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Luke 12.35-40

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LUKE 12:35-40  

The theme of this whole section [12:1-13:9] is the challenge to be ready for the coming judgement. the section [12:35-48] is made up of a collection of smaller units united by their shared interest in the imagery of a householder and his slaves, and by their focus on the need to be in some state of readiness for an expected “coming” whose timing is unknown. The entire 12th chapter of Luke pertains to stewardship.

§         Verses 1-12 have addressed the disciple’s stewardship of the gospel. The disciple must make good use of the gospel by boldly living and proclaiming it.

§         Verses 13-34 have addressed the stewardship of possessions. Our preoccupation must not be with material things, but with true “life.” We need not worry about our life, but we should use things to minister to men’s need now, which is laying up treasure for ourselves in heaven.

§         In verses 35 and following our Lord turns, as I understand it, to the stewardship of time. He will instruct us as how we are to view and use the time which remains until he comes.

The theme of the section [12:35-40] is an exhortation to readiness.


The awaited event is the coming of the Son of man.

1.        The Son of Man

a.        The Identity

The identity: “the Son of man comes…” [12:40].

§         υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου - “Son of man” [12:40],

i.        The Daniel Figure

The interpretation of the title arises out of the prophecy of Daniel:

§         The eschatological figure: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days…” [Dan.7:13].

§         The everlasting kingdom: “they brought him near before him. and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom…” [Dan.7:13-14].

ii.      Jesus’ Self-Consciousness

Jesus identified himself with this title: “The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath” [6:5].

§         The question of identity: “Who do you say that I am?” [9:20].

§         Peter’s response: “The Christ of God” [9:20].

§         Jesus’ self-consciousness: “the son of man must suffer…” [9:22].

b.        Luke’s Portrait of The Son of Man

Luke gives us a full portrait of the “Son of man” through his gospel:

§         Jesus’ life and ministry: “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins…” [5:24]; “The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man…” [7:34];

§         Jesus’ passion: “The Son of man must suffer many things, be slain…and be raised the third day” [9:22];

§         Jesus’ departure: “Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God…” [22:69];

§         Jesus return: “of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels” [9:26];

2.        The Certainty of His Coming

a.        The Absence

The coming of the Son of man: “the Son of man comes…” [12:40].

§         ἔρχεται - “comes” [12:40], ‘to come, go’; ‘to move up to or towards’;

b.        The Return

The “Son of man” is pictured as being absent: “when he will return…” [12:36].

§         ἀναλύσῃ - “return” [12:36], aorist active, ‘to come back from’; ‘from aná, ‘back again’ or denoting ‘separation’, and lúō, ‘to loose’;

§         The ancient Greeks used the word to indicate loosing the anchor of a ship in order to sail from a port’; ‘to depart and hence to return’;

c.        The Uncertainty of the Time

The timing is uncertain: “in an hour when you think not” [12:40].

§         ὥρᾳ - “hour” [12:40],

§         οὐ δοκεῖτε - “think not” [12:40], ‘to suppose, think, consider’; ‘expresses the subjective mental estimate or opinion formed by man concerning a matter’;


The “coming of the Son of man” points here to the hour of decisive accountability to God: the eschatological judgement.

§         If we are required to wait, then you and I had better learn how to do it right.

  1. THE GOOD WAITING [35-36]  

There are three distinct characteristics of the good waiter as described by the Lord.

1.        The Preparation

The first element in the waiting is preparation for the event.

a.        Readiness for Action  

There must be readiness for action: “let your loins be girded…” [12:35].

§         Ἔστωσαν - ”let be” [12:35], present active imperative, ‘to be’; ‘to exist’;

§         ὀσφύες - “loins” [12:35], ‘waist’; ‘lower region of back’; ‘lumber region’; ‘the locus of the organs of reproduction’;

§         περιεζωσμέναι - “girded” [12:35], perfect passive participle, ‘to tuck and hold clothing with a buckle, belt or sash’.

§         The perfect participle with the imperative gives the sense ‘to be the kind of person who never needs to be told to gird up the loins because they are always girded up’.

b.        The Everyday Dress

The typical long robe of ancient dress was worn loose when one was at leisure in private.

§         The robe was tied in place whenever one needed to be ‘dressed for the occasion’.

§         This includes ‘to be ready for activity in work, travel, warfare, to exert or display their strength.  

c.        Biblical Examples  

This metaphor borrows language from the instruction given to Israel with regard to the Passover:

§         Israel was to eat the Passover with their long robes belted up in order to free the feet for action: “thus you shall eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand…” [Exo.12:11].

§         Paul uses the expression with regard to the soldier and the warfare: “having your loins girt about with truth…” [Eph.6:14].

§         Peter used a similar expression: “wherefore gird up the loins of your mind and be sober, and hope to then end…” [1Pet.1:13].


One could hardly work with a flowing robe in the way, so it would be tucked in.

§         Cultural and generation differences; in our culture we might say, ‘having your sleeves rolled up’.

§         In this context: “seek first the kingdom of God…” [12:31].

2.        The Maintenance

The second element in the waiting is maintenance.

a.        The Light  

The good waiter has a lamp for light: “and your lights burning…” [12:35].

§         λύχνοι – “lights” [12:35], ‘portable lamp’; ‘a small vessel holding olive oil and a wick, used for lighting the dark’;

§         καιόμενοι – “burning” [12:35], present passive participle, ‘to kindle, burn’; ‘to light a wick’;

§         suggests readiness for activity during a period of darkness;

b.        The Witness

The imagery of light and darkness used by Luke:

§         The imagery of light and darkness: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed; but sets it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light” [8:16];

§         Disciples are to identify with Jesus: “to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death…” [1:78-79].

§         The present passive participle points to an abiding, consistent witness: “took their lamps…took (no) oil for their lamps” [Mat.25:1-3]. .


The idea here is that of ‘lighting up the master’s path into the house.

§         They did not have street lights in those days, nor did they have a porch light to keep on, so that the master could easily find and enter his door.

§         The good servant in Jesus’ day would listen for the sound of his master’s return and would have his light already lit, so that he could illuminate and thereby facilitate his way.

§         So, too, with the disciple who awaits the Lord’s return. One’s waiting should be spent making all the preparations needed, so that the Lord’s return is not surprise, and so that we can be a part of the return.

3.        The Expectation 

The third element in the waiting is expectation.

a.        The Waiting

The waiting: “you yourselves like men that wait for the Lord…” [12:36].

§         προσδεχομένοις - “wait” [12:36], present middle participle, ‘to accept, receive for oneself’; ‘to welcome’;

§         κύριον - “their lord” [12:36], ‘owner, ruler, master’;

b.        The Return

The expected return: “when he will return from the wedding…” [12:36].

§         ἀναλύσῃ - “return” [12:36], aorist active, ‘to depart and hence to return’; ‘to come back from’; ‘from aná, ‘back again’ or denoting ‘separation’, and lúō, ‘to loose’; the ancient Greeks used the word to indicate loosing the anchor of a ship in order to sail from a port’;

i.        The Wedding 

The Master is expected to return: “from the wedding…” [12:36].

§         γάμων - “wedding” [12:36], the word is derived from the root gam-, meaning to ‘fit together’, ‘to pair’; ‘marriage’; ‘wedding ceremony with a banquet’; “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son” [Mat.22:22];

§         the point is the uncertain length of the banquet;

ii.      The Typical Wedding

The background is obviously that of a typical wedding [Mat.25:1]. The festivities would last for a week or even two.

§         The bridegroom would come to the bride’s home. There they would hold various ceremonies. Once the ceremonies were over the bridegroom would take the bride to his own home for the wedding feast.

§         The “virgins” or “maidens” may be attendants of the bride, or servants in the bridegroom’s house, or perhaps friends and neighbours (going by the development of the story they are servants in the bridegroom’s house who go out to meet him). They are waiting to escort the bridegroom in festal procession, probably in the last stages of the ceremonies as he brings his bride home for the wedding feast.

§         The bridegroom brings his bride home “after nightfall” for the wedding feast. This homecoming took the form of a torchlight procession, the lamps being ‘torches’ of oil-soaked rags wrapped on a stick rather than standing lamps. Everyone in the procession was expected to carry his/her own torch. It was necessary to carry jars of oil to dip them in before lighting.

§         Once the bridegroom arrived and went into his home, the door was shut, and the festivities began. There was no possibility of late access.

c.        The Welcome

The servants are to be ready so that they may open the door to the master:

i.        The Announcement

The announcement: “that when he comes and knocks…” [12:36].

§         ἐλθόντος - “comes” [12:36], aorist active participle, ‘to go, come’; ‘to move toward or up to’;

§         κρούσαντος - “knocks” [12:36], aorist active participle, ‘to strike a gate or door for entrance’; ‘a means of signalling one’s presence to those inside’;

ii.      The Welcome

The welcome: “may open unto him immediately” [12:36].

§         ἀνοίξωσιν - “open” [12:36], aorist active subjunctive,

§         εὐθέως - “immediately” [12:36], ‘at once’; ‘without delay’;

§         In the present parable it is the Master who stands outside and knocks at the door as in Revelation: “behold, I stand at the door and knock…” [Rev.3:20];

§         This is a contrast to: “when once the master of the house has risen up, and has shut the door, and you begin to stand without and knock…” [13:25]; “afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us” [Mat.25:11].


Third, the “good waiter” is to be like a devoted servant, who eagerly awaits his master’s return, as if he were coming from a wedding banquet.

§         Jesus did not suggest that the master was himself married, but only that he attended the banquet.

§         It was both profitable and delightful activity, a good reason to be gone and even to be delayed in returning.

§         The mood, then, of his arrival would be joyful and festive. The eager servant would be ready, able to immediately open the door to the master.


The opening parable likens the disciples to servants waiting expectantly for the return of their master at night and promises them a reward beyond human imagining in the picture of the master serving the servants.

1.        The Benediction

a.        The Benediction

The benediction: “blessed are those servants, whom the lord…” [12:37].

§         μακάριοι - “blessed” [12:37], ‘blessed, happy’; ‘to be envied with desire’ [Psa.32:1]; in the NT refers to the distinctive religious joy which accrues to man from his share in the salvation of the kingdom of God’;

§         δοῦλοι - “servants” [12:37], ‘slave, servant’;

§         ἐλθὼν - “comes” [12:37], aorist active participle, ‘to go, come’; ‘to move toward or up to’;

b.        The ‘Staying Awake’

The benediction is on those who stay awake: “shall find watching…” [12:37].

§         εὑρήσει - “find” [12:37], ‘to discover’; ‘to learn the location of’;

§         γρηγοροῦντας - “watching” [12:37], present active participle, ‘to stay awake’; ‘to keep zealous watch over’;

§         The imagery is of the present world as a place of darkness and night in which one is tempted to sleep. 

2.        The Promised Blessing

a.        The Preparation

The Master will prepare himself: “verily I say unto you that he shall gird himself…” [12:37].

§         περιζώσεται - “gird” [12:37], ‘to tuck and hold clothing with a buckle, belt or sash’;

§         ἀνακλινεῖ - “sit down” [12:37], ‘to cause to lie down’; ‘to recline for eating’; “they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God” [13:29];

§         The promise with regard to the good Shepherd: “I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there they shall lie in a good fold…” [Eze.34:14-16; Psa.23:2, 5].

b.        The Service

The Master is engaged in role reversal: “and will come forth and serve them” [12:37].

§         παρελθὼν - “come forth” [12:37], aorist active participle, ‘to arrive’; ‘to pass by’; ‘to come to’;

§         διακονήσει - “serve” [12:37], ‘to serve’; ‘to minister’;

§         This is how Jesus speaks of himself to his disciples at their last meal together: “For who is greater, he that sits at meat or he that serves? It is not he that sits at meat? But I am among you as he that serves” [22:26-27]; “for the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” [Mar.10:45];

3.        The Possibility of Delay

a.        Uncertainty

The possibility of delay: “if he shall come in the second watch…” [12:38].

§         ἔλθῃ - “come” [12:38], ‘to go, come’; ‘to move toward or up to’; 

§         δευτέρᾳ - “second” [12:38], ‘second in a series’;

§         φυλακῇ - “watch” [12:38], ‘prison’; ‘guard house’; ‘period of the night’;

§         τρίτῃ - “third” [12:38], ‘third in  series’;

§         μακάριοί - “blessed” [12:38], ‘a person characterised by transcendent happiness or joy’; ‘in the NT refers to the distinctive religious joy which accrues to man from his share in the salvation of the kingdom of God’;

b.        The Night Watches

The concept of the night watches: “the second watch…” [12:38].

§         φυλακῇ - “watch” [12:38], ‘prison’; ‘guard house’; ‘period of the night’;

§         Luke probably was thinking of the Roman practice of dividing the night into four watches. The watches were 6–9, 9–12, 12–3, and 3–6. The time would therefore be around midnight.

§         If he was referring instead to the Jewish system of three watches (6–10, 10–2, 2–6), then the time would be around 2:00 a.m.


Jesus repeats the promise of blessing to those who wait for His return, even if it is delayed.

§         Jesus thus implies that His return may well be later than we would wish or suppose.

§         History has born this out, for nearly 2,000 years have passed since the Lord’s ascension.

§         But even if His return is delayed, the blessings which accompany this return are in no way diminished. They are as certain as His word. Thus, waiting, for the saint, only enhances his expectation.


The tone of the previous parable was one of encouragement to faithful service with the promise of reward; this time there is a warning note to people who may not be ready for the coming of the Son of man. This parable stresses the sudden and unexpected arrival of the burglar.

1.        The Urgency

a.        The Householder

Jesus moves to a different image here: “this know, that of the goodman of the house…” [12:39].

§         γινώσκετε - “know” [12:39], present active imperative, ‘to recognise’; ‘to know through personal experience’;

§         οἰκοδεσπότης - “goodman” [12:39], from oíkos, ‘a house’ and despótēs, a ‘lord, despot, master’; ‘master of the household’;

§         The “householder” will have responsibility for the security of his own premises.

§         ᾔδει - “known” [12:39], pluperfect active, from οἶδα ‘to have seen and hence know’;

b.        The Danger  

The destructive nature of the eschatological event: “what hour the thief should come…” [12:39].

§         ποίᾳ - “what” [12:39], interrogative ‘referring to one among many of anything’;

§         ὥρᾳ - “hour” [12:39], ‘time or period’;

§         ἔρχεται - “come” [12:39], ‘to come, go’; ‘to move forward or up to’;


i.        The Image

The owner/thief image is a warning to those who do not expectantly await the Lord’s return: “the thief…” [12:39].

§         κλέπτης - “thief” [12:39], ‘to steal’ as a ‘secret and cunning act’ compared with ἁρπάζω ‘which is characterised by violence’;

§         The destroyer: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” [Joh.10:10].

§         A common image for the Parousia in the early church: “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night…” [1The.5:2]; “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” [2Pet.3:10];

2.        The Appropriate Action

a.        Guard

The appropriate action: “he would have watched and not suffered…” [12:39].

§         ἀφῆκεν - “suffered” [12:39], ‘to send away’; ‘to leave alone’; ‘to allow, permit’;

§         οἶκον - “house” [12:39], ‘property’; ‘dwelling’;

b.        Destruction

Guarding protects one from destruction: “his house to be broken through” [12:39].

§         διορυχθῆναι - “broken through” [12:39], from diá, ‘through’, and orússō, ‘to dig’; ‘to dig or break through, as the walls of a house which in the East are built of mud-brick, clay, earth’; ‘suggests a burglar burrowing through a clay wall’;


The point of the parable seems to be that thieves do not send calling cards ahead to announce their arrival. If one is to be ready for the thief’s intrusion, one needs to be ready all the time.

§         In view here is the prospect of suffering loss or damage through lack of readiness;

§         Jesus comes as a thief, who is not welcomed and whose arrival spells disaster.

§         In the first story the master owns the house, but in the second the man owns the house (and Jesus is viewed as the unwanted, unauthorized taker). The owner of the house loses his possessions. In the first image, the master is welcomed and let in the door. In the second, the thief is not welcome, and he enters by digging through the wall.

3.        The Warning

The warning: “be ye therefore ready also…” [12:40].

§         γίνεσθε - “be” [12:40], present middle imperative, ‘to come to exist’; ‘to become’;

§         ἕτοιμοι - “ready” [12:40], ‘to be prepared’;

§         υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου - “Son of man” [12:40],

§         ἔρχεται - “comes” [12:40], ‘to come, go’; ‘to move up to or towards’;

§         ὥρᾳ - “hour” [12:40],

§         οὐ δοκεῖτε - “think not” [12:40], ‘to suppose, think, consider’; ‘expresses the subjective mental estimate or opinion formed by man concerning a matter’;


The “coming of the Son of man” points here to the hour of decisive accountability to God: the eschatological judgement.

§         The future is meant to exert pressure already on the present and to identify the present as the time of decisive significance.

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