After teaching the disciples and the crowd not to be anxious about their physical needs, but to pursue Christ’s kingdom, he said to “stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning”. (35)
Jesus taught the meaning of this statement with two illustrations.
The first illustration involved servants of a wealthy master. If the master stayed out very late at a wedding feast and want his servants to be ready to attend him. He would want them to open the door at once when he knocked. (37) He would want lamps burning so he could see. He would want his servants dressed and ready to attend him.
The faithful and diligent servant would be awake, dressed, ready to serve the master. His lamp would be lit and full of oil. This image is similar to the parable of the 10 virgins awaiting the bridegroom in Matthew 25:1-13.
In contrast, a lazy or unfaithful servant might decide to go to bed before his master got home. The lamps would go out. When the master knocked, he would have to stand outside and wait to enter his own house until the servant woke up. Then he would come inside to see his servant in his sleep wear and the house dark. Obviously, the master would be more pleased with the faithful servant than the lazy and unfaithful servant.
If fact, this master was so pleased, he did something no one expected. He dressed himself to serve as opposed to having himself served. (37) He had them recline at table while he served them dinner.
So, what is going on here? First, the master represents Jesus upon his return. The awake servants are those disciples who remain faithful to the end when Jesus returns. Jesus will be pleased with them and serve them in a feast.
Interestingly, Jesus modeled this story when he washed the feet of the disciples in John 13:1-17. When they gathered to observe the Passover, he took off his outer garment, wrapped a towel around his waist, and washed their feet. It was a job only a servant would do.
There are several truths for us to learn here. First, Jesus will return. That is something we must believe for the Bible teaches it. Any eschatology (doctrine of last things) that teaches all prophesy is fulfilled and there is no second coming, or return, of Jesus, is wrong. For example, when Jesus ascended, an angel told the disciples “this same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven”. (Acts 1:10) All told there are 300 plus references in the New Testament to the return of Jesus.
Second, faithfulness in working to the end is the true measure of conversion. Those who have been saved will endure in the faith and serve the Lord until they die or he returns.
Third, Jesus will reward those who remain faithful to the end. The picture here is of a master serving dinner to his servants. It is an allusion to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Luke will present several pictures of it. In Revelation 19:9 an angel says “blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
The picture of a wedding supper is used because Jesus presents himself as the bridegroom and the church as the bride. In first century Israel, a bridegroom and his attendants would walk from his house to his bride’s house to get her and take her to the wedding feast.
Jesus’ servants will be blessed when he appears and finds them faithfully serving. They will spend eternity with him. He will reward them for their service to him.
The second illustration involved a thief breaking into a house because the master of the house was gone. (39) If the master had known the thief was coming, he would not have left. He would have been at home ready to repel the thief.
In the same way, Jesus said we must remain ready because we do not know when Jesus will return. In fact, he will return at an hour we do not expect. (40)
This teaching is clear, isn’t it? Is there any doubt Jesus said we do not know when he will return and we will not expect it? Yet, there are many who spend hours of time trying to figure out when Jesus will return. They write books about it. People buy those books. All of that effort is in vain.
The time spent trying to guess when Jesus will return should have been spent serving for Jesus.
To Whom Does This Apply?
At this point in Jesus’ teaching, Peter interrupted to ask Jesus who he was speaking to. Was it to the disciples only, or for all of the crowd? (41)
It was not a bad question. Sometimes Jesus spoke to the crowds. Sometimes he spoke to his disciples only. Peter wanted to know who this story applied to.
Jesus did not answer the question directly. Instead he gave another illustration. In this illustration, Jesus asked who is the faithful and wise manager that a master leaves in charge of his household to make sure everyone is fed? This is a picture of the head servant left in charge of taking care of the other servants while the master is gone. Here Jesus asked the same question Peter asked, but within an illustration that forced Peter to come to the correct conclusion on his own.
Jesus said the servant is blessed who is found doing his job when his master returns. (43) The master will reward the servant by putting him in charge of all his possessions.
In one sense, then, Jesus said the teaching applied to everyone in the crowd. But, there is a further application.
Jesus left the apostles in charge of the church. The church is sometimes referred to as God’s household. For example, 1 Timothy 3:15 refers to “…the household of God, which is the church of the living God….” Jesus made the apostles “stewards” of that household. Paul wrote “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Corinthians 4:1)
Jesus was telling Peter that the Twelve and their successors were charged to be faithful servants to the church, even more so than the ordinary believer. It is a charge to pastors, teachers and elders today.
In contrast, a servant who believes his master will not return for a long time and, therefore, mistreats the servants and indulges himself will be punished. The master will return when the servant does not expect him and get caught being unfaithful.
The unfaithful servant will be cast out with the unfaithful. (46) This is a picture of hell. The punishments are symbols of the suffering in hell for those who are not faithful to Christ. They are thrust from the presence of God into suffering.
There are many unfaithful servants today. Some get filthy rich from preaching the so-called prosperity gospel. Some obtain fame by preaching self improvement. Some abandon the gospel altogether and preach falsehood to get on television shows and to sell books. Judgment will be harsh for them.
Accountability will be measured according to knowledge and ability. Those who knew what to do but did not will suffer more than those who did not know. Those to whom much is given will be accountable to do more with it. (47-48)
Whatever gifts and talents we have should be used for growing the kingdom. Those who are given many talents are held to greater accountability because they have more to give.
How will you, as a believer, live? Will you use your abilities to grow the kingdom, to take care of weaker believers, and to bring glory to Jesus Christ? Or will you sit on your hands because you do not think he is coming soon?
What will you do if you do not believe? Will you postpone committing your life to Christ and receiving his salvation because you think you have all the time in the world? This passage shows that to be foolish, as did the parable of the rich man and his barns We do not know when our last day of life will be or when Jesus will return. So, come to him today while you can.