If I have a favorite Bible verse, it is Luke 12:36-37. Strangely, it is a verse I never heard as a kid.
I grew up going to Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Florida, and like most Baptist Churches, they were high on Bible teaching. Sunday School really was a mini school where you actually learned more about the Bible every week. We did Bible drills, memorized Bible verses and were generally dipped and soaked in ancient stories whenever we walked in the doors (I didn’t always enjoy it, but I was always there). Every kid brought a Bible to youth group, and to this day I still feel funny going to church without a Bible in my hand.
So it was somewhat astonishing to me, when Randy Draughon, the pastor of Midtown Fellowship (and my boss at the time), read this passage during a sermon on the character of God. How did I miss these incredible words spoken by Jesus himself?
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
He will have them recline at the table and he will come and wait on them.
Even knowing the gospel, even understanding that Christ’s mission was to serve, not be served; this passage was mind blowing. Jesus is saying this is what God is like.
This is how I picture it in my mind. There are two servants, waiting at the door in fine servants clothes when the master arrives home from some fancy event. Just as they were trained, they greet him with deferential courtesy, take his coat and hat, and then his gloves. One servant stows them all away while the other follows the master toward his quarters, except he doesn’t take the stairs. He passes the stairs and heads for the kitchen.
The servant is a pro, so he tries to anticipate his master’s desires. He offers to call the chef, or bring the master’s favorite midnight snack, when the master turns toward the servant and his younger servant buddy that has now caught up to them.
“Listen, guys. I was just thinking; I know you’ve been standing over there since I left. And I didn’t plan on returning this late. You must be famished by now.”
They are confused. Of course they are hungry, but they’ll eat soon enough when the master retires for the evening. One of the servants – the older one, begins, “Please, sir…” but he is cut off by the master.
“I know where the cook keeps his apron,” says the master. “He served the most succulent roast duck last night, and I’ve decided to take the leftovers and make each of you my favorite sandwich. There are at least two birds still untouched in the Sub-Zero, along with lettuce and pickles, fresh tomatoes from the garden and some of that amazing horseradish mustard he makes – I could cry it’s so good. And he always has a few boiled eggs around in case I need a quick breakfast.”
The servants resist at first, but the force of the master’s will, even in gentleness, quickly prevails.
“You two have been on your feet all night waiting on me, let me wait on you for a few minutes. I’ll take your jacket so you can recline. No? But please! Or at least kick your shoes off and take my seat here in the dining room. My house is your house after all. And you’re not going to believe this sandwich.”
The master is not drunk, and he is not crazy. In fact, he is the most sane person alive. He returns a moment later with two goblets and a bottle of a burly red that will perfectly complement the duck sandwich. After pouring the wine he disappears again for a few minutes and reappears with two plates. The sandwiches are gorgeous, and he’s garnished the plate with chips and some of the mango chutney that was served the night before, knowing it’s really at its best after settling for a day. He sets the plates, ignores their bewildered gestures, clasps the younger servant on the shoulders, eyes the elder and says, “Enjoy.” And walking away he adds, “Don’t clean up.”
What kind of master is this?
I will spend the rest of my life wrestling with the answer, because it seems too good to be true. But the truth is, it’s too good not to be.
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,
He will have them recline at the table
And will come and wait on them.