Text: Luke 12:32-40
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost, Series C
Listen to the sermon here.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Going on a trip forces you to think carefully about what to take and how to get ready. It doesn’t help you to suddenly think, when the plane is a hundred miles out and five miles high, that you’d like that other pair of shoes rather than the one you’ve brought! Or, if you’re going to have a guest spend the night at your house, there are certain things you’ll have to do to get ready. The house will need to be cleaned, and the guest bedroom made up. There may even be an extra trip to the grocery store. What’s true in both cases is that if you are going to get ready, it requires you to do something. Being ready can be a matter of life and death in many circumstances. Firefighters, emergency medical technicians, soldiers, and physicians must be ready with the right tools when the time for action arises. Every minute counts in a crisis. A firefighter who’s delayed five minutes might find that the fire has spread out of control. The physician who is delayed five minutes might discover that the patient has died. People in crisis-oriented professions regularly train so that they can respond as soon as the crisis comes.
In this morning’s Gospel reading, Jesus warns us, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Lk 12:40). We’ll first see that we are to be ready like servants. Then we’ll see that we are to be ready without fear.
I. Be Ready Like Servants
Jesus tells us a parable that illustrates how being ready looks. It’s a story about servants waiting for their master to return from his wedding banquet. I think we have to assume that this is not just a matter of a night out, but rather this wedding banquet involves a journey. The servants cannot possibly know the exact day or hour of their master’s return.
A Hebrew wedding celebration could last several days, so the time of a master’s return could be anyone’s guess. But the uncertainty did not put off these excellent servants. Though it was late at night, they were “dressed for action.” That is, they were prepared. The night was also kept bright because they attentively replenished the oil in their lamps and trimmed the wicks for maximum light. They were awake and alert. They did not give in to fatigue and displayed no irritable grouchiness. They did not have an “attitude.” Instead, they kept a bright house and remained ready so they could spring up to give their master a joyous reception.
Jesus says those servants will be ready if they are found “waiting” when the master returns. That does not mean they just sit around waiting for the door to open. Those servants have tasks that need to be performed daily. It is not to be a passive, lethargic wait but one filled with active service, continual preparation, and joyous anticipation. It’s not a “let go, and let God” or “Jesus take the wheel” attitude. And so their “waiting” and their “readiness” involves being “dressed for action” or, as we might say, they need to “roll up their sleeves”. They need to continue doing their jobs, taking care of the master’s household, tending the garden, taking care of the livestock, and performing any maintenance that the estate needs. In other words, being “ready,” being “alert” means doing what they have been instructed to do as if the master were right there with them.
So, are you like those servants? Are you ready for Jesus to return at any time? This involves us being actively prepared. That means that we’re not just sitting around doing nothing. We actually have to do something. The Christian life requires activity. It means living a godly life that reflects the abundant truth God has given us. It means joyful service. It means that we are called to do what Jesus instructed us to do and to live in the manner we’ve been taught to live. We are called to hold down a job, take care of a family, go to school, make plans for the future, and do whatever else needs to be done in the regular course of life. Jesus doesn’t want you to give up your jobs, careers, families, homes, etc., waiting for him to return. He wants you to attend to all the tasks of your various vocations. And we’re to do that every day as if our Lord will arrive at any moment.
Being ready affects your heart; from there, it flows into your actions. When we look at our lives, we will see areas where we have not been ready. We’ve fallen asleep at our post. Being ready begins with confessing our guilt before God and our utter inability to save ourselves. We are entirely at the mercy of God. Repenting is not a one-time thing, but we must repent of sins daily. It means not going along with those sinful desires of your heart. It means examining our thoughts and ideas to see if they conform to God’s Word. You must do everything Jesus has asked you to until he returns. And we will always fall short of that. Don’t just assume that you are already ready and that you’ve got it all under control. We have attitudes that need to be looked at, sins that need to be absolved, and people that need to be told the Good News. To be “ready” means to serve the Lord here in this life in preparation for that glorious life with God in the world to come.
II. Be Ready Without Fear
The part about being ready that’s the hard part is that we do not know when Jesus will return. In every generation, some false prophet or deluded preacher rises and tells the world that he knows when Jesus will return. The very day and hour! This keeps happening despite our text, where Jesus said he will return when we don’t expect him. The point is that Jesus’ return will be unexpected, like a thief in the night, and the world will not be ready! The media will not be ready, the world’s leaders will not be ready, the false religions will not be ready, and I fear that some here might not be ready. What about you? Do you think the Lord is coming tonight? You may quietly respond, “No.” “But, the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 40). Jesus could come tonight, and perhaps he will!
Shouldn’t that scare us? No. Jesus prefaced our text today by saying, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). You don’t need to fear the second coming because God wants to give you the kingdom. It pleases God to bestow the kingdom upon “the little flock” – his holy Church. Holy Baptism makes you part of that little flock. You don’t earn this; God gives it freely, out of pure grace through Christ and for Christ’s sake. Rejoice if you have received this gift because you have no reason to fear. “The Lord is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pe 3:9).
Jesus doesn’t want to scare us into being ready for his sudden return but to encourage us. Jesus gives a startling announcement. “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” (v. 37).
The master was so moved by their faithfulness that he dressed himself for action instead of sitting at the table. The Master himself will invite his servants to sit down at a feast, and he will serve them. This is not the way of men; it is the way of our gracious Lord. Imagine the King of heaven and earth serving his unworthy servants.
In a stunning reversal, the master becomes the servant. This is the nature of our blessed Lord Jesus. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). He is the very Son of God. Yet he humbled himself, taking on the form of a servant by becoming man. The Lord Jesus’ entire life was lived in preparation for the Cross. Then, he gives God that very life in exchange for our debt of sin. Christ came to serve, and service is also why Christ will come again. He is coming to serve you. This doesn’t just mean that he is coming to raise you in the resurrection. It refers to the end-of-time banquet, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, that the church will enjoy after Jesus returns. We are going to sit down at the feast of feasts as guests of the King of kings. Eternity is no sterile, plastic, nickel-plated existence. It is a sumptuous feast with lots of laughter. There will be jubilation and intimate fellowship eternally! It is God’s good pleasure to make sure you have a place at that feast. It is a feast bought with the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Christ, our Lord is so eager, so willing to give us this feast that we get a taste of it this morning. This morning in Holy Communion, while we are reclining at His table Jesus serves us with His body and blood for our life and salvation. He is both host and meal and he comes to you as your humble yet exalted and risen Savior. He invites you to recline at His table and receive His holy body and precious blood again for the forgiveness of all those times this week that you were not ready. He offers this forgiveness and salvation to you so that you can go out into the world, and by his grace be ready for his return.
May, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.