As we anticipate the beginning of the new year tomorrow, we focus on the Gospel of the day and read a devotion from Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary: Luke.
Blessed . . . whom the master finds awake.
In contrast to some jobs, when “sleeping at the switch” can result in something far worse than inconvenience, it does not seem too big a deal for the servant to be caught napping at his master’s return. But vigilance is the point of this parable, since the master’s return represents Jesus’ return on the Last Day. On that day, everything will depend on Jesus’ servants being awake and ready to greet Him. That understanding makes sense of the unusually lavish reward bestowed by the master on those servants who are prepared for his return. He will dress himself for service and will have them recline . . . and serve them. Note the role reversal here—the master serves the servants! This lavishness is given in exchange for something that, at first glance, seems like a minor act of service. This meal the master prepares is an allusion to the great end-time banquet that the Bible refers to in various places. Isaiah prophesied most famously about it, saying, “The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food” (Is 25:6). Because the prophet goes on to state that, at this same time, the Lord will “swallow up death forever” (Is 25:8), there can be no doubt that this refers to an end-time event. Jesus refers to this same heavenly banquet in even more explicit terms later in the Gospel, at 13:29. What an experience that will be, reclining at the Lord’s table in glory!
second watch, or in the third.
For Jews of the first century, the first watch of the night was from c. 6:00 to c. 10:00 p.m.; the second was from c. 10:00 p.m. until c. 2:00 a.m.; and the third, from c. 2:00 to c. 6:00 a.m. By mentioning these shifts, Jesus emphasizes that keeping watch in the wee hours was especially necessary.
the thief was coming.
These words introduce an ominous image, that of a criminal coming to break and enter. There are a number of places that Jesus compares His sudden, unexpected appearance on the Last Day to the “coming of a thief at night.” Being ready for Jesus’ return in glory requires constant vigilance—especially during the most unanticipated moments.
You also must be ready.
Faithfulness to Christ is defined in this parable as doing the work He has given us to complete while we await His second coming. . . .
an hour you do not expect.
No one can calculate the time of Jesus’ return, the Lord says plainly in Mk 13:32. So, the Church must ignore anyone who claims to know the day and hour (or even the year!). We have all that we need to know until the day of His return in glory, since Jesus remains with us through His Word and Sacraments, and His Spirit thus gives us the strength to remain vigilant.
Hymn: Abide with Me
Devotional reading is from Reformation Heritage Bible Commentary: Luke pages 237–38 © 2014 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Video is of “Abide with Me” from Tune My Heart: Eight Beloved Hymns for Solo Instrument and Keyboard © 2018 Concordia Publishing House.