38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” 39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” 40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:38–41, NKJV)
Our faith is strengthened by the example of Jesus in the hour of His temptation at Gethsemane. Our attention is drawn to the sharp contrast between His watchful prayers of singular devotion to the Father’s will, and the sleep that overcame His apostles. We must remain watchful in the moments of temptation, vigilant in prayer to see and to resist sin’s enticements. Our task is to combine a willing spirit with an obedient body. Resisting temptation involves recognizing the spiritual danger, plus activity fleeing from its allurement (Jas. 1:14; 1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Tim. 2:22). By relying on the Lord’s strength, we can avoid entering the door of temptation that leads to sin and death (Jas. 1:14-15). May our prayer ever be, “Our Father…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:9, 13).
5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. (1 Thessalonians 5:5–7, NKJV)
The return of the Lord will not overtake Christians suddenly and unexpectedly, because we “are not in darkness” (1 Thess. 5:4). Paul uses light and day to describe the moral readiness of Christians concerning the coming of Jesus. What does it mean to be “sons of light” and “sons of the day?” The gospel called us out of sin’s darkness (1 Pet. 2:11). By the redemption we have in Christ we have been delivered from the power of darkness and conveyed into the Son’s kingdom (Col. 1:13). We used to live in the darkness of sin, “but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). Darkness and night describe the moral slumber of living in sin. Just as we are unaware of our surroundings in sleep, the darkness of night gives cover to sin and its excesses. We must refuse to be lulled to sleep by the enticements of sin. Let us live vigilantly in truth and righteousness, abstaining from everything that intoxicates the mind and soul. Sons of light are sober, diligently living with self-control and not indulging the flesh with sin. That is why sons of light are ready for the Lord’s return. Walk in the light of truth, not in the darkness of sin (1 Jno. 1:5-10). Be ready of His return.
“And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:37, NKJV)
Spiritual watchfulness is a consistent theme of Bible. “Take heed” is used dozens of times (to beware, to look, to pay close attention, BDAG, 179), and “watch” is used dozens more. Jesus warned His disciples to “take heed” for the approach of divine judgment against Jerusalem, to avoid being deceived, and to be ready to flee (Mark 13:14-23; Matthew 23:3-5). To be watchful about spiritual things requires being alert; the watchman who sleeps is useless (Isaiah 56:10). Spiritual watchfulness requires soberness; the self-control that comes from clear-headed thinking. Worldly distractions are intoxicating, and destroy our ability to “watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6). Spiritual watchfulness must be coupled with prayer. “Take heed, watch and pray” is Christ’s exhortation to be prepared for judgment, and to avoid sin (Mark 13:33; Matthew 26:41). Spiritual watchfulness means always being ready: 1) For the Lord’s day of judgment (Matthew 24:42-44); 2) To resist the devil and escape sin (1 Peter 5:8; Luke 21:34-36); 3) To fulfill your God-given work (2 Timothy 4:5); and 4) To stand fast in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:13). We desperately need the Lord’s constant reminder to “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:13). Here’s why: Only those who are ready will enter eternal life (Matthew 25:10).
1 And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. (Mark 3:1–2, NKJV)
Why do you look at Jesus? Mark tells us why the Pharisees and Herodians watched Jesus: to accuse Him (see Mark 3:6). They did not see in Jesus a teacher of good news, who showed heaven’s mercy by miraculously healing the afflicted, and who brought news of salvation from sin (Mark 3:3-5; 1:14-15). They did not see the Son of God. No, they saw a man who did not honor their Sabbath traditions (Mark 2:23-28). This, they could not abide. So, they watched Jesus closely, so they could bring charges against Him as a Sabbath-breaker and an evil man. Again, we ask, why do you look at Jesus? Do you look to Jesus as your Lord, who has authority over your words and deeds? Do you look at Jesus with humble submission, and do His will? Or, do you look at Jesus to find fault, or to rationalize away your sins? Why we look at Jesus is crucial in determining what we see when we look at Him. The Pharisees and Herodians saw a Sabbath-breaker. His apostles saw the “Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Who do you see?
3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. 4 Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men who work iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies. (Psalm 141:3–4, NKJV)
The enticements of evil are prevalent and powerful. Those who practice sin allure the innocent to join them with offerings of personal pleasure and satisfaction. “Their delicacies” are designed to tempt, but leave the soul famished and starved of righteousness. One’s heart must not be willing to accept the temptations to join with evil and practice sin. Like David, petition God to set a guard over your mouth, that you will not utter compliance and agreement with evil. We cannot eat appetizers from the table of sin, without becoming workers of iniquity. Pray tell: how many delicacies off the table of iniquity can one eat (how much sin can one commit) without causing spiritual harm? To ask such a question is to answer it! Therefore, we must always “depart from evil and do good” (Psalm 34:14; 1 Peter 3:10-11). Do not play around with sin. Protect yourself from the delicacies of those who practice sin. You cannot “partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21).
I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, (Isaiah 62:6, NKJV)
Jehovah’s prophet, Isaiah, speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem, God’s people under the new covenant of Christ (Galatians 4:24-26; Hebrews 12:22). This is a prophetic reference to the church of Christ. God is pictured giving protective watch care over His people. Just as ancient cities had watchmen on their walls to warn of approaching danger, the Lord God has equipped His church with watchmen, who watch for our souls. Elders in every church “watch out for your souls” (Hebrews 13:17). Gospel preachers are to be “watchful in all things” (2 Timothy 4:5). Each Christian is to “watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). Christians watch for spiritual danger to themselves, and to their brethren. What a blessing it is to be warned of spiritual danger! God’s watchmen “never hold their peace” as they speak of the Lord and His salvation. God has placed on the walls of Zion. Instead of refusing the watchman’s warnings of sin, hear and heed the warnings given from the Lord. To do so is to accept God’s protection of your soul.
13 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done with love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13–14, NKJV)
The Christian must be spiritually alert every single day. The enemy is always stalking his prey, and he intends for you to be his next meal (1 Pet. 5:8). Like soldiers guarding a stronghold, we must not waver as we strive “together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). Moral courage is essential, and when added to your faith it helps you attain to the spiritual strength you need to battle the adversary (2 Pet. 1:5). The most striking part of Paul’s call to arms is the directive to do all things with love. Being steadfast in your faith and undeterred by the devil’s attacks is accomplished by loving God, His truth, your brethren and your enemies in all you say and do. The fight is on. Thanks be to God, “who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).
42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:42–44, NKJV)
People who predict when Jesus will return are destined to fail. Repeatedly we are told Jesus will return unexpectedly and without warning (“as a thief in the night”, 1 Thess. 5:2). No one on this earth knows when Jesus will return: “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them” (1 Thess. 5:3). Therefore, always be prepared for His return. This begins by becoming a Christian and continues by being a faithful disciple of Jesus. The “wise and faithful servant” does his Master’s will and will be ready when Christ returns (Matt. 24:45-47). The foolish servant makes light of God’s long suffering by being unfaithful to the Lord (Matt. 24:48-51). Which servant will you be today?