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 gathers together three / two short parables on the subject of watchfulness and stewardship.


A servant must be prepared, prepared for their master's unexpected return from a wedding feast, and prepared for the unexpected break-in of a thief. The "wakeful" servant is the blessed servant, for the Son of Man will return unexpectedly. There will be no time to get ready in that day, and speculation over when that might be is fruitless, so be prepared to meet him.


i] Context: See 9:51-56. We now come to the third set of six episodes in the major section The Teachings of Messiah, 9:51-19:44. This set of episodes, The Coming of the Kingdom and Judgment, is mainly in the from of parables, often in pairs. In these episodes the present reality of the kingdom is replaced by an eschatological perspective. Unlike the following episode which encourages church leaders to serve faithfully, 12:41-48, the first episode addresses all believers and encourages readiness and wakefulness in preparation for the coming kingdom. Even now people are being sorted according to their response to the gospel, 12:49-53, as the final judgment approaches, v12:54-59. The choice is simple, either repent or die, 13:1-9, but of course, for the disciple there is inevitable victory, v13:10-21.


ii] Structure: This passage, A word to servants about the absent Lord, presents as follows:

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

"be dressed for action and keep your lamps burning."

Parable / illustration - waiting on the master's return, v37-38;

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

"the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."


iii] Interpretation:

A judgment theme dominates the section 12:35-13:21. 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", given that 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, whose treasure is in heaven, v33. Jesus, having made this point, now reminds his disciples to be ready for action in the face of the coming Son of Man, v40. The nature of this readiness is shaped by the preceding passage, 12:22-34. This readiness is often described in the terms of faithfulness, of Godly living, but it seems more likely that faith is the key to readiness, faith in the sense of an ongoing reliance on the promised right-standing that is ours in Christ.


This set of linked parabolic sayings, unique to Luke, begins with an exhortation "keep your pants on and your lights burning", Junkins. At this point Ellis' proposed structure for Luke breaks down, given that the sense of this exhortation is shaped by the preceding passage, v22-34, which made the point that the security of authentic life is found in the kingdom of God, not in the things of this world. It is essential to retain this focus in the kingdom, in Christ, and not be distracted by "worldly mammon", such that when the master returns we are caught with our pants down and find ourselves out in the cold, as it were. This exhortation, as noted above, is an exhortation to abide in faith.


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 image is of 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 Matthew and Mark 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, Christ is already on his throne, the judgment at hand, 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", prepared for the coming "hour".


iv] Synoptics:

This material is unique to Luke, but note similarities with Matthew 24:42-51. Mark 13:33-37 expresses a similar idea to the opening parabolic saying, but with different words and in a different form.


v] 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, v35-48: i] 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 resting in faith on Christ.

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

periezwsmenai perf. pas. part. "[dressed] ready for service" - [waists] having been girded. The participle, with the present imperative verb to-be, estwsan, is best classified as forming a periphrastic perfect construction. 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.

uJmwn gen. pro. "your" - Emphatic by position in the Gk., the genitive is possessive; "let your loins be girded about", AV.

kaiomenoi (kaiw) pas. part. "burning" - Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the paraphrastic imperative "let having been girded". "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, so "you be like men."

anqrwpoiV (oV) dat. "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 theirs]. The genitive is adjectival, possibly possessive, but better of subordination; "the master over him."

pote + subj. "to [return]" - whenever [he might break loose]. This adverb, with the subjunctive, forms an indefinite temporal clause. The adverb is interrogative indicating that it introduces an independent statement of indirect speech expressing what the men are asking. An interesting use of the verb which means "set free", "loose".

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

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

iJna + subj. "so that" - that [... they may open]. Introducing a purpose clause, "in order that", or hypothetical result, "so that."

elqontoV (ercomai) aor. part. gen. "when he comes" - having come. A genitive absolute participle serving to form a temporal clause, "he" understood. Ditto, "knocks", as NIV.

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


ii] Waiting on the master's return, v37-38: Watchfulness / readiness is a dominant theme in the New Testament, cf. 1Thess.5:6, Eph.5:14. The disciple must be "ready" for the Master's return, v40, 47. In an interesting twist, Jesus has the returning master serving the servant who is "alert". "It does not describe normal behavior of a master to a slave, nor even a special reward for duty, but only the exceptional behavior 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 points 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. "Fortunate", CEV; "happy", Barclay, etc. The position is emphatic, as is its concluding position in v38 where 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" - [whom the master will find] keeping watch. The participle functions as an object complement to the direct object ou}V, "whose", of the verb euJrhsei, "will find." "Awake", CEV; "on the alert", Phillips; "ready"...

elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "when he comes" - having come. The participle is adverbial, probably forming 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. 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", Barclay.

anaklinei (anaklinw) fut. "will have [them] recline at the table" - make to recline [them]. "He will sit them down."

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

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - Dative of direct object after the verb diakonhsei, "serve".


mararioi adj. "[it will be] good [for those servants]" - blessed [are those]. "Happy".

ou{twV adv. "ready" - thus, in this way. Adverb of manner referring to grhgorountaV, "being alert", v37.

kan (kai an) + subj. "even if" - Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "even if, as may be the case, [he comes and he finds thus (them ready) in the second and in the third watch] then [blessed are those]" = "It doesn't matter what time of the night he arrives; they're awake - and so blessed!", Peterson.

en + dat. "in" - in. Here adverbial, temporal; "During".

fulakh/ (h) "watch" - Probably the three watch system used by the Jews is in mind, meaning between 9pm and 3am. So, "when we least expect it."


iii] Awake and ready, v39-40. The Lord will return as a thief in the night - at an unexpected moment. The householder who is wakeful, ready, will not be caught unaware, will not be surprised. "The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." The reference to the coming Son of Man alludes to Daniel 7:13, the one who receives dominion and rule from the Ancient of Days. Take care, for his reign brings with it judgment. So, be ready for his reign; no one can calculate the day of his coming. Only those disciples ready for Christ's coming will share in his kingdom.

The first two parabolic sayings emphasized readiness, this one emphasizes watchfulness in the face of the unpredictable nature of the Son of Man's return. The next parable, v41-48, will emphasize faithfulness - abiding faith. Watchfulness emphasizes our inability to forsee the arrival of the Son of Man and therefore our need to hold firm to our faith.

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

ei + pluperf. .... an + aor. "if ......" - Forming a second class conditional clause, contrary to fact, 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" - A new illustrative parable now has the owner of the house facing the break-in of a thief, but not knowing when the break-in will occur. A similar illustration is found in Matthew. 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" - A present tense carrying a future sense.

autou gen. pro. "his [house]" - [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 "have allowed". "Digging", in the sense of digging through the mud walls of the house, therefore "broken into."


Matthew adds "for this reason also."

eJtoimoi adj. "ready" - ready, prepared. Predicate adjective. "Hold yourselves in readiness", REB.

oJti "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 genitive is adjectival, relational. Jesus' favored messianic title, see 9:44

h|/ w{ra/ "at an hour" - in what hour. Dative of time.

ou dokeite pres. "do not expect him" - do not think, suppose. Lit. "do not think [he will come (assumed)]." "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


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