“I am going away to make a place for you. After I go and make a place for you, I will come back and take you with me. Then you may be where I am.” (John 14:3)
If we’re expecting company from out of town, we usually have a pretty good idea of when they’re going to arrive. Cell phones give us an accurate idea of what time to expect our guests. We can easily plan our time so we do the dishes, make the beds, head to the grocery store for snacks, and are sitting on the couch when company arrives.
But what did people do back in the 1800’s when a letter came saying someone was coming to visit? Storms, broken wagon wheels, sick horses—many things could change the length of the trip. The host would have no idea when the guest would actually arrive. How does anyone get ready for a guest if they don’t know when to expect them?
If you don’t know when a visitor is arriving, you stay ready at all times.
Jesus told us he’s coming back to earth. One day, he will return from heaven to collect all God’s children and bring them home to live with him forever. We know he’s coming. But we don’t know when.
Jesus said nobody knows when he will return, not even the angels in heaven. Only God knows (see Matthew 24:36). Is Jesus’s return imminent? Maybe. Or maybe not. We know it’s closer today than it was yesterday. And we know that when the time is right, Jesus will appear. We can’t hurry his arrival, we can’t predict it, and we can’t stop it. It’s in God’s hands.
So, what do we do if we know Jesus is coming back but we don’t know when? We stay ready at all times.
In 1907, Robert Baden-Powell created the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. He said that, “Be prepared,” means to always be in a state of readiness in mind, body, and spirit to meet challenges with a strong heart.
It could be Baden-Powell borrowed the Scout motto from Jesus. In Matthew 24, Jesus tells us to be ready. Because the date of his return isn’t given to us, we are to always be in a state of readiness. If we knew a robber was coming to break into our house at a certain time, we would be prepared at that exact time to make sure he didn’t rob our house. But because Jesus will return at an unknown time, we must always be ready. (See Matthew 24:42-44.)
Jesus’s instruction to those who love him and who anticipate his return is to watch. Yes, we watch for his return, but we also watch for as many ways possible to show God’s love to as many people as possible. The best question isn’t, “Is this the end?” but, “What should I be doing right now?” With so many people living in darkness, we must not be complacent. We must watch for every opportunity to be God’s light shining through the darkness.
He’s coming back for us—that’s our sure promise and our great hope. Let’s be about his business until he arrives.
Dear Jesus, I am comforted by the promise of your return. Search my heart for any sinfulness and cleanse me. While I wait for your arrival, help me watch and pray for opportunities to share your love with others and to shine your light into the darkness. In Jesus’s name, amen.