The Judgment of God
Jesus had previously compared the kingdom of God with a lamp that illuminates and must be allowed to shine fully and not be covered (Luke 11:33-36). He then began to address a crowd of thousands at the beginning of Chapter 12. In his teaching he talked about being clothed by God, dependant on him and making him our treasure rather than the accumulation of things.
On Jesus’ journey toward Jerusalem, he went through a Samaritan village who rejected him. He rebuked his disciples when they suggested they call down fire from heaven on them. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and teachers of the law for hindering people from entering the kingdom of God and failing to see that they too were outside it. Jesus has come to call people to enter the kingdom of God. Those who listen to Jesus need to learn how to do that. How do you enter the kingdom of God? When will the kingdom come and what should we expect from the kingdom of God?
35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand 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. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
41 Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?”
42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
54 He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?
57 “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
13 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
8 “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”
10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
18 Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
- 12:35-59 – Be found dressed and ready when the Day comes…
- 35-40 – It will be good for you to be ready when the Master returns
- 41-48 – It will be even more important for those who know much to be ready and found serving
- 49-53 – The storm is coming
- 54-59 – Be prepared for the storm
- 13:1-21 – When will that fig tree bear fruit?
- 1-9 – Tragic events are tragic, but more so is a person who does not repent! A time will come to cut down the fig tree.
- 10-17 – An example of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Jesus is waiting for that fig tree to bear good fruit.
- 18-21 – What the kingdom of God is like. When the fruit grows, it blossoms.
***Due to the size of this text, we’ll focus on the first part only: 12:35-59: Be found dressed and ready.
35-40 – It will be good for you to be ready when the Master returns
“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning…” Springing from his lesson on trusting God with clothing and food, Jesus commands his listeners to be dressed and ready. He has told us to have eyes and bodies that are like lamps, containing the light of life within us and he tells us here to keep our lamps burning.
“…like servants waiting for their master to return…” The metaphor is pointing to the future date when Jesus will return. Will he find us ready and waiting? What will happen if we are not?
“…so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.” It’s difficult to get an old English castle with british butlers and servants out of my mind. Like the palace of the Queen or a Lord of the manner. When the master comes home, there is someone standing ready at the door even though they had no idea of what time the master would return. Their job is to stand at the ready. Then Jesus turns this image upside down…
“Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve…” The master will become the servant. It will be good to be ready because rather than serving the master, the master will sit you down at the table and wait on you. This is an upside down kingdom! This is consistent with how Jesus presents the kingdom of God. The last shall be first. The teacher and Lord will wash his disciples’ feet. Jesus is our servant King.
“If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming…” Jesus mixes his metaphor again here but to make the same point of being ready! You must be ready for the master to return at any moment. The hour is not revealed, otherwise we would relax and slacken off and just get ready when we knew he was returning. But the servant is to be dressed and ready with the lamp burning – whether it is a small wait or a long one!
“…the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Jesus reveals more clearly now that his story of servants and masters is about the day when he will return. When he returns, the kingdom of God will be fully grown/revealed and those who have waited faithfully will be sat down to eat and be fed, not just in the presence of the King but by the King himself.
41-48 – It will be even more important for those who know much to be ready and found serving
“Peter asked…” Behind all of this teaching, Luke has been reminding us of the growing crowd around Jesus and now we are drawn to the disciples. When Peter calls Jesus Lord, it is a normal kind of submission between a student and teacher. Of course, Peter has identified Jesus as God’s Messiah (Luke 9:20), so this title still holds special significance, but it won’t be until after the resurrection that the disciples will teach us all that Jesus is God (LORD). Luke inserts in verse 42 that ‘The Lord’ responded, as opposed to ‘Jesus’ answered. What is Peter asking? Is he wondering if his business in the kingdom of God is secure or not? Is Jesus telling the disciples to keep watch and be ready? Or is he talking the whole crowd? Is he talking to everyone else?
“Who is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants…” It seems that the answer to Peter’s question is that Jesus was talking to everyone and now he talks to his disciples, describing them as managers.
“Truly I tell you…” Verse 44 parallels Verse 37. This is the bottom line: there is a great reward given to those managers who manage with wisdom and faithfulness. To those who are faithful with a few things, the Master will put them in charge of many things and share in the master’s happiness! (Matt 25:23)
“He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.” Those who find themselves in positions of authority over the church are not guaranteed a place in the kingdom unless they remain faithful and wise in their duty. Peter and the disciples are warned. The actions of the wicked master is of glorifying themselves and sitting comfortable at the expense of others and their sober duty.
“…beaten with many blows…beaten with few blows.” There remains a destination for all unbelievers outside the kingdom of God but there is a stronger warning given to those who have been offered more opportunity to respond and do well for the kingdom. Ignorance is no excuse on judgment day for there remains nobody without excuse (Romans 1:20). But knowledge shall bring harsher punishment with it if that knowledge does not produce repentance and faith.
49-53 – The storm is coming
“I have come to bring fire…” Jesus’ coming is in two parts and the first part comes with salvation. With salvation, however, comes judgment also since we stand now in the position of knowledge. Jesus’ coming was not a secret. The Holy Spirit has made sure of that with the worldwide spread of the gospel. This spreading of the gospel is what Jesus may mean when he says ‘bring fire’. The first coming of Christ gives nobody excuse and the world will be divided over those who believe and those who do not. When he returns again, he will bring final judgment. Thank God for his restraint and patience on us all. We live now in the age of the spread of the gospel.
“But I have a baptism to undergo…” Our notions of a baptism being a pleasant photo day for all is not what Jesus has in mind. He is going to the cross for us. To be buried, which is what the word baptism means. He will take our sins and nail them to the cross.
“…and what contraint I am under until it is completed!” The ESV: “how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” This is probably a clearer rendering of what is meant. Jesus is going to the cross and this is what is most important next. The distress he was under grew just as the crowd who were adoring him grew!
“No, I tell you, but division.” I do wish that the world would all stop and actually read the things that Jesus said. As we come to Jesus for salvation, know that this does not produce peace in our society but conflict. Much will be done in the name of religion. Jesus is not placing guilt on the shoulders of believers but he knows that opposition to the faith and the faithful will be great.
“…father against son…” Jesus alludes to Micah 7 (esp Verse 6). When God comes, we will not rely on our blood relationships, but put our hope firmly in the LORD and wait for God our Saviour. Once the resurrection occurs, the world will be different. A storm is coming.
54-59 – Be prepared for the storm
“He said to the crowd…Hypocrites!” He addresses this to the crowd which is growing in size. Again, Jesus is not concerned about how popular he is, but whether people are coming to the kingdom of God in truth, repentance and ready for judgment.
“…how is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?” Many will talk about the “signs of the end of the world” as if you can conclude when the very last days are coming. The world has been living in the last days ever since the resurrection. The last thing for Jesus to accomplish is his final return. Wars and catastrophes will take place over and over. While we wait, we spread the good news of the kingdom of God and we advise that now is not the time for judgment, but now is the time for salvation and repentance. We don’t live in heaven. It is not a place on earth. But heaven has come down in the form of Jesus and we need to recognise that it is time to get right with God. Why can’t this generation see it as clearly as reading the weather?
“Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” Jesus transitions from his illustration of weather forecast to a closer illustration of doing what you can to avoid imprisonment. When the weather looks good or bad, you prepare appropriately. It is about judging the day ahead. When you know that you are being called before the judge, why place your hopes on what the judge might say when you can repair the damage beforehand? Jesus has come to call sinners to repent. So do it! Jesus is seeking some self-reflection. We may see a connection in thought back to Luke 12:13-14, but the connection flows naturally from the weather illustration into the next.
“…try hard to be reconciled on the way…” If you make it to the magistrate, the penalty will be final and there is nothing left for you to do. Before reaching the judge, can you work out how to put things right? With God, the way is to surrender to Christ and call yourself his.
“…you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” The smallest value of money you can think of will be enough to find yourself guilty. There will be no rounding down on judgment day! Any sign of guilt of sin is sin. Likewise, the righteousness of Christ that is imputed on us when we repent is complete righteousness. Our slates are wiped clean with zero debt left to be paid!
The difference between being ready or not is the difference between the King serving us on the day of judgment or being found guilty with no option of appeal. The time is now to be ready by being reconciled to God through Christ. Ignorance will not help you since the times are clear. Jesus has acted and challenges us now to respond. Those who respond must lead others in humility.
Topic A: What does it look like to be dressed and ready? Consider what Jesus means by being ready. What does a disciple of Christ (a Christian) do to be ready? Remember that the Christian life is all about grace and faith and about nurturing these two things. How do we do that?
Topic B: Talking about the last days. Some Christian churches have taught errors in this department and so many will talk about the state of the world today as if Jesus must return soon. Our reaction to the state of the world ought to reflect every past generation of born again Christians who have mourned over the sinful conditions that they living amongst. Every generation needs to see their world, not as the worst that has ever been, but as bad as it has always been. The forecast is still for judgment to come and our call to action is to repent today, because you do not know the day or the hour that the Son of Man will come.
Topic C: Divisions in the family. A zealous and passionate Christian may take the words of Jesus in 49-53 and jump at the chance to condemn their family members who are not Christian. The division that Jesus speaks of, however, is not generated by the zeal of a Christian to declare they are right and the family is wrong. The resentment and anger will come from those who are not for Christ and resent that you are. A family who, although are not Christian, are ok with the Christian faith will show less signs of division. But it is likely to still be present under the surface. Be careful how you love your family. They are not the enemy.