“Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.”
– Matthew 24:42-43 ESV
I love to sleep. I mean, I really, really, love to sleep. I’ve joked that I’m a champion sleeper, which would be funny if it weren’t true. Therefore, Scripture that says “stay awake!” gets my attention—and makes me pause and examine my own heart. In these verses, Jesus is speaking to His disciples, who have come to Him asking what would signal the end of the age and His coming. He tells them to take care that no one leads them astray, and He details a number of things that will happen before He returns. But the admonition to stay awake (keep watch is how it is translated in some other versions) is explained in a very relevant way; Jesus basically says, “Wouldn’t you stay awake and ready if you knew someone was going to break into your house?” Of course you would. But, oh, how hard it is to keep awake sometimes! I think of the disciples, whose eyes were heavy with sleep when Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, just before His arrest. “Could you men not watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41). This was the first time they fell asleep! The second time, Jesus says “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” (Matthew 26:45). My heart breaks for Jesus and for the disciples! I think of how I feel when I’ve promised the Lord that I would get up early to spend more time with Him, and then I hit the snooze button. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Indeed.
But there’s so much more to this than just literal sleep and wakefulness. Jesus is imploring the disciples then and now to stay alert and to be ready to act. When the thief comes, we shouldn’t just be awake, we should be in a position to do something; “…the master of the house…would not have let his house be broken into.” (emphasis mine) Likewise, we must be alert to what is going on around us, while not joining in and letting ourselves be lulled into apathy or comfort, or into the other pleasures of this world. For the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), and he is more than happy to find us sleeping, literally or figuratively. Our apathy, our ease, and the stuff within our homes all have the capability to cause us to focus on ourselves and not our Lord and His imminent return. But if we are ever-aware that the Spirit resides within us as believers, we will guard our hearts and our relationship with Him. We will be awake and alive in Him as we commune with Hm. We will remain ready to move when He tells us, and ready to stand firm against the enemy--and, yes, even to fight to protect our “house!” I once read a quote by Rich Mullins where he said something to the effect that “These days, I’m kind of sleeping with my shoes on.” I like that. We must, in this life, sleep. But we must also be alert and ready, and awake.