Wait and Watch Are Active Words

Preface: The epistle of James exudes confidence in Jesus’ return, and it also provides crucial perspectives on the law, the judgment, and the Second Coming.

Readiness for Christ’s return—this is what our passage is all about. The parable tells us that His return bears similarity to how customary Jewish weddings were celebrated. Here “Jesus teaches publicly concerning His second coming.”1

To many, waiting connotes passivity, thus it becomes more of a state of mind rather than a physical activity. But what does the context of our passage say?

The Greek prosdechomai (rendered “to wait for” in verse 36) means “to look for” with a view to favorable reception. This describes the preceding verse: “Be dressed . . . like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet” (verse 35). Someone said that “be dressed” means “be active, diligent, determined, ready.”2

Two Greek words represent watch in our passage: gr_gore_(verse 37) in this case means “to keep awake”; phylak_ (verse 38) means “a guarding.” In the parable, the master told his servants to be active, diligent, determined, ready like men waiting “not in idleness, but in watchfulness and earnest preparation.”3 Jesus warned His listeners: “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him” (verse 40, NIV).

“Watchfulness is the keynote of this brief parable.”4 In the light of parallel passages and other parables that stress the same point, Richard Rice writes, “Several of the parables in Jesus’ great sermon on last things . . . emphasize the importance of preparing for the future by fulfilling our present responsibilities. . . . The watchful servant was the faithful servant, the one at work when the master finally came home.”5

“The attitude of ‘watchfulness’ . . . presupposes a direct connection between the present and the future . . . Christian eschatology views the end of history in continuity with what precedes it. The future will complete, or fulfill, the process of history as a while. But its relation is particularly close to the period of history that directly precedes it.”6

Waiting for Christ’s second advent is not waiting passively. Though the hour of Christ’s return is unknown, it is certain. Even now He reminds us, “You also must be ready.”
1. Ellen G. White, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 797.
2. Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments: A Commentary and Critical Notes, vol. 5 (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury, n.d.), p. 444.
3. White, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 798.
4. Ibid., p. 797.
5. Richard Rice, The Reign of God (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University Press, 1985), p. 347.
6. Ibid., p. 346.