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The Virtue of Watchfulness

Luke 12:35-40

We are back though in Luke, chapter 12, right in the middle of this amazing chapter, and today we’re looking at verses 35 to 40. Some powerful perspective setting, priority setting, teaching from our Lord Jesus Christ. At the end of every year and, a, right around this time, Thanksgiving, Christmas season, I find myself looking back on what’s happened over the past year. And this year is no different. I reflect on events, take stock of what the Lord has done, maybe trying to even think about significance and meaning in all that’s happened. And this year has been a very different sort of a year for all of us. 

 I’m grateful to the Lord for giving the church a gift, what we might call for lack of a better term, but I’m hearing bandied about in the popular culture, we might call it the great reset for the church. The social, political, and moral situation in our country is causing many Christians, I think, to conduct  a healthy self-examination. Many churches, to conduct a healthy self-examination, to reflect on what’s truly important. And to take this God given opportunity to reset their hearts, their minds, and to reestablish some godly priorities in their life. 

 And in the sense, that’s what Jesus has been doing in his teaching here in Luke, chapter 12. Ever since the beginning of the chapter, and even before that, as he confronted the scribes and the Pharisees for their religious hypocrisy, he is calling for self-examination here. To leave worldly mindedness behind, no more fear of man, no more covetousness, no more worry, no more anxiety. 

 He’s calling his disciples to live their lives in the fear of God. To rest in his care, his provision, his kindness, compassion, and to seek his kingdom.  

And Jesus has effectively reset for us some godly priorities. He says in Luke 12:33 to 34, this is what we just read last time, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.” You don’t do that unless you have a totally different set of priorities from this world. “Sell your possessions, give to the needy, provide yourselves with money bags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So having established for his disciples about what not to fear, about what not to chase after, what not to worry about, he’s told us whom to fear and where to fear God and God alone. 

But now as he turns into this latter half of Luke, chapter 12, he’s telling us what, for lack of a better term, what to worry about. He’s telling us what we should be concerned about, what we should be preoccupied with. He has set his disciples free from any human fear, every anxiety or worry about physical things. And starting here, in verse 35, Jesus tells us what should be our preoccupying thought. The mindset of every Christian should be like this, and if we’re to worry about anything, setting aside all world worldly and earthly cares. If we’re to worry about anything here it is. This is what we would be concerned about and what would it be preoccupied with. Our Lord’s return. Also known as the second coming of Christ. 

 Look there in verse 35 to 40. “Stay dressed for action. And keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 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. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds him awake, blessed are those servants! 

“But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let him, He would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready. For The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” For those of us who fear God, for those of us who follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, the only thing that we need to be concerned about in this life is this. We need to be ready and waiting for the Lord’s return. The Lord is coming again, and only those who have a heart to be ready and waiting will enter into the blessedness that he’s describing here.  

Just two points for this morning. They follow the simple pattern of the text, the parables of the text, be ready and be waiting. Be ready and be waiting for the Lord’s return so that when he comes, whenever he comes, we can enter into the blessedness and the joy of the Lord.  

First, before getting into that outline, let me give you some observations. Luke 12:40 is the first time that we read about the second coming in Luke’s Gospel, but it’s not going to be the last time. The second coming becomes a very dominant theme as Jesus’ departure draws near, as his crucifixion draws near, as his ascension to heaven, he’s already thinking about his return. And for this original audience, they didn’t discern like we do, they didn’t discern a break in the ministry of the Messiah. We, the readers of the Scripture, were able to see that there are two advents. Christ comes twice. 

 First, he came in humility to secure the redemption of his people by dying on the cross for their sins. He came to be rejected by men. He came to be the sin atoning sacrifice, upon whom God would place and pour all of his wrath against all the ungodliness in the sins of his people. And Christ would absorb that wrath. Taking away all of God’s wrath, due for their sins. He would die, be buried in a tomb bodily, raised from the dead bodily, and then he ascended into heaven. God approved that sacrifice and God brought him back to himself. So, he came first in humility.  

The next time he comes, it will be in glory. He will not be crucified on a cross, that will not be the last picture that the world sees of Jesus Christ. You realize that no unbeliever saw Jesus Christ risen, only believers saw him. We are the ones who see him risen from the dead, ascended into heaven. We’re the ones who see him as majestic and glorious. You know what? It’s right and just of God to send him back so the rest of the world sees him as he is. That’s why I cannot stand seeing crucifixes with Christ still on the cross. What is that? That is not a Christian confession. 

Next time he comes, it’s gonna be in glory. He’s gonna judge the wicked, he’s gonna reward the righteous. Not one, not even Jesus’ closest disciples, no one could see that Christ would come, leave for a time, then come again. So this is new news to them. But they came to see and understand about this. What they came to see and understand about the second coming, writing about it in the rest of the New Testament. 

This is a doctrine of such massive significance that it is called a cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith. By cardinal we mean it is a vital doctrine. It’s an essential doctrine, it’s chief among the doctrines of the bible. In fact, a person cannot reject the doctrine of Christ second coming and still be considered a Christian. It’s that important. 

Give you a second observation. Jesus speaks to this audience, on this occasion, at this time, in this place, and as he speaks to them, he’s exhorting them to be ready and waiting when the Son of Man comes. Now, did the Son of Man come during the lifetime of anyone in this original audience? No, he did not. The bible tells us that the Son of Man was rejected by his people. He was crucified on the cross. He was buried in a tomb. He was resurrected the third day. He ascended into heaven forty days later. That’s where he is now, bodily at the Fathers’ right hand. Jesus, the Son of Man.  He still has not come back. He has yet to fulfill the promise of this text. 

So, a good question to ask and an understandable one to ask, is how does this exhortation, be ready, be waiting, how does this have any force or weight for this audience? When the Father has yet to authorize the second coming and send Jesus to return to earth. We get asked the same question really for ourselves too, as Christians, the readers of Luke’s Gospel, we who are members of Christ’s church, here, in the church age. Because if we understand the prophetic timeline correctly, doesn’t the rapture of the church occur before the second coming? If so, how does this text apply to us, the church? 

We can return to the original audience who heard Jesus this day, teaching most of whom did not make it out of the first century, but died before seeing him return. How does Jesus’s exhortation here, to stay ready, to keep waiting for his return, how does it compel them? How does it compel us? Maybe it’s just the case that we’ve misunderstood everything prophetically, right? Maybe we just need to adjust our prophetic timetables. No, that’s not the case. We haven’t misunderstood. 

 We do understand that correctly. That the rapture is the next event that we are waiting for and looking for. It’s a sign less event. There’s nothing in the way preventing the Lord to return and call his church to himself. Coming of Christ to retrieve his bride is imminent. But we’re gonna wait until next time to talk through that prophetic timeline. 

As we look at verses 35 and 40, notice there, just by way of observation, there are two exhortations. You see an opening one or, or grouping of exhortations in verse 35 and beginning of verse 36 and then a closing one in verse 40. You see in the middle there, there are two short parables. There’s one in verses 36 to 38 and another in verse 39. And the bulk of that first parable consists of another beatitude from Christ. Using that familiar word, makarios, blessed, blessed are those servants. He says it twice. Blessed are those servants. The ones who were found waiting.  

In these parables we have two kind of contrasting elements. The first parable emphasizes the element of certainty about the fact of the Masters return. The second parable, about the thief in the night, emphasizes the element of uncertainty about the timing of his return. So, when we think about the second coming in this doctrine, the return of Christ to earth, there is an element of certainty, what we bank on. And there’s an element of uncertainty as well about the timing. And though these elements are not contradictory, as we’re going to see, they are held in tension, certainty and uncertainty. And as we wait for him, holding these two elements in tension with one another, God produces within us the precious virtue of patience. 

“The next time he comes, it will be in glory. “

Travis Allen

 As we await Christ’s return, we learn to exercise the godly virtue of waiting righteously, of waiting productively, of waiting virtuously. We’re learning in this time to wait well, which means we produce the virtue of patience and endurance. 

Later in the twenty first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus gives an exposition of the end times. It’ll be a bit before we get there, so listen now. Jesus tells his disciples there, he says, “by your endurance,” your hypomone, your steadfast patience is another way to put it, “by your endurance you will gain your lives.” 

There is a salvific element to this patience and endurance being produced in us. It’s a very important virtue.  This virtue of patience, learning to wait well, learning to wait virtuously. Which is, some difficult news for me to hear because I am impatient by nature. In my flesh I have to admit that I hate waiting. I hate waiting for pretty much everything. Fast food drive-throughs are too, too slow for me. I don’t, I don’t commend this in myself. I don’t ask anyone to overlook my lack of patience, I don’t pass it off as just one of those traits of leadership. Leaders, leaders are impatient. They’re all, all like that. I don’t get a pass; I’m being impatient because I’m in leadership. 

No one was a better leader than our Lord Jesus Christ, right? And yet he was supremely patient. And he remains patient, especially with the likes of me. In fact, I am quite embarrassed by my lack of patience. I’m ashamed of myself that on occasion I have to go seek someone’s forgiveness because I have again acted impatiently or spoken to them in an impatient way. Impatience is a vice that I want to be rid of in the worst way. 

Patience is a virtue that I want to see characterize my life. Patience is one of those fruits of the spirit. And I regret that patience has, rather ironically, had to exercise patience as it grows to maturity in my life. Lord planted the seed in some stubborn soil. I have to say, but by the grace of God I can tell you that, that fruit is growing. My family is even noticing just a little bit so. 

As we take our place among all believers, of all time, waiting on the Lord, that’s nothing unique to us. We’re all waiting in all times of church history. We’re waiting, and this waiting is a time of testing. As all of us in the church of Jesus Christ, all of us individually, collectively, we are caught in the tension about the certainty of the Lord’s return. Watch for it, look for it. It’s right around the corner. It’s imminent. And yet, the uncertainty about his timing of his return. When? It hasn’t happened yet. So when? It’s on purpose. The spirit is maturing the fruit of patience within us. 

So, let’s look at the text and get into the outline. First point in your outline, just two points today, but first point; His coming is certain, so always be ready. His coming is certain, so always be ready. Always be ready. Always be prepared to serve him. And be patient for the opportunity to do so. In this section, there’s this short parable, short beatitude. Let’s just start with the parable, verses 35 to 36, which calls us to readiness. Jesus says, reading it again, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.” That’s the parable. 

Our English translations convey the sense that there are three imperatives here, three commands. Stay dressed for action, keep your lamps burning, be like men waiting. That is the sense. It’s not exactly how it is conveyed in the Greek text, but that is the sense. And the three points come together to paint a single composite picture of the kind of disciple that the Lord wants us to be. 

First, Jesus says, “Stay dressed for action.” Literally, he says, have your loins girded up. It’s not something we use commonly today, but we understand the sense. It’s an idiom that refers back to those, the first century clothing. Where those, they wore those long flowing robes, and if they left those robes hanging loose, doing work was impossible. So, that when they, whenever they were going to work, or whenever they were thinking about moving quickly, going to war, whatever it was, they would gather up all that loose fabric, tuck it in, bound it, bind it with a belt around their waist, and then get to work, go to work, go to war, run whatever they’re going to do. So, the image of a girded, belted servant was the picture of readiness or preparedness. 

Same thing in Ephesians 6, with a girded, belted soldier, who is tucked up all the loose ends of his garment into a belt, and he’s gonna to go to war and face the enemy. Same thing here, preparedness, readiness. Peter uses the same imagery in 1 Peter 1:13, he says, “Therefore, gird your, not your loins, but your minds. Gird your minds for action, keeps sober in spirit. Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  

The mind ready for action, the will completely committed, that internal preparedness made evident externally, by how someone looks by their actions. By the way they set their priorities, by how they live their lives. That’s the idea. In the ESV gives a sense of the perfect tense there. That’s correct. That’s what you see in the Greek text. Stay dressed or be always having been ready, showing that the preparation has already been made for working. This isn’t something that you’re thinking about every single day. This is something you’ve done. 

Jesus portrays here a servant who never needs to be told to get ready. Because he’s always ready. In other words, it doesn’t take the master arriving home to get the servant out of bed and get him dressed. He’s anticipated the master’s return. He’s already dressed. He’s already ready to go. All it takes is the sound of the master’s voice. He’s up and springing into action.  

Next idiom, verse 35. Jesus says, “Keep your lamps burning.” Here, it’s in the present tense so it’s always burning. So, the emphasis is on continuousness. It’s something constantly attended to. Wouldn’t do us much good as servants if we’re all dressed up and ready to go. And then once we hear the master arrive and start, we start fumbling around the dark. Where’s that lamp? We spill the oil, Oh no, and, and you can’t get lit. A servant who’s ready, prepared for action, he stays attentive to the lamp because in order to act and move and serve, you need light. You need to be able to see, so you keep plenty of oil in the basin chamber of the lamp, you keep a trimmed wick. You never let that flame dim because once that master arrives, it is go time. 

Lights his lamp. He keeps it lit because he wants to be ready to do the master’s will at the very moment that he arrives home. You might look to girding up the, the loins as salvation, what we’ve done in the past. You might look to keeping your lamp lit as sanctification, something you’re continually attending to. 

We come to a third imperative in verse 36 where Jesus says, he says “stay dressed for action, keep your lamps [lit],” and then this. “Be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.” We got several clues here from the Lord. Jesus gives, to help us discern the attitude of those who stay ready, those who are always dressed for action, those who are continually attending to their lamps. What is it that motivates these servants? What does Jesus picturing there? Here’s the answer. He’s picturing servants, whose hearts are filled with love, with affection. Jesus is portraying the kind of love relationship that exists between a loving, caring master and his affectionate, attentive servants. 

Notice here, verse 36, Jesus calls them men. That’s there in the Greek, anthropos, men, they’re not servants, they’re not slaves, they’re men. They’re anthropoid. They are men who are waiting. Now Jesus is not shy about referring to his disciples as slaves. The word for slaves, doulos, is right there in verse 37 here, though he’s intentional about using the word men, verse 36. The image he wants us to see here is that these are men who are waiting. 

 In a world that viewed slaves as nothing more than animate tools. They were not required to think independently. They were not, a, they were just there to simply serve the purpose of increasing the productivity of the master and the household. They just did what they were told. They were there to increase his wealth, increase his holdings, increase his protection. Thus, if they were defective, not doing his will, they could be sold at the drop of a hat. They could be bought and sold at his will.  

And that image does not explain what we see in verse 36. It doesn’t explain the attitude of readiness and eagerness in these servants. They don’t stay ready because they’re cowering, like slaves who fear being beaten for their disobedience, sold off like a defective and useless tool. They’re staying ready because they are men and they are thinking men. Men who have exercised their will. Men who’ve chosen to stay ready and wait for their master because they want to.  

These men, verse 36, they weighed with a purpose. look at it there, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks. That’s a hina purpose clause there, explaining the purpose of their waiting. It’s so that they could be right there to open the door. No waiting around. Jump to it, get to it, open the door, start serving. This, this is moving beyond just a picture of preparedness and readiness, portrayed already in verse 35. This verse is revealing the attitude that’s behind it. This is eagerness. This is enthusiasm. This is excitement over the master’s return to the house. And when he knocks they open him at once. It’s the word eutheos, immediately, right away. 

They’re so excited to receive him. Why are they so excited? I mean what’s, what’s got him all stirred up here? Notice the masters returning from a wedding feast. Now Jesus does not specify whose wedding he was attending. Let’s hold on to that thought. Put a pin in that. Come back to that next time.  

For now, it’s enough to know that he’s attended a wedding, in the illustration, in the parable. And he stayed. The master stayed for the feast and the festivities of the wedding. It’s a celebration that could last for quite some time, maybe several days, even up to a week. And in any ordinary, master slave relationship, the expectation of, expectation of a master returning to his home, from a wedding, a long time there, coming back in the middle of the night, would be, I’m tired and I’m going to bed.  

That’s a master slave relationship, especially if he came home in the middle of the night, he might awaken a servant or two, to prepare a midnight snack for him. A, any normal master, though, would expect his servants to facilitate his immediate rest and refreshment. Take my bags, get some food, prepare my bed, that’s a normal master slave relationship. But Jesus shows us, reading ahead a little bit, Jesus shows us this is no ordinary relationship at all. These men, they’re not waiting like slaves, they’re waiting like men, eagerly, excitedly, because they’re anticipating here a joyful reunion with their master. A master that they love. Jesus portrays him as the kind of man who rejoices in being, in being with them. He’s the kind of guy who brings them into his thinking, into his heart. He’s the kind of man they love because he’s loving to them. 

I know you realize this. You’ve been in the company before and you have somebody you can tell, they really don’t want you around. They’re kind of like being polite, hemming and hawing. Conversation drops all the time. You know conversations, like a tennis match. You hit the ball over the net and they hit it back and it goes back and forth and a good conversation is like a good tennis match. It goes back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Someone who doesn’t want you there, they’re, they’re serving the ball into the net. They don’t even wanna, they don’t even want you there. 

That’s not the sense you get from Jesus. The sense you get from Jesus is he loves people. And the sense you get from him, especially, is that he loves his people. He loves his servants. Doesn’t matter, verse 38, if the master arrives in the middle of the night. This is the kind of master who’s worth losing sleep over. He’s worth being inconvenienced for. He’s of such a nature, his goodness is so characteristic of him that their efforts to stay ready, dressing for action, being dressed for action, their lamps well supplied, always, lit, continually. They don’t even notice that. Doesn’t even register. Preparedness, diligence, alertness, attentiveness, to listen out to his arrive, for his arrival. This is no trouble at all, really. 

 What I have just described here, folks, which comes directly from what Jesus has taught us here, this is the Christian virtue of watchfulness. Watchfulness. Watchfulness is a virtue that is the spiritual byproduct, the spiritual fruit of other virtues. 

You could say it’s the byproduct of three of the most foundational Christian virtues, and you know them faith, hope, and love, these three. Faith, hope and love. And as those three virtues, faith, hope, and love grow in your life, you will see this virtue of watchfulness grow as well. 

If, staying dressed for action, perfect tense, something that happened in the past with results continuing in the future. If that’s like your salvation, if keeping your lamps lit, light burning brightly is your sanctification, well, think of watchfulness as your growth in Christian graces. And the more you grow in Christian graces, the more watchful you’ll be. The less you grow in Christian graces, the more dull and sleepy and distracted you will become. If you find yourself a dull, sleepy, distracted Christian, listen to this ’cause we’re gonna talk about the remedy. 

 Watchfulness is the fruit of faith because, those who are watchful people are believing people. They take God’s word as truth. Not qualified, not apologized for. It is unmitigated, unadulterated, pure truth. They believe it deeply. They believe it from the heart. They trust implicitly that what he has said this he will surely do. Every word to them is a promise spoken directly to them. And so, when Jesus says I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you, they incorporate that into their thinking. That becomes his word, becomes part of their worldview, their way of looking at life. And it’s shaping, its formative, it’s direction setting. So watchfulness is the fruit of faith. 

Watches, watchfulness is also the fruit of hope. Because those who are watchful people are hopeful people. Because of what they read and believe in the word, they desire a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is name, not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city, and they look to that city, they longed to be there. 

 Hopeful people look beyond what is seen to what is unseen. For the things which are seen are temporal, they’re passing away. But the things which are not seen, oh, they’re eternal, lasting, unchanging. Any affliction that these hopeful people experience for them is light and momentary. It only serves to prepare them as hope filled people for an eternal weight of glory that’s beyond comparison. Their hearts are set on a future certainty which they are always eager to get to. They are always watchful to enter into.  

So, there’s faith and hope, and then there’s love. Watchfulness is the fruit of love. With godly affections that burn deeply, affections that shine in their life brightly, that they see, and they adore the risen Christ. They longed to see him and even though they don’t see him presently, watchful saints do love him and then, so they believe in him and they rejoice in him, with joy and expressible and full of glory. 

So, faith, hope and love. These three. Those are the chief virtues of every true Christian. Every true Christian has these virtues coming up because of the spirits work, coming up within their life. You will always find them, even if they’re shriveled up little grapes. You’re still going to find some element of those fruits in their life. They’re the animal, animating principles of godliness that awakened us to Christ at the beginning. We trusted him by believing in his Word. We hope in him by looking for the fulfillment of all the promises of his Word, and we love him by studying his Word and seeing those promises, seeing their fulfillments, seeing his love for us. I love that was set upon us for, before the foundation of the world.  

Byproduct of faith, hope and love. When those virtues are active, fruitful in our lives, they produce yet another virtue. This virtue of watchfulness. You see watchfulness in your life and other people’s lives. You see, watchfulness practiced in faithful prayer. People praying fervently for all things godly, all things the scripture speaks of, they pray for. Watchfulness is practiced in a devotion to good works. Getting busy with your life, not sitting around, but giving yourself to other people and their needs. Giving yourself, paying attention to their concerns and their problems, praying for them, ministering the word to them. 

Watchfulness is practicing evangelism. It’s a love for lost sinners, lost souls. See them, freed from sin, freed from guilt, to know, to know the blessing of a clear conscience before God. Watchfulness is practiced in discipleship. A love for teaching and training younger Christians, so that they mature and grow up in the faith and grow strong. 

And all this watchfulness is practiced in the context of the local church. There are no mavericks out there doing their own thing for God, own private ministries doing whatever they want to do, whatever seems best in their own eyes. All this, Christian ministries con, conducted in the way that Christ prescribes. There’s only one institution that he said he will build, and it’s called the church. So, we do our ministry in the local church, under the watchful care of the shepherds that he’s given us as gifts to the church. 

 Now those who are, not watchful, those who feel like they’re succumbing to sleep, there’s a simple and immediate application. Fertilize the soul of your heart’s affections with the Word of God. Don’t go it alone. Fertilize your soul with your, and your heart’s affections, with the Word of God, but don’t do that alone. Take advantage of the teachers that Christ has given to his church. Ephesians 4:11. So they can help you better understand what you read, learn in the company of others saints, so that their example of diligence and study, and their example of obedience and joy, sets an example for you. Provokes you to love and good works when you watch their lives, when you’re around them. When they ask you, hey how you doing, how’s your marriage? How’s your family going? I’m praying for you.  

The more you see and understand the meaning of God’s Word, the more you will see these virtues, faith, hope and love awaken in your life, strengthen in your life, grow into maturity, and those virtues will produce other virtues, such as this one, called the virtue of watchfulness. So that’s the parable. Picture of readiness.  

“Jesus never worried about offending human sensibilities.”

Travis Allen

Before we come into the next parable, there in verse 39, Jesus wants to encourage his disciples. I love this, with his short beatitude. Look at verse 37, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.” Blessed, the word makarios means privileged, happy, greatly favored. And what is the blessedness of these watchful servants? 

 Well, first, it’s the very arrival of their master, whom they so dearly love. Christ coming, is its own reward. Who does not want to see him now? So, fulfillment of our heart’s desire to see him as he is. Watchfulness is the godly virtue of being ready, staying ready, waiting patiently, and it’s a virtue that comes with great reward.  

The same verb that Jesus used to describe the watchful servants in verse 36. Men who are waiting for their master to come. And same verb is used to describe Simeon and Anna, two mature saints, whose watchfulness paid off back when Jesus was just a baby. When he came into the temple. Back in Luke chapter 2, verse 25, Luke tells us that Simeon, he was a righteous and devout servant of the Lord. He was waiting. There’s the verb, waiting for the consolation of Israel. Same verb there, prosdechomai. Anna too, verse 38, same chapter. She’s waiting as well. She’s giving thanks to God of the temple. She’s speaking about God, to all the others who with her, all those who are, again, waiting. Prosdechomai, waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. 

You know what? God rewarded the aged Simeon to see the consolation of Israel in Christ the baby. And he rewarded the aged Anna to see the redemption of Jerusalem again, in the face of the baby Jesus, the Christ. So too, these watchful servants in the parable, they are rewarded for staying awake, for being ready, simply by the arrival of the master when he comes. That is a reward. 

It’s a joyful union to, to be sure there’s reuniting reunion of loving master with affection and servants coming together. All of, all that eating and sharing stories around the hearth in this warmth of a well cared for, well taken care of home. Enjoying each other’s company around the table. The hospitality. But, but there is more to see. Look at it. “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly.” Listen to this, “truly I say to you.” Jesus had to get their attention. “Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service. Have them recline a table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or the third, finds them awake, blessed are those servants.” 

But the Jewish listener of Jesus words that day, or you could say for any first century reader of Luke’s Gospel, this is just too much. No master that they ever knew had ever seen or that they had even heard of. No master would come home late at night, tired from a journey, exhausted from several days of attending a wedding celebration, and do the unthinkable, namely, switch roles with his servant. Just didn’t happen. 

The master taking the role of a servant. That would be considered the height of impropriety or even worse, a foolishness. It represented the rejection of centuries, held, expectation of proper roles and casts and structures in society. So, to thwart this expected role and behavior of service in the master slave relationship, would’ve shocked the sensibilities in this crowd and perhaps even offended some of them, with this reckless fantasy. Risk destabilizing all of society. 

 Jesus never worried about offending human sensibilities. He never, he never worried about crossing over traditions based on inaccurate, incomplete, or incorrect information. He was never cavalier about it, but he also never apologized for telling the truth, for setting the record straight. That said, Jesus does recognize how hard it is going to be for them to hear this image, he’s going to give them, which is why he affirms it with this Amen. 

Translated in the ESV is truly, what our Lord wanted his disciples to know and understand. What the Holy Spirit, the divine author of Luke’s inspired Gospel, what he wants us to know and understand. Is that this, Jesus, the Son of Man, he is a master who rejoices to be with his servants. He’s a returning master who rejoices when he finds us reciprocating back his eagerness to be with us. Anticipating, when we anticipate like he does, anticipate the reunion, when we’re ready to receive him, when we’re excited to be with him again.  

So, make no mistake as difficult as this is to imagine for us, when our Lord returns to find his servants awake, ready for service, having, having patiently waited for him, been active. Truly, I say to you, Jesus says, he’ll dress himself for service, he’ll gird up his own loins. He’ll tuck in his own flowing robes, bound, bind them with a belt. Same picture as the one in verse 35. And he will have them recline at the dinner table coming to them, he will serve them. 

It’s his joy to do so, but he’s the same one who told us it is more blessed to give than to receive. He’s the one who said the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom, for many, he did that when he humbled himself, as we learned over the past few weeks from Philippians. “Being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even to death on the cross.” 

So, if he did that greater thing in humility, serving his people by dying on the cross for their sins. If he did that greater thing by dawning the servant’s towel, and washing his disciples feet which was a pic, which is a picture of their ongoing continued forgiveness. What’s a little table service compared to that? It’s not something he counts as hard duty. It’s not something he sees as drudgery. Obligated is perform this service, or it’s not even a, a reward that he’s reluctant to bestow. Not at all. This is pure, unmitigated joy to him. The blessedness of his love for us, pronounces is a benediction. And his watchful, waiting servants, because he himself is filled with blessedness and joy in serving them. 

Back, just a footnote on this, it’s an important one, though I mentioned the Greek word makarios. We translate that as blessed. Means privileged, happy, greatly favored, favored from above, favored by God. Apart from the biblical usage of makarios, the word was used primarily in Greek, in poetry, often in connection with the gods that are situated high above earthly sufferings and labor. So, they have no sufferings, no labors. They are blessed. They are transcendent in resplendent and sublime happiness. The bible uses makarios in that way too, referring to God as the blessed God, referring to Jesus also as the blessed and only sovereign.  

So, when Jesus says at the beginning of this short beatitudes, verse 37, blessed are those servants, and then again at the end of this beatitudes, verse 38, blessed are those servants, he has bookended his own service to his watchful servant, servants with blessedness.  

His service, all of it, is his own blessing and it’s their blessing. He’s wrapped end to end in blessing and sealed with his promise. So, when the master comes home to discover his servants have been as eager for his arrival as he has been to, to return to their company, his heart leaps for joy. He didn’t even think about tucking up his robes and making him recline and serving him. He’s just excited. They’re excited.  

Sit back, relax, let me serve you. He regales them with stories from the wedding feast, or you should have seen this guy. You should have seen the beauty of the bride. You should have seen the, the groom’s face when you walked down. It was awesome. Maybe even came home, some of the gifts from the festivities. Share some, spread them around among his servants. He comes home with a doggy bag, you know filled with food. Hey guys, check this out. Try this. Try this. Doesn’t matter the lateness of the hour. Time stands still as loving master and affection and servants rejoice in one another’s company. I could go on all day with that thought, but hopefully that’s enough to make the point that Christ coming is certain. 

 So always be ready. Be watchful and be eager to cultivate faith, hope, and love, so you have a watchful attitude, one that is eager and excited to see him when he comes. So, if you lack enthusiasm, as we said, attend to those virtues. Faith, hope, and love. Apply yourself prayerfully, diligently, to the study of God’s word and do that in the company of the saints of the local church.  

Now let’s look at the shorter parable. It’s prompted by Jesus words in verse 38. If he comes in the second watch, that’s, considering the Roman accounting of watches, it, it’s four watches in the night, from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM. That’s very likely what Luke is recording here. If it comes in the second watch, that’s 9:00 PM to midnight, or in the third watch, that’s midnight to 3:00 AM.  

I can tell you, having stood watches, those are difficult times to stay awake. In the first watch of the night, everybody else is awake. You’re fine. In the last watch of the night, going toward sunrise, you’re looking towards sunrise. In these watches, it’s difficult, so if he comes and finds him awake, blessed are those servants. 

So, second point in our outline, whereas his coming in certain, number 2, his timing is uncertain, so always be waiting. His timing, point number two, his timing is uncertain, so always be waiting. Second watch of the night, third watch, doesn’t really matter when he returns. Always stay alert, always be ready and waiting for him to arrive, exercising patient watchfulness until he comes. It doesn’t matter when he arrives, you’re always, you’re always at it. See what Jesus says in verse 39 to encourage this. He says, “But know this that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into.” So, you also must be ready. That is like the master of the house or the Son of Man is coming at an hour, you did not expect. 

Remember when we read in 1 Thessalonians 5 early in the service? Paul described Jesus coming is like a thief in the night. That’s where this image comes from, right here, like a thief in the night. Jesus is invited his disciples here to share his joy. The joy of reunion, the joy of homecoming. He now invites them to think, and to think, not like a servant, but to think like a homeowner. They’re, to put themselves in the position of oikodespotes.  

Literally translated here in the ESV, master of the house. So, they’re not just the servants, now he wants them to think, not as servants, but as masters of the house. Like what would they do if they were in the master’s position? Jesus is the blessed and only sovereign. He’s always and ever watchful over his Father’s house. He attends continuously to the matters of his Father’s kingdom, and so he wants his disciples to think like he does. He’s always discipling us. isn’t he? He’s always bringing us into his thinking, isn’t he? Sharing the same commitment, he wants us to have this constant state of watchfulness like he does. 

Now, you homeowners, wouldn’t it be helpful to possess the attribute of omniscience? Even if it was just an unlimited way with regard to the watchfulness of your house? It comes to thieves trying to break into your house. I mean, no more money spent on alarms, locks, cameras, surveillance systems and equipment, and a surveillance companies. If you knew the exact time of the thieves visit, because you got that little inside of omniscience. As he’s creeping up to the house, he’s making his way up. He’s just there waiting. You’re at peace. When he comes inside of the door, you’re standing there. You flip on the light and you’re aiming that dirty Harry 44 Magnum at him. Go ahead and make my day. Word would get around among thieves. 

But since masters of the house are not omniscient, we’re human beings. There are limitations on the knowledge of homeowners. So, homeowners do not know what time the thief is going to come. They, they have to remain vigilant. They have to remain watchful, always waiting, spending money on technology to help them stay alerted.  

Listen, this is even more critical, isn’t it? With the coming of the Son of Man? I mean, risking sleep when he comes, is nothing like risking sleep when a thief comes. A thief only takes your stuff, earthly valuables. Slinks away, stealthily into the night. He doesn’t want to be discovered. He doesn’t want any noise, any attention drawn to him. 

But when the Son of Man comes, it’s not gonna be like that at all. I mean, he’s going to come loudly with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God. He’s gonna come in light, and glory is gonna be shining. He’s going to come, he’s gonna come in judgment and when he comes, he never leaves. He’s gonna judge all the unbelievers. He’s also gonna unjudge, judge the unwatchful. Those Jesus describes here in verses 45 to 48. He describes them as wicked or lazy or ignorant servants. And for them, the cost will be far higher than losing just a bit of coin or some fancy jewelry. So, like the watchful homeowner, who lacks omniscience and must therefore be always awake, always watchful, Jesus says in verse 40, “You also must be ready, the Son of Man is coming at an hour you don’t expect.” 

Back to the timing of the second coming. That piece of information, that’s been withheld from the Messiah as well. Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32, Jesus said, “Concerning that day and that hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Some limitation, here on Christ knowledge, has tripped some people up. Led to some very serious errors and heresies, but it’s really not too difficult, if we stay close to a very biblical, faithful Christology. 

Here’s how you think about this, in Christ’s divine nature, the Son of God, knows all things, he knows all things without limitation or qualification. He even knows the timing of the return of the Son of Man. As the Son of God, he shares in the divine essence which is an omniscient essence. Nothing is hidden from the second person of the Trinity. If it were hidden from him, there would be a change in the Son of Man, a change in the Trinity. There is no change in the Trinity. He is immutable, unchanging. So, in his divine nature, he knows all things, he’s omniscient, but in his human nature, in Christ human nature, the Son of Man is limited. He’s limited to what the Father wants him to know according to the Father’s will. 

We read that as early as Luke 2:52. Luke prepared us to understand this. He said, Jesus is a young boy. “He increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” So, in his human nature he had to grow. He had to mature. He had to increase. So, Jesus Christ in his humanity, and his human nature, he knows all and only what the Father has revealed to him. All things revealed, and a few things withheld from him according to the Fathers perfect loving will. 

Here, I think we can find, and not stretch the point too much, but I think we can find a point of encouragement. As we wait patiently, longingly for the return of Christ, not knowing when it’s gonna happen. If you ever feel discouraged in the waiting, tired, soul weary, talk to Jesus about it, because he’s waiting too. As we live in the tension, certainty about his return, and uncertainty about the timing of his return, you know what? So does he. 

He too is longing to return. He too is longing to be united and reunited with you, with the rest of the saints for whom he died to redeem. So don’t be discouraged. Know that he loves you, that he longs to be with you. He longs to be with you more than you long to be with him. Because he knows more, he sees more, he understands more, he understands the glory of the Father that he wants to bring you too. He longs to bring you there. He longs to be with you and have you be a part of that. 

He prays that way in John 17, his high priestly prayer. He’s waiting for the word of the Father. Just give me the word. He’s got his track shoes on. He’s gonna run, run to come and take you to himself, that where he is, there you may be also with him. According to what he’s revealed in this teaching, he is eagerly, excitedly, waiting to share table fellowship with you and me, members of his body, members of his bride, members of redeemed Israel. He longs to be with his people. 

And the fact that he is made to wait, is yet another point of connection of identity of him with us, as the Son of Man and us with him as our head, as the head of the church, as the head of a redeemed humanity. God made him perfect. To be our Redeemer in all things, even in waiting. Since his coming is certain, let’s always be ready. As Peter said, 2 Peter 3:11 to 15, after revealing the dissolution of the heavens and the earth by fire, Peter says, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But, according to his promise we are waiting for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 

“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found in him without spot or blemish. Be at peace. And count the patience of our Lord’s salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him.”  Since the timing of his assertiveness or the timing of his coming is certain, let’s always be ready. Since the timing of his return is uncertain, not known to us, let’s always be waiting, and waiting in the way that Paul told Titus to wait. Titus 2:13 to 14, “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness, and to purify for himself a people for his own possession, who are as zealous for good works.” 

 That’s how we wait. We’re ready, or waiting, or watchful. All the time. So much more to talk about, see, learn from this amazing text and we’re gonna have to leave it there for now. When we come back next week though, look at verse 41. We’re gonna take up Peter’s question, because that’s our question too. Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone? That’s what we’ll look at next time.  

Let’s bow now for a word of prayer. Our Father, what glory and perfection there is in your choosing Jesus Christ to be our representative head. The Son of Man who knows us in every way. And he even knows, for us as believers, what it’s like to wait, ’cause he’s waiting.  

We see in this parable that he’s told the, the attitude with which he comes. Where he doesn’t regard his high, glorious, majestic position over us, and, by contrast, our low, position before him. He disregards that completely as he throws, throws off his cloak, and he binds up his tunic, and binds it with a belt, and makes us recline, and makes us sit down, so he can serve us in fellowship, in a meal with us. That we should be lifted to such heights, is very hard to understand, because we know ourselves, we know what, what we’ve been saved from. We know our inconsistencies now. 

We know that for many of us, we have had to be reminded, even this morning, to be watchful. We haven’t been watchful. We haven’t been abounding in faith and hope and love as we should be. And so Father, just, we collectively ask you to forgive us please. And help us to abound in those virtues that we may, we may grow in watchfulness, that we are attentive to the return of our Lord. His imminent return to rapture the church for us. That’s the next event for us. We’re looking forward to it so much. Help us to be diligent and faithful in all the ways, that we are to be good servants, serving you, serving your will, doing your will. Help us to be evangelizing and discipling like there’s no tomorrow. Preaching is dying. Men dying, women to dying, men and women. We love you so much. Because of Christ, Amen.