Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
Glorious coming of our LordMathew 24:42-51
Three major themes are emphasised in the parables that conclude Chapter 24 of the Gospel of Mathew: watchfulness (parable of the fig tree [24:32–34]); preparedness (comparison of Christ’s return to the days of Noah [24:36–41]); and the return of Jesus (coming of the kingdom in its fullness [24:42-52]).
The Parable of the Faithful Servant (or Parable of the Door Keeper) found in Mathew 24:42-51, Mark 13:34-37, and Luke 12:35-48 shows the importance of keeping watch. The metaphor of a thief breaking into a house at night is used to describe the return of Jesus. Since we don’t know the day or the hour of Jesus's Second Coming, we always have to be “ready”. In the Gospel of Mathew, being prepared means carrying out deeds of mercy, forgiveness, and peace that characterise people of the kingdom of God.
The Importance of Staying Alert
The parable opens with the injunction: "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come" (Matthew 24:42). A disciple is expected to be prepared for the Lord's coming, staying alert and awake at their post. In this passage, the word "alert" is described by using the Greek verb gregoreo, which is used 22 times in the Greek New Testament. It is used in some passages to describe “staying awake or being watchful”. This word is also used in Christ's appeal to his sleepy disciples as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before His crucifixion (Matt. 26:38, 40, 41; Mark 14:34, 37, 38). However, the word has been used the most to describe “being in constant readiness” and “being on the alert".
In 1 Thessalonians 5, Apostle Paul says, “So then, let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (5:6). Here, the word “alert” is employed by Paul to denote constant readiness or alertness in relation to “the day of the Lord”, since we are children of the day. Unbelievers (children of darkness) are caught off guard because they are not alert to matters concerning God. They remain unprepared because of their unbelief. A second significant use of the word “alert” is found in Revelation 16:15: “Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame.”
Becoming Faithful, Wise Disciples
In verse 45, the subject Jesus deals with is about the “servant” — a term that commonly appears in Mathean parables but also denotes Jesus’s disciples (Mathew 20:27). A good servant is defined by his virtues — faithful and wise. The person who proves to be a faithful servant will be recognised and rewarded with eschatological blessing. In both Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures, the family servant might work within the home and hold responsibility for other servants. In Greco-Roman society, a servant was often the manager of a household or an estate. With the master’s return imminent, this servant must be “faithful and wise” as he carries out his responsibility to provide food to the other servants.
The word “faithful” is used thrice in Mathew in parables found in Chapters 24 and 25 (24:45; 25:21, 23) that describe the appropriate behaviour to be followed until Christ’s return. The word “wise” appears seven times in Mathew. It primarily describes a person who acts with discipline and responsibility in the present so as to secure felicity in the future. It is also used to characterise the disciples’ spiritual acumen that prepares them for the challenges of their ministries (Mathew 10:16). Thus the faithful and wise servant is one who takes responsibility for the others, and whose “master” is Jesus.
On the other hand, unfaithful service will also be recognised but it will be severely condemned and punished. The evil servant proves his nature through his selfish choices, which are manifest in his evil behaviour. He fails to do the master’s bidding and turns to personal indulgences. In verse 51, the term “hypocrites” is used as an epithet to condemn those who have the outward form of religion, but fail in basic obedience to God. The hypocrites’ true misery is brought out by “weeping and gnashing of teeth” — a common Mathean symbol of eschatological judgment outside of God’s kingdom.
Throughout church history, there have been groups that were convinced about the world coming to an end and hence quit their jobs and waited with eager anticipation for Christ’s appearance. In Matthew’s understanding of the Christian faith, the second coming doesn’t cause us to quit the job of being the church in the world; rather it calls us to take it up with even more urgency. The main point or response that the parable is supposed to elicit is readiness, watchfulness, responsibility, preparedness, and faithfulness owing to the unknown time of the master’s return.
God has given us time, talent, and treasure so that we use them to serve Him and help others. Are we ready or still sleeping? If we have been faithful and prudent in using these God-given gifts, there is nothing to fear on judgment day. We should welcome the day by believing that Jesus has prepared a mansion for his faithful and prudent servants (John 14:2).
This should make us realise that we need to be always ready to meet Our Lord, carry out actions that are true, and have a clear conscience. Every moment is precious in God’s eyes, and the one necessary goal is working to attain salvation. This is more important than anything else we can accomplish in life. God wants us to be faithful and follow His will daily. Every day, we need to renew our spirit of faith in God and his revelation, which guides us on the path to eternal life.
Dear Jesus, amid the busyness of life, help us to pause for a while and listen to You, to be alert, ready and attentive to Your presence as a friend.
Thought for the Day
"To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude towards life. It is giving up control over the future and letting God define our life."
– Henri Nouwen