Calling God a thief seems more than just a little ridiculous. Yet, Jesus uses the imagery of a thief to talk about the Day of the Lord.
The Day of the Lord is an ambiguous phrase. Many (perhaps even most) Christians, think of the “Day of the Lord” as the day that Jesus will return. From a Jewish perspective, this is not the case.
The Day of the Lord is a phrase used to indicate an occasion where/when the earthly way of things (the status quo) will be shaken. There are two primary uses of this phrase. The first is the impending consequences of unfaithful behavior by the Israelites. The second is when God restores Israel by throwing down those that oppressed them.
This is not to say that the “Day of the Lord” is not Jesus’ return (for that is the penultimate Day of the Lord). It is better to say that there will be many Days of the Lord.
The comparison between the dramatic Day of the Lord the Jews were expecting at the time of Jesus and the thief in the night is not incidental. In many respects, the impending Day of the Lord was Good Friday, followed by Easter, followed by Pentecost.
To Christians, we don’t view these as “thief in the night” moments. General history, however, only finds them important due to Christianity. The death of Jesus was just another day of Roman “justice” and fearmongering. The Resurrection was only witnessed by a few.
Pentecost, by far, was the biggest event (people-wise) of the three, and yet it was relatively insignificant to an Empire, and only “another” sect to deal with for the Jews. Yes, this sect became troublesome for the Jews and the Romans, but it didn’t start that way.
One of the biggest struggles that Christians have about the “Day of the Lord” is that they continue to look for big signs. They want drama. They want action.
Jesus’ return may indeed be on clouds of glory (he says it, but is it literal or imagery), but Jesus didn’t say how many would witness it.
1) In the US, we often look to elections or wars as “the Day of the Lord”. What other events come to mind?
2) Why is it important to keep the “thief” motif in mind when thinking about Jesus’ return?
3) Why do you think Paul uses dark and sleep to talk about “the thief” (think beyond the obvious)?
Father, as we wait for your Son’s return, let your Holy Spirit burn inside of us, and keep the light of your love and glory shining, that we are ready for such a time as that. Amen.