Be Ready: Living a Life of Expectancy
What does it look like to live in such a way that we if we were to know Jesus was going to come back tonight we’d be ready to welcome Him with open arms? Living in light of the reality that He could come back at any moment is what the Christian life is all about.
I think we are going to find two different kinds of motives for living a life of expectancy when we examine Scripture. So in this post, which is a copy of my notes on Luke 12:35-48, I’ll examine these and other important lessons. So let’s dive into the text…
12:35-36 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning,  and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.
The first hint we have that Jesus is using an analogy here is that he says be “like” so and so. He is saying there is a mindset we need to have, a worldview, if you will. And that mindset is to inform the way in which we live our lives.
The kind of mindset is said to be analogous to that of servants who are anxiously awaiting their master’s return from his wedding feast. No sooner will the master return than the servants are to “open the door to him.” The picture is clear – these men haven’t gotten dressed for bed and haven’t turned off the lights, so that when the master comes back, they are ready to greet him.
12:37-38 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.  If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!
From a context perspective on the matter of these “watches” of the night, it is helpful to understand that the Jews and the Romans divided up the night into 3 and 4 sections respectively. The ESV Study Bible helpfully explains:
Most interpreters think Jesus is using a Jewish understanding of “three watches of the night” (6:00–10:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m.–2:00a.m., 2:00–6:00 a.m.). However, others think he is using a Roman understanding of four watches (6:00–9:00 p.m., 9:00p.m.–12:00 a.m., 12:00–3:00 a.m., 3:00–6:00 a.m.). In either case, the point that Jesus is making is that “the master” could come at any time, even when one is not normally prepared.
Now, as to what Jesus is saying, it is an interesting point…He is saying that if these servants just stay awake long enough and are ready for the return of their master, the it is the master who will serve them – a role reversal is taking place here.
Therefore they are called “blessed” because they are on the receiving end of this service.
The reason for the role reversal is simple. The servants were up at all hours of the night because it was a dangerous thing to leave the master’s possessions unguarded for fear of thieves. But if they stay awake and guard their master’s possessions, then they will be rewarded by the master – in fact he will personally serve them. This is quite an honor.
This tells us that the master values his possessions and appreciates those who are responsible guardians of the things he cares about.
Remember that servants are responsible to obey and execute their duties. There is no obligation on the part of the master to treat them with this much dignity. Yet that is the picture Jesus is painting.
This leads to the first reason we should be always “ready”: We ought to be ready because there is a great joy and blessing awaiting us if we are faithful to the Lord until He comes back. We have motivation for faithfulness born out of the joy we know He wants to reward us with. This tells me that God really does care about our well being, and it is His desire to have us happy – to have us find joy and to look forward to that just as Jesus Himself did.
There are two further passages that verify what I’m asserting here. The first is found in John 10:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
Interestingly, in this passage Jesus uses the analogy of thieves again, but this time in a different way. Here Jesus contrasts His own ministry with those pretenders to the office of shepherd in this passage in John.
The second passage is from Hebrews 12:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
This is a passage we’re most likely all familiar with. But I want to point specifically at this part where it says that Jesus endured the cross because He had a great joy that was motivating Him to do so.
So we, like Jesus, need to keep in mind the reward. In fact, it wasn’t only Jesus who was motivated to faithfulness by the joy that awaited Him, the entire chapter preceding this one speaks of saints who were motivated in a similar fashion.
For example, Abraham was motivated by a better place of dwelling with God:
For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:10 ESV)
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:16)
Moses is said to have the same drive:
He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. (Hebrews 11:26)
Finally the author concludes:
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,  since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39-40)
Therefore it is right for us to be motivated by these things, not simply because these men and women were also, but because our supreme example, Christ Jesus, focused on the joy that awaited Him and we are told to “look to Him” as our model.
12:39-40 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into.  You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Now Jesus begins to mix His metaphors a bit. He was the master in the story, but now compares his return to that of a thief in the night, which is done elsewhere:
For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (1 Thess. 5:2)
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:10)
Then later in Revelation, Jesus warns the church:
Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. (Rev. 3:3)
Then He sums up with the clear message that He is coming back and you don’t know when.
That leads us to ask the question: What does it mean to “be ready”? What does that look like?
12:41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?”
Peter – still trying to figure out how the kingdom of God will be setup – asks a good question (at least from a human perspective). He wants to know if Jesus is giving instruction to those who will rule over the kingdom – the hierarchy, if you will, or to everyone who is following Jesus at the time.
Jesus, like He did so often, doesn’t directly answer the question, but answers in a richer way by the exploring the analogy further. The purpose behind using the analogy/story to answer the question is (in this case) not to create confusion but to give His disciples a deeper insight into the doctrine he’s teaching them.
In other words, Jesus is teaching them to think. In fact, you might say He’s teaching them to think His thoughts after Him.
12:42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time?
So Peter – the answer to your initial question is that Jesus is addressing anyone who is a manager over the things God has assigned. A servant in the House of God. And, I believe it is right to say, we have all been entrusted with responsibility in these matters.
12:43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.  Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.
Jesus reiterates what He stated before, but now giving another dimension to the blessing: Management of all of the master’s possessions.
And this makes sense. God put Adam in the garden originally to rule over the earth. The purpose of God for Adam was thrown away when Adam traded God’s sovereignty for his own selfish whims. When the Master came to check on His household, He found that Adam had not been responsible with what God owned.
God’s plan for us is that we will reign with Him over the new heavens and new earth. However, our bridegroom Jesus Christ is away for the time being. When He returns, He wants to see we have been good stewards of what is His. And, what is His is everything. Perhaps more specifically His house includes His people called after His name and according to His purpose.
12:45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, 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 does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful.  And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating.  But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
This last section gives us the second reason/or motivation for “being ready” for His return: There is punishment that awaits those who aren’t.
The example that’s given is this sadistic servant who is charge of the household while the master is away. Hendriksen rightly calls the man a sadist, and says that he shows evidence of being a brute who likely isn’t even a true believer.
Therefore there are a few layers to be unpacked here.
- Fear of the Lord is a Proper Motivation: Those who are arrogant and do not fear the Lord will not go unpunished, and those who neglect their duties as leaders of the flock will have to answer for that neglect on Judgment Day. The warning is stern, and it is clear. God cares so much for the souls of His people that He will punish those who neglect, starve, or inflict pain on those souls. He loves His sheep and will not tolerate their neglect, for their purchase cost Him dearly. We ought to be motivated by this to care for people and value them as much as God values them.
- Degrees of Reward/Punishment: It is implied here that even though the leaders of the household will receive a beating far worse for their neglect, yet those who disobeyed will still receive punishment for their sins. There seems to be a gradation in the punishment. This fits will Gods ideal for justice. People will be judged according to their works and words.
- You may have heard of the case of the Nazi hunters who have spent the last half century hunting for ex-Nazi party officials and those complicit in their misdeeds. It has been the excuse of almost all of the lower ranking officers who carried out orders that they were just following orders. That being said, the courts have in many cases found that while they are not as responsible for the deaths of million of Jews (among other crimes), yet they are complicit and therefore bear some amount of responsibility. You cannot use your leaders as an excuse for immoral actions. And, in fact, as Hendriksen rightly points out, “ignorance is never absolute.”
- Eternal Hell is Real: There is even the possibility held here, so it seems to me, that those who mismanage God’s household could be found not to be Christian believers at all and will therefore be cut to pieces and thrown into the fires of damnation along with “the unfaithful” – the imagery is reminiscent of what occurred to those false prophets of Baal after Elijah’s contest. Elijah took them to the river and cut them to pieces. Why the harsh imagery here? Cutting someone to pieces seems, well, quite brutal. I believe its because Jesus wants people to know the stakes. This is very important to him. And what is important to God ought to be important to us.
The summary here is one we’ve heard quoted for years by both Christian and un-Christian alike. So popular are these words that they have been almost universally accepted as a maxim for leadership.
Jesus says, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”
There is a great responsibility within the church to lead people in faithfulness. I believe that life is structured this way – those who are leaders of nations bear an enormous responsibility. And they will pay for their negligence if they’re found wanting on the Day of Judgment.
How much more so will those who hold sway over the souls of men (in the church) be held responsible for their keep.
In sum, this passage ought to instill in us two kinds of motivations. 1. A motivation toward the joy that awaits us in heaven, which Jesus Himself looked forward to, and 2. A proper fear and reverence of the Lord, knowing that God has an abiding love for His sheep, and He will not spare the sword from those who neglect what He paid so dear a price to purchase.
Let us keep these things in mind as we raise our children and attend to our responsibilities in the church. Let us keep in mind His coming could be any day now.