Jesus said, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (NIV)
Satan once called on some demons of hell and wanted to send one of them to earth to ruin some souls. One demon came forward and said, “I will go.” The devil said, “If I send you, what will you tell the humans?” He said, “I will tell those humans that there is no heaven.” Satan said, “They will not believe you, for there is a bit of heaven in every human heart. In the end everyone knows that right and good must have the victory. You may not go.”
Then another demon came forward, darker and fouler than the first. The Accuser said, “If I send you, what will you tell humanity?” He said, “I will tell them there is no hell.” Satan looked at him and said, “Oh, no; they will not believe you, for in every human heart there’s a thing called a conscience, an inner voice which testifies to the truth that good will be triumphant and evil defeated. You may not go.”
Then one last demon came forward, this one from the darkest place of all. The devil said to him, “And if I send you, what will you say to women and men to aid in the destruction of their souls?” The demon said, “I will tell them there is no hurry.” Satan said, “Go!”
Most people’s crime in not gross sin but in plain indifference, without much thought to a future judgment day. Jesus said that such persons will not know what hit them because the Day of the Lord is coming, and it may be soon. Therefore, the question for Christians is not “When will Christ return?” because no one knows the answer. Rather, the question for us is:
Are you ready for Christ’s return?
Today’s Gospel lesson is part of what is known as the Olivet Discourse, Christ’s final sermon before he faced the cross. Jesus was looking for his disciples to keep watch, to stay alert, to be ready, like a watchman on a tower scanning the landscape for an invading army. We are to remain vigilant and remember Jesus is coming again. We are to live each moment considering the promise of Christ’s coming, not knowing the day when it will happen.
Keeping watch, being ready, and staying alert means being witnesses to a world going about their merry way unaware that there is a doomsday. We are to be active, like Noah building the ark, anticipating the great flood of coming judgment. We are not to waste time creating prophecy charts and trying to connect current events to the Lord’s return. Instead, we are to prepare for the coming judgment through living godly, upright lives. (2 Peter 2:4-9)
We keep watch by being faithful stewards in God’s household.
We are to avoid being like the unfaithful teenager who, when given the responsibility of watching over the house while his parents are gone for the weekend, has a big party and trashes the house. The parents will come home at a time the teenager does not expect, and then there will certainly be weeping and gnashing of teeth!
The faithful and wise steward is busy doing the master’s business – the mundane work of taking care of the master’s house. Preparing for Christ’s return leads to down-to-earth acts of love and care, without passively or nervously sitting around and waiting. The unfaithful servant in Christ’s story is careless, cruel, and carouses because he pays no attention to the fact that the master could return at any moment.
When Christ returns, none of us knows who will be taken and who will be left – because people might look like the same on the outside, doing the same work side by side, but can be very different persons on the inside.
As believers wait for their Lord’s return, they may become impatient and get caught up in petty day to day problems, losing sight of what is tremendously important. One day, a man named Denis Waitley, was trying to catch a flight but was running late. So, he ran through the airport terminal. He got to the gate the split second the gate agent closed the door. Denis explained his situation, that he had a speaking engagement to get to, but the agent did not budge.
Denis’s frustration turned into fuming. He stormed out of the boarding area and back to the ticket counter to register a complaint and reschedule his flight. The anger intensified as he waited for more than twenty minutes in a line that barely moved. Just before he got to the counter an announcement over the intercom changed his life. The flight he missed, flight 191 from Chicago to Los Angeles, crashed on takeoff and killed every person on board the plane.
Denis Waitley never registered his complaint. In fact, he never returned his invalidated ticket. He took it home and pinned it on a bulletin board in his office to remind him whenever he got frustrated or upset that life is more than day to day impatience, worry, and complaints. It is about serving a lost world destined to slide away from God apart from the grace that can turn judgment into blessing.
We are to keep watch for the Lord’s return because it could be today.
In the meantime, we are to be faithful by serving a world in tremendous need of getting on the ark and being saved from the coming judgment. Perhaps the best way to overcome our own chronic unhappiness and struggles is to serve the world and be the servant God wants us to be.
God Almighty, you are our hope in this life and the life to come, as we wait for Christ’s return, help us to work for the good, as if each day is our last; and let our hope for a new day shape how we live now. We look forward to the time when all will be made right. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.