WATCH OUT! He’s coming!
Reading: Luke 12: 35-48
35 “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.
39 “Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”
41 Peter asked, “Lord, is that illustration just for us or for everyone?”
42 And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful.
47 “And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.
When a guest is expected we do lots of tidying and clearing… We make sure we are in the house when they arrive…we behave impeccably
But it’s a different matter if a guest arrives UNEXPECTEDLY…
- The warning offered by Jesus is a stark reminder that it is essential to be spiritually prepared or suffer the consequences!
- In particular, to be ready and prepared for the return of Jesus Christ to earth at the end of the age
A ‘hot air balloon’ view of these verses…
- A friend went up in a hot air balloon as a special birthday treat and marvelled at how smooth it was and how much you could see
- I want to take a bird’s eye view of these verses from Luke 12 … then come “down to earth” and examine what they mean for you and me
FIRST A SUMMARY OF WHAT IS HAPPENING…
Jesus is speaking to the disciples using parables, not real-life accounts
There are basically two related parables in this passage…
(a) The parable about the servants who are ready and waiting for the master’s return; (b) The parable about two contrasting types of servants
There are a number of key words in the passage: ready; lamps lit; waiting; thief; (un)expected; in charge; master’s will
There are some important phrases in the first parable: be dressed ready for service; waiting for their master to return; watching when he comes; an hour you do not expect him
There is a clear distinction made between two types of servant: one who is obedient, caring, alert and ready; one who takes selfish advantage of a situation
- And note that the outcome for those who deliberately abuse their positions of trust is severe
There is also a very important question from Peter to consider: “Lord, does this parable apply to us or do you mean it for everyone?” (Good News Bible)…more about this in a moment
I want to focus on 4 aspects:
(a) What it means to be watchful
(b) What it means to be ready
(c) What it means to be in charge
(d) What it means to be obedient
But first let’s deal briefly with Peter’s question: “Is this teaching just for us or for everyone?”
This question is perfectly reasonable…Jesus has been speaking to the crowds…now he is speaking to the disciples… so are His words meant for the disciples only or do they apply more widely?
Preachers tend to use this parable as a prophecy about the ‘end times’…but much of the Bible has a dual meaning…the immediate situation and a future situation.
Let’s deal with the IMMEDIATE aspect first…because this is what the disciples would have understood… Jesus didn’t say things just so we would have something to argue about today!
- He taught things that had instant relevance… However, Peter wasn’t sure whether Jesus intended this teaching specifically for the disciples or for everyone…as is commonly the case, Jesus doesn’t give a straight answer!
So what is this “immediate” teaching?
To answer this question, let’s return to my four questions:
(a) What does it mean to be watchful?
(b) What does it mean to be ready?
(c) What does it mean to be in charge?
(d) What does it mean to be obedient?
What does it mean to be watchful?
- Have you ever watched a cat waiting for a mouse?
- Or a mother watching her young child…
- Or relatives looking out for the arrival of a loved one off a plane…
My father used to say to me that when driving a car you have to be constantly alert… maintaining total concentration…watchfulness
- Peter obviously took the warning seriously, for later when he was writing to the early Christians he said that we should be “self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8)
So there are three aspects to being watchful: (a) Watching for danger (b) Watching and caring (c) Watching with full concentration
Watching for danger because the devil loves to deceive, invite us to do wrong and create doubt in our minds…we need to take authority over the devil… He only uses our lack of faith to accomplish his deeds
- Someone has said that God created Lucifer…but we create Satan …when we doubt God
- Satan even comes as an angel of light to deceive Christians
Watching and caring because the welfare of others lies at the heart of the Gospel message…we need to be alert to the prompting of the Spirit when he says, as he did to Philip, “go to this chariot”
- So who is sitting in the chariot to which God calls you?
- Who are the ones for whom God has given you special responsibility?
Watching with full concentration because we cannot plead ignorance or bury our heads in the sand…the world needs men and women who will stand up for truth and righteousness
There are some worrying trends affecting our freedoms in this country under the guise of equality:
- High rates of teenage pregnancies in Europe
- Sexually transmitted diseases have quadrupled
- It is risky to publicly criticise homosexuality or other religions
- Millions upon millions of the unborn have been destroyed
Oh that more of us would be ready to stand up for righteousness… As Edmund Burke famously commented: “Evil prospers when good men do nothing”
Secondly…What does it mean to be ready?
- In wartime troops have to be in a constant state of readiness …it is a court-martial offence to leave your weapon unattended
- And Christians have to be ready for battle…we are engaged in a spiritual war…against the enemies of Christ… but also from the ‘enemies within’, as Jude warns
- And we remain in a state of readiness by keeping our armour bright…taking time to be holy…speaking often with our Lord… abiding in Him only and feeding on His word
There are no short cuts to spiritual victory … Like Samson, we can be taken off-guard and quickly overpowered if we neglect our walk with God
- Although we have the final victory in Christ, we are called to be soldiers in an alien land…not chocolate soldiers (as missionary CT Studd remarked)
Are you and I willing to engage with the enemy or do we prefer a comfortable, uncomplicated life, blissfully unconcerned, sitting in our bunkers while the battle rages around us?
- “Be ready”…for to be unready can spell disaster for your life and the life of this fellowship
- So Paul writes in Ephesians…”put on the whole armour of God”… it needs everyone to be in a state of readiness
What does it mean to be in charge?
- Apparently the word used for ‘household’ in older versions is the same root word as in ‘healing’…and we get our word ‘therapeutic’ from the Greek word for healing
- So someone in charge of the household (of ‘other servants’) had a very important job to care for others
Notice that the person chosen by the master is a servant…which involves humility, sacrifice, loyalty and devotion to others
- That’s why the fulfilling of that responsibility receives the master’s pleasure…but the betrayal of that responsibility brings about the master’s anger
- Unlike evil dictators, who deprive people of food if they don’t support them, we are called to love others as ourselves
Being in charge is tough…it’s not easy being a leader…
- But equally, those who lead (at any level) and have responsibility must use their position wisely and be humble
Some people seem to think that being put in charge makes them more important than everyone else
- On the contrary, it makes them the servant of all
As Jesus said, if you want to be first, find out the meaning of being last!
And note, incidentally, that in the first parable the master sets the example he becomes the servant on His return… but in the 2nd parable he is judge!
What does it mean to be obedient?
- Dogs have selective deafness! They only hear what they want to hear…If it’s a call for food…no problem…but a call for a bath is very different!
How easy to have the same kind of attitude towards God… when He calls us into a challenging situation we so easily ‘find excuse’
- Yet Paul, writing to the church in Rome, makes it clear that we are ‘without excuse’
- Some people say that it ‘felt’ right or they didn’t ‘feel like it’…but obedience is first and foremost about doing what God approves of
- Of course, we can only be obedient if we listen to what He says to us
So how do we rate on these four measures?
- Being watchful
- Being ready
- Being in charge
- Being obedient
And how do we respond to Peter’s question: “Is this parable for us or for everyone?” How much of what Jesus said then applies to us today?
- If you say “some of it”, then which bits apply to us and which bits do not apply?
- If you say, “all of it”, then our individual and church lives are sadly lacking!
Think of the sorts of things that Jesus said to His disciples:
- Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven. Then come, follow me (Mark 10:21)
- If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea’, and it will obey you (Luke 17:6)
- When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them: ‘The kingdom of God is near you’ (Luke 10:8,9)
- I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and what ever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:19)
- Because I go to the Father you will do greater works than I have done (Wow!)
So we need to clarify the things that Jesus said specifically for an individual or group…and what was meant as a command/promise to all of us who seek to follow Christ?
- And if for ALL of us…where is the evidence of these things in my life and the life of your church and mine?
The uncomfortable fact is that we may claim to be a ‘New Testament church’ but fall far short of being one in practice!
- And please don’t allow Satan to fool you into believing that only ‘extremists’ believe such stuff…or it only applied during the time of the early church
- The TRUTH is that our churches are struggling and more empty than full for a variety of reasons, ONE of which is that we have failed to grapple with this issue of “Is this parable for us or for everyone?”
MAY I ASK CANDIDLY…How many of us truly want a NT church …and how many of us are so nervous about the implications that we prefer to stick to the old and familiar routines… even if it means that the Church or Chapel fades and dies?
- We all want to leave a spiritual legacy that is pleasing to God… so let’s not be afraid to ask tough questions about our priorities
- And if after coming before God we decide that things should stay exactly the same, so be it! But I doubt that they will!
- Are you prepared for how God wants to renew your church?
And briefly, the second element of Jesus’ words…concerning Himself and His coming again…something the disciples would not have been even slightly aware of…after all, Jesus was still there speaking to them!
A number of points are worth noting with regard to the prophetic nature of Jesus’ words…
- Jesus was aware of His destiny…He told the disciples what was going to happen to him…so some of His words were prophetic
- He will return…we must be watchful, ready, caring and obedient…note the ‘thief in the night’ reference in the parable
- There are consequences of failing in our responsibilities…Those with greatest responsibility bear the greatest load, both in terms of reward (the master’s pleasure) and rebuke
- According to the second parable, those who do not know the Gospel and unwittingly disregard what the Master wants will be rebuked but the master’s fury is reserved for those who know what they should do but fail to do it
SO WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?
- What Jesus said, He meant!
- One day the master will return unexpectedly…either to serve and reward us… or to dismiss us from His presence
- In the meantime we must all take seriously the responsibilities that God gives us in caring and shepherding others…as parent, leader, grandparent, aunt, uncle, SS teacher, voluntary worker, friend…
- Not forgetting that the Spirit of Christ longs to reside in our lives TODAY to live for His glory
So let’s be urgent in studying God’s word, praying and witnessing to the need for a personal commitment to Christ …before we hear His footsteps at our door.