* * * *
“Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye. yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not. Then Peter said unto Him, Lord, speakest Thou this parable unto us, or even to all? And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more”—Luke 12:35-48.
* * * *
Our Lord’s Galilean ministry was drawing-rapidly to a close. The time was near when He would go to Jerusalem to die. In view of this and His promised return He urged upon His disciples the importance of loyalty when He should no longer be present with them in person. He was going on to Calvary—there to make an atonement for sin. And in God’s due time He will return, not as He came before—by the gate of birth, as a little Babe, as a lowly Man to be despised—but as King of kings and Lord of lords, to whom every knee shall bow. We read in the Revelation, “Behold, He cometh with clouds: and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.” It is in view of this great event that He says here, “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning.” It is the “loins of the mind” of which He speaks (1 Pet. 1:13), and the girdle is the truth of God (Eph. 6:14). In other words, as the flowing garments of the Oriental are held in place by the girdle, so every thought is to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). The light of testimony is to be kept shining during the time of our Lord’s personal absence. The language is highly figurative. The bridegroom at a wedding ceremony, in the days in which Jesus lived here on earth, would go forth to meet his bride and return with her to his own home. His friends would be properly attired, their loins girded and their lights burning as they went out to meet the bridegroom.
Now we were just as much saved when we were born again as we shall be after we have lived for God for fifty or sixty years. I have known God for fifty years, but I am not more saved now than I was fifty years ago. These years have been wonderful and glad years of service for my Saviour, but as far as my own personal salvation is concerned, I was saved the moment I trusted Christ. I was left here to witness for Him, and you are left here to witness for Him, and so our lamps are to be kept burning. It is possible to become so taken up with the theory of the second coming that we lose sight of the One who is coming. We ought to be occupied with Christ Himself. We do not know when He will come, neither the day nor the hour. It might be today; it may be longer than many of us think, but we are to be always “like unto men that wait for their lord.” Just as the friends of the Eastern bridegroom waited eagerly for him to bring his bride back to his home where they could rejoice together, so we are to maintain an attitude of expectancy while we wait for the return of our Saviour. “Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when He cometh shall find watching.” There is nothing that has such a sanctifying influence on the soul as watching for the Lord’s return. We are called to serve in faithfulness now. When Christ returns it will be His delight to minister to those who have endured and suffered for His name’s sake during His present session at the Father’s right hand (Rev. 6:21). I may be called at any time to meet my Lord; any moment He may come to take me away from this scene—how anxious I should be to see Him! If we are watching and waiting He will make us to sit down together and He will serve us. Is that not wonderful? If we serve Him on earth, He says, He is going to serve us over there. It will be His delight to serve us in the place He has prepared for us.
The Roman watch was three hours long. The night was divided into four watches. If the Lord came in the second watch it would still be dark; if He came in the third watch it would be before the morning dawned. Whenever He comes He will find His servants waiting for Him. Of such He says, “Blessed are those servants.”
If a householder knew that a thief was coming at a given time to appropriate his goods, he would be waiting for him. He would not be taken by surprise but would watch and protect his house. Our Lord would have us always on the alert, for we do not know the hour when He will come.
To unwatchful ones the Lord’s return will be unexpected and even unwelcome, as that of a thief in the night (Rev. 3:3); but it will be far otherwise to those who are instructed out of the Word and are waiting for God’s Son from Heaven (1 Thess. 5:4). “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” It is all-important to keep this in mind and not attempt to set dates or pretend to know the exact time when the second advent will take place. Jesus has told us, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power” (Acts 1:7).
Simon Peter said, “Lord, speakest Thou this parable unto us, or even to all? And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.” Peter inquired as to whether the illustration was used for themselves alone or for all Christ’s disciples. The answer shows it was intended for all professed believers to the end of the dispensation.
Then the Lord promised that when He comes back He will reward each faithful servant. The true servant of Christ recognizes that whatever truth he has received is a stewardship committed to him to be administered for the good of others, and for which he must some day give account (1 Cor. 4:1, 2). In that day faithfulness will be abundantly rewarded. In verses 43, 44 He pronounces a blessing on the servant whom He will find so doing at His return. There is always the temptation to slothfulness and carelessness when the master is not present, but every employer values that type of service which is as conscientiously performed in his absence as when he is personally supervising it. Such a servant will be promoted to a greater stewardship because of his integrity in a lesser position. The servant who forgets that his master may return most unexpectedly and who behaves tyrannically and unfaithfully because he imagines his faults will never be discovered, is due for a rude awakening. “The lord… will come in a day when… he is not aware.” Remark, that it is not exactly the Lord Jesus Himself who is here in view. Christ is speaking in a parable. It is the lord of the wicked and slothful servant who, upon returning, visits condign punishment upon the one who had so misused his position and betrayed his trust. But the lesson is too obvious to need emphasis or explanation.
The Lord then tells of the judgment that will be meted out in that day. God will not be unrighteous in dealing with anyone. “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” That which made his conduct so heinous was that he “knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself.” The indignant master will mete out the punishment to suit the offence. “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” When one is ignorant of what the master expects he will be dealt with more leniently, although ignorance does not excuse slothfulness. But it is a principle of Scripture that responsibility and privilege go together. Men recognize this in their dealings with one another. So does God Himself, who will deal with each case on its merits.
When God commits any talent, ability, or knowledge of truth to His servants, it is that they may use all for His glory. During our Lord’s present session at the Father’s right hand, His disciples are called upon to represent and act for Him here on earth. This involves our recognition of service as a sacred trust or stewardship committed to us by Christ Jesus, to be administered for His glory and the blessing of a needy world, and to be rewarded at His personal return. To fail to act in accordance with the revealed will of God will cause us to suffer loss when we are called to give an account of our stewardship at the judgment-seat of Christ, where all our works will be tested by the fire of God’s holiness (1 Cor. 3:13-15).
In studying our Lord’s parables we need to bear in mind the fact that each one was given to emphasize some important line of truth. It is often a mistake to try to fit every part of such an illustration into a theological, or eschatological mould. In the parable of the master and his servants we must not confuse the earthly lord with our divine Lord. The one is used only as an illustration in so far as his character and behavior may coincide with those of Christ.
There are two aspects of Christ’s second advent, though it was no part of our Lord’s purpose in this particular discourse to distinguish between the rapture and the appearing, two stages of His coming again which are developed clearly in the Epistles. It is the fact that He who was going away will return again that is emphasized, and the responsibility of His people is viewed in the light of this great fact. It is the will of God that all our lives should be lived in view of the near return of His Son from Heaven. Are we, like the Thessalonians, serving and waiting with that glorious event as the lodestar of our souls? (1 Thess. 1:9, 10). Scripture insists on the imminency of Christ’s second coming. If we are to put a millennium between us and that blessed fulfilment of His promise, how, then, can we watch and wait for His return? It is a poor thing to talk of “holding the second coming” if the second coming does not hold us, and mould us, too.