Ready & Waiting
Join us as we look at Jesus' teaching on the end of the age and his second coming.
Matthew 24:3 CSB
3 While he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
After leaving the temple, Jesus foretold a day when the PHYSICAL temple in Jerusalem would be no more. PREVIOUSLY, He also mentioned he would go away and then return. In addition, he had told his disciples they would one day rule the nations with him - on thrones.
Matthew 19:28 CSB
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, in the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
So the question of the disciples was, “when is the renewal of all things?”.
The Olivet Discourse is the series of teachings Jesus gave to his disciples while they were on the Mount of Olives. There was not much time left before Jesus would be leaving this earth, and it seems like there is a lot packed into a short period of teaching.
As we approach this morning’s passage it is important that we keep in mind the context of these chapters. Let’s do a quick review:
Signs of the Times
24:4-14: the Kingdom of God will not be evident in the political and social courses of the ages to come. There will be unrest, wars, natural disasters and a lot of deception. This is not the end but is the TIME for the good news of Jesus to be preached to the ends of the earth:
Matthew 24:14 CSB
14 This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
The condition of this physical world should not overwhelm us or send us into the depths of despair. They are, rather, a reminder of the brokenness of creation, a creation that has turned its back on God, and the love of God that wants to redeem and restore it. You and I are a part of this time, and we have the joy and privilege of being called by God to share his message of forgiveness and restoration with the nations.
Signs of the second coming of Jesus
24:15-35: the return of Jesus will happen, and it will not be something that slips under the radar! It will reach across the globe and happen instantly. There will be a second triumphal entrance of Jesus, this time to establish his eternal kingdom. This is not some Zombie apocalypse, this is the "renewal of all things” when there will be a new earth, new Jerusalem, new people for God’s glory.
Matthew 24:33 CSB
33 In the same way, when you see all these things, recognize that he is near—at the door.
Timing of the second coming
24:36-44: The only one who knows when the renewal of all things will come is God the Father. Humans, angels, even Jesus was not given the time these events would take place.
It is the two reminders in this section that launched us into the parables we have been looking at:
Matthew 24:42 CSB
42 Therefore be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.
Matthew 24:44 (CSB)
44 This is why you are also to be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
The word “alert” means “to be awake”. The word “ready” means “to be prepared”.
Parables on being alert and ready
Jesus then gave an illustration of what is means to be alert and ready by telling a story of a servant. That servant had a choice of how he/she would choose to live while waiting for the renewal of all things.
- act wickedly
- act faithfully
I am not sure we read this one together, so let’s do that this morning:
Matthew 24:45–51 CSB
45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give them food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom the master finds doing his job when he comes. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and starts to beat his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 that servant’s master will come on a day he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus was speaking to his disciples. Aside from making it clear that there would be a delay, and a rather long one at that, he was encouraging them on how to live during that delay. The key verse is:
Matthew 24:46 CSB
46 Blessed is that servant whom the master finds doing his job when he comes.
Let’s notice a few things in here:
- The goal is to be a wise and faithful servant.
- The one who is wise and faithful will be in charge of God’s household - the people of God, the church.
- They will be the ones who will feed/teach
- They are to be faithful to Jesus, his message and teaching that message to the nations.
I believe that 24:46 provides a key for us to use to unlock at least one understanding of these parables.
Parables on being a wise and faithful servant.
In chapter 25 we have 3 parables that talk about what it means to be a wise and faithful servant. They answer the question of what it means to be alert and ready. They are very famous parables:
- The 10 Young Women (25:1-13)
- The Investors (25:14-30)
- The Sheep & the Goats (25:31-46)
As with most of the parables, there have been many interpretations and applications made over the years. I would not be bold enough to say that I have THE WAY of interpreting them, rather, I would like to show you one way that I believe we can understand and apply the lessons of these parables.
25:1-13: The Parable of the 10 Young Women.
It is obvious that this is waiting for the return of Jesus and the need to be ready and alert. These are the keywords given to us in 24:42, 44. The WISE ladies were ready/prepared by having oil. They planned for the delay and made provisions for it. The FOOLISH ladies did not prepare and were not ready. Interesting, all of them were asleep, or NOT alert for a while. However, they did awake and those that were ready were then alert and were taken to the banquet.
That teaching closes with the reminder:
Matthew 25:13 CSB
13 “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.
25:14-30: The Parable of the Investors
We often refer to this as the parable of the talents.
When you think of the word “talent" what comes to mind? [abilities, skills, etc.]
Our English word “talent” took on the meaning of a natural ability or skill, FROM the Greek concept of things that are valuable and have weight, but that usage of the word did not take shape until mid-15th century.
Our Bibles have the Greek word “τάλαντον” (talanton). That word refers to the amount of weight a soldier could carry. In Revelation 16:21, most translations mention hailstones that way about one hundred pounds. That is from this same word. However, in this parable, most translations keep the Greek word… the NLT reads, “bags of silver” and the Complete Jewish Bible reads this:
Matthew 25:15 CJB
15 To one he gave five talents [equivalent to a hundred years’ wages]; to another, two talents; and to another, one talent—to each according to his ability. Then he left.
Talents, in this parable, are not abilities and gifts, but most directly they are a large sum of money. The master entrusted a great treasure with his servants for them to invest with and generate a return.
In banking this makes sense. But the kingdom of God is not about money, is it? Though some religious groups might want you to believe that this parable is about having possessions and gaining more of them, to “demonstrate the vast wealth of God”, that is not a all what this parable is about.
With that in mind, let’s read the parable together:
Matthew 25:14–30 CSB
14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey. He called his own servants and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two talents, and to another one talent, depending on each one’s ability. Then he went on a journey. Immediately 16 the man who had received five talents went, put them to work, and earned five more. 17 In the same way the man with two earned two more. 18 But the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money. 19 “After a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five talents approached, presented five more talents, and said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I’ve earned five more talents.’ 21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.’ 22 “The man with two talents also approached. He said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I’ve earned two more talents.’ 23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.’ 24 “The man who had received one talent also approached and said, ‘Master, I know you. You’re a harsh man, reaping where you haven’t sown and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ 26 “His master replied to him, ‘You evil, lazy servant! If you knew that I reap where I haven’t sown and gather where I haven’t scattered, 27 then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and I would have received my money back with interest when I returned. 28 “ ‘So take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 30 And throw this good-for-nothing servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“For it” would be the kingdom of God. “master going on a journey” would be Jesus leaving this earth and eventually returning.
First, let’s remember the context of these parables. They are about being a “wise and faithful servant”, right? They are about the second coming of Jesus and the “renewal of all things.” These are parables about the kingdom of heaven. IN particular, this section of parables is about how we are to live during the time between Jesus leaving this earth and the second coming that will usher in the ends of the ages.
The modern church has very much personalized and individualized this passage. When you do that it make a great devotional and can even preach really well: “Use your talents for Jesus”. If you are a dancer, dance for Jesus. If you are a banker, bank for Jesus. If you are a baker, bake for your elders!
Jesus is speaking to a tax collector, zealot, fishermen… do you think his message to his disciples on the Mount of Olives, just before he leaves them is, “Hey, when I leave, use those talents you have and be productive”? If so, I am sure Simon would have had all sorts of inner conflict!
It is apparent from the LIVES of the disciples, as we track them as Apostles through the book of Acts, that their understanding of these parables was NOT our modern version of “use your talents for Jesus”.
PAUSE: I should pause and say that we MUST use the abilities God has given us for His glory! However, that is NOT the point of this passage. Paul talks about this in Romans 12. While we are to use our abilities, we also must rely upon the spirit of God and not just do things in our own strength.
We mentioned in previous messages that these parables relate to the sermon on the hill. This passage is a story about possessions and money - investing it and getting a return on it. However, Jesus also taught this:
Matthew 6:19–21 CSB
19 “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
When we studied that together we made the statement that the treasures in heaven are other people who come to know, love and serve our Savior. THEY are the real treasure!
Luke 12:31-34 also point out that treasures we store in heaven can be what we are rewarded with by the way we treat others:
Luke 12:31–34 CSB
31 “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. 32 Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
When we consider these two teachings about treasure and wealth, you can see that they spill into this parable as well as the next on about the sheep and the goats.
I think one of the keys to meditating on this passage is asking, what brings the master joy?
Matthew 25:21 CSB
21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.’
It was the Father’s “good pleasure” that people would come to know him and experience the rest that God can bring through Jesus (Matt 11:25-30).
It was the “good pleasure” of the Father to adopt us into his family through Jesus. (Eph 1:5-6).
The master’s Joy, if the Master is Jesus, would be something along these lines:
John 15:9–12 CSB
9 “As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you.
The Master’s joy is found when we REMAIN in the love of Jesus. When we CONTINUE to do the will of God. When we demonstrate that LOVE to OTHERS.
Do we see this message in this parable? Do we see this message in this section of teachings? What about the rest of chapter 25?
God has entrusted us with the stewardship of the GOSPEL and of RELATIONSHIPS.
NOTE: Each was given a stewardship based upon what the MASTER thought they could handle. There was no difference in the reward for the one who doubled five bags of silver versus the one who doubles two bags. Though the net gain for the master was different, the reward for the servant was the same.
The pastor of the small church who is faithful to FEED & LEAD (24:45) a small part of God’s family is just as significant to the kingdom as the pastor of a mega church who is faithful to FEED & LEAD. The missionary who spends an entire life permeating a people group with the love of Jesus and plants seeds and may not even see the results is as significant to the kingdom as an evangelist who holds an event and sees thousands come to Jesus. We should be careful not to measure kingdom value by sheer volume of converts or size of the church, but by faithful services to God and others.
The ECONOMY of the kingdom is faithful service with whatever God has given you. It is seeking first the kingdom of God (Matt 6:33).
I believe this is a message initially for the disciples: don’t STOP doing what you have been entrusted to do just because Jesus’ return is delayed. Instead, invest in the kingdom by making disciples so the kingdom will continue to grow until it reaches the ends of the earth. THEN the Father will not delay and will send the Son.
I believe this is also a message to church leaders today: CONTINUE to make disciples and invest in the kingdom. Whether you have been entrusted with a small flock in Podunkville or thousands in the Big City, be faithful to invest in the kingdom by loving others, teaching them about Jesus, helping them know the Father.
While this parable seems to be directed at those that lead, the next certainly applies to us as individuals and even helps us better understand what it means to be alert and ready.
It is also a message for everyone of us a children of God - we must be wise and faithful | prepared and alert | doing what we can in the place God has put us to invest in the kingdom by loving God, loving others, and sharing Jesus with our neighbors.
The Apostle Paul put it this way:
Ephesians 5:15–17 CSB
15 Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
May you and I be ALERT and READY. May we be found WISE and FAITHFUL carrying out the mission of God every day that he delays the return of Christ knowing that his delay is so that more people might come to know him.
While this parable seems to be directed at those that lead, the next certainly applies to us as individuals and even helps us better understand what it means to be alert and ready. Lord willing, we will dive into that next week.