Thursday, November 6, 2008

Are We Watching?

Reading: Mark 13 – 14
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. 35Therefore 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. 36If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!” (Mark 13:34-37)
As I was reading this morning I was struck by the command to watch. Christ is calling us to a specific duty. No, he doesn't have a particular problem with sleeping. (Remember He slept on a pillow in the storm.) The picture is one of standing guard (some translations miss this point by translating, “stay awake”.) This is a duty. A soldier given guard duty must watch. Why? So the others can sleep safely. The idea is to be on guard against something. Christians are called to stand guard, to stay awake through all hours of the darkness in order to guard against something...presumably the evils of darkness.
How do we watch?
Admittedly, by itself this command seems a bit vague. However, I cannot help but think, as I read on, that there is a clear connection between this command and the narration it precedes. This command immediately precedes the account of passover week, the week Jesus was crucified. On the evening of passover, the disciples went out to the Mount of Olives and in the dark of night are in a private garden called Gethsemane. There Jesus tells the disciples,
"Sit here while I pray." 33He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch.” 35Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36"Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”   37Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon,” he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?  38Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Mark 14:32-38)
First, I note that when Jesus told them, “Stay here and keep watch,” the expectation was that they should be praying. Second, the purpose is clarified, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Watching is for the purpose of guarding against temptation. The evil of darkness is the temptation to sin. In this particular case, we find the temptation to deny Christ, to flee in the hour of trial from Christ, is the particular temptation they would all face, and Peter in particular (14:50-51, 66-72).
How are you doing with regard to watching?
Are you on guard against temptation through prayer? Are you guarding your brother or sister in Christ in prayer against the attacks of the enemy? From Sunday's message in 1 John 3:11-18, we know we are called to be like Christ and not like Cain: we are called to be our brother's keeper. One place we do this is in the place of prayer.
Take time today...take time this week... to pray for one another, to pray that “out of His glorious riches He may strengthen [us] with power through His Spirit in [our] inner being.” Pray this in order that Christ would be formed in us, that we would live by faith, not succumbing to the temptations to live for the reward of instant pleasure this fallen world offers over eternal life. This world we live in is the darkness. As Christians we are called to stand guard, to stay awake through this darkness, guarding one another against the temptation of evil.
[The prayers of Paul in Ephesians are particularly helpful to me in this regard. See Ephesians 1:17-22; 3:14-21; 6:18-20. These are prayers according to God's will.]
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

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