Teaching the Crowds, Instructing His Disciples (2)

Luke 12: 35-48

“Always be on your blocks, ready for action, and your lamp [trimmed for] shining brightly.

“And be like men awaiting the arrival of their Lord when he returns to them after attending a wedding breakfast, that upon his arrival, knocking, they may be found ready to open the door [and welcome him home].

“Blessed indeed will the servants be who the Lord will find on active duty when he arrives.

“Truly, I tell you, he will get himself ready for service and require that they sit themselves down and he will serve them. And even if it be the second or [even] the third watch [in extenuating circumstances] that he comes, blessed indeed are those who he finds in such readiness [on the lookout].

“But also take note of this: if the one [put] in charge of the house knew at what hour the thief was due, he would not allow him to break in, and you must therefore be similarly prepared, because the timing of the coming of the Son of Man is not within your grasp.”

At this, Peter said to him: “So is this parable [of yours as here] given [especially, exclusively] for us, or is it given for [and applicable to] everyone?”.

And the Lord replied to him [by asking]:

“Who then is the faithful and prudent house servant, the one who the Lord, at the appointed time, will appoint to to oversee the distribution of allotted measures of food as appropriate? Blessed is that servant whom the Lord will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I tell you, he will [confirm him and] make him overseer of all that originates in him.

“But if that servant says in his heart, “Ho hum! My Lord has been delayed”, and with that begins to beat the other men and women servants and to eat and drink and become drunk, the time the Lord will come will indeed be at a moment he is unprepared and will cut him to pieces, and allot his portion to the faithless. For that servant, having known his Master’s will, was not ready to do it, deserves many stripes. But the servant who knew not, and committed [similar] deeds worthy of punishment shall receive fewer stripes.

“If a person has much given to him, much will be required of him. And the person of whom much has been invested much more abundant fruitfulness will be expected of him.”

Jesus continues by explaining the kind of readiness he expects from those who answer his call and enter into service in the household of his Father, the Ruler of Heaven and Earth. It is this parable about the returning householder – who has been absent celebrating a wedding – that Luke tells us brought forth Peter’s question we have noted above.

The parable actually begins as an exposition of Jesus’ teaching:

Always be on your blocks, ready for action, and your lamp [trimmed for] shining brightly.

This is the proverb to be heeded, and to assist in the remembrance of it Jesus gives his hearers – the disciples and the crowd – the parable of the servants waiting for the return of the celebrating householder.

So what does the householder do in response to those who have welcomed him, ready for action and with their lamps trimmed. Well, as we read on, we find that he does to them what they should have been doing among themselves. And what was that? When he returns, even if it be in the late-late or even the early-early watch he will bless them by sitting them down and serving them (“I am among you as one who serves!”) And then, by contrast, Jesus notes that in the case of the resourceful steward waiting for a thief to arrive – whose moment of breaking and entering has been discovered by meticulous sleuthing beforehand – the steward, the householder’s servant “holding the fort” is on the spot, ready and waiting to prevent the crime. How much more Jesus’ disciples should be on their toes ready for action, lamps trimmed, as stewards ever alert and waiting for the moment the Son of Man will appear unannounced.

And having said that – reminding those yearning that God’s Kingdom would come of their utter dependence upon the One sent to give them definitive guidance about how to view the future – Peter asks his question:

So Lord, how do we read this? Is this a parable that we, your designated apostles, should consider our own? Or is it more generally a parable for everyone, an invitation to all? Is this to help us in the administration of your coming Kingdom? You have taken us apart, Lord, and have you taken us apart, Lord, and taught us so this might be specifically for us – or is it to have a more general application? 

It is rather significant that this question of Peter’s brings forth a further elaboration of Jesus’ parable. The faithful servant is described here as the one who metes out the kind of service the Master provide when he rewards his servants who prove themselves ready for his arrival when he arrives. But this service is rendered before the Master returns. And so the reward will be an even greater and more intimate share in the management of the householder’s household.

And then, further addressing himself to Peter’s query, Jesus develops the parable by reference to a servant who, neglecting to prepare for the Master’s return, takes the opportunity to assert his presumed pre-eminence over the other servants, to live as if his tenure in this position is all there is. He conducts himself as if he is not accountable for his stewardship. Well then, the ironic consequence is that he will eventually experience the Master’s return as the mirror image of the way in which he has treated other servants. But this time he will be “cut to pieces”, and instead of helping himself to what has been given to his fellow servants, his portion will be doled out to others, and his lot will be with the faithless because he has been faithless. Such a servant who knew that his Master’s will is but a foretaste of his Master’s service when he returns, but who failed to live according to his Master’s way, will be subject to a more severe punishment. He knew his Master’s will because his Master had taken him into his confidence. And to whom much is invested much abundant faithfulness is required.

We could say that Peter’s request is answered in a way that is similar to the manner in which Jesus is reported by John to have replied to another of Peter’s questions; Peter had asked Jesus about John’s future – the reply to Peter was: “You follow me!”

to be continued

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