Stand Your Watch

I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved. 1st General Order

Jesus instructed his followers to keep watch:

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  (Matthew 24:42)

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:13)

Others version of the Bible translate “keep watch” (gregoreuo) as “remain vigilant,” “be alert” or “stay awake.”

I suppose that decades of military service probably color all my perceptions, but I hear military language in this word. The guard stands his watch, staying awake, focusing on his task and remaining vigilant to any danger. Keeping your eyes open and remaining alert is the basic job of a sentry.

There is another kind of watching. When I was younger and the skies were darker, I used to sit outside at night watching for shooting stars. I stared into a patch of sky until – hopefully – I spotted the streak of light that marked the descent of a passing meteor into earth’s atmosphere. I kept my eyes open and trained on the sky; if I blinked, I might miss it. Apart from staying awake and staring at the heavens, there was nothing else to do. I don’t think this is the kind of watching Jesus had in mind.

“Men of Galilee,” [the angels said to the disciples], “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

Jesus’ return will be impossible to miss; there is no need to watch the sky.

Rather, I think he is asking his disciples to “stand watch” with a soldier-like dedication. There is a job to be done and the disciples must stay focused on their tasks. Inattention threatens the community and endangers the mission.