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Robert Farrar Capon on New Year’s Eve – Luke 12:35-40

by pastorjuhl ~ December 28th, 2010

Ah, what to do with New Year’s Eve? A brother-in-Office in another online venue described the pericopes for New Year’s Eve as “McDonald’s” in comparison with the rich banquet of The Circumcision and Name of Jesus on January 1. Some of us will transfer The Circumcision and Name of Jesus to December 31. That’s all well and good. I did the same for the first few years in Office. Upon my arrival at the “Riviera on the Kankakee” (as I jokingly call Momence, IL), I instituted New Year’s Day as well as New Year’s Eve. When you have a number of elderly who don’t get out at night, it’s best to celebrate both days. So I preach Luke 12:35-40 on New Year’s Eve and Luke 2:21 on New Year’s Day. I have the best of both worlds.

But what does one do with New Year’s Eve? It’s a step in the wrong direction, so to speak. It’s as if we are in early Advent or late in the semester ecclesiae. End times preaching once again in the midst of the joy of Christmas! Boo, hiss! Perhaps, but perhaps not. Let’s let Robert Farrar Capon speak concerning this pericope. His amazing analysis comes not from his mind, but from (surprise!) Scriptura scripturam interpretatur!

“The lord of the servants – who is, after all, the Christ-figure in this parable – comes to them from a nuptial feast. Correspondingly, the Lord Jesus – whom the Book of Revelation (22:20) asks to ‘come’ – comes to the consummation of history from his own nuptials as the Lamb Slain. The servants, to take another parallel, are described as waiting expectantly to open to the lord when he comes and knocks; we, their counterparts, are to be ready to welcome the Lamb Slain when he ‘stands at the door and knocks’ (Rev. 3:20). Finally, when the lord comes and finds his servants watching, they are blessed because ‘he will gird himself with a servant’s towel and make them sit down and he will come and serve them.’ Their great good luck is that he will come home in a hilarious mood. He will not come with sober assessments of past performances or with grim orders for future exertions; rather he will come with a song in his tipsy heart, a chilled bottle of Dom Perignon in each tail of his coat, and a breakfast to end all breakfasts in his hands: bacon, sausage, grits, homefries, and eggs sunny-side-up. We too, then, are blessed in the risen Jesus, for he comes to us from his nuptials in death, and asks only that we wait in faith for him. He will knock at the door of our own death, and he will come in and throw us a party (Rev. 3:20; 19:7-9).

“The image of the coming of the Lord in this parable, therefore, is party imagery: Jesus comes to us from a party, and he brings the party with him. Moreover, he has made it clear that he will keep the party going both now and forever: now, in the mystery of the Lord’s Supper by which we celebratively ‘show forth the Lord’s death till he comes’ (1 Cor. 11:26); and forever, at the ‘Supper of the Lamb’ (Rev. 19:9) where we will ‘sit together with him in heavenly places’ (Eph. 2:6) as his ‘Bride’ (Revelation, passim).

“Whether that sort of commentary is exegesis, eisegesis, both, or neither, I don’t know and I don’t care. My only reason for offering it is that it has the virtue of letting Scripture comment on Scripture. For it is only when that happens that you begin to get a hint of the richness of biblical imagery. In fact, I am disposed to press the wedding image even harder and say that the whole of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is one long development of the theme of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl.

“Watch. The Word – who in response to the Father’s good pleasure woos creation into being out of nothing – meets the world in the first and second chapters of Genesis and falls head over divine heels in love with it. But in Genesis 3, the world turns its back on the Word and wanders lost in death. Then, in most of the rest of Scripture, the Word unceasingly seeks in death for the beloved he lost: he seeks for her in the passion and defeat of Israel in the Old Testament and in the death of the incarnate Lord in the New. Finally, in the Book of Revelation, by his winsome power as the Lamb Slain, the Word courts the world once and for all: at the end of the story, Boy gets girl, makes her his bride, and takes her home to his Father’s house forever.

“It is a consummation eminently worth waiting for; and it is the joyful safeness of that waiting that is the principal burden of the parable of the Watchful Servants. For as Jesus tells the story, even if the lord of the servants comes at midnight or later, they are blessed because his will is only to come in and sup with them. And as the parable applies to us, no one who waits for Jesus in faith can ever wait too long for him to come or ever be in any kind of danger of missing the bus on which he comes. For he comes, not on the uncertain bus of our lives but on the absolutely certain bus of our death. He comes, to ring a change on the phrase, in the utterly dependable act of our missing the bus altogether. All we need to watch out for is that we take no other buses, however plausible – that we be content to sit still at the bus stop of his death in ours. And that, if you will, is that the word ‘ready’ means at the end of this parable (Luke 12:40). ‘The Son of man,’ Jesus says, ‘comes at a time you don’t think’ (ἧ ὥρᾳ οὐ δοκεῖτε, in an hour that seems like nothing to you). To be ‘ready’ for that, therefore, all you have to do is wait in faith for nothing – that is, for death. And the only way of being unready is to cut short that waiting by unfaith – to dash off on material or spiritual excursions we think will give us life. But our life does not consist in the abundance of things we possess (Luke 12:15). Rather our life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3:3) in the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. He who loses his life for Jesus’ sake, therefore, will find it (Matt. 10:39).”

Kingdom, Grace, Judgement, p. 241-243

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