Luke 12:35-48 Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps alight 36 And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master shall find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. 38 Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39And be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”
Luke 12:41-48 And Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 44 Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; 46 the master of that slave 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 assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47 And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
I doubt that there is anything I dislike more than waiting. It may be that you can identify with me in my annoyance with waiting, especially when it is prolonged awaiting someone’s arrival. Husbands sometimes come to church in a mental “miff” because they have sat in the car, waiting for wife and/or family to get out to the car. Wives can get upset waiting for their husband to get home from work, especially if they have dinner in the oven getting extra crispy or on the table getting cold. I was watching the news a couple of weeks ago, during the ice storm, and much was made of the thousands who were forced to spend a day or more in the airport, waiting for the weather to clear and for the airline schedules to be untangled.
Our culture is not inclined to wait, either. Think, for example, of how many “fast food” restaurants there are in our city, as compared with those which cook food the slow, old-fashioned way. TV dinners are the solution for those who wish to eat at home, quickly. Credit cards have a great appeal to us because we can buy the things we want without having to wait till we have the cash to do so. The “sexual revolution” has also given our society a convenient philosophical rational for not “waiting” for sexual enjoyment, within marriage.
When you think of the Bible, waiting is one of the things which men and women of faith are called upon to do. All of those named in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 had to wait for the promised blessings of God. Their wait was even longer than we would like to contemplate—they were still waiting when they died. They are still waiting!
Jesus calls upon His disciples to wait, for although He will return to the earth, to rule over it as Messiah, it may be a considerable period of time before this happens. Our text implies that there will be a wait. History confirms this, for the church has been waiting nearly 2,000 years for His return.
I believe that the entire 12th chapter of Luke pertains to stewardship. Verses 1-12 have addressed the disciple’s stewardship of the gospel. The disciple must make good use of the gospel by boldly living and proclaiming it. Verses 13-34 have addressed the stewardship of possessions. Our preoccupation must not be with material things, but with true “life.” We need not worry about our life, but we should use things to minister to men’s needs now, which is laying up treasure for ourselves in heaven. In verses 35 and following our Lord turns, as I understand it, to the stewardship of time. He will instruct us as how we are to view and use the time which remains until he comes.
If we are required to wait, then you and I had better learn how to do it right. In our text, Jesus teaches us “the way to wait” for His return. In verses 35 and 36 Jesus spells out three elements involved in waiting, three descriptions of the readiness for and expectation of His return which we should have at all times. Verses 37 and 38 are a promise of the blessedness of those who wait as Jesus has said above. Verses 39 and 40 contain words of warning, for some do not wait in readiness for His return.
In verse 41, Peter asked to know just who Jesus was speaking to, and Jesus answered indirectly, with a question (verse 42), which leads to His promise that God will honor that manager with greater responsibilities in the kingdom who has been a good steward in his earthly ones (verses 43-44). Verses 45-46 are yet another word of warning, addressed to those who use our Lord’s delayed return as an excuse for sin and self-indulgence. The final verses (47-48) conclude our text by highlighting the principle on which divine discipline is based.
What we have said above is summarized below:
(1) An Exhortation to Readiness—vv. 35-40
(2) Three Elements of Readiness—vv. 35-36
(3) Two-fold assurance of blessing for those who wait—vv. 37-38
(4) Warning about being caught unprepared—vv. 39-40
(5) An Exhortation to Faithfulness—vv. 41-48
Our text has one “tension” which should motivate the student to study these words very carefully. In verse 46, Jesus spoke of the servant who was “cut into pieces.” In Matthew’s parallel account (24:45-51), he adds a reference to “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 51). Is this speaking of hell, and if so, do Christians need to fear hell as a punishment for being unfaithful in their service? Our study, I believe, will answer this question.
“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, [and be]221 like men 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.
I see three distinct characteristics of the “good waiter” as described by our Lord:
(1) Preparation—“be dressed ready … ”
(2) Maintenance—“keep your lamps burning”
(3) Expectation—“[and be] like men waiting for their master”
The preparation of the waiter consists of a readiness for action. In the imagery of our Lord it has to do with one’s clothing.222 Literally, one is to be ready by “having their loins girded.”223 One could hardly work with a flowing robe in the way, so it would be tucked in. In our culture we might say, “having your sleeves rolled up.”
Second, the “good waiter” is to “keep his lamp burning.”224 They did not have street lights in those days, nor did they have a porch light to keep on, so that the master could easily find and enter his door. The good servant would listen for the sound of his master’s return (a dog barking in the distance?) and would have his light already lit, so that he could illuminate and thereby facilitate his way. So, too, with the disciple who awaits the Lord’s return. One’s waiting should be spent making all the preparations needed, so that the Lord’s return is not surprise, and so that we can be a part of the return.
Third, the “good waiter” is to be like a devoted servant, who eagerly awaits his master’s return, as if he were coming from a wedding banquet. Jesus did not suggest that the master was himself married, but only that he attended the banquet. It was both profitable and delightful activity, a good reason to be gone and even to be delayed in returning. The mood, then, of his arrival would be joyful and festive. The eager servant would be ready, able to immediately open the door to the master.
In verses 37 and 38 Jesus promises “blessedness”225 for those who wait for His return as He has described above:
“It will be good [“Blessed”] for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good [“Blessed”] for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night.”
If we are to wait expectantly for our Lord’s return, doing so will result in the reward of “blessedness.” The nature of that reward is absolutely astounding. Those servants who are found waiting for the Master
will be blessed by the Master serving them. My understanding is that behind this figurative speech is a literal meaning: when He comes again, the Master will serve His servants! Is this not amazing?
To us, such an act seems inconsistent with His role at His second coming. Serving seems to be a contradiction to leading, to act a servant inconsistent with being the Master. The following observations may help us resolve our dilemma (isn’t this another “tension of the text”?).
(1) Serving is an honorable task. Jesus came to serve (cf. Luke 22:27), and thus we should surely see serving as honorable. In our culture, serving is a demeaning task, one which mean shun. So it was in Jesus’ day (cf. John 13:1-17). Jesus elevated service to a function of great privilege and honor.
(2) Leading is not a contradiction to serving, but a form of serving. Some view leadership as an opportunity for others to serve you, but the Bible speaks of leadership as a form of service (cf. Mark 10:42-45; 1 Peter 5:1-3). Thus, our Lord can both lead and serve at the same time, or should we say that He can lead by serving. Serving His servants at the second coming is in no way inconsistent with His coming to rule.
(3) Because serving is not opposed to honor or to leadership, it is something which Jesus will do in His second coming, just as He came to serve at His first coming. Many acknowledge (in fact, who can deny?) that Jesus came to serve in His first coming (Mark 10:45; Luke 22:27), but they think that His resurrection and ascension terminated this. Jesus came to suffer and to die, a function we would acknowledge to be painful. He will no longer suffer or die. He came to be rejected by men, but when He returns all will acknowledge Him as Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). But if I read our text correctly His service, which began in His first coming, will persist in His second coming. It does not end. And why should it, if it is an honorable task, and one that is consistent with leadership?
(4) Jesus’ “servants” will no longer be servants, but “friends.” Jesus said that He would have His servants to dinner, where He would serve them. Those whom we have to dinner are our friends. Jesus, you will recall, told His disciples that He no longer called them servants, but friends (John 15:14-15).
Here is a lesson for us. If it is not demeaning for our Lord to serve, then surely it is not to be viewed as demeaning to us. Indeed, it is our glory. Some of us look at serving as the unpleasant path to glory, but our Lord’s words strongly imply that serving is our glory.
In verse 38, Jesus repeated the promise of blessing to those who wait for His return, even if it is delayed (“second or third watch”).226 Jesus thus implies that His return may well be later than we would wish or suppose. History has born this out, for nearly 2,000 years have passed since the Lord’s ascension. But even if His return is delayed, the blessings which accompany this return are in no way diminished. They are as certain as His word. Thus, waiting, for the saint, only enhances his expectation.
“But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
Jesus moves to a very different image here, and we need to note the differences. The master/servant image (above) was intended as an encouragement to those who would wait as Jesus described. The owner/thief image is a warning to those who do not expectantly await the Lord’s return. In the first image, Jesus is portrayed as the master who is welcomed and comes with a reward. In the second, Jesus comes as a thief, who is not welcomed and whose arrival spells disaster (he is “ripped off”). In the first story the master owns the house, but in the second the man owns the house (and Jesus is viewed as the unwanted, unauthorized taker). The owner of the house loses his possessions. In the first image, the master is welcomed and let in the door. In the second, the thief is not welcome, and he enters by digging through the wall.
What is it that makes the difference? What determines whether Jesus is a “welcome Master” or a “dreaded thief”?227 I think the answer is suggested by the two stories, but is made clear by the gospel. The difference is a relationship. There is a loving bond between the Master and His servants. They know and love each other. The servants await His return because of who He is. The home owner does not know the thief, nor does he wish to. He hopes the Lord never comes, for His coming is viewed as bringing a loss.
The gospel fills in the blanks. Those who have trusted in Jesus as the promised Messiah love Him and see Him as the source of “every good and perfect gift” (cf. James 1:17). They await His return and know that it will bring them blessedness. Those who have rejected God and His Messiah do not wish to see Him, for His coming only spells the loss of those things which they value most, but which will be taken away, just as the “rich fool” lost his possessions.
Did you notice that while there are many differences between the servants of the first parable228 and the house-owner of the second, that there is one thing that is the same? Neither the servants nor the house-owner knew the time that the Lord would return. The delay of the Lord, along with the lack of knowing exactly when He will return, can produce very different results. For the true follower of Jesus, the delay produces anticipation and expectation. For the unbeliever, who does not love the Lord, nor take pleasure in the anticipation of His return, His delay produces a very different response, which will be played out in verse 45.
What is certain is that the Lord is going to return, to reward some and to judge others. What is not certain is exactly what “day” or “hour” that will be.229 This delay and the uncertainly as to the precise timing of His coming can be a test of our faithfulness and a stimulus to our expectation. May it be so for each of us.
Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good [“Blessed”] for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”
Peter must have been getting a little uncomfortable. Jesus’ words contained both an encouraging promise of blessing, as well as a warning. Peter must not have known just who Jesus was referring to. And so he (who else?) asked. Jesus purposely avoided giving a direct answer. Why? I think it is because he did not want to let Peter or the other disciples off too easily. Jesus was dealing with the kind of principles which applied to all. The warning and the encouragement should be heard and heeded. The Lord did not want the answer or the application to come to quickly or easily.230 His question implied to Peter that he needed to think further, based upon what He said.
Jesus now becomes more specific as to the blessings which will accrue to those who eagerly await His return. He speaks of the blessing of the “manager” (does this not refer to the disciples?) who is faithful in his service, and whose reward is greater responsibility in the coming kingdom of God. Several observations are necessary in order to understand what Jesus was saying here:
(1) The reward of the “good waiter” is expressed in terms of stewardship.
(2) The reward of the faithful steward is for being a faithful steward.
(3) The reward of the faithful steward is to continue his stewardship in eternity, but with greater responsibilities.
(4) The faithful steward is rewarded for being found doing now what he will be doing later.
(5) The key to understanding these words of our Lord is to understand who is referred to by the “steward” (NASB) or “manager” (NIV), and by the “servants” for whom the steward provides food (rations) at their proper time.
(6) The stewards promotion in heaven is to be in charge of the very same kind of ministry he has had in life.
These words of encouragement will best be understood in contrast to that which follow, to the words of warning which Jesus speaks in verses 45-48. Let us look at them now, and then consider the message which our Lord is seeking to convey to His faithful followers.
“But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
We are back, once again, to the imagery of the servant and his master, but this time the servant is a wicked one. He does not eagerly await his master’s return, his lamp is not lit, and, as it were, his loins are not girded up—he is not dressed for service. The Lord gives a clear word of warning here, so let us listen well.
The parable here is a very simple one. A servant’s master has gone for some period of time. It appears as though it may be a considerable time before the master returns. The servant is a steward, in charge of both men and women servants. From the Lord’s words above in verse 42 it would seem that this steward has been put in charge of feeding the servants. The steward is convinced that the master will not return for a long time. He therefore decides to use his master’s possessions for his own pleasure, rather than to use them as he was commanded to do. He indulges on the food and drink, consuming the supplies that were meant for others, while at the same time he abuses the servants under his authority. That man, Jesus said, would be cut into pieces and would be assigned to a place with unbelievers.231 He then concludes by laying down the principle that judgment is meted out in proportion to the knowledge which one has received and rejected.
But what does our Lord’s parable teach us? There are some very critical questions which we must answer if we are to understand these words as our Lord meant us to:
(1) Who is the servant? Is the servant a disciple? A believer?
(2) Why does he act as he does? What do this servant’s actions tell us about his relationship to his master?
(3) Who are the men servants and maid servants?
(4) What is his punishment? Is it hell?
(5) Why does Jesus conclude with the principle underlying punishment?
I approach this passage (and, indeed, all other Scriptures) with several premises, which I need to share with you here.
(1) The text should be interpreted as meaning what it most clearly and literally seems to mean. This sounds obvious, but we who wish to be thought of as “scholars” often find ourselves telling people that the text means something other than what it seems to say—that’s why you need scholars like us, because the Bible doesn’t mean what it says, or seems to say. Jesus’ words in Luke 10:21 must apply here.
(2) There is a solution to apparent problems. Tensions in the text are God’s way of stimulating our thinking, of causing us to meditate on the Scriptures. This is not unlike the Lord’s refusal to give Peter a quick answer to his question in our text. The solution to the problems comes from diligent study, dependence on the Holy Spirit’s ministry, and prayer.
(3) The broadest context of the Scriptures as a whole (Old and New Testament) and the particular book most often provide us with the clues and the keys to understanding problem passages.
(4) God’s principle motivating forces are love and grace, not fear and guilt. To be specific, I don’t think that God is using the fear of hellfire to scare Christians into eagerly awaiting His coming. Fear would cause us to dread his coming, not eagerly anticipate it. The one steward who hid his one talent (Matthew 25:18, 24-28) did so (or so he said) out of fear. In my opinion, he was not even a believer.
(5) In the context of our passage, I believe that Peter’s question, preserved only by Luke, provides us with the key to understanding our Lord’s words—not so much the words He had previously spoken, but the ones which He will speak in answer to Peter’s question, “Who are you speaking to?” I believe that discovering who Jesus is speaking of as “the servant” is the key to understanding His words.
Let us first seek to understand this difficult text by determining what the fate of this servant is. He is “cut into pieces” and he is “assigned a place with unbelievers.” Matthew further adds, in his parallel account that this man is assigned to a place with the hypocrites and that there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”232 In my opinion, the place to which this steward is sent is clearly and obviously “hell.” Hell is a place of torment—weeping and gnashing of teeth. Hell is the place where unbelievers are sent. Hell is the place of punishment. There is only one reason why we are uncomfortable about taking this place as hell, and that is that it seems that an unfaithful believer is sent there. But is the “servant” a believer? This, is, in my opinion, the crux of the matter.
Who, then, is the “servant” who is cut into pieces and sent to hell?
The term servant is one that is frequently found in the Bible. In the Old Testament, there are four ways in which the term is most often used, describing someone or a group as God’s servants:
(2) The term “servant” refers to the prophets, who collectively served God (“My servants the prophets,” e.g., Jeremiah 7:25).
(3) The term “servant” is often used of the nation Israel (e.g. Isaiah 41:8-9; 44:1-2, 21; 45:4; 49:3).
(4) The term “servant” is used of the Messiah who was to come as the Savior of Israel and the world (e.g., Isaiah 52:13; 53:11).
Perhaps the key “servant” text for interpreting our passage is found in the 65th chapter of Isaiah:
Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “Behold, My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry. Behold, My servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty. Behold, My servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame. Behold, My servants shall shout joyfully with a glad heart, And you shall wail with a broken spirit. And you will leave your name for a curse to My chosen ones, And the Lord God will slay you. But My servants will be called by another name” (Isaiah 65:13-15, NASB).
The question is, “Who are the servants of whom God speaks here?” The first verse of this chapter provides us with the answer, I believe:
“I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ To a nation which did not call on My name. I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, follow their own thought” (Isaiah 65:1-2).
I believe that God is saying to Israel that He has turned (or will do so) to the Gentiles because of the rebellion of Israel. His “servants” who eat, and drink, and rejoice are thus those who have turned to Him in faith, and they include both believing Jews and believing Gentiles. Those whom God will “slay” (Isaiah 65:15) are His disobedient people.
Based upon these premises, my understanding is that the “servant” who is “cut in pieces” is the unbelieving nation of Israel. Unbelieving Israel will be “cut in pieces” (dispersed) and will be cast into hell, along with those heathen they so much disdain and despise. The faithful servant is God’s church, those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as God’s Messiah, and who wait expectantly for His return.
But what does all this have to do with stewardship? How does the nation Israel relate to our Lord’s teaching on stewardship? The nation Israel was given great privileges and responsibilities. Israel, for example was the nation through whom “light” was to be shed abroad to the nations. Israel was the steward through whom the Scriptures were given to the world. Israel, like Jonah, did not want this to happen. Israel resisted it all the way. Israel consumed its blessings on itself. Israel not only abused the Gentiles, they abused their own, as their prophets frequently said. The early chapters of the prophecy of Jeremiah perfectly depict the very thing of which our Lord is accusing “the servant” of doing (cf. Jeremiah 4-6).
The last two verses of our text, Luke 12:47-48 are especially significant when viewed in the light of the fact that unbelieving Israel is the unfaithful servant. Judgment, Jesus taught, was meted out according to knowledge. Greater knowledge meant greater punishment, for those who rejected it. Israel had that greater knowledge and thus her discipline as well.
The message as it related to our Lord’s audience, the nation Israel, is therefore clear. I believe that we can sum it up in this statement: ONE’S ATTITUDE TOWARD THE LORD’S SECOND COMING IS THE RESULT OF HIS RESPONSE TO HIS FIRST COMING.
Those who will eagerly await our Lord’s return are those who have eagerly accepted His first coming. Those who did not receive Jesus as the Messiah, will surely not look toward His return as a welcome event.
Which leads me to this question, my reader friend, “Have you welcomed Christ as God’s Sin-bearer and your Savior? Have you received His free gift of salvation? If you have, then you will surely look forward to the coming of His kingdom and to the glories of heaven.
In addition to the need to receive Christ in His first coming, there are several other lessons which we can learn from our text. I will briefly summarize them, for your consideration.
(1) First, Jesus emphasized that which was certain prophetically, namely that He was coming again. Many of us are guilty of focusing on that which is obscure in prophecy, rather than on that which is clear and emphatic. The fact of His second coming is a certainty, one on which we can base our present living. The timing of that coming is not clear.
I am what is know by some as a Calvinist. I do not necessarily like the label, but I do agree with the content which it describes, at least insofar as it stresses the sinfulness of man, the sovereignty of God, and the certainty that He will accomplish what He purposes and promises. Those who believe that a Christian can “lose” their salvation undercut the very certainty which our Lord bases His promises and His commands on. Whether it is God who “fails” to fulfill His purpose of saving us, or whether we fail, by our sin to be saved, our salvation ceases to be certain. Men may wrongly abuse the “once saved, always saved” truth, but it is still truth. Satan is a master at perverting truth in application (cf. Luke 4:9-11; Romans 6:1). The certainty of the next world and the uncertainty of this life are two of the fundamental facts on which we should base our lives.
(2) Second, Jesus also emphasized that which was not certain. He told His disciples that the time of His return would be a time when they would expect Him. It is one thing to say that the unbelieving world will be caught off guard, but Jesus said that we will not be inclined to look for His return when He comes either. The wicked man will be inclined to use this fact to justify his sin, but the righteous must accept this truth and be in a constant state of readiness. This will require discipline and diligence, but that is what discipleship is all about.
(3) Third, Jesus stressed continuity in prophecy. As I mentioned earlier, much of what we do in heaven will be that which we have been doing on earth. We will, for example, worship Him in heaven, just as we should be doing now. Yes, many aspects of life on earth will be “history” in heaven. Sickness, sorrow, tears and death will no longer be in heaven. Seemingly, marriage will not be found in heaven either. But much that characterizes the Christian’s life on earth will also characterize heaven. We will be serving in heaven, as we do now. We will be serving, in some sense, as stewards in heaven, as we should be doing now. What we do now and how well we do it has a great deal to do with what we do in heaven. Let us see the continuity between “now” and “then.”
(4) Fourth, privilege brings about proportionate responsibility. Those who know much are more responsible than those who know little. Those who have much revelation and reject it will receive greater judgment than those who know little and reject it. This applies to both believers and unbelievers. Those who have heard the gospel often and have rejected it will suffer more in hell than those who have little or no knowledge of Christ. This is why we are warned that there should not be “many teachers,” for greater knowledge and privilege have a greater obligation (James 3:1).
220 “From ver. 35 to ver. 38 this section has no parallel in Mt. The interpellation of Peter (ver. 41) is also peculiar to Lk. But vv. 39, 40 and 42-46 are parallel to Mt. xxiv. 43-51.” Alfred Plummer, The Gospel According to S. Luke, The International Critical Commentary Series, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1969), p. 330.
221 The NASB includes these words, which reflect the original text. I include them because I believe that there are three distinct characteristics of the “good waiter.” The words “and be” point to the third characteristic as a separate and distinct category, and not just a restatement of the previous (2) points. Once again, the more literal rendering of the NASB is beneficial to the student of Scripture.
222 Is this a play on the theme of “clothing” from the verses above (vv.22 ff.), as if to say, “Don’t worry about what you will wear, but do put on clothing that will cause you to be ready for My return.”?
224 The subject of “light” is not infrequent in Luke’s gospel (1:79; 2:32; 8:16; 11:35-36; 12:3; 15:8; 16:8). Initially, I was inclined to see our Lord’s words as an encouragement to evangelize, to “let their lights shine” the gospel message, but in the imagery of a returning master, the light is to illuminate His way. Evangelism does this, although I am not certain it is the major thrust of Jesus’ words.
225 The NIV renders our Lord’s words, “it will be good” in verses 37, 38, and 43. I prefer the “blessed” of the NASB, which turns our minds to the “blessed” promises of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, where He uses the same expression as is used here.
226 “The Romans divided the night into four watches, but the Jews into three (cf. Jdg. 7:19). Thus Jesus is speaking of servants who watch throughout the night for the coming of their Lord. Leon Morris, The Gospel According To St. Luke, The Tyndale Bible Commentary Series, R. V. G. Tasker, General Editor (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), p. 217.
227 The “thief” imagery occurs quite often in Scripture: 1 Thes. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 3:3; 16:15. (Robber) Jer. 7:1; Isa. 42:24; Ezek. 7:22; Dan. 11:14; Hos. 6:9; 7:1; John 10:8; (Thief) Jer. 2:26; Hos. 7:1; Joel 2:9; Zech. 5:4; John 10:1, 10; 5:2, 4; 2 Pet. 3:10.
228 I am assuming that there are two parables, which may not be correct. It may be that only the second “story” is really a parable. Peter did not ask who the parables were addressed to, but to whom this parable (singular) was addressed to. He seems to think there was only one parable.
230 On the basis of our Lord’s refusal to be specific, I wonder if our messages (as preachers) are not too pointed, too directed, too specific today? Jesus was teaching principles, and principles which are fundamental have universal application. They ought to leave room for reflection and meditation, and for the Holy Spirit to make the applications. The applications which I make are intended to be suggestive, to get the meditative process going, not to substitute my reflection for that of the hearer.
“To be understood literally; for his having his portion with the unfaithful servants does not imply that he still lives: their portion is a violent death. For the word comp. Ex. xxix. 17; and for the punishment 2 Sam. xii. 31; 1 Chron. xx. 3; Susannah 59; Amos i. 3 (LXX); Heb. xi. 37. There is no example of this word being used of scourging or other severe treatment.” Plummer, pp. 332-333.
It is interesting to note the differences between Luke’s account and that of Matthew here. Luke tells us the steward gets drunk; Matthew that he associates with drunkards. Luke tells us that the steward is assigned to a place with unbelievers, while Matthew calls them hypocrites.
But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:48-51, NASB).
It is also found in the next chapter of Luke’s gospel:
Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last” (Luke 13:22-30).
In nearly every instance where I see the expression, “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” the context concerns Israel’s unbelief, and the Gentiles’ salvation and grafting into the blessings of the promised kingdom. Those Jews who thought of themselves as on the “inside” of the kingdom were cast out, with “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” while those considered “outside” were, by faith in Messiah, brought inside, to experience the blessings of the kingdom (cf. also Revelation 22:14-15). Note the other texts, cited below:
MATTHEW 8:8-13 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.
MATTHEW 13:37-52 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. 47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied. 52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
MATTHEW 22:1-13 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
MATTHEW 25:1-30 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ 13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. 14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15 To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 22 “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ 23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 24 “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’