You Must Be Ready (Matthew 24:44-46)
Topic: Matthew Passage: Matthew 24:44–24:46
You Must Be Ready
(One Mission: Until I Come)
February 26th, 2017
I. What Readiness Looks Like
Most of us know fairly well what readiness looks like in any number of settings.
Think about it for a minute. Would you know what readiness looks like if you were a student the night before a major exam? I think you would. Would you know what readiness looks like if you were hosting a dinner party or maybe the night before a big garage sale? I think you would. Would you know what readiness looks like if you were a general on the eve of a major battle? Would you know what readiness looks like if you were a runner only hours before a big race? Would you know what readiness looks like if you were about to spend a weekend camping in the woods?
I think for all of those, most of us can imagine at the least some basic things in terms of being ready.
But what about being ready for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? What does readiness look like for what is arguably the future's most climactic event? Sure, there are people who identify themselves as Christians, but do not believe Jesus is coming back. But the Apostle's Creed summarizes what Christians for centuries, Christians all over the world have believed about the Bible's teaching. Speaking of Jesus, it reads...
[I believe] On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a pillar of the Christian faith. It is an historical event. Without it, Christianity is nonsense. If we believe Jesus rose from the dead, then the teaching of the New Testament about Jesus returning is perfectly reasonable. In fact, Jesus himself spoke about His coming again. Let's look at one of those instances. Turn to Matthew 24.
II. The Passage: "The Faithful and Wise Servant” (24:44-46)
Matthew 24 contains a section of teaching by Jesus that is traditionally referred to as the Olivet Discourse. The name comes from the location where Jesus spoke these words: the Mount of Olives. He spoke to his disciples as they looked to the west, over the Kidron Valley, to the city of Jerusalem and to the Temple that rose above the city.
What I’d like to do this morning is spend the majority of our time on verses 44-46. And the reason I want to focus on those verses is because they emphasize what it means to be ready. But before we go there, let’s do a quick survey of what we find in the earlier verses of this chapter.
1. What Came Before Concerning What Comes After (vs. 1-35)
Right away in this chapter, we learn Jesus and his first followers are talking about Jesus' “coming” and “the end of the age”. Look at verses 1-3:
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple.  But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”  As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Now the statement that Jesus makes here about the destruction of the temple would have been incredibly disturbing to the disciples, to any Jew for that matter. Obviously, they want to know when this is going to take place. And as their question indicates here, they’re already connecting this with the dawning of a new Messianic age when Jesus will rule in power.
But it was Jesus (in v. 2) who prompted their questions by responding to their admiration of the Temple. You see, in the closing verses of chapter 23, Jesus had already talked about judgment coming upon this generation (v. 36) and their house being left “desolate” (v. 38).
So what we see in chapter 24 is Jesus warning His disciples, and subsequently, Matthew’s audience. He is warning them about the days surrounding the destruction of the temple and about “the end” as Jesus calls it in verses 6 and 14. He warns them about false Messiahs, false prophets, about political instability, about natural disasters, and even how they themselves will be persecuted.
If you scan down to verse 15, you will notice that when Jesus talks specifically about the destruction of the Temple itself, He warns all who might hear his words (notice Matthew’s comment here “let the reader understand”), he warns them to leave Jerusalem and Judea. Why? Because of what is described in Luke 21:20: “armies” will surround the city and desecrate the Temple, as Matthew also indicates here using language from Daniel in the OT.
And of course, the words of Jesus Christ were completely accurate. Within a generation, in less than 40 years after Jesus spoke these words, the Temple in Jerusalem would be desecrated and destroyed. Listen to how Josephus, an eyewitness to these events, describes the destruction of the Temple that took place in 70AD:
And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious [the rebels] into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, they [the Romans] brought their ensigns [their banners and eagle standards] to the temple and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator [commander] with the greatest acclamations of joy. (Jewish Wars, Bk6, Chp6)
But look at verses 29-31. After referring to this awful event, Jesus goes on to describe His return and the “closing of the age”, to use the words of the disciples from verse 3. But how is it that Jesus places His return right after the events surrounding the destruction of the Temple in 70AD? Did we somehow miss His return in the First Century? The second coming of Christ doesn’t seem like one of those things you could overlook. So how do we make sense of this? Well look at what Jesus tells us in verse 32:
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.  So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates.  Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:32-35)
Notice what Jesus does here. He emphasizes the distinction between the tribulation surrounding the destruction of the Temple and his return. Verse 29: “When you see these things taking place”…what things? All of the trials and events He described in verses 4-28. When you see those things, know what?...know that “he is near, at the very gates.”
Verse 34: “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all THESE THINGS take place” What are “these things”? The same “these things” in verse 33, that is, all of the trials and events he described in verses 4-28. And again, we know from history that Jesus was exactly right. Within forty years all of those things did take place. But what about the next event that was to follow, the return of Jesus?
Well, I think it’s enough for us to say the same is true for us today as it was for the Christians in 71 AD: “…He is near, at the very gates.” Jesus Christ is poised to return. God's timing is not ours. According to II Peter 3:8, a day is like a thousand years to Him, and a thousand years like one day. But rest assured, Jesus is coming back. “…He is near, at the very gates.”
Now, I very quickly just moved through almost forty of the most controversial verses in the Bible. I did so because I believe it’s important to think carefully about the details that Jesus’ gives us here and the timing and relationship between these things.
But I believe it is more important that we focus on the end of this chapter, because in the closing verses of Matthew 24, we find the clearest indications of what Jesus really wanted his followers to know; and what He really wants us to know.
2. What We Do Now In Light of What He Does Then (vs. 44-46)
Look at what we read in our main verses, in verses 44-46:
Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.  “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.
Did you hear Jesus? “You also must be...ready.” But what does readiness look like? What does it means to be ready? To sum it up, to put it simply in light of Jesus' words here, I think we can say being ready means being a faithful and wise servant of Jesus.
So how can someone know if they are a “faithful and wise servant of Jesus”? Well, Jesus tells us some incredibly important things here about what being a “faithful and wise servant”.
First of all, look at what He tells us in verse 44. In light of that verse, we could say that a “faithful and wise servant”...
1. Knows He Doesn't Know When to Expect the Master (v. 44)
Jesus couldn't be any clearer in verse 44...Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. The urgency of being ready now is directly connected to the uncertainty of Jesus' coming.
When you were in high school or college and you knew you had a test on Friday, when would you study? Thursday night? Maybe Friday morning But if the teacher told you on Monday that the test could be given at any moment during the school week, you wouldn't put off studying would you? No you would make sure you were ready as soon as possible.
Now even though Jesus is quite clear in verse 44, many Christians have ignored his statement. In 1843, William Miller, a Baptist layman and amateur Bible teacher predicted, based on his study of the book of Daniel, that Christ would come the next year, in 1844. Eventually the exact date was determined to be October 22nd, 1844.
As that day approached, people all over the U.S. sold all their earthly possessions and left their homes. When the day finally did come, many donned white robes and went up on mountains or in trees to wait for Christ. Of course, you can probably figure out how that story ended.
He is coming at a time we do not expect. That's precisely why we should be ready at all times. A “faithful and wise servant” knows this. He or she also...
2. Knows What the Master Expects of Him (v. 45)
Look again at what Jesus says in verse 45: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?”
As we see here, being “ready” involves carrying out the master's will. For the servant described in this simple parable, the master's will is clear: to make sure everyone in the household is fed at the proper mealtimes. That is his job; that is his duty.
But what about us? How can we be ready in terms of doing the Master's will? Well, we can know that will by knowing the Bible. The same Jesus who taught his followers about his “coming” and “the end of the age” is the same Jesus who taught his followers about money and marriage, about work and words, about pride and possessions, about service and suffering, about lust and love, about giving and government and God.
And He affirmed God's will from the OT, and he authorized His apostles to speak about God's will in the rest of the NT. And at the end of this very gospel, in Matthew 28, Jesus charges his apostles to make disciples of all the nations, “teaching them to obey all of I have commanded you”.
So to be ready, we must be “faithful and wise servants”. And to be “faithful and wise servants”, we must know and carry out God's will, in every area of our lives. But look again at verse 46. We see there that, in regard to the Master's will, a “faithful and wise servant” also...
3. Knows When the Master Expects It of Him
Verse 46: Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. This idea connects us back to verse 44, and the unexpected timing of the master's arrival. If you keep reading in Matthew 24, you will meet a servant who did not know when the master would return, but did know the master's will; he did know the job he'd been given. But the master's absence tempted him to become apathetic and lazy.
But the faithful and wise servant knows the Master could come at any time, and he knows WHEN the master expects him to fulfill his duties: at all times. And so even though the master is away, he will still wake up at the same time each morning, and carry out his responsibilities just as he has always done. You see, the same thing that motivated that servant when the Master was home will be the same thing that motivates that servant when the Master is away:
Paul puts it this way in our passage from last week: II Corinthians 5:9…So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. Now the “home” or “away” in that II Corinthians 5 passage is talking about our place on earth or in heaven. But the idea is the same. Whether we walk in heaven in the bodily presence of the Master OR walk in His bodily absence here on earth, our goal is still to be pleasing to Him.
III. Changing Masters
And in fact, that brings us to heart of the matter...which is the heart. If being ready for the second coming of Jesus means being “faithful and wise servants”, then we must talk about your heart. Listen to what an apostle named Paul wrote about being servants or slaves.
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,  and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Rom 6:16-18)
A faithful and wise servant is “obedient from the heart”. But that can only happen when we have “been set free from sin”. You see, each of us is born into this word as “faithful servants of sin and self”. So before we can talk about being ready for the return of Jesus by being “faithful and wise servants”, we must first deal with the question of how can we change masters. How can we be set free and become servants of the only true Master, Jesus Christ?
The answer to that question takes us back to the foundation of the Christian faith. We cannot be prepared for the second coming of Jesus until we have truly embraced His first coming. He suffered on the cross for our sins, so that we could be forgiven. And He rose from the dead in order to give us a brand new life, with a brand new heart, and best of all, a brand new master.
And wonderfully, it's that new heart that motivates us to grow as “faithful and wise servants”. It is not a chore. It is not simply duty. It is not a star-chart, system of merit. We are not earning anything. We simply want to please Him because we find such pleasure in Him. We simply want to live for Him because he so graciously died for us. By God's grace, Jesus becomes our new North Star.
And all this can be ours by simply believing; by trusting that Jesus did it all; to be ready for the His return, all we can do is trust that Jesus alone did everything we need to be right with God. And guess what? When you give your heart to His loving leadership through the forgiveness of the cross, you will find Him at work in your heart to make you a “faithful and wise servant”.
But what if we are not ready when Jesus returns? What if we are only playing at religion or still living in slavery to sin and self? Well, verses 48-51 of this chapter point to the just penalty that awaits us if we are not ready. Sin and self are cruel taskmasters. Their wages are death, physical and spiritual death.
But all of us can be ready. The door is open this morning. Will you trust Him? Are you ready to be ready?
Do you know what readiness looks like? We do now.
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