Luke 21 - Stay Awake

Luke 21 – July 25 

We are going to start off this week with a brief set of notes. This week we will finish out the book of Luke. We have now entered into passion week and are quickly approaching the cross and resurrection. Today we are reading the sermon that Jesus preached that is commonly known as “the Olivet Discourse.” We also find this sermon in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. It is an extended passage about the coming judgment of the Jewish nation as well as the return of Christ. There are only three verses in this discourse that are unique to Luke’s gospel; namely verses 34-36.  

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

What is the difference between being awake and asleep? When you are asleep, you are unaware of what is taking place around you. When you are asleep, you are completely disconnected from any sense of responsibility or urgency. When I sleep, people have sometimes referred to me as being “dead to the world.”

Jesus says that we are not to sleep. I think this has a double meaning here in Luke’s gospel. First, there is the literal way in which this was fulfilled. In the very next chapter we see Jesus telling His disciples to “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:40). When He returns, He sees that they have not heeded His command. “And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:45-46) They literally fell asleep and they literally were caught suddenly in a trap. I am certain the words of Jesus from the Olivet discourse must have been running through their minds after they ran from the chaos of the arrest.

But, there is also obviously a greater meaning to this command to avoid sleep. It is speaking about the way that we live before the Lord. Jesus uses three categories of living that are to be avoided.

  1. Dissipation – This is a tricky word to nail down. The Greek word is kraipalé (κραιπάλη). It is only found once in the Bible; right here in Luke 21:34. It is a word that is related to drunkenness, but it is not identical to drunkenness. It is more related to the way that people act when they are drunk. Some translations use the term “carousing.” I don’t think that is quite right. This word is less about a particular kind of vice and more about the way that people who are drunk simply don’t think at all. They become fearless of things that they should rightly fear. Drunk people have diminished inhibitions against practicing foolishness. One of the early church fathers, Clement of Alexandria, described this word as “the headache and giddiness that is caused by drinking much wine.” Jesus warns us then to be sober-minded.
  2. Drunkenness – You might this that this is the same thing, but there is a nuanced difference. By demanding that we avoid spiritual drunkenness, Jesus is commanding us not to push away from the important things of God by drowning them out with things that we imagine will make us happy. Drunkenness is a reference to a constant return to that which is self-destructive. It feels good, but it is bad for your soul. It is a deadly distraction. Jesus is telling us that we are not to live our Christian lives being constantly distracted by the things of this world. That is highlighted even more fully in the third aspect of His warning…
  1. The Cares of this world – As Christians, we are supposed to steward the gifts that the Lord gives to us. It is not wrong to own things. It is wrong to allow your things to own you. When your personal kingdom becomes your focus more than the kingdom of God, then you are not paying attention to the things which Christ is calling us to consider in Luke 21.

Church, we are called to stay awake so that we might “stand before the Son of Man.”