Jesus came into the world over 2,000 years ago. Even historians who are not Christian support that claim. But as Christians, we believe Jesus came not only into the world of the historical past; we believe Jesus continues to come into the world of today. And he comes not only into the world in general, but into our lives in particular.
A question to ask then is this: How does Jesus come into our lives? One way he comes is described by Jesus himself through this short similitude:
Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. (Lk. 12:39-40).
What’s interesting about that first sentence is that it is not a warning against a future break-in. No, the break-in has already occurred. The crime has been committed. The thief was successful. But these words are part of a similitude. What is the real break-in Jesus is speaking about here? The second sentence tells us: it is the coming of the “Son of Man.” It is Jesus. It is the coming of the Reign of God or the Kingdom of God. The break-in is Divine—and it has already happened.
I find it fascinating that Jesus compares his coming and the coming of the Reign of God to a thief in the night. It’s almost comical. But the two things are similar. How? For one thing, a characteristic of most successful break-ins is the element of surprise. The break-in was not expected. Jesus’ coming was a surprise. And he came in ways that were not expected. He came not as a mighty king parading around in a chariot in the streets of Rome, for example. No, he came as a simple, lowly Jew trudging along the dusty roads of Galilee.
Jesus came not employing force or violence to spread his teachings. In Gethsemane, remember, he told Peter to put away his sword. Instead Jesus came using tenderness and love to convey his message. In the end he didn’t appear to defeat power and violence. On the contrary, he submitted himself to the power and violence of others. And although Jesus worked many miracles, he did not remove pain and suffering from the world. Instead he embraced his own pain and suffering, surrendered his entire being to Abba, and transformed suffering into redeeming grace. What a surprise he was!
Jesus, like that successful thief, comes in surprising and unexpected ways into our lives too. He comes in joy perhaps, but also in sorrow. He comes in good health, but also in sickness and pain. He comes in success maybe, but also in failure. He comes in goodness, but also in the midst of evil. Jesus comes secretly—often with no big splash. He has a habit of breaking into our routine, our complacency, our compulsions, our stubbornness. We may try barricading our doors. But it’s no use. No security system can keep him out. Why? I say this with great reverence: Jesus is just too sneaky. He’s just too good at what he does best: stealing people’s hearts.
Jesus comes into our world and into our lives as a thief in the night. He told us so. This means no one is safe from him. And in that truth lies the salvation of the world.
Let us pray:
Jesus, you come as a thief in the night
into our world and into my life.
You come in surprising and unexpected ways.
You come in things I’ve taken for granted,
in people I’ve written off,
in situations I’ve labeled hopeless.
You break through the barricades I’ve put up to keep you out:
busyness, stubbornness, anger, hatred, cynicism, apathy.
Jesus, you come as a thief in the night.
Thank you. Thank you.
Have you ever experienced Jesus breaking into your life in surprising and unexpected ways?
What barricades (besides the ones mentioned here) do we put up to keep Jesus out?
PS: Thank you to all the women of the Steubenville Diocese whom I met last Saturday at our retreat day in St. Clairsville, Ohio. I enjoyed my day with you. Thank you for warmly welcoming me and for inspiring me with your faith and goodness.