Jesus had left the Temple, never to return. He was met, in Matthew 24:36-44, by the questioning disciples who could not understand what Jesus had been talking about concerning the destruction of the Temple and the end of the world.

It may be good that we do not know exactly when Jesus Christ will return. If we knew the date, we might be tempted to be lazy in our work for Christ. Worse yet, we might plan to keep sinning and then turn to God right at the end of our time. We know that Christ’s second coming will be swift and sudden. There will be no opportunity for last minute repentance or goodbyes. The purpose for Jesus telling us about his return is not to stimulate predictions and calculation about the time, but to warn us to obey him every day.

God, the Father, knows the time. The disciples’ question, like ours, about the time of Christ’s return is misguided because no one but the Father knows the answer anyway. Believers who claim they can narrow down the time of Christ’s return to a generation or particular year or day are misguided by zeal. Recent pamphlets and popular paperbacks show the tenacity of such misguided approaches. We can no doubt expect a new collection of such misguided approaches.

Jesus, the Son, models obedience. Jesus’s words disclose his obedience to the father and the voluntary limitation of his divine attributes. Jesus’s omnipresence was limited while on the earth. Also we may say that just as Jesus did not excise his omnipotence except to advance the kingdom of God, so he did not exercise his omniscience except to further the Kingdom. The incarnation did not take away divine power, but it did limit actualities.

We need both to recognize the miracle of the incarnation and to see afresh Jesus’s own obedience as a model for us. Christians who fail to recognize the full extent of God’s condescension in the Incarnation cannot fully celebrate the miracle of Advent season. What Jesus could have done as the God-Man did not predetermine that he did so in his humanity. The implications and applications of this are great indeed.

Application for Christ followers were the “W + F” — watchfulness and faithfulness. Jesus illustrates the unexpectedness and unpredictability of his return by comparing it with the arrival of the flood in Noah’s day and Noah’s visible and verbal witness. Likewise, those who reject Jesus, his person and his words are unprepared for the future. For those who call themselves disciples, Christ’s followers, there will be no excuse for their being surprised by the foretold events (vv.25-31). Yet the uncertainty of the time calls for watchfulness and faithfulness. Since it might happen at any time, we must remain watchful at every time.

The central truth of this account is focused on one’s relationship to Jesus. The prospect of judgment combats careless Christianity. A life focused on the Savior will produce vigilant discipleship. We must allow Jesus Christ to be our main focus.

J.B. Morris leads the Rock Hill United Methodist Church.