15 June 2013

Luke 12:42-46

“Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.” (v. 43)


Unlike in Matthew's Gospel (Matthew 25:1-13), even though these verses speak about being ready for a returning master, they do not appear in an apocalyptic section, perhaps because Luke is a less Jewish Gospel. Nonetheless there are plenty of warnings about being ready and making the right choices in the proceeding verses.

Immediately before these verses (Luke 12:39-41) Peter has asked Jesus if the parable in verses 35-39 is for the disciples or everyone. Jesus' reply includes our verses but is perhaps only concluded when he says in verse 48: "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded". In verse 42 Jesus speaks about the role of the manager as the one who gives the slaves their food at the proper time. Perhaps this is meant to remind the disciples of the earlier feeding miracles in which 5,000 were fed (Luke 9:10-17). Perhaps also, food here has a symbolic meaning that may refer to the idea of the words of life, given by Jesus and entrusted to those he leaves behind.

One of the more disturbing phrases in this passage is the threat against the unfaithful slave to "cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful" (v. 46). An alternative reading is "cut him off and put him with the unfaithful" which sounds a bit less unpleasant. This may of course be symbolic language rather like the idea of giving someone a tongue lashing. But it may not. What is clear is that the faithful servant receives even more if he is found to be doing what he should, whilst the unfaithful servant loses everything.

The reason for the unfaithful slaves' misbehaviour is that he believes that the master has been delayed. The early Church expected Jesus to return imminently and so when some of the believers began to die, questions were asked about what happened to them. Paul's answer to this pastoral issue is found in 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5 along with the exhortation to remain faithful.

To Ponder

  • What do you think are the main tasks of the Church, whilst we wait for Christ's return?
  • And why do you think is it taking so long for Christ to return?
  • What in your life are you waiting for and what does this passage teach you about that?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jonathan Mead

Jonathan is a Methodist minister, who works part time in the London NW Mission circuit and part time as a learning and development officer in the London District. He enjoys keeping fit, reading history and visiting Mediterranean destinations..