It is hard to narrow down one topic, one focus for the book of Matthew. A few years ago, I did an entire series just on a few verses from Matthew 5! There is so much beauty, teaching, and fulfillment in the life in Christ. But today, I decided to focus on a theme at the end of Matthew, perseverance and preparedness.
Shortly before his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, Jesus warned His disciples about being prepared for the coming of the Lord. He told them of great persecution and trials that would come to them and the whole earth before that day.
He told them they would be reviled, that some would be led astray by false prophets and others would betray them, but then he tells them, “he who endures to the end will be saved.” – Matthew 24:13 RSVCE
Enduring the end. Pressing on despite obstacles. Continuing the love despite the increase of wickedness.
Jesus was preaching a message of perseverance and was helping equip His followers by telling them what was to come.
But He also reminded them of the need to prepare themselves.
The Lord is going to return. Jesus made that very clear to His disciples. Not only is the Lord going to return, but it is going to be suddenly and unexpectedly. And the people of God need to be prepared.
In several parables, Jesus emphasizes this need for preparedness, but I particularly appreciated the one at the end of Matthew 24 this week.
Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect. – Matthew 24:42-44 RSVCE
The coming of the Lord is compared to someone breaking into a house. Unexpected. Those in the home are caught off guard and unprepared. In the previous passage, he compares it to the coming of flood on the people of Noah’s time. Both analogies are dramatic and highlight the need for preparedness.
Because we need to prepare our hearts and lives for the return of the Lord. If our roots aren’t deep, if our foundation isn’t solid, our faith will blow away when the storms of trials and the overwhelming waves of wickedness beat against us.
So Jesus tells us to prepare, but He also promises to help.
He doesn’t leave us alone in preparing and persevering but tells us He will gently lead us.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 RSVCE
In Jesus, the world is turned upside down and seemingly contrary things can coexist. We can take up the call to prepare and persevere because we can rely on our gentle and lowly Shepherd. The weight of doing it alone is simply too much, we need to lay off the burden and take up instead His yoke. We need the rest the Good Shepherd provides for our souls.
Because of His leadership, we can follow the path He has called us to walk. We can learn from Him and find rest for our souls even in the face of trials and uncertainty. He doesn’t leave His disciples to figure out how to prepare and persevere on their own, He equips them. And He equips us too.