THE FAITHFUL AND WISE MANAGER
Luke 12:35-53 Key Verse: 12:42
“The Lord answered, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?’”
From the last Luke’s gospel passage, Luke 12:22-34, we learned that a believer should not worry about what to eat or wear, but seek God’s kingdom by faith in God who provides all our needs. We must consider how God feeds sparrows and clothes lilies though they do not spin or store. We should trust in God our father who knows even the number of our hairs. May God help us to seek God’s kingdom as of first importance, so that we can overcome our worries and experience that God’s promise is true in our hearts and lives. Amen!
Today’s passage is Jesus’ message for the disciples, the continuation of verse 22. In relation to the last passage, it is the way to seek God’s kingdom. There will be the end time, Jesus’ second coming, and Jesus teaches how the disciples should prepare for that time. Jesus teaches us what attitude we should have and what actions we should take. May God help us to take Jesus’ encouragement and warnings. There are two parts.
Be ready for service and keep your lamps burning (35-48)
Today’s passage is repeating the same story twice for the disciples. This is the method Jesus uses to emphasize and also teach its meaning more deeply. Look at verse 35-36, “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.” In this parable, the master is Jesus who will come back a second time. There are two commands: 1) Be dressed ready for service. When I was in the army, there was a group of 12 soldiers ready for an emergency enemy attack every night. They are dressed as if they were ready to go to war with full gear; helmet, boots, rifle, knife, water bottle, emergency food and rolled-up blankets in a huge backpack, while others are sleeping in their pajamas, snoring. For who should they be ready to serve and ready to fight a battle? It is their master, their commanding officer, Jesus. Interestingly, according to verse 42, they should be ready to serve other servants. And we are going to discuss this further later.
2) Keep your lamps burning: God commanded Aaron and his descendants to keep the lamps in the temple burning during the night through providing olive oil. It represents God’s presence, shining his light to his people. It is the word of God, just as the Palmist said that the word of the Lord is a lamp to our feet. It is the Holy Spirit which is a spiritual fire in the New Testament. Yet, it requires olive oil so that it burns. Olive oil represents fellowship and reconciliation, cleansing and healing as it is used for fellowship and sin offerings to God, anointing and healing. Likewise, we must reconcile with God and with another through repentance and acceptance of Jesus’ blood just as the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins and teaches us the word of Jesus Christ.
The servants who are ready are waiting for their master. Even if their master comes late at night, they are ready to open the door for him immediately. For the ready servants, there is a reward though they just did their duty. Look at verses 37-38. When the master comes and sees his servants ready to open the door with burning lamps, he will not be served but serve them. How? He is going to give his life as a ransom for them. For Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The master puts them in charge of many things in order to share his happiness. (Mt 25:23) We are happy when we participate in Jesus’ work, saving lost souls! It is like attending a heavenly wedding banquet.
While there is a blessing for those who are ready servants, there is also curse for those who are not. Therefore, Jesus is giving a warning. Look at verses 39-40. “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” No thief would let you know when he will break into except the Phantom thief in a movie who tells the time of his arrival but disappears elusively. Therefore, we are protecting our home and being ready day and night because we don’t know when a thief will break in, and some people buy an anti-theft system, paying a pretty good deal of money. Jesus is coming back like a thief. Therefore, we must be ready.
Why does God want us not to know the time when he is coming? Simply speaking, it is so that, not knowing when he is coming, we may be ready at all times. God would not let anyone know when he is coming, so that we may not live at random until the end time but always be ready. This may be the same reason why God is not telling us when we will be called to heaven. In fact, the end time is when we are called to heaven as well. When we recognize that the end time can be tonight, we cannot live a life of sin but with the fear of God, who is the ultimate judge.
When Peter heard Jesus saying, “You must be ready…” Peter was convicted and asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” Maybe Peter didn’t want Jesus to be hard on him, so he asked Jesus to whom he was telling this parable. Maybe he was hoping that it applies to everyone but him. Maybe Jesus would tell the disciples the end time secretly. But Jesus is giving him harder teaching because he is going to be a spiritual leader.
Look at verse 43, “The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?“ Instead of giving Peter a direct answer, Jesus encouraged him to be a faithful and wise manager. Jesus wanted him to give other servants their food allowance at the proper time. How can Peter do that? Who are other servants and what is their food allowance? Other servants are new disciple candidates. As Jesus said, he needs to take care of Jesus’ lambs and his sheep. The food Peter should distribute can be physical and spiritual food as there are physically and spiritually hungry people. In the book of Acts, they literally distributed physical food for the believers. Yet our real food is the bread of life, Jesus. Our spiritual food is the word of God. Therefore, Peter should take care of disciples’ physical and spiritual needs at the proper time.
This message is not only for Peter but also for each one of us, if we are a disciple of Jesus. The question is how we can be the faithful and wise servant. We have to go back to verse 35 and take two commands; be ready for service and keep our lamps burning. When we are ready to serve Christ and keep our oil, living according to his word and following the desires of the Holy Spirit, we are able to be faithful and wise managers, who can give others whom God has entrusted to us their food allowance at the proper time. May God help us to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be ready to serve, distributing the word of God to others under our care at the proper time. Romans 8:5-6 says, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
Again, when we do so, we have a reward. Look at verses 43-44. It will be good for that faithful and wise servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Jesus will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Then, he will bless us with more responsibilities. This happens even in this world, when a good and faithful worker is trusted to be in charge of more things. This is what happened to Joseph, who was put in charge of his master’s household, because God was with him even though he was sold as a slave by his own brothers. May God bless each one of us to be faithful and wise manager so that God may entrust us with more to take care of. Amen.
Again, Jesus gives warnings to unfaithful servants. Look at verses 45-46. The unfaithful servants are those who think that they know the time their master is coming back. Thinking that they know the time, they live at random, beating other servants and enjoying sinful pleasures. But Jesus will come when they do not expect like a thief. When he comes, he will cut them to pieces and assign them a place with the unbelievers in hell.
Now Jesus speaks more seriously about the privileges and responsibilities of the disciples. Look at verses 47-48. Knowing that they should have been ready, if they do not, they will be punished more severely than those who do not know. They were entrusted with much; therefore, much will be demanded from them.
I tremble with the fear of the Lord, when I face this passage. Knowing that I have been given much grace, much grace will be demanded. God has entrusted me with much, so much more will be asked. Again, I find myself falling short, yet I depend on his grace and strive to be ready to serve, giving the word of God to Jesus’ servants God has entrusted at the proper time. When I do so, I see the work of God, participating in his redemptive work and experiencing joy from above. Truly, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
Break and Make One New (48-53).
Look at verse 49-50, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!” Jesus came to bring fire on earth, which is the fire of the Holy Spirit. In order to bring the Holy Spirit, Jesus has to go through a baptism. What baptism? It is the baptism of the cross, shedding his blood, cleansing the sin of the world. Jesus was confined in his body, fulfilling God’s mission on God’s time schedule.
Jesus is telling this to his disciples, so that they may be ready for the time of the Holy Spirit, which will bring conflicts and division on earth. Look at verses 51-53. Jesus came not to bring worldly peace. The peace Jesus gives is different. Eph 2:14-15, “For he himself is our peace, who had made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.” Jesus came to take down all human barriers and build a spiritual barrier through the Holy Spirit. Jesus came not to bring peace but division even in a family, not because of different opinions or generation gaps but because of Jesus and faith in him. Recently even churches are being divided on LGBTQ. Some churches accept LGBTQ as one of many acceptable lifestyles, but some churches recognize it as one of the sinful lifestyles, which must be repented of and changed to be right before God. We stand on the latter one. In the end, the world will be divided into two: Jesus’ followers and world followers. Jesus is making one new humanity who belongs to him from every nation and from all different denominations.
Through today’s passage, we learn that we must be a faithful and wise manager who gives other servants their food allowance in proper time. We must be ready to serve and keep our lamps burning through living according to the word of God and the desires of the Holy Spirit. When we do so, we experience his reward, participating in his work, saving lost souls and tasting heavenly banquet. In the end, the world will be divided into two; Christ followers and world followers, even in a family. May God help each one of us to make decision to follow not sinful flesh but live according to the word of God and the desires of the Holy Spirit. Amen!