Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Luke 12:37)
Today’s verse generally puts us to thinking of the second coming of Christ, that great moment when He return in glory as judge and conquering King. This ‘other side’ of Jesus cannot be separated from the cross. It’s what He was raised as and for – the eternal conqueror of all things not of God – and He instructed us to look back to the suffering saviour and forward to the conquering King when we partake of communion. We are to both celebrate the cross and all it achieved and celebrate the return of our King. Being ‘ready for Jesus’ is a biblical and appropriate purpose for each believer, but we should not see this verse only in the light of a single sweeping, epic event.
The second coming of Christ is the culmination of lifetimes of smaller moments, each of which require that we be ready for Jesus.
Many regard today’s verse as referring to the Rapture when Christ will come to snatch His own from the world in the twinkling of an eye. It would be foolish to dispute either of these epic events, but we should never lose sight of the fact that He is also a very practical God. Being ready essentially means to be prepared, to have all things that will be required in place, to be fully trained and equipped, and that we are ‘only waiting for the word.’ Being ready for Jesus is no different. It’s up to us to ensure that we’re ‘ready and waiting’ at any given moment. It’s also up to us to seize the daily moments in which we can practise the great end-time readiness.
The Bible tells us clearly that cannot know when to expect Him. The servants must be ready, awaiting the master, day or night. This is the broader context of today’s verse – being prepared and ready at all times to serve. It’s wonderful and exciting and perfectly understandable for our minds to dwell on heaven and our coming King. But being prepared and obedient in the little ‘visits’ from Him enables us to be prepared for that single final glorious coming. We make ourselves ready for Jesus by making ourselves ready to serve Him faithfully in the little day to day moments.
It’s common knowledge that an army, though it may be highly trained, cohesive, and finely disciplined, will lose its edge due to inactivity. Readiness is not suitcases stacked in a corner and crammed with every conceivable thing we might possibly need. It’s the ‘marching bag’ with critical necessities slung across the back and constantly at hand. Ready for Jesus means being in the place where when He says ‘I need’ we can respond ‘Here am I’ without delay or hesitation. If He needs a light to shine, by the time we return, having rushed off to fill ours that were empty, the need will have been filled by another.
God does not intend that we live as the ‘frozen chosen’ in a little holy huddle, looking heavenwards and seeing only the future glory of the King. We were called and chosen to be like Christ in the world – servants. Yes, we’re a royal priesthood and a holy nation. But, first and foremost, we’re servants, just as Jesus was. Being ready for Jesus means living as He did – to serve. A servant is and has nothing outside of the master. They do not pursue their own goals or dreams, but those the master has defined for them. They listen for and obey the voice of the master, irrespective of the time, the task, or its inconvenience. They live to serve in whatever capacity they are called to serve. Jesus told us that those who love Him will obey Him.
From the moment that we are born again and Spirit filled, we begin a new life in Christ. We start like infants and, through the teaching of the Word and the Spirit, we grow and mature in faith and spiritual knowledge. A young Christian’s ‘ready for Jesus’ is very different than that of a mature Christian. All Christians are equal in the eyes of God. The mature Christian isn’t more ‘special’ than the young. God looks at the heart and the devotion and commitment and obedience it contains. We are expected to grow and mature and to assume more responsibility. Readiness is defined by our capability and our obedience to it. If we refuse to grow and mature and serve with all that God gives us, we cannot claim readiness. A young Christian with a heart for God and a humble, obedient spirit who strives to do what they are called to do will be ready for Jesus.
The last instruction to the disciples was ‘Go.’ It has never changed. This is still the purpose of every single servant of God. We do not know and cannot determine what our going will involve or where we may have to go, or to whom. We may not, at times, even like our mission much. But we do know that, however it may manifest in practical terms to meet a need, it will include ‘making known among the nations.’ This is the essence of being ready for Jesus. Like any wise master, He never throws raw recruits into the heat of battle but starts to train us slowly, building on what we learn and adding responsibility as we grow. But we all must ‘go’ many times in the process.
We need to grasp the truth that the second coming of Jesus and the Rapture are not events that occur outside of the daily process of growth. They are the culmination of it. The little steps of being ready for Jesus in the little things are the process that makes us ready for Jesus in the big ones. A heart that is not surrendered and obedient in even the smallest, seemingly irrelevant details is a heart that is not ready. We may know the Bible inside out, may be blessed with gifts of the Spirit, we may be a preacher or a musician, but if we are not obedient, we are not ready for Jesus.
We are not simply called to be like Jesus, but to be Him by being His body. A hand must be a hand and an ear and ear. When others see us, they must see Jesus. When He tells us to ‘go’ it is as His representatives, with His power and authority. There is nothing grand or important about the servant. It’s the master who is recognised. Daniel remained a powerful and respected man only because he remained the humble servant of almighty God. He was a man who lived the meaning of being ready for Jesus. Whether in the king’s house or in the lion’s den, Daniel watched and prepared for the coming of the Lord and was never disappointed.
In the household of God, there are no ‘degrees of service.’ There is no favoritism and no hierarchy of tasks. Jesus made that clear when talking about giving to the poor or giving a thirsty man water. The service which may seem the smallest to us may, in eternity, have enormous significance. Tasks are allotted based on two criteria. The first is our willingness to immerse ourselves in the things of God, to dwell in His presence and to learn from Him and grow and mature and increase our capability as a good servant. The second is our willingness to obey. Capability alone does not make us ready for Jesus. Obedience does. Capability and obedience work together to make us ‘perfectly’ ready at any given moment, not because we are perfect but because Christ in us is perfect and we have made ourselves available to the utmosts at that moment.
It sometimes seems like the entire world clamors after service as apostles or teachers or prophets. ‘Watchmen on the walls’ is a common refrain with tones of grandeur. We want to be heroes, leaders in the faith, men and women who make bold and life-changing marks for Jesus wherever we go. This is, quite simply, pride. We somehow expect that we can attain a ‘superior rank’ of service where we are somehow the ‘hand of God’ without the inconveniences and discomfort that are usually associated with the positions. God’s prophets were persecuted, tortured, and put to death. All the apostles met with the same or similar fate. Being ready for Jesus is not some super-spiritual existence. It is the practical, day-to-day getting our hands dirty in obedient service.
Being ready for Jesus means hearing His voice when He commands us to love that difficult person. It means obeying when He tells us to give our last resources to a begger, to help the elderly with their shopping, to babysit the neighbours children, or to take a stand on something even when it makes us unpopular. It means being honest, living with integrity, speaking life and hope, setting aside our own agendas, and turning away from the things that are not of God. We make ourselves ready for Jesus in every moment of every day when we hear, live, and act on the Word and the leading of the Spirit. Every obedience is part of the preparation of being ready for Jesus. If we continually miss Him in the little day-to-day moments of obedience, we will miss Him at the end because we will not be ready.
Sweet Lord, help us to be obedient, to make ourselves ready for You through the things we are called to do daily. Release in us Your servant heart. Grant us the willingness and the ability to serve, and as we walk in love and obedience, work in us to manifest Your love and glory to a fallen world.