The teachings of Messiah, 9:51-19:44

3. The kingdom and judgment, 12:35-13:21

i] A word to servants about the absent Lord


Having examined the difference between having and being, and how "treasure in heaven" transcends all else, Luke brings together two short parables on the subject of watchfulness.


A "wakeful" disciple is a blessed disciple, for the Son of Man will return unexpectedly.


i] Context: See 9:51-56. The third six-layered Lukan sandwich in the major section The Teachings of the Messiah, 9:51-19:44, addresses the topic The Kingdom and Judgment, 11:1-12:34. These episodes, mainly in the form of paired parables, present the reality of the coming kingdom from an eschatological perspective. Addressing all believers, the opening episode encourages readiness and wakefulness in preparation for the realisation of the kingdom of God - be watchful / persevere in faith, 12:35-40. Then follows a word on serving faithfully, being good stewards of the resources and responsibilities of discipleship, particularly as it relates to gospel proclamation / communication, 12:41-48. Disciples are then reminded that, as stewards of the gospel, they can expect the inevitable "fire" of testing and trouble - in this age, the dawning of the kingdom of God brings with it division, 12:49-53. Having covered these issues on discipleship, Jesus again focuses on the uncommitted crowd, calling on them to read the signs of the times - the kingdom of God is at hand, and now is the time to make peace with their Maker, 12:54-59. The choice is simple, either repent or perish, 13:1-9, but of course, for the disciple there is inevitable victory, v13:10-21.


ii] Background: The episodes in the Kingdom and Judgment touch on the issue of eschatology. For The Eschatology of Jesus, see "Background", 17:20-37.


iii] Structure: A word to servants about the absent Lord:

Parable - prepared for the master's return, v35-36:

Ready and waiting, v35-36;

"be dressed for action ....."

Generously rewarded, v37-38;

"he will come ..... and wait on them."

Parable, - awake for the thief, v39-40:

"the Son of Man will come at an hour when ........"


iv] Interpretation:

Jesus has just answered a question over inheritance rights and this leads to the observation that "life does not consist in the abundance of possessions", and this because the person who dies with the most number of toys doesn't actually win! The person who wins, the person who is secure, is the person who seeks the kingdom, v31, and secures his treasure in heaven, v33. The person who wins is the person who, instead of being overcome by an anxious preoccupation with the business of GETTING, is preoccupied with the business of God's GIVING.

Having made this point, Luke now moves to a judgment theme which dominates the episodes coving 12:35-13:21. In two teaching parables / illustrations Jesus reminds his disciples to be ready for action in the face of the coming Son of Man, v40. The nature of this readiness / watchfulness is undefined. Luke probably intends the previous section on The Kingdom and Power, 11:1-12:34, to provide the necessary clues. These lessons on discipleship highlight the need for faith exercised in the power of the Holy Spirit - living by grace through faith in the faithfulness of Christ. So, readiness / preparedness / watchfulness serves to illustrate a believer's perseverance in faith - "keep your pants on and your lights burning", Junkins.

The next parable, the servant in authority, v41-48, illustrates faithfulness, presumably again in the sense of abiding faith, persevering in faith. Other interpretive approaches are less than convincing, eg., at the coming of the Son of Man we are found living a good life (salvation by works), or we are found eschatologically attuned.


The unexpected coming of the Son of Man, 12:40: This imagery, drawn from Daniel 7:13 (although without "the clouds of heaven"), is usually understood to describe Christ's coming to earth in the last day, although from Daniel's perspective, the coming is from earth to heaven, a coming into the throne-room of the Ancient of Days where the Son of Man receives dominion, authority and power - a coming into God's sanctuary in Zion. This coming images the day of judgment.

There have been many "comings" (divine acts of judgment, eg., Sodom and Gomorrah), and all prefigure the final "coming" of the Son of Man. In the Synoptic gospels, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD (one of the more significant comings of the Lord) serves as a paradigm for the final day of judgment. Given the eschatological nature of this final "coming" and its now / not yet enigma, observing the signs and calculating the day, is fraught, since the "coming" is at "an unexpected hour."

As far as the now is concerned, Jesus is already on his throne, judgment complete, the "wedding feast" underway, but then in the terms of the not yet, Jesus has yet to close up the Monopoly-board of life; we still await the divine announcement, "Sorry boys and girls, the game is over!" So we are in a kind of Dr. Who moment, floating in the Matrix, or more properly, encapsulated in a moment of divine grace. To this end, a disciple must "be dressed for action", persevering in faith, prepared for the coming "hour".


v] Synoptics:

See 3:1-20.. Verses 35-38 are unique to Luke, although there are interesting parallels with Matthew's parable of the Ten Virgins. This has prompted some commentators to argue that the source for these verses is Q, rather than L, and that Matthew didn't use them because of their similarity with the parable, so Creed, ... Verses 39-40 do have a parallel in Matthew, Matt.24:43-44, and also in Mark's little apocalypse, Mk.13:35-36. Mark's version expresses a similar idea, but with different words and in a different form. As already noted, identifying sources is fraught, given that it is more than likely that all three synoptists had access to the extant oral tradition of the early church.


vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 12:35

Be ready for the coming Son of Man, v35-40: i] The parable of the watchful servants, v35-38, presents in two parts: a) Readiness, v35-36. The servant who is at-the-ready is dressed, "ready for action", NEB, with lamps filled with oil and wicks trimmed, waiting in the porch for the master's return, ready and able to serve him. The message is simple enough; "since the parousia may take place at any time, the disciple must be on the alert at all times", Danker. As above, "alert" in the sense of constantly persevering in faith.

Note the lack of a coordinating conjunction. This may indicate a close connection with the previous passage, but it can also indicate a major step in the narrative.

estwsan (eimi) pres. imp. "be" - let. The present imperative of the verb "to be" conveys the sense of constant readiness.

periezwsmenai perf. pas. part. "[dressed] ready for service" - [the waists of you] having been girded. The participle, with the present imperative of the verb to-be, estwsan, may be classified as forming a periphrastic perfect construction, although both Culy and Thompson suggest it is best classified as the predicate of the imperative verb to-be. A command to pull up the main cassock-like garment and tuck it into the belt or tie it around the waist, ie,. get ready for action and stay that way; "keep your loins girt", Moffatt = "be ready", CEV. Note the emphatic position of the genitive pronoun uJmwn, "your"; "let your loins be girded about", AV.

kaiomenoi (kaiw) pas. part. "burning" - [and the lamps] burning. As for periezwsmenai, "having been girded", above. "Keep your lamps lit", Moffatt, Barclay; "gird your loins and light your lamps", NAB.


kai "-" - and [you should be like]. Possibly epexegetic, serving to introduce an illustration which draws out the sense of being ready to serve. The imperative verb "to be" of v37 may still apply, or at least is assumed, so "you should be like men." The adjective oJmoioi, "like", serves as the nominative predicate of the assumed verb to-be.

anqrwpoiV (oV) dat. "men" - men. Dative of direct object after the adjective, o{moioi, "like", which takes a dative of persons.

prosdecomenoiV (prosdecomai) pres. part. "waiting for" - waiting for. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "men", "be like men who are expecting their lord and master on his return", Moffatt.

eJautwn gen. reflex pro. "their [master]" - [the lord] of themselves. The genitive is adjectival, possibly possessive, but better of subordination; "the master over him."

povte + subj. "to [return]" - whenever [he might break loose, return]. This adverb, with the deliberative subjunctive, introduces an indefinite temporal clause. Being interrogative, povte introduces an dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what the men are asking. An interesting use of the verb which means "set free", "loose".

ek + gen. "from" - from. Expressing separation; "away from."

twn gamwn (oV) "a wedding banquet" - the wedding feasts. In the plural, "wedding feast", CEV.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that. Introducing a final clause, expressing purpose, "in order that", or hypothetical result, "so that."

elqontoV (ercomai) aor. part. gen. "when he comes" - having come [and having knocked]. The genitive participle with its assumed genitive subject "he, lord", serves to form a genitive absolute construction, temporal, ditto "knocks", as NIV.

autw/ dat. pro. "[open the door] for him" - [immediately they may open] to him. Dative of interest, advantage, as NIV.


b) Reward - the master's gracious return, v37-38: Watchfulness / readiness is a dominant theme in the New Testament, cf. 1Thess.5:6, Eph.5:14. A disciple must be "watching" and "waiting to receive" the coming Son of Man, ie., disciples must persevere in faith; not lose faith. In an interesting twist, Jesus has the returning master serving the servant who is "alert". "It does not describe normal behaviour of a master to a slave, nor even a special reward for duty, but only the exceptional behaviour of Jesus the Lord", Evans. The idea that at the messianic feast Jesus will serve us is certainly a powerful one (cf., Jn13:5), but it is somewhat of an allegorical interpretation of a parabolic saying which is simply making the point that "it will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready." The point is simple enough, the timing of the master's return is uncertain, but the servant who is ready will be gloriously blessed. Again, "watching" and "ready" = watching to our faith, our firm reliance on Jesus for the fullness of new life, now and for eternity.

makarioi adj. "it will be good" - blessed are. Predicate adjective. "Fortunate", CEV; "happy", Barclay, etc. The position is emphatic, as is its concluding position in v38. There it serves as a conclusion for what is a single sentence. Those who are ready for the Lord's return, who have maintained their faith in Christ, are indeed fortunate, for they will receive the blessings of the kingdom.

grhgorountaV (grhgorew) part. "them watching" - [those slaves whom the master will find] keeping watch. The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object ou}V, "whose", of the verb euJrhsei, "will find", standing in a double accusative construction and asserting a fact about the object. "Awake", CEV; "on the alert", Phillips; "ready"...

elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "when he comes" - having come. The participle is adverbial, best taken to introduce a temporal clause, as NIV.

amhn legw uJmin "I tell you the truth" - truly I say to you. Always serving to underline the following statement. The pronoun uJmin serves as a dative of indirect object.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing what Jesus wants to tell the disciples.

perizwsetai (perizwnnumi) fut. mid. "he will dress himself" - he will gird himself [and make to recline them]. The middle voice here carries a reflective sense. Literally, wrap around himself a towel-like garment to enable him to serve, possibly to wash the feet of the guests prior to the meal. "He will roll up his sleeves for action and will make them sit down like guests", Barclay.

parelqwn (parercomai) aor. part. "will come" - [and] having come beside. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "will serve, wait on."

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - [he will serve] them. Dative of direct object after the verb diakonhsei, "to serve".


kan (kai an) + subj. "even if" - and if, as the case may be [he comes in the second and in the third watch and he finds thus, then blessed are those]. Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "and if / whether he comes in (en, temporal use of the preposition = "during") the second or the third watch and he finds them ready (ou{twV, "thus" = ready and waiting; ref., grhgorountaV, v37), blessed / happy are they" = "It doesn't matter what time of the night he arrives; they're awake - and so blessed!", Peterson. Note that the three part watch system used by the Jews is probably in mind, 9pm to dawn = "up to the end of the night", Evans. So, "when we least expect it."


ii] The parable of the watchful householder - be awake and ready, v39-40. The coming of the Son of Man will be as a thief in the night - unexpected. As a householder who is wakeful, ready, is not caught unawares by a cunning thief, so a disciple who perseveres in faith will not be surprised by the coming of the Son of Man. The reference to the coming Son of Man alludes to Daniel 7:13, the one who comes to the Ancient of Days and receives dominion and rule. This terrible and unexpected day is a day of judgment, and only a watchful disciple, one who is eJtoimoi, "ready" (who perseveres in faith), will share in his kingdom.

oJti "-" - [but/and this know] that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what should be understood; "it is obvious that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was going to come, ....", Barclay.

ei + pluperf. .... an + aor. "if ......" - Introducing a second class conditional clause, contrary to fact, where the proposed condition is assumed not to be true. Here with the unusual use of the pluperfect verb in the protasis instead of an aorist; "if, as is not the case, ....... then [he would not have .....]"

h/dei (oida) pluperf. "had known" - [the master of the house] had known. In this parable, the master of the house is facing a break-in by a thief, but he doesn't know when the break-in will occur. Being "ready", "prepared", is the only sensible response.

poia/ wJra/ dat. "at what hour" - in what kind of hour. Dative of time. "When the thief was coming", CEV.

ercetai (ercomai) "coming" - [the thief] comes = will come. The present tense is futuristic here.

autou gen. pro. "his [house]" - [then he would not have allowed the house] of him. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

diorucqhnai (diorussw) aor. pas. inf. "be broken into" - to be dug into. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to allow". "Digging", in the sense of digging through the mud walls of the house, therefore "broken into", as NIV.


Matthew adds "for this reason also."

eJtoimoi adj. "ready" - [and you be] ready, prepared. Predicate adjective. "Hold yourselves in readiness", REB.

oJti "because" - because. Here introducing a causal clause explaining why "we must be prepared", namely, "because we don't know the hour....."

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[the Son] of Man" - [the son] of man. The genitive is adjectival, relational. Jesus' favoured messianic title; See oJ uiJoV tou anqrwpou, 5:24

h|/ w{ra/ "at an hour when" - [comes] in what hour. Dative of time. The present tense "is coming" may be futuristic, "will come."

ou dokeite pres. "you do not expect him" - you do not think, suppose he will come. "So always be ready. You don't know when the Son of Man will come", CEV; "the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour", NRSV.


Luke Introduction


Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]