14 June 2013

Matthew 24:43-44

“Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (v. 44)


These verses form part of an apocalyptic section in Matthew's Gospel which begins at chapter 24 and ends at the end of chapter 25. The term 'apocalyptic' refers to a style of writing that was common in Jewish literature and literally means 'unveiling'. In other words, such writings are thought to reveal heavenly secrets. In this case, along with much apocalyptic writing, these verses are also eschatological, meaning that they refer to death, resurrection, judgement, the afterlife and the culmination of history itself. Associated with this is the expected return of the Messiah who will bring all of this to fulfilment.

The verses immediately before this (Matthew 24:36-42) refer to Noah and offer a warning from the example of those who carried on life as normal and were swept away by the flood. This is then given as an example of how things will be when the Son of Man returns. The passage then goes on to exhort the listeners to keep awake. The verses after this section (Matthew 24:45-51) speak about the faithful and wise slave who is found to be working hard when his master returns in contrast to the wicked slave who acts in this way because the master is delayed. The fate of both slaves is then described.

Today's verses contain an exhortation to be ready for when the Son of Man will return, for he will come at an unexpected time. However, Jesus' phrase "But understand this" suggests that he is saying something particularly important and something that requires us to particularly think about and meditate upon. As we do so, we may be reminded of the mysterious words in Mark 3:27 which refer to the need to bind up the strong man before entering and plundering his house.

To Ponder

  • What does it mean for us to be ready or awake in our daily lives?
  • How do you feel about the return of the Son of Man?
  • What might be unexpected about the hour of the Son of Man's return?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jonathan Mead

Jonathan is a Methodist minister, who works part time in the London NW Mission circuit and part time as a learning and development officer in the London District. He enjoys keeping fit, reading history and visiting Mediterranean destinations..