29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
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.”
37 And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him. (Luke 21:29–38 ESV)
The disciples — and let’s face it, us — constantly ask Jesus: “When is the time? Who will be saved? Will many be saved? How, then, can anyone be saved?” We want answers. We want assurances. Both that we’re in, but also that someone else is out.
We we want to know who our neighbors are, and who they aren’t.
But Jesus doesn’t play our game, naming names. When we ask him for certain answers — “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” (Luke 13:23) — he doesn’t say yes or no. He tells us to busy ourselves with the work of our own salvation. Don’t worry about who is saved — live like someone who wants to be saved. Who is saved.
I think this is what Jesus means when he tells us to “stay awake.” (Though I have been awake for the last couple of hours, and I wonder — with the teens I am parenting and ministering to, if I will ever get a complete night of sleep again.) If you don’t know when the day is coming, it’s best to just live like someone who is ready.
My boss, a district general manager who wanders his district a lot, does something like this. He doesn’t tell anyone that he’s coming to visit our offices because he doesn’t want us to get ready. He wants us to be ready, all the time, to make an account of ourselves, to show that we are working as we have been trained and taught. (Do I stack up? You’ll have to ask him.)
To live like the day will always be today, that the trap will always be strung, that the district general manager will always show up and ask hard questions, is to be ready. And that, I believe, is what Jesus is asking of us. Always be ready. Live like you are ready. Love God and love your neighbor, bear witness to the goodness and grace that is God’s kingdom. That is what it means to be ready.
That is what it means to stay awake.