Scripture: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 24:32-35 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, Jesus shifts from responding to the disciples’ question on the temple’s destruction to addressing their right attitudes in this New Covenant era of the “now but not yet.” His first lesson is a parable on the fig tree. He addresses the observance of the fig tree’s seasonal development parallel to the signs of the time. The fig tree loses its leaves in the winter but yields new leaves and buds in the spring, indicating summer is near. In like manner, Jesus’ disciples must stay alert and observe the signs of the times that will point to his imminent return.
Today’s reading, the fifth segment, addresses passiveness versus readiness. Building on his theme of actively waiting (as explored in yesterday’s Daily Focus), Jesus first dispels the notion that anyone (outside the Father) knows the day and hour of his return, including his incarnate self. He then draws parallels to the suddenness of the Son of Man’s return:
- The days of Noah: the peoples of the earth carried on with life ignorant of a looming worldwide flood.
- Present-day work: two men and two women labor for food; Jesus calls one of each to himself, but the others are left behind.
- Present-day home: the owner, fast asleep, fails to protect his home from the thief.
Thus, given the unknown time of his return, Jesus challenges his disciples to consider whether they will exercise faith and wisdom to carry on his mission. For if they do, their reward will be great. But for those who slack and live selfish and reckless lives, judgment at his return will come without warning, and they will face eternal suffering in the company of fellow evil-doers.
Takeaway: Like yesterday’s reading, this passage presents a problematic statement. How is it that Jesus does not know the timing of his return when he continually seeks and knows the Father’s will? Turning to Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we find help with what scholars call the kenosis passage (the Greek word “emptying”). Paul begins chapter 2 by urging the church to be of one accord, not acting selfishly but humbly—loving and caring for each other’s needs. He then reminds them that Christ fully possessed the substance and form of his Father but did not exercise his divine prerogative of equality. Instead, he “emptied” himself to fully take on human form and become a servant to all, obediently following his Father’s will to death on a cross. Here, Paul echoes Jesus’ declaration of his mission: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 ESV).
So Paul explains that Jesus emptied himself of his divine power and knowledge to identify with our human weaknesses and strife. Otherwise, he could not sympathize with our struggle to resist temptations (see Hebrews 2:17-18). And in doing so, he willfully denied himself specific privileges, including knowing what the Father intends to remain hidden from humankind until the appointed time.
Our takeaway? Returning to our text, Jesus inserts one encouraging thought amid his stern warning against ignorance (first paragraph) and self-centeredness (second paragraph). Those who act in faith and wisdom and seek to continually serve the will of the Father (as he does) will be blessed (as he is). Hence, for those vigilant and faithful servants still on earth when the Son of Man returns, his angels will gather these elect to him in the clouds (see 24:31). But the blessings of a faithful servant apply to the here and now as well. We find God’s favor in good and bad times, in rest and hardship, because Christ is in and with us. And his Holy Spirit, who also indwells us, instills Jesus’ shalom blessings of joy and peace in us (Romans 14:17), unmoved by our circumstances, for this is our future and hope (Jeremiah 29:11). So come under Christ’s blessings as ready and faithful servants of the one who came to serve and give his life as a ransom for us. And if we are still hanging around when he returns, look up, for we are about to be gloriously escorted to our Beloved! Hallelujah!
Prayer: Father God, thank you for your Son, our ready and faithful Servant who fully identified with our human struggles but never succumbed to sin. And we thank you for your shalom blessings that flow to and through us to instill hope, peace, and joy. Still, we become easily distracted by life’s necessities and pleasures and are prone to stray from your lead and blessings. So would you please help us cooperate with your Holy Spirit in learning to consistently act as ready and faithful servants of your Son? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling