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The Parable of The Alert Servant

Mark 13-33-37

Mark 13:33-37 reads:

“Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going out to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping, and what I say to you, I say to you all: Watch!”

Jesus shared with His followers the signs of the end time. He said that there will be false Christ’s and false prophets who will try to deceived people. There will be terrible tribulation: the stars of Heaven will fall and other devastating events will occur.

While reading or listening to these parables, I hope you will fully understand who the Lord Jesus Christ really is and what is truly going on. Jesus often used parables in His teaching, with the topic of His leaving and returning a recurring theme.

I have heard many recent accounts of people who have met either Jesus or the Father in Heaven, and they were told that the end time is very near, for Jesus is coming back very soon. Some of these people had visions and others had experienced near death encounters where they had been aware of leaving their physical body for a short time and then suddenly finding themselves back again on familiar territory.

In this parable, Jesus uses the character of a Master going away to a foreign country, to illustrate His ascending to Heaven and leaving earth behind until the Second Coming. At that time, Jesus was still with the people, but today Jesus has in fact gone to a far country. This is no longer just the topic of a parable. It says in the Scriptures just before this passage, concerning the Day of His second coming; that we cannot know exactly when Jesus will return. In Matthew 24:36 Jesus said “But of that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” The plea of Jesus follows:

“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”(Matthew 24:42 and 44)

In several parables, Jesus talks about leaving people in charge. In the “Parable of the Talents” and the “Parable of the Ten Minas,” He speaks about going away and leaving us to do something good and faithful while He is gone. In the “Parable of the Five Foolish Virgins,” people were waiting for the bridegroom, whose return was delayed. In the “Parable of the Wedding Feast,” the King sent out for people to come to his feast, but they all had their excuses! In this parable, Jesus was telling the people that He would be going and then returning some time later, pointing people towards His imminent return.

The early disciples were expecting Jesus’ return to happen in their lifetime. So too, down the centuries, His return has been the Christian’s hope in every generation. Today, Christ’s church can see all the things that have been prophesied in the Old Testament and by the words of Jesus Himself, falling into place in a way that has never occurred before. The church worldwide is excited and expectant that in their generation, Jesus will come for them: suddenly and secretly, like a “thief in the night,” the Bible says.

We are told of a time when people who are longing for Jesus to return, will not experience death: but instead, will be suddenly caught up by God to meet Jesus in the air and will be forever with Him. People on earth will speculate why so many millions of people have disappeared all at the exact same moment! There will be devastating disasters all around the world: crashing planes, trains, buses, and cars. Surgeons and hospital staff snatched away, families separated and loved ones missing.

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)

1 Corinthians 15:51says: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

This event is known by believers as the “Rapture” - a term meaning “snatched away” for that is what will happen. It will occur at some stage before Jesus “physically” returns to Israel as Judge and King. Then the nations will be judged. Because Jesus identified with us and suffered in our place, the Father has given Him the power and authority to be the Judge of all the earth. If you have not surrendered your life to Him before then, it will be too late, once Jesus physically returns to the holy land called Jerusalem.

In this particular parable, Jesus is talking about coming back at a time that no one knows. So, what is the purpose of leaving us behind – what should we be doing? He has left His church in charge! What should we be doing while we wait for our Master to return? How should we conduct our business?

When I worked for McDonald’s Corporation, at four different stores, three of them were privately owned, each by a different franchisee. Each franchisee operated the store as a private owner. He paid McDonald’s commissions on all the sales he made; he bought all his food from McDonald’s; he paid the lease of his building to them as well, but essentially he owned the local business. These owners treated me like their own son.

There was also a time when I worked for a McDonald’s store that was owned by the Corporation. It had a manager in charge, but neither he, nor his team had ownership of the store. In other words, it didn’t have a private owner: it was owned by the McDonald’s Corporation. This was because it was new and it hadn’t made sufficient sales per week to sell the business to a private owner. When its profits grew, it would be sold.

When I worked for the corporate-owned store, McDonald’s had a visiting area supervisor who regularly came to check on our store and others, under his authority. Sometimes, another store would tip us off and say, “He has just left us! He’s on his way to you.” The moment this happened, our managers would panic and throw us into a frantic flurry of activity. They would tell us to clean the cooking area and every other part of the store. We would all be rushing around like mad people trying desperately to make the store shine spic and span.

For a while, I conformed to this, but one day in total frustration, I angrily confronted both the manager on duty and then the store manager. I said, “To put pressure on us, to instantly clean up like this, just because the supervisor is coming is being disrespectful to McDonald’s Corporation. The store should be kept clean whether anyone is checking on us or not. People are meant to be doing their jobs all the time! The store is meant to function that way. You shouldn’t be putting such pressure on the staff and expect them to have it spic and span in ten minutes!” You can only imagine the response I received.

This is similar to what Jesus is saying. As Christians, we should live our lives in such a way, that should Jesus return tomorrow, He would find us ready for His arrival. This means, that we are to be in union with Him; resting in His love and peace and therefore bearing fruit that remains. In the “Parable of the Five Foolish Virgins,” I share that the wise virgins lived a life that consisted of joy in the presence of the Holy Spirit: this was represented by the oil and it is how we should always live.

In other words, there should be no fear of Jesus coming back and finding “hands in the cookie jar.” As His children, our lives should reflect His love - there should be none of us stealing or treating people indifferently or no one having a bad attitude. Jesus should not catch you off guard. Instead, you should be feeling joy, living a life of peace, regardless of life’s day to day frustrations. You should feel inwardly contented, knowing that you are loved and accepted into God’s own family.

Jesus knows first hand that life in this world’s system is not easy! It has its hard, difficult times. This parable is certainly not saying that you must be perfect and without any sin in your life, so that if the Master was to return early, He would surprise you and reject you. No! He will never reject one of His children. His shed blood on the cross makes us perfect in His sight! If by faith, we accept this, we will manifest Christ’s perfection in our life. On the cross, Jesus took the punishment for our sin and gave us His right standing with His Father. As believers, we are accepted by God totally, even though we know we fall short.

One parable tells of the wise and faithful servant who is doing what his master commanded him to do. It also tells of the evil servant who is treating people badly and recklessly drinking too much. Sadly, many Christians live a lifestyle where there is not much difference between them and the non-Christians in the world. This is not the way we should be behaving when the Master returns.

I am not laying down the law and condemning people for drinking or having a life that has sin in it. I readily admit that I have lived a wretched life of sin for many years. I personally lived under an indoctrination of judgment and condemnation, which in turn caused me to sin even more! Therefore having been set free, I no longer condemn others. Also, I no longer pretend to be self-righteous in order to be accepted by God.

Regardless of my own feelings, there is a warning in Jesus’ parables that we should be conducting our lives in a holy and righteous manner. That way, we don’t give a foot-hole for the devil to attack us. We can be strong and resist temptation because of God’s power working in us. Because of His presence and grace, we can live holy lives!

Holiness does not come from self-worth. It comes from the power and the enabling of the Holy Spirit through the grace of God, established by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for us. In this parable, Jesus is saying that we should be living in a manner that is ready for Him to come back at any time. We should be conducting our personal and public life appropriately — in a way that brings honor to the Lord Jesus Christ.

I hope that you will be encouraged. Jesus summarized His Father’s commands by saying in John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

One of the signs of the end times is the fact that “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24: 12-13). We are living in a society where many people simply do not care for one another because of the self-centeredness in their own life. As Christians, (Christian means “little Christ”) we should imitate Jesus and His way of living: He had a servant’s heart; He was always looking for opportunities to show God’s love to people and ultimately, He surrendered His own life for mankind.

Therefore, ask God to make you “people-focused,” meaning to consciously look for ways and opportunities to be Jesus to those around you. This will require personal sacrifice and goes against the natural desires of our flesh. If we have a servant heart and rest in God’s enabling, then a pattern of good works will be evidenced in our life to His glory.

I am not saying that the Christian life should be sad or anything laborious. Our life should be enjoyed and we need to learn to find our calling and purpose, so that we can live it joyfully. For all of us, our highest calling is simply to enjoy God and to learn to love others in the forgiveness and patience of Christ.

I hope you have enjoyed this parable, I pray that Jesus our Lord will find you “ready and waiting” when He returns for you.

To read more about Matthew Robert Payne or to know how to book him to speak at your church click on my name Matthew Robert Payne