405) Soft or Hard Words? (part one of two)

      Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom…  Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants 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.  Truly I tell you, 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 middle of the night or toward daybreak.  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.”  –Luke 12:32…35-40

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     This one of several parables Jesus told to illustrate the need for us to ‘be ready’ for the time when he will return.  In this parable Jesus uses the example of the master of a house who has gone away and left his servants in charge.  Those servants, says Jesus, better be ready for when the master returns.  If they are, says verse 37, “it will be good for them.”  Very good indeed, it would seem, because the master himself will put on his work clothes and serve them.  The master will serve the servants!  You don’t see that every day.  But this is a very good master, and he treats his obedient servants like friends.  These parables bring to mind Jesus himself who does not place himself above his disciples, but takes the place of a servant and washes his disciples feet (John 13).  And then, in that most incredible story of all, Jesus chooses to give his life for them, dying a cruel death on the cross.  Many of Jesus’ parables tell of such masters whose kindness and goodness is beyond belief– they serve, they wait, they forgive, and they are unbelievably patient with those who are beneath them.  How wonderful it would be to serve in the house of such a master.  And that is precisely the point Jesus is trying to make.  Jesus was here on earth to give everyone the opportunity to serve such a Master.  In another parable, even the street people are invited to come into the King’s palace to be served at the feast for the wedding of the King’s son.  What a world, what a master, what a Kingdom!, where such a good master is so kind to his people.  “This Kingdom of God is at hand,” said Jesus, “Believe in me and you will be saved, and you will be brought into the wonderful kingdom of this wonderful master; believe in me, and you will be ready.”

     “BUT” says Jesus in verse 39, “understand this…;” and then he goes on to say that the master may return at anytime, and don’t let him find you NOT ready.  Other parables tell what will happen then.  Then, if this kind and patient master who has given his servants every opportunity and bestowed on them every goodness finds them not ready and not obeying him, but instead abusing and mistreating the other servants, then those wicked servants will be punished, fired, and cast out into the outer darkness “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  This soft master also has hard words for those who reject or ignore or live contrary to his goodness.  This master, who in so many ways has such a soft heart, can, when despised, be very hard in his dealings with his servants.  So, says Jesus, watch, be on guard, and always be ready for his return.  (continued…)

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“I’m very glad that you’ve seen that Christianity is as hard as nails; i.e., hard and tender at the same time.  It’s the blend that does it; neither quality would be any good without the other.”  

Letters of C. S. Lewis, ed. by W. H. Lewis, 1966, page 250

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Help me, O Lord, to make a true use of all disappointments and calamities in this life, in such a way that they may unite my heart more closely with you.  Cause them to separate my affections from worldly things and inspire my soul with more vigor in the pursuit of true happiness.  Amen.

–Susanna Wesley (1669-1742), mother of John and Charles Wesley and 17 other children