The second day of Lent:Remember that Jesus "turned his face toward Jerusalem" in chapter 9, so as we continue our study in Luke, we are journeying with him.
35 ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
39 ‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he* would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’
Jesus was saying, put your treasure in heaven – through generosity – and don’t worry about and focus on earthly things. Because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” But, if their heart is in the kingdom, or in heaven, they should be ready at any time, dressed and ready for action. This is not to say that they should cease to live today, and wait for Jesus to return, doing nothing for the kingdom. The slaves or servants (dolos is the Greek, and it can mean either) Jesus speaks of are staying busy waiting for their master’s return from the banquet. They are tending their duties, keeping the lamps lit, ready for action. Jesus, of course, would have gotten a laugh from his audience when he said the master would turn and serve them. Whoever heard of such a master? But Jesus is just such a master – he taught us to serve by serving, washing the feet of his disciples.
In a second parable, Jesus says that if the householder knew when the thief was coming he would be ready, and the house would not be broken into. He would likely have the sheriff waiting there for the thief! But the fact is, even though a householder must sleep sometimes, he can make preparations and stay ready. Although the coming of a thief is a disruptive event, he could be prepared for that disruption of his usual routine.
Jesus is going to Jerusalem – he knows that he will be crucified, and on the third day he will rise. He is doing his utmost to prepare the disciples for that – they will have to live through difficult times when he is gone, the kingdom will have begun – the now kingdom that we live in still – but there is also the kingdom to come. Jesus will return – it could be a long time; faithful servants will stay prepared, and will continue their work in and for the kingdom now until his return. On his return, he will serve a banquet to all those who have been faithful. But Jesus’ return will also be a disruptive event; things will not go on as usual – we must also be prepared for that disruption.
Jesus speaks also of death – the farmer with his bigger barns passed on before he could enjoy them. The thief in the night could as well be death. We may not all live to see Jesus return – this was a point of great distress for those first Christians; they thought surely Jesus would return in their lifetime. They had to change their ways of thinking about these parables. Perhaps Luke chose to include them (Jesus told many more parables and stories than are included in our gospels) for just this reason – to reassure the Christians of his day. But although we will not all live to see Jesus return, we will all die, and for most of us death comes unexpectedly. Like the faithful servants we must be ready. And like the thief in the night, death is certainly disruptive. But we can be prepared – our eternal soul, in relationship with God, can continue – we do not die, we live, a better life than any we could have in this life! We can live as if this is the last day we will have, today is all we have – live ready for the master’s return.