I wrote a while back about my former misunderstanding of Heb. 12:1. But of course that's far from being the only verse that has ever caused confusion for me. And up until fairly recently I had a serious problem with Luke 17:7-10.
And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'? But will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink'? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' "
That was Jesus speaking, by the way.
Ooh, that verse used to make me mad! It felt like Jesus was promising to give me a good solid kick in the teeth the minute I passed through the Pearly Gates. I know there's no way I'll ever be able to stand before God and say, "I did all my duty," so I would be even worse off than the now-toothless servant mentioned above. So much for Heaven being a place to look forward to!
How can God be so patient with people like me? Thank and praise His Name, He is!
Of course such a reaction from God would be the antithesis of what we would expect, based on a biblical understanding of both His character and of Heaven. So then what do we do with this passage?
While I actually came to peace with that passage quite a while ago, a lovely new insight came on Friday by way of a message from a fellow FaithWriter. She had written to tell me of the impact that a certain story had had on her life. Now, when I had written that story, I had had no idea where the plot line had come from. I had felt that God had just given it to me, because it had come so easily and was so different from anything I'd ever thought about before. I had been glad to have something good to enter in the contest.
I thought I knew why I had chosen the character's name, but now I believe that I only knew part of the reason. You see, the main character of that story shared the same first name with the lady who wrote me, and she told me that she felt God had given me that story to write "just for her." She told me a synopsis of her life's story, and it seemed that what I had thought of as "my" story really was her story as well.
So, while I thought I was writing for a contest, and choosing insignificant details like character names out of my own preferences, God was really working behind it all, sculpting the story into a gift for another of His daughters whom I've never met.
As I sat there Friday morning, reading and re-reading that email, I could only feel gratitude washing over me. I hadn't done anything special and yet God had used it, even its seemingly insignificant details, in a wonderful way! And suddenly I was reminded of Luke 17:10 as I found myself thinking, "I'm an unworthy servant. I just did my duty...and look what the Lord made out of it!"
Ohhhh...that's so different, isn't it? There's no kick in the teeth here! And then my mind naturally went back to the Upper Room, where Jesus washed His disciples' feet. Peter protested, because he knew he wasn't worthy of such an honor. Wasn't he feeling the same thing that Jesus told us we would feel in Heaven? Only in Heaven our feelings won't be tainted by sin anymore. There will be no pride muddling anything, no misunderstanding of our Lord. We will behold his stunning, gracious, extravagant grace and will be astonished that it could come to anyone as unworthy as ourselves. And because of the lack of sinful pride, that astonishment will have no sting. It will be pure joy.
Imagine the joy that John the Baptist felt whenever he thought back to the day he baptized the Lord. Yet had he not protested similarly?
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?" (Mat 3:13-14)
He felt his unworthiness to baptize the Son of God, and he was right to feel it. But the Lord graciously gave him that wonderful privilege anyway. I'm sure that John is still amazed and overjoyed by that fact today, and will continue to feel its joy throughout the ages to come.
Am I just pulling things out of context here? Is there really any Biblical warrant for connecting the "unprofitable servant" statement in Luke 17:10 to the Upper Room experience of Peter?
I'm glad you asked!
Dive into Luke 12:37 with me, and take a good, long soak in amazing grace. This is what first changed my whole view of that misunderstood passage.
Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.
If that doesn't knock your socks off, read it again. If it still doesn't, then check your pulse!
The demanding master of Luke 17 was the typical, expected kind of master. When Jesus presented him to the people for their consideration, they were not surprised to hear a master being portrayed thus. That's why he phrased his questions rhetorically, expecting the people to anticipate the answers for themselves. Of course the master would expect to be waited on first. Everyone knew that.
But what of The Master in Luke 12? Do you see Him there, girding himself with a towel as He did in the Upper Room, and coming to serve us? Do you hear our Lord telling us how outrageously He plans to bless us, far beyond anything we could ever deserve? Think about it...really think about it. If you're a child of God, you will be there, in person, at that Great Feast. And our Lord will come to you personally, look you right in the eye, and with his nail-pierced hands He will wait on you.
Can you imagine any other response than a joyfully astonished, "I am not worthy?"
And the Feast is just the beginning of all that He has planned for us! What a blessed eternity it will be, made all the richer and more beautiful by our souls' perfected humility gazing upon the Risen One and saying, "I am not worthy of all of this wonder, all this joy, all this beauty, all this grace, all this.......!"
Of course the greatest joy will come, not from focusing on our own unworthiness, but from enjoying His limitless worth.
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!" And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!" (Rev 5:11-13)
I can't wait to join in that song!
(Photo from Stock.xchng by hhsara)