Judgment Day: Ready for That First Knock?

christ knockingIf the preacher got up next Sunday and announced, “Today’s sermon is on Judgment Day, the Day of Reckoning,” would you flinch, or at least slump a little in your pew? We usually think of the “Day of Reckoning” or “Judgment Day” in a negative way.
But if you are a Christian, forgiven of your sins, and dedicated to loving and serving the Lord, why should you have this reaction? For you, and for all others throughout the world who “walk in the light as He is in the light,” the Day of Reckoning will be a bright day, a glorious day, a day of joy, something to anticipate with even more gladness than your high school graduation or your wedding day.

In Luke 12:35-37, Jesus uses a wonderful illustration to describe the Day of Reckoning for believers. He describes servants waiting for their master to come home from a party. They have their lamps burning. They have tucked the ends of their long robes into their belts so they can run quickly. And they are eagerly waiting because they want to open the door for their Lord at His first knock.

They wait and wait. They have to retrim their lamps. But the Master has not come home, and their beds are calling to them. Yet they stay up, and they keep each other awake when one gets drowsy.

What does this tell you about these servants? Isn’t it enough for them to go to bed as usual and then jump up as soon as they hear noise at the front door? What difference does it make if the Master has to wait a few moments longer? Their self-imposed vigil tells us that they love their Lord. They are thinking about His needs and what would please Him, even give Him as pleasant surprise. So they stay awake, maybe pinching themselves to do so, as the long hours slowly pass.

When they finally hear that knock, they are ready. They fling open the door to find the Master with his fingers still closed into a fist, raised to knock again. With joyful smiles one ushers him in while a second leads the way to the couch by the table as the third brings out the tasty meal they have prepared for Him.

But the Master has His own surprise. Touched by their evident love, He refuses to recline at the table. Instead, He makes them sit down, and the Master becomes their Servant, attending to them as they eat!

What a beautiful picture of the dynamics of love that operate in the relationship between the redeemed and their Redeemer! What a day to look forward to!

How are you trimming your lamp today? What are you doing to anticipate your Master’s return? What can you do to demonstrate to Him the love in your heart? For all of Christ’s servants, the Day of Reckoning is a wonderful coming-home. Are you ready to open the door on His first knock?

Want to go deeper?

This parable of love and anticipation occurs paired with its opposite (Luke 12:42-48), a servant who showed disdain for the Master by abusing both his position and his Master's other servants. We cannot use the positive parable to justify universalism; the two balance each other. Yet we too often focus on the negative.

Recommended for online study:

Godet's commentary on Luke 12:35ff: Godet, rightly I believe, resolves the apparent discrepancy between this parable at that in Luke 17:7-10 by different perspectives.

Plummer's commentary on Luke 12:35ff: Plummer rejects as a parallel to this parable the custom of the Saturnalia in which masters and their slaves trade places. He also discusses the varying ways Jews and Romans counted the night watches.

Recommended for purchase (in order of increasing depth):

barclay parables book

William Barclay. The Parables of Jesus (1999) – A good introduction and a quick explanation of the major parables. Barclay is provides the Jewish background and for makes helpful, practical applications. His readability is uniquely superior.

Robert H. Stein. An Introduction to the Parables of Jesus (1981) – Investigates how the parables have been interpreted begining with the early church fathers, continuing through the Middle Ages and the Reformation, and concluding with recent critical discussion. He establishes basic principles for interpreting parables, demonstrates how to apply these principles, and organizes the parables under four major themes: the Kingdom of God as a present reality, the Kingdom of God as demand, the God of grace, and final judgement. Excellent resource!

Klyne Snodgrass. Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus (2007) – Introduction provides a historico-cultural context for Jesus' parables by surveying similar literary forms found in the Old Testament, other Jewish writings, and the Greco-Roman world. Also discusses whether parables have allegorical features. Snodgrass then covers 31 of the parables found in the Synoptics and discusses parallels in the Gospel of Thomas. In appendices, Snodgrass discusses the meaning of the Greek word parabole and its corresponding Hebrew term "mashal" and then classifies the parables of Jesus accordingly.

As always, I don't necessarily recommend everything these books teach. Part of "going deeper" is developing your own spiritual discernment. It's good to "taste-test" before swallowing.

Steve Singleton, DeeperStudy.com
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