“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
The little flock is composed of Jesus’ disciples. “Although the faithful, especially as compared with the great nations of the world (Luke 12:30), are few in number and, as regards to their own power, like a small flock of defenseless sheep” (Gospel of Luke, Geldenhuys, p. 359). Nevertheless, God was going to bring the kingdom for this small flock. Small numbers do not disappoint God. Jesus had a handful of disciples, a small flock, yet that wouldn’t stop God’s purposes. It is easy to be intimidated by the type of people described in Luke 12:16ff, yet the rich man didn’t receive the kingdom. God hasn’t reluctantly given the kingdom to this small band of followers, rather God is glad to bring the kingdom into existence, even if faithful disciples are few.
“Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His’, and ‘Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness’” (2 Timothy 2:19).
Sometimes in this life it is not always easy to see who really belongs to God, for some people can put on a good act (1 Timothy 5:24). Added to this, often the religious world is completely wrong about what a real Christian looks like (Matthew 7:22), and the unfaithful are praised while the faithful are ignored. Yet God knows who belongs to Him, and those who belong to Him abstain from evil (1 John 3:7).
“Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys” (Luke 12:33).
Laying up treasure in heaven (12:34) involves being generous with what we do have. Giving to needy brethren, helping people, contributing to the work of the church are ways of being rich towards God. This verse infers that far from being beggars, the apostles were men of some financial means. This verse doesn’t say, “Sell everything you own”, rather in the context with the rich fool (12:21), “be rich in good works” (1 Timothy 6:17), and put the kingdom first with your finances as well as your time. The verse reminds us that what we give away cannot be taken from us, and what we determine to hold on to will be lost in the end, either to thieves, time, inflation, or death.
“Be dressed in readiness and keep your lamps lit” (Luke 12:35).
The long Eastern robe had to be lifted up and girded at the waist before the feet could step quickly. Burning lamps were important, for Eastern weddings (12:36) typically took place at night.
“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” (12:36).
Being ready and watchful is often stressed in the New Testament:
· “Ready to share”: 1 Timothy 6:18
· “Ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).
· “Ready for every good deed” (Titus 3:1).
· “Always being ready to make a defense” (1 Peter 3:15).
The same emphasis can be seen with the term “alert”:
· “Be on the alert” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
· “Be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
· “Keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).
· “So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).
“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” (Luke 12:37).
The apostles had a foretaste of this honor on the evening of the last Passover (John 13:4-5). Jesus does something that was unheard of in the ancient world. The Lord returns, and instead of being served by His guests, He waits on them. Heaven is a place of rest, a reward, and a grand banquet of blessings.
“Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves” (Luke 12:38).
Originally the Jews had three watches in the night, yet after the arrival of the Romans, they now had four watches. The second and third watches lasted from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. As I read this verse I thought of Christians that I had known in the past who served God for many years, and yet then departed from Him. As if the reasoning in their heart was, “Well the Lord did not come in the first 30 years of my Christian life, therefore He is never coming”. The verse admonishes us to keep ready and watchful, even if the waiting goes on for a long time and even if others have fallen asleep or stopped being ready.
“But 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” (Luke 12:39).
The Second coming will mean different things to different people. To some, it will be a great time of rejoicing and honor. Yet to others, His coming will seem like that of a plunderer who comes in suddenly and deprives them of all that they have.
“You to, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect” (Luke 12:40).
Not only are we unable to predict when Jesus will arrive, but the same is true for everyone else. There will be absolutely no signs or clues which lead up to this event (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).
“Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?” (Luke 12:41).
Peter wished to know if the exhortation to watchfulness applied merely to the apostles or to all who heard. Jesus had been speaking to the disciples (12:22); and other listeners were also present (12:13). Peter may have been perplexed as to how "disciples" could be caught unprepared. This is the question that prompted the parable in the following passages. The answer is that this applies to everyone – those who knew the Lord's will and those who did not, thus it applies to believers and unbelievers (12:47-48).
“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?” (Luke 12:42).
“Who then” is the language of choice and freewill. A “steward” in this culture was a slave or freedman who was placed by the Master in charge of the entire estate or the entire service body, which was composed of all the other slaves. Observe that Jesus includes the apostles in this parable, so an apostle could end up lost. The same would be true of elders, teachers, deacons, and preachers. Remember, the steward was an individual placed in a great position of responsibility. Each man is a steward of his own life, one in charge of his own responsibilities, talents, and opportunities. Since Jesus likens every person, believer or unbeliever (12:47-48), to a man in a very responsible and elevated position, I must conclude: Everyone is responsible for his or her own life. No one is helpless. All are born with an equal amount of freewill and choice. None have been destined for salvation or damnation. The final decision concerning whom I choose to serve is always my choice.
“Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes” (Luke 12:43)
Waiting isn't enough and knowing that Jesus can come at any time isn't a substitute for preparation and action. Watching for the Lord's return includes treating others properly (12:42 “to give them their rations at the proper time?”). Obedience is necessary (Matt. 7:21-23). Failing to love other Christians as we should, is a sure way of being unprepared for the Lord. Giving them their rations includes teaching them the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
“Says in his heart” (Luke 12:45). What we allow ourselves to think and believe is who we become (Prov. 4:23). “My Master will be a long time in coming”: Barclay notes that very few people buy the idea that God doesn't exist or that there will be no future reckoning of any kind. Most people still believe in God and most people believe that the wicked will be punished. But what gets many people into trouble is the feeling that they won't die for a LONG TIME or Jesus won't come for a long time and that they have plenty of time to prepare or quickly make up for the sins in the past. “Begins to beat the slaves”: Observe that the abusive slave in this section can be a professed Christian. In fact, it could be an elder (Acts 20:29ff). God knew that people would abuse their relationship with Him, pervert His truth, abuse their fellow believers, and give the Church a bad name (1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 4:2-4). Lenski notes, “Many have thought themselves shrewd enough to indulge their wickedness and have imagined that they could call a halt in time and thus escape” (p. 709). Jesus seems to be saying that people who have the mindset of sinning today and repenting in the future – are the type of people who will be caught. Sin is deceptive (Heb. 3:13).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017