Jesus’ Life and Ministry
AFTER warning the crowds about covetousness, and cautioning his disciples about giving undue attention to material things, Jesus encourages: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.” He thus reveals that only a relatively small number (later identified as 144,000) will be in the heavenly Kingdom. The majority of the ones who receive eternal life will be earthly subjects of the Kingdom.
What a marvelous gift, “the kingdom”! Describing the proper response the disciples should have upon receiving it, Jesus urges them: “Sell the things belonging to you and give gifts of mercy.” Yes, they should use their assets to benefit others spiritually and thus build up “a never-failing treasure in the heavens.”
Jesus next admonishes his disciples to keep ready for his return. He says: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps be burning, and you yourselves be like men waiting for their master when he returns from the marriage, so that at his arriving and knocking they may at once open to him. Happy are those slaves whom the master on arriving finds watching! Truly I say to you, He will gird himself and make them recline at the table and will come alongside and minister to them.”
In this illustration, the readiness of the servants at their master’s return is shown by their pulling up their long robes and fastening these under their girdles; and they continue to care for their duties on into the night in the light of well-fueled lamps. Jesus explains: ‘If the master arrives in the second watch [from about nine in the evening to midnight], even if in the third [from midnight to about three in the morning], and finds them ready, happy are they!’
The master rewards his servants in an unusual way. He has them recline at the table and begins serving them. He treats them, not as slaves, but as loyal friends. What a fine reward for their continuing to work for their master throughout the night while waiting for his return! Jesus concludes: “You also, keep ready, because at an hour that you do not think likely the Son of man is coming.”
Peter now asks: “Lord, are you saying this illustration to us or also to all?”
Rather than answer directly, Jesus gives another illustration. “Who really is the faithful steward,” he asks, “whom his master will appoint over his body of attendants to keep giving them their measure of food supplies at the proper time? Happy is that slave, if his master on arriving finds him doing so! I tell you truthfully, He will appoint him over all his belongings.”
The “master” obviously is Jesus Christ. The “steward” pictures the “little flock” of disciples as a collective body, and the “body of attendants” refers to this same group of 144,000 who receive the heavenly Kingdom, but it highlights their work as individuals. The “belongings” that the faithful steward is appointed to care for are the master’s royal interests on earth, which includes the Kingdom’s earthly subjects.
Continuing the illustration, Jesus points to the possibility that not all members of that steward, or slave, class will be loyal, explaining: “If ever that slave should say in his heart, ‘My master delays coming,’ and should start to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day that he is not expecting him . . . , and he will punish him with the greatest severity.”
Jesus goes on to note that his coming has brought a fiery time for the Jews, as some accept and others reject his teachings. Over three years earlier, he was baptized in water, but now his baptism into death is drawing ever closer to a conclusion, and as he says: “I am being distressed until it is finished!”
After directing these remarks to his disciples, Jesus again addresses the crowds. He laments their stubborn refusal to accept the clear evidence of his identity and its significance. “When you see a cloud rising in western parts,” he observes, “at once you say, ‘A storm is coming,’ and it turns out so. And when you see that a south wind is blowing, you say, ‘There will be a heat wave,’ and it occurs. Hypocrites, you know how to examine the outward appearance of earth and sky, but how is it you do not know how to examine this particular time?” Luke 12:32-59.
◆ How many make up the “little flock,” and what do they receive?
◆ How does Jesus emphasize the need for his servants to be ready?
◆ In Jesus illustration, who are the “master,” the “steward,” the “body of attendants,” and the “belongings”?