Always Ready, Always Faithful
Topic: Expository Passage: Matthew 24:42-51
When you are going to school, there are quite possibly no 2 words you dread more than “pop quiz.” It’s freshman history, and the bell just rang. But the teacher is a little late, so some people are sleeping, others are making small talk, and a couple of guys are trying to put something in the girls’ hair, but no one is getting ready for class.
Then the teacher walks in and says, “Good morning. Everyone take out a piece of paper and a pen, because we are taking a pop quiz.” The room suddenly goes silent and panic hangs in the air, because hardly anyone took their homework seriously.
Therefore, the occasional pop quiz holds the students accountable for faithfully absorbing the material vs. merely cramming for tests. If a teacher uses it right, it can be a very effective accountability tool.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been working our way through Matthew 24. In vv. 4–31, Jesus told us some important information about end times’ events. He described how the world will suffer during the 7-year Tribulation that will immediately precede his return. Then he described his glorious return at the conclusion of the Tribulation.
Then in v. 32, Jesus transitions from describing what will happen at the end to how we should prepare for Christ’s return. At the center of Jesus’ instruction is v. 36. We don’t know when Christ will return. Like those high school students, we can’t just wait until the last minute to believe the gospel and serve Christ. Instead, we must always be ready.
Jesus then closes the chapter with 2 simple parables that drive home how we should prepare for Christ’s return (read). Each of these parables makes a fairly simple point, but Jesus understands that we need lots of reminders. The first parable in vv. 42–45 is the parable of the homeowner. Through it Jesus simply challenges us that…
I. We must be always ready (vv. 42–45).
(Chart): Remember that the next end times’ event is the rapture of the church. Christ will take the church to heaven, and we will forever be with Christ. After that will be the 7-year Tribulation. And at the end of the Tribulation, Christ will return, defeat Antichrist, and establish his kingdom. In this context Jesus is talking about preparations for his second coming at the end of the Tribulation. Therefore, Jesus is specifically addressing those who will be alive during the Tribulation, not us, since again we will be in heaven.
However, there is still a lot here that we can learn about preparing for the rapture, because the rapture will be even less predictable than Christ’s return at the end of the Tribulation. We’ve seen that there will be plenty of signs that Christ’s second coming is near (v. 33). But the NT doesn’t give any signs that will precede the rapture. So, if anything we should be even more alert than the Tribulation saints. In light of this, notice the command in v. 42.
The Command: Jesus commands us to “watch” for the return of Christ. It’s a present tense command, which in the Greek means that Jesus is calling for constant We need to always be ready to meet the Lord.
So what does that mean? Being ready means that I am a good steward of every day, and I don’t put off anything important. It means that my conscience is clean before God and man. It means I am walking in holiness. It means I don’t have unresolved conflict with family or friends. It means I am faithfully sharing the gospel and serving others.
As a result, if Christ came back today, I wouldn’t lament the fact that I’ve left so much undone; instead, I’m excited because I’m ready to meet the Lord. So Jesus says to “watch.” Then he tells us why we must always be ready…
The Reason: “You do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” At first you might think that Jesus is contradicting After all he said in vv. 32–33 that there will be obvious signs that Christ’s return is about to happen. So if the Tribulation saints are watching world events in light of Scripture, they will know that the time is near.
But 36 says that only God knows the specific “day and hour,” and v. 42 says the same thing (read). Again this is even truer for rapture of the church. We have no idea when the trumpet will sound, and we will suddenly be in presence of the Lord. As a result, we are required to be always ready. And then in v. 43, he drives this home with a parable.
The Parable (v. 43): Jesus uses a striking illustration, which is why several NT authors borrow Jesus’ image of his return as a thief in the night. Of course, Jesus is not comparing his character to a thief. Rather, he is simply saying that a thief comes when you least expect it.
I think we all understand that thief would be pretty foolish if he called a bank manager and said, “Hey, I just wanted to give you a heads up that my crew and I will be there at 9:30 am to rob your bank.” That thief would need to find a new job because he’s not going to rob many banks. No, a good thief knows that he must come when you least expect it. And Jesus then applies the parable in v. 44.
The Application (v. 44): Jesus says again that we can’t predict the return of Christ. Here he goes so far as to say he will come “at an hour you do not expect.” So if you ever hear someone claim that they have found some secret clue or God has given them some secret revelation about when Christ will return, then walk away, because Jesus says they don’t know.
Instead of searching for clues, Jesus commands us “You also be ready.” Don’t be like the homeowner of v. 43. His doors are unlocked, he has cash lying around, and he is unprepared for the thief. No be always ready.
So are you ready to meet the Lord? I’m not asking you if you are perfect, because no one is. We all sin every day, and we all have regrets. So there will always be a sense in which we could be more prepared. And thankfully the blood of Christ is sufficient for all of our sin.
But on the other hand, Jesus is clearly calling us to live with sobriety and urgency. He is saying that we need to obey his Word today. We need to share gospel, make a disciple, and serve our brothers today, not when our kids are older or work is slower. So Jesus wants you to take stock of your life and ask, “Am I ready.” If you see things that need to change, then attack them, knowing that the Lord will give you the grace you need to change.
In sum vv. 42–44 use the parable of the homeowner to challenge us to be always ready for the return of Christ. Jesus then follows with the parable of the two servants, and through it, he challenges us that…
II. We must be always faithful (vv. 45–51).
In this parable, Jesus compares himself to the master of a large household, who goes away on a long trip. This trip represents the time while Jesus is away between his first and second coming.
Before the master leaves, he puts one of his servants in charge of the household. Specifically, he is responsible (v. 45) to feed the other servants in the house. Then the master leaves. And Jesus highlights 2 very different responses the servant may have to the master’s charge.
I think it’s important to frame our discussion by noting that Jesus is not contrasting a super spiritual Christian with wicked Christian. Instead, this parable contrasts genuine Christians, all of whom are spiritual by God’s grace, and unbelievers, who will face God’s eternal judgment.
I say that because the faithful servant is not some super saint who’s out leading thousands to the Lord. He’s just a regular guy who faithfully does his job. And the wicked servant doesn’t merely miss a reward; instead, 51 says that he ends up in hell.
So Jesus says there are 2 kinds of people in the world—faithful Christians and unbelievers, and Jesus will continue to talk about 2 kinds of people in the 3 stories of Matthew 25. I just wanted to make this clear, because a lot of people try to create a 3rd category of people who are saved but don’t live for the Lord. But there is no such thing, and if we think that this guy merely misses a reward, we’ll miss the full impact of the parable. This being said, notice that Jesus first describes…
The Faithful Servant (vv. 45–47): Jesus begins by highlighting…
His Character: Jesus says he is “a faithful and wise servant.” Again, notice what Jesus does NOT say. He doesn’t say this man is extraordinarily gifted—that he’s a genius, a born leader, or tall, dark, and handsome. He doesn’t say that he’s the second coming of Charles Spurgeon, George Whitfield, or Amy Carmichael. He’s not Superman; instead, he is simply “faithful and wise.” In other words, he’s dependable, trustworthy, and sensible.
I want to emphasize this for the sake of those who are easily discouraged or who have a very sensitive conscience. Some of you are tempted to view the Christian life like you are a one-legged man trying to climb Mt. Everest. You think, “I’m such a loser, and I will never make it. It’s just so hard.”
And the Christian life is hard, but Christ doesn’t ask you to do the impossible. He simply calls you to be “faithful and wise.” He just wants you to be a good steward of what he has gifted and called you to do. So don’t think that he is asking more than he actually is. By the grace of God, you can be “faithful and wise.” And this character carries over to this servant’s actions.
His Actions: Again, Jesus doesn’t ask this guy to do anything extravagant. He just asks him to manage the house while he is gone. And that’s what this guy faithfully does every day. He doesn’t know when the master is returning, so he can’t procrastinate. Instead, he feeds the household ever day, and he makes sure that everything else is in order. The house is clean, the property is maintained, and the livestock are well-cared for.
Therefore, when the master returns, v. 46 says that he finds this servant doing exactly what he asked him to do. I imagine him walking up the lane with an inspector’s eye. He quickly notices there is hay in the manger, and the pens are clean.
As he gets closer he sees happy servants whose needs are met. He sees the yard is clean, and when he walks in the house, it’s tidy, and everyone is well fed and happy. Therefore, when the servant sees his master, he’s not intimidated by the master’s return; instead, he can proudly and securely welcome him home knowing that he faithfully did his job. It’s a happy reunion. As a result, notice…
His Reward: Verse 46 says he is blessed. Maybe the master gives him a raise or a nicer home, or some time off. Jesus doesn’t say, but he clear that the master will more than make it worth it for this man’s faithful service.
And then he gives him a promotion (v. 47). When you compare this verse with the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, it’s clear that those who faithfully serve in this life will receive greater responsibility in the Millennial Kingdom. They will rule and reign alongside Christ. And Christ will more than compensate for all their sacrifice, all their service. You will never give more to Christ than he will give in return.
Again I want to emphasize that this servant didn’t do anything extraordinary. He just faithfully did his job. Therefore, God’s blessing is not based human standards of success but on faithfulness to each individual’s stewardship.
The greatest in the kingdom are not necessarily those who lead thousands to Christ, right books, and get the prominent positions in the church. No, the fundamental issue is faithful stewardship of the gifts that God has given to you. He just asks us to faithfully obey his will, fulfill our responsibilities, and serve according to our gifts.
When we were still in MI, one Sunday night an older missionary lady came back to report. And frankly, in comparison to some of our other missionaries, it wasn’t very impressive. Her appearance was plain. She didn’t have a big personality or cool video. And she didn’t have an exciting, fruitful, cutting edge ministry like some other missionaries.
So at first, I was pretty unimpressed, sort of board, and a little embarrassed. But as I listened, one thing quickly stood out. Even though this lady had seen little fruit, she loved the ministry God had given her, and you could tell that she was giving everything she had to serving the people in her field. And I remember thinking, “This lady will never be first in this world, but when Jesus said, ‘the last (will be) first,’ he was thinking of people like Joyce.”
Our talents and abilities do not impress Jesus. He doesn’t need anything that I have to offer, and there is nothing I can do that he can’t do better. But God loves sincere humility and faithful service. He sees it, even if no one else does, and he will richly reward it. So be faithful every day, doing what God calls you to do, knowing that God sees and God cares, and he will be faithful to his promise. He will reward you greatly.
And before we go on, I also want to note that this servant confronts a common misconception about how we properly look for the return of Christ. In particular, we can think that looking for the return of Christ means that I stop my life, look for every hint that the rapture is just around the corner, and essentially sit on a secluded hilltop with my eyes toward the sky. We can become so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.
But that’s not what this servant did is it? No he prepared for his master’s return by faithfully doing his job. It’s the same for us. Yes, v. 33 said that we should be watching, but if our watching doesn’t translate into faithful service, then we are missing the point. So in sum, the faithful servant illustrates how we rightly prepare for the return of Christ by faithfully doing his will. But then Jesus closes with a sober warning by describing…
The Wicked Servant (vv. 48–51): Notice first…
His Excuse (v. 48): Again, the master is preparing to leave for an unknown time, and he puts this servant in charge of feeding and caring his house. And then he leaves. I imagine that at first, this servant is doing his job, but after a while, he begins to believe that he has lots of time and no real accountability. Therefore, he can get by with doing his own think. So notice what he does…
His Actions (v. 49): Rather than encouraging his fellow servants to do their jobs well through generously caring for them, he beats and abuses them into doing their jobs. He drives them rather than leading them. And rather than leading by example, he neglects his work “to eat and drink with drunkards.”
He’s a lazy, selfish, and wicked man, but he tells himself that he has plenty of time to get things in order. He doesn’t really fear his master, and he certainly has no sincere desire to please him. As a result, notice…
His Condemnation: You can imagine the scene. The master returns and sees an utter disaster. His estate is a wreck. His livestock are malnourished and unprofitable. His servants are frustrated and divided. And when he walks in the house, it’s a mess, and the wicked servant is passed out in a drunken stupor. He feels a tug on his shirt. When he opens his eyes, there stands his master with wrath burning in his eyes. He’s furious that this servant did not take his instructions seriously. Instead, he rebelled, and he revealed the wickedness of his heart.
Again, I want to emphasize that Jesus is not talking about a true Christian. He is talking about an Specifically, he is talking about an unbeliever who knows God’s Word. I say that because this wicked servant has been given a great responsibility, and he knows his master is returning.
So Jesus is especially warning the person who knows Jesus is coming again, and who has heard Jesus’ command to repent and believe the gospel. But he has said in his heart, “Jesus isn’t really coming.” Or “I have plenty of time to serve God later. I’m going to serve myself today.” Or “I don’t care what God thinks; I’m going to live my way and do my thing.”
As a result, they reject the gospel and rebel against God’s will. And when Jesus returns, they are not ready. So notice the punishment that this wicked servant receives (v. 51). Notice couple of things about this verse.
First, notice the place of hypocrisy in this verse. In Matthew 23, Jesus repeatedly condemns the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. They put on a religious show, but it was only a cover for a wicked heart. The implication here is that such hypocrites will inhabit the worst parts of hell. God despises religious hypocrisy.
Second, this verse highlights the brutal punishment that awaits the unbeliever. It’s painful to imagine, but it’s also a sober reminder of the judgment sinners rightly deserve. As I’ve said before, if we have a problem with hell, it’s not because something is wrong in God; it’s because we don’t appreciate the gravity of sin.
So Jesus says the lost “will be cut in 2.” I don’t believe Jesus is saying that they will literally be cut in pieces, but he there is no question that he is saying that they will meet a violent end. Hell is an awful place.
And Jesus closes by saying, it will be filled with “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Gnashing teeth picture the incredible agony people will endure as they suffer God’s wrath, and weeping speaks to the grief and regret in the air as people suffer, wishing they had another chance to prepare for Christ’s return.
I would imagine there is someone in this room that parallels this wicked servant. You’ve heard the truth many times, but you have made excuse after excuse why you don’t need to receive Christ for salvation. But through this text, Christ is pleading with you to put aside your excuses and to kneel at the foot of the cross. You don’t have to endure God’s wrath, because Jesus already endured it on the cross. So come to him today and be saved so that when you meet the Lord, you can greet him with joy because you are secure in the righteousness of Christ. Please be saved today.
And if you are saved, be ready and be faithful. And take advantage of every moment the Lord gives, because the time is short. I’d like to close by reading Romans 13:11–14, because Paul does an excellent job of applying what we have studied today (read). Live for Christ today, because he is coming with his reward.