Unit: Luke (Part 2)
Theme: Jesus the Storyteller
Lesson Text: Luke 12:35-48
Supplemental Text: Matthew 24:42-51; Romans 13:11-14; 1 Peter 1:13-25
Aim: Jesus is coming again, so be ready!
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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_May15_2022.
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By Mark Scott
Jesus, the master storyteller, continued his discourse in Luke 12 following the tangent about riches (vv. 13-34). He moved from riches to readiness. Disciples who trust God to provide for their needs will also be ready for God “to show up and show off” (as Marty Young, a minister in Utah, said).
This lesson text is highly metaphoric. The main metaphor concerns a master and servant. But under that big-picture metaphor are at least eight others that make this text quite visual (clothing, lamps, weddings, thieves, eating, etc.). Also worth noting in this highly figurative passage is that the metaphors are mostly eschatological (i.e., they especially relate to the future, specifically the return of Christ).
The Unusual and Coming Master
Servants (Christ followers) who have their treasures in the right place (v. 34) will be dressed (have their work clothes on). Their lamps will be constantly burning (not allowed to go out due to neglect). They will be ready to receive their master when he returns from a wedding banquet. The coming master will not catch the servants off guard. The servants will open the door for him as soon as the master knocks on the gate. And this will be true whether the master comes home during the middle of the night or toward daybreak.
Servants of this master will be vigilant. They will be waiting, watching, and ready for his arrival. Jesus used another metaphor to illustrate the servants’ readiness—that of a thief breaking into a house. The owner of the house is the same person as the master. Thieves are usually discouraged from attempting a robbery when the owner (or his servants) is standing guard over the house.
But this master does not fit the norm. Jesus will, on another occasion, state the normal way that masters and servants work (Luke 17:7-10). Normally when the master returns home the servants serve him. After all, even if servants have done everything the master told them to do, they would still be unprofitable. But due to the love of God and the incarnation, in this text, the master is most unusual. This master comes home, dresses like a servant, and serves the servants (cf. John 13:1-17). And so that there is no mistaking, Jesus identifies the master in verse 40. He is the Son of Man. He will come at an unexpected hour, so his servants must always be ready.
The Faithful and Wise Servant
Peter interrupted the discourse (big surprise). The reason we know Jesus was speaking figuratively is that Peter framed his question in parabolic terms. “Are you telling this parable [of the master and servant] to us, or to everyone?” The unstated answer is probably “both.” Jesus then extended the metaphor by calling the chief servant (maybe a reference to the apostles collectively) the faithful and wise manager. This special servant has a large stewardship. We know four things about him. He is in charge of the other servants. He is particularly over their food allowance. He, like the other servants, must be busy for the master. Finally, he is in charge of all of the master’s possessions.
Jesus posed the prospect that the faithful and wise servant might become presumptuous (v. 45). He might get careless. This carelessness could show up in three ways. First, he could misjudge the master’s return. (By the way, in the parables of Jesus, a subtle hint about the second coming is taught. That coming might not be imminent. There could be a significant delay in the master’s coming. While Jesus could return at any moment, some people, especially those who are overzealous to teach about the imminent return of Christ, should take note.) Second, he could mistreat his fellow servants. Finally, he could become morally irresponsible by getting drunk. For that careless servant, the master could show up on a day and at an hour the servant does not expect. The servant has only himself to blame for his judgment by God—described in severe terms (i.e., cut to pieces).
The text closes with Jesus connecting the dots between knowledge and responsibility. Any servant (whether chief servant or not) who knows his master’s will and refuses to do it will incur judgment (many blows). Does that mean those who do not know the master’s will are off the hook? No! Those who did not know and therefore did not do will be punished with few blows. The principle is that with additional knowledge comes additional responsibility. This is true in every category of reality. The master evidently assumed that all servants knew something. Servants who are ready for the return of the king will be entrusted with much.