Waiting expectantly for Jesus’ return



Considering the recent events and happenings around the world, it is not surprising that some Christians may harbour the thought that the end of the world has finally come. However, when the disciples asked Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3), he made it clear that his coming would be unexpected, “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, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:38-39). Jesus also said that it is futile to try to identify the day and hour of His second coming, “for no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36).


Instead of trying to predict when Jesus will come again, Jesus cautioned his disciples to be ready for His unexpected return (Matthew 24:44). Jesus then told three parables about what waiting expectantly for His return might look like. These parables address the following three groups of professed believers:

  1. Obedient and Disobedient Servants – Matthew 24:45-51

  2. Wise and Foolish Witnesses (The Parable of the Ten virgins) – Matthew 25:1-13

  3. Profitable and Unprofitable Servants (The Parable of the Talents) – Matthew 25:14-30


Obedient and disobedient servant

God’s people on earth are called a household (Galatians 6:10, Ephesians 2:19). We read in Matthew 24:45 of the master setting his servant over his household. Hence, this parable speaks specifically to the spiritual leaders in the church. While waiting, God calls them to be faithful and wise (Matthew 24:45). Having given them oversight of the church, God expects His servants to provide spiritual food and to meet the needs of His people in and out of season. They are to do so with a pure motive of love towards God and His people. They are to teach the whole counsel of God, from both the Old and the New Testaments (Matthew 13:52). If the spiritual leaders are obediently doing their jobs when the Lord returns, they shall be rewarded with more opportunities for ministry in His Kingdom (Matthew 24:47). On the other hand, God will deal severely with the disobedient servants (Matthew 24:51). What causes the disobedient servants’ downfall? Ceasing to expect the Lord’s return, they have lived like the world and mistreated fellow servants (Matthew 24:49). Whenever God’s servants cannot work together, it is often because somebody has forgotten that the Lord will return. Looking for His appearing, and loving His appearing, should motivate us to be faithful and loving (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, 1 John 2:28).


Wise and foolish witnesses

To understand the context of the parable better, we need to be aware that a wedding in those days had two parts. First, the bridegroom and his friends would go from his house to claim the bride from her parents. Then the bride and groom would return to the groom’s house for the marriage feast. For some unknown reason, the groom was delayed in coming and all the ten virgins became drowsy and slept (Matthew 25:5). The church has known for two thousand years that Jesus is coming again. Yet many believers have become lethargic and drowsy. They are no longer excited about the coming of the Lord. As a result, there is little effective witness given that the Lord is returning. We are told that half of the virgins did not bring extra oil with them. Consequently, their lamps went out. In the Bible, oil is often associated with the Spirit’s work to reveal and illuminate God and His Word. The church should be “holding forth the word of life” in this dark and wicked world (Phil 2:16). However, the church can become so complacent and lethargic that she loses her witness to the world. We are told that five of the virgins were not allowed to enter the marriage feast of the Lamb. In fact, God said to them, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you” (Matthew 24:12). This suggests that not every professing Christian will enter heaven, for some have not trusted Jesus Christ sincerely. Jesus ended this parable with the warning he had uttered before: Watch, stay awake and be alert (Matthew 24:42, 25:13). May we all continue to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling”, checking to make sure that our faith in the Jesus is authentic and alive (Phil 2:12).


Profitable and unprofitable servants

This parable tells us that there were three servants, and they fell into two categories: faithful and unfaithful. Each servant was given money (a talent was worth about twenty years’ wages) according to his ability. The man with much ability was given five talents, the one with average ability received two talents and the man with minimal ability was given one talent. This illustrates that God assigns work and opportunities according to ability. We have been assigned our ministries according to the abilities and gifts God has given to us. It is our privilege to serve the Lord and expand His Kingdom until He comes. We are told that the faithful servants took their talents and put them to work for the Lord. The unfaithful servant, instead of using his opportunities, hid his talent in the earth. By doing nothing, he was committing sin and robbing the Lord of service and increase. Two servants put their talents to work and received the same commendation even though one man had less than the other. In Matthew 25:21, 23, we read, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” Observe that it was not the portion but the proportion that made the difference. Regardless of the number of talents they started with and their returns, both servants were faithful and profitable. They started off as servants, but the Lord promoted them to rulers. Their faithfulness gave each of them a capacity for greater service and responsibility. The third servant was unfaithful and therefore was not rewarded. Because he was afraid to fail, he never tried to succeed. We are warned that what we do not use for the Lord, we are in danger of losing. Perhaps, this unfaithful servant thought that his one talent was not important. He did not have as many talents as the other two. So, why worry about this one talent? But this one talent is important because he was appointed as a steward by the Lord. As Paul exhorts, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). His one talent could have grown to two and brought glory to God.