The Gospels – The coming of Jesus and the faithful, sensible servant
Matthew 24: 27-33, 42-51
Jesus describes the setting of His return to earth in Matthew 24 in cataclysmic, ominous terms—the sun will be darkened, the moon give no light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken (v29 NLT).
There will be deep mourning among all the people of the earth as they see a sign appear in the heavens—and then Jesus, the Son of Man, will return on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory! With a trumpet blast angels will be dispersed to gather his chosen ones from all over the world (v30-31 NLT).
Life as we know it, that is, the people alive at the time of His return, will never be the same. Just as the first coming of Jesus the Messiah changed the world, redeeming mankind from bondage to sin, the second coming of Jesus the King of Kings, will put a period on the current age and a new age will begin.
The church and creation itself has been longing for His return since the moment He ascended to heaven. We pray “Come, Lord Jesus.” And we stand on the promise of His return in hard times, in tribulation, and suffering. We look for the day when there will be no more tears, no more pain, not one more child murdered in the womb or abused in the world. Jesus will bring the peace of God to our hurting, broken world.
He just doesn’t tell us when, exactly, He will return. In fact, Jesus said he doesn’t know, neither do the angels, but only God the Father. His advice to the disciples and, by extension, to us, is to keep watch. Be vigilant.
“You must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” Matthew 24:44 NLT.
What does that mean, exactly? To be ready all the time? To keep watch like a homeowner who, through knowledge of his plan, could thwart the efforts of a burglar? (v43 NLT).
If the Son of Man will come when we least expect it, how can we change our lives so that we are living more expectantly? Expecting the return of Christ at any moment, yet not dwelling on it obsessively to the exclusion of everyone and everything else? Jesus doesn’t want us to misinterpret a cloud in the sky or a curious pattern in the milk of a latté, and go running to the highest mountain expectantly looking for him to appear. What then? How shall we live?
“A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them.” Matthew 24:45 NLT
“But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? Matthew 24:48-49
So Jesus describes two people who both serve the master, one is responsible, one is irresponsible. One is called faithful and sensible while the other is called evil.
The sensible servant knows what his employer wants and expects. With the faithful servant the employer knows that he could drop in at any time of day and this person would be doing his job—not wasting time because no one was watching.
The evil servant takes advantage of his position. He takes advantage of his employer, he doesn’t treat others with kindness or respect, and he is loose with his lifestyle, making careless choices.
This dichotomy strikes much of contemporary culture, and even the church squarely between the eyes, as it defines our selfish, materialistic lifestyles as evil—even as servants in the kingdom. Because our focus is ourselves and our convenience and fun, rather than on the masters business.
The responsibility of the servant was to manage the household and feed them (v45). This is the same as the role of the Christian in the world, the role give to Adam in the garden, that is, the priesthood of creation.
The follower of Christ should be live simply and serve others, to be a caretaker of the planet, nurturing God’s creation in a sacramental, restorative way.
In practice, to live as faithful, sensible servants of Jesus, living in anticipation of His return, is to take our eyes off of ourselves and our comfort and accumulations of goods, and invest our lives in the service of others, through acts of kindness and love, with no expectation of return.