Jesus Ignores Peter but Places Him into Middle Management

Jesus Ignores Peter but Places Him into Middle Management
Luke 12:35-40, then 12:41, and then 12:42-48

Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? (Luke 12:41, KJV)

Perhaps we should not say this out loud, but we are forever annoyed by Jesus’ refusal to give his disciples a straight answer to straight-forward questions. Between Jesus’ oblique answers and Paul’s lack of proofreading and non-rewriting his sloppy, rambling dictation, there are times we want to reach into the Bible and smack… Uh, nevermind.

An example of the former takes place in Luke chapter 12 over the verses 35 through 48. Peter asks a question. Jesus ignores Peter and just repeats what he said already.

Let’s begin with Peter’s question, which is recorded in verse 41:

Luke 12:41, NASB: Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone [else] as well?”

Next read the set-up to this question as one piece, in 35-40:

Luke 12:35-40, NASB: “Be dressed in readiness, and [keep] your lamps lit. 36 “Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open [the door] to him when he comes and knocks. 37 “Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself [to serve,] and have them recline [at the table,] and will come up and wait on them. 38 “Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds [them] so, blessed are those [slaves.] 39 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 40 “You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”

Again, having read the precipitating statement, see again Peter’s question (this time, from the New English Translation):

Luke 12:41, NET: Then Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?”

And now the “non-reply” of Jesus in a second statement, from 42-48:

Luke 12:42-48, NASB: And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? 43 “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 44 “Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 “But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, [both] men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; 46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect [him] and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47 “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know [it,] and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

Read it closely. For another treatment, compare the New Living Translation‘s second statement of Christ, in response to Peter:

NLT: And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 43 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 44 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 45 But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 46 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful. 47 “And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

Aside: Let’s not get hung up on the servant/slave word-choice distinction here, or this topic. It is outside of our Bible Bit.

Let us regurgitate what we just read. We submit:

  1. Jesus makes a statement regarding a master (God) and the master’s slaves (potential believers). This is the first statement.
  2. Peter asks if Jesus’s statement applies to the disciples.
  3. Jesus ignores Peter and simply reiterates his first statement, and once again makes a claim about masters and slaves.

Yes? No? Do we get this right? Does Jesus ignore Peter? Does Jesus answer Peter’s question?

In translations of your choice, read through the first statement (35-40) carefully, then Peter’s question (41), and then the second statement (42-48). Read these very closely and identify the parties and number of parties in each half. Note the hierarchical relationships.

Here’s our markup of the New American Standard Bible‘s words for Luke 12:35-48:

How many levels of hierarchy does Jesus cite in his first statement? And then the second, after Peter’s question?

Read the passage in several translations, and note the thicket of word choices for master, lord, owner, business, man, slave, servant, steward, employee, doulos, bondsman, supervisor, manager, other servants, him, them, and so on. How many parties?

We will provide Luke 12:35-48 here in a few translations. Look for the parties mentioned. First, the New English Translation:

Luke 12:35-48, NET: “Get dressed for service and keep your lamps burning; 36 be like people waiting for their master to come back from the wedding celebration, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom their master finds alert when he returns! I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, have them take their place at the table, and will come and wait on them! 38 Even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night and finds them alert, blessed are those slaves! 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” 41 Then Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” 42 The Lord replied, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his household servants, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds at work when he returns. 44 I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But if that slave should say to himself, ‘My master is delayed in returning,’ and he begins to beat the other slaves, both men and women, and to eat, drink, and get drunk, 46 then the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not foresee, and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the unfaithful. 47 That servant who knew his master‘s will but did not get ready or do what his master asked will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know his master‘s will and did things worthy of punishment will receive a light beating. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked.

Next the ESV, with master and servants:

Luke 12:35-48 ESV: “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” 41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

The New International Version. Look for a master, servants, and a wise manager:

Luke 12:35-48 NIV: “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 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. 37 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, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” 41 Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” 42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

The New King James. Look for the wise steward:

Luke 12:35-48 NKJV: “Let your waist be girded and [your] lamps burning; 36 “and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. 37 “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. 38 “And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find [them] so, blessed are those servants. 39 “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 40 “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” 41 Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable [only] to us, or to all [people]?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom [his] master will make ruler over his household, to give [them their] portion of food in due season? 43 “Blessed [is] that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 “Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. 45 “But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 “the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for [him], and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint [him] his portion with the unbelievers. 47 “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare [himself] or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many [stripes]. 48 “But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

When exploring this, translation choices can make a big difference, and how the translation articulates, with clarity (or not), distinctions among parties in the first and then second statments by Jesus. And then, when translations use synonyms when referring to the same party, this adds confusion.

Nevertheless, we now resubmit our claim, and assert that there are, in fact, two parties/levels in Jesus’ first statement, and then three parties and levels in the second. Jesus includes Peter and the disciples in his second statement, thus answering Peter’s question. Peter is a manager. Peter is a steward. Peter is a special servant. Peter is a slave-made-manager. He is still a slave, but has been promoted to middle management and now has extra obligations.

We submit now that here is what’s going on:

  1. Jesus says there is a master and slaves. Two levels. The slaves must be ready for the return of the master. (There is master God, and there is all of humanity. All of humanity is potential Christianity.)
  2. Peter asks if the disciples are included in this.
  3. Jesus says that there is a master, and a manager he has placed in charge, and then all the slaves. The manager is one of the slaves, but he has been elevated and given responsibility. The manager must stay alert and working. And so must the slaves. The manager faces additional punishments (beyond that of other slaves) if he doesn’t do what is expected. This manager is the disciples. Peter is one of these managers. This manager is Christians. Christians are expected to be evangelical slaves (or servants if you prefer) and work on getting all other slaves ready for the coming of master Christ.

And:

4. We still wish Jesus would be more direct. But this is why we LOVE studying Jesus’ words.

Jesus tells Peter that not only is the role of disciple different, but adds that it includes a heck of a lot more responsibility and potential punishment for failure.

Are we correct? Depending on how translations place words and use words and make synonym choices, Jesus’ subtle distinctions among parties can be lost.

We confess we have not examined the Greek wording and word choices. We do know that, just as in English, Biblical writers deployed the stylistic writing device of using two different words when referring to the same thing, when that thing was referred to twice or more in near word-proximity in the sentence.

By the way… in our Hebrew scripture, the nation of Israel / leadership of Israel / prophetic class of Israel (Godly and/or false), is often distinguished as a middle level layer of “management” in between God the Almighty and all other nations and peoples. That Jesus places Christian disciples in a similar “middle management” layer is not accidental in doctrinal concept. 🙂

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We chose Vermeer’s A Maid Asleep for our top photo. We always try to find a Biblical subject, but as master works of Peter and Jesus and the obedient servant seem in short supply, we thought Vermeer’s portrait of an inattentive servant was nicely appropriate. We thank the Metropolitan Museum of Art for ignoring our theft of a portion of this lovely piece. 😉

We give thanks to Blue Letter Bible and Bible Gateway and Biblia Catolica for their collections of online Bibles and tools.

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As always, if you choose to reply to our post, we ask that you cite scripture, quote scripture, and provide lessons from 2000 years of Jewish and Christian commentary.

And God’s blessings to you! God bless you! God bless you as you read the actual Bible for yourself!

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