Watching and Waiting
“You do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn.” – Mark 13:35
I ordered something from Amazon last week. Something I really wanted. Something I was excited about. On Friday morning I received a text message letting me know that my package would be delivered by day’s end. I spent the day in delicious anticipation. Every now and again throughout the day I would remember that my package was going to arrive and it made my heartbeat accelerate just a bit. When I got home late in the afternoon I found myself occasionally looking out our front window, hoping to see that big, brown truck rolling up our cul de sac. When our doorbell rang it felt like Christmas morning. Waiting can be like that.
Today I’m mindful that this week we’ll be taking our youngest son, Evan, to the Mayo Clinic. He’s going to have a CAT Scan to determine whether his tumors have grown, which will dictate when he has surgery. Every time I think of that appointment I feel a bit sick. Occasionally my thoughts drift away from the task at hand and spin off into scenarios that put a lump in my throat. The room blurs. I want time to stand still and at the same time I want the waiting to be over. Waiting can be like that.
When you think about Jesus’ return (“He will come again to judge the living and the dead”) how does it leave you feeling? Which kind of waiting is it? Does it feel like a package arriving, or an impending appointment?
In college I was told by some that the thought of Jesus’ return should scare the hell out of me – literally! It was a warning for me to sit straight and fly right. Get my moral affairs in order. Behave for heaven’s sake! Watching and waiting for that day felt a lot like waiting for our upcoming appointment at the Mayo Clinic. It filled me with dread.
But notice what Jesus says in Mark 13:35, “You do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn.” What’s interesting is to look at the rest of Mark’s Gospel to see what happens at those very times. That evening Jesus shares a final meal with his disciples. At midnight he is betrayed. At cockcrow Peter denies him. At dawn he was tried and condemned to death. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “If you want to know what my coming looks like, look to the cross.”
And if we look to the cross we see the unfathomable love and forgiveness of God proclaimed in action for all of creation. Even you and me. Sin is condemned, but not the sinner. Jesus even prays forgiveness for those who drive the nails into his hands.
Far from dread, the thought of Jesus’ return can instill in us a hopeful expectation that makes our heartbeat accelerate. It can make our waiting, even through the difficult times of life, hope-full. As our Lenten journey leads us to the cross and the empty tomb, lean expectantly into the promise that because the tomb is empty our lives are filled to overflowing with love and life and forgiveness.
What were you taught about Jesus’ return?
How have you experienced Lent this year?
Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN