A wealthy landowner burst into his home one day and, in a voice filled with despair, cried to his startled wife, “Marushka, there is a terrible rumor in town – the Messiah is coming!”
“So what’s terrible?” asked the wife. “I think it’s wonderful! Why are you frightened?”
“I have good reason to be afraid,” he insisted. “We have a fine dairy herd, a barn full of grain, our orchards are filled with good fruit. Now we will have to give everything up and follow Him.”
“Compose yourself,” said his wife soothingly. “The Lord our God is good. He knows how much suffering we Jews have had to endure. We had a Pharaoh, a Haman – always somebody; but our dear Lord got rid of them all. Just have faith, my dear husband. He will get ride of the Messiah also!”
This morning we are continuing in the Gospel According to Luke. Let me invite you to turn to Luke chapter 12. Yeshua exhorts us to be looking for His return. Throughout the Gospels, both by the use of analogy and through the telling of parables, Messiah Yeshua frequently spoke about our need for readiness at His Second Coming.
When I tell you the Earth is going to be invaded, it isn’t science-fiction, it’s theological reality. The first time He left His eternal abode and broke into time and space, He did so in a very quiet and humble way. Not so the second time around. The heavens will split open, the Earth will be shaken and the nations of the world who shook their collective fists at God, at Messiah and at His people will tremble.
That leaves one question: How will it be with us? In what condition will we, Messiah’s people, be found? To phrase it the way He Himself did, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the Earth?” Rather than wait until that day, we can begin readying ourselves even now. That is the theme of this morning’s passage.
“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.”
Permit me to state the obvious: You choose your wardrobe. Each day you decide what you’re going to wear. Unless you’re a toddler, nobody’s choosing your clothes for you. When Messiah says “Be dressed in readiness…, it doesn’t leave you the option of being a passive observer. If you’re thinking that God has to do something to you so that you’ll stay focused, you’re in for disappointment. Just as your daily wardrobe is up to you, so is your daily walk with Yeshua. And there is no substitute for time spent in the Scriptures. We are expected to train our own thought processes; to direct them vertically.
“Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.” It’s up to you. You choose how you’ll clothe yourself mentally and spiritually. Seek God in prayer and through His Word, and through the Holy Spirit’s refreshing. We are in danger of becoming spiritually stale; of having our light grow dim, of losing our first love and growing complacent. It takes oil to keep a lamp lit. It requires the Spirit of God to keep our love for Him and for one another fervent. And it doesn’t “just happen”. Our spiritual disciplines, or the lack of them, will be the determining factor in whether or not we are ready for His appearing.
Speaking of lamps, in one of His other teachings about the suddenness of His return, Yeshua likened the Kingdom of Heaven to wise and foolish virgins (the friends of the bride) awaiting the call of the Bridegroom to come with the bride to the wedding party. All of them fell asleep and were suddenly awakened at that call. In that sense, we’re not expected to “pull an all-nighter” and suffer sleep deprivation, but we are to be prepared. The five wise ones were those who had oil with them.
There’s something else to bear in mind; lamps are lit at night – perhaps a hint, not so much that He’ll return in the wee hours, but rather of the spiritual darkness which will characterize the world at the time of Messiah’s return.
Verses 36 – 38
“Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on then. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.”
What a drag it is when you come home and it’s late, and you have to fumble for your keys while the mosquitoes take full advantage of your predicament, or while you get rain soaked because you didn’t take a jacket or umbrella (“Hey, it wasn’t raining when I left…”). On the contrary, what a joy it is when someone in the family has been keeping an eye out for your arrival, or listening for the sound of your car, and is already at the door, and opens it for you! Sometimes one or the other of my children will do that. We should be like that servant who is doing his work with one eye on the sky, as it were, eagerly looking for Messiah’s return. Yeshua isn’t going to call you from His cell phone and let you know He’ll be here in ten minutes, so you need to put the proverbial porch light on and be by the door.
The second watch, if Luke is using the Jewish rather than Roman time measure, equals the hours between 9pm and midnight; the third watch between midnight and 3am. That’s late! But remember, going to a wedding is not at all like going to a business appointment. Weddings are joyous celebrations, and in all the fun of the reception one can easily lose track of time. The master might be getting in late, but imagine how pleased he will be with the servants who were alert and listening and watching for his return even at a very late hour!
In these verses Yeshua says the master would respond to the faithfulness of the servants by having them recline and then serving them. I confess, I have a difficult time imagining ancient lords returning to their estates, putting on waiter’s garb and serving their servants. But I see very clearly in Yeshua the supreme quality of servanthood, though He is the King Messiah. At the last Passover He took off His robe and put a towel around Himself like a servant, and washed the feet of His disciples (including Judas!). What kind of a master is willing to serve his servants? One who is calm and secure in his position of authority. It is those who are insecure that “lord it over other people” through being harsh and domineering. The man who knows he is strong can afford to be gentle and humble.
But the point of this analogy or parable is to exhort us to be alert; to watch expectantly for Yeshua’s return. If we will do so, we will be blessed for it. That is the word He used to describe it: “blessed”. The Greek word makarios is the equivalent of the Hebrew word ashray as in the last line of Psalm 84 (v. 12) O Lord of Hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You!
While verses 35-38 paint positive scenarios, Yeshua followed up with a negative analogy.
Verses 39 – 40
“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.”
The element that ties all these analogies together is surprise. Thieves generally work under cover of night. In ancient Israel houses were comprised mostly of mud brick, and a thief might dig his way in through a wall while the family slept. If the head of the house had anticipated and known the time of the break-in, he would not have allowed himself the luxury of sleep, but would have kept watch.
If you knew the time that someone was planning to break into your home wouldn’t you prepare for it? If I knew my house was going to be vandalized, I would definitely arrange a “welcoming committee” for the thief, which would include a large contingent of law enforcement officers and maybe even my border collie.
Do thieves send text messages to their intended targets ahead of time, letting them know when they plan to break in? Of course not. I remember being uncomfortable at first that Yeshua compared His return to a thief. But this isn’t speaking to the nature or character of the Messiah, but rather to the suddenness and unexpectedness of His coming.
Here’s the tension, and let me present it to you as a formula:
a) The Scriptures say we must be ready for Yeshua’s comingb) The Scriptures say we cannot know when Yeshua is coming.
c) We must be ready at all times for Yeshua’s coming
Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?”
Maybe Peter understood that there would be a vast difference in people’s responses to Yeshua’s return. Believers in Jesus look to that day with longing and hopefulness and expectancy. Unbelievers, for the most part, couldn’t care less. They are oblivious to this coming day and dismissive of its implications. Ringing through my head are the words of Psalm 2: Why do the nations rage and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed… His Messiah.
Peter refers to Yeshua as Kurie’ – the vocative (emotive) form of kurios – Lord/Master. Though at this point the disciples are not fully aware that it is God in human form they are walking with, they know they are talmidim and He is their Master-teacher. He is their “source” as He is ours – the embodiment of eternal truth. We look to Him for answers.
So Peter asks for clarification. Was Yeshua speaking only of the disciples (verse 22 of this chapter indicates an audience of disciples), or of the leaders among them, or also of the crowds, generally, as representing all of mankind? In the verses that follow Yeshua gives Peter his answer, if somewhat obliquely. Let’s continue in verses 42-48.
Verses 42 – 48
And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.
Instead of answering Peter’s question directly, Yeshua gives another analogy; related, but having in it the idea of incentive. I can picture Yeshua looking at Peter as he asked his question, and then telling a parable with the idea: “What I’m saying, Peter, is for you and anyone else who aspires to be faithful; and here’s how it works…”
The word for “steward” is oikonomos – the same word from which we get “economy” and it has at its root the word for “house”. The steward was the one who ran a landlord’s estate during his absence. He made sure the rest of the staff carried out their responsibilities, and he managed all the financial affairs of his master. Joseph was, in this sense, Potiphar’s steward – having authority and responsibility over all his household.
The faithful and wise steward carries out his duties with diligence during his master’s absence. Yeshua calls this one “blessed”. Just as there is blessing for the one who keeps watch for Messiah’s return and welcomes Him, there is blessing in store for the man who diligently carries out his assigned task and is found so doing on that day.
That this parable has special import for leaders in Messiah’s Holy Community is hinted at in the example of the steward who is put in charge of the servants, and is responsible to give them their rations – their food at the proper time. It is incumbent upon pastors and messianic leaders to faithfully teach and preach God’s word, to give the people of God good and sound biblical teaching, which is like food nourishing the soul. Every bit as important is the need for pastors and messianic rabbis to teach God’s people to read and properly interpret the Scriptures for themselves. And if we will do that, we will be makarios, blessed, happy, in a position of exceptional favor and contentment.
Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
Wait a minute… more work? Actually, yes – but not in a burdensome way. This is not at all like the callous supervisor who simply piles on more work to lighten his own load. This speaks to the wonderful feeling of having your faithful work recognized through promotion. It is a hearty vote-of-confidence, a “well done!”.
This is the kind of faithfulness we should all aspire to. But it does not come naturally. As fallen, sinful human beings, we usually seek the path of least resistance, the minimum we can do and still qualify. Do you struggle, as I do, with laziness and with procrastination (I know I’ll get around to doing something about it eventually)? Messiah would have us aim higher. He would have us set our minds on the things above, not on the things of the earth. Again, this requires that we take the initiative to train our minds by spending time reading, studying and meditating on the Word of God, as a corrective to our propensity to become selfish and distracted with worldly concerns. Let’s go on.
But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’
What did our people do at Mt. Sinai when Moses was gone for just 40 days? We made a golden calf – an abomination. And do you remember the heavy price Israel paid for our unfaithfulness? How much less do we dare grow complacent and presume that Yeshua will be gone a long time? Notice it isn’t a denial of the master’s return, but an assumption that it will be a long time coming.
But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk;
What you believe will inevitably work itself out in what you do. What is in your head will work its way to your heart and eventually play out in your hands. The one who lets himself grow complacent about Messiah’s return and the judgment that will accompany that day will become lax in the discharge of his duties. What we have here is a picture of self-absorption and complete disregard for others.
But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
There are plenty of people who regard themselves as “Christian”, who think they are related to Yeshua, but their fate will be no different than those who made no claim to follow Him whatsoever. This does not mean that we are saved by works, but if we are saved, it will be evident in how we live and what we do. The Scripture says that judgment will be merciless to those who themselves show no mercy.
And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few.
I believe the Scriptures indicate that there will be levels of reward and levels of punishment in eternity. While we are not given specific details, this is one of several passages that indicate it will go better for some than for others, and what makes the difference, at least for those who claim to be associated with Yeshua, is the manner of our conduct and the diligence, or lack of it, in what we’ve been called to do.
From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
Have you been given much? Absolutely! If you have been saved and brought into the New Covenant, you have inherited unfathomable blessing and privilege. How are you stewarding it? How do you occupy your time? We all need “down” time, but are you sitting in front of the television for hours on end, while your brother or sister is in the hospital? Are you employing your talents and abilities cheerfully for Yeshua’s glory? Or are you letting your abilities lie fallow and useless? Are you giving of your finances in a way that indicates acknowledgment and appreciation to the Lord, or are you withholding what is rightfully His? Do you not realize that we are going to give an account for these things? Being a disciple of Yeshua is a lot more than talking a good talk.
Consider Yeshua’s warnings to be a sign of His love for you and His genuine desire that you fare exceptionally well on that Day. Take his words seriously, and follow through by making the necessary changes and adjustments in your day-to-day life. You will be the better for it; your neighbor will benefit from it, God will be glorified through it, and on that Great and Awesome Day you will be able to stand before the Lord and before Messiah Yeshua with joy, unashamed, and hear Him say, “Well done!”.