8 August 2010

Luke 12:32-40

"You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour." (v.40)


The first three verses of this passage round off a section in the Gospel of Luke about where our treasure lies. Jesus asks what our priorities are in life, both now and into the future, although we can never be sure of what the future holds. The rest of the passage puts this uncertainty into a Christian perspective. Jesus tells us to be watchful, because you never know when the Son of Man will come.

There is much debate about the meaning of this enigmatic phrase - Son of Man. Suggestions range from simply a mortal (hu)man to some immortal being coming down from the heavenly clouds. It is the one title that Jesus may have used of himself, perhaps deliberately, to evoke the questions: Who is he and what is he doing?

Then there is the question of when will this Son of Man come. There have been plenty of prophecies - so far all false - about the end of the world, that take it to mean the end of life on this planet. But that will happen anyway, either when the sun dies or sooner, by a cosmic or environmental disaster of our own making, for which we DO need to be watchful.

The placing of this teaching here in the Gospel of Luke, compared with that of the Gospel of Matthew (where it comes near the end of Jesus' ministry - Matthew 24:43 - 25:13), suggests that Jesus may be talking about the end of his own earthly ministry rather than his second coming at the end of time, however conceived. These two possibilities are not alternatives. There is a link.

If we take the end of the world to mean not the death of the planet, but the goal of worldly life, then the death and resurrection of Jesus announces that life is to be one of self-giving love that overcomes all evil and destruction. It takes us right back to where we started - our priorities in life and what we treasure most - because both determine how we treat others, our environment, ourselves. That is what we need to be watchful about.

To Ponder

What do you treasure? To what extent does it get in the way of your relationship with God?

What are the areas in your life that you need to keep a watch on?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr John CA Emmett

John worked as a research physicist in the nuclear power industry before ordination and circuit appointments in Swindon and Bath. He is currently director of programmes and research at Wesley College, Bristol.