Be ready for Jesus’ return – Luke 12:35-59

For those who don’t know where Jesus is, it’s quite a jolt to be told to be ready for Jesus’ return. Lots of people know vaguely about Christmas and Easter, and maybe a few stories and parables. But it’s a shock to find out that Jesus still lives and is awaiting a day when he will return to the earth.

I still remember the shock I felt when I heard that.

  • It says that time and space, heaven and earth, are connected and joined in a way you’d never dreamed.
  • It also means that Jesus is more remarkable than maybe you’d heard or guessed.

In these verses, Jesus is teaching his disciples and a vast crowd of people: Be ready for Jesus’ return.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube delivered in May 2023 at Bromborough Evangelical Church, Wirral. You can find more in the series in our sermon index.

Be eager for Jesus’ return (35-40)

We looked last time at Jesus’ teaching on greed, possessions, and wealth. Two lines sum it up:

  • Luke 12:15 “One’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions.”
  • Luke 12:34 “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

There are two sides to what Jesus was doing:

  1. First, you’re to understand that your existence goes beyond this material life – everything you have will be lost.
  2. Second, knowing that, you’re to ensure you’re ready for heaven, storing up treasure there by love and good works.

But those words were to his disciples, people who have already repented of their sin and committed themselves to Jesus. Your only hope of heaven is in forgiveness of sin, not storing up treasures in heaven by love and good works.

But heaven isn’t really the long-term plan. Jesus will return to the earth from heaven.

  • All the dead will be raised (we don’t understand exactly how, but they will). Everyone, ever.
  • He will split all humanity into two groups – one to eternal punishment for sin, one to eternal bliss, sins forgiven.
  • And you’ll be there.

So he wants you to be ready for Jesus’ return.

Ready for action

Read Luke 12:35-38.

  • Be ready. Poised for action.
  • The pose in mind is of someone who wore long robes lifting them up, ready to run.
  • They’re ready to welcome him and delight in him.
  • And he delights so much in his servants that he actually sits them down and serves them.
  • Jesus is like no other. He delights in you and is looking forward to his return even more than you are!

Notice how positively Jesus frames it all.

  • The message for his people isn’t, “Be ready or you’ll be in trouble.” It’s, “Be eager so that we can delight in one another’s company.”
  • Schools fear the call that says Ofted is coming! But that’s not how we wait for Jesus at all.
  • We wait like a dog waiting for its owner to come back.
  • Like a child waiting for a parent to come home. Eager.

Be ready. Have your lamps lit – the master will return late.

  • That hints at a holiness of life in a dark world.
  • It also suggests that you’re to be different, be a spark of life and light and hope – witnessing to Jesus in the dark.

In a state of readiness, unencumbered by material things and worries.

Jesus is the prize!

Eager for Jesus – because he himself is the prize. And not just ready some of the time! Schools talk about being “Ofsted-ready”. Be “Jesus-ready”!

  • Read Luke 12:39-40.
  • Thieves don’t make appointments! If they did, you’d be ready.
  • Jesus will return to the earth at a time known to him, not you. So be ready.

And readiness is about light (holiness, witness) and eagerness for Jesus himself. But then Peter has a question: Read Luke 12:41. The answer has to do with being faithful:

Be faithful (41-48)

Peter’s question is a fair one. When Jesus returns, he will raise everyone from the dead. But the next outcome will be different for those who are faithful to Christ now and those who aren’t. Jesus doesn’t answer the question directly to begin with: Read Luke 12:42.

  • He answers his own question, which in turn answers Peter.
  • But he does so with a parable, with imagery.
  • That means we need to be careful not to take everything 100% literally, but rather to take the overall meaning.

Read Luke 12: 43-44.

  • No surprise there: The master (obviously Jesus) will be pleased to bless his faithful servants, ready and eager for his return!

Read luke 12:45-46.

  • Some people get excited about Jesus for a while, and then cool right off and drift back to their old life.
  • If that’s you, it’s worse than if you’d never even heard about Jesus, because you’re wilfully rejecting something you once thought to be true.

Peter asked if the teaching about readiness for Jesus’ return was just for believers or for everyone.

It’s clearly for everyone. And if you’ve actually heard the good news about forgiveness of sin in Jesus and rejected it, you’re really choosing not to be ready.

Be ready for Jesus, the master

Read Luke 12:47-48.

In the parable, Jesus is the ‘master’. He already is your ‘master’. He is Lord.

  • When we say that Jesus is risen, at one level it means that he is raised from the dead and is alive.
  • But more, he’s been exalted. He is Lord and Messiah king over the whole universe.
  • The universe is a monarchy, and a man is king over all. His name is Jesus, and he is your king.

You might have seen people putting up signs opposing the British monarchy: “Not my king” etc.

  • All well and good, but ultimately untrue.
  • If you’re British, you’re in a monarchy and Charles is your king whether you like it or not.
  • Likewise, if you’re a living human being anywhere in the world then Jesus is your king – forever, whether you like it or not.

He will one day return to the earth. He is your master, Lord, king. And whether you were expecting him or not, you will be punished for your sin against God. 

  • That’s justice; God wouldn’t be just if he let you off.
  • But he can forgive you by taking the punishment himself.

Marvel at Christ!

What will it be like when Jesus returns?

  • Read 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10.
  • See the difference in response?
  • One group of people facing eternal destruction.
  • The other glorifying Christ and marvelling at him.

Who will marvel at him? Those who have believed. Today is the day of salvation; believe in Christ, cry out for forgiveness, and you will be saved. And you will be among those who marvel at Christ on the day of his return!

Escape from hell is not the prize. Adoption by God and eternal bliss with Christ is the prize.

Christian, develop a thirst / an appetite / a craving for Jesus. Like the young woman in Song of Songs, besotted with her man:

  • My love is mine and I am his (Song 2:16).
  • My love is fit and strong, notable among ten thousand (Song 5:10).
  • His mouth is sweetness / He is absolutely desirable. / This is my love, and this is my friend, young women of Jerusalem (Song 5:16).

Read about him: Meditate on Colossians 1, Ephesians 1, Hebrews 1, Revelation 5. Or here in the gospels, how he is divine, powerful, tender, compassionate, loving, forgiving. Crave him.

And if all this still seems alien to you:

Be reconciled (49-53)

Make no mistake, Jesus changed the world forever. Read Luke 12:49. He said it a bit more emphatically than that: “FIRE I came to bring on the earth!”

Fire ravages and cleanses and goes on and on. It’s like someone saying, “I’m going to set this town on fire” – meaning they’re going do something big and amazing. But Jesus came to do something big and amazing for us all, across all space and time.

He knew that his mission was bound up with the cross, his death. His face was set towards it. But once that work was done, the whole world would be divided over him: Read Luke 12:50-53.

Jesus is quoting the prophet Micah. But when Micah spoke about divided families, he was saying it was down to a lack of peace arising from sinful hearts. But Jesus applies those words differently: He says there will be a lack of peace, and division even within families, because of him.

Peace on earth?

Before we carry on, you might be wondering about what the angels promised when Jesus was born in Bethlehem:

  • The heavenly host in Luke 2:14 sang Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favours!
  • In other words, Christ brings peace to his own people.
  • He calls you to peace of heart, peace of mind, all of which come through knowing peace with God.

Your sin puts you at enmity with God. You’re his enemy. But by Jesus’ dying on the cross, taking the punishment you deserve, your sins can be atoned for. You can be reconciled to God.

That is the peace that was promised. And it’s the peace that you can know: Be reconciled to God today. Ask him for forgiveness. For those who come to Christ, there is peace with God.

But when you then ‘side’ with God, you place yourself at enmity with the world that is against him.

  • So unbelieving people may well be hostile towards you.
  • You may experience disharmony in your family, as they can’t understand your changed priorities.
  • The jokes and videos you used to share with work colleagues aren’t funny any more, and you pull away.
  • That’s the fire that Jesus has brought into the world.

This is part and parcel of being ready for Jesus, making him your prize – rather than earthly, crude, or inappropriate gimmicks.

  • You need to be ready to turn down invitations.
  • Reject old ways, jokes, places, maybe even friends.
  • If you don’t, you’ll either feel the division within yourself – never finding peace, never really joyful in Christ – or else you’re in danger of slipping away all together.

But Christ is the prize you can have today. Life – today. You keep going to him. Develop a craving for him, every day.

Be reconciled today – Jesus calls you to it

Maybe you’re still not convinced about this Jesus: He has words just for you: Read Luke 12:54-56.

  • There was ample evidence to them that Jesus is the Christ and there is to you too.
  • Look at the people he has changed that you know!
  • Trust his word to you. He is warning you and calling you.
  • One day Jesus will be your judge. Today, he calls you to be reconciled to the Judge before it’s too late: Read Luke 12:57-59.
  • It’s imagery, but the meaning is clear: Be reconciled to Jesus today, and find him to be your saviour.

Then you will anticipate his return eagerly. You’ll crave him.

When you contemplate all he has done for you and continues to do, you’ll live faithful to him awaiting his return.

  • And you’ll put up with broken friendships if you must.
  • You’ll make him your treasure, not anything here.
  • And your possessions in this world will mean less to you as you look forward to your eternal inheritance with Christ.

As we come to the Lord’s Table, we remember our union with him:

  • How his death is our death to sin and our old self.
  • How his life is our life, and we are alive in him.
  • As you gather here with his people, you meet with Christ here in anticipation of feasting with Christ there, in eternal glory with him.
  • And simply by being here, you proclaim him to one anther and to those around.