Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

The Signs of the Times (9) Matthew 24 and 25

Written by Rev. J.W. Wullschleger
Read: Matthew 24: 43 Ð 51
Parallel passages: Mark 13: 34Ð37; Luke 12: 39Ð46

The Parable of the Householder
The first parable is about the goodman of the house, or the householder, the master of the family. This parable is very short, only one verse. ÒBut know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered [allowed] his house to be broken upÓ (vs.43).

The parable itself is not difficult to understand. The only thing that may need further explanation is the meaning of Òwatch.Ó The Jews divided the night into four watches of three hours each, starting at six oÕclock in the evening and ending at six oÕclock in the morning. The text seems to imply that the householder knew that the thief was coming. The only thing he did not know was the time of his coming. Since he did not know that, he did not stay awake all night, but fell asleep. Therefore, he did not notice the thief coming and breaking upÑliterally, digging through--the house. He found out the next morning that his goods were stolen.

The point of comparison in this parable is the unexpected moment of the coming of the thief. Just as the thief comes unannounced, so Christ will come without further announcement. The reality is even stronger than the parable indicates. A thief may or may not come. But Christ will come for sure!

How much more should we be watchful! Also, in another way reality surpasses the parable. The damage that is being done to the house is relatively little. There is damage to the building itself and there is loss of property. Although it is a frightening thought to have had a burglar in the house, the damage being done is not insurmountable. It concerns only material goods. It is different with those who are unprepared when Christ returns. They will suffer the loss of their soul, which will be an irrecoverable and eternal loss.

ChristÕs coming as a thief is a theme that we also find in other Scripture passages, such as I Thessalonians 5:2Ð4, II Peter 3:10, Revelation 3:3 and 16:15. If we lose sight of the main point of comparison, we run into difficulty, for there actually is no real comparison between Christ and a thief. A thief is someone who takes what belongs to another, but Christ will come to possess what rightfully belongs to Him. He has a lawful claim to the whole creation and to each creature. Christ, the Son of God, is the appointed Heir of all things, by Whom God made the worlds (Heb.1:2).

The message of the parable is: ÒTherefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man comethÓ (vs.44). Christ will return at a time not only unknown, but also least expected. Therefore, we must be ready at all times. Christ presses upon His disciples to live a sober, heavenly, holy life. Only by living such a life will they be prepared for the coming of Christ. Although the last judgment seems to be delayed for a long time, yet it may come upon us any time.

The Parable of the Good and the Evil Servant
The message of the second parable is much the same as of the first one. There is a difference in emphasis, however. Whereas the first one emphasizes the unexpected time of our LordÕs return, the second parable calls our attention more explicitly to the result of His coming, which will be either comforting or dreadful.

The second parable is called the parable of the Good and the Evil Servant. The parable is about a lord, or master, who went on a journey. He appointed one of his slaves as steward over his household. During the absence of his master it is the task of this steward to distribute the allotted portions of food to his fellow servants. If he is a faithful and wise servant, he will give each servant his portion at set times.

Christ pronounces this man blessed, for when his master returns and finds him so doing, he will promote him to a higher place of honour. He will make him ruler over all his goods. We can think here of Joseph, who was set by Pharaoh over all the land of Egypt (Gen.41:39Ð41).

If that servant is an evil servant, after a while he will start thinking that his master will not come back anytime soon. Perhaps he will never return from his journey. He starts misusing his power and begins to beat his fellow servants. Perhaps, they complained about his bad stewardship, or the steward thinks the servants do not show enough respect for him. Moreover, this evil servant gives himself up to a loose and licentious life. He begins to eat and drink with the drunkards. But then, all of a sudden, his master is home again. This is totally unexpected by the steward.

What will his master do to him? He will Òcut him asunder.Ó This sounds very cruel to us, but we must remember that this was a punishment applied more often in those days (see for instance I Samuel 15: 33 and Hebrews 11:37). He will appoint him his portion with the hypocrites (Lk.12:46 states "unbelievers"). The evil servant is called a hypocrite because he had planned to set all things in order again before his master returned. Now his master sends him to the place where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, which is hell. Here the parable blends into reality. The weeping is that of Òinconsolable, never-ending wretchedness, and utter everlasting hopelessness. The accompanying grinding or gnashing of teeth denotes excruciating pain and frenzied angerÓ (W. Hendriksen).

The parable of the Good and the Evil Servant is generally applicable to all that bear the name Christian, but it has a special reference to ministers of the Gospel. There are two reasons:

1. As the parallel passage of Luke 12 shows, this parable is the answer to PeterÕs question, ÒLord, speakest Thou this parable unto us, or even to all?Ó (vs.41). Peter wonders whether His Master speaks to the people in general or to His disciples particularly. It seems that our Lord here addresses His disciples in particular.

2. The office of steward (as he is called in Luke 12:2) can aptly be applied to ministers of the Gospel. They are Òstewards of the manifold grace of GodÓ (I Pet.4:10). They must rightly divide the Word of truth (II Tim.2:15), giving each his proper portion.

Christ exhorts the apostles, and in them all ministers of the Gospel, to be faithful in their calling in keeping the flock committed to their care. Great responsibility is given to them. Much shall be required from them. Those who are faithful shall be given a place above others. Christ teaches His apostles also that in succeeding ages a generation of unfaithful servants would arise. These ungodly men will persecute sincere believers who will not comply with self-made doctrines and ungodly lives. The end of these ungodly leaders will be more dreadful than of others since they have betrayed greater trust and led multitudes to hell with them. To this day all ages have given proof of both categories: good and evil servants.

The seeming delay of ChristÕs return is a great temptation to give in to our fleshly appetites and lustful desires. This is so not only now at the turn of the second millennium, but it was so within a generation after ChristÕs ascension. Scoffers asked then already, ÒWhere is the promise of His [ChristÕs] coming?Ó (II Pet.3:4). The apostle Peter answered that these men forget that GodÕs time clock is not like ours. With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (II Pet.3:8).

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. Why is it important in a parable to focus on the main point? Does that mean that details donÕt matter?
2. Can you summarize the message of each of these two parables?
3. In what way can you become ready for ChristÕs Second Coming?
4. Why are Christians in general and ministers in particular called stewards?
5. Is there much watchfulness and preparedness in the church today? Explain your answer.
6. What would be a cause of worldliness in the church?

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