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God’s Word for You

Luke 12:35-40 He will come again

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, August 17, 2018

Be Ready!
(Matthew 24:36-51; Mark 13:32-37)

35 “Be dressed, ready for service,

Literally, “gird your loins.” The clothing of the period involved long flowing robes that were not very handy when running. Girding them, tucking them up into the belt, showed one’s readiness for quick movement. This was the same command God gave Moses and the Israelites when they prepared for the Exodus on the night of the Passover (“eat it with your cloak tucked into your belt,” Exodus 12:11).

and keep your lamps burning 36 like people waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.

Jesus uses the same imagery here as in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). The point there was also that God’s people should always be prepared for his return. In the parable, the master was on his way to the wedding banquet. Here, the servants are awaiting their master’s return home from a wedding banquet, but the unexpected and sudden arrival is the same in both cases.

Jesus is telling the disciples that he will be leaving them—leaving the earth—soon, but that he would return. He is giving them a gentle warning that their hearts will be broken when he departs (dies), but that they will experience the thrill and joy of his return, and therefore they should be ready. Whether they understood him now or not, there would come a time when they would grasp his meaning at last.

37 Those servants whom the master will find watching when he comes are blessed. Amen I tell you: He will get himself dressed and invite them to recline at the table, and he will come and wait on them. 38 If he finds them alert, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night, they will be blessed.

Now Jesus expands on his promises. He is altogether serious about his departure and his return. In fact, when he returns and finds his followers watching for him, holding firmly onto their faith and trusting that he will come back and ready for him (showing their readiness through faith and obedience), he will be delighted with them—even though they will be a small number. In fact, in the return, he will treat them unlike any other master treats his servants. Usually the master continued to demand work from his servant and established his superiority at all times. In Luke 17, the servant comes in from a hard day’s work, and the master does not invite him to the dinner table. Instead, he says, “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink. After that you may eat and drink” (Luke 17:8). But in the Lord’s return, he will invite his servants to sit (“recline at the table” was the custom at the time—more about that when we read about the Last Supper in Luke 22:14), and he, Jesus, will wait on them as masters and honored guests. This is a startling picture of heaven which we usually don’t think of because we can’t bear to think of accepting service from Jesus. And yet he served us with his body and life on the cross, an unhesitating, unflinching service that caused him agony, thirst, mockery, ridicule, pain, and death.

Jesus says, “Amen I tell you.” Sometimes Luke and the other New Testament writers kept some of his Hebrew or Aramaic expressions in the text. In this case, “Amen” retains its original meaning, “truth.” Where a sinful man might make a point with a sinful oath or curse word, Jesus simply says, “I tell you the truth” for emphasis. Sometimes we introduce a point with “seriously” or “I’m not kidding” for the same reason. The special truth Jesus emphasizes has three parts. First, he will return unexpectedly, even in “the second or third watch of the night” (i.e., when everyone in a world without electricity would be sleeping). Second, he will be delighted to find his people watching faithfully with their lives and faith. Third, he will truly serve them in heaven.

39 But know this: If the master of the house had known at what hour a thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You also be ready, because at an hour when you are not expecting him the Son of Man is coming.”

This is one more way to emphasize the unexpected return of Christ. The thief comes when you don’t expect him. The Master will return just as suddenly, just as unexpectedly. Jesus’ point is simple and clear: “Be ready.” The Son of Man is coming.

Over the centuries it has been the goal of many fanatics to try to out-prophesy Christ, to discover or predict when the end of the world will come, and Christ will return. For many centuries (a millennium) many people in the church looked again to a literal interpretation of the thousand-year reign of Christ in Revelation 20:2-7 without taking into account that it is presented in a vision of an angel and a dragon (Revelation 20:1-2). An architectural implication of this interpretation is that until the year 999 A.D. had come and gone, and a few years beyond it, no Christian church was ever built on a grand scale. Why should any large effort be made, when Jesus tells us to be watchful, and not concern ourselves with earthly things? But when it became clear that John’s revelation was not to be taken literally (visions have spiritual meaning), high, soaring churches like the Abbey of Cluny began to appear, thrusting their spires and domes into the sky to give glory to God and anticipate in a new way the return of the Son of Man.

Whether you worship in a little church or a big one, you and Christians have gathered at the command of Jesus (Matthew 16:18; Matthew 18:17; Luke 11:23; Luke 13:34, etc.) to hear the word of God and especially the gospel, to confess your sins, to hear the forgiveness proclaimed, to pray together, to sing together, and to encourage one another. We wait together to anticipate the return of the Son, and while we wait we gather more souls along with us. We don’t know when he will come, but “Amen,” truly we are told, he will certainly come.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.