This parable is both Law and Gospel. It’s an admonition to be ready for Jesus’ return at the end of human history, but it is also the Gospel message that Jesus makes us ready for His triumphant return—the day He will make us whole in heaven.
The Parable of the Faithful Servant (Luke 12:35–40)
“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Before preparing a lesson on this parable, consider the verses just preceding in chapter 12. Jesus explains that giving the Kingdom to sinners is the Father’s pleasure. Therefore surrender anything that might tempt you away from salvation in Jesus Christ. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (v. 34). Remember, Jesus is teaching His disciples, those who are already saved. So He charges, “Stay dressed for action,” “keep your lamps burning.” Servants cared for the house and kept it ready for the masters return. He could return at any moment, in the light of day or the darkness of night. Servants were to keep their long robes tied up in order to move quickly at a moment’s notice. These illustrations point to God’s calling for Christians today. Don’t ever give in to the temptation to believe there is all the time in the world. Jesus will return, and He may do so at any moment. Protect against false prophets who lead us and others away from salvation in Jesus. If Jesus returns and we have rejected Him, we will be in eternal trouble.
Jesus furthers this warning with the thief who may come at any hour. This illustrates the devil and his angels, who seek to lead Christians into false teachings—away from the truth of salvation in Jesus alone. Above all else, the devil seeks to destroy our trust in Jesus, so that we will not be ready for the Master’s return.
While Jesus calls us to be ready, it is He who finally makes and keeps us ready. People of Jesus’ day wore robes. Recall Revelation 22:14. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” Jesus shed His blood on the cross. In Holy Baptism, Jesus has given us this robe of righteousness washed in His blood. In this way, Jesus makes us ready with robes prepared for His return. The lamps make a similar point. In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus’ Holy Spirit comes to live inside Christians, giving us His light of life and pointing us ever to the cross and empty tomb.
Additionally, Jesus’ Holy Spirit keeps us ready for the Master’s return. The Holy Spirit leads us to worship, where we receive God’s Holy Scripture and His very body and blood in Holy Communion. With these gifts, the Holy Spirit continually wraps us in the robe of Jesus’ blood shed for us and fuels the lighted lamp of His work on the cross. So, while it is true that we are charged to be ready for the Master’s return, the better news is that this parable comforts us with the Gospel reality of God’s continuous work of grace in Jesus Christ.
Use the illustrations Jesus provided in this parable to bring the message home to your students. Borrow a choir or acolyte robe from the vestry. Look on the internet for articles or Youtube videos on how to “gird” the robe as soldiers and servants did in Jesus’ day. You might also talk about how difficult it is to get blood out of clothing, helping students to understand that Jesus’ forgiveness is mighty and everlasting. For older students, connect this to the wine and blood of Holy Communion. To illustrate the Law elements here, remove the robe and explain that the devil wants to teach us that Jesus isn’t really coming back. He leads us into sin, trying to take our robe away. Tell how the Holy Spirit uses Word and Sacrament to keep the robe wrapped around us, using whatever language is age appropriate.
Do the same with the light of Christ. Find a candle; a baptismal candle if available. Read the verse above and explain that Jesus is the light of the world who shines in our heart. The devil wants to blow out our flame out faith, but the Holy Spirit protects it and gives it fuel in Word and Sacrament. If time allows, take the students into the sanctuary to see other candles, most notably the eternal light.
From: All God’s People Sing
- Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus 159
- You Have Put on Christ 271
- Thy Word Is a Lamp 247
- Keep in Mind that Jesus Has Died for Us 149
- Light One Candle 163
Looking for suggestions on how to teach other parables?