Keep Your Lamp Trimmed
Topic: Hope Passage: Luke 12:35–48
We have had several messages about heaven. This morning I want to talk about what Jesus requires from us as we wait for him to return and take us there. In this parable He tells us he requires readiness, vigilance, and faithfulness to our duties right up to the moment of his return. I use the word “require” because Jesus does not merely request or prefer that we live a certain way. He uses the words demand, require, and must to stress that our readiness for him to come is mandatory.
There is a lot of teaching today that says Jesus requires nothing of us. He demands nothing. That everything is fine no matter what we do or don’t do. That how we live does not matter. -Of course we can do nothing to save ourselves! Jesus alone can save us from our sins! But he also called us to a new life where He is Lord! He taught that we have responsibility to obey Him and that there will be rewards from Him, for doing that!
Jesus knew complacency would be the greatest spiritual danger between the time of his ascension to heaven and the time of his return. So He told MANY parables to impress upon us the need to ALWAYS be working, watching, waiting for his return. He began this parable “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning”. His main point was, “You must be ready for the Son of Man is coming”. He ended it, “To whom much is given, much will be required”.
Jesus used strong language to show the dire consequences of NOT being ready for his return. Verse 46 “the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful.” Jesus is willing to shock our ears in order to awaken us to the deadly danger of apathy.
But he also stuns us with the outlandish REWARDS coming to those found faithful when he returns! Verse 37 “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.” We can hardly believe that Christ would die for us. But then he also tells us he will host a great feast for us, dress himself to wait on us, and serve the food to us himself!
No doubt about it, Jesus taught outcomes! One road leads to life one road leads to destruction. One response leads to the New Jerusalem. Another response leads to the lake of fire. The whole Bible teaches big outcomes hinging on small spiritual decisions made every day of our seemingly ordinary lives. “Each man’s work will be tested.” Some are “saved as through fire”, some are welcomed with “well done good and faithful servant”.
We can easily be deceived into thinking life is mundane and something we just get through, and have as much happiness as we can before we die. Jesus said NO! Life is a great drama and how we live matters. This is the dignity of human life.
We are human beings made in the image of God. We have the terrible potential to reject our Maker or to love him! We can be ready for Jesus to come back, or NOT ready. We can be hot, cold or lukewarm toward Christ. Your life matters and how you live it matters!
Verse 35 Jesus said, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning.” Why do we get dressed? We get dressed because we are getting ready to do something to go somewhere, to meet someone. This word picture communicates an attitude of spirit, a frame of mind. Peter said “prepare your minds for action.” Of course we physically relax, and sleep. But inwardly, we are always to be ready to follow, obey and serve Jesus Christ. We are to be vigilant, watching, waiting, expecting Jesus to come. “STAY dressed for action.” Let that image burn in your heart! Let it be who you are, your identity, your self image, your lifestyle! “I am a child of God; I stay dressed for action!”
Then Jesus said, “And KEEP your lamps burning!” That’s our job! -UNTIL he returns! Jesus calls me, he calls you to lifelong, faithful, readiness and service.
God commanded Moses, “The fire on the altar shall be kept burning continually on it; it shall not go out.” (Leviticus 6:12–13 ESV). The priests had work to do! They had to keep wood on the fire every morning. They had to keep the fire burning! Jesus said the same thing to us! Keep your lamp lit! The fire of God is His presence. It’s the Holy Spirit in us. Paul told Timothy, “Fan into flame the gift of God within you”. We keep our candle burning by faithfulness in prayer, worship, being in church together, singing, hearing God speak to us in the scripture! A lot of concerns have dominated the news and people’s lives over the past 2 years. Keeping our lamps lit should be our biggest concern!
There is another parable in Matthew 25 about keeping our lamps burning called the parable of the 10 virgins. In that story, 10 virgins or bridesmaids were waiting for the groom so the wedding feast could begin. 5 brought enough oil to keep their lamps burning. 5 brought their lamps but no extra oil. The coming of the groom was delayed and their lamps burned out. So 5 left and went to get more oil. But by the time they came back, the groom had come, the wedding feast had already begun, the door was shut and they were excluded from the celebration.
Their problem was NOT that they didn’t light their lamps. Their failure was that they didn’t KEEP them burning! Jesus might come today! But it might be much longer! We must prepare to serve him, with fire, with love and fervency, for as long as it takes! Until he returns!
This is not talking about just being super busy, or hyped up. It is talking about being devoted, diligent, on duty until he comes. Jesus calls us to be about his business, living IN A WAY that he will be pleased with, when he comes! When you hear a Bible teacher soften these teachings, it’s time to run! Jesus said, “Do not let your lamp go out!”
Verse 36 “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.” These men were so eagerly anticipating their master to come home, that the moment he knocks they jump up and open the door for him! Jesus said, “Be like that!” Again, this is an attitude of heart, a frame of mind. DO YOU HAVE IT?
John said it is THIS anticipation that purifies our lives! Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure. 1 John 3:3 We are to be thinking, living, and loving like we would want to be thinking, living, loving if Christ returned this hour! John said, “Dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.” 1 John 2:2
If there is any spiritual indifference you have grown comfortable with, any sin you have made peace with, that would cause you to NOT want to rush to the door and welcome your Savior, then repent of that today.
*Then Jesus moves on in this story to show the reward for those who live in this vigilance and readiness for his return. Verse 37 “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.” Jesus said, “I will reward this!” “Blessed are those who the master finds awake”. Happy, fortunate, highly favored are servants who the master finds awake.
Verse 37 “Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!” The master so appreciates his servants staying awake to welcome him home that he puts on an apron, he has his SERVANTS sit down at the table. And HE serves them the meal..himself!
This is what Jesus will do for those who live in readiness. In John 12:26 Jesus said, “If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him!” Here in essence he is saying, if anyone serves me, I will honor him, by serving him at my table in the kingdom of heaven! Perhaps Jesus himself will serve the wedding supper of the Lamb to us! Or some other great feast. What a motivation to stay awake for him!!!
In verse 39 Jesus switches the story up a little but keeps his point the same. “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.”
Here we are like the master. He is like the thief, coming at an unexpected moment. In the same way Jesus will show up suddenly, at a time you do not expect! So ALWAYS be ready. Or be ready, always! Jesus commands consistency! He calls us to FAITHFUL love and service, day in, day out!
*At this point Peter asks the question that many people ask about every sermon. Is this for me, or for these other people?Verse 41 “Lord, are you telling this parable for us, or for all?” Jesus does not appear to answer Peter’s question, but he really does. And we’ll get to that. In Mark’s version of this parable Jesus gives a very direct answer. Mark 13:37 “What I say to you, I say to all, stay awake.” When Jesus gave this parable he was speaking to a lot of people! Luke 12:1 says “so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another”.
Jesus said this for them all. HE often said, “He who has ears to hear let him hear!” IE this is for people who have ears. But this is also for the Peter and the 12 disciples in a magnified way. And we will see what that is.
But after Peter’s question, Jesus continued teaching about being responsible to take care of the master’s interests while he is away. Verse 42 NLT “A faithful, sensible servant is the one whom the master can give responsibility of managing his other household servants.” IE A good servant is one who will give food to the master’s household, and take care of the masters interests. This is part of what it means to be living in readiness, to have your lamp lit, etc.
A faithful servant is the one who does what the Master left us here to do! We have responsibility to Christ in everything! In attitude, in purity of hearts and bodies. But it is significant that the responsibility Christ singled out is the responsibility of being faithful to feed and care for THE OTHER SERVANTS of the master!
What does Jesus require of us as we await his return? To love one another, pray for one another, build up one another, serve one another, honor one another, feed, bless, help, use our spiritual gifts for the good of others. John said, “Everyone who loves the Father also loves those born of Him.”
This is one of the clearest evidences that we’ve been born again! We take responsibility for the well-being of God’s family! We care how people are doing! We are no longer living only for ourselves, but for Him who died for us. And we are living for his body, his church. We are attending our master’s business.
This is the person who will be rewarded! This is the one who is blessed! This is the one who will be given greater responsibilities, honor and privilege with the master returns! Verse 43 “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions”. What does that mean? I don’t know the specifics but it means ruling, honor, glory in the kingdom of God!
This is just one of many times that Jesus said the reward for following him is WAY out of proportion to anything we do! If you leave your home for his sake you will receive a hundred homes! If you give even a cup of water to one of His brothers, He will say, “Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
Jesus is a generous master! He who is faithful in even a little thing is placed over much! 'Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you shall have authority over ten cities.' There is a cost of discipleship, but the pay is high. The reward is outlandish.
AB Simpson said: Someday, we shall hear our names announced before the universe, and the record read of things we had long forgotten. How our hearts will thrill, and our heads will bow, as we shall heart our own names called, and the Master shall recount the triumph and the services which we had ourselves forgotten!” Faithfully teaching Sunday school, faithfully pouring out your life in the tasks Jesus has assigned you, faithfully loving one another, faithfully managing your household. Great is your reward in heaven!
But then we are given the end result of the person who lives as if his master isn’t coming. Verse 45 “But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk.” In his heart he thinks, the master’s coming is so far away, it has NO impact on how he lives. Or maybe there is no master, or maybe he will never come. So he lives for himself. He abuses the master’s servants. He indulges his own desires. He eats and drinks and get drunk. He doesn’t care about the master’s interests.
I read a survey of pastors who said the biggest idols among churchgoers was personal comfort and self protection. That mentality is motivated by an absence of concern about Christ’s evaluation of our lives when he comes.
Verse 46 “the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful.”
No matter what someone professes to believe, if they make no preparation for Christ to come, they are not destined for good things! Paul said, “Don’t be deceived..the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God”… “Let no one deceive you with empty words..” James said a faith without works is a dead faith.
Then Jesus said those who know more face stricter judgment.
47 “And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating.”
Simply by the fact that Jesus was teaching and warning the people right before him, they knew more! They had greater responsibility to do his will.
Jesus told the people in Capernaum, “If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
“Revelation demands response!” God requires us to do something about what we know! James said, “Let not many of you become teachers because teachers will incur a stricter judgment.” They know more and more will be required.
Then Jesus closes his message by saying, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” This is Jesus answer to Peter’s question! Yes it’s for everybody, but especially for you and others like you who have been entrusted with much! It is for the Jews. It is for American Christians who know the Word of God
This is one of the most well known statements Jesus made. It is generally pulled out of context and applied to all kinds of human situation that have nothing to do with Jesus Christ. I remember hearing John Gruden interview a top NFL quarterback draft pick. He wrapped up his interview saying to this QB, “to whom much is given much is required”. JFK used that line in a speech in 1961 to the people of Massachusetts. It is a principle that is true in this world but Jesus applies it to his coming back. This is how it will be when I come back!
Ken Yates said, “On the matter of Christian living I cannot think of more sobering words. Jesus will expect more from those who know more.” Jesus means this Parable to create a sense of responsibility as we wait for him to return.
I can’t think of a better way to end this message that with the words of Jesus himself from Mark 13:33. Jesus said, “It is like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each one with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch….( and when he comes) do not let him find you sleeping.” What I say to you, I say to all, “Stay awake”.
How blessed are those whom the Master finds awake when he comes.