Having dealt with the destruction of the temple and the signs of his coming, Jesus sets about encouraging his disciples to be watchful.
v36. The disciples had asked Jesus about his "coming" and "the end of the age". The word "coming" refers to a divine appearing for the purpose of judgment. So, Jesus speaks to them about the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem, a military action which was completed by the Romans in 70AD. Of course, as is typical of Biblical prophets, Jesus' words apply to our age as much as to theirs. Concerning this day of judgment, only the Father knows "when this will happen", for it is his intention that human life should proceed as it always has, rather than be disturbed by speculations over dates and times.
v37-39. In three short illustrations Jesus makes the point that the day of judgment will come unexpectedly, v37-43, and therefore ceaseless vigilance is demanded of a disciple, v42, 44. The Noah story is a perfect example of the day of judgment. Noah's generation was caught totally unprepared; only Noah and his family were saved.
v40-42. Jesus again illustrates how unexpected the end will be. Most people will be oblivious of the coming day, caught up in the business of everyday life. Although it is often assumed that those who are "taken" are taken away (raptured) to heaven, it is more likely that they are swept way by the fire of judgement. Being "left" alive on that day is the better option. So, be vigilant!
v43-44. Jesus again illustrates how unexpected the end will be. The coming of the Son of Man is similar to the uninvited visit of a thief. We don't know when a thief will strike, and in the same way, we don't know when the Son of Man will come. Constant vigilance must therefore be our aim.
v45-51. The need for a disciple to be prepared for the day of judgment is reinforced in the parable of the faithful and unfaithful servant. The faithful servant is the watchful servant, prepared for the master's return. The unfaithful servant plays on the master's delay, running his own agenda. There is a real temptation to allegorize this parable such that the servants represent faithful and unfaithful disciples, the sheep and the goats, with the goats being excommunicated from the church. Yet, as with most parables, it makes a single point, be prepared.
There is nothing more thrilling in Christian theology than studies on the second coming of Christ. It is particularly interesting when we get into the signs of the times. Studies on the preliminary events leading up to the coming of Christ and the events surrounding his coming and his reign are exciting, to say the least.
Yet, this is an area of study wrought with danger. There are so many theories, so many systems, that we need to be very suspicious of millennial fervor. This is particularly so when the whole weight of Jesus' teaching is upon the unexpected nature of the day of judgment. So, Jesus' word to us is this, like Noah, be prepared, be watchful like a faithful servant.
In our passage for study Jesus tells us that the coming day of judgment will burst in upon us unexpectedly and so therefore we must be "ready" for that day. The trouble is he doesn't tell us how to be ready; he doesn't explain the "work" required of a watchful servant. As you would expect, there are many suggested readiness plans, usually in the form of discipleship programs which define the behavior of a faithful servant who will be blessed at the Master's return. So, how do we stand "ready" and "at work" for the coming day?
In the BBC TV production, "The Sins", the old undertaker well illustrates the necessity of vigilance, or as he called it, "fortitude". We constantly flirt with the seven deadly sins, sloth and all that; sometimes we stand and at other times we fall. To stand firm, prepared for that terrible day, despite all our failings, requires fortitude. There is actually a better word than fortitude, it's the word faith. The Bible uses the word faith in the sense of a firm reliance on the promises of God, it means taking God at his word. The Bible tells us that on the basis of Jesus' faithfulness, his life-giving sacrifice on our behalf, we are able to survive the terrible day when everything that belongs to this age is swept away. Yet that day, the day when our Creator sweeps off all the pieces from the monopoly board and folds it up, is a day unexpected. So yes, fortitude, or better, faith - reliance on the grace of God in Christ. This faith need not be oversized, mustard-seed-like is enough, but it must be a faith that is constant. Yes! Fortitude.
1. Discuss the issue of signs in relation to Jesus' statement that "no one knows about that day or hour."
2. "Fortitude". Is this what we need?