Friday, September 26, 2008


by Matt Kohls

Watch. We humans do a lot of watching. Sports, movies, what we eat, our weight. We even do what we refer to as “people watching.”

The airport is a favorite place for the hobby of people watching. Have you ever just sat off to the side of an airport terminal and watched the people going by? One of the strange new phenomena that I’ve observed as I’ve people watched in recent years is the business person with his or her Bluetooth headset. It makes me smile when I see perfectly normal-looking adults standing all by themselves and just talking into the air, making gestures with their hands to emphasize their point to whoever is on the other end of the line, perhaps hundreds of miles away. It always looks as if they’re talking to themselves.

The airport is not the only spot where we spend our time people watching. There are so many things to keep an eye on if we want to be “in the loop.” We need to see what everyone else is wearing, driving, or doing with their lives. We watch our fellow men and women acting out the comedies and dramas of life in an endless round of movies and TV. We watch to see what other people might be thinking when they watch us. We watch our families grow and change, and sometimes we are startled to watch ourselves in the mirror doing the same thing.

With all of the watching we do, it seems as though it would be an easy task to follow Jesus’ command in Matthew 24:42: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” Apparently Jesus, as well as Peter and Paul, didn’t think it would be all that easy for us. Together, they remind us nineteen times in the New Testament to watch. The word “watch” they use means to stay awake. “Keep your eyes open!” we hear them say. “Don’t sleep. There is too much happening that you don’t want to miss.”

When I was growing up, my family used to watch the ball drop at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I fought tooth and nail to stay awake until that time. Sometimes it was all I could do not to just lie down on the floor and give in to the sweet rest that beckoned me. But I wanted so badly to be awake and aware of that special moment when the old year vanished away and the new one began.

Jesus feels the same way about His coming. He desperately wants us to be awake and aware of that moment when the old life we know here on Earth, with its pain and suffering, loneliness and death, vanishes away, and the endless possibility of eternity begins. So He bids us watch. “Stay awake. I’m coming.”

Sadly, many of us are sleeping, and even those who do watch are not always watching for the right thing or for the right reason. Some people are watching out of anxiety and a determination to prepare themselves for the fearful events that the Bible reveals will take place in the time before Jesus returns. They watch for all the signs to take place that will precede the coming of Christ. They watch the evening news, the weather, the web-sites of the conspiracy theorists, and the movements of governments and religious leaders. And yet, they are not seeking to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The problem is not so much with desiring to know when Jesus is coming. The problem is that with all of the people and weather watching they do, they do not have their eyes on Jesus. They are not watching for their Lord and Friend.

Sometimes people do watch for Jesus Himself, but they do it the way my sisters and I watched for my parents to come home after their evenings out. When we were old enough to be left alone at home, my parents would go out on a date once in a while and leave us to ourselves. We’d all act normal until we saw the car drive past the front windows of the house as my parents pulled out of the driveway. Then the four of us would crowd onto our little front porch to watch them turn the corner at the end of the street. As soon as the taillights disappeared around the bend, we all yelled in unison, “PARTY TIME!”

I’d grab the broom from beside the refrigerator and start jamming on my “guitar” as we danced around the table singing, “Party time! Party time!” We’d turn up the stereo extra loud and begin our favorite parentless pastime. One of us would turn on the ceiling fan hanging over the kitchen table. Then, we’d take a damp dishcloth from the sink and throw it up into the spinning blades whirring in the middle of the room. The fan would catch the cloth, spin it around a couple times, and then fling it against the wall or into some corner of the room. We’d laugh hysterically and race to grab the cloth so we could do it again, over and over.

My parents usually told us about what time they should be home, so a few minutes before their expected time of arrival, we’d start watching out the window to spot them if they arrived early. When the time came even nearer, we would clean up our messes, put away the dishcloth, and take up an “innocent” activity that we hoped our parents would think we had been enjoying the whole time they’d been gone.

Our strategy usually worked, unless my parents forgot something and came back for it. We would just be getting into full party mode when all of a sudden we’d hear the car pulling into the driveway. There’d be screaming and scrambling to turn off the stereo, throw the dishcloth into the sink, hit the switch for the fan, and plop onto the couch just as the door knob turned and the door swung open. I’m sure we looked a little too innocent all sitting there on the couch smiling, as the ceiling fan mysteriously spun its last few turns and came to a stop.

This is the same kind of “watching” that some people are doing today. Yes, they are watching for Jesus personally to return, but they want to know when He is coming home so that they don’t get caught doing something they know He wouldn’t approve of. They think that when they are sure He is coming, there will be time to clean everything up and find an innocent-looking activity to be doing when He arrives.

Sadly, neither of the examples above is truly “watching” the way Jesus intended. Watching the signs for the sake of preparing ourselves to survive the end times, or watching for Jesus to be sure we get all the pleasure we can out of sin but still clean up in time, is totally missing the point of what it really means to be a Christian. A Christian is someone who is wrapped up in an eternal friendship with Jesus that begins here on Earth (John 17:3). When we have a precious friend who has been away on a long trip, and we know the person is returning soon, we watch for that friend, not in fear of his or her return, or in an attempt to clean up for the friend’s arrival, but in anticipation of our joyful reunion.

For true Christians, watching for Jesus to return is like watching for a loved one we are picking up at the airport. We keep in touch while we are apart, and the time comes when the person tells us, “I am coming home soon; will you meet me at the airport?” The day of their arrival, we enter the baggage claim area and are met by a sea of humanity surging toward us in wave after wave of arriving flights. Our eyes anxiously scan the crowd of people exiting the terminal, looking for that familiar face among all the strangers. After what seems like an eternity, we finally catch a glimpse of the one we know so well while the person is still some distance away. Our eyes meet and the smile of recognition and excitement comes immediately to both of our faces. We try to play it cool, walking forward to meet our loved one, but soon all self-restraint breaks down and we run to meet each other, colliding in a tangle of arms and legs, backpacks and duffle bags, hearts bursting with joy.

Are you watching for His return? Does the nearness of His coming send a chill down your spine and a sense of desperation to get everything cleaned up for His arrival? Or does it make your heart beat faster in anticipation of the reunion you will soon have with the Friend you know and love? Get to know Him in a personal way today. Why wait to wake up to the relationship He longs to have with you? “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).

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