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 (Manna 27)
My Time Is Near
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My Time Is Near

Jason Hsu (Los Angeles, USA)

When I first thought about the theme of this issue of Manna, I have to admit that I was a little intimidated. The theme “racing towards the year 2000” has a kind of esthatological ring to it that forces us to look into the future. But I know nothing about the future! Whenever I think about the future I am always reminded of a conversa­tion I had with someone from our church. I remember asking questions about the significance of the New Age Movement. I explicitly remember discussing the possibil­ity of the apocalyptic monarchical world government being instituted as mentioned in Revelation chapter 13. But he looked at me and said, “Why are you asking me?! I’m no prophet!” This incident left a deep impression in me.

When we talk about racing towards the year 2000, we are, in a sense, trying to grasp the future, a future that often intrigues us. As humans, we realise that we know nothing of the future explicitly. James talks of those who devise great plans for the future: “Whereas you do not know about tomorrow” Uas 4:13-14). Jesus also teaches us, saying, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day” (Mt 6:34). Yet even if today’s troubles are enough for today, humanity has a seemingly inherent tendency to worry about tomorrow. On the other hand, we cannot take Jesus’ statement to mean we cannot even peer into the future. As Christians, we carry a living hope, a hope that cannot die. Our hope lies in the future, so all the limitless potentialities of our dreams and aspirations must also lie in the future. The future is rapidly moving towards us, but at the same time, we are also racing towards the future. And for me, this race towards the future is what the theme “racing towards the year 2000” signifies.

Racing towards the year 2000 is just another way of saying we must race toward the future; more specifically, it means we must race towards the coming of God’s kingdom. But this race should not be an exercise in predictions. Rather, if this theme is to have any meaning at all, it must carry a reality on a more personal level. In this light, how does the theme “racing towards the year 2000” relate to us personally?

I can think of two benefits of the theme: one is that “racing” brings with it a sense of imminence, that we do not have much time; secondly, focusing upon the future forces the issue of who we are and what we are doing in our present lives. Working from the common understand­ing of linear time, the conclusion that the present has a direct impact upon our future is inescapable. Accordingly, let us now move towards examining the dynamic effect time has upon our lives.


Many Christians set their hearts upon the material world or material enjoyments. Others have their hearts set upon an “eschatological” time when God will punish the wicked. To have our hearts set upon a new age is not contrary to the Bible, for even Jesus stated, “Now when these things [signs] begin to take place, look up, and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (1k 21:28). For a long time, Christians of different stripes have predicted, debated and hypothesised about the end of time. The millennium often becomes the focal point of a new era for the Christian. In this sense, many Christians are avid “New Agers”. Sadly enough though, while we live in the hope for God’s kingdom, we often fail to live up to the principles of the kingdom.

A group of Pharisees once asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was coming. How did Jesus reply? He said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ For, behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you [or within you]” (1k 17:20-2 1). We do not have to look anywhere “out there” for the kingdom, rather we must look within and among ourselves. We have to start asking ourselves if we are ready for the kingdom, not whether the kingdom is ready for us. Again, we should not even begin to worry about when the kingdom of God is coming if we cannot comply with the principles of that kingdom. If we live as if we are the rulers of our own bodies, as if we control our own destinies, then why do we even bother to look to an eschatological age?

But as Christians we recognise the fallacy of putting our whole heart into the belief that we control our own destinies. And we do not have to be Christians to realise this fact. We experience it everyday of our lives. We do not control our own destinies. We wish to get a hundred percent in the test, but we receive a poor score. We hope against hope to make a business deal, but we fail at the end. We look around us and we do not see beautiful trees and smiling faces, we see cold hard faces and smog thick enough to obscure the stars of heaven. Since we do not control our destinies, we need to pay attention to the signs of the times.


Finally, I want to leave you with a thought about Jesus’ perspective of time, a perspective that is probably very different from ours. As said before, we like to think of the “good times”. We like to dream of unlimited potential in our ambitious future. Sorrowfully, we often meet with the harsh reality of unfulfilled dreams and desires. But Jesus once told His disciples, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it [againi until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Lk 2 2:15-16). We often wonder what opportunities lie ahead of us. Respect? Fame? A great-looking spouse? But Jesus said something that left a deep impression in me. He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.” The kairos Jesus looked forward to was not part of a self-seeking ambitious enterprise, rather it was a cup of bitterness. It all fit together to make for a kairos. The disciples were listening, a donkey was prepared, a man was willing to lend his house, and a cross was waiting for someone to bear it. May our Lord Jesus help us to recognise our time. And may He grant us the strength of heart to seize hold of the opportunities we often do not wish to grasp. Amen.


            “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go… After this He said to him, ‘Follow me’” (Jn 21:18-19)



Time is a very important aspect of our social, biological and religious lives. Take for example, the Sabbath. As God’s covenant people, we are commanded by Him to remember, observe and keep holy the Sabbath, a concept that has a basis in the notion of time. As Christians, we often distinguish time — the “sacred” and the “secular”. So we think, “OK, I’ll go to church for a few hours today because today is sacred time.” When we consider whether to serve God, we think, “I’ll work for God later, when I’m about to die or when the world is about to end.” We think this way because we somehow distinguish between “God’s time” and “my time”. But we have to ask ourselves if this dividing of time benefits us in any way. For by such labelling of our time, God becomes part of our time schedule. We are often only looking at time from our point of view. How many of us, I wonder, actually consider God’s time schedule?

Jesus tells an interesting parable that forces us to reconsider our division of time. He shows us that it is not time in itself that matters, but what we do with our time. It is not so much the division of time, the distinguishing between 1996 and 2000, that matters, but what we are going to do between 1996 and 2000. In Jesus’ parable concerning labourers in the vineyard, the principle that comes across is that “how long” matters less than “what we do”. Jesus ends by saying, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” This statement is a complete reversal of our normal assumptions of order. What we think is important is actually in the last place, and what we feel insignificant is actually of the first order (Mt 20:1-16). One message from this parable is that we need to re-examine our priorities and values.


What is the significance of signs? Jesus once spoke about the signs of the times, using as analogy the weather. He said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘A shower is coming; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Lk 12:54-56). From Jesus’ statement we learn that “signs” do not imply good or bad. When we think of signs we often think about the ecological crisis, or the increase in earthquakes, and so forth. But actually signs do not, in themselves, forebode trouble. The clouds rising in the west bring rain, often considered a sign of blessing.

So what do the signs really tell us? Signs bring a measure of change, that is, signs are a turning point. Some Pharisees and Saciducees who wished to test Jesus once asked for a sign from heaven. Jesus answered, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Mt 16:2-4). So we find that signs, in themselves, do not forebode; rather, they signify a turning point. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for lacking the discernment to recognise the time which in Greek is the kairos.

The kairos means an opportune time or seasonable time; it is a time that brings something important, an opportunity that should not be missed. In our daily lives, we are often faced with krnros. When we reflect upon our lives, we often reminisce how we could have (lone things differently. We think to ourselves, “If only I had prepared a little harder! I could have got the best grade in the class!” ~. We say, “I wish I had gone on that trip. I could have made ten thousand dollars!” We slap ourselves in the face for the ~ opportunities that we have missed. We often see the opportunities after they pass, but by then, it’s too late. Today, Jesus may be asking you, “I am giving you an opportunity not to be missed. Will you accept it?” Perhaps God has allowed many opportunities, many seasons, to pass before us. Perhaps we have often turned God down, blinded by our own pursuits. I too can look back and see past spiritual failures. I too can look back with spiritual regrets. In a sense, we are like the Pharisees and Sadducees Jesus addressed. We are often blind to the signs of the times. If God grants us a kairos, let us accept it in readiness and humiity.

An opportune time is not necessarily a joyous time. •~. When we think of opportune times, we may think of times when we get lucky”, such as winning the lottery. ~ But Jesus must have had quite a different perspective. Jesus understood Himself very well. He knew His mission, and lie also knew His times. The Gospel of John often recalls Jesus saying, “My time has not yet come” (Jn 2:4; 7:6, 8, 30). Jesus was very sensitive to the timing of God. He did not fit God into His schedule, rather, He lived and (lied according to God’s schedule. We too must learn to understand the nature of our times. It is no longer a time to sleep and carouse. We are warned, “ But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipa­tion and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and that day catch you suddenly, like a snare. For it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth” (Lk 21:34-35).

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Author: Jason Hsu