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Mar 25, 2018

Great Expectations

Great Expectations

Passage: Matthew 24:42-25:14

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Parables That Change the World

Keywords: faithful servants, keeping watch, parables, prepare, ready, return of jesus, salvation

Summary:

Palm Sunday reminds us that Israel had some biblically-based expectations about their coming, reigning Messiah that made it difficult for them to embrace the present, suffering Messiah. In the midst of that Holy Week when the disciples were hoping Jesus would set up His kingdom reign in the Temple, Jesus told several parables designed to help all of us waiting for his second coming reign to truly be prepared. This message deals with three of those parables.

Detail:

Great Expectations

Matthew 24:42-25:13

Parables of the Thief, the Wicked Servant & The 10 Virgins

March 25, 2018

Morning/Communion Intro:

            Have you ever wondered how many times God might be right in front of you and you don’t even see Him?  Granted, we don’t have Jesus—God in human flesh—hanging out with us today as He did in biblical times.  But God still “shows up” in our lives from time to time in ways we may or may not sense. 

            Part of the challenge may be when, where and how we expect God to make His presence known.  For instance, WHERE and WHEN do you expect to experience God more? 

  • In a worship service…or in your workplace?
  • In a hike in the beautiful outdoors…or while walking downtown streets?
  • During your daily devotional time in the Word and prayer...or your daily drive time on the freeway?

Today we are starting what the church has historically called “Holy Week.”  That very name seems to imply that this week is spiritually special, more “holy” than other weeks.  But historically, it was one of the most horribly evil weeks in human history…as well as the most redemptive week in history.

            That week started off with what we celebrate today as Palm Sunday, the day of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. 

Q:  Why is it called “his triumphal entry” to Jerusalem? 

It was “triumphal” because people were publically recognizing this man, Jesus Christ, as God’s Messiah.  They were shouting out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  Hosanna means “Save!” and was a way of saying, “We’re looking to you to save us from Rome, to bring justice and judgment and to set up David’s throne and kingdom again!” 

            Where did they get this idea?  How did they come to expect a Messiah of power who would set the world straight?  They got it from multiple passages in the Old Testament.  They got it from prophet after prophet talking about the coming King who would rid the world of wrong and bring justice, healing, light and life to a sin-soaked planet.  Listen to just a couple of those prophecies.

  • Isaiah 61—Jesus quotes this in Luke 4 when he reads it in the synagogue in Nazareth, his home town. BUT he stops in the middle of the reading (in the middle of vs. 2 in our Bibles) and doesn’t go on to add all the rebuilding and justice-making Isaiah foretold. 

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor….

Wait!  Where is the rest?  The “vengeance of our God” on our enemies (vs. 2) and the “crown of beauty” for that of ashes for those who grieve in Zion?  This is the “already-but-not-yet” kingdom.  It’s already here…but not in its fullness. 

The Jews of Jesus day only wanted to see God restore their fortunes through the Messiah.  They totally discounted and overlooked the myriad of O.T. verses pointing to the suffering Savior.  That kind of Messiah didn’t fit what they expected.  But it was always there in God’s word.  How else do you understand Isaiah 53?

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer….
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge
 my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.

God knew what people didn’t:  that the greatest need of mankind was not a national ruler who would restore a single nation but a timeless Savior who would redeem lost sinners. Thank God that His eternal plan prevailed rather than the dreams of a few patriotic Jews! 

            That’s why we celebrate The Lord’s Supper every week rather than some national holiday. 

That’s why we celebrate Holy Week rather than “Coronation Week”. 

That’s why we have a personal Savior rather than a national hero. 

And that’s why we are here week after week:  WE need that Savior to save US.  We need Him to rescue us from our sin.  We need Him to show us who God really is, not what our expectations want to try and mold Him to be. 

MESSAGE:

            We’re in this series on “Parables that Change the World”—Jesus’ parables or “stories with a punch” that we find in the Gospels.  I thought it would be interesting to look at 3 of them that Jesus taught during Holy Week that we are celebrating the start of today. 

SETTING:  Back in Matt. 21 we have the account of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on an unbroken, unridden donkey colt.  Matthew tells us that “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”” (vs. 10).  So the whole city is buzzing with the possibility that the Messiah has finally come.  God has finally heard their cries for deliverance.  There is this electric excitement about what God might do. 

            Jesus is probably staying with Lazarus, Mary & Martha in Bethany during the night, just outside of Jerusalem (21:17).  During the day he is “commuting” into Jerusalem to teach the crowds and worship in the Temple.

            It is during one of those days that he begins to leave the temple when his disciples stop him and call his attention to the magnificent architecture and massive structure.  (About the closest we may come in Spokane is to go to the Fox Theater/Martin Woldson Theater with Jesus and point out, “Isn’t this a beautiful building!”) 

Except in the case of the disciples, they were probably thinking, “You know, if Jesus is the Messiah and God has sent him to take charge in our day, this is probably going to be where he sets up his kingdom.  This is going to be the new “Whitehouse” of the world!  Isn’t this magnificent!?”  To which Jesus responds,

“Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

            Talk about a conversation stopper!  “Come again, Jesus?  Oh, I know, sure…when the world ends, all this does too.  I gotch ya.  But that’s a LONG ways away, right?  We got some ruling to do first…right???” 

            Something about Jesus’ silence must have bothered them because the next scene shot we get is Jesus on the Mount of Olives.

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

They obviously want a little insurance policy here.  Something about what Jesus said back there at the Temple Mount and the way he said it had produced a gnawing discomfort in their gut that maybe, just maybe, their expectations were wrong…again!  So they ask him in vs. 3, ““Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 

You see, they are already beginning to develop this idea that “the end of the age” might not be as soon as they thought.  Maybe they aren’t going right into this new Kingdom Administration business right away.  Maybe Jesus has some slightly different plan than they had in mind…a few months or years until their expectations get met??? J

We’re going to skip over most of the rest of chapter 24 and go directly to 3 parables Jesus gives to answer the disciples’ question.  But there is one verse, vs. 14, that I want you to notice in passing. 

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

            There are a number of other things that Jesus gives to his disciples that must happen before he “comes” as reigning King.  But I honestly think this one is by far the most important.  If you weren’t convinced before that sharing the Gospel is part of your personal commissioning from God as a follower of Jesus, this should be the final word. 

            If you want Jesus to return, to set up His kingdom and show the world what it looks like when justice, mercy, love and all He is prevails and all evil is and spiritual deception is subdued, vanquished and confined, then the “gospel of the kingdom” must be something we are passionate about declaring.  And not just to our own city or nation; we must testify of it “to all nations.”  This is the Grand Missions Mandate we have that must usurp all other causes in our lives.  Because Jesus has said that he will not return until “the whole world” receives a preaching of “the gospel of the kingdom” as a testimony to God’s great saving purposes. 

            Now while we don’t know what constitutes “the whole world” by this statement.  But it is clear that worldwide Gospel proclamation is critical to the coming of the Lord.  2 Peter 3:9 confirms this when it addresses scoffers even several decades after Jesus resurrection who scoffed at the idea of His return because so many years had elapsed.  He reiterated that it is because God wants “everyone to come to repentance” that he hasn’t returned yet.  So many still need to hear the Gospel! 

            In fact, Peter uses the same mental imagery when he talks about the Day of the Lord coming upon the world like “a thief.”  That is the exact imagery Jesus gave Peter and the other disciples in Matt. 24 when He spoke these 3 parables. Jesus speaks it again in Rev. 3:3 to the Church in Sardis when he says, “If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”  Again in Rev. 16:15 Jesus speaks these words:  “Look, I come like a thief!”.  Then in I Thess. 5:2-3 Paul says, “For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” 

            So before we look at these parables, let me just ask you, “What are your expectations when it comes to Jesus’ return?”  What do you expect Him to do?  When do you anticipate He will return?  And what will be the effect on YOU?  Think about that for a moment. 

            And notice one further thing:  Jesus clearly taught that “the day of the Lord” would come.  HE would come on that day.  And all the setting right of what is wrong would be done.  The world may still scoff at the notion of Jesus’ return, just as it did in Peter’s day.  But you can always trust Jesus to tell you the truth about life and human history, as improbably and unlikely as it may seem to mere humans.   

So here is the first story:

  1. The Parable of the Homeowner & Thief, Mt. 24:42-44.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

            Jesus just completed virtually an entire chapter of events that must transpire before His return. And then he tells this one-verse parable about being robbed.  It’s a home invasion, a robbery while the residents are there. 

            Many of us have had experience with home robberies, haven’t we. 

  • I remember as a young person opening up my parents lake home on CDA one spring to find that someone had backed a truck up to the house and cleaned everything from couches to the refrigerator out!
  • One of our wheelchair-confined brothers here has been robbed multiple times in his own apartment…sometimes while he is there this year!

What’s the feeling when you’re robbed?  Personal violation.  Sense of vulnerability.  It’s not only the loss of personal goods that is so frustrating.  It’s the loss of a sense of security that is worse. 

            Curiously here, it is the return of Christ, not the act of an evil robber, that Jesus is comparing with His coming.  Why?  Why not make it something wonderful like…winning an Ancient Mediterranean Cruise…or receiving a long-awaited visit by a dear friend?  A happy surprise is the story most Evangelical churches would require from Jesus today, no? 

            Instead Jesus seems to purposefully choose a universally negative experience:  being robbed. 

            Notice Jesus’ commands in this passage.  What are they?

Vs. 42—“Keep watch….”

Vs. 44—“So you also must be ready….”

Jesus clearly says that we will not know the day He chooses to come.  And since the “house” in this little parable is clearly a person’s life and soul, what does it look like to “be ready” for Jesus’ coming? 

(By the way, while Jesus is speaking most directly to His return at the end of the age, there is a clear undertone of warning to each of us individually.  None of us knows the day God has chosen to come FOR US individually!)

Q:  If I were to tell you that I overheard some kids talking in your neighborhood about robbing houses this Friday night, how would you get ready? 

Q:  If I were to tell you that the angel of death was going to visit your home 365 days from now and usher you into eternity, how would you get ready? 

            This is the point of the parable:  “Keeping watch” and “being ready” are current, present, active, prepared states of being.  They aren’t something you do for one night and then forget about the next 364 days of the year.  It’s daily.  It’s all-life. 

            A few people in life actually get a time-line from the doctor:  you have 6 months to live.  The tragedy is that usually the last 1-2 are mostly suffering and pain.  You don’t have a lot of chance to really live much life then. 

            So how would my life…your life…change if we knew we had 2 years left…or 1…or 6 months?  What are the major life issues we need to have in order in order to really “be ready” for the day, the moment God says, “Time’s up!”???

  • Where will you spend eternity? Lots of people today just think, “Well, when it’s over, it’s over.”  Really?  What’s your proof of that?  Because I know a man named Jesus who came back to life after death and told us exactly what happens when you die.  The Bible, the most accurate historical book in world history, tells us. 
    • Your body will go back to dust…and your soul will enter eternity.
    • If you have made peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ, your soul immediately enters God’s presence. Your resurrected body will follow when Christ returns. 
    • If you have rejected God’s offer of salvation that cost Christ His life, your soul will enter eternity separated from God. You, too, will get a resurrected body someday, but it will not be to enjoy all God is and life in heaven; it will be to experience all God is not and life, sadly, separated from God in hell. 

So the “where will I spend eternity” question is foundational and preeminent in “being ready.”  HOW you and I answer that questions determines everything from there on out.  Because if you actually put genuine faith in Jesus Christ, EVERYTHING about your life will, for the rest of your life, be changed, molded, impacted and directed by that transformative faith.  I don’t think that real, true, biblical faith in Jesus will allow you to stay unchanged.  There is nothing in the N.T. that would indicate this is a 2-step process.  “Being ready” changes everything for the rest of life. 

            You may be thinking, “Really?  Then why are so many church-goers and self-proclaimed Christians no different than their non-church going, unbelieving friends?”  Because their “faith” is functionally a “dead faith.”  It’s useless.  It’s a counterfeit faith.  And they are self-deceived into thinking they are actually “ready.”  That’s the whole point of the parables that follow this in Mt. 25.  Jesus is going to say to a whole lot of people who think they know him, “Depart from me.  You never knew me…and I never knew you as my Bride-to-be.” 

            That is not in any way to say we are “perfect” or doing it all right when Jesus really owns us.  But we are never satisfied to not grow in Christ, not be spending each moment of each day living in and for Christ. 

APP: 

  • Some here today may need to seriously look Jesus in the eye and ask, “Am I actually ready to meet you as my God and Judge…or am I just fooling myself that I am and not seeing any real change of heart, of character and of life passion?
  • Some here today need to START “keeping watch”…”being ready” by starting an eternal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. [Invitation.]

The Point:  You can expect Jesus to come for you when you don’t expect it.  So live expecting His coming every day!

  1. The Parable of the 2 Servants, vss. 45-51

45 “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? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 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. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

            So here are two different types of people: 

1.)  Faithful and wise

2.) Wicked and foolish

A little bit about WHO this parable is talking about.  Is it believers & believers OR is it believers and unbelievers?  I think the latter is the only real option.  What’s my reasoning here?

First, identity.  Believers may be foolish and they may act wickedly at times.  But the N.T. calls true believers “saints,” not wicked sinners.  I think it is completely appropriate to substitute the word “person” in this text for “servant.”  Doing so makes it clear that we have two types of people here, not two types of believers.

Secondly, behavior.  The Scriptures repeatedly say that proof of a true child of God, a true “servant of Christ,” is what?  That true servants/believers in Jesus love God and will, because of the new nature she/he has in Christ, will also love his/her brothers/sisters.  (See 1 John 2:9-11; 4:19-21)  The description of the 2 natures of these servants and the 2 behaviors towards fellow servants/people of these servants both point to the only two groups of people that exist in the world:  faithful and wise people/servants of God OR wicked and foolish people/servants of self and evil. 

Thirdly, future.  The different rewards or punishments they receive.  The Master-respecting and fellow-servant loving person can look forward to what kind of future?  One in which God, her/his master gives them even greater responsibilities in life in His kingdom when the Master returns.  The wicked person, on the other hand, according to vs. 52 is “cut to pieces and assign[ed] a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  This phrase is filled with idioms. 

  • “Cut to pieces” = “skinned alive” in English. More accurately “cut off from God’s people.” Excluded from the people of God. 
  • “Hypocrites” in this parable in Matthew is said to be “unbelievers” in the parallel parable in Luke 12.
  • “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” is no description of heaven; it is consistently a euphemism for hell, a flowery way of describing life apart from God, the Creator of life.

APP:  This parable ought to cause every one of us to take an honest look at how we are treating our fellow ‘servants’, our fellow human beings around us. 

ILL:  How many times have you talked with someone who grew up in a “Christian home” where their parents dragged them to church every Sunday…or were a Deacon in the church…BUT was abusing the family at home during the week or treating their employees like dirt at work. 

            Looking at the true nature of human relationships is not saying that someone is saved by works.  It is saying that being saved by faith in Jesus WILL be evidenced by a change in how you treat people. 

            The wicked servant here never felt any real guilt or grief for treating his fellow servants like trash.  But you can bet when the wise and faithful servant failed to love his fellow servants well, he not only felt guilty; he repented, asked forgiveness and picked up the towel of service again and went to work serving them best he knew how. 

So…what can you expect from God, the Master, according to this parable?  What’s the point of this parable?

  • You can expect Him to reward the wise, faithful person (a true believer) who lives serving others along the journey.
  • You can expect Him to punish the wicked, foolish person (a true unbeliever) who lives selfishly and abusively towards others.

APP: 

1.)  Which group do you want to be in when Christ comes for YOU?  Thankfully, every one of us here today still has a choice. 

  • If you want to live selfishly and abusively towards others, all I can do is warn you of the sad consequences you will one day face.
  • But if you wish to live as a wise, faithful person, we invite you to join us on that journey as we try to help each other learn how to serve not just each other but everyone who will ever live around us as we seek to walk with Jesus Christ.

2.)  If you are in that 2nd group (wise, faithful follower of Jesus), what are you doing to serve your fellow servants?  Parenting your kids in Christ?  Treating your classmates with the love of Christ?  Serving those you live and work around in love?  Mosaic exists to help us all reach our full servant potential in Jesus.  If you’re having trouble with that, talk to us.  Ask for help.  Pick out someone who you wish you were more like or in whom you see the life of Jesus and ask them to mentor you in Jesus.

  1. Parable of The 10 Young Women (or The 5 Energizer Battery Flashlights and the 5 Brand “X” Battery Flashlights) J

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

This parable ends with the same command, the same call and the same warning as the first one:  “Keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour.” 

            We lack time to take a detailed look at this parable.  I’ve heard a variety of interpretations of this parable from a partial rapture of the church to God’s people losing their salvation. 

But this very parallel we just noted with the first parable plus the flow of all three of these parables stacked up with each other here in Matthew is enough, I believe, to lead and lean to the same basic interpretation for all 3 of them. 

This is NOT talking about two types of true believers.  While oil sometimes symbolizes the Holy Spirit, I do not think you can say this is the case here.  If that is true, then some believers can “run out of” the Holy Spirit at some point in their life and miss out on eternity with Christ, the Bridegroom.  If the oil is the Holy Spirit then the 5 prepared young women were terribly selfish not sharing it with the others.  Nothing in the N.T. indicates that is true. 

In every other fashion, these 5 foolish women are identical to the 5 wise young women.

  • They all received and responded in some way to the Bridegroom’s invitation to be part of the wedding feast.
  • They all had some desire to be a part of the wedding feast.
  • They all fell asleep.

The only difference was 5 were prepared and 5 were not. Five had what was sufficient for the night and five had not planned for the night.  Five had everything they needed for whenever Christ came for them and five did not. 

ILL:  When is it time to make sure your furnace is in good working order?  Dead of winter OR end of summer?

When is it time to stock up on food and bottled water:  In the middle of a hurricane OR at the beginning of hurricane season? 

And as we have seen, what is needed to “be ready” for the day Jesus comes for you?  [A change of heart, character and nature that comes when you submit your life to Christ by faith NOW…OR you’ll be left with a desperate attempt to address the state of your soul as you are having a heart attack or car wreck.] 

Speaking of the “midnight,” the middle of the night in this parable-- everybody will go through “night” in life.  Everyone will have trials and heartaches and difficulties.  The only difference when it comes to being ready when God says the night is over and it’s time for the Wedding Supper of the Bridegroom Jesus is, did you make adequate preparations for the night (life) and the coming Bridegroom?  THE only adequate preparation for both is a faith in Jesus Christ that sees you through the dark of life and into the day of eternity with God. 

We all feel weak at times.  We all grow weary and fall asleep at times.  But one of the ways you will know if your life with God is genuine is that you will have enough faith to see you through to the coming of Christ for you.  We will all have doubts along the way.  We will all be tempted to cast our faith and Christ aside from time to time. 

But those doubts and temptations will not carry the day or win our life.  Amidst the ups and downs of faith and doubt there will be a relentless march towards Christ whose love and invitation to join Him forever as His Beloved are increasingly capturing our souls and firing our future. 

Q:  Have you made adequate preparation for this dark night of life and the coming of the Lover of your soul, Jesus?  This parable clarifies that…

  • You can’t get that life by transfer from someone else.
  • You can’t go back and make preparations once life is over.
  • And you have no guarantee of when God will call your name and life will end forever as we know it today.

Q:  What do you need to do to made adequate preparation for the rest of life and eternity?  What exchanges need to happen for you to have let go of other things so you can take hold of Christ more?