Summary: The key message of Mt 24 and this Parable is to be alert
The End Times.
Mt 24 is one of the hardest chapters in the Gospels to understand. Because Jesus speaks of future events.
And he continues on the same theme in Mt 25, with the Parable of the Ten Virgins.
But the bottom line of this parable is this:
“Keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (of Jesus Second coming) Mt25:13
Why did Jesus bother about preaching on the future?
1 The Past
We can understand when Jesus taught from the past . Because we can all learn from the mistakes of history – and try to avoid them.
But there is more. As Michael Green so ably put it:
“ History is going somewhere. It is not meaningless. It is not random . It is not eternal.
There will be a real end just as there was a real beginning. And at the end of it, we will find Jesus Christ. (Michael Green – The Message of Matthew p.253)
History is in a real sense Jesus’ story.
“He made the world, He came to dwell in it. He will return at the end of history to wind it up”
(Michael Green – The Message of Matthew p. 250)
2 The Present
We can also understand why Jesus also taught about the present – because we live in the present.
Jesus used a lot of everyday analogies to teach – relying much on the rural way of life in Israel
The Parable of the Good Shepherd (Lk 10)
The Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin (both in Lk 15) and
The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats,(Mt 25)
3 The Future
But why did Jesus bother to tell us about the future.
3.1. Firstly to warn us so we are not led astray by false prophets
Remember the future of Jesus’ audience is OUR past and present and future.
And Jesus wanted us to avoid being led astray
There has always been a propensity for people to be attracted by prophetic utterances about the future
Story: In the late 19th Century in America there was an enthusiasm for such prophecies predicting the actual date for Christ’s Second Coming.
One such prophet was an Adventist leader William Miller (1782-1849). And it is in his movement that both the JW’s and the Seventh Day Adventists find their roots.
Miller first predicted that Christ would return on 21st March 1842, but then revised the date to April 3, 1843.
When Christ did not appear on 3rd April 1843 you would have thought that the movement would have died. But it didn’t. Rather it continued to grow.
Miller decided to recalculate his date for the Second Coming and soon publicised a new date - April 18, 1844.
When the messiah did not show up on that date, there was again frustration and some followers left the Adventist ranks.
Undeterred by these failures, Miller came up with a fourth date for the Second Coming - 22nd October 1844.
As doomsday approached, the Millerites began to prepare.
One account notes that “Fields were left unharvested, shops were closed, people quit their jobs, paid their debts, and freely gave away their possessions with no thought of repayment.”
William Miller himself began peddling white “ascension robes” to the faithful, many of whom waited for the miraculous event in freshly dug graves.
But as we all know, the Second Coming did not occur on 22nd October 1844.
Jesus was eager to spare his followers the pain of the let down that false prophets bring – and the real sense of loss that accompanies it.
He is warning us to be on our guard – test what you hear
We need to remember that the primary goal of the Church is to preach the message of the kingdom of God – and not to be sidetracked by “idle speculations”.
We must keep our eye on the ball.
3.2 The second reason I believe Jesus gave this prophecy was so we could be ready for the events when they come
It is a bit like hazard lights on a motorway. They warn you of a hazard up ahead before you reach it
Many of Jesus’ hearers were going to live through a cataclysmic event – the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in AD 70. The future was soon going to be real
The siege of Jerusalem in AD 66-70 turned out to be a terrible siege that lasted four years.
The city was defended with fanaticism.
The Romans tried to starve the Jews out and in the end, the inhabitants resorted to cannibalism.
A million Jews were killed and almost 97 thousand were taken into captivity.
Story: The 3rd Century historian Eusebius records an interesting story.
Some Jewish Christians living in Jerusalem got out just before the siege and fled to Pella in Transjordan.