The Parable of the Watchful Servants

Last Updated on August 4, 2022 by GMC

Parable of the Watchful Servants

29th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday

Luke 12:35-38

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are but a blink of an eye in the ever present God. The rich man tarried over his possessions when his life suddenly ended (Luke 12:16-21). The ravens and lilies of the field flutter in the Father’s hand without anxiety, possessing nothing and living in the eternal Now (Luke 12:24-27).

From the tranquility of the field, Luke switches to an all-night soldierly vigilance:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants.”

Girt loins hearken back to the first Passover: “This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you will eat it in a hurry” (Exodus 12:11). Attachments to Egypt with all of its savory fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic had to be cut off (Numbers 11:5).

Watchful servants have their lamps alight. Bright-eyed and alert, they are ready to spring at the master’s knock between midnight and early dawn. Drowsiness and fatigue are conquered by faithful obedience. 

The master is so overjoyed when he returns that he reverses roles and plays the host. After a long and arduous vigil, his servants relax and enjoy a banquet served by their own master. 

In another parable highlighting the selflessness of the servant, masters are not expected to show any gratitude (Luke 17:7-10). After all, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”

Parables are sparks of an infinitely luminous gem. The master who returns in the middle of the night, ready to celebrate again after a wedding feast, reveals a lavishly generous, self-forgetting God in love with his children. 

Commentators speak about a “reversal of roles” in this parable, but the entire person and message of Jesus Christ turn expectations upside down. He is a divine infant (Luke 2:6-7), a servant king (John 13:1-16), a bridegroom (NT citations), a mother hen (Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34), and a crucified conqueror.

Jesus used multiple, paradoxical images and parables because God cannot be put into a box. No earthly role, name, or title encapsulates divinity. 

The parable of the watchful servants teaches us to stay awake and alert, for the master may return at any moment of the night. It also tells us to be open to surprises. Nobody knows what God has prepared for those who love him.

One Reply to “The Parable of the Watchful Servants”

  1. Thank you for your reflection. I ask that Jesus make us vigilant so we may recognize His face in our encounters today. And may we be as loving, and giving, as He is to us. Thank you.

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