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Reading: Matthew 24:36-51

Devotional

A lady recently announced on Mumsnet her frustration at her mother in law turning up unannounced at her family holiday. She wrote; ‘Have just spent first night with dear husband and dear daughters at our holiday hotel and then got a text this morning from my mother-in-law saying she and her partner (who none of us can stand) had booked in.” Awkward! I’m sure we all have had an experience of someone turning up at our door totally unannounced with no notice given and the situation is made even worse if we are already entertaining guests.

But I guess it depends on who the uninvited unexpected guest is. A couple booked the Manchester town hall for their wedding. A few weeks before the event they were told that an important VIP would be in the building on the same day so it may impact their wedding slightly. On investigation, they discovered that the VIP was in fact her majesty Queen Elizabeth II. They then sent an invitation to the Queen to join them at their wedding. When the ceremony was complete, the staff asked us the couple to wait for a moment and just a few minutes later the Queen walked in with Prince Philip to the stunned amazement of the couple and their 40 guests. The Queen had done her homework knowing their names and where they were going on their honeymoon. Their wedding day had been interrupted and upstaged by an unexpected guest and they didn’t mind in the least.

Regarding his second coming Jesus told his disciples ‘concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.’ Matthew 24:36. He compares it to the days before the flood. People were consumed with day to day life without a care in the world and then out of the blue everything changed as they were ‘unaware until the flood came and swept them all away’.

Copious books have been written about the coming of Jesus, examining the signs of the age, coming up with theory after theory. I think Jesus is saying we may be putting our efforts in the wrong place. No amount of study will tell us when he is going to return. It will be as unpredictable as a flash of lightning in the night sky (irrespective of anything Marty McFly and Doc Brown can do with a DeLorean time machine). It will be as unexpected as a thief in the night and as sudden as the return of the master of the house from a long journey.

He is encouraging his disciples and us to be ‘faithful and wise servants’ going about the master’s business by the master’s values and expecting the master to arrive at any time. Matthew uses the Greek word ‘grēgoreō’ from which comes the name Gregory, meaning watchful or vigilant one. It is used 23 times in the New Testament and is translated as keep watch, stay awake or be on guard and the vast and is by far the most used command to us concerning our readiness for the coming of Christ!

In the introduction to this parable recorded by Luke Jesus encourages his listeners to be ready for his coming as those with their ‘loins be girded about, and your lights burning’ (Luke 12:35). It isn’t a phrase we are familiar with in the present day. But, back in the days of the ancient East, both men and women wore flowing tunics. Around the tunic, they’d wear a belt or girdle. While tunics were comfortable and breezy, the hem of the tunic would often get in the way when a man was fighting or performing hard labour. So, when ancient Hebrew men had to battle the Philistines, the men would lift the hem of their tunic up and tuck it into their girdle or tie it in a knot to keep it off the ground. The effect basically created a pair of shorts that provided more freedom of movement. Thus, to tell someone to “gird up their loins” was to tell them to get ready for hard work or battle and made running easier.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, may I always be watching for Your return as a wise and faithful servant, daily living for your cause and your values. Help to encourage others continually and live like today could be the day! Maranatha! O Lord Jesus, come quickly, I pray! Amen and Amen!

Based on today's reading, what is one thing God is saying to you?

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