Last Sunday we began discussing the collection of Jesus’ parables that focus upon the end times. The first of these was called “The Parable of the Budding Fig Tree”. In it, Jesus indicated that there were recognizable signs that would precede His second coming. He advised His followers to be aware of these warnings, yet not fearful of them.
This morning we will consider 2 more end times parables that both deal with the same topic. Jesus will return at a time we don’t expect, and therefore we should always be ready for His arrival. While there will be many signs and indications that appear before He comes, ultimately what will Jesus find us doing when He actually returns? Will we be waiting expectantly or caught unaware?
Those who don’t believe in Jesus or don’t understand the Bible’s teachings on the end times will be shocked and totally surprised by the Lord’s return. They will be startled and woefully unprepared for it. As for Christians, while we don’t know exactly when He will arrive, we should be expecting Him to return at any moment and should not be surprised when it happens. Unfortunately, many of us are not watching or paying close attention…
I. STAY ALERT - Mark 13:34-37; Luke 12:35-38
“The Parable of the Watchful Slaves” is recorded in both Mark and Luke. In Mark’s gospel Jesus shared this story with His disciples on the Mount of Olives as a follow-up to “The Parable of the Budding Fig Tree”, which we studied last week. This would have been near the end of His earthly ministry, just a few days before the crucifixion. In Luke’s gospel, however, Jesus told the story to large crowds of people sometime during His earlier travels from village to village. Differences in the setting and minor details of the parable again suggest that Jesus told variants this story on multiple occasions.
The basic elements of “The Parable of the Watchful Slaves” remain unchanged in each rendition of the story. A master has left his home - perhaps to attend a wedding feast - and put his slaves or servants in charge during his absence. Apparently, he intends to return sometime at night, but the exact time is uncertain. Thus, his slaves are advised to be alert and ready - particularly the doorkeeper - so that when their master arrives they will be found doing what they’ve been tasked to do. The master will graciously reward those slaves whom he finds faithful at his return.
The master in this parable represents Jesus and the slaves are Christians - those who’ve been born again. While Jesus abides within Christians spiritually through the person of the Holy Spirit, physically He currently sits at the right hand of God the Father in Heaven. However, Jesus has promised to physically come again to the earth for his children. We don’t know exactly when He is coming, but we fully expect it to happen soon. While He is gone, we as believers have been called to faithfully obey and serve Him in numerous ways. If we heed His words, when the Lord returns we will be found ready.
II. BE ON GUARD - Matthew 24:42-44; Luke 12:39-40
“The Parable of the Indifferent Homeowner” is found in both Matthew and Luke. Matthew places this story during the same conversation as “The Parable of the Budding Fig Tree” which, as previously indicated, was spoken to the disciples on the Mount of Olives. Luke records it immediately following “The Parable of the Watchful Slaves”, which we just described above. The parable is relatively short, and is told quite similarly in both locations.
Jesus describes a homeowner who has inadvertently allowed his house to be broken into, specifically because He was not on guard. Had he been watching out and aware that the thief was coming, this negligent homeowner would have been prepared to protect his property. But being caught unaware, he was burglarized and suffered loss.
In this illustration the homeowner represents all people while the thief, interestingly enough, is Jesus. Many people are completely oblivious to the impending return of Christ, and have - figuratively speaking - left their houses exposed and unguarded. Their souls have not been redeemed and secured by the saving power of Jesus. Others have knowingly and willfully rejected the Lord’s warning. All of these non-believers are currently in grave danger and will endure great loss should Jesus come, because they are not adequately prepared. We must be constantly on guard!
III. NO EXCUSES
Though both of these parables urge us to be ready for the Lord’s return, they approach the subject from differing perspectives. “The Parable of the Watchful Slaves” describes servants who have been put on notice and told to be alert by their master. They, therefore, have no excuse for inattentiveness. They have been adequately warned to expect his return. This parable then describes how the watchful believers will be blessed by the Jesus when He returns. It is a wonderfully positive message.
On the other hand, “The Parable of the Indifferent Homeowner” describes people who do not expect to be robbed. As such, they are not on guard. While one might argue that their ignorance is an adequate excuse for their unpreparedness, ultimately it will not prevent catastrophe when the thief comes. This parable speaks of the calamity that awaits those who aren’t ready for the Lord’s second coming. It views the Lord’s imminent return form a negative vantage point.
I can recall being pulled over for speeding not long ago on the outskirts of a nearby town. The police officer asked me if I knew what the posted speed limit was in that area, to which I replied “No”. I had not seen the sign, so I didn’t know. That said, I was still speeding and still got a $100 ticket. My ignorance did not excuse my behavior or dismiss the punishment that followed. As a matter of fact, my naivete and lack of awareness was the real reason why I got the ticket. In the same way, ignorance of the Lord's return is not an acceptable excuse.
Jesus’ return is certain, but the exact moment is unknown and unpredictable. Therefore, we must always be ready for it. But what does such readiness entail? How are we to prepare for His second coming so that we will be found faithful?
First and foremost, we must accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We must repent of our sin and accept the forgiveness found in Christ. This is the starting point of a life-long relationship with Him. After we have been saved, we should commit our lives to serving Him every day. By studying His word carefully, we can become more familiar with the Lord’s commandments and learn how to love and obey God as He desires. In this way, we can live in a godly manner and be prepared for Jesus’ appearance.
So… are you ready?