Lunch with Jesus, pt. 1

It is my understanding that Luke 14 is a unit to be studied as a whole. However, I do not have the time to sit and explain it as an entire unit, nor do you, Constant Reader, have the time to sit and read the article in its entirety. So I will do my best to maintain the thread of my thoughts of Luke 14 as I write these articles respectively.

Luke 14.1-6 sets the scene for this chapter and the following teachings of Jesus found in this section. We can only assume, but this seems to be an event that took place following a synagogue assembly. If you will remember, this is not the first time that Jesus has been confronted on the Sabbath nor is it the first time that he has healed on the Sabbath (see 6.1-11; 13.10-17). So it is not new territory for Jesus.

Is it new territoy for the Pharisees who are “watching him carefully” (ESV)? Maybe. They may be new antagonists who have never seen Jesus before. Although, it is also possible that this is the same group he has encountered in the past; perhaps this man with dropsy is a plant to try and goad out of Jesus a miracle so they can accuse him. Whatever the case, these men are here and they have an agenda: catch Jesus in the act and find something to accuse him with.

So he has been invited to the house of “one of the leaders of the Pharisees” (NASB). This is probably a lavish setting with much food. I draw that implication from the parables of Jesus and the lavish detail he uses when describing the wedding feast (v.8-11) and the great banquet (v.12-14, 16-24). Jesus may be drawing from his surroundings as he tells these parables. Plus, it would not be out of character for a man of prominence, as this Pharisee was, to pad his pockets a little and so adorn his house.

We are introduced to the poor man who is suffering from a condition called dropsy. The official medical term today is edema. This is when serous fluid accumulates in the tissue of the body. It just sounds painful to me. This man is swollen from all the fluid that is accumulating in the tissue of his body. His hands are swollen. His feet are swollen, perhaps making it painful to walk. His arms, legs, neck, chest are probably swollen. Who knows how long he has suffered like this. But here is he “in front of” Jesus. Is he looking for a miracle? Maybe. Chances are he knows about Jesus and what he can. He is more than likely in a great deal of pain from his affliction. Even if is used by these Pharisees, he could still be hoping against hope that Jesus will find some way to heal on the Sabbath.

And so the characters are before us: Jesus, a group of self-righteous Pharisees, and a man with dropsy, gathered in a ruler of the Pharisees’ house for a bite of lunch (v.1). I suppose it is rather tense as all eyes (at least the eyes of the Pharisees) are on Jesus. Faced with the plight of humanity, what will he do?  Will he heal? Jesus beats them to the punch…

“Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” Nervous eyes dart back and forth among the Pharisees. What is he talking about? No one of them could heal anyone on any day. They ponder to themselves. This is new, they continue to wonder. Furrowed brows form on the faces of these Pharisees. They are struck speechless. If they say “no” the people will see them as harmless. If they answer “yes,” Jesus is vindicated in his actions. They rage internally, voicing no answer.

Jesus, knowing the cunundrum he has caused in their logic, takes hold of the man and heals him and sends him on his way; he ahs served his purpose – not the purposes of the Pharisees, but the purposes of God. God is glorified even in his illness. Surely the Pharisees and experts in the law are stupified; what can they say? And so Jesus continues with instruction: if their son or ox falls into a well on the Sabbath, would they not fetch him out? It is rhetorical; of course they would! The implication is how much more valuable is human life! God demands mercy and compassion for human life. They recognized the value of an animal but failed to see the greater intrinsic value of a human life.

So instead of the man with dropsy being used as evidence against Jesus, the tables are turned and he becomes Exhibit A against the Pharisees and more convincing proof to the Lordship of Jesus. And so now the stage is set, the pulpit is warmed up for the teaching of Jesus that follows.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem

The preacher is the modern day prophet of God. He does not deal with the foretelling of the future but with the forthtelling of the word of God. He is under obligation to preach, as he best understands, the word of God to the people. Consequently, he sometimes runs into opposition. I know a preacher (we’ll call him Dave) who was preaching at a congregation of the Lord’s people. One Sunday he spoke concerning the sovereignty of God. That week, one of the brothers who had been in the audience asked if he could preach the following Sunday. He was permitted. That following Sunday he got up in the pulpit and said, “Brother Dave has preached false doctrine and I intend to correct that error this morning” and proceded to preach a sermon in diametric opposition to what Dave had preached that last week.

The next week for Dave was spent in tears and prayers as he wrestled with what to do. But his understanding of Scripture and the nature of God and his sovereignty could not be shaken. He determined, though he may lose his job, that he could not remain silent. The next Sunday he was a “fiery breathing dragon” in the pulpit as he preached, once more, concerning the sovereignty of God. That was one of the last sermons he preached for that congregation. Coincidently, the brother who spoke against the sovereignty eventually to the understanding that Dave had, albeit some years later.

In Luke 13.31-35, Jesus is confronted with the temptation to quit, to throw in the towel and stop preaching. He has “resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9.51) and he knows what is awaiting him there, namely, certain death (see Luke 9.22). And it is the natural inclination of humans when faced with certain death to go into self-preservation mode and flee or fight. But Jesus overrides this mechanism and continues to proceed toward Jerusalem (Luke 13.22). He knows he must continue his journey toward Jerusalem if mankind is to ever have any chance at salvation from sin.

The Determination of Jesus

These verses (v.31-35) are in conjunction with the preceeding section of Scripture (v.22-30, commented on here) since Luke unites them with the words “Just at that time…” (NASB). Some Pharisees come to Jesus following his mention of the narrow door and urge him to flee. “Go away,” they tell him, “leave.” Of all the suggestions and comments made by the Pharisees to Jesus, this seems to be the wisest. It is only natural: your life is in danger; flee that it might be preserved. Now what was the intent behind this exhortation? Some suggest that these may have been Pharisees who came as friends to Jesus and sincerely warn him to flee. Perhaps. Others say that this was a cohort who hated Jesus and wanted him gone from their lives. I think this is more accurate. Jesus has been nothing but a pain in the neck for the Pharisees ever since he came on the scene (see Luke 5.21, 30, 33; 6.1-2; 11.15, cf. Matt 12.24; 11.38; 12.1). I think it is safe to say they want him gone so they can once more force their religious rule over the people again. Further, their hatred for Jesus grew everyday and with each new confounding situation and teaching Jesus presented. This would boil into full blown rage and madness and they would seek his death themselves (Luke 20.47-48; 22.2). Well, here is an opportunity to get rid of Jesus without having to resort to murder: Herod wants him dead.

Now the question arises whether or not these Pharisees were even from Herod. In reality, Herod wanted to see Jesus (see 9.9) not kill him. And when he finally has Jesus before him, he does try to kill him or sentence him to death, they only mock him, dress him up, and send him back to Pilate. Here is what seems to be happening: the Pharisees are lying about Herod in order to try to scare Jesus off and out of the country so that they can once again establish themselves as Israel’s religious leaders, salvaging what little dignity remained. And so, pitifully, they try to coerse Jesus out of the region with a lie.

And it seems Jesus knew it was a lie. He says, “go tell that fox…” It is as if Jesus is saying, “If you really are from Herod, go back and give him this message.” How embarrasing! The lie did not work. And now they have a mesage for Herod that is undeliverable for they are false messengers. In reality, Jesus is giving a message for the true “foxes” standing before him. He is not going anywhere. He is going to keep on doing what he has been doing: healing and driving demons. Here is a glimpse of the Lord’s determination. He has a clear goal before him. Literally, Jesus says at the end of v.32: “until I shall be perfected (or ended).” The interpretation can either mean the end of his ministry of healing and teaching or the end of his life. Perhaps both are suitable since both happen at roughly the same time. He “must” (v.33) continue his work “for night is coming when no man can work.” Indeed, Jesus has the cross in mind when he finishes verse 33: “no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem.” Jesus’ goal, his end is clear: his life will come to an end in Jerusalem when he receives the death sentence from his enemies. Though his fate is ever before him, Jesus is unwavering in following this through to the end.

The Lamentation of Jesus

The mention of Jerusalem causes great anguish within the heart of our Lord, so much so that he breaks forth in lament over that city. There is first for their rejection of the prophets in the past. This parallels with Jesus’ indictment of them in 11.47-51. There is not a prophet, Jesus says, whom they have not persecuted or killed. They are a stiff-necked people who refuse to listen to the word of God. But this was in accordance with the will of God. In 11.49, God in his wisdom determines to send prophets whom he knows they will persecute. Hence, their refusal to hear and heed the word of the Lord makes them responsible for the blood they shed, from Abel to Zechariah.

Let’s dive a little deeper into this killing of the prophets the Jews did. The Old Testament is rife with examples of this very thing Jesus is talking. The clearest example is Zechariah (whom Jesus mentions in 11.51). His murder can be read in 2 Chron 24.20-22 where he is stoned to death. Again and again the record tells of countless and nameless others who suffered death at the hands of the stubborn and rebellous Jews (2 Chron 36.15-16; Neh 9.26; Jer 2.30; Lam 4.13). So many sent; so many persecuted and killed. A little known martyred prophet is a man by the name of Uriah. He was sent by God to Israel but they plotted to kill him. He fled to Egypt, certain they would not find him. But King Jehoiakim sent a cohort of men to find and bring him back Israel. They did and killed him with the sword (Jer 26.20-24). The senseless violence of the Jews over the phophets sent by God is clear. And the heart of Jesus breaks over their stubborn rebellion to the will and word of God.

But Jesus also laments over their rejection of him. The tender picture is painted of Jesus as the mother hen seeking to cover with her wing her chicks. This is Jesus and the nation of Israel. Our Lord is willing to gather them under his wing; that is his desire. But they reject him and the safety he brings. Again, the Lord’s heart breaks over this rejection of the will of God for their lives. There is deep pain in this short verse. It will not be long until he is able to behold the city with his own eyes. But it is yet another picture of great pain and sorrow over the city. It overwhelms him and he weeps (Luke 19.41). The apostle Paul identifies with this great pain over the nation of Israel in Romans 9.3 where he says he would be cursed (under the anathema of God) and cut off from Christ if it mean salvation for the Jew. Sadly, our Lord has already suffered in such a manner, but the Jews refused and rejected him. He was cursed for them and cut off from God for them, but that was still not enough.

So with the pain still in his chest over Israel, he speaks a prophecy in v.35. Jesus says their house is currently desolate (present tense). Literally, Jesus says that their house is “forsaken,” meaning God no longer lives there. And how could he? They had turned religion into a system of legalistic works and the sacrificial system was perverted into money making machine for the temple. It was corrupt and God no longer lived their. All that remains is judgment from God. This would take place some 40 years later in AD 70 when Israel will be left with no king, no priesthood, no temple and no sacrifices. What is left? Nothing but the acknowledgment of Christ as the true Messiah at his second coming when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess he is Lord. Then, no matter how unwilling they may be, they will have to acknowledge and bless the one who has come in the name of the Lord.

The Narrow Door

Doors come in all shapes and sizes. Most of the doors I have encountered are very regular, easy to enter for someone of average build. But there are soem doors that are simply too small. You have to duck to enter in or turn sideways just to squeeze your way in. Here at West Olive, we have a closet in the back of the auditorium that has just such a door: it is very thin and narrow. Fortunately, it is just a supply closet where we store batteries, flashlights, etc. No one could fit in there. In Luke 13.22-30, Jesus speaks of a door that very few will enter. Why? For it is “narrow” (v.24). Picture the door: perhaps tall enough for a person to enter without having to duck their head. But so narrow that should a person seek to enter, they would have to turn sideways. But even then, the door frame snags your clothes and presses in. You suck in your gut and hold your breath when you try to enter this door. Get the picture.

Question and Answer

What prompts this startling revelation from Jesus? A simple question. Jesus is travelling about to towns and villages. many people are hearing his words. Jerusalem is ever before him. He is deliberately heading there (see 9.51) but is making the trip rather leisurely, in no particular hurry to arrive. But he is on schedule for he is operating on God’s time table. Someone somewhere along the way asks the question in v.23: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” A good question. Some have pointed out, though, that this may a question have come about because of the teaching of the rabbis of the day. They had theological arguments about the salvation of men’s souls and just who would get into glory. So the people hear their rabbis and then hear Jesus…I suppose it is natural that this question came out.

Jesus does not give a direct answer per se; but he does give a very plain answer. He urges all those present to “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” That is, fight with all your might to make sure you enter that narrow door. Don’t allow anything to hinder you for there is a prize to be gained. A similar word is used when our Lord is pictured agonizing in prayer in the garden. Indeed, our English word for “agony” is derived from this word. Though it may cause you pain or loss, though you may have to agonize over it, enter that narrow door.

The reason we should make such a great effort is because “many” will seek that door but will fail to enter it. Why? While the desire to enter the door may have been there, the agony was too great. The price was too high and they would not pay it.  How do we strive? I believe it comes in the form of striving in prayer. We also strive or wrestle with God sometimes. We strive against the evil forces, against sin, and Satan. We strive to fulfill our religious duties and we strive even with our own hearts. Get this: Anyone who would enter the narrow door must stirve to enter it and only those who enter the narrow door will be rewarded. But there is coming a time when the door will close. It is open for only so long and then “the master” will close the door into the house.

Parable and Warning

And so Jesus relates the sad picture for those who will not strive to enter the narrow door. When the master shuts the door, that’s it. There is no opening the door again. And notice, there are some people still outside asking that the door be opened. But Jesus says, ‘no.’ He does not knwo where they have come from. Some will try to bank on their supposed fellowship with Jesus. “We ate and drank in your presence…” But the answer is the same: Jesus does not know where they have come from. And these people who supposed they were “right with God” are identified by the Lord: “workers of evil.” These people were confident in their rightness with God but they were horribly mistaken. They were not in the house, in fact they have not even tried to enter the door. These people sought, but they did not strive.

All that awaits them is weeping and gnashing of teeth. They do this because they see the fathers of faith, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom, but they themselves are “cast out.” This is the same word that is used for those who are demon-possessed and Jesus would “cast out” the demon. So also the person who fails to strive to enter the narrow door will be “cast out” like a demon into the place of torment with the demons. Notice, though, that even Gentiles lay hold of the kingdom and enter the narrow door in front of the Jews. From “east and west, and from north and south” these people are seated at the great banquet in the kingdom of God. Here is the surprise in the final membership of that house. Someone has said there will be three surprises in heaven: seeing those you thought would not be there are there; not seeing those you thought would be there but are not; and finding yourself there. What a thing of wonder and astonishment when the Jews heard that the Messianic banquet seats Gentiles but so many Jews would not be there. Truly the reversal is comlete in that the first and nearest to the kingdom fail to enter but the last and lowest enter in. In the words of Matthew Henry: “why should not I strive?”

Freed Indeed

One of the sticking points in the ministry of Jesus was the Sabbath. It was a point of controversy between the religious leaders of the time and him. In Luke 13.10-21, we have an account of just one of the many times Jesus was confronted about the Sabbath and his alleged abuse of that day.

A Bent Lady

We have previously pointed out that Jesus was in the habit of worshipping on the designated day, at the designated place; i.e. Jesus worshipped in the synagogue on the Sabbath (see 4.16). Here he is again, engaging in worship to God as he should be. He notices a lady who has a severe condition: she is “bent over” (ESV) to the point she appears to be nearly doubled over (see NASB). This was the result of some spirit and Jesus attributes it to the working of Satan (v.16). What all is involved here is not entirely certain. Clearly this woman is not evil for she has come to worship on the Sabbath and Jesus calls her a “daughter of Abraham.” This woman has been afflicted by this disability for eighteen years and probably has not known true rest most if not all ofthat time. Some have said this is some kind of mild form of demonic possession. Others point to the Job narrative and say this woman is suffering similar to Job. I lean toward the latter.

That her infirmity is clearly visible is undeniable: Jesus sees her and calls her over. Whether she knew anything about Jesus or believed in him is unclear; he initiates this episode. Jesus then releases her from her bondage to the spiritual realm of darkness. She is freed. I think of the passage in Galatians 5.1: “For freedom Christ has set us free.” This woman has been set free from her disability. So have we. Once we were bent under the heavy burden of our sins and wickedness. But Christ came and spoke the words: “you are freed from your disability.” Immediately, as with this woman, we were made to stand aright, having the burden removed. Like this woman, we go forth glorifying God.

A Belligerent Leader

Not everyone likes the grace of God, especially when it rocks the tradition boat. A synagogue ruler is the one who speaks up in this episode. He may have felt some obligation since he was presiding over the services to say something. Unfortunately, instead of issue a proper response (praise and adoration) he sticks his foot in hs mouth and brings upon himself the condemnation of Jesus. He points out there are six days for work; if someone needs healing, come on those days. This is the Sabbath after all, Jesus. The sad truth is, this woman has been coming her (probably) for eighteen years but has not found healing and probably has not experienced any kind of comfort from this synagogue ruler.

And Jesus knows this. I wonder about the look upon our Lord’s face as indignation blazed in the direction of this foolishly indignate synagogue ruler. Clearly a man of passion, it is easy to identify with our Lord when his emotions ring clearly off the pages as they do here.

A Benevolent Lord

Here is the comforting truth about Jesus: he is always ready to come to our aid. This woman is under attack and Jesus steps in. He calls this synagogue ruler and everyone in agree with him “hypocrites.” They are people who say one thing but do something different. They say “no work on the Sabbath” but they will lead their donkey to water. How much more valuable is this human life! How much more mercy should be shown to her! Satan has tormented this poor woman for nearly two decades; where is the mercy? There is none from the heartless leader. But from the benevolent Lord, there is much. The enemies of Jesus are shamed and many people rejoice over this miracle.

A Blessed Lesson

Verse 18 begins “Therefore…” indicating that it is connected to the preceding account. It could be connected with the lady herself or with the people’s praise. I lean toward the latter (again). I think Jesus is talking about the reception of the kingdom of God, even as those who rejoiced over the lady were willing (so it would seem) to receive the kingdom. First, the kingdom is like a mustard seed. It starts small (the smallest of the garden seeds at the time) but will grow into a large tree, able to house all who would flock to it.

Second, the kingdom is like leaven worked into a loaf. Just as leaven will spread throughout the lump, so too with the kingdom spread throughout a region, territory, state, nation, even the world. The point: the kingdom will start small (like in a synagogue) but will spread throughout the world. Indeed, freedom from sin, death, and hell, yea, the gospel, was preached “in the whole world…bearing fruit and growing” before the close of the first century (see Col 1.6).

Repent or Perish

Luke 12 ended with Jesus issuing a scathing rebuke of the people’s inability to rightly discern the impending doom for Israel. This runs us into Luke 13 where it appears some of the people took offense to this saying or tried to deaden the blow by pointing to some Galileans who had been killed and Pilate had mixed their blood with the sacrifice, a dubious thing. We tried to do this when we were kids: “But Jimmy’s mom lets him do this.” Or you may have done something wrong and you tried to bypass your guilt by pointing out someone who did something worse than you. A simple tactic that sometimes works. Not so with Jesus. He brings their attention back to the matter at hand: Israel.

Jesus argues that is not because of great sin that these Galileans suffered the way they did under Pilate. Some scholars point to an incident where Pilate put soldiers in plain clothes with concealed weapons to silently kill a number of Jews gathered in protest of an aqueduct Pilate was having built. The problem was he was using funds from the temple treasury. Others say that this was a slaying of Judas the Galilean and his mob (see Acts 5.37) during a festival while they were sacrificing. Hence, their sacrifices were mixed with blood. This is simply an illustration to draw the crowds attention back to the subject at hand: themselves. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Jesus uses another illustration unknown to us save for this reference but clearly known by his audience. A tower in Siloam fell upon some people. Were they worse offenders (lit. debtors) than all the other people in Jerusalem? Absolutely not. Jesus is pointing to the urgency behind the need to repent and that right soon. Do not wait for the hour of disaster; repent lest you likewise perish. The same is true for us today; do not wait, for we are all debtors to God with debt we cannot pay. Hence, we need to repent, turn to God so that he can remove the debt before calamity comes upon us.

As is common for Jesus, he uses a parable to drive his point home (v.6-9). It is simple: a man has an unfruitful fig tree which he intends on cutting down. The vinedresser asks for one more season and if the tree still is unfruitful, then it can be cut down. There are two points that rise to the surface for us. First, this points us to the patience of God. He is not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance and a knowledge of the truth. The man in the parable is willing to wait the season and extends mercy to the tree. So our God is patient with us, granting us mercy for yet another season in the hopes that we will produce fruit.

But the second truth that comes up is that man has an obligation to God. He is patient with us, but we need to respond to that kindness. We need to change our life, start obeying his word, and begin to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. If we do, “well and good” (v.9, ESV). But if we do not, the ax is already at the root of the tree and divine judgment awaits us (Luke 3.9). Unfortunately, Israel would not listen to the warnings. In AD 70, God’s patience came to an end as he utterly devastated Jerusalem and scattered the Jews to the ends of the earth. John and Jesus were correct: the ax was at the root of the tree even as they preached. AD 70 saw the ax of God’s wrath hack down the unfruitful tree and it was cast into the fire.

How much should we heed the warnings of our Lord? If we linger in unrepentance, the ax is at the root of our tree and it is the mere mercy and patience of God which stays his hand from hacking you out of his vineyard. It is also the pleading of a loving Savior on your behalf, begging the Father not to pour forth his wrath upon the barren tree. Won’t you hear and heed this word from Jesus: Repent, lest you likewise perish. Turn from your life of sin and back to God before it is too late.

Signs of the Times

“The times, they are a changing.” I think that is how the saying goes. And this is the message Jesus told the people in Luke 12.54-59. Things are going to change – are you paying attention? Jesus has just given instruction to his disciples and now he addresses “the crowds” (v.54a).

Discerning the Way of God

Jesus, as is his custom, utilizes nature to make his point about the people. First, they can tell, but a cloud in the west, that rain is coming. It may begin small, but soon it will pregnant with rain and will open up for the land to receive it. “And so it happens.” Second, a wind will kick up from the south. Obviously, the people know, there is going to be a heat wave hit the land. “And it happens.” Jesus rebukes them for this ability to reconize the signs of the seasons but fail to see the signs of the time. They are hypocrites, two-faced, two-minded. They fail to see that prophetic word is coming to fulfillment even before their very eyes: the Messiah has come. They are weather-wise, but they are not Word-wise. For that, Jesus has nothing complimentary to say.

Making Peace with God

Because of their lack of preparation and inability to discern God’s way, Jesus admonishes them to seek peace with God, the supreme Judge. “Judge for yourselves,” Jesus says. Even without Jesus there before them they should be able to find their way with the light of Scripture. The way they are to seek is peace. Otherwise, there is bad news: the one who does not prepare to face the judge only has hard time to look forward to. There is still a debt before them, there are still charges unsettled. Therefore, the Judge has no choice but to throw the book at you.

The nation of Israel was marching toward certain judgment and destruction with both ears covered and their eyes squeezed shut. They refused to hear and heed the word of God and so they would face the full fury of God’s holy wrath. Indeed, we too are marching toward certain disaster if we act in much the same way, refusing to hear the word of the Lord. We can tell you the forecast for the next five days, but fail to acknowledge the coming storm of God’s anger because of our sins. God will have no choice but to sentence us, lock us up in eternal torment, and throw away the key. “Today is the day of salvation” – settle your account.

Why Jesus Came

There is a song some congregations sing entitled, “Why Did My Savior Come to Earth?” The second line of that song says, “Why did He drink the bitter cup of sorrow, pain and woe? Why on the cross be lifted up?” The answer is the end of the stanza: “Because He loved me so!” In Luke 12.49-53, Jesus explains exactly why he came to earth. In fact, verse 49 says it clearly: “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” (ESV) Jesus came to set this world on fire. Now some say the fire is division which is talked about in this passage. Other point toward holiness and refinement. Still others say it is faith. But the picture of fire in Scripture is usually coupled with divine judgment. So then, Jesus came to bring judgment upon the earth and the kindling of that divine judgment would be in the cross.

Divine Judgment in His Suffering

As stated, it would be the cross that would kindle into flame this divine judgment. We know this because of verse 50 where Jesus speaks of his “baptism” he is to be baptized with. Elsewhere in Scripture Jesus refered to his sufferings as a baptism (Mark 10.38-40); it was the cup of God’s wrath poured out upon him, thereby diverting it from its proper course upon all other men. But as one commentator says, Jesus lived in the shadow of the cross everyday. It was a great pressure upon him daily and that weight would not be lifted “until it is accomplished.” So by his death, Jesus brings judgment upon himself, taking it upon himself thereby saving us from the wrath to come.

Divine Judgment in His Separation

Most of us, when asked if Jesus came to bring peace, would probably answer “yes.” But our Lord’s answer in to this question is an emphatic “No!” Jesus says he came to bring division. Now here is where the critics start in: Well, did he bring peace or not? He clearly says “no” but Christians say “yes;” who is right? The answer: both. Jesus did bring peace with God which leads us to peace with other men. But the gospel message is challenging to many people. In fact, Paul would say it was a thing of offense to the Gentile and a stumbling block to the Jew. It is offensive and because of this it does breed division, even in a household. Indeed, this very thing which Jesus talks about (a house in division) has occurred and played out so many times before. The choice to be made by the one who would obey Jesus is whether or not they will break their families heart or break the heart of God. It is in obedience to the gospel that a person brings in divine judgment. Like Noah, they begin to build their ark by faith and in that act they condemn the whole world (Heb 11.7). However, we are never more in line with the will of God than when we identify with our Lord in his suffering for the gospel. Though it cost us the whole world, even our very life, it is no less than the sacrifice our Savior made on our behalf.

Ready or Not…

Remember the game Hide-and-Seek? One person would be “it” and all the others playing would go and hide. The person who was “it” would count while the others went and hid. And when they reached the end of their counting (be it to 10 or 100 or whatever), they would yell out for all those who were hiding to hear: “Ready or not, here I come.” That was all the warning those hiding got if they had not found their place to hide that they had precious few seconds to find a place of cover.

In Luke 12.35-48, Jesus is telling his disciples of a more serious thing to be ready for. It is no game. And if you are not ready for it, the consequences will be dreadful. We do need to keep this context, though. Jesus has just finished speaking to his disciples about worry (v.22ff). He tells them stop worrying about their life, but rather get ready for the afterlife by storing up treasure in heaven. He is trying to get his disciples to become less earth-focused and more heaven-focused. The necessity of having our hearts on heaven is revealed in this parabolic teaching of Jesus.

The Information of the Parable

The teaching of this parable is found in v.40: “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” This is the big idea Jesus is driving home for his disciples. In a general way, this applies to the second coming; however, this text seems to pointing toward an event on the horizon, very near to the time of Jesus’ teaching. The parable is still impacting for application then and now.

Jesus prefaces this parable with a command to “stay dressed for action” (lit. gird up your loins). This is to say prepare yourselves. No matter what other men (even disciples) may be doing, you (emphatic) be ready. Keep your lamps burning spills over into the parable about being awake and watchful. It would be unwise, if one was trying to stay awake and alert, to leave the lights off. It would be too great a temptation to close the eyes and fall asleep. So keep those lamps burning, stay awake, be alert and ready for action. That way, when the master comes his servants can open the door straightway for him.

Jesus pronounces a blessing on those who are awake and alert, ready for the master in v.37. The role will be reversed then for the master will take the place of a servant and serve the servants. Why does he do this? He is pleased, overjoyed to find his servants ready and waiting for him. Indeed, this is the position Jesus took when he came the first time. He was a servant to all (Luke 22.27). He came as one who serves. The brilliant portrait of this services is seen in John 13 when he washes the feet of those reclined at the table. This is the reward of our Lord: he blesses us wth the unexpected.

The servant who is waiting for his master is blessed. Even if he comes in the middle of the night (second or third watch), the servant has waited anxiously for the master. There is then a slight change in the picture painted by the Lord with a house master who would not allow the thief access to his house if he knew what time he would show up to do his dastardly deed. The call is clear: be ready.

The Application of the Parable

Peter’s got a question. He has heard this parable from the Lord and wants to know who it is for: “us” (the disciples) or “all” (disciples and everyone else). Why this question from Peter? Perhaps he is truly eager to know and he asks with all sincerity (I lean toward this). Maybe he wants to know if he (and his comrades) are privy to some secret information no one else knows about which would serve as some kind of ego boost. Well, our Lord fields the question by asking how own question.

Jesus’ questions almost seems as if he is overlooking the question of Peter, as though he is ignoring the question of Peter. And perhaps he is if Peter is asking with motives to boost his ego or to have Jesus detail the privileges of the apostolic college. But Jesus does answer Peter’s question when he asks about the “faithful and wise servant.” I think Jesus is saying that anyone can be a faithful and wise servant. If a servant is being a good steward of the goods his master has put him in charge of, if he is distributing the “food” the master has given him to portion out, that servant is blessed (v.43). There follows a reward of more responsibilities for the faithful and wise servant: he is put over all the master’s possessions.

Flip coin over, though, and we find a dark picture of a faithless and foolish servant who acts in a manner that does not anticipate the coming of his master. He begins to beat the servants, eat and drink and even get drunk. How dreadful for him when the master comes! Jesus says the master will cut him to pieces and toss him in with the unfaithful. What then? Jesus is absolutely clear in v.47: any disciple who knows the will of the master and does not do it or act faithfully according to that will has a “severe beating” waiting for him. It is not simply for wrongdoing that a person recieves punishment; it is for failing to do that which is right as well. James says it this way: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4.17). Disciple take warning.

In the same vein, ignorance of the will of the Lord is not an excuse either. One commentator says “there is no such as absolute moral ignorance (Rom 1.20; 2.14, 15).” There is still a “light beating” for the one who does not know the will of the master. In a generic sense this true of all mankind: One is still held accountable to God for the things they knew and did not know and failed to do. But also the disciple who does not seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus is responsible for the things they failed to learn. Hence, the final warning for the Lord: more is demanded from the one entrusted with much. A disciple is a steward of the Lord entrusted with his Word, with certain gifts, with the growth of the kingdom, etc. Hence, we need to be people devoted to doing our best to fulfill the will of our master in each of these (and other) areas of our life.