Christ’s kingdom is coming – it’s drawing near! This urgency of Jesus’ words begs the question: How, then, shall we live? I can almost imagine the disciples, after hearing these words, which we have been reading the past several days, wondering with a bit a fear, “Now what?” Indeed, it is tempting, even for us, to anxiously forecast these eschatological, “end times,” events. But, Jesus responds in this way:
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. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the earth (21:34-35)
This is the first of Jesus’ two exhortations about how to prepare for God’s kingdom. His words bear a certain urgency – “watch yourselves” connotes being on watch or on high alert. It’s a command that jogs our attention. He immediately appeals to common obstacles to the faith, which are mentioned throughout Scripture: dissipation, or “unbridled indulgence,” and drunkenness. These sins, clearly, have no part in the Christian life; and, while these are not “unforgivable sins,” they are common, and thus stand in stark contrast to God’s coming kingdom. As 19th century pastor J.C. Ryle reminds us, “There is no sin so great but a great saint may fall into it: there is no saint so great but he may fall into great sin.” Because these sins are common, Christ doesn’t want his people distracted by worldly indulgences – indulgences which tempt to overshadow the glory of God’s kingdom. Indeed, how can one see God’s kingdom, when our eyelids droop with the slough of drunkenness?
Christ says it will ensnare many victims like a “trap.” Truly, God’s coming Kingdom is glorious news for those who are in Christ, and it is dreadful news for those who are not. In the midst of enormous hope, Jesus reminds the disciples about the urgency of God’s kingdom, and that not all will be ushered in. Then, he gives them a second exhortation:
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. (21:36)
Jesus re-emphasizes the urgency he has already conveyed. He calls for a constant watch, for believers to “stay awake at all times.” He follows this by calling them, and us, to prayer for “strength.” This strength will not be found in self or earthly rulers, but in God alone. It is the true King who will give them the strength to endure, and He will preserve them so that they may stand before the Son of Man. This is a prayer for deliverance – deliverance from an outward disposition of self-indulgence – and a prayer for an enduring faithfulness to God.
Pray today and thank the Lord for his clear warnings and calls to urgency, which remind us that a day is coming soon when every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord and King.