Good morning! I don’t listen to much country music, but today’s passage (Matthew 24-25) brings one song to mind: Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying”. It tells the story of a man who finds out he has terminal cancer, and how his life changed after the diagnosis. Part of its chorus goes: “And I loved deeper, And I spoke sweeter, And I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying, …I hope you get the chance, To live like you were dyin’.” This comes to mind today, because Jesus’ final words before his betrayal, arrest, crucifixion and burial call the disciple to vigilance and watchful preparedness.
Jesus foretelling a great hinge moment, like a pregnancy nearing the end of its term, when all that has been gives way to all that will be. This moment’s arrival is imminent but imprecise. However, it will be unmistakable when it is at hand. Jesus uses apocalyptic imagery from the later prophets to emphasize how pivotal and transformative the coming of the Son of Man will be. It will also be a time of great trial for the disciples of Jesus, requiring patient endurance through suffering. No doubt Matthew has in mind—at least in part—the persecution that Jesus-followers experienced at the time the gospel was written, some 40-50 years after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
Matthew’s Jesus then relays several parables about the importance of watchfulness. These have been (mis)used to scare and threaten people into making a faith claim about Christ, under the threat of imminent and eternal damnation. As I understand the Bible though, Jesus means more to awaken people to the need for mindfulness, getting off the mental autopilot that comes naturally when life is so fast or predictable that we are no longer fully present to each moment.
Two more parables balance out the fearfulness that could come from living with the kingdom of heaven’s perpetual imminence. The parables of talents and sheep/goats emphasize making the most of where we are now in order to do good in the world. In the parable of the talents, the person judged harshly is constrained by his attitude of fear and trembling, unwilling to risk anything for the sake of potential loss. By contrast, the other talent-holders (like “sheep” in the next parable) made the most of what they had in order to bring more into the world. Jesus cautions his followers to seize opportunities in the present to live with mercy, kindness, compassion, and righteousness, even though it requires some risk and discomfort. In short, to live like we are dyin’. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Matthew 26. Thanks for reading!