[Jesus said]: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his Master has set over His household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his Master will find so doing when He comes.”
Servants are given orders by masters. That is simply how it works. That is the relationship which servants and master have. Orders are given, and they are to be followed. Obedience—fulfilling the task—and disobedience—not fulfilling the task—both have consequences. Those who obey are commended; those who disobey are condemned.
That is so, even in the Church. The Church has a Master-Servant relationship. Christ is the Lord, the Master. Of this, there is no doubt. Christ’s disciples are members of His household, cared and provided for by Christ, their Lord. Again, of this, there is no doubt. But within the household, there are some who are still under Christ, but who are set over the members of the household. These are the servants of Christ. Members of the household, yes; but they are given authority and responsibility over other members.
On this day, January 24, the Church commemorates one such servant of Christ: St. Timothy, Bishop and Confessor. Most of you have encountered that name before. At the very least, you know that two New Testament epistles are addressed to him—the not so creatively named First Timothy and Second Timothy. But many of you know more than that: you know that Timothy was one of
Details of Timothy’s identity were given to you in today’s First Reading: “A disciple was [in Lystra], named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium.” This believer of Jewish and Gentile ethnicity and of good reputation was seen by Paul as an asset to the Church. He was viewed as one able to be set over members of Christ’s household. So Timothy was given a task to deliver the Gospel to churches: “As [Paul and Timothy] went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in
Timothy’s life changed in that choice. Through the Apostle Paul, Timothy was chosen by Christ Himself to be “a faithful and wise servant, whom his Master has set over His household, to give them their food at the proper time.” That was Timothy’s vocation, his calling given by his Lord Jesus. And that calling, that vocation, was why Paul would instruct Timothy: “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in His testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Timothy’s duty was clear: to guide and feed the people of Christ’s household, “to give them their food at the proper time.” But how are the members of Christ’s household fed? How was Timothy to accomplish this task? It isn’t by handing them bread from a baker or meat from a butcher, even though the Jerusalem Decree spoke of not eating bloody meat or the flesh of strangled animals. Rather, the feeding is done by handing over to Christ’s people His gifts through His Words. Feeding the members of Christ’s household is done by providing them what He has earned for them in the ways that He has instituted.
This feeding is described in today’s psalm: “My mouth will tell of Your righteous acts, of Your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is beyond my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of Your righteousness, Yours alone.” That is what gives Christ’s followers strength and life. That is what feeds them. That is what Timothy gave to the churches he oversaw, even the churches near Derbe and Lystra that “were strengthened in the faith, and increased in numbers daily.”
The task that was given to Timothy is given to all who are set over Christ’s household. As with all servants, an order given by the Master is expected to be obeyed. Obedience or disobedience will have consequences. So that the servants can be reminded of their task, days like today are kept by the Church. All those who bear the same office as Timothy should be moved by what their Lord Jesus has spoken about them.
But St. Timothy’s Day is not only for those who wear the black shirts and white collars. Its commemoration is meant for your benefit, too. Though you have not been given the command that Christ’s servants have, you have heard the Master speak it. Hearing the orders given to the ministers of the Church allows you to know what to expect. Because the Lord Jesus has said that His servants will “give [the members of His household] their food at the proper time,” you have a proper expectation to be fed—to be fed the way that Christ has laid out. If that does not happen, then you know that something is amiss.
For your benefit, you heard the orders given to the Church’s ministers on this day. As you gather here as the members of Christ’s household, you can evaluate the servants who have been set over you. Do you hear them speak about the righteous acts of Christ, His works of salvation? Do you hear them reminding you of Christ’s righteousness alone, and not theirs or yours? Do you hear them proclaim Christ’s wondrous deeds? Do they speak of Christ’s might to another generation, His power to all who come? If so, you may know that those servants are being faithful and wise. If so, you may know that you are receiving the food that Christ has to give you.
On this day, you are being fed again at the proper time by one of Christ’s servants. For you will eat the bread and drink the cup and proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. You will hear the New Testament given by the Master of the Household: that through His Body given in death for you and His Blood shed for you, you have forgiveness, life, and salvation. What you need for true life is being given by the Crucified and Risen Christ through His servants. And as was spoken at the beginning of the Divine Service, that servant delivered forgiveness for your sins “in the stead and by the command” of Christ Himself.
Through these things, you are given what you need to be “strengthened in the faith” and to “increase in numbers daily.” It is not Christ’s servant accomplishing it, but what Christ does through His servant’s work. So it was for the people of Christ’s households in Derbe and Lystra. So it was for the people of Christ’s household in
So Jesus says: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his Master has set over His household, to give them their food at the proper time?” It is Timothy and all who are diligent in preaching Christ’s Holy Word and administering Christ’s means of grace: Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, Holy Supper. “Blessed is that servant whom his Master will find so doing when He comes.” But blessed also are you, the members of Christ’s household, who receive what the Master gives—forgiveness, life, and salvation—through His servants. May you also be faithful and wise to follow in the way that leads to life eternal.
T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.