What Jesus Doesn’t Know

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?'”
_Matthew 24:3

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
_Matthew 24:36

It is interesting that in the most comprehensive apocalyptic section of the Gospels, Matthew 24-25, no one ever answers that nagging question… when? The disciples ask Jesus, plainly and simply, and he answers with riddles about being ready capped off with a shrug… “I don’t know…” Why wouldn’t Jesus know something so important? Well, that might be the answer right there. If it was so important wouldn’t Jesus know it? The author of Matthew maintains, throughout his or her gospel, a Jesus who seems to know just about everything including his impending death (see Matthew 16 and 20) and even Peters’ infamous denial of him (Matthew 26). Jesus knows all that you’d think he would know except when he’s coming back. It is as though the author is making a comment about what is really important here. The disciples ask when, Jesus doesn’t know, but that doesn’t stop him from teaching for two whole chapters in direct response to their question.

When Jesus is asked “when?” he responds with how. He teaches the importance of being prepared. He teaches about how to live with eschatological hope. And how should one live? Should we spend all our time trying to figure out when Jesus is coming back? Should we be trying to “crack the code” of the Revelation? What Jesus doesn’t know must not be important.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'” _Matthew 25:34-36

Jesus teaches that what is really important is not the when but the how–how we should live. What’s really important is living a life in participation and cooperation with the Crucified Messiah, the kind of life that invites the stranger in. This is the kind of eschatological faith that gives importance to books like Revelation and Daniel even for generations other than the “last generation.” Jesus places all the importance of eschatology on life now.

It’s interesting that we spend so much time trying to figure out what Jesus didn’t know, rather than trying to follow how he lived.

Written by Wes Ellis

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2 Responses

  1. Oh yes,

    “Many spend much time looking for signs in the heavens and in the headlines […]”

    A more balanced perspective is given by Peter, who writes, “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. . . . Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace” (2 Pet. 3:8–14). ”

    from
    http://www.catholic.com/library/Rapture.asp

  2. Nice observation! That’s good stuff, Wes.

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