THE WATCHFUL EYES HAVE IT!
A few weeks ago, I had a bit of trauma when suddenly the central vision in one eye clouded, and straight lines looked wavy. I went to the doctor, and he diagnosed the issue and gave my eye its first injection. I’ll need them monthly, perhaps from here on. While this could happen to my good eye, too, the doctor assures me I won't go blind. Still, should both go bad, it will greatly thwart my ability to read and write. It's scary, but we are trusting, praying, and standing on God's healing promises to do what doctors cannot do.
This new predicament has made me consider afresh the miraculous gift God has given us with our physical eyesight. Great eyesight is 20/20. On the other hand, eyesight that’s 20/200 in your best eye, is considered legally blind. As I considered physical eyesight, my thoughts wandered to spiritual eyesight and the gift that is, too. I thought of how those with 20/20 spiritual vision would be extremely effective in God’s Kingdom. I also thought of how many of us probably have more like 20/200 spiritual vision and, therefore, can get little done that truly matters.
Because it’s easier to see physically than spiritually, it’s also easier to trust our physical sight. Yet Jesus wants our spiritual eyes open, bright, and watchful. When He walked the earth, healing physical sight was simple. Opening spiritually blind eyes, however, was challenging. Many people outright refused His intervention.
Jesus said of the curious crowds following Him, “For this people’s heart has become calloused. . . they have closed their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes. . . and I would heal them” (Matt. 13:15). Others, like His disciples, simply had difficulty grasping the issue. Jesus said to them: “Do you have eyes but fail to see. . .?” (Mark 8:18) Later, in the Book of Revelation, He reprimanded the Church of Laodicea for their blindness. He said, “I counsel you to buy from me . . . salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” (Rev. 3:18)
What would Jesus say to us? What IS He saying? I believe we take this issue far too lightly. Throughout the Bible, God calls His people to watchfulness. That includes us! We cannot be watchful, however, if we are lukewarm and indifferent about it. Negligence in this may seem benign, but it can have terrible consequences: spiritual eyes dulled --> spiritual eyes closed to God's light --> hearts falling to temptation. If this progression continues, we will soon be in the camp of those who justify sin and flagrantly defy God’s will. One day, along with the rest of the lost world, we will suffer a soul-destroying spiritual blindness that leaves us wandering a deadly path to perdition.
Just look at Judas, who got so twisted in the wrong direction that he “watched for an opportunity to hand (Jesus) over." (See Mark 14:10-11.) The scribes and chief priests may have started their careers with the best of intentions. In the end, however, blindly guarding their traditions, they rejected their Messiah. Instead, looking for ways to entrap Jesus, they “watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous” (See Luke 20:20.)
So much of this is about the simple choices we make. A significant drama concerning watchfulness took place with Jesus and His disciples during Passion Week. Let’s “watch” it unfold in Mark 13 and 14:
Mark 13: The Olivet Discourse (two days after the Triumphal Entry/Palm Sunday) – Jesus and His disciples left the temple, and one disciple pointed out the magnificent structure. Jesus replied that the buildings would all be torn down. The disciples responded, as we likely would, by asking WHEN this would happen. They, too, wanted a timeline of End Time events. Instead, Jesus ignored their area of interest and replied, “WATCH OUT that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many” (vss. 4-5). Wanting to drive home His point, He continued, “You must be on your guard” (v. 9). A few sentences later, warning against false messiahs, he said that even if they perform miracles, “do not believe it”! He continued, “So be on your guard: I have told you everything ahead of time”(See vss. 21-23.) He ends this sermon with a Grand Finale of warnings: “Be on guard! Be alert! . . . keep watch . . . keep watch. . . (don’t be) sleeping . . . WATCH!” (See vss. 32-36.) After all this stern warning, wouldn’t the disciples take watchfulness to heart?
Before we move on to Mark 14, let’s clarify a few things: When Jesus urged His disciples to stay awake and watchful, He meant that they stay observant, alert, and vigilant – like dutiful watchmen standing on a city wall guarding a city, especially at night. In the spirit realm, watchfulness means having spiritual eyes trained and wide open. It involves seeing and discerning what God is doing and guarding oneself and others against demonic schemes and attacks.
Here are a few examples from Scripture: We watch for deceivers – “Watch out that no one deceives you (Mark 13:5). We watch against sin and carelessness in our own lives – “Watch your life and doctrine closely (See 1 Tim. 4:10.) We watch for Christ’s Second Coming – “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour (See Matt. 25:13.)
Now, let’s get back to the disciples. Did they take Jesus seriously related to watchfulness . . . at all? Mark 13 ended, a couple of days had gone by, and the events of Mark 14 were upon them. Let’s see what happens next:
Mark 14: Maundy Thursday/1st day of Passover (two days after The Olivet Discourse; includes Last Supper, Gethsemane, Jesus’ arrest) – Jesus and His disciples were together for what we call “The Last Supper.” Here, the Lord told them, "You will all fall away . . ." Peter, certain of his commitment, confidently responded, "Even if all fall away, I will not." The Lord corrected him, saying he would deny Him three times before the rooster even crowed twice. Peter emphatically declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And the others made the same claim. (See vss. 27-31.)
Next, the group went to Gethsemane. Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him. He left them to go pray for a while. Before doing so, He confided with great distress, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and KEEP WATCH.” (See vss. 32-34). He poured His heart out to the Father, surrendering to the divine plan. When He returned, he found the three sleeping. This must have disappointed Him deeply. His dearest friends slept while He agonized. He said to Peter, “Are you asleep? Could you not keep WATCH for one hour? WATCH and PRAY so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (See vss. 35-38.) He then went away and prayed more. Upon returning, He found them sleeping again. A third time He left and returned, saying, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (See vss. 39-42.)
As the evening progressed, things became increasingly horrendous. Jesus was seized, the disciples scattered, and the Sanhedrin condemned Him. Peter, who had been told repeatedly to WATCH and who vehemently said He would always stand with the Lord, denied He knew Him three times. The account of Peter that night ends, “Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him . . . And he broke down and wept” (vs. 72).
What tragic words: “Then Peter remembered.” He failed His Lord, he failed His convictions, he failed His vow. What overwhelming failure . . . simply because He considered sleep more needful than watchfulness. As they say, “Hindsight is 20/20.” In other words, hindsight is perfect vision. For Peter, however, hindsight was brutal.
We call a mechanical timepiece a “watch.” Why? Certainly not for hindsight! Now we have smartwatches. With all they can do, they seem almost essential. But what about God’s people focusing on their spiritual needs? Wouldn’t it be great to depend upon spiritually charged internal smartwatches? As we are called to be spiritual watchmen for our families, our churches, our nation, and the world, I believe the Holy Spirit wants to be that in us. It requires opening our eyes and depending upon Him. In these perilous times, how else can we avoid the myriad of spiritual landmines? Let’s be clear: We have been warned, we have been given resources, we can prevail, and we MUST prevail.
In Bunyan’s 300-year-old classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, * the new pilgrim, “Christian,” came to a terrifying spot with ferocious lions seemingly blocking his way. Fortunately, the gatekeeper named “Watchful” was at his post, fully alert. Seeing that Christian might turn back, he called, “Are you so weak and timid? Don’t be afraid of the lions, for they are chained. . . Keep to the middle of the path, and you will not be hurt.” Bunyan knew then what we must know now: God wants to raise up faithful watchmen/women to help guide desperate pilgrims safely home.
Paul strongly urged the Ephesian church leaders, “KEEP WATCH over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So BE ON YOUR GUARD! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. (Acts 20:28-31)
Indeed, this is very serious business! The End of the Age is upon us, and fierce wolf packs are ravaging, not only lost souls but a far too unwatchful and ill-prepared Church. Let’s commit to wiping the sleep from our eyes and crying out for God’s deliverance from spiritual sleepiness and slumber; let’s look to the Holy Spirit for bright and perceptive spiritual eyes – even the 20/20 vision kind; and let’s let Jesus work in us to build His Kingdom, gladden His heart, and make a real difference in our world. Amen.
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph. 5:14)
“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” (Rom. 13:11)
Jesus: “What I say to you, I say to everyone: WATCH!” (Mark 13:37)
(And please pray for my physical eyesight; and let’s all pray for each other’s spiritual eyesight, too! Thank you, and amen!)
More watchfulness scriptures:
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