Jesus is still talking to the disciples; the scene has not changed from last time. Having introduced the Kingdom to the conversation, Jesus now moves further along with three parables that deal with His future return to judge all. You will no doubt recognize the parallels here between these verses and Matthew 25.
The first of these parables (12:35-37) deals with servants who await the return of their Master from a wedding banquet. They know he will return, but they don’t know when, so they keep themselves ready to jump into action the moment he returns; they are always ready for him.
The second parable (12:38-40) uses the illustration of a thief in the night; if the home owner knows the thief is coming, he would be ready to ward him off. Likewise, the loyal servant must be ready for the Master at any time on any day, for he knows not when the Master will return, for the Master will return when no one expects him to do so.
In verse 41 Peter asks a question that Jesus doesn’t exactly answer; certainly He didn’t answer very clearly. Instead He tells another parable, this time about a servant who is the manager of the Master’s estate. In that sense, he is responding to Peter, considering the role that Peter and the others would play in the early church, and by extension, it is also quite relevant to those today who find themselves serving as leaders in the church.
So there aren’t any misunderstandings, when I say ‘serving as leaders in the church’, I don’t necessarily mean holding offices in a formal church structure. I mean anyone who is serving in a leadership role, including those who teach or inspire others… such as authors of Christian blogs, for instance.
In the parable, (12:42 ff.) Jesus makes it clear that a servant, such as you or me, who is given the position of manager (steward is another word) over the possessions of the Master, must be diligent to work in the Master’s interests at all times. If he or she does so, then they will be richly rewarded. But if they do not because of laziness, or if they abuse the Master’s property or servants, they will be the most severely punished when the Master returns.
As in the first two parables, the message is that we, the servants of Jesus, must be diligent and ready to receive His return 24/7, for we do not want to be caught napping when he returns.
This may seem a bit abstract to you, or it may seem a little unclear as to how to put this into practice, but fear not, for the subject will come back again before Luke has finished the narrative and all should be clear before we are done. If this sort of teaching seems hard to you who know already how the story ends, just imagine how bewildered the disciples must have been when they heard all of this for the first time!