Life of Christ 120
Jesus and His Apostles are traveling and preaching through Judea in the Autumn before His death. Our story today (Luke 12.35-48) is a continuation of a conversation He began earlier in the chapter with the same crowd.
One of the hallmarks of Christ's ministry was His tendency to introduce important subjects to His Apostles gradually, and then to ramp up His explanation of and emphasis of them as time passed. He did this in reference to His divinity, to His crucifixion, and to His resurrection. He also does this in reference to His Second Coming. If I am correct, this is His first actual mention of it, and that is worth noting certainly.
I had a professor in college, Marlene Evans, who taught the concept of time released teaching. Just as with certain medications, you take it in now but it doesn't help you until later. Jesus was here giving them truths that they would look back on much later, and then understand and apply. Clearly they eventually did that, for these same Apostles devote much space in their writings emphasizing the fact of and importance of the Second Coming.
In this story Jesus first gives them two illustrations about His Second Coming. The first is of servants with an absentee master. They must constantly be prepared because he could come back at any time. The second was of the necessity of a house owner to be always prepared for thieves. They do not, of course, call ahead for an appointment so the owner needs to be perpetually vigilant.
In both of these cases the main point of His illustrations is the imminency, the doctrine which teaches that Jesus Christ could return at any moment. Thus, we are to live holy, constantly prepared spiritually to meet Him at any moment. 'Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not' (Luke 12.40).
In the next section Jesus shifts from primarily addressing what I think of as the entire Church to addressing the leadership of the Church. The illustration is of a steward, entrusted with the management of an absent lord's household. If the steward thinks his lord is never really returning he will be tempted to use what is there for himself, mistreating the lord's servants for his own ends. The result, when the lord suddenly returns, is harsh punishment for the steward.
If it is bad news for the church corporately to be caught doing wrong when our Lord unexpectedly returns then imagine how bad it will be for the church's leadership if they are found errant in their responsibilities. What if they are not feeding the church properly? What if they are abusing the membership, lording it over them for their own uses, and hurting them? What if they are using their position to enrich themselves?
If the people of the church are deemed to be guilty for living wrongly when He comes how much more will the leadership be held responsible? This passage (Luke 12.41-48) is a tremendously sobering one for those who would desire leadership in the church. You can see just how applicable it was to the Apostles and how applicable it remains for pastors, evangelists, and deacons today. Speaking personally as the pastor of a New Testament church, I must lead my people to live holy in an expectation of His imminent return, and I must lead them in the right manner, with the right spirit, and toward the right emphases. I must live right myself. I must treat them with kindness, compassion, mercy, grace, and firmness. I must feed them diligently with nutritious spiritual meals.
In this case, addressed to the church's leadership, the same main point applies as applied in Christ's first two illustrations, namely imminency. 'Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing' (Luke 12.43).
I am a pretribulational premillenniallist, and one of the primary reasons behind my doctrinal position is that I believe strongly in the importance of holding forth the idea of the imminent return of Christ. God specifically intended the Rapture to be suddenly, without warning, so as to motivate us to live holy. We are to be patient in our dealings with others (Philippians 4.5), we are to forgive one another (James 5.9), and we are to serve Him energetically (Romans 13.11) because we don't know when He is coming for us.
Jesus' approach to eschatology isn't simply academic. It is eminently practical, designed to keep us in a state of constant readiness. The church I pastor has a statement of faith which includes this line in relation to the Second Coming: 'We believe in that blessed hope – the personal, imminent return of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.'
It's only 'that blessed hope' if you're ready.
Are you ready?