How do you define happiness? Is there some kind of scale, like the Richter Scale, that can give a measurement? Switzerland is 7.1 on the Jolly Scale. And if that measurement is a pathetic 2.3, is there some way to ramp up happiness? Maybe there is a happy mad scientist out there somewhere boiling joy in a tube that will one day be available for purchase. You know, if you happen to be lucky enough to be able to afford it. According to some experts on happiness, Americans are not very happy. How do you become a makariologist anyway? And why aren’t Americans happy? I mean, this is the land of the free, the brave, the affluent. Full bellies should equal joy. Right? How about fancy cars and large houses? Maybe, the things we tell ourselves are so important cannot make you happy. A person can hold all of the rights and privileges this world has to offer and still be besot with an overwhelming depressing desire for it all to just end, thank you very much. Maybe, we are searching in the wrong place.
Luke 12:35-38 is a parable about servants; servants who are ready to serve. Jesus begins with “gird your loins.” Okay, most of us don’t use this phrase, which is why the NASB translates it “be dressed in readiness.” In Jesus’ day, people wore long flowing robes and if they were going to travel, work, or battle the enemy, they had to gather up the robe and tie it so that they would have more freedom of movement. It takes a lot more effort to light a lamp than to flip on a light switch. Especially in the dark. So, both of these phrases have to do with being ready to serve at any moment. Your clothes are prepared. No saying, “hold on a moment while I gather up and gird this robe.” You don’t have to waste valuable time fumbling around grasping for the lamp and something to light it with. Everything is held in readiness.
Be like men who are patiently waiting for their master. The word “waiting” is used several times to describe those who were waiting for – looking for – the kingdom of God: like Simeon (Luke 2:25); Anna (Luke 2:38); Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 15:45). Since this describes most Jewish people of the day, it probably refers to a more active looking or waiting; a being ready; a waiting with work clothes on and lamps lit. Their master is at a wedding feast and he may come back at any moment. So, they are not waiting in their beds. And that is a form of waiting, isn’t it? They are waiting with an anticipation that will spring into action as soon as they hear a knock. And why would he knock? Most people don’t knock at their own house. This has led some to suppose that he has traveled to this wedding and is staying at the house of the host family. He is knocking at the door of the room he is being guested in. Jesus doesn’t actually say. I think he used the idea of knocking because he wanted to present an image of servants ready and listening for the knock so that they could immediately open the door and begin their serving. Whether at his own house or in a quest room does not matter as much as the image of waiting to serve servants.
Jesus then interjects with a “blessed are those slaves whom the master will find awake.” For the early Greeks, being happy was reserved for the gods. They seemed to connect happiness with being able to arrange events around what you want to happen or a transcendent life without care and since only the gods can accomplish that little feat, they are the only ones who can experience being blessed. Later, a few men were said to able to grasp a god-like happiness. The philosophers were convinced it was about following the correct system of wisdom. Jesus said that happiness is discovered in readiness to serve, which is the exact opposite of what many think.
Then Jesus said a completely unexpected thing; so unexpected that some question whether Jesus would have said it. A master girding himself and then serving the servants is unheard of. But that is the point. You cannot put God in a box. This may be a nod to the prophecy in Isaiah about God preparing a banquet on the mountain of God in Isaiah 25:6-12. It seems likely since in that prophecy the people proclaim, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited.” So, maybe not so unheard of after all. That is our God. There is a banquet waiting for us, prepared by the Master of all things. That is if we spend our lives waiting awake – no matter the hour. Happiness is found in being ready to serve the master.
Happiness seems allusive. Always has. People scamper after so many things that feel good in the moment but leave them still empty inside. Real joy is found in serving. And not just any serving. Serving the master. Jesus was and is the master servant. A banquet awaits us. So, be awake and wait to serve.