Setting

After teaching the disciples about having the right concept about what is most important in life, the Lord now went further to instruct them about preparing for His return. References to the end time abound in this passage, and the teachings carry a sense of urgency. Reward and judgment are both clearly laid out before the hearers. Everyone must decide for himself which course of action to take.

Key Verse

(12:40)

Did You Know...?

1. Second or third watch (12:38): Night was divided into four watches by the Romans (Mk 13:35) and three by the Jews (Jdg 7:19); see note on Mt 14:25. These were probably the last two of the Jewish watches. The banquet would have begun in the first watch. [ref]

Outline

  • Being Ready
    (12:35-48)
  • Division
    (12:49-53)
  • Discerning the Times
    (12:54-59)

Segment Analysis

  • 12:35-48

    1.

    What does it mean to be watchful?

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    According to 35-36 and 42, being watchful involves preparing ourselves in the manner of a servant and carrying out our duties faithfully while waiting for the master’s return. We need to be alert, self controlled, and diligent while we dedicate ourselves to constant prayer and doing God’s will (1Pet 4:7-8; 5:8-9).

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  • 2.

    Why must we be ready at all times?

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    See 40.

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  • 3.

    What blessings will the watchful servants receive?

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    The master will serve them (37). They will rule over all that the master has (44).

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  • 4.

    What does verse 38 imply about the master’s return?

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    The second and third watches are the middle and last division of the night hours according to Jewish reckoning. [ref] Here the Lord suggests that He may come late in the night. In other words, there may seem to be a delay (cf. 45), and waiting for His return will demand great patience.

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  • 5.

    According to the Lord’s reply to Peter’s question, to whom was the parable given?

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    The Lord did not answer Peter directly.Instead, He talked about the
    reward for the faithful servant and punishment for the wicked servant. The Lord’s response implies that all believers, who know the will of their master (47), should heed the Lord’s promise and warning and decide which type of servant they want to be.

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  • 6.

    What is the responsibility of the steward? How does this apply to us?

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    It is our duty to provide food to the master’s household. In other words, we need to provide for the spiritual needs of believers by teaching them God’s word and praying for them (cf. Mt 28:19-20; Eph 6:18).

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  • 7a.

    What led the wicked servant to do evil?

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    He made the false assumption that the master would not return anytime soon (45). His wicked deeds also show that in his heart he was not faithful to the master.

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  • 7b.

    In our lives, how do we sometimes also make the same mistaken assumption like the wicked servant?

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  • 8.

    How do 47-48 serve as a warning for us?

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    As believers and servants of the Lord, we know our master’s will and we have been given much. If we fail to make good use of the talents the Lord has given us to fulfill our responsibilities, we will deserve a more severe punishment.

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  • 9.

    If the Lord Jesus comes today, will He find you ready? What areas in your life do you still need more preparation?

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  • 12:49-53

    10a.

    What kind of fire did the Lord Jesus come to send on the earth (cf. Lk 3:16-17)?

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    The fire here may refer to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which will have a dual effect of cleansing and judgment (cf. Isa 4:4; Jn 16:7-11). Jesus Christ will send the Holy Spirit to dwell with believers, giving them power and a new life. But those who reject Christ will come under the Lord’s judgment.

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  • 10b.

    Why did He wish it were already kindled?

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    Here the Lord was eagerly looking forward to the ultimate coming of God’s kingdom, when the righteous will be separated from the wicked and when God will reign forever. The coming of the Holy Spirit will “kindle” this fire, the effect of which will be fully realized at the coming of Christ.

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  • 11a.

    What baptism was He referring to? (cf. Mk 10:38)

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    His sufferings and death. The “fire” of the Holy Spirit would come only after Jesus suffered, died and was glorified (Jn 7:39; 16:7).

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  • 11b.

    Why was He distressed?

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    He was distressed because of the bitter cup that He must drink (cf. Mt 26:38). The thought of sufferings and agony was a great burden that weighed heavily on His heart.

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  • 12a.

    What kind of division has Jesus brought to this world?

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    The division between followers of Christ and their unbelieving family members. There will be strife in the family because of differences of beliefs.

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  • 12b.

    Have you experienced such division in your relationships?

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  • 12:54-59

    13.

    What was it that the people could not discern?

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    The people could not discern that it was time to make a personal decision to follow Christ. In view of the context (49-53, 57 59), we know that the Lord was referring to the coming judgment, a time of great crises. Even at such critical time, the people fail to respond to the gospel message.

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  • 14.

    What does the analogy in 58-59 refer to?

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    Just as it is wise to reconcile with the adversary before being found guilty and thrown into prison, it is also wise to reconcile with God by believing in Christ before the coming judgment.

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  • 15.

    How should you discern the times in your life?

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    We must receive and act upon God’s word every day while we have the chance (Heb 3:12-14). We should carry out God’s will before the period of grace is over.

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