I may have watched too many TV shows and movies in my life. (Actually, upon further reflection, I have most certainly done so.) At some point, though, my wife and I have become a little bit cynical in watching dramas or action/adventure stories. When the end of a mystery is nearing, and there was one person who was interviewed early on (but didn’t have any later part in the plot), we can usually guess that he or she is the culprit. When the music ramps up, we can tell that a major change in the characters’ situation (good or bad, depending on the key) is coming. When there’s a chance for an actor to do something that is funny, rather than practical, the more entertaining option is probably going to happen.
There are definitely signs that we have learned to identify, telling us what is coming: City drivers can spot a blinking walk signal as an indicator that the traffic light will be turning yellow soon. Ominous clouds in the west (at least in my part of the world) mean that storms will be arriving soon.
Jesus talked about interpreting signs around us (see Matthew 16:2-3), but have a look at this verse:
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
John 1:45 NIV
Philip, who sounds like a regular first-century Jewish guy (before he spent time with Jesus, and helped change the world), already knew that a Messiah was coming. He may not have known when, but he seems to have been comfortable with the fact that this would occur. Once He met the Messiah, it wasn’t a matter of telling his friend Nathanael what a Messiah was, or persuading him that a Messiah was going to arrive someday. Instead, he was telling his friend that He had actually arrived.
This revelation confirmed that God had indeed provided a Messiah, which the Jewish people (as they understood and trusted prophecies from past centuries) had expected and anticipated. (Jesus proved to be a different – and better – sort of savior than what many had expected, but He was still the promised Messiah.) In the follow-up verses (see John 1:46-51), Nathanael doesn’t sound shocked that a Messiah would arrive – he’s just skeptical about where the Messiah would be from.
As we read the Bible, we know other things that are coming, too. (Like first-century Jewish scholars, trying to read the signs about timing is a little more complex than predicting the outcome of a B-grade movie, but in both cases, we know what the outcome will be.) When Jesus ascended back to Heaven after His resurrection, His return was promised to us:
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Acts 1:9-11 NIV
I like to watch hockey on TV (especially if it’s on an HD channel, where I can actually see the puck), but I will sometimes be doing other things while the game is on. When the announcer gets all excited, though, I know that its time to look at the TV to see if one of the teams is about to score a goal. In the same way, when we know what is coming, we would do well to be ready and alert. Like the wise women described in the parable found in Matthew 25:1-13, we should be ready for the next – and probably last – really big event of history: Jesus’ return.
But, what does “ready” look like? You may have some ideas, but here are a few to get the discussion started:
- Settling our debt of sin, by accepting Jesus’ voluntary sacrifice as the only payment that can free us from paying for our sin through our own death, before the “books close” and the offer is no longer valid.
- Working diligently to get the good news out to a dying world, while we still can. (See John 4:35-36.)
- Listening to the Holy Spirit’s direction, so that we can make good choices, and enjoy the abundant life that Jesus promised.
Regardless of whether or not we are ready for it, something big is coming. We can be confident that our always-faithful God will keep His promise. So, rather than “checking out” (ignoring the obvious) and being surprised, let’s be ready for the exciting conclusion!