Grace For The Journey
In our passage of Scripture today, Jesus calls “blessed” those who are “watching” when the Master returns. Why does Jesus call these disciples to “watch?” Have you ever wondered? Before we used it to refer to a timepiece worn on one’s wrist, the word “watch” was originally a verb meaning “to be awake,” or “to remain awake.” Even today we speak of staying awake through “the watches of the night.” Sentinels or guards “keep watch” during the night, keeping their eyes open, looking for activity of some kind or other. It is important for them to “stay awake” and “stay alert.”Over the years clocks have chimed in order to wake people or to keep them awake. In the 16th century, timepieces evolved from chiming clocks to chiming watch-clocks, or pocket-watches that again chimed in order to keep one alert and awake. Before watches were worn on the wrist by men they were carried inside their pockets. It was not until World War I that men, finding it rather impractical to have these pocket watches stuffed inside their jackets and pockets when they were in the middle of a battle, began actually strapping them around their wrists so that they could see the time more readily. But the noun “watch,” referring to the timepiece we wear today around our wrists was originally more like a chiming clock used, as one 16th century source puts it, as “a clock to wake up sleepers.”
Jesus wants to “wake up sleepers.” In the verses before us today, Jesus tells two parables about being awake, being alert and “watching.” In our English translation the word “watch” occurs about four times as Jesus now turns His teaching away from discussions about greed and worry over possessions to teaching about His Second Coming. The context is very helpful to us: the antidote to greed and worry about our possessions is to focus on the Lord’s Second Coming, to watch for Him. Isn’t that helpful? If I want to be cured of my greed or worldliness or worry, I need only focus on my Lord’s soon return. It really does reorientate the mind to focus on what really matters.
So, our study this morning is about our Lord’s second coming. Jesus has come once; and He will come again. He will return and when He returns we will want to be ready. The question this morning is, “Are you ready – or not?” We will go verse-by-verse through this passage from verse 35 and following. Jesus says there are a few things we must be doing . . .
First . . .
I. Be Watching!
Verse 35 gives the image of a person ready for action. Jesus says, “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning.” We do not talk like that today. Today we would just say, “Be ready to go.” In Jesus’ day, men frequently wore long robes and, I do not know if you have ever tried to run in a robe, but it is not easy! Maybe you have stepped out in your household to go to the mailbox on an early Monday. Maybe you have had the unfortunate experience of a car approaching quickly, or a dog running at you, and you decided to run back inside the house. It is not easy running in a robe. You have got to grab the loose stuff around your waist and sort of hold it together. It reminds me of a young man I saw a few years back, back when it first became popular to wear baggy pants. This guy’s pants were so low and he was in a hurry running down the street so he had one hand on his pants, holding them up at his waist, and the other hand flailing in the air like a windmill. So, verse 35, “Let your waist be girded.” That is what it means. Gather your robe up around your waist. Cinch your belt tightly. Be ready to run.
Jesus also says, “and your lamps burning.” When it got dark in Jesus’ day, it was dark! There were no headlights, stoplights, or streetlights. It was pitch black. If you were going to be doing something in the evening you had better be prepared. You bought your lamp oil in advance and you were ready with plenty of oil all evening. So, Jesus teaches, “Be ready for my return. Be watching for it.”
Then Jesus gives two parables or similitudes, two portraits of what it means to be watching, ready, and waiting for Christ’s return. The first is of a watching servant, verse 36, “And you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately.” This is pretty straightforward. In Jesus’ day weddings often went late into the evening and so if a man had a servant, the faithful, waiting, and watching servant would be up at night waiting and watching for his master to return. If the servant were ready for his master to return, he would receive something of a blessing from his master, as Jesus tells us in verse 37, “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Verily, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.” The master returns to the faithful, watching servant who serves him! The master blesses the servant by giving him a meal and blessing him with the joy of fellowship.
When you apply this as Jesus’ intends then it is really quite remarkable . . .
If we are ready, watching for our Lord’s return
Then we will be blessed when He comes.
Just as the master of the home returns to his watching servant and blesses him, so our Master, the Lord Jesus will bless us at His return. His blessing upon us will culminate in a divine heavenly banquet of joy and fellowship.
Verse 38 tells us, “And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.” The second or third watches of the evening, according to Roman reckoning of time, was anywhere from 9 PM to 3 AM, what we call “the middle of the night.” The point is “Be ready. Be ready by watching for Christ’s return.” It could happen at any moment. This is the point of the second portrait in verses 39-40, the portrait of a faithful, watching homeowner, “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Verse 39 is strikingly simple. If the master of the house – the homeowner – knows the hour a thief is planning on robbing his house, what is he going to do? He is going to be sure someone is watching his house! He is going to call the police or camp out himself, watching and waiting. Jesus uses this metaphor of being awake, watching, and waiting for His return – why? – because, in verse 40 He says, “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Verse 40 serves as a reminder that we should never waste our time plotting what we believe to be the exact date Christ will return. No matter how many maps or charts we may have Jesus says, “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Do we not see this in the predictions people have made regarding Christ’s return? They predict a date … it does not happen, then they revise the prediction, maybe several times. Predictions of Christ’s return have been going on for years. A popular book initially published in 1970 and probably collecting dust on a bookshelf in many of your homes is a book by Hal Lindsey entitled, The Late Great Planet Earth. In it, Lindsey strongly suggests that Jesus Christ would return before the end of the 1980s. Of course, Lindsey modified future editions of his book. Also, during the 1980s, Edgar Whisenant, a former NASA engineer, published a book on the rapture. His book was called, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988. There are still predictors today but they are less and less as people focus more on worldly things and lose sight of this important truth.
Jesus says, “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:2, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.” The point is, “be ready . . . Be watching.”
Secondly, Jesus says . . .
II. Be Wise!
Jesus is giving this great teaching and then Peter raises his hand and asks something I used to ask in high school, “Is this going to be on the test?!” That Is the essence of the question Peter asks in verse 41, “Then Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?’” Peter is asking, “Lord, is this for us or for everyone? Do we need to be writing this stuff down? I love the fact that the Lord never answers his question. That is probably out of mercy for Peter’s sake. Jesus’ teachings apply to everyone. While the disciples were the primary target of His teachings, His teachings were meant for everyone to hear and obey.
Jesus goes on to talk about a wise steward or servant in verses 42 through 44, “And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Verily, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.” Jesus speaks here about the wisdom of our doing as He teaches until He returns. As we saw earlier, there is a blessing that attaches to the person who is busy doing God’s will and obeying God’s Word when Christ returns. This is the point of what Jesus says in verse 43, “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.” There is a blessing that attaches to the watching one, the wise one, who is living for the Lord when Christ returns. Whatever else verse 44 means, it conveys the idea of blessing and reward for the faithful person when Christ returns. Be watching . . . Be wise: the Son of man is coming at an hour we do not expect.
Thirdly . . .
III. Be Warned!
In verses 45 and 46 Jesus says, “But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.” Here is a warning to the unconverted. Here is a warning to the non-Christian, to the lost soul who will not be ready for Christ’s return. He is not a wise servant, but an evil servant. He lives only for himself. Verse 45 says he eats, drinks, and beats others. It is a life of self-focus and self-love. This is the attitude of the person who is not a Christian and says, “Oh, I need not surrender my life to Christ today. There will be time enough for that later in life.” Jesus says in verse 46, “The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.” He dies lost. Be warned: the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Jesus warns not only the lost, but He also warns the saved. He warns not only the non-Christian, but the Christian, the Christian who is not ready for Christ’s return. Verse 47 says, “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (or with many blows, or beatings). This is a reference to divine punishment. This is not the punishment of the unbeliever about whom Jesus is speaking in the preceding verses, but the punishment of the Christian, the believer who is not found doing what Christ says when Christ returns. We do not know what all Jesus has in mind when He speaks of this divine punishment coming to the Christian. Thankfully, it does not concern the Christian’s soul. The soul is saved because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer by faith. But if the believer slides back from following Christ and Christ returns at that moment then the Christian experiences some kind of punishment, at the very least a loss of reward of some kind. That is not a good thing.
The Bible refers to sort of person in 1 Corinthians 3:14-15, “If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” That is, the Christian is saved, but he enters into eternity in a shameful, and regretful way. Be warned. Then Jesus concludes this section with a general warning to all people, it is a principle that we would expect from our just and righteous Lord. Verse 48 says, “But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” This verse teaches that God holds us responsible for the light we have received. Greater spiritual light received should result in greater obedience to that light. God holds us responsible for what we have read, learned, and heard in His Word. A child in the faith is not expected to know as much as the person who has been a Christian for several years. God expects us to grow and He holds us accountable to the knowledge we have received and teach.
This is why the Bible says in James 3:1, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” God holds us accountable to the spiritual light we have received. There is no room in the Christian faith for just sitting idly by and doing nothing. He has revealed His Word to us so we must read it. We read it so we must obey it. It is very much at the heart of what Jesus says to His disciples in Matthew 28:20 about making disciples of others. He says, “Teach them to do all things I have taught you.”
What to Do Until Christ Returns:
1) Look To Christ And Be Converted To The Faith.
Spiritual life begins here. The warning of verses 45-46 is aimed at those who are not converted, those who are lost. If we live our days as though it were all about us, our selfish pursuits, our selfish interests, then the Lord will come at an hour we are not aware. If you have been putting off a life of full-on commitment to Christ, thinking you will have time to do that in the future, hear again the warning of verse 46, “The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.”
2) Live For Christ And Continue In The Faith.
There is a strong call in this passage for perseverance, for continuing in the faith. Only those who continue to the end are truly converted. We are to live our life each and every day for Christ. The Bible says in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
The true believer does not wish to be “saved as through fire.” If you are asking, “What is the least I have to do and still go to heaven,” you have far greater concerns than you may realize. The true believer lives daily for Christ, continuing in the faith.
Live out the teachings Jesus gives in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” How can you let your light so shine before men?
Two things . . .
a) Have An Upward Focus.
Live each day as though Christ were going to return in the evening. Imagine if you knew Christ were going to return tonight at 5 o’clock. How differently would you live? Be like the faithful, watching servant, ready for his or her master’s return. Remember, too, that looking for Christ’s return is the antidote to worry, greed, and an inordinate desire for possessions.
Have an upward focus and, secondly . . .
b) Have An Outward Focus.
This does not happen naturally. We are selfish by nature. By nature we are like the evil servant who drinks and abuses others. But when God changes our hearts we have an upward and outward focus. The Bible tells us in Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Let’s truly consider others better than ourselves. Let’s have an upward and outward focus each and every day. Let’s truly love one another, pray for one another, serve one another, and encourage one another.
Have an outward focus at work this week. Put others first. This is the attitude of the faithful, watching servant. He does not live for himself, but for others. Watch how God honors your outward focus by taking away your worry and your inordinate desire for money and stuff.
Students as you are beginning a new school year, let me encourage you to have an outward focus. Forget about yourself. Go up to other students and ask about them. Go to the lonely and befriend them. Talk to others. Engage others.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”