 and into chapter 25. Luke includes a brief passage in 21:34-36.)
Jesus fills these few verses with a strong message to “wake-up-and-shake-up!” He uses three different words that are each a call to action.
• blepete, which meant “See! Look sharp! Be on guard!” (verse 33)
• agrupneite, meaning “Be intent, constantly awake!” (verse 33)
• gregoreite, which meant “Watch! Watch! Watch!” (repeated three times, verses 34, 35, 37)
There was no missing the message but, just in case, Jesus reinforced the point with a short parable about an absent master who left his estate in the care of faithful servants. Each servant had his assigned duties, some one thing, some another. And each was expected to be found on task when the master returned—no matter what time of day or night his return came. Then, in a subtle shift from story to reality, Jesus said, “If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.”
Lest we think He was only speaking to the Twelve, He adds, “What I say to you, I say to everyone. Watch!” He meant you. And me.
Yet how we love our sleep! We know He’s coming—someday—but we don’t live like we believe that day is today. We worry and fuss over things that at any moment may eternally be of no consequence. We plan tomorrow with not a single thought that tomorrow may never be. And we lack an intentional purpose about life, like we have all the time in the world to do what matters.
I love how specific Jesus was about time in His parable, mentioning each of the four watches of the night. Counted by the Romans, the four watches were evening, 6:00-9:00 pm.; midnight, 9:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m.; cock’s crow, 12:00 to 3:00 a.m.; and morning/dawn, 3:00-6:00 a.m. People of that time typically travelled by day; a master returning during any of these watches might surprise unprepared servants. “Therefore, keep watch,” Jesus said, “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.”
What if you knew He would return at midnight tonight? How would you change the way you spent the rest of today? What if you were forewarned that His coming would be at 3:00 tomorrow morning? Would you sleep tonight? or would you have urgent business to take care of? As a servant of Christ, what aspects of your faithwalk have you allowed to get rusty or neglected? Would you be hustling to get them in order? Jesus’ message would be, start now; don’t wait and risk being caught off guard.
We so easily slip into our routines and are lulled to spiritual sleep, while satan sings a lullaby. Jesus prods us, “Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? On guard! Be purposefully awake! Watch!” Don’t let your Master come and find you sleeping.
© Diane McLoud 2014