“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.”
Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 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. 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, 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. 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. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. 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. Luke 12:35-48 (ESV)
One of the most beautiful Spiritual songs ever written is the traditional, “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning.”
We understand that our salvation is in Christ alone, through faith alone, by grace alone. We don’t, and we can’t, earn our salvation in any way. Jesus is our Suffering Servant, who paid the penalty for all the sins of the world, as John the Baptist understood when Jesus came to him to be baptized. (John 1:29)
We are, however, baptized into Jesus’ suffering and death. Because He has set us free from the curse of the Garden, we are bound to Him, beggars at the throne of grace. We have all been given much.
Jesus has promised that He is returning to this earth and He is going to remake both heaven and earth (2 Peter 3:8-13) and we will be given incorruptible, physical bodies (1 Corinthians 15:51-53.) We affirm the restoration of our physical bodies when we say “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting,” when we recite the Apostle’s Creed as well.
Staying “dressed for action” is not easy. We are distracted by the world and tempted by our own sinful desires as well as the influence of the Adversary. Our sinful nature is nothing new.
Jesus is talking about keeping faith in Him, of knowing Who we belong to. We were purchased with a price, our Savior’s own Body and Blood. Our motivation to serve and follow him is not one of fear of hellfire but one of gratitude and love.
In these times apocalyptic talk is very popular. There have been multiple books, various so-called prophets and loads of random speculation on the end of the world. Hal Lindsey once claimed the end of the world would occur in the 1980s, claiming in his book “The 1980s, Countdown to Armageddon,” that “the decade of the 1980s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it.”
Jesus, however, taught us, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Matthew 24:36-37 (ESV)
The time that we might spend speculating on the timing of the end of days would be better spent in trusting Jesus and serving our neighbors. The end of days may arrive tonight or a thousand years from now, who knows? But as Jesus teaches earlier in Luke 12, in the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21) our lives may be required of us tonight, making the timing of the end of days rather irrelevant. He created us and has already set the number of our days.
Again we come back to faith. Knowing that we belong to Christ, knowing that when we confess our sins and repent of them, He forgives us, our actions should reflect our confidence of knowing that God cares for us. Because He loved us first, in Him we have the capacity to love others, to be generous, to be good stewards of God’s good gifts and not fall into the panic of hoarding or obsessing over whether or not we will be provided for.
The path of the cross is not an easy one but it is a path that we follow knowing that we do fail and we do fall short. We sin constantly. We doubt. Even though we are poor tools with which to work, Jesus is still on that path with us, lifting us up in our suffering, challenging us to die to our selfishness and insecurity, and to keep on remembering our baptism. The old Adam needs to be drowned every day, because our sinful nature flares up often. Yet Jesus keeps forgiving us and lifting us up. He equips us for the good fight of living out the faith.
The good news is that Jesus is stronger than the temptations of the world. He has defeated our sinful nature. He has put death to death for us. We take confidence that He gives us the gift of faith so that we will keep our eyes and hearts focused on Him.
Lord, help us keep our lamps trimmed and burning. Create clean hearts in us all, clean hearts ready to serve you and to care for those around us.