As 1999 drew to a close, many “believers” made their way to the Mount of Olives to “watch” for Jesus’ return. Is that what the Scripture means by “watch”? Are we supposed to spend the day searching the sky so we don’t miss Him?
The Garden of Gethsemane can teach us the real meaning of “watch.” Jesus asked his chosen three to “watch” with Him. It is obvious that Jesus did not mean to be on the lookout for the authorities, because Jesus already planned to give himself up to them. After agonizing in pray for a while, Jesus found the disciples sleeping. He asked, “What, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40,41). Peter soon demonstrated how weak the flesh is. When the authorities arrived, he bravely unsheathed and wielded his sword. But later, when a simple servant-girl asked him if he had been with Jesus, Peter denied it.
Like Samson and many of us, Peter was strong for the physical battle, but caved in during the spiritual battle. Jesus had even forewarned Peter that this would happen; but Peter was self-confident. For that reason, he did not bother to watch in prayer so as to resist the coming temptation.
We do not watch for Jesus’ coming by looking heavenward. Nor do we watch by drawing the sword against the enemies of God. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). We watch by being alert to personal spiritual dangers. We watch by being true to Jesus in every situation. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man comes” (Matthew 25:13).