Being Awake is a Good Thing
Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. (Matthew 24:42)
Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:13)
Late in Matthew’s gospel Jesus is teaching his followers about the end times. This was a hoped-for time when God would fulfill God’s purpose for the world and restore creation to some semblance of Paradise such as we see in the Garden of Eden. The hope was that peace and harmony would reign supreme in this coming age and all pain and suffering would be overcome. It was a vision of Isaiah’s Peaceable Kingdom where all creatures live in peace and no one practices war anymore.
Several times in this section of Matthew, Jesus warns his followers that the timing of these end times was impossible to predict. It will come like “a thief in the night” or late at night after the lamps have burned through all their oil. Since we cannot know the day nor the hour, we must in the meantime “keep awake.”
To keep awake means to be mindful of the things Jesus taught. We cannot sleep on God’s command to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. To keep awake, we must not allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency by the values of the world – values such as power and greed and selfishness. We cannot lose sight of God’s requirement that we “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”
Living in the hope of God’s beloved community requires vigilance, like the owner of the house who kept awake to watch for the coming of the thief. We must be prepared, like the bridesmaids who had extra oil for their lamps because they did not know when the bridegroom would come.
Ours is a sleepy world, which is ironic given the number of people who struggle with sleep issues. While we may lie awake at night, too often we are asleep to God’s guiding Spirit in our lives. Our busy schedules, our many screens, the fear of missing out, and the certitude of our own righteous claims all close us off to God’s place in our lives.
It’s important that we tend to our relationship with God and make it a priority. If we don’t, the time may come when we are so asleep that we cannot be woke at all.