NLT Study Bible Blog.
Matthew 24:32-51 (Mosaic, Advent 1)
Jesus describes the circumstances surrounding his return and then encourages his followers to keep watch as they wait for him. In the NLT Study Bible, we put most of the discussion about the circumstances surrounding Christ's return in the parallel passage at Mark 13. So, following that lead, let us here focus on Jesus' encouragement to keep watch.

The core of this encouragement is in vv. 42-44, where Jesus says, "So you, too, must keep watch! For you don't know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected" (Matt 24:42-44, NLT).

This raises a natural question: What does it mean to "keep watch" for Jesus' return? How can we "be ready all the time"? I understand what it means to keep watch during the night for a burglar, but how does this apply to spiritual wakefulness and readiness? It surely does not mean that we must physically stay awake 24/7. So what does it mean?

According to the NLT Study Bible, "To keep watch is to maintain active, energetic, single-minded obedience to the Lord (see 25:13; 26:38-41)" (NLTSB, note on Matt 24:42). According to the following note on 24:45-51, Jesus told the following four parables (24:45-51; 25:1-13, 14-30, 31-46) in order to illustrate and exemplify what it means to keep watch for him.

The first parable (24:45-51) contrasts the faithful servant with one who is unfaithful. Key differences:
  • The faithful servant seeks to do his master's will, while the unfaithful servant seeks his own pleasure.
  • The faithful servant is loving toward others, while the unfaithful servant is abusive toward others.
The second parable, of the ten bridesmaids (25:1-13), contrasts those who are prepared for Christ's return (those who have oil) with those who are not prepared (who have no oil for their lamps). "While some have speculated that the oil symbolizes something specific (such as the Holy Spirit), it probably merely supports the point that proper preparation for the second coming of Christ is needed" (NLTSB, note on Matt 25:3). This parable leaves me wondering, what would constitute "proper preparation" for the Lord's return?

The third parable, of the three servants (25:14-30), also speaks of being faithful with what the master has entrusted to you. "To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away" (25:28).

The fourth parable, of the sheep and the goats at the final judgment (25:31-46), also speaks of a difference in actions between faithful and unfaithful people. Those who do acts of love toward others are accepted, while those who refused to do what is loving toward others are rejected.

Based on these parables, I might summarize Jesus' message as this: To keep watch for Jesus' return means to be faithful to obey what you know of his instructions, which especially involves doing what is loving for others.

May the Spirit of God and the presence of Jesus give us all that we need to do as he has instructed.

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posted by Sean Harrison at 7:00 AM
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