New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Watchful Servants

So much in this parable. I will find it difficult to stay focused on my 5 questions, since there are so many issues within the parable that I have had to reconsider as I try to understand it. Of course, lets first read it and then venture into my quandaries.

Matthew 24:36-44

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 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, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 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. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

As mentioned in my previous post on the parables, this parable was given to His disciples.

When did the Lord give this parable?

Jesus gave this parable to the disciples under the shadow of the cross, within a week of his passion.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

As per the previous parable, the location was the same, that is, on the Mount of Olives.

Why did the Lord give this message?

Jesus was teaching to the questions the disciples asked at the start of the chapter.

  • When will these things be?
  • What will be the sign of your coming?
  • (What will be the sign) of the end of the age?

Considering the content of this parable, and the opening statement regarding the timing of “these things” (see Matthew 24:34), timing is the topic. And the unknown timing is the message of the parable!

What was the message for the original audience?

Before judgement, everything is normal.

People do not get married when they expect judgment to be imminent! But those in Noah’s day were gittin hitched! The folks before the flood, even on the day the flood erupted, were going about, eating and drinking, living their lives like they did the day before and “knowing” that tomorrow was just around the corner.

Jesus tells us they were unaware! (But how could that be Carl – Noah had been preaching for decades!)

and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. – Mat 24:39 ESV

Matthew 24:40 & 41 were some of my favorite verses to pull in order to prove the pre-tribulational rapture of believers, of those who were “taken”.

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. – Mat 24:40-41 ESV

Early on in my Christian life, I was instructed that those “taken” would be the believers in the rapture, and it seemed to fit all my hopes and desires. Too bad I read the context and came away with a different understanding. Note that the previous verse refers to the flood sweeping them all away. We have to determine if Jesus referred to the ones “taken” as being those who were swept away (in judgement) or those that were safe in the ark.

Personally, I do not see the reference of being “swept away” as being equal with being “left”. I understand the one “taken” is equivalent to the ones swept away during Noah’s flood. Therefore, in the above verse, when considering the coming of the Son of Man, the ones taken will be those who are taken for judgement. Those that are “left”, are left to serve, honor and follow after the One who has delivered his Church from judgement.

The message is reiterated in verse 42, where the Lord summarizes the intent of the parable.

Stay awake! You don’t know when He is coming!

Why hasn’t this timing been supplied to believers? Even the Son of Man, at the time of this telling, did not have this information. Verse 43 teaches us that if we knew when He was coming, we would sleep until then! Sure, we would wake up minutes before He came, but what loss, what regret, what failure!

Our not knowing is for our benefit, as it is with all of God’s dealings with us!

What is the message for us today?

Stay awake!

Such a simple command to repeat! But this is long haul Christianity, not flash in the pan stuff. I have often heard that the Christian life is a marathon, and not simply a sprint race. So it is!

Have you on a work day, right after lunch, got a touch of the drowzies?

Well, I just came home from a day of battling the drowzies. Tiredness, like hunger and thirst, are seemingly uncontrollable influences on the human body. A constant battle to not only keep the eyes open but to keep the mind focused and the body alert. The defenses are weakened (I tend to be more sarcastic when tired!), along with experiencing a lack of concern (a bit apathetic, I admit it), a tendency to postpone tasks, or just to simply ignore the demands of the day! This is what we need to battle! (I admit to none of this!!!)

How does this apply to our Christian life. Are there periods or tiredness in our walk with the Lord? Of course. Tiredness is understood and our human weakness often overcomes our willing spirit.

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Mat 26:41 ESV

This fact of our weak condition only magnifies the importance of this parable. We do not know when He will come. As a matter of fact, we need to expect Him when we least expect Him.

What? How can we do that. Do not assign any importance to any “sign” others claim as an indicator of His coming. Supposed signs are a distraction to simple obedience!

Do you see signs of His coming? If those signs fade, does His coming become less “apparent”?

Comment below if you think something in the news may be directing us to know of the timing of His coming. Although it may seem I am confident in this stance, please rest assured that I am open to discussion!

By the way, when was the specific coming of the Son referred to above? Could it have been within “this generation” that He spoke of in the previous parable? Could it have been within the lifetimes of those who heard His message while He was on earth?


More questions than I have answers to, but may it be possible that the audience of His day understood this parable as His coming to be within their lifetime? If so, how does this impact our common understanding of this parable being applied for our generation?

Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

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