Ready or not, Jesus is coming again. The angels declared to the apostles, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10–11 ESV) What it means to be a disciple of Jesus is that we are ready and waiting for his return. Notice Jesus’ teaching on readiness in Luke 12:35-48.
Be Prepared (12:35-40)
Jesus begins with two images: being dressed for action and keeping the lamps burning. These are images of preparation. Verse 36 amplifies this imagery. We are to be like people who are waiting for the master to come home from a wedding feast so that we can open the door immediately when he comes. Jesus describes his disciples as people who are prepared so that when the master comes, they are awake and ready. Notice that this preparation is not a one-time effort. The servant does not get dressed for action and then falls asleep on the couch until the master returns. We cannot read this passage, say that we have believed and been baptized, and think that we are now prepared for his return. Jesus is looking past the initiation into discipleship. These people are already the servants of the master. The question is: Are they prepared servants? Are they ready?
Before we go further in the story, something extraordinary happens. What Jesus says in verse 37 is completely out of place and unexpected. Jesus says that the servants that are found ready and awake are blessed. Why are they blessed? What is going to happen? Jesus says that the master is going to dress himself for service and have the servants sit at the table. Then the master is going to come and serve the servants at the table. Absolutely unbelievable! The servants that are found ready, prepared, and awake are going to be given an amazing gift. The story should read that the master would sit at the table and the servants serve the meal to the master. The servants would be pleased to serve the master. But notice the turn of the story. The servants are going to be told to sit at the table and the master is going to prepare himself to serve and will serve them. A shocking turn of the story which provides the motivation for us to desire to be prepare and awake. We know the master is going to bless us if we are ready for him.
But the story turns again in verses 38-40. It is not known when the master will return. He might come in the middle of the night (second watch) or near dawn (third watch). In fact, Jesus describes his return as the arrival of a thief. The time of his arrival is not known. Notice Jesus’ clear teaching: “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40 ESV). This is a key teaching. If a person every claims to know or predict the arrival of the end of the world or the arrival of Jesus, you know that person is a liar. You know not to listen to anything that person says because Jesus said he is coming at an unexpected time. Our mission is not scour the scriptures with calculators trying to figure out a code for the second coming. He is not coming when you think. In May 2012 there is going to renewed hype for the end of the world. Here is what we know: Jesus is not coming on the date they claim. Jesus will fulfill these words by coming at an unexpected hour. He could do that by not coming in May but coming tomorrow. Now that would be a surprise. That is the point Jesus is making. You are not going to calculate his arrival. You do not know when he is coming. Rather than guessing, Jesus says you need to be ready every day, prepared and awake as if today is the day for his arrival.
Illustration: I see this a little bit like waiting for an important FedEx package that requires your signature. You know he’s coming but you don’t know what time. You look on the FedEx website and all it says is, “Out for delivery.” So now you don’t know what to do. Do I have time to get a haircut? Do I have time to go to the store? I don’t want to miss him coming because then I won’t get the package. So we sit prepared, waiting for the arrival of the package. We are to live with this kind of anticipation every day waiting for the Lord’s arrival. Today can be the day of his return. Now Jesus is going to explain to us what it means to be ready. What are the preparations we need to make so that we can be blessed when Jesus returns?
Proper Preparations (12:41-48)
Jesus asks the question himself in verse 42. “Who then is the faithful and wise manager?” What do we need to do to show our preparation?
We show ourselves ready by being faithful to the Master’s will. “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.” Blessed is the servant who is doing what the master says to be doing. The master does not want to arrive and find his servants sleeping. He wants to see them making preparations. We prepare by being faithful. We examine God’s word. We study his laws. We change our lives to match what he has called us to do.
Not lulled into laziness (12:45-46).
The second way we show our preparation is by not being lulled into laziness and resting. Notice what the unprepared servant says to himself in verse 45. “My master is delayed in coming.” This is exactly what we do in our minds. Jesus predicted this is what we would think. Jesus even predicted it was going to be a long time before he came back. It would be so long that the servants are going to start thinking that he is delayed. The implication for us is clearly Jesus is not delayed. He is coming at the appropriate, determined time. The apostle Peter wrote that scoffers would come saying that things have always gone on as they are and he is delayed in his return. He is not delayed. He is coming. The problem with thinking that the master is delayed is that it leads to unfaithfulness. Notice what the servants do. They start beating the other servants, eat, drink, and get drunk. Basically, the servants start living how they want to live. Jesus is not talking about people in the world. They are already living for themselves. Jesus is talking about us, his servants. Time will continue to go by and we will lose our intensity in being prepared for him so that we start doing what we want to do. Another day goes by and we think that we can sin today because the master is delayed in his coming. Jesus predicts that we will become lazy servants, no longer serving him, but serving ourselves.
What is going to happen to the lazy servants? What will happen to the servants who when the master arrives are not found to be prepared, that is, living in passionate faithfulness to the master? Listen to what he says in verse 46: “The master of the servant 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 put him with the unfaithful.” (Luke 12:46 ESV) Are you glad this is a parable? This is graphic language. The master will come and cut the servant into pieces. Except that we should not be too relieved because the punishment that awaits us is far worse: eternal torment and separation from God. We will be put with the unbelievers and unfaithful (12:46). Jesus is clear in Matthew’s gospel that the place reserved for the unbelievers and unfaithful is eternal punishment in hell (Matthew 5:29-30; 25:31-46). You were a servant, but you are cast with the unfaithful because you were not ready on the day he arrived. Verses 47-48 continues to impress upon us the gravity of our sin. The condemnation is great for knowing the Lord but not being ready.
Are you ready? Have you maintained faithful, passionate living for the Lord? Or have our hearts told us that the master is delayed and has led us to living for ourselves, obeying our desires and lusts? Stay dressed for action, keep the lamps burning, and live every day in expectation of our master’s coming. When he comes, we will be blessed and will sit at the banquet table, life forever in the house of the Lord.