Ready for the Return of Christ

Sermon by Ed Hartman on Oct 27

Luke 12:35-48

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Let me invite you to take your Bible and turn with me to Luke chapter 12. You’ll find that on page 871 of your Bible there in front of you in the rack. It’s been a full and busy weekend. I arrived here at church this afternoon around five o’clock and some were still here who hadn’t left since arriving here at six or seven o’clock in the morning. It’s been a full day; it’s been a full weekend. There were about 150 men gathered for the work day doing some major cleaning and beautification yesterday, and not just here in the church but ministries supported around our church. We celebrated the “One Sunday” this morning and focused on stewardship and on the election of new deacons, all of which highlighting being “On Mission Together.” We were reminded of Mr. Seven-Hands and I’ve not been able to stop thinking about Mr. Seven-Hands all afternoon and how it connects directly. Some of you are looking at me blankly. Did you miss Mr. Seven-Hands? How could you have missed that? I suspect that was recorded. Right Zeb? I’m assuming it was recorded. I imagine Zeb can bring you up to speed if it wasn’t!

Anyway, the question is, “How do you pull all of that together?” Of course we’re in a series on the parables, but you can’t just pick a parable and preach that at the end of a weekend such as we’ve been through and at the end of a day such as we’ve experienced today. So I wrestled with that for some time, knowing that I’d been invited to preach this evening. And the Lord led me to this passage. And it’s striking how clearly it speaks to everything we’ve been through and have been focused on this weekend and today in particular. Luke 12:35-48 really is not just one parable; it’s three mini-parables. And there’s one unifying theme. Each one of these mini-parables points to the certainty of the return of Christ. And that should give us pause because scholars, as they talk about these three parables, say that these are among the weightiest parables in the New Testament. They deal with the dominant New Testament doctrine repeated more often than any other doctrine in the New Testament. You understand that, right? The doctrine of the return of Christ is the most often repeated doctrine of any other of our doctrines in the New Testament. Out of 260 chapters in the New Testament, the return of Christ is mentioned in 216 of those chapters. Almost every book in the New Testament talks about the return of Christ. Three hundred eighteen times, the New Testament writers refer to the return of Christ. And ten times in these three mini-parables you hear the Lord Jesus talking about the one who comes, will come, who is coming and will certainly not delay in coming. 

You find that these three parables are summarized this way. There’s one about a master and his servants. Two, a master and a thief. Three, a master and a manager. So with that in mind, let’s read the passage together. Verse 35:

“‘Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third watch, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?’ And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.’”

This is God’s holy Word. Would you join me in prayer?

Father in heaven, we come before You with great need. You’ve entrusted to us Your holy Word, but unless You, by Your Spirit, intervene and minister Your Word to our hearts - our hungry and needy hearts - these will remain words on a page or words spoken by a man. But would You cause Your Word to become alive and powerful as You promised Your Spirit would make it to be. Penetrate deep beyond the hardness, the ingratitude, the unbelief, the distrust, the distraction, the preoccupation with a myriad of a thousand other things. Would You please speak Your truth to our hearts and then free us not just to do Your will but to find our greatest joy and delight and pleasure in doing Your will. We ask this all in Jesus’ name, amen.

So last Christmas, just before Christmas, a dear friend in this congregation who I won’t name, gave me an unexpected gift. When he gave it to me I could tell it was a book because it had the weight, the heft of a book, but I didn’t know what would he give me. So you might understand that I was surprised when I opened it, it was a Bible. A one year Bible. And you know, I’ve read through the Bible in a year lots of times. I’ve used the one year Bible regularly for years and in the standard one year Bible you’ve got every day a reading from the Old Testament, a reading from the New Testament, a reading in the Psalms and a reading in the Proverbs. If you do it every day of the year, you’ve read through the whole Bible and through the Psalms twice. But this wasn’t an ordinary one year Bible. It was a chronological one year Bible which, January 1 where I started this year, you begin in Genesis and you start with the very beginning of the Bible and you trace the chronological history of the whole story of the Bible.

And here’s what was interesting. It had never occurred to me how much waiting there was in the Bible. Because I read all of January and then I read all of February and all of March and April and May and on and on and what I kept reading about was all these people who knew what God’s will was but they kept becoming hard hearted and ungrateful, unbelieving and rebellious and they kept going their own way and God kept having to discipline them and He kept bringing them back and He kept loving on them and kept making promises and they kept rebelling, over and over. There was so much waiting and so much longing. Do you realize that it wasn’t until September 29th that we got to the New Testament? And for the first time in my life I felt my heart go, “Finally! We’re in Matthew!” And it occurred to me that God’s people had been waiting for so much time for the promised Redeemer, the One promised in Genesis chapter 3, to finally come. 

But then as Jesus shows up on the scene and begins ministering thirty years or so after He’s born, you suddenly realize that there’s a whole other season of waiting that comes into clear focus. And then after He dies and rises from the dead and ascends into heaven, the season of waiting has really begun. And if you’ve checked your watch or your calendar, it’s been a couple millennia of waiting for the next park of redemptive history to unfold. And in that waiting and to that waiting, Jesus says in this passage, verse 40, He says, “You also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” And surrounding that one statement He tells three short parables to burn deep into our hearts that our lives are all about a clear and consistent expectancy in that waiting. I honestly cannot find a better passage to finish this weekend and this “One Sunday” where we’ve talked about stewardship, where we’ve talked about deaconing, where we’ve talked about serving and practiced the context of being on mission together in the orbit of all of those elements. I can’t find anything better but this - these three mini-parables. And I’d like us to take them in reverse order and you’ll see why in the end. 

The Master and the Manager 

Starting with the master and the manager in verses 42 through 48. The emphasis in this part of the passage is on urgency. The seriousness of being constantly ready. The finality and permanence both of the rewards to faithfulness and the consequences to unfaithfulness. Peter asks a question in verse 41, “Whom are you addressing? Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all? Who is the target of your teaching?” And Jesus answers Peter’s question with another question. And He asks in verse 42, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager whom his master will set over his household to give them their portion of food at the proper time?” Peter says, “Who’s the target audience?” Jesus’ simple answer is this, “Anyone who desires to be found a faithful and wise manager when the master returns.” That’s the target. If that’s not your interest, this passage really won’t have any bearing; it won’t have any meaning or appeal to you. Anyone who desires to be found a faithful and wise manager when the master returns. 

Now the Bible has given us a clear picture of what this kind of manager looks like. You go all the way back to the book of Genesis toward the end of the book and you read about a man whose name is Joseph. Joseph, who’s got a bunch of brothers who don’t like him, they create a charade; they sell him into slavery and claim that he’s been killed by an animal when his dad asks what happens. And Joseph is taken to the distant land of Egypt and there he’s purchased by a man whose name is Potiphar, a man who’s in law enforcement. A man who’s all about the rules and making sure things are protected and ordered and structured. He’s the captain of the king’s secret service; the captain of the king’s guard. And Joseph is hired as the lowest and least trusted of the servants in Potiphar’s household, yet over time, he begins to distinguish himself as a really trustworthy servant. And little by little, he’s entrusted with more and more responsibility. And the more responsibility he’s given, the more faithful he shows himself to be to the end that Joseph arrives at the place where Potiphar looks at him and says, “You’re in charge of it all. As a matter of fact, there is nothing that I own, none of my household, that isn’t under your authority except my supper.” As a matter of fact, Genesis 39:6 says it this way - “So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care and with Joseph in charge he did not concern himself with anything except the food that he ate.” 

Jesus says, “Blessed is that faithful manager whom he, the master, will find serving faithfully in that way when he returns.” Verse 43 goes on to put it this way. “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. Blessed is that servant.” The NIV used to say, “It will be good for that servant to be found that way.” And that same “blessed” which you find in the Beatitudes is found three times in this passage - verse 43, verse 37, and verse 38. Jesus is saying it will be really good for you to be found in this way. 

And yet in that same mini-parable, in contrast, verse 45 says but if that servant says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming,” and he begins to beat the male and female servants and to eat and drink and get drunk, that’s a very different picture than the one Joseph presents. Pause for a minute and think about this. Here’s a manager who’s put in charge of everything and yet he begins to operate with a false sense of independence. He begins to act like not a manager but an owner. And he begins to say, “This stuff is mine. It belongs to me and I get to do with it whatever I want.” And he begins to practice real self-indulgence. He ignores accountability. He says, “My master is delayed in coming.” It’s an indefinite delay that the text refers to. And he treats what belongs to the master as if it were his own, even to the point of abusing what belongs to the master as he treats it as if he has authority over it himself. He beats the male and the female servants. In other words, everything he treats as if it belongs to him. 

Does that strike close to home? Have you looked at what God has entrusted to your stewardship, your management as if, “This belongs to me”? That’s why we fence around our property. “It’s my property.” That’s why we get upset when someone dings our car door - “Because you dinged my car door!” We’re treating what rightly belongs to the master as if it were our own. The result, verse 46, says the master of that servant, that manager, “Will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and will put him with the unfaithful.” The parallel passage, Mark’s account of this passage, which incidentally is in today’s reading of the one year chronological Bible, that version adds one phrase and it says, “He will put him where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And suddenly you realize that this manager, steward, servant is put in what Jesus describes as hell.

Now very quickly I need to say this is not teaching that a Christian can lose his salvation by the way he practices faithfulness. It’s not teaching that at all because our understanding of the Scriptures says that a genuine follower of Jesus will never lose his relationship with Christ because Jesus secures it. What it is teaching is how clearly our stewardship or our lack thereof exposes what is true about our hearts. I wonder if Jesus had this illustration in mind when He looked out of the corner of His eye at Judas - Judas, one of His disciples who looked like he was one of the inner circle. As a matter of fact, if you asked all the disciples, “Who is the most trusted of these twelve?” They would have all pointed to Judas. He externally looked like the most trustworthy one, so much so that they entrusted all of their collected money to his care. John chapter 12 verse 6 says Judas was the keeper of the moneybag and he used to help himself to what was placed in it. Interestingly, the way Jesus describes this manager who will be cut to pieces is exactly the way He would have described Judas. It’s the way He would describe any one of us who lives and acts like Judas; who, instead of living as a steward or a manager, acts as if, “This is really all mine. There’s no authority over me. I decide what I do with this. I own it. I get to be self-indulgent however I choose with what is mine.”

The fact is, as you look at this passage Jesus comes to it in verse 47, “That servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much more will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” This is really heavy. Isn’t it? You’re thinking, “Wow, you want to finish a Sunday with this?” This is a passage to which scholars often go to when they talk about degrees of punishment. Now I don’t want to plumb those depths at all. I simply want to say where Jesus ends is this - “To whom much has been given, much is required.” That was a phrase that I heard regularly from my mother who would look at me and say, “Ed, you’re growing up in a home where Jesus is present, where His Word is read, where you’re taken to church. To whom much is given, much is required.” Those words rang in my ears as I grew up and they still sober me. 

You look around and you realize that you are sitting in a church that has regularly been meeting for 180 years. I don’t know of another church where the Word of God has been this consistently and this faithfully taught with precision, with clarity, with passion, even with joy like this church. You and I will not find ourselves among those who did not know our Master’s will. You and I are only in the category of those who did know our Master’s will and His calling to our stewardship. The question is, “What will we do with that stewardship to which we’ve been called?” We’re all managers. We’re all stewards. None of us is an owner. As a matter of fact, this morning we confessed it as our confession of faith. The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism. “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” Answer, get this - “My only comfort is that I am not my own. I don’t belong to myself. But I belong, body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ who, with His precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins and has delivered me from all the power of the devil and so preserves me that, apart from the will of my Father in heaven, not a hair can fall from my head” - and it goes on from there. 

Now here it is. Your only comfort is that you are not your own. I belong, you belong to the One who paid for us. That’s the core of this first mini-parable. Whether you’re a deacon or not, you all serve in a diaconal capacity. Elected as a deacon, serving as a deacon, ordained, installed - doesn’t matter. We’re all called to the stewardship of serving in a diaconal capacity. The leaders of this church have been charged with the singular task - Ephesians 4:11 puts it this way, “To equip the whole church, every member, for works of service,” for deaconing - that’s the Greek word; for works of deaconing. That’s who we are and that’s our calling.

The Master and the Thief

We have to move more quickly to the second mini-parable - that of the master and thief, verses 39 to 40. The emphasis here is on the unexpected and sudden character of His return. And interestingly, Jesus reverses the roles. This time He’s not the Master. This time Jesus is the thief and we are the master of the house. Verse 39, “But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Now this imagery of the thief is used all throughout the New Testament. I’ll read to you just a few quick examples. Second Peter 3:10, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief.” First Thessalonians 5:2, “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” Revelation 16:5, “Behold, I am coming like a thief,” Jesus says. And again, Revelation 3:3, “If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.” The result is His coming will be sudden and completely unexpected. Here’s the point. Jesus is saying though you know He will return - y’all probably have a calendar on your phone. Right? And most of you will be like me at the end of today. You’ll flip over to say, “What does Monday look like? What do I have Tuesday? Wednesday? How busy a week? Where am I headed? How exhausted am I going to be at the end of the week? What’s this going to take out of me?” How many of our schedules say, “Be ready for the return of Christ.” Yes, you’ve got these appointments, this many people to see. You’ve got these places to which you’re flying or traveling. But where is it, “Jesus might return this week”? Where’s that expectation? Though we’re told He will return, though we’ve given signs of His coming, promises and warnings and alarms, we’re told still it will be a sudden and unexpected return. Unanticipated by those who receive Him.

In April of 2015, the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company in London, England was robbed. Think about this. 2015 - this was a highly secure, technologically advanced facility that was believed to have been impregnable. It was in the middle of the Diamond District in London. It was created as a place where on Friday, at the close of business, all these diamond dealers could bring their stones into this place, lock them up into their boxes inside this highly secure facility that was advertised as being absolutely, completely impregnable. And yet over one long holiday weekend, a group of old men it turned out to be, most of whom had served time for being criminals, thieves in their earlier years, guys who were bored, who wanted one last challenge, cooked up a plan and they gained access to the adjacent building, got into the basement through an open elevator shaft down which they repelled, and they took the next ten hours with special drills and hydraulic presses to drill through two feet of steel reinforced concrete. Before they broke into that first building, they had someone on the inside whom they paid to deactivate all the cameras and all the alarms throughout all the facility. Except that person was unaware of a later camera that was added, which consequently wasn’t deactivated. That camera caught movement, sent off an alarm to the monitoring company, and the monitoring company called the police, the police in turn called the chief operating officer of the Hatton Garden Safety Deposit Company. And he, it being on a holiday weekend, got the call, was told what had happened, alarm was triggered - nothing showing up on the camera but there’s an alarm triggered - he said, “Don’t worry about it. Nobody breaks into that place. We’ll just reset the alarm on Monday.” Monday showed up and the consequences were devastating. Over $300 million worth of diamonds disappeared. Unthinkable. Unexpected. Unanticipated. 

It’s really very much was Peter writes about in 2 Peter 3:3. He says, “You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.” Here’s what they’ll say - “Where is this coming he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on just as it has since the beginning of creation. But they deliberately forget that long ago, by God’s Word, the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word that present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” Jesus is very clear in saying, “I’ve called you to be stewards and managers of what I’ve entrusted to your care. I will come back.” He said it at His ascension - or the angels did - “This same Jesus whom you’ve seen ascend, He will come back just as you’ve seen Him ascend.” It will be a sudden and unexpected return with devastating and permanently unchangeable consequences for the ones who are unprepared. 

The Master and the Servants

So three mini-parables. The master and the manager. The master and a thief. And finally, the first one in the passage, the master and his servants, verses 35 though 38. And here the emphasis is really on encouragement. It’s where I wanted to end these mini-parables. Here, the master, represented again as Jesus, has gone to a wedding feast and after days of feasting, maybe even weeks in the ancient near eastern context, after all this time of being away, he finally turns toward home and he travels back. And his desire is to find his servants waiting expectantly and ready to receive him. And this is the desire that’s expressed in this first of the three mini-parables. And he says, “No matter how long or how inconvenient the timing” - highlighted by verse 38, whether it’s in the second or the third watch; that is, the wee hours of the morning, even then the servants are watching and waiting.

He gives three quick words of instruction. Verse 35 - always be ready for service. Stay dressed for action, he says. In the Greek it’s “let your loins remain girded.” Why? Because readiness is the posture of a true servant, of a deacon, of a steward. And Jesus is saying, “Pay attention. Your calling is to remain ready.” Second instruction in verse 35 is to keep your lamp burning. There’s so much to say about this but because of where we are timewise I’ll simply say this. You may have heard on the radio the old Motel 6 advertisements. You remember them? They always ended with these words, “I’m Todd Bodett, and we’ll leave the lights on for you.” What’s that saying? He’s saying, “Here at Motel 6, we’re acting as if we’re expecting your return. We’ll keep the lights on for you. We know you’re coming. We’re here waiting.” That’s what Jesus is pointing to at the same time. Live in such a way that demonstrates your ongoing expectation of the return of Christ.

And then verse 36 He says, “so that they may open the door at once.” Meaning don’t be preoccupied with anything that distracts you from that expectancy. We’re all busy with a lot, but Jesus is saying don’t let any of your busyness distract you, preoccupy you from that expectancy. And the encouragement He offers is in verse 37. I wonder if you caught it the first time we read through it. He says, “Blessed are those servants who the master finds awake when he comes. Truly I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table and he will come and serve them.” Did you catch the reversal? This is really an unthinkable reversal. The first audience who heard Jesus say these words and the first recipients of Luke’s gospel would have been stunned at this because the line between master and servant was never crossed. And yet here Jesus is saying, “If you’re ready, if you’re living with that ongoing state of expectancy, when I come, even if it’s at an inconvenient time, the wee hours of the morning, look when I come I’m not going to expect you to serve Me. I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing all along. I’m going to have you sit down and I’m going to serve you.”

You may have watched the PBS series, “Downton Abbey.” Right? Or the new movie that’s out at the theaters by that same name. I had to look up all the names because I’m not an aficionado, but I know of the series. Robert Crawley, the sixth Earl of Grantham, also known at Lord Grantham, is the proud patriarch of Downton. His wife who is an American is Cora. She’s Lady Grantham. And together they rule with unquestioned authority and they are served attentively by all the servants in that facility. The original Downton Abbey, called Highclere Castle, had forty-two servants. The castle that you see in all the images where the setting of Downton Abbey is placed. Mr. Carson, the head butler in charge of all the male servants, Ms. Hughes, the head of all the female servants, their singular role is to serve Lord and Lady Grantham and their children. 

Now picture this episode in the “Downton Abbey” series. Lord Grantham is off on a long journey in his carriage. He’s gone for quite some time. He told his servants he’ll be back, but they don’t know exactly when. They don’t have cell phones. The mail doesn’t operate the way it does now, or maybe it’s similar to the way it does now, but he comes back, finally. He’s travelling back and he’s in his carriage and he’s tired. It’s the middle of the night but he desperately wants to sleep in his own bed that night so they push on. And he rounds the corner. He’s wondering, “Is anybody still going to be awake? Gosh, I hope someone is there at the door with a lantern to receive me, to unlock the door, grab my hat and my jacket and point me to a bed. I hope someone will turn down the covers so I can slide in and sleep. I’m exhausted.” And to his amazement he rounds the corner and all the lights on Downton Abbey are on and a broad smile spreads across his face and he sits back and he goes, “They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing! They’re ready. They’re watching. They’re waiting.” And he comes up the long treeline drive, the carriage stops at the door, a footman jumps out, opens the carriage door, the doors of the abbey swing open, his servants pile out and his servants say, “Lord Grantham! Lord Grantham! We’re so glad you’re here!”

And as one of them reaches for his hat and his bag, the unthinkable happens. Lord Grantham, with a beaming smile on his face says, “No, no, no, no. Not this time. This time I’m carrying my own bags.” And he plops them inside the door and he looks at all of his waiting servants and he says, “Y’all sit down here at the table.” And there in the great banquet hall, in the banqueting table, it’s set, he says, “You guys sit down.” And he pulls off his jacket, he wraps an apron around himself, puts on the gloves of a butler, and he begins to serve them. And they’re stunned. And he continues, smiling. He’s beaming the whole time. And then, even more unthinkably, when they’re done eating, they’re full and satisfied, he’s anticipated all of their needs and he fully satisfies them, and then he says, “Y’all go wait in the library while I clean up the kitchen!” 

Would that episode ever air? Would anybody watching that say anything other than, “Nah! That would never happen!” Except that’s exactly what Jesus promises to you and me. That’s exactly what He says He will do if He finds us watching and waiting for His return. Unthinkable? Not really. Not when you realize that this Son of Man talked about in verse 40, “the Son of Man is coming at an hour we do not expect.” This Son of Man, Mark 10 says, “did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” A short time later He would serve His own disciples. When none of them would be willing to wash one another’s feet, He actually wrapped the towel around Himself and He did what none of them was willing to do for one another. The fact is, He’s been serving them all along. He’s been serving us all along. We with our Mr. Seven-Hands, He smiles and He says, “I’m inviting you to serve,” but it’s His hands wrapped around ours. Always. We’re never doing it on our own. It’s always Him who is serving us to enable us to do what is both unthinkable and absolutely impossible for us to do on our own. 

And at the end, like Sam’s granddaddy - if you weren’t here this morning, this won’t make sense - but He beams and He smiles as He prepares to return and receive us to Himself and say, “My delight is to serve you in ways that I never before have, to do so for all eternity.” Unthinkable? Not really. It’s the great motivation - not to make us more self-indulgent, but to delight even more fully, more deeply in the One who has been serving us all along. The fact is, Jesus has been serving us all along and He will finish what He’s begun. He absolutely will. At the end of the day, Jesus will either take you to Himself in death or He will return to us as He ascended into heaven. There’s no third option. Put simply, Jesus will come for you or Jesus will come to you. Are you ready for both? One of the two will happen to you and to me and there will be a generation of followers of Jesus who will not taste death. They will see the clouds rolled back as a scroll. They’ll hear the shout and the trumpet and the angels going out to the four winds to gather in God’s elect. He will return to them and gather them to Himself. And He will say what He said in another parable, “Come, the banquet table is set. Everything is now ready. Just come.” 

Will that day find you ready and expectant? Will that day find you busy, managing what He has temporarily entrusted to your care? It’s interesting. In those two parables, the master and the thief, the master and the manager, where Jesus is a thief and the master of the house treats everything as if it is his own, he ends up losing everything when the thief comes. But the other parable, the master and the manager, when the master returns and finds the manager doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing as a good steward, Jesus says, “I will entrust to you even more.” These images don’t sit in our brains very often. Do they? How will this week look different if you actually begin tomorrow morning saying, “I want to live as a steward expecting Jesus’ return today”? What will that look like? What will that feel like? What difference will it make? Zeb said to us very clearly this morning what you do in stewardship really matters. It makes all the difference. And when we, like children, let our Master serve us, equipping us and enabling us what would be otherwise impossible to do what would be otherwise impossible, we can’t imagine what He’ll accomplish in the process. 

I want to end here where Charles Spurgeon would end. And I’m going to ask you to stand. I’m going to read to you one verse and then I’m going to use a benediction to close us - please stand - to close us the way I’ve read Charles Spurgeon often closed his services and then we’ll sing the last verse of “When Trials Come.” Luke 21 verse 28, “Jesus said, ‘When these things begin to take place’” - and they have; the end has begun - “‘When these things begin to take place, stand up, lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” And the benediction. May the Lord keep you waiting, working and watching, that when He comes you may have the blessedness of entering upon some larger, higher and nobler service than you could accomplish now - a service for  which you are now preparing by the lowlier and more arduous service to which you’ve been called in this world. May God bless you and keep you to that end. Amen.

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