21 August 2015

Luke 12:35-48

“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” (v. 48)

Psalm: Psalm 73:1-14


After the injunction not to worry about health, wealth and status in yesterday's passage, Jesus tells us what we really should worry about. The one thing we should focus on is the coming of God and of God's kingdom.

Luke's Gospel wants us to think of Christian existence within the expectation of the coming Son of Man. 'Son of Man' is one of the most difficult phrases in the New Testament and scholars have argued over it for decades. In Luke's Gospel the phrase often refers to the ministry of Jesus himself. Here, though, we can see 'Son of Man' moving from being a description of the Jesus' ministry to referring to the future - the one who is to come. No one knows the exact moment when God's final judgement is made present. So the best policy is to be prepared. Matthew 25 has a similar range of parables, including the famous story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids.

The next picture Jesus paints is unfamiliar - even distasteful - to most of us, for we take it for granted that slavery is a social evil with no redeeming features. But the master-slave relationship was universal in the ancient world, and everyone would have known about it. So Jesus takes a familiar concept, but gives it some shocking twists. For example, with the picture of a master putting on an apron and serving his slaves after they've done a hard day's work (verse 37) Jesus reverses the natural order of things in order to make a point.

Jesus' hearers would also have been familiar with the thief in the night - it's a picture that crops up in several places in the New Testament. The point is to live in the present as if God's future kingdom were already here. That's exactly how Jesus himself lived, and that is what he urges on his followers.

And behind these pictures from contemporary life was another picture, one drawn from the story of Israel. Exodus 12:11 talks about the Israelites having their loins girded as they prepare to set off for freedom and eat their last meal, the Passover. The people of God have always been told to live as if the future were already present.

To Ponder

  • What kind of picture, drawn from the contemporary world, would express (for you) the message that Jesus presents here?
  • What would it mean for you to live as if the future was already here? 

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck

Richard Clutterbuck is a minister of the Methodist Church in Britain but since 2004 has served the Irish Methodist Church as principal of Edgehill Theological College in Belfast. His ministry has been divided between pastoral appointments in North London and theological education in the South Pacific (Tonga), Britain and Ireland.