35. “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning;
The robes which they wore would hang loose during normal circumstances, or when they were at rest. Yet when they needed to be ready to work or be prepared to move quickly, they would gather their robes up and tie them around their waist. This would prepare them for fast action. As for their lamps, these were not like our flashlights which we can turn on instantly. They had to take the time to light them, and this could not be done without some work. Thus, one who wanted to be ready to move quickly had best leave his lamp burning, rather than risk having it refuse to light when he most needed it. By both these figures, then, the Lord is warning them to be in anticipation and to be ready.
36. “And you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately.
He describes further what He wants from them. He pictures men waiting for their master, who is returning from attending a wedding, but not necessarily his own. The point is that the servants are fully clothed and have all the lights on in the house. Thus, when their master returns, they don’t have to fumble around to throw on clothes or hurriedly try to light the lamps before they can let him in. Rather, they are prepared to open to him immediately when he comes. The lesson here is again preparedness.
37. “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.
He proclaims the servants blessed who are watching when the master comes and finds them. The word “blessed” here is the Greek word makarioi, which means “happy.” It is a happy circumstance for them indeed if the master finds them faithfully watching.
Yet here the parable takes an odd turn. Just because servants are efficient, faithful, and watchful is no reason for the master to be so grateful that he starts serving them. This is just what they should be doing as good servants! This would be bizarre behavior indeed on the part of the master. Yet this is exactly what our great Master will do for those who serve Him faithfully! He will serve His servants, and reward them for their faithfulness. What love He has for us, His lowly servants!
38. “And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
The second watch is 9:00 to midnight, and the third is midnight to 3:00. Servants at this time were generally hard-working men who engaged in manual labor. That, combined with the lack of artificial lights such as we have them today, meant that most men retired to bed not too long after the sun went down around 6:00. It would be fairly unusual for someone to stay up to the second, not to mention the third, watch. Yet perhaps parties back then could go late into the night just like they do sometimes today. Still, the lateness of the hour should not deter the servants from faithfully doing their duty. Even if they sleep they should do so with one eye open, so to speak, and with the lamps lit and their clothes still on. Thus they are ready the moment they hear a knock at the door. So the Lord orders His servants always to be ready for Him.
39. “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.
If a homeowner knew in advance when he was going to be robbed, he would be prepared to stop it. Since he doesn’t know, however, a good master of the house has to be constantly ready so that when the time comes he is already prepared. Thus, the Lord uses this as another example of their need for preparedness.
40. “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Now the disciples are to compare themselves to the master rather than the servants. In the same way they were to be ready for Christ’s return whenever it might come. Yet I do not believe that this simply has regard to the second coming of the Lord. These servants were to be prepared to serve whenever the need might arise, and the master of the house needed to be prepared to repel the thief whenever he might make his appearance. So, the disciples need to be ready to serve the Lord whenever the call might come upon them to do so. If they had been more prepared, perhaps they would not have abandoned the Lord in the hour of His arrest.
In the same way, we need to be ready to obey the Lord’s words. We do not hear from Him directly, but every time we read His Word we might come upon things that mean we have to change the way we live in service to Him. Do we come prepared? Are our loins girded and our lamps lit? Or do we come to the Bible with our minds closed and our hearts hard? We need to take the Lord’s admonition to heart, and always be prepared to answer when His truth calls to us to do so.
41. Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?”
Peter asks a very good question here. Did this parable just apply to the disciples who would be God’s rulers in the future kingdom, or did it apply to all of those in the crowd listening to Christ’s words? This question (of whom a passage is speaking) is one that we must always be asking ourselves in the study of Scripture.
42. And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?
The Lord answers Peter’s question by expanding the parable. Who are the ones God will appoint as stewards during His government of the earth? Whom will He set over His household, and allow to be channels to give the blessings of God to others? This is a question we all need to find the answer to in the pages of the Bible or we will never understand passages such as this.
43. “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.
The servant who is doing the job the master gave him to do will be blessed by his master when he comes. The master coming here is coming to check on his servant to see if he is doing his job. Whenever the master checks, he should find his servant behaving as a faithful and wise steward. Whatever the job might be it is faithfulness in doing that job that will be rewarded. We too need to know what it is that God wants of us and do it. What He is looking for is faithful and wise service to the One Who is our Master. Those who do this will be rewarded, even as Christ said. Therefore, this does not just apply to the disciples.
44. “Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.
A servant who is faithful in the job he is given will eventually find himself in charge of all that the master has (thus his second-in-command.) Of course, the job of being second-in-command in the Kingdom of God is already taken. Yet those who serve God faithfully in the way He asks them to even today will also receive even more authority and responsibility from Him than they would have otherwise when the time comes.
45. “But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk,
What if the servant starts to suppose that his master will not come and check, and so starts to do his job oppressively and self-servingly?
46. “The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
A servant who is not faithful and ceases to do his job when the master is not around will eventually be caught and suffer the most dire consequences. The same is certainly true for those who do not do the job God has given them. Look at Judas for an example of this. Judas’ portion is now indeed with the unbelievers.
We need to understand that this is not the portion of those who are in Christ in the dispensation of grace. While we can serve faithfully or unfaithfully, we do not have to worry about losing our salvation, or being assigned a portion with the unbelievers. Remember that the Lord was initially speaking to and of Israelites. These people were automatically the servants of God by birth. They did not have to believe in Jesus Christ initially in order to establish a relationship with God, as we do. They automatically had a relationship with Him, being born into it as one of His chosen people. However, a position in Israel was not secure, as a position in Christ is. Those who were in Israel could be cut off and cut out from Israel. Only those who proved themselves to be faithful Israelites will enjoy their reward in the life to come.
Take for example the religious leaders in Israel at the time Christ was speaking these things. They had been born into the rich, ruling class. As such, it was their job and right to rule the people, serving under God. They could serve well, in which case they would be rewarded. However, as was far too often the case, they served poorly, abusing the people and indulging their own desires. Therefore, when God checked on them and found them doing these things, He judged them as unworthy. As such, they will be cut out of Israel, and will have their place with the unbelievers. That is the sort of thing Christ is talking about here.
This is a situation foreign to all of us. We are not born into such a relationship with God. We do not serve Him and are not His servants in this way. Thus, we are not subject to what Christ is talking about here. Still, we can take these words to heart in some ways. The Lord is no more ignorant than He was then, nor does He look more kindly upon unfaithfulness than He did then. What the Lord wants of us is to serve Him righteously and faithfully. If we do this, the rewards will be great. If not, we will find that the reward will be taken away from us.
47. “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
Knowingly disobeying will make one worthy of great punishment. There can be no excuse for knowing the will of God, and yet failing to do it.
48. “But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
Unknowingly disobeying will make one worthy of lesser punishment. It is not that one who unknowingly fails to serve correctly is off the hook. He is still worthy of punishment, for perhaps he should have known the master’s will had he been more diligent to discover it, yet he still cannot be held as accountable as one who knew and yet failed to behave in accordance with what he knew.
Some seem to believe and teach that unknowing sin is no worse in God’s sight than sin done with full knowledge of its sinful character. This is not the teaching of the Word. Moreover, servants are judged on what they had from God, not what they didn’t. Those who have much are responsible for much, but those who have little are responsible for little. Yet how much greater is the reward of one who is faithful with much than that of one who is faithful with little! All God’s ways are fair and just. We must not give in to doctrines that teach otherwise.
49. “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
Fire is ever the symbol of judgment. Christ was to bring judgment at last to the world, and it would be the very same sort of judgment that He had been talking about in the previous verses. That judgment is what would result in the advent of the kingdom of God, His very government, upon earth. And how much we too could wish that His fire was already kindled on the earth and that it would come and put an end to all the injustice in our world!
The King James Version reads here, “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?” Young’s Literal Translation concurs, reading, “Fire I came to cast to the earth, and what will I if already it was kindled?” The idea seems to be that already this fire had begun to be kindled. John 12:48 might give us some idea of the meaning of this, for there Christ said, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” The words that Christ spoke were in the world, and already they had begun the work of judging men upon earth. Yet the results of this judgment will not be seen until the day when God’s kingdom takes control of the whole world and His fire tries every man upon it, living or dead. As II Timothy 4:1 tells us, the Lord Jesus Christ “will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.”
50. “But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!
As we have discussed in other messages, a baptism is not a water ritual. That is what most people think of when they hear the word baptism, yet that clearly is not what it means here. A baptism is an identification with something. In this case, there can be little doubt but that the Lord is speaking of His death on the cross. On that day, the Lord Jesus would be identified with us in our death, and even identified with us in our sins, for He took our iniquities upon Himself, as Isaiah 53:5 declares. Christ had to be identified by His death on the cross before He could judge the world and bring an end to injustice. Until our sins were taken care of the only thing He could offer our world was punishment. Thus He was indeed greatly limited until His baptism with our sins through death could be accomplished.
The word “distressed” here indicates that He was under great pressure. The word is sunechomai, and is used for being limited, held back, pressed in, covered over, and even held in as a prisoner. In Mark 4:24, Luke 4:38, and Acts 28:8, it is used of one who was limited by diseases. In Luke 8:37, it speaks of those who were held in the grip of fear. In Luke 8:45, the Lord was being crowded in by a great multitude. In Luke 19:43, it speaks of enemies hedging one in on every side. In Luke 22:63, it speaks of those who held the Lord Jesus as a prisoner. In Acts 7:57, it speaks of men covering their ears to keep from hearing the words of Stephen. In Acts 18:5, Paul is pressed in his spirit, resulting in him telling the Macedonians that Jesus is the Messiah. In II Corinthians 5:14, it is Christ’s love that constrains us. In Philippians 1:23, Paul speaks of being in a narrow place between two alternatives. The final occurrence is here, where the Lord speaks of being pressed in until He accomplishes this baptism. The fact that He had not yet died was crowding Him in and holding Him back. Once He accomplished this, we know, He returned to heaven and took back the place of God. Then, He was no longer pressed in or held back!
51. “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.
We know that Christ’s ultimate goal was to bring peace to the earth, and He will do that in the kingdom of God. That is what the angels declared at His birth, as we saw in Luke 2:14. Yet that was not the reason He came to earth at this time. For now, His coming was only bringing division, since some demonstrated faith in Him and some refused to do so. Christ knew that His coming would result in this, but this was one of the things He came to do…to divide the faithful from the unfaithful. Thus, Christ was not concerned if His coming caused division.
Some people seem to think that division is the worst thing possible. They are always trying to unite believers to each other, and even to unite believers with the world. Yet unity is not the ultimate goal. The unity they buy is usually purchased by selling off the truth. We have no desire to partake in this sort of unity. The unity we are concerned with is set forth in Ephesians 4:3-6, and has to do with the truth. When we believe this truth, we are part of this unity. This is the unity that matters in our day. If others refuse to have anything to do with us because they reject these truths, then so be it. Our job is not to be unified to each other, but to be unified to the truth. If Christ causes a division, then let Him cause a division. It is our job to believe what He has told us in His Word. And one of the things that He has told us is that He will cause division!
52. “For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three.
The household is the most basic unit of society, and would seem to be the most important place for unity. Yet even there, the Lord Himself would cause division, three against two or two against three!
53. “Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
These are some of the closest relationships one could have, yet the Lord was going to cause a division within them. All this division would be caused by Jesus Christ, and by His coming to earth. Indeed, His coming and what it means still divides people today! Especially, it divides those who believe in His name from those who do not. This was a division Christ knew He would cause, and yet He believed that this division was worth it. Do you believe this?
54. Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is.
This was the way the weather worked in the land of Israel. The Mediterranean Sea was to the west of them, and the clouds that came from over the Mediterranean were charged with moisture. Thus, any time they saw a cloud coming from the west, they could predict that rain was coming, and it would come. Of course, we cannot apply this to wherever in the world we live, for our rain clouds need not necessarily come from the west at all. Some might live with a desert to the west of them, and then a cloud over the desert would rarely indicate rain!
55. “And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is.
South of Israel was the desert, and when the winds came from there, they could predict hot weather, and it would come. Again, this was unique to their location. I live in Minnesota, and when we get wind from the north in the winter time, we can be sure that cold weather will be coming in from Canada. This is the same sort of thing, having to do with weather patterns in Israel.
56. “Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?
They were able to predict the weather based on obvious signs. It was not hard for them to see these things and know what the weather was going to do. Likewise it was not hard for them to predict what God was doing based on what they had seen and heard from Christ. They should have realized that they were living in the days of the Son of Man upon the earth. Yet they refused to discern the truth that was right before them! Thus they were hypocrites, proclaiming the weather from the signs before them yet refusing to proclaim what God was doing even when they had the clear signs likewise right before them that Messiah was right there with them.
In our day, we live in the days of the dispensation of the grace of God. In this time period, God is writing a record of the graciousness of His character. He is writing it by showing grace constantly and in every situation. This grace is done in secret, and the riches of His grace are untraceable. There are signs of the truth of these things, both in the world around us, as well as in the Word of God. Yet many refuse to see these signs, or to discern the time in which we live. These are just like these men of the past, who refuse to see the truth that is right in front of them. We live this dispensation every day. We should open our eyes and discern it.
57. “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?
Why were they of themselves not judging what was right? Why did they not consider and do the actions that would show them to be right in the sight of God?
58. “When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.
Christ here is speaking of the paying of taxes. If one did not settle with the tax-gatherer on the way he would be cast into prison until he had paid his debt. In the same way if they did not settle up with God it would be required of them. The time to do so was now, not to wait until they were brought into His court.
59. “I tell you, you shall not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite.”
What the Lord is referring to is debtor’s prison, where men were sent to work off their debts. Since the pay was very poor in debtor’s prison, the possibility of those there actually managing to pay off their loans was small. Much better to settle with the magistrate before you ever got to the point of being thrown into a debtor’s prison.
Though there is some level of mystery to this, we can say that it is better to get a Savior now than to face God without one later. He is a righteous judge, and He will punish us fairly, if punishment we deserve. Yet if one stands before Him without a Savior, one might find that the penalty is more than he can pay. It is far better to receive God’s forgiveness through His Son!