KEY THOT: Jesus taught that His disciples must always be ready for His coming. They are to be “dressed for service” (NIV) and “keep your lamps burning” like house-servants waiting for their master's return from his wedding feast. In the Jewish wedding, the groom will go to the bride’s home for the wedding banquet and then brings her home after the banquet. The house servants are to be ready at any time for his appearance with his bride. It would not be right for the groom and bride to return to see the servants distracted with their own personal activities instead of the master’s business. So, Jesus says his disciples must live in the light of his unannounced return. They must be found minding the master's business when he returns, not minding their own business.
In order to be ready for the master's return, the servants are expected to do two things. Firstly, they must be "dressed for service". Serving the Master is the responsibility of servants of God, not just the full-time Christian ministers' job. Disciples of Christ are not only children of the Father but also servants of Christ the Master. Children may laze around and idle, but not house-servants. So, if we are to be ready, we must be found busy serving the Lord, not idling and lazing around pursuing our recreational activities or private hobbies.
Secondly, servants of Christ must "keep your lamps burning." Lamps are meant to provide light for seeing in darkness. As disciples of Christ, we are called to be the light of the world that is in darkness. In order to keep our lamps burning, we need two things: the lamp and the oil. The psalmist says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Ps. 119:105). So, the lamp is the Word of God. But lamps without oil are useless. So also, bible knowledge alone is not enough. We need oil in our lamps in order to burn. Oil in Scripture is always the symbol of the Holy Spirit's anointing. So it's only when the word of God is anointed and inspired by the Spirit of God that it can fulfil its purpose--to give light in dark places. As servants, we have a responsibility to keep our lamps burning by studying God's Word and walking by the Spirit of God.
The key point of this parable is this: are we ready for the Lord’s return if his coming is today? Will our present lifestyle delight or dismay Him? Is our heart focused on treasures on earth or in heaven? Jesus says, “Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:33-34, NIV). What kind of treasures do we have to show right now if Jesus were to return at this very hour? Since his return is like a thief, Jesus calls us to be ever-ready, "for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 40).
If we are now dressed for service (not when when our lives are less busy or when we are retired) and our lamps are burning (daily reading God's word and seeking to walk by His Spirit), then Jesus will be so delighted when he returns that he himself would actually come and serve us: “Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them” (Luke 12:37). On the contrary, if we are busy building our own kingdom rather than God's, Jesus would be dismayed. His return may bring judgment rather than reward: “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:29-30, NKJV).
There is no middle ground in God's kingdom where we can live self-centred lives that ignore our responsibilities as servants and still expect to be received with delight when Lord returns.
Father, help us make seeking Your kingdom and Your righteousness a priority, even as You have taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Thank You Lord, Amen.