[This article was contributed by Apollos]
According to our latest understanding of the identity of the faithful slave, the exchange between Peter and Jesus becomes quite confusing.
According to Luke, Jesus gave the parable in response to a question from Peter: “Lord, are you saying this illustration to us or also to all?”
Peter believed that there were two possible answers to his question:
1) That Jesus was saying that his current audience was the slave that needed to keep on the watch, or
2) That there might be a wider audience
In either case Peter clearly believed that the parable applied to himself and his fellow disciples. The only question was how far the net would be spread in addition to those present.
Is it reasonable to think that Jesus subsequent reply was intended to add to Peter’s knowledge? Or was it intended to be a riddle that would lead Peter to see that he was completely mistaken – and that in fact Jesus’ words didn’t apply to him at all.
Compare this account with another one that Luke records in chapter 10. The man versed in the law asks “Who really is my neighbour?”. Jesus replies with a parable that helps the man see how he fits into the picture.
In fact all of Jesus parables involve his immediate audience to one degree or another. I cannot think of a single exception to this, but I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong.
I am not suggesting that any parable was limited to his immediate audience. Far from it. All of the parables involved all Christians from the first century until now. In some cases there were elements in which time plays a part. e.g. the wheat and the weeds, the dragnet, etc. However even in these cases the audience of the time could still make personal application in some way. They had the opportunity to become wheat or acceptable fish, even though the completion of the harvest was yet some way off.
Therefore returning to the parable of the slave, we would have to say that this is the exception to the pattern if we are to accept the current interpretation. But we also have to say that Jesus was answering Peter’s question “are you saying this illustration to us or also to all?” with the response “Neither Peter. You are simply not involved.”