Luke 12: 35-46 – Watchfulness and Faithfulness


This section (Lk 12: 35-46) contains a series of warnings to the disciples to be vigilant and faithful in view of the unexpected coming of the Son of Man. Some of these sayings appear in another context in Matthew (Cf. Mt 24: 43-44, 45-51 // Lk 12: 39-40, 42b-46, from the ‘Q’ tradition). As this teaching stands in the Lukan context, it has a connection with the preceding section on the meaning and purpose of life and the heavenly treasure.

In Verses 35-38, the disciples are warned to be on the alert and ready. The summons o preparedness is presented metaphorically. As a sign of their readiness for quick action they have to have their long robes tucked up (Cf. Ex 12: 11). Like loyal servants who readily keep waiting for their master’s return from a prolonged wedding party at any time of the night, they must always be ready. (According to the Jewish custom the night was divided into three equal periods or ‘watched’: 1st watch: 6 pm – 10 pm; 2nd watch: 10 pm – 2 am; 3rd watch: 2 am – 6 am. The Romans divided the night into four watches). It they are found watchful and faithful they will be rewarded. The master himself will serve them at table, that is, he will give them a share in his banquet, namely, the eschatological heavenly banquet.

Verses 39-40, points out that the disciples must be watchful, or else, they will be like the householder who is asleep when burglars break his (mud-walled) house open. This can happen because the time when the thief comes is not known. Therefore, no householder can afford to be unprepared. The disciples are therefore warned to be attentive and prepared for the coming of the Son of Man at any time, at an unexpected time. The title, “Son of Man”, it may be noted, is related to the role of Jesus as judge over human beings (Cf. Lk 9: 26; 17: 22 etc.).

With Peter’s question, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?”, we are moving to the application of the teaching to the Christian community. In Verse 42, the focus is on the “faithful and wise steward”, that is, on those who are entrusted with responsibility and administration in the community. Faithfulness, wise and prudent conduct are expected of them. If the steward has ill-treated the servants, if he has lived an unfaithful and irresponsible life, he will be punished by the master.

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