Cut to Pieces?!

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Although I had great intentions of posting regularly to this page when I set it up, I have clearly not done so, with a grand total of one post over the last 5 years.  But here I am again.  I’m hoping to post on a more regular basis from this point forward.  Generally, I intend to write about things that come up during my general Bible study or sermon-prep but don’t make it into the actual message or may need some additional clarity.  I may also, at times, post about concerns regarding the culture and whatever else may seem fitting.


This year, many of us have been reading through the Bible using the same chronological reading plan, and not too long ago we read Luke, chapter 12.  I want to focus a bit on the last section of this chapter.


Starting in verse 35, Jesus is instructing His disciples to remain awake and ready for their master’s return, which will be at an unexpected time.  Peter asks for some additional clarification in verse 41, and Jesus replies by saying:


“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?  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.  Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.  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, 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.  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.  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.”
(Luke 12:42-48)


So, Jesus says that the servants who, when the master returns, are found to be doing what he requires, will be blessed, while those who are found to be disobedient, will be punished.  It’s the punishment part that tends to give us pause.  We have, first of all, the servant who “beat the male and female servants” and began to “eat and drink and get drunk”.  This person will be, according to Jesus, “cut in pieces” and put “with the unfaithful”.


After this, Jesus says that servants who knew what the master required and blatantly disobeyed would receive a harsher punishment then the person who still should have known better but did not actually hear the master’s direct instructions.  Their punishment is differentiated as being a “heavy beating” and a “light beating”.


So, what is Jesus talking about?  Are there some who will receive only a beating, whether light or heavy, and go on their way, while others will be actually “cut into pieces”?  And what does that even mean, anyway?


I referenced this passage in my recent sermon on the topic of hell.  I used it to illustrate that, while hell is eternal in duration for all who end up there, there is a differentiation in punishment from person to person.  We can see this also in Romans 2:5-6, where Paul writes:


“But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.  He will render to each one according to his works”.


So, are we seeing three levels of punishment here in Luke 12:46-48?  A light beating for ignorant sinners, a heavy beating for knowledgeable sinners who didn’t sin too badly, and being “cut to pieces” for the really bad ones?  Not at all!


Jesus first states the general punishment that will come upon all who are found to not be in Christ, which is to be “cut in pieces” and put “with the unfaithful”.  Then he reveals that this will be more severe for those who knew what God demanded of them and rejected it than for those who were ignorant.


The word that is translated as “cut him in pieces”, can mean actual dismemberment, but that is very unlikely in this case.  It can also refer to being “cut up by scourging”.  In Jesus’ day, prisoners were whipped with what is known as a “flagellum”, which was a handle with several leather cords attached.  At the end of each cord, there would be pieces of metal or bone, in order to tear the flesh of the one being punished.  The back of the prisoner was “cut to pieces”.  This was what Jesus suffered prior to the crucifixion, and so it is fitting that he uses it here to illustrate punishment for sin.


This understanding of verse 46 fits perfectly with what we see in the following verses.  All of the wicked servants will be “cut in pieces”, but for some the scourging will be worse than for others, because God’s wrath is perfectly just.  All will also be put “with the unfaithful”, and the parallel passage in Matthew adds that “in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”


Praise God that those who are in Christ are no longer under God’s wrath.  As Paul writes in Romans 5:9, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”


Soli Deo Gloria!