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.