Matthew 24:45-25:30; Ready for the Master’s Return

Jesus offers three parables to illustrate his statement in 24:44: Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:44, ESV)

The Faithful and Wise Servant

This one seems to be directed at church leaders. As the return of Jesus is delayed, they must stay on course. They have been entrusted with the church. They have to feed the people and care for them.

If they are not faithful and wise, they begin to be more interested in their own well-being. They feed themselves and not the people. This can easily happen because of the delay. “Surely the master won’t return today”, they say. Big surprise in store.

The leader who gets the job done has a reward in store. The leader who gets diverted has a punishment in store.

The Ten Maidens

This one is directed to every church member. We also must remain ready.

These bridesmaids had a job to do. When the groom shows up, they are to escort him to the bride. They must have their lights burning, or the procession will not be very impressive.

It makes me think of meeting Jesus in the air when he comes. Our job will be to escort him to earth and enjoy the reestablishment of his rule. We will welcome the coming king. The bridegroom of the church.

The groom is delayed (sound familiar?) and they sleep. Nothing wrong with falling asleep. We are all human. But even asleep we must be ready. Half were and half weren’t

We don’t know when Jesus will return. We must be ready and not grow slack in our following.

The Investments

This parable is directed to those who have special abilities. With great power come great responsibility. The master goes away and leaves large sums of money in the hands of three servants. Two do a good job, but the other fails.

The question for me to ask myself is, How am I using the abilities God gave me? Am I using my stuff for the kingdom or for myself? Am I enriching the kingdom or myself? What will Jesus think about it when he comes?

Jesus is returning. The long delay can lull us into complacency. We dare not lose focus. We have a job to do. We have resources invested in us. We may have people to lead.

I’m hoping to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”

Why Anti-racism is so Popular | George Yancey

So all you have to do now is find an antiracist trainer and bring them in for your organization.

I totally understand this sentiment. It is hard to be criticized when you are following the same path so many other individuals and organizations are taking. Doing what others do provides you with some defenses against the criticism that you are doing nothing about racism. But there is a problem with that path. Research has shown that this is not a path to racial unity or even to dealing with prejudice and racism.
— Read on www.patheos.com/blogs/shatteringparadigms/2020/08/why-anti-racism-is-so-popular/

So, How Do We Detect Grandstanding? | Jesus Creed | A Blog by Scot McKnight

Here’s a little game you can play on Facebook and Twitter. It might help you.

Grandstanders try to get others to think of them as morally respectable. Sometimes they want to be thought of as one of the gang. Other times, they want to be thought of as morally exceptional. Either way, they usually want to be seen as morally better than others.
— Read on www.christianitytoday.com/scot-mcknight/2020/august/so-how-do-we-detect-grandstanding.html

Matthew 24:32-44; Signs

Now we turn to the “when”, which is the question the disciples asked way back in verse 3, along with desiring to know some signs to precede his coming and the end of the age.

Jesus says there are signs to watch for, but also that life will go on as normal. Just as the victims of the flood did not know what was coming, neither will most people see the end coming. Life will just go on. People will do their work and one moment many will be swept away, while those who are prepared will be left to carry on with the new creation.

It certainly seems that Matthew expected the second coming to come in a short period of time. It had already been at least forty years when he wrote. I will not engage in the type of apologetics required to twist things around and make the words mean what they don’t mean. I think there are a couple things to learn here.

First, even Jesus himself did not know when he would return. He says only the Father knows.In case there was any doubt at all, Jesus was fully human. Jesus is fully human. When he walked the earth, he did not know everything, just like most of us. As I often say, people who think they know everything are a pain in the neck to those of us who do. I’m not sure what Jesus was expecting in terms of timing, but he was reading signs and not working from knowledge of the timing. If your picture of Jesus doesn’t have room for this, you may need to make some adjustments.

Second, there sure have been a lot of people through the ages who thought they could figure out the day and the hour of his coming. As you know from personal experience, these guesses have failed. His coming in glory and triumph is still being delayed.

Familiarity with OT prophecies tells us that things don’t always happen in quite the way the prophet said, or quite at the time the prophet said, but the results are recognizable and the hand of God is seen. The most I am will to say here is that judgment—and this the day of the Lord—began with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70. More to come.

The rest of the passage is about being ready. As I kid I learned that the waiting time is a fearful time and I must always be worried that I am not prepared. I doubt now that is what Jesus wants.

We know from Matthew that the delay is a time of grace. God has given us a job to do and he is waiting for us to do it. In some ways, the delay is our own fault, but it is a delay of grace for lost people.

Jesus wants us to prepare by looking to the lost people and helping them be saved. We are not to be hiding in fear, though this is still the time of persecution, but we are to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Your kingdom come!

Matthew 24:29-31; Parousia

This little paragraph is mostly about what will happen. After that, Jesus will talk more about when.

The disciples are told that the coming of the Son of Man will follow immediately upon the days of tribulation. Unless you are a full preterist who believes that Jesus already came, or that this refers to his coming into glory at his ascension, you’ll have to agree with me that he has not yet returned. Therefore we are still in the time of tribulation. Can I get an amen?

It will not be secret

It is difficult to imagine a more public spectacle than the coming of Jesus as described here. I suppose that the exact nature of what happens with the sun and moon and stars is highly symbolic, using “day of the Lord” language from Hebrew scripture, but the symbols surely point to an event that won’t be happening in secret.

Not everyone will be happy about it

The nations will mourn. For many, this is the time of judgment. The nations will be dissolved and the earth will come under the lordship of Christ himself. No more nationalism, no more racism, no more politics. Jesus is Lord.

The church will be gathered

We will meet our Lord and bow at his feet. He will welcome us as his brothers and sisters, children of his Father. From all over the earth and from all through the ages, we will be one.

Some of you know that I have a terminal illness. Nobody knows the day or the hour when I will breathe my last. For a while I was having dreams about the great resurrection, and in some of them I was the guy responsible to lead the raised Christians from my cemetery to meet with Jesus. Only I didn’t know where to go. Dreams are like that. At least for me, my abilities fail me in dreams at he worst time.

Praise the Lord. When the time comes, I’ll have angels to help. I don’t have to find Jesus on my own. He will find me and gather me in.

Christians should be looking forward to the great and glorious day of the Lord. Jesus will return and earth will be put back in shape. Life will be like God meant it to be in the first place. And we will be together with our Lord and with one another. Sounds pretty good to me.

Songs of my Youth – Carrie Anne

Today’s song is “Carrie Anne”, recorded by The Hollies in 1967. This is another one from the summer I was 14. It made it to number 9 in the Billboard pop charts and placed at 64 on the annual chart. Their previous single “On a Carousel” beat this one and placed 42nd on the annual chart. I prefer “Carrie Anne”.

I don’t have any specific memories of the song, but I liked it and sang along when it came on the radio. It seemed a happy song to me.

I guess that at 14 I wasn’t always aware of the underlying sexual tension in pop songs. I remember once my Mom found the lyrics to “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tommy James and the Shondells on my dresser. I got in trouble for having pornographic material, but to me it was just words to songs that we passed around. The only way to get lyrics was to listen over and over and write them down, compare with others, argue about details, and pass them around.

Anyway, Carrie Anne had apparently moved on from the innocent games of childhood with her fellow students to some more adult games with the the teachers and big boys. Today, it’s a scandal. In 1967 it was a pop song. And I was blissfully ignorant of the meaning. Wish I still were.

Lyrics are easier to come by today, but not as much fun. We never knew what “Louie Louie” was all about.

Carrie Anne

Hey Carrie Anne
Hey Carrie Anne

When we were at school, our games were simple
I played a janitor, you played a monitor
Then you played with older boys and prefects
What's the attraction in what they're doing?

Hey Carrie Anne
What's your game now can anybody play?
Hey Carrie Anne
What's your game now can anybody play?

You're always something special to me
Quite independent, never caring
You lost your charm as you were aging
Where is your magic disappearing?

Hey Carrie Anne
What's your game now can anybody play?
Hey Carrie Anne
What's your game now can anybody play?

You're so, so like a woman to me
So, so like a woman to me

Hey Carrie Anne
What's your game now can anybody play?
Hey Carrie Anne
What's your game now can anybody play?

People live and learn but you're still learning
You use my mind and I'll be your teacher
When the lesson's over, you'll be with me
Then I'll hear the other people saying

"Hey Carrie Anne
What's your game now can anybody play?
Hey Carrie Anne
What's your game now can anybody play?"

Carrie Anne

Matthew 24:15-28; Tribulation

Jesus continues his teaching using eschatological, apocalyptic language. Preachers used to use passages like this to scare me to death and keep me from sleeping for a few nights. Jesus is teaching his disciples to trust God and persevere.

Let’s divide the passage in two.

15-22

Some would like to place this section totally into the future, but, in my view, that is untenable if you know history at all. There was a terrible war that lasted from AD 66 to 70 wherein the Romans put down all rebellion and reduced Jerusalem and the Temple to ruins. Can’t ignore that.

My view is that this situation is in the mind of Jesus as he teaches, but there may be more. What about the time between the destruction of the Temple and the second coming of Jesus? We could look that this passage and say there will be continued tribulation. God’s people among the Jews will suffer along with the rest, all because of the leaders who were misleaders. Christians through the ages will suffer for the name of Jesus.

In my view, the “abomination of desolation” probably refers to the misuse of the Temple apparatus by the priestly class, using it for power rather than worship. The prophets had warned about what God really wanted and the priests continued with the status quo. Judgment starts there. The destruction of the Temple is the beginning of the end. What Matthew did not know is that 2000 years later we would still be waiting for the end of the end.

23-28

In the meantime there are lots of false prophets and false messiahs to lead people the wrong way. They are everywhere.

Jesus says there are no secrets involved in this coming. It will be like a lightning flash that lights the whole sky. You won’t miss it.

So don’t look for esoteric secrets or hidden messiahs. Wait for Jesus with patience and persevere through whatever comes. It will be worth it.

Your kingdom come!

Matthew 24:1-14; Judgment

I enter this section with trepidation. Christians in the near past have taken passages like this and tried to make timelines—and lots of charts. If that’s what you are looking for, you won’t get it here.

These next couple chapters are the final teachings of Jesus to his disciples before his death.

As the group was leaving Jerusalem, Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple. That prediction was seen to be fulfilled within forty years. The only stones left standing on one another are some in the substructure, the manufactured mountain that the Temple stood on. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple was total.

After this prediction, the disciples want to know more. We already know that they had not totally accepted the idea of his death, so the question seems a bit unnatural. We must assume that Matthew was also writing for the church. No doubt they had questions about the return of Jesus. They had seen the Temple destroyed and the Jerusalem leadership deposed. When would the rest of it happen?

Jesus says they should expect false messiahs and others who would lead them astray. Jerusalem had seen not shortage of messiahs before and after Jesus. In fact, Jesus was just another false messiah to most people. And church has had no shortage of false messiahs as well. Right down to the present time there are Christians looking for a political leader to restore the power and prestige of the church.

And we have had no shortage of false prophets. The church has been led astray in a hundred directions, mostly for the benefit of individuals, not Jesus.

Jesus said many would fall away. Remember the parable of the soils and see if it is not borne out. He said Christians would betray one another, and it is true. He said Christians will hate one another, and it is also true.

Christians will be persecuted. It still happens today, but not as much since the church became respectable under Constantine. There is a good example of a leader who led the church in the wrong direction and changed the focus. We have never recovered. Some are still looking for another Constantine instead of the return of Jesus.

The one who endures to the end will be saved. The implication is that some will not endure. That is also true. Jesus speaking here sounds a lot like the Jesus speaking to the seven churches in Revelation. Imagine that.

But the end will not come until “this gospel of the kingdom” is proclaimed throughout the whole world, to all the nations. Where are we in that process?