Thursday, April 18, 2013

Luke 12:35-48

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak.

“But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”

Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?”

The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, 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 is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

“The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Yes Tom Petty, the waiting is the hardest part. We hate to wait in America. Fast food, credit cards, microwaves, speed passes, and premarital sex abound. What does this passage teach us about waiting Jesus' way?

We must always be prepared to serve Christ daily - be dressed ready for service. Literally we are to "have our loins girded". In Jesus' day one would need to tuck in his long robe in order to serve. Today we might use the idiom "roll up your sleeves" to convey the same image of readiness to work and "get your hands dirty".

We must maintain ourselves - keep your lamps burning. In those days without electricity, servants would have small oil lamps to illuminate the way for the master. You couldn't just light them at a moment's notice. A good servant would keep the wick trimmed and oil in the lamp, listening for sounds of the masters return. Likewise we should be preparing for our Master's return through Bible Study, prayer, righteous living, and sharing the gospel.

We must expect the master to return - like servants waiting for their master. Even now, two thousand years later, we must anticipate the return of Jesus. The eager servant will be watching and waiting, ready to throw open the door and welcome the Master.

A surprising thing happens to the ready servants in the parable. The master tucks in his own garment, tells them to recline, and begins serving them! Likewise when Christ returns, his servants who have been found faithful will be rewarded. Jesus came to serve (Lk 22:27), thus serving is elevated to an honorable task rather than a demeaning one. Jesus led through servant leadership throughout his ministry, never bossing his disciples around but rather kindly forgiving and leading through example. We should mirror this in our own relationships, especially when put "over" other people in any capacity.

But there is a tension in this passage. The first section reveals the joy a faithful servant will experience at Christ's return. But those with opposite lives will have a different perspective. In fact, they will view him as a thief breaking into the house in the middle of the night and taking what the owner believed belonged to him. Not knowing when the thief would come, the homeowner finds himself caught unprepared. The return of Christ is seen as a disaster for this fellow. All he values is taken away.

We can be confident that Christ will return to reward some and judge others. We cannot know the day or the hour, and those who attempt to predict it end up looking like fools. The delay in his coming is a test of our faithfulness that refines us through the Spirit into a closer image of Jesus to bring glory to God.

Peter, probably feeling uncomfortable, queries Jesus as to whom the parable is about. I'm sure he wants to be considered a faithful servant and not a robbed homeowner. In true Jesus form he does not give a straight answer. The principles here apply to all people.

The reward of the faithful and wise manager is to be put in charge of managing many things in eternity. Scripture indicates that we will work in the afterlife, not sit on clouds strumming harps. (Not that strumming harps isn't work. Calm down harpists!) Won't it be amazing to accomplish tasks without becoming weary or being distracted by other things?

But suppose the servant becomes weary of waiting for the Master and begins to engage in drunkenness and abuse of others. This servant is cut to pieces and assigned a place with the unbelievers. Harsh words, but we must not overlook them in an attempt to cling to our idol of a constantly loving and kind Jesus. The one who sins knowingly receives a greater punishment than the one who sins unknowingly. In Matthew’s parallel account (24:45-51), he adds a reference to “weeping and gnashing of teeth”.  Ignorance doesn't bring you through the gates of heaven; it just diminishes hell. Many who claim to be servants of God will find themselves judged harshly when all is said and done. In light of Jesus' recent confrontation with the Pharisees and lawyers, he may have had false religious leaders in mind. Those placed in leadership have an even greater responsibility (Js 3:1).

Those of us who have accepted the truth of Jesus' first coming should look eagerly towards the second coming and the fulfillment of his promises. And keep in mind that much has been given to us, therfore much will be expected!

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.   - Colossians 3:23-24

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