The Parables of Jesus
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira

Parable of the Wise Steward

Luke 12:35-40:

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.  I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.  It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night.  But understand this:  If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Many of the parables that Jesus spoke while He was on this earth belong to that category called “the crisis parables” and all of them have to do with the Second Coming of Christ.  Christians often sing a beautiful hymn called “We Shall Behold Him.”  But when Jesus talked of His second coming, He spoke of it as a crisis and we wonder why.  It is not possible for us to study all the parables that belong to these crisis parables.  We have already covered one and that is the parable of the ten virgins.  When the bridegroom came, remember, what were the ten virgins doing?  They were sleeping; they were caught off guard.  That’s a crisis.

There are four other good parables that belong to this and I have chosen two of those parables for a specific reason.  But, first of all, I will mention — at least touch quickly on — the other three for the simple reason that we are living at the time of the end.  We believe that the end is very near, therefore, these parables have special significance to us.  The first one I have already covered is the ten virgins.  The second parable that I would like you to note is the flood in the days of Noah that Christ used as a model for His second coming.  There are two passages that deal with this.  The first is Luke 17:26-27, but I would like to turn to the second one in Matthew 24:37-39.  I want you to notice how Christ uses the flood experience as a parallel to His second coming.  (Luke 17:26-27 also deals with the same thing, but Matthew is a little more specific.)  Matthew 24:37-39:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man....

Notice that what took place in Noah’s day will be repeated.  There will be a similar, parallel experience.

...For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.  That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

What is Christ trying to tell us?  He’s saying that the people in Noah’s day were taken off guard.  And He says, “That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”  This is the crisis.  Remember that it was not because the people in Noah’s day did not know about the flood.  Noah preached about it for 120 years and yet they were caught off guard.  The next parable that deals with the same thing is found in Luke 17:28-30 and, this time, Christ, having given them the Noah experience, goes on in Luke’s account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as a model of His second coming:

It was the same in the days of Lot.  People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.  But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.  It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.

You have the same experience.  They knew, but they did not believe.  What Lot was warning them of was unacceptable to their reason.  It was unacceptable to their experience.  It had never rained in Noah’s day; they had never seen fire falling from heaven.  They did not believe and they were caught off guard.

The other two parables that are left are found in Mark 13:33-37, in Matthew 24:32, 43-45 and Luke 12:35-40.  I have chosen these two parables:  the parable of the wise servant or the wise steward who waited for his master who had gone to a wedding and the parable of the man who watched his house knowing that the thief will come at an unexpected time.

Now why have I chosen these two parables in Luke?  If you look at the context of the other parables that I mentioned, Christ was primarily dealing with unbelievers, with the world, who heard this about the Second Coming because there is a church that has been preaching about it for over one hundred years.  They heard about it but they did not believe it.  But this parable is not addressing unbelievers, because as soon as Christ finished this parable that we read in Luke 12 I want you to look at what our good friend Peter did.

Turn to Luke 12:41.  After Jesus had given these two parables we read:

Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?”

“To whom are you giving this counsel, this advice, this warning?  Is it to us believers, your disciples, or to somebody else, to those other people?”  And Jesus responded with these words and I’m going to read verse 42 and onwards and you decide to whom He is talking.

The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.  I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.  But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants 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 is not aware of.  He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.”

Who was Christ talking to?  It’s very clear He was talking to the believers.  Is it possible for the believer to be caught off guard?  Christ is saying, “Yes.”  Let me go one step further.  Is it possible for Seventh-day Adventists who believe in the soon coming of Christ to be caught off guard?  The answer is, “Yes.”  That is why we need to look at these two parables.

The common thread through all these parables that we have looked at, whether we’re talking in terms of the world or the believers, is the suddenness of Christ’s coming.  The coming of Christ will catch us off guard.  Let me ask you a question.  Were the Jews caught off guard regarding the first coming of Christ?  They were the ones who preached the first coming of Christ.  They were the first coming Seventh-day Adventists.  We are the second coming Seventh-day Adventists.  They kept the Sabbath and they believed in the first coming of Christ.  Yet they were taken off guard and please don’t say, “Yes, the Jews went wrong but we can’t go wrong.”  Remember, they are the cleverest people, when you look at all the prizes, the accomplishments in the world, in music, in art, in all professions, the Jews come number one.  If they went wrong, is it possible for us to go wrong?  The answer is, “Yes.”

What is the emphasis?  Why did Christ give these parables?  Why did Christ give these parables to His disciples?  What was the purpose of these parables?  The answer is very simple.  He is counseling His disciples, His believers; He is warning them to be ready for the coming of the Lord; be ready for the return of the Lord.  Notice how He begins the parable.  We began with verse 35 of Luke 12, but if you notice verse 34, He is talking to believers whose treasure is in heaven:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Now I am trusting that all your treasure is in heaven.

The first thing He says, as an introduction to the parable, is:

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning,...

Does it imply the story of the ten virgins?  Make sure that you have oil for your light to be burning at a time when you least expect Christ.  Some translations say, “Let your loins be girded.”  This is a Middle East term that may not mean anything to you, so let me explain it to you.

The Middle Easterners wore a long gown just like the Arabs and the Jews do today.  The gown went right to their feet and, when they went to sleep, they would curl their feet under their garments to keep their feet warm because, unfortunately, the nights were cold.  But the gown was a hindrance when they worked because they would step on it and sometimes fall over.  So, when they worked, they raised it up and kept it up by tying a belt round their waist and that is what the phrase “gird up your loins” meant.  We don’t use it today because it does not make any sense today.  But that is basically what Jesus was saying, “Always be prepared for the event.”

Now the event here is the lord who is obviously quite wealthy.  He has many servants.  The word servants in the plural form refers in application to the believers of the Christian community.  The lord is Christ.  He has gone to a far country.  In this parable, He has gone to a wedding.  Now I want remind you of the wedding that took place in the Middle East.  When we dealt with the Ten Virgins, we discovered that the reception party, the bridesmaids, would have to wait sometimes seven days.  They were never sure when the groom would come, because the method of traveling there in those days was very different from ours.  Today we may be late and even if the bride is half an hour late sometimes they groan.

But here they would wait sometimes for days before the groom would come.  Here is a man who went to a wedding feast.  We do not know how far he went and his servants had no idea when he was coming back.  Now they had two choices.  They could say, “I don’t think he will come that soon.  So, ‘while the cat is away, let us play.’”  That’s being a foolish steward.  The wise one would say, “We have no idea when he will come, so let’s be prepared.”  So I read in Luke 12:36: men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.

In other words, if they were sleeping, what would he do?  He would knock again and there would be no reply because they can sleep pretty heavily.  Then he would pound on the door, bang on it until the servants would wake up sleepy-eyed and say, “Oh, you are here.”  But if they were on guard, the moment he knocked the door would be flung open and they would say, “Master, we were expecting you.  We have a hot drink for you.  We have a meal for you.  Just come in.”

There is a parallel passage addressed to us as a people.  Turn to Revelation 3:20.  This is the seventh church of Revelation.  This is the last generation of Christians and, in chapter 3, addressing this sleeping church, because Laodicea is lukewarm, He says in verse 20:

Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock [in the second parable, Jesus is comparing the second coming as knocking on our door].  If anyone hears my voice [if you are sleeping, you won’t be hearing] and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Christ is aware that the reason the second coming is a crisis is because it is going to be unexpected.  He wants us to be on our guard.  Now let’s go back to our parable.  Luke 12:37.  Listen to how Jesus responds to the wise steward:

It will be good for those servants [that is, believers] whose master finds them watching when he comes....

Then, having said that, He deviates totally from Middle Eastern culture.  Do you know what He says?

...I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.

Notice in the actual life the lord comes to his house, he knocks on the door, the servants are ready, they open the door, they bring him in, they make him sit down and they give him a hot drink.  They say, “Do you want a bath?” (They warmed the water; there were no hot showers in those days.)  “We are ready to serve you.”  But, in the parable, we read the very opposite.  The “he” does not refer to the servants, which is plural, but to the Lord.  The Lord will first gird himself up and he will say, “I want you servants to sit down at my table and I will serve you.”  That is the difference between the Middle Eastern lord, who will never do that, and the Lord Jesus Christ.  What Jesus is referring to here is the great banquet and He wants everyone of you to be there.

Remember, they had watches in the days of Christ.  In the Jewish culture, they had three watches a night; in the Roman system, they had four watches.  Sometimes when you read your gospels, you will read one account giving four watches, one account giving two watch times, but the Jews had three watch periods.  The first one was not hard because it was before midnight and they were awake, but the other two was when most of the watchmen went to sleep.

Christ is implying that He may come at the second or third watch which means that He will come at the time when we are the easiest conduced to sleep.  One day our principal at our college in Ethiopia woke up at three o’clock in the morning and he couldn’t go to sleep.  So he said, “Let me go and see if our watchman is doing his duty.”  At most of our African institutions, we have to have watchmen because of thievery.  So he looked and looked for the watchmen and guess where he found him?  Under a eucalyptus tree fast asleep, snoring away at three in the morning which is the second watch.

Now we supplied these watchmen with a very powerful, six cell flashlight so that they could look under the bushes and anywhere where they heard noises.  The principal did not wake him up but he took that flashlight away and took it to his house.  The next day, just before the watchman began his duty, he came to the principal.  He said, “I can’t find my flashlight.”  So the principal said, “Did you lose it?”  He said, “I don’t know.  I took it home and I put it on the shelf and I don’t know what happened.  Maybe one of my children took it and they lost it.”

The principal said, “Are you sure you took it home?”  “Yes, sir, I took it home.”  The principal opened the drawer and told him, “You did not take the flashlight home.  I took it away from you at three o’clock in the morning.  You were fast asleep.”  Then came the confession, the apology, and the promise that he would never do it again.  Sometimes we do the same thing to the Lord.  “Lord, we’ll never do it again.”

Luke 12:39:

But understand this:  If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.

When the thief comes, what time does he come?  He comes when he knows you are fast asleep.  We used to park my car right at the back door where our German shepherd could hear any noise.  We kept the dog inside because they would throw poison, kill the dog, and then steal.  One day I was so tired I just parked it outside.  Jean said, “No, bring it in.”  I said, “No.  No one would steal it.  It’s an old Peugeot, who will steal it?”

Well, the next morning it wasn’t stolen but there were no wheels on it.  There were four stones holding the car up and I lost all four wheels.  Jesus is saying in Luke 12:40:

You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Even for Adventists, the coming of the Lord will take us by surprise.  We had a friend in Rwanda who was from Italy.  He was at Newbold with us.  He had a habit of taking very long showers.  I don’t know where he got the water from because we normally used a bucket with holes in it.  He would sing at the top of his voice like a good Italian.

One day he was in the shower singing away and the thieves came.  They knew that he was too busy and he took his own time.  They came with a truck and took his bag, his clothing, his cooker, his fridge, everything.  When he opened the door all he had was a towel around him.  He couldn’t take it.  He came back home.  He’s a dentist in this country today.  He was caught off guard.

Now comes the big question.  How are we to be ready for the second coming of Christ?  Jesus has told us, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  In spite of all our theology, how can we be ready?  Because that’s the question.  I have the answer from the words of Jesus Christ.

I want to take you to another crisis.  This is not the second coming, but it is a crisis.  Mark 14:38.  This is the crisis of the cross and He pled with them to pray for Him because a crisis was coming.  The Good Shepherd was about to lay His life down for His sheep and He wanted some support.  He came back and He found His disciples sleeping.  This is what He said:

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.

That’s where the problem is, the flesh.  And we will have this weak flesh until the second coming of Christ.

Now the question is, “How do we watch?”  There are three areas that I would like to mention quickly because it is the devil who wants you to be caught off guard.  Christ doesn’t want you to be caught off guard, which is why He gave these parables.  How does the devil get you into the trap?  Number one, I call the “wolf-wolf” method.  Every time there is a crisis in the world, he uses it to say Christ is coming.  “This is the beginning of the war of Armaggedon.”

I can go right back to the day I was baptized, 1958, when there was a crisis over the Suez Canal.  Nasser had taken the Suez Canal and I remember the evangelist saying, “This the beginning of the war of Armageddon,” and my knees began to shake.  I was ready for the coming; I was on my knees because, any time now, especially when I was traveling on a motorcycle from Nairobi to London, I might have to face the issue.  It fizzled away.

Then something else came and we jumped on the bandwagon.  Then came the Six Day war and I heard the same thing.  Then came Cuba during Kennedy’s time and I heard the same thing.  You know, when you repeat this, the time comes when our people say, “Look, we are tired of all these speculations,” and we begin to relax.  We begin to say with the foolish servants, “Our master is taking a long time in coming.  I have heard that before.”

That is why don’t you ever say that this is the beginning of Armageddon because of what is happening in the Middle East.  Stop speculating, because you are driving our people to get into the “wolf-wolf” mentality.  He will come at a time that we do not know.  We need to be on our guard all the time.  In fact, we read in the Bible that when they say, “Peace, peace,” then will sudden destruction come.  1 Thessalonians 5:3:

While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

Peace even may fizzle away.  I don’t know, but I know one thing, that this is not the war of Armageddon.  The war of Armageddon has nothing to do with the Middle East.  It is only using the Middle East as a model.  It is a war between the world and the church; between God’s people and Satan’s people around the world.  So please, speculations, this “wolf-wolf” mentality has caused a lot of our people to become relaxed.

You have our young people saying, “My grandfather said He’s coming and my father said He’s coming.  We are tired of hearing that He is coming.”  Well, that is one method and I have a text for that.  Matthew 24 is dealing with the second coming of Christ.  Look at Matthew 24:11:

...And many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.

Paul tell us in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-14 that these false prophets will arise within the church itself.  These are warnings that come from Paul about the same things.  Let me read it for you, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4:

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

Then I read in verses 13 and 14:

For such men are false apostles [false disciples, false prophets], deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.

He is trying to deceive the very elect.

The second way that we can be caught off guard is to have a false theology of the second coming.  Now we, as a church, to a large degree have been exempted from that.  We, as a church, clearly teach that the second coming of Christ will be visible, will be physical, will be literal.  But there are many, many Christians, probably more than our church contains, that believe in the secret rapture.  They believe in two second comings.

The first one will be a secret rapture for the believers.  If you are not part of that, you’ve had it.  The second coming will not be for them, because they have already gone to heaven.  If there is no secret rapture and you are not prepared for the literal coming, you will be taken off guard.  There is the question of false theology and we need to help our fellow Christians to see that there is no teaching in the Bible regarding secret rapture.

The third thing that we need to watch is, “How should we be ready?”  We have all kinds of ways.  Note something:  before the second coming of Christ will take place, there will be a time of trouble.  So the second coming of Christ will be preceded by the time of trouble and the issue in that time of trouble is what we need to be concerned about.  What will be the issue?  In the time of trouble, Satan will do try to destroy you or to pull you out of Christ so that you will be caught off guard.

There are many who believe the issue is sinless living and I don’t find that in scripture.  I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me, so I’m going to make it very clear.  I believe that, by the power of God, men connected to God by faith can overcome every temptation.  I believe that the power of God is greater than the power of the flesh.  But I don’t believe that is the issue, because victory over sin is not my job; it is God’s job.  You can puff up your willpower and you can determine to overcome sin but you cannot.  “Without Me,” said Jesus, “you can do nothing.”  Our job is to abide in Christ.

Jesus said, in Luke 18:8b:

However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

He did not say, “Will I find sinless living people?”  He said, “Will I find faith on the earth?”  That is the issue.  Can God produce a people not only who have faith in Christ but whose faith can endure unto the end even though the heavens fall?  Can you hold onto Christ even though you feel forsaken of God?  That is the issue.

For that to happen, God has to produce a people whose faith is unshakable no matter what their environment, no matter what their circumstances are.  They will be on their guard.  They will be walking by faith constantly because they have no confidence in themselves.  They have no confidence in what is happening in the world.  They do not trust even the false warnings.  They realize that Christ may come any time.  They must be on their guard constantly.

I want to turn to my closing texts.  The first one is Romans 8:24, which lays the foundation for the other two texts.  I have three texts.  First of all I want to make the foundation clear.  Listen to what Paul is saying in Romans 8:24a:

For in this hope we were saved.

There are two kinds of salvation — salvation by hope and salvation by reality.  The first is called “justification by faith.”  That is salvation by hope.  The second is called “glorification.”  That is when salvation will be a tangible reality and there’s a space of time in between the two.  In between that space of time is the salvation of sanctification, which is an ongoing process.

But Paul is saying here we are saved by hope.  Here’s all of Romans 8:24:

For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?

When the reality has come, you will no longer say, “I am looking forward to my salvation,” because you already have it.  Now look at verse 25:

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

While we are living under the umbrella of justification by faith, which is salvation by hope, do we wait for a period and then say, “We give up”?  No.

That brings me to the second text, James 1.  One of the hardest things for us is to have patience.  I have more patience in the mission field than I have here and I’ll tell you why.  Many missionaries think that when God sends them to the mission field it is to help the natives, but I have discovered something.  Very often God sends you to the mission field to help you.  One of the things I learned in the mission field is patience.  I had to wait for buses.  I had to wait even to cash a check.  I once timed how long it took to cash my check.  I went to the bank and waited a whole hour.

But when I came to this country, I discovered that this is a country that does not know how to wait.  We want everything now, not tomorrow, and it is ruining me.  I am becoming like that.  When I come to the supermarket, I look for the shortest line. We may not have to wait for supermarkets in this country; we may not have to wait for the banks to cash a check.  In this country, I can use a card and get the money by punching a few buttons.

But when it comes to the second coming of Christ, this applies to the whole world.  We have to learn to wait.  And waiting is the hardest thing for us to do.  So here is the counsel.  James 1:2:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds...

The context is, “Count it all joy when the devil tries to pull you out of Christ either through crisis, persecution, or through many problems.”  Why?  Not because you enjoy these things.  Verses 3-4:

...because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:22 (last part):

He who stands firm to the end will be saved.

My final text is applying to us.  Revelation 14:12.  It is my prayer that this text applies to you and that every part of this text is yours.  The first thing this text says is:

This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints....

Here are people who a have hold on Christ and will not let Him go, not even during the time of trouble.  Remember Jacob.  Do you know what it means to have your leg dislocated?  Do you know the pain involved?  I know what I’m talking about.  I have had that experience playing soccer in Africa.  It is excruciating and Jacob would not let go until the angel blessed him.

Do you know what he was told?  Genesis 32:28:

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”

Israel is all those who have prevailed.  Here’s all of Revelation 14:12:

This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.

All three are related.  Don’t take one without the other.  Don’t just say keep the commandments.  You cannot keep the commandments without the faith of Jesus and you cannot have patience without the faith of Jesus.  The faith of Jesus is the foundation.

It is my prayer that, in spite of all our theology, in spite of all our teachings, be warned that the coming of Christ may take us off guard.  He may come at a time and in a way that we least expect, even though we have it quite clearly in our minds.  But whatever way He comes, whatever time He comes, it is my prayer that the parable will be applied to you, that you will have your loins girded, that you will be ready, because at such an hour that you know not, He shall come.  May God bless us as a people.  Amen.

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