I was reading through Matthew’s account of the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24-25) and was curious as to what Jesus meant when he told the disciples to “be ready” (γίνεσθε ἕτοιμοι, Matt 24:44) and “be alert” (Γρηγορεῖτε, Matt 25:13). I was reading through this section because of some questions that came up during our evening study at church, and I was struck by these two commands.
By way of a bit of caricature, one could imagine Jesus telling his followers to be ready in the sense of those who prepared for the arrival of Y2K. Visions of folks stockpiling water and food, batteries, and other “survival” gear still come to mind when I hear the occasional reference to that particular time of concern. But such preparedness is certainly far from what Jesus envisioned.
So then, why should believers be ready? Obviously Jesus is teaching here about his second coming, namely that it will be at a moment when no one expects it. The three illustrations that precede this first command concern Noah’s contemporaries, the two people in the field and the two women grinding grain. These illustrations suggest (at least in my cursory reading) that the return of Christ will inaugurate/be commensurate with a time of judgment–the wicked will be taken away and that suddenly. If this is the case, how should those who remain, presumably the righteous, be “ready”?
Likewise, in the second example (Matt 25:13), Jesus commands his hearers to stay alert, practically for the same reason–Christ’s return will be unexpected and sudden. As in the previous example, what is meaning of the command to stay alert? If the wicked are separated from the righteous and the righteous remain, why do we be alert?
Does it mean to be ready in the sense that we are to be prepared to stand before the judgment seat? Or are we to be prepared in some other sense?
The parable preceding the first example seems to suggests that preparedness = faithfulness. In other words, at the return of Christ those who are found to be faithful will remain and will not suffer separation from God. The second command is also illustrated by a parable that suggests the same point–those who become “impatient” while the Lord tarries will be found unfaithful at his return and will, then, be separated from the faithful and their God.
Again, this is just a cursory reading without consultation of any particular lexical, grammatical, background, or other specialized studies, so I would certainly be interested in your input.
What do you think it means to be ready?
Αυτω η δοξα