From:  Busy Person’s Guide to Luke 1 to 12                                   Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2019

 

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Busy Person’s Guide to the New Testament:

Quickly Understanding Luke

 

(Volume 1:  Chapters 11 to 12)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven

 

 

           

At a Disciple’s Request, Jesus Provides a Model Prayer to Illustrate How to Pray (Luke 11:1-4):  1 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place.  When he stopped, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 

So he said to them, “When you pray, say:  Father, may your name be honored; may your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.  And do not lead us into temptation.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            11:1     Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”  Upon an occasion when Jesus was seen praying in private, a disciple who saw Him return took the opportunity to learn more about prayer.  After all Jesus was pre-eminently the Teacher--who better to learn more on the subject from?  Furthermore, there was the precedent of John the Baptist who gave his own instructions on the subject.  Would they be the same or would they differ in emphasis?  “Enquiring minds wanted to know!”  (This need not be the only time He dealt with the question, what with the identity of specific “disciples” with Him likely varying from point to point in His ministry.)   

 

            11:2     So He said to them, “When you pray, say:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Prayer is to be addressed to the Father in heaven.  He is the One we count on to grant our wishes; hence our prayers are “targeted” at Him.  Cf. Psalms 11:4:  “The Lord is in His holy temple / The Lord’s throne is in heaven / His eyes behold / His eyelids test the sons of men.”  As to the details of that prayer:

            First, we are to pray that His “name” (= authority, position, pre-eminence) be respected (= “hallowed”) throughout the world.  Without this the need for obedience will never be fully recognized by the person praying.  

            Second, we are to pray that His “kingdom come”--from our perspective today, either the heavenly kingdom itself or God’s church on earth to have free access throughout the world.  During the earthly ministry, this was an expression of the kingdom’s inevitability and probably implies that it is so close that it is an especially worthy topic of prayer.    

            Thirdly, we are to ask that God’s will might be obeyed just as certainly on earth as it already is in heaven.  Getting God’s will observed in Heaven is hardly difficult since He is there to assure it.  But He is not on earth.  I hope it will not be considered irreverent but an old adage seems applicable here:  “When the cat is away the mice will play.”  Because God is not visibly and forcefully demanding His will be obeyed by humankind, many feel totally free to ignore what He expects and demands. 

 

            11:3     Give us day by day our daily bread.  Now the theme shifts to our own personal needs.  First, we recognize our dependence upon God as well as His vast power to act on our behalf by praying that He provide/assure us our daily food.  “Bread” is specified because that was the core need and with it you could work around the lack of anything else at least temporarily.  If you had that, you could reasonably assume that you were going to have whatever else was essential.

            We are, of course, intellectually aware that we will need food next week and next month as well.  But the point of deepest--not to mention most immediate--concern is what we have it today and tomorrow.

 

            11:4     And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”  Our plea for forgiveness of our behavioral blunders is rooted in our own willingness to be similarly generous toward others.  If we don’t do such, we have no grounds to expect God to be charitable toward us either.

            Recognizing the danger of temptation, we are to pray that He steer us away from the temptations that “the evil one” would have destroy us.  If we have a lifestyle of delivering ourselves to Satan, however, why would we expect Him to bear the full burden of what we--partly--can do for ourselves?  The prayer conveys the idea that whatever terrible things that could happen, God still has the power to nullify Satan’s strongest schemes.  God will more than do His part if we have done ours.

 

 

If Even an Annoyed Neighbor Will Provide Emergency Assistance, a Loving Father Will Surely Intervene For Us As Well!  (Luke 11:5-13):  Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine has stopped here while on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’  Then he will reply from inside, ‘Do not bother me.  The door is already shut, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.’  I tell you, even though the man inside will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of the first man’s sheer persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

So I tell you:  Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  11 What father among you, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish?  12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            11:5     And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves.  To illustrate the importance of persistence in prayer, Jesus introduces first a parable (verses 5-8) and then deduces lessons from it (verses 9-13).  These verses take for granted that prayer for things of personal importance are under consideration; otherwise they make little or no sense.  Yet beyond the reference to “daily bread” these are not mentioned at all in the “Lord’s Prayer” that had just been given (verses 2-4).  They are things of clear importance but not on that level--evidence that the “prayer guideline” was intended as a “jumping off point” . . . or a broad guideline to the subject of prayer . . . rather than as something to be utilized as a religious form itself.  It provides a concise guideline rather than an inclusive list of everything to be prayed about.

            Jesus makes this teaching quite personal:  Not some abstract “a certain man” . . .  but “you.”  Effectively saying, “If this happened to you, what would happen next?”  And the other party is one you are on good terms with and who would normally have no hesitancy in assisting you.  Here, however, we have a situation in which he doesn’t want to become involved.  We wouldn’t either if the situation were reversed!

            For this to have relevance to prayer, we must have here desire for something that is of significant importance but which the Lord would be inclined to pass by.  Something that involves no direct harm to us if we don’t receive it, but which would be of benefit both to us and others if the action is taken.     

           

            11:6     for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’  The arrival at Midnight would be unexpected:  The host would have saved something himself if it had been.  But plans don’t always go right and a journey might take longer than anticipated.  In fact evening travel could easily recommend itself in many areas because it would be far cooler and away from the heat of the day.

            Bread was the heart of any meal and it was baked daily so the chance of any being left this late would be more luck than anything else.  Either he is just desperately hoping the neighbor has some leftover or else he has some particular reason to expect that the neighbor had prepared extra.  In addition, the rules of hospitality required you to do all you could for even an unexpected and late arriving guest.  Again, the storyline fits what would happen in regular life.

 

            11:7     and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’?  The friend wants nothing to do with your problem.  His very words show his irritation.  He is living in a one room house--the norm in that day for most of the population--and the door was bolted shut.  They are either all asleep in separate beds or on one large divan occupying a good hunk of the floor space.  And, of course, it is dark inside.  It would simply be too much of a nuisance to be bothered while he is half-asleep.

 

            11:8     I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.  This is a case where even friendship is not enough to get him to act.  Yet the persistence of knocking on his door and pleading for help produces what friendship alone has failed to.  It wasn’t that friendship was lacking; it was that more was still necessary even when friendship existed.

 

            11:9     “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  Idle wanting is not enough:  Each of these three images--asking / seeking / knocking--shows a person persistently doing that which is within their power.  It may sound like something trivial, but they are things within your capacity.  If you refuse to make an intense effort yourself, how can you justifiably expect help?  Determined effort can still be made even when the solution has to come from elsewhere.  And--who knows?--perhaps you can accomplish it after all.  Either way the useful and desired result is obtained.

 

            11:10   For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  In other words, if we do our part, God will do His part--contingent, of course, upon it being truly the best thing for us.  Our own perspective, even when fully honest with ourselves, is inherently limited.  God’s is unlimited and can see potential negative repercussions that we would never think of.

 

            11:11   If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?  He illustrates the heavenly Father’s commitment from what is normal in an earthly father-son relationship.  The small loaves of bread they used might have a passing resemblance to a stone, but what father will give his son one when he has asked for bread?  (Critical texts typically omit this first half of the verse, but the imagery is found in parallel accounts.) 

            Furthermore, some “serpent[s]” may vaguely resemble a fish, but what father will substitute one when the son has asked for fish to eat?  The “serpent” here refers to “a little round lobster-like animal, lurking in stone walls, with a sting in its tail.  The gift of things similar but so different would be cruel mockery of which almost no father would be capable” (Expositor's Greek Testament).

 

            11:12   Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?  The earlier examples might be jokingly passed off as if it were accidental.  In this case we are dealing with something outright malicious.  Baring the parent being despicable or demented, none would ever do this. 

 

            11:13   If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”  What is true of receiving physical blessings from God--for receiving blessings of this type are the underlying theme of the preceding verses--is also true of spiritual ones.  We receive the blessing of the Spirit automatically at baptism (Acts 2:38).  This is the result of an action rather than a prayer.  In contrast what is described here concerns something that has the prerequisite of prayer. 

            In a first century context a reference to the varying miraculous gifts that were then available would not be unnatural.  And we can hardly overstress the fact that they were varying and far beyond just speaking in tongues.  With this variety specifically in mind Paul writes:

 

                        There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are differences          of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is     the same God who works all in all.  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to            each one for the profit of all:  for to one is given the word of wisdom through the          Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith           by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the      working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to             another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 

                        11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each            one individually as He wills.  (1 Corinthians 12)

 

            Some of these do sound like they might also be present when the Spirit is working within us through a non-miraculous enhancement of our native talents and skills.  Would this be any more “odd” than saying that “God is working through us today”?  

 

 

The Absurdity of Claiming That It Was “Beelzebul, the Ruler of Demons” Who Gave Jesus the Power to Cast Out Demons (Luke 11:14-23):  14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the man who had been mute began to speak, and the crowds were amazed.  15 But some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons, he casts out demons.”  16 Others, to test him, began asking for a sign from heaven. 

17 But Jesus, realizing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed, and a divided household falls.  18 So if Satan too is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?  I ask you this because you claim that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.  19 Now if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.  20 But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has already overtaken you. 

21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his possessions are safe.  22 But when a stronger man attacks and conquers him, he takes away the first man’s armor on which the man relied and divides up his plunder.  23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.      --New English Translation (for comparison)  

 

 

            11:14   And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute.  So it was, when the demon had gone out, that the mute spoke; and the multitudes marveled.  The outrageous and dangerous behavior found among demoniacs was made even worse by the fact that this poor person did not even have the ability to communicate at all.  By no stretch of the imagination was something this dramatic  a natural event so the crowd had every reason to “marvel” that it could occur.  This could easily enhance Jesus’ reputation and credibility among those present, so His enemies tried to come up with some way to dilute the significance of what had just happened.

 

            11:15   But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”  Insults are a useful tool to degrade another, especially if you have no intention of allowing any amount of evidence to persuade you that you are wrong.  In this case it has a fig leaf of misrepresented truth behind it:  mortals couldn’t do it but there is both a Divine supernatural power and a destructive/hateful one as well--Beelzebub.  Since God would “obviously” never give this Jesus such power, the Devil had to have done so!

            As to the Devil's name:

 

                        The name and reading are involved in obscurity.  In 2 Kings 1:3 we are            told that Beelzebub was god of Ekron; and the LXX and Josephus (Antiquities, ix.   2 1) understood the name to mean ‘lord of flies.’  He may have been a god       worshipped to avert the plagues of flies on the low sea-coast like Zeus Apomuios          (Averter of flies) and Apollo Ipuktonos (Slayer of vermin).  But others interpret the name to mean ‘lord of dung,’ and regard it as one of the insulting nicknames        which the Jews from a literal rendering of Exodus 23:13 felt bound to apply to   heathen deities.  In this place perhaps Beelzebub is the true reading, and that           means ‘lord of the (celestial) habitation,’ i.e. prince of the air, Ephesians 2:2”        (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges).

 

            11:16   Others, testing Him, sought from Him a sign from heaven.  Different people disprove things different ways when they are desperate and looking for a way out of overpowering evidence.  Here some dismiss the demoniac healing as itself demoniac while others insist it isn’t spectacular enough to vindicate His teaching credentials.  Alternatively this can mean that He can only disprove their “demonic” interpretation by this different type of miracle:  One in the skies above that only God could give.  Think “the pillar of cloud by day [and] the pillar of fire by night” that accompanied the Jews during the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:22).  They clearly hadn’t considered the possibility that if such a sign were granted it might be “fire come down from heaven” like Elijah successfully asked God for (2 Kings 1:8-17).

            The demand suffered another problem as well:  Why couldn’t some visible phenomena in the skies be dismissed as from a similar demoniac source?  Consider Paul’s strange words about how Ephesian converts “once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2).  Why couldn’t the devil produce a visible phenomena there as well?

 

            11:17   But He, knowing their thoughts, said to them:  “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.  In this world we know that any kingdom that is seriously divided is headed to disaster--“desolation.”  Even on a family level, any household that is waging internal war is heading for a horrendous “fall.”  The exact form either will take can vary, but the outcome is inescapable.

 

            11:18   If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?  Because you say I cast out demons by Beelzebub.   If Satan is so schizophrenic that he is permitting his own demons to be cast out, how can his kingdom survive?  Yes, Satan is morally twisted . . . but is he really willing to expose his power to destruction by such self-damaging behavior?  Common sense dismisses that option out of hand, does it not?    

 

            11:19   And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?  Therefore they will be your judges.  There was more than a tad of hypocrisy involved in the accusations:  Either their physical or rabbinic “sons” (= students) claimed to cast out demons.  If demonic power is required to do so, how do they accomplish it?  Jesus will invoke their actions to determine the validity of their “parent’s” argument.  We call this “pushing your point home with a vengeance.”  It was a vulnerable and obvious weakness from which there was no escape:  Either they are also using satanic power or they aren’t really casting them out at all.  Neither option could be embraced by them.  (Whether they actually could do so is irrelevant; it was enough that they thought so.)     

 

            11:20   But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.  The casting out of demons was, among other things, to vindicate a new spiritual reality:  the creation of the new “kingdom of God”--so near it is as if it has already “come upon you.”  (Rhetorical exaggeration but the modest distance from this point to the day of Pentecost made it fully justified.)

            Sidebar:  We are acquainted with the image of “the hand/hands of God” as expressing God’s power to act (Hebrews 10:31) and the unexpected imagery of the “finger of God” expresses a similar concept:  Psalms 8:3 also refers to “Your heavens, the work of your fingers.”  When faced with the miracles Moses performed, the Egyptian magicians ultimately despaired, saying, “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19). 

 

            11:21   When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.  A ruler protects his own.  That is as inevitable as breathing--possibly more so!  In a similar vein, demons are out there protecting Satan’s interests and possessions.  In this case the “goods” are the demon possessed.  The possessed are not actually doing the Devil any positive good so far as we can tell but his control (possession) over them is a matter of personal pride, power, and arrogance.  Having gained it, it is the demons’ role to make sure he never loses it.     

 

            11:22   But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.  On the human level it requires “a stronger” ruler to attack and “overcome” another one before his possessions can be taken.  The spiritual parallel is that Jesus is stronger than Satan and has zealously seized the demon possessed individuals away from their former “owner.”  The possessed are like the beautiful “armor” of a worldly soldier--and you only get it when that warrior is quite vanquished.  In his own way, Satan is already “a walking dead man” . . . with his possessions being stripped and his powers ripped away.

            Colossians 2:15 is a good commentary on the point being made:  Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them” through the resurrection.  He had brought disaster upon the Devil and his peons and would continue to do so.  The war would continue to be waged.  The key and pivotal initial victory of the resurrection had already been won.

 

            11:23   He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.  There was no room for neutrality between Jesus and His enemies.  Either one was for Jesus or one was opposed.  He doesn’t come out and say it aloud, but after the illustration He has just given the point has to be implied:  Are you on My side or on Satan’s?  I'm going to be the winner and he will be the loser.

 

 

The Person Who Persists in Living as God Demands—Rather Than Being a Moral Vacuum—Will Avoid Falling into Even Worse Evil Than Those He Used to Have (Luke 11:24-28):  24 ”When an unclean spirit goes out of a person, it passes through waterless places looking for rest but not finding any.  Then it says, ‘I will return to the home I left.’  25 When it returns, it finds the house swept clean and put in order.  26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there, so the last state of that person is worse than the first.” 

27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd spoke out to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed!”  28 But he replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            11:24-25          “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’  25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.  Interpreted narrowly, this story only concerns whether and when a person may be “re-infested” with demons.  To fit what has just been discussed in the previous section, this would refer to repossession after an exorcism.  It is a time for happiness and rejoicing, but what steps are being taken to protect against their return?  The argument hinges upon the person having steps available and his not taking them.  What can be under consideration--that is under that person’s control--but the development of their spiritual resources?

            Yet as one reads this section it is hard (for me at least) to avoid the conclusion that Jesus is laying down a broad principle applicable to everyone and not just those physically possessed by demons.  He seems to pass from literal demon possession in which direct control over the body either occasionally or completely exists to spiritual demon possession in which sin dominates us, is expelled by our conversion, but only a vacuum has been left behind.  There is a form of godliness:  Everything has been cleaned up (“swept”) and has been “put in order.”  But it is hollow and lacks depth; the man--or woman--is not spiritually fortified to deal with the inevitable desire of the demonic/sinful force to seek a renewed home within us.  The powerful psychological forces that undermined us have to be broken thoroughly or they will attempt to reassert control . . . and encourage more to breed more within us.  Sin is lonely; it wants friends to keep it company.  Hence . . .

 

            11:26   Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”  There were enough “wicked spirits” to weigh us down before; now it is far worse.  If our previous reasoning is inadequate, then consider this:  The interjection of verse 23 in the middle of this discussion of demon possession (“He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters”) seems to be a warning that He is now talking about something applicable to people in general and not just former demoniacs . . . the Lord is conveying the warning to everyone that the rejection of Him opens the door to a “possession” by evil in its many forms:  “The latter end is worse for them than the beginning” (2 Peter 2:19-22). 

            As applied to the literally demon possessed who has been healed, this could also be a warning that if they do not continue to embrace Jesus and fortify themselves spiritually through His teaching and the pattern of life He taught, then the possibility of repossession is quite possible . . . not just morally but literally . . . and it will be far worse than the last time.

 

            11:27   And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”  A teacher with such insight as Jesus must have a mother deserving the greatest honor.  Parents dream that their children will grow up to be “important and great” in some major way; but no one before or later grew up to be as important as Jesus.

            Sidebar:  Mary herself had spoken of how “all generations will called me blessed” for bearing Jesus into this world (Luke 1:48).  Clearly those especially respectful of what He had said and done began to do so even before His death.        

 

            11:28   But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”  True though her observation had been about Mary, even “more . . . blessed” are those who do God’s will.  Only one person could bear Jesus--for that is inherent in the very nature of His birth--but anyone could obey God’s will and share in God’s blessing.  In a sense all of His audience could also be part of His close kin.  As He had said earlier in Luke 8:21:  “My mother and My brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

 

 

Though Greater Than Both Jonah and Solomon, the Current Generation Would Still Not Embrace Loyalty to Jesus Even After His Resurrection (Luke 11:29-32):  29 As the crowds were increasing, Jesus began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it looks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.  30 For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be a sign to this generation.  31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon—and now, something greater than Solomon is here! 

32 The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented when Jonah preached to them—and now, something greater than Jonah is here!”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            11:29   And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation.  It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.  Earlier there were those who insisted that Jesus perform “a sign from heaven” (verse 16) even though He had just performed an exorcism.  Now Jesus returns to that type of demand.  If you had to apply a single word to describe the current generation then it had to be “evil:  It was fundamentally prejudiced against the Messianic Messenger of God.  In specific application to the current topic, that is demonstrated by its demand for a “sign” after so much evidence had already been provided.  It had received sign after sign after sign.  But none were good enough. 

            Even so one more sign would be given and that would be of a kind they were least expecting--one that would make everyone think of Jonah.  (There was an obvious parallel between being in the grave three days and being in the stomach of the sea creature, cut off from the world, for a similar period of time.)

 

            11:30   For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.  The “sign” was not the message about either but the person himself who communicated that message.  Both had faced death and been in their respective “tombs” for three days.  Was there any conceivable “sign from heaven” greater than this that could be given?

 

            11:31   The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.  From the standpoint of Jerusalem, the “queen of the South” had come from so far away that it was on the borderland beyond which the Jews had no knowledge--hence the description “from the ends of the earth.”  (The debate continues over whether this was Yemen or Ethiopia.)  It wasn’t an idle regal trip, but to hear the “wisdom of Solomon” that had already become legendary even where she ruled.  In this she was obviously praiseworthy and His audience would readily have concurred.  Yet Jesus was “greater than Solomon” in His wisdom and yet they mocked Him!

            Sidebar:  The account of her visit can be found in 1 Kings 10:1-13 and 2 Chronicles 9:1-12.

           

            11:32   The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.  Jonah had been an amazingly successful preacher of repentance, leading a pagan city to at least temporarily change its ways (Jonah 3:5).  Yet in Jesus they had “a greater than Jonah” in their midst and sought ways to dismiss His message.  The pagans repented; the bulk of Jesus’ contemporaries sought excuses.  A scathing indictment, the more one thinks about it:  “Ignorant pagans” could grasp the Divine truth, but “God's own people” couldn’t.  Perhaps a scary question:  Do God’s people today do any better? 

 

 

Let the Illuminating “Light” of Jesus’ Teaching Enter Your Heart Just as the Physical Light Enters the Eye and Conveys Sight and Information (Luke 11:33-36):  33 ”No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a hidden place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, so that those who come in can see the light. 3 4 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is diseased, your body is full of darkness.  35 Therefore see to it that the light in you is not darkness.  36 If then your whole body is full of light, with no part in the dark, it will be as full of light as when the light of a lamp shines on you.”    

--New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            11:33   “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.  The purpose of a lamp is to give light, so one never thinks of hiding it away where it can not perform its function.  “No one”--literally--would think of that because it’s simply too stupid, isn't it? 

 

            11:34   The lamp of the body is the eye.  Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light.  But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.  The lamp provides light to the surrounding room; the eye exists to provide “light” to the entire body.  With it we “see” what the religious truth is and can use its standards to benefit ourselves.  Or as the ancient Psalmist put it so well:  “Your word is a  lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalms 119:105).

            But if the eye is “bad” through prejudice against Jesus and a refusal to accept His teaching, the body will inevitably be “full of darkness”--misunderstanding of the truth and even the rejection of it.  Jesus taught to “enlighten” us; if we “turn the light off,” we plunge ourselves into moral blindness.

 

            11:35   Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.  Something will enter the body through the eyes.  Let it be that which will illuminate (i.e., the teaching of Jesus) rather than that which will cause one to be blind to the truth and good character.  Think self-justifying rationales and excuses. 

            When we reverse God’s standards and “call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20), thinking how smart and “wise” we really are (verse 21), we easily find a way to justify our drunken excess (verse 22) and an excuse for bribe taking and even denying justice to the person who is in the right (verse 23).  Will all do this?  Experience tells us “no;” but experience also tells us that for many the only limit will be “what we can get away with that won’t cause too big a problem.” 

 

            11:36   If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”  If one permits the body to be full of spiritual light through listening to and practicing Christ’s will, it will become like the physical lamp--filling all of ourselves with moral character and idealism.  We won’t be seeking excuses for weakness; we will be seeking ways to better ourselves even further. 

            We might well see in Proverbs 20:27 an expression of the same principle:  “The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inner depths of his heart.”  God's light is shining throughout our entire nature for our inner spirit is consciously applying it to our entire life.

 

 

A Pivotal Sin of the Pharisees:  Making Ritual Purification--in Practice Rather Than Theory--More Important Than Moral (Luke 11:37-44):   37 As he spoke, a Pharisee invited Jesus to have a meal with him, so he went in and took his place at the table.  38 The Pharisee was astonished when he saw that Jesus did not first wash his hands before the meal.  39 But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  40 You fools! Didn’t the one who made the outside make the inside as well?  41 But give from your heart to those in need, and then everything will be clean for you.

42 But woe to you Pharisees!  You give a tenth of your mint, rue, and every herb, yet you neglect justice and love for God! But you should have done these things without neglecting the others.  43 Woe to you Pharisees!  You love the best seats in the synagogues and elaborate greetings in the marketplaces!  44 Woe to you! You are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it!”     --New English Translation (for comparison) 

           

 

            11:37   And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him.  So He went in and sat down to eat.  Even though He had repeated hostile encounters with the religious leadership of the day, He continued to be willing to deal with them in such social settings when they desired.  When Jesus criticizes the Pharisees in what follows, the language sounds like a denunciation of Pharisees in general--He was describing the unpleasant “norm” rather than just this man in particular.  We are directly told that religious legal experts (“lawyers,” verse 45) were there as well--surely Pharisees like their host.  If the invitation had been given in the hope to “gang up” on the Lord in private it wasn’t going to work as we shortly see.  If it was given in the hope that it would soften His “tone,” that wasn’t going to work either.

 

            11:38   When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.  A ceremonial/ritual washing of hands was a prescribed religio-social routine and not just one enjoined upon grounds of sanitariness.  It was accompanied by rules concerning precisely how to wash the hands and the prayers to be said.  One can’t help but suspect that they would have been just as upset if he had washed His hands but omitted these “essential” accompaniments.  So unexpected was the omission that the Pharisee “marveled” that it hadn’t been done (“amazed,” Holman; “surprised,” NASB).

            There was no way He did not know they were going to be upset.  Hence it was a conscious and knowing act on His part.  He knew such rituals were unnecessary and regarded requiring them as arrogating power to themselves that God had not given them.

            Furthermore, there may well have been a sense of personal appropriateness that day in aborting the technicalities as well.  Based upon the reference to “went in and sat down to eat” in the preceding verse some have reasonably argued:  The words imply that immediately He entered He sat down to table.  The meal was merely some slight refreshment in the middle of the day, and probably our Lord was both suffering from hunger after His long hours of teaching, and was also anxious to save time” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges).

 

            11:39   Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.  Jesus was blunt in response, but He makes sure that there is no doubt that He is criticizing the class under consideration rather than merely limiting His criticism to one particular Pharisee--which would have permitted the others to dismiss the relevance of the teaching to their own lives.  Indeed, if they had a certain dislike for this fellow Pharisee, they might even have gloated:  “See!  Even that crazy guy from Nazareth knows you!”

            But Jesus was going to leave no hiding place:  He is after a mind frame and not merely the embarrassment of one particular individual:  As a general category “you Pharisees” were so obsessed with making sure the externalities were right that they did not pay attention to the internal cancer of “greed and wickedness” that was eating away their souls. 

 

            11:40   Foolish ones!  Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?  Hence God wants both to be equally “clean.”  But in their minds the external things had, effectively, become more important.  They “glossed” God’s laws with a multitude of provisos that multiplied the difficulty of fully obeying them.  By emphasizing these things that they had invented, they unintentionally took time and attention away from an emphasis on what God had specified.     

 

            11:41   But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.  One key indicator of inward moral cleanliness is to give voluntary assistance to the poor.  The fact that they are rebuked as unclean (verse 39) and this is introduced as means to correct the situation, argues that they had been fond of excuses to avoid such charity.  Modern society easily dismisses all the underclass as “undeserving poor”--many are--but forgetting that there are many others who have tried everything they can. 

            In light of the religious nature of the Pharisees it is more likely that they sought an ethical excuse . . . quite possibly the “unwillingness” of the poor to follow their strict standards of propriety.  Time consuming and often fully possibly only for those who were not poor in the first place.  It seems no exaggeration to say that the poor could never be adequately “pure” by Pharisaic standards because they had neither the hours nor money for it . . . and because they weren't adequately “pure” they, inherently, were undeserving of assistance.  Today we call it “a vicious circle.” 

 

            11:42   “But woe to you Pharisees!  For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God.  These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.  Pharisees were typically so preoccupied with such technicalities of the Torah as tithing even things that were virtually impractical to tithe in the first place--“mint and rue and all manner of [garden] herbs”--that they passed by the more fundamental demands of “justice and the love of God.”  Of course, the tithing of even minute things was fine in itself if they had the time and desire, but they should never have permitted themselves to fall into the trap of using such “strict observance” to rationalize away their more fundamental failures.

 

            11:43   Woe to you Pharisees!  For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.  Far too often the motive in their behavior was pride not piety.  Whatever were the most prestigious seats in the synagogues, none were more deserving of them than folk like them.  Because of their superior spirituality they were also deserving of loud, boisterous, and lengthy formal greetings when passing through the marketplace so everyone would know that they present.  After all they were important, the spiritual elite, weren’t they?

            Sidebar:  The “best seats” were those facing the congregational audience rather than being part of it.  Doubtless if these were not available--horrifying shock as it would be--the best available within the congregation would be regarded as their rightful due.

 

            11:44   Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them. 

They looked and acted pious--or what they claimed was piety--but their piety fell so terribly short that they were no better than hidden graves . . . and touching a grave automatically made one unclean (Numbers 19:16).  Hence the supposed exemplars of holiness actually polluted those who could not see what they really were.

            This they did by encouraging the imitation of their practices and excuses that permitted behavioral departures from God’s will while claiming superior spirituality.  These were strong words, but spoken face to face (verse 39) where they had the opportunity to respond if they wished.

 

 

Instead Of Being an Enlightening Influence for the Spiritually Unlearned, the Religious Experts Had Become Masters of Placing Obligations on Others Rather Than Performing Them Themselves--And of Imitating the Sins Of Their Ancestors (Luke 11:45-54):  45 One of the experts in religious law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things you insult us too.”  46 But Jesus replied, “Woe to you experts in religious law as well ! You load people down with burdens difficult to bear, yet you yourselves refuse to touch the burdens with even one of your fingers!  47 Woe to you! You build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed.  48 So you testify that you approve of the deeds of your ancestors, because they killed the prophets and you build their tombs!

49 For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that this generation may be held accountable for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary.  Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. 

52 Woe to you experts in religious law!  You have taken away the key to knowledge! You did not go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were going in.”

53 When he went out from there, the experts in the law and the Pharisees began to oppose him bitterly, and to ask him hostile questions about many things, 54 plotting against him, to catch him in something he might say.      --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

             

            11:45   Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.”  Oddly enough none of the Pharisees are mentioned as challenging Jesus.  Were they all too aware that some of the dinners were conspicuous examples of the validity of what Jesus had said?  Or were they convinced that Jesus was so “blind” to the “truly important” things they emphasized that He would never be able to grasp their validity?  Or were they simply unsure how to tackle the challenge? Whatever it may have been, it was left for one of the religious lawyers to  challenge the accusations, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach [insult, NIV] us also.” 

            The distinction is likely this:  the religious “experts/lawyers” established these highly technical points while it was the broader categories of Pharisees who were noted by their practice of these rules.  Perhaps the “scholar/theologian vs. preacher” distinction would also fit well.  These were the experts . . . and experts can be trusted can’t they?  They don't get things wrong do they?

 

            11:46   And He said, Woe to you also, lawyers!  For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.  Whatever had been said of the Pharisees in general was at least just as much true of these “theological experts” who could easily find heavy responsibilities (“burdens”) for others to carry while finding excuses why these rules weren’t in any way binding on themselves.  And if you couldn’t grasp the validity of the distinction being made, that simply testified to your ignorance and the need to ignore your challenge in the first place.  The modern description of this phenomena is:  “Tails I win; heads you lose.”  You aren’t right and no amount of logic will make you right.

 

            11:47-48          Woe to you!  For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.  48 In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs.  They tried to give honor to the prophets by building their supposed tombs, yet it was their ancestors who caused them to be prematurely dead in the first place!  Their ancestors literally murdered the prophets while their descendents murdered the true spiritual intent of the prophetic writings.  Of course they claimed they would never have joined in the violence (Matthew 23:30) and, perhaps, they wouldn’t have.  But if you gut the purpose of the prophetic words aren’t you accomplishing the same thing by a different means?  (For that matter, weren’t there already those who wished to give Jesus the same fate as the prophets? . . . repeating the sins of their ancestors.)

 

            11:49   Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute.’  History will repeat itself:  God’s wisdom predicts that more prophets and designated teachers will come to you--yet you will abuse and even kill them as well.  It is not just a matter of how your ancestors acted, but how you will imitate them”--reinforcing the point (verses 47-48) of how they imitate the evil of their ancestors.  The invoking of the fate of “apostles” is likely made to stress that they are the contemporary equivalent of the ancient prophets--inspired and guided by Divine revelation.

            Sidebar:  There is much debate as to what specific text “the wisdom of God” refers to.  It would seem easiest--and perhaps most probable--to simply take this to mean “the wisdom of God has revealed” this fact.  What comes next is not a quote per se but a summary of what Divine revelation has provided.     

 

            11:50   that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation.  If the coming of the Messiah was the culmination of Old Testament dreams and prophecy, what more appropriate time for a punishment for the many times that the prophetic vision had been suppressed?  Especially when even the Messiah Himself was going to be rejected as well?

 

            11:51   from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple.  Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.  The rejection of the prophetic word was not a one time deviation from the norm; it was close to being the norm.  This began with Abel who is presumably viewed as a de facto prophet for his determination to give the kind of sacrifice God wanted regardless of what Cain did . . . to the literal prophetic teacher Zechariah.  From Genesis to the end of the Bible--the murder of Zechariah being recorded in the last book of the Hebrew language Bible (2 Chronicles 24:20-22).  Hence “from beginning to end” the Old Testament is repeatedly the narrative of the rejection of God’s will.  Unfortunately there is every reason to believe that the New Testament age will be viewed similarly when Christ returns again. 

 

            11:52   “Woe to you lawyers!  For you have taken away the key of knowledge.  You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”  Instead of educating people in God’s will in direct and understandable language--providing the “key” of insight--the way they should have, they had actually “taken away the key of knowledge.”  They had tried to be so ultra-precise and get everything so letter perfect that they had created a “mountain” to climb instead of a “hill.”  God doesn’t demand perfection, but only the effort--knowing full well that a good faith attempt is all even the most pious man or woman can possibly deliver. 

            This fundamental “key of knowledge”--today we would call it the KISS principle (“Keep It Simple Stupid”)--had been removed from their religious teaching and had been substituted with a multitude of humanly invented religious demands regarded as “essential” to obey the scriptures.  We might even see here a prejudice against the poorer folk who had neither the time, money, or the education to follow their elaborate demands.

            Even so there were still many people who listened to Jesus and realized that repentance and a good faith effort would make God happy and they wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to “enter in” the kingdom Jesus preached.  Not so the religious “scholars.”  And they were determined to uphold their infidelity by outright erecting obstacles to those who wished to avoid their mistake.  And who better to throw dust that might mislead than ones who could always find “dust” when normal people didn’t even see any?  

           

            11:53   And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things.  At this point the full fury of the listeners broke out.  “Vehemently” [“fiercely,” NIV] they began to “cross-examine Him” about anything and everything they could think of.  Throw enough anger and rage into a discussion and the varied and overlapping attacks can guilt trip many a soul--especially when “important,” “distinguished” individuals are the ones doing the mud slinging.

            Or the attacks can cause one to lose control of one’s own thinking and utter rash words opening one to successful counter-attack, criticism, or misrepresentation.  As Albert Barnes wisely comments on what they were doing:  This means that they put many questions to Him about various matters, without giving Him proper time to answer.  They proposed questions as fast as possible, and about as many things as possible, that they might get Him, in the hurry, to say something that would be wrong, that they might thus accuse Him. This was a remarkable instance of their cunning, malignity, and unfairness.”  

 

            11:54   lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.  The purpose was not to defeat Him in argument.  It was not to prove Him wrong.  It was of that most reprehensible of motives, to simply find something of which “they might accuse Him.”  Sad to say, in many religious disputations this is the way things ultimate work out.  The search for truth disappears in the frantic need to find an excuse to discredit the opponent at any and all cost.  In their case they could well have been thinking not just of catching ill advised remarks that could be twisted and used against Him in the court of public opinion but also--with supplementary distortion--to prejudice the minds of the Roman officials as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve

 

 

           

Both the Good and the Bad Can Never Be Kept Permanently Secret (Luke 12:1-3):  1 Meanwhile, when many thousands of the crowd had gathered so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.  Nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing is secret that will not be made known.  So then whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms will be proclaimed from the housetops.”    

--New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            12:1     In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.  The Pharisees were right on a number of religious issues--the reality of a coming resurrection for example--and if they had been willing to cast others in terms of personal preference and not make them tests of orthodoxy Jesus would probably have found no cause for great concern.  (The case of ritual washings in the previous chapter is a good example.)

            But these had become the center of the spiritual life and not the veneer.  In contrast the scriptures had emphasized good character and good motives as what was pivotal.  Hence when humanly invented externals were generally elevated to defining what made one “truly pious”--and the private moral reality made a very secondary concern--it was just and proper to condemn the movement as guilty of “hypocrisy” because of the reversal of standards:  They claimed to be following God, but were actually more interested in following their traditions.  “Hypocrisy” for tolerating it by their silence if nothing else. 

 

            12:2     For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.  Although hypocrisy is a sin in itself, it is not a very utilitarian one on a long range basis:  It is to be avoided not just because it is inherently two-faced and wrong, but also because the hidden evils cannot permanently be hidden; they will ultimately be revealed.  On earth, the “real you” slips out, unwanted, inadvertently for all to see.  At the day of judgment those that haven’t, will also be exposed (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5).  In light of the closing of the last chapter (11:37-54), He may specifically have in mind the ability of the Pharisees to hide their rejection of God’s will behind a veneer of humanly invented religiosity. 

            Though the hidden moral warts will be brought to public view so will the hidden truths--the teachings of Jesus that lies, distortions, and the pure power and prestige of the Pharisees caused to be “hidden” . . . suppressed and ignored . . . will become well known in spite of that opposition.  Hence Jesus encourages the listeners by saying . . .    

 

            12:3     Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.  Those truths that many would consider only in privacy and out of visible sight will become publicly and widely known.  Those words spoken “in inner rooms” to only a few will become so widespread that it will be as if you had hollered them from the roof top.  Character assassination, misrepresentation, and Pharisaic pressure can’t keep them ignored forever. 

            Sidebar:  The reference to words being “spoken in the dark” easily brings to mind the case of Nicodemus who came alone and “by night” to discuss religious matters with the Lord (John 3:2).  He was a secret believer in Jesus.  Surely secret became he was one of only about seventy members of the Sanhedrin (John 7:50-51).  Joseph of Arimathea was another (Mark 15:43).  The reason Nicodemus kept his spiritual commitment discrete and out of public light was surely the same as Joseph:  “secretly, for fear of the Jews” (John 19:38).  Not merely physical danger but that of public shunning and humiliation, of even being pressured off the Sanhedrin--the highest place of spiritual honor then in existence.

 

 

Do Not Fear Those Who Can Kill the Body but the One Who Can Throw You Into Hell (Luke 12:4-7):  ”I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more they can do.  But I will warn you whom you should fear: Fear the one who, after the killing, has authority to throw you into hell.  Yes, I tell you, fear him!  Aren’t five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. In fact, even the hairs on your head are all numbered.  Do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”    

--New English Translation (for comparison) 

 

 

            12:4     “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do   Their faith was not to be without an element of danger.  They might even die because of their loyalty to the Lord.  But the real fear needed to be not of that assassin because he or she can only kill the outward body.  If one does not have an inner entity (soul) then that would be all to be concerned about because nothing more would exist after death.  The fact that Jesus immediately warns of post-death consequences proves that “part” of us survives the trauma of physical death.

 

            12:5     But I will show you whom you should fear:  Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!  To the extent that there is true fear at all, it should be aimed at God.  He has an ability beyond that of any mere mortal:  to punish you after death . . . by having you “cast into hell.”  Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:1:  Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 

            The word for “Hell” here is Gehenna.  It easily became a one word synonym for a place of decay, visual horror, and burning fire.  The Pulpit Commentary provides a short summary of how this came to be:

 

                        Literally, into Gehenna. This is simply Gee-hinnom,valley of Hinnom,”          translated into Greek letters.  This valley was situated in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, and originally was noted for the infamous rites practiced there in the        worship of Moloch, in the times of the idolatrous kings of Judah.  King Josiah, to           mark his abhorrence of the idol-rites, defiled it with corpses; fires were       subsequently kindled to consume the putrefying matter and prevent pestilence.        The once fair valley, thus successively defiled with hideous corrupting rites, by    putrefying corpses, and then with blazing fires lit to consume what would       otherwise have occasioned pestilence, was taken by rabbinical writers as a symbol             for the place of torment, and is used not unfrequently as a synonym for “hell.”

 

            A few have supposed it is Satan who does the casting into Hell but why in the world would he possibly punish his own when what they had done was--knowingly or not--in imitation of his own rejection of God’s ways?

            One can have extended debates as to the “nature” of this punishment.  But can one possibly read such texts without the admission that (1) it is a place of dishonor; (2) disgrace; (3) and Divine repudiation?  However one may attempt to soften its “pain” implications, nothing can in any way remove these condemnations, can it?  (Nor reasonably remove the severe pain element either--whatever form it may actually take.)

 

            12:6     “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?  And not one of them is forgotten before God.  The simple reality is that precious few of us are really “important.”  We are simply part of that vast multitude that is, lives, and dies.  No more affecting the broad course of human history than these sparrows that sell for such little.  In contrast to those who reject God’s will and live however they wish (with resulting punishment, verse 5), these folk have a friend rather than a foe in God.  Others will forget us after we die--even before we die--but God never loses sight of our needs, hopes, and dreams.  We are in His constant memory. 

 

            12:7     But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.  A powerful way to show that there is nothing insignificant in us or our lives that God is unconcerned with it.  It is as if God has counted every piece of hair on our heads and is fully aware of when any are missing.  He will not leave us in any way unprotected regardless of what happens on earth.

            Sidebar:  When Jesus returns to this imagery of “hairs” being numbered in Luke 21:16-18, it is to make the point that God will see you safely even through death and you will lose nothing in the process.  Paul uses similar imagery of those on board a ship about to sink to assure them that they will not lose their lives (Acts 21:33-34). 

 

 

Repudiating Jesus Because of Opposition Will Cause You To Be Repudiated in Heaven (Luke 12:8-12):  ”I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before God’s angels.  But the one who denies me before men will be denied before God’s angels.  10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the person who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 

11 ”But when they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you should make your defense or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you must say.”    

--New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            12:8     “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.  One’s life is to be a continual confession of Jesus before the world--not merely speaking of Jesus, but living in a manner He would approve of.  If we are embodiments of both forms of confession then Jesus will similarly embrace us in the presence of the angels as His faithful followers.  Then there is the “flip side” of this principle--refusing to do so. . . . 

           

            12:9     But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.  If one chooses to “deny” Jesus (either in behavior or by denying one’s discipleship to outsiders), then Jesus will similarly repudiate that person before the heavenly angels.  He had already warned of this danger--citing the reason one would deny Him--in Luke 9:26:  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.”  Note how here also rejecting Jesus includes rejecting what He has taught (“My words”).

            The temporal equivalent of verses 8 and 9 would be that of a King either praising (verse 8) or denouncing (verse 9) someone in the presence of his most senior staff.  It would either be a distinguished honor or an utter humiliation.  Even more so when the King is the ruler of the universe and His “senior staff” are His angels!

 

            12:10   “And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.  When the same threat is delivered in the gospel of Matthew (12:31-32), it is in immediate response to the claim that Jesus cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub (12:22-30).  Instead, Jesus insists “I cast out demons by the Spirit of God” (verse 28).  This incident is narrated in Luke in the preceding chapter and instead of referring to the “Spirit of God,” He refers to “the finger of God” (Luke 11:20)--making the Spirit even more emphatically Deity . . . the agent through whom God uniquely acts.

            In the current setting He has a different target but one in which the Spirit is equally involved--the inspiration of the apostolic teaching (verses 11-12).  And here there is a great paradox:  The same Spirit whose word hostile critics would be rejecting would assure that the apostles taught and said the right things--even when challenged under the most severe circumstances.    

 

            12:11   “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.  When they were hauled before the self-governing synagogues or government officials, they were not to torment themselves about what they would say.  Both of these power centers were potentially dangerous.  Synagogues could “excommunicate” their members--humiliating the person who wished to hold onto their ties. 

            Even physical violence could be authorized and Paul speaks of how he had carried out exactly that before his conversion:  And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities” (Acts 26:11).  Although capital punishment was not in their hands, that didn’t mean that it couldn’t sometimes happen (cf.  Acts 26:10).  Similarly Roman officials could come down harshly whether on their own initiative, that of outraged Jewish traditionalists, or that of angry pagans.

            This would be “high pressure time” with a vengeance when mistakes could be fatal.  Literally.  In spite of that, there was no need for them to worry as to how they should mount their defense because . . .  

 

            12:12   For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”  No matter how right (and even eloquent) your words may be, that doesn’t mean those conducting the hearings will necessarily accept your defense, but only that the best possible one will be made.  There is no need or reason for self-torment:  “If I could only have said it better!”  They would say it better.

            But if those trying them refuse to listen, they will be rejecting the message the Holy Spirit had given them to speak.  Hence those who treat them unjustly will face the condemnation of Christ because such brazen rejection of the message of the Spirit is unforgivable (verse 10).  Whether it is literally unforgivable is almost an irrelevancy:  The grim reality is that anyone this cold-heart will never want to see the light and will be self-blinded to the point where they are unable to see the light even if you shine it right in their eyes.  How then can they possibly be saved?

            The whole assumption behind these words also repudiates any concept of post-death change of views--supposed “repentance”--for it comes too late to matter.  You had your chance and you brazenly did not take advantage of it.  And now you have the audacity to try to con your way into heaven?  What kind of mischief are you likely to get into if permitted?     

 

 

Obsession with the Pursuit of Wealth Is Inherently Short Sighted for No One Ever Knows When Death Will Come and Bring It All to An Unexpected End (Luke 12:13-21):  13 Then someone from the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”  14 But Jesus said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator between you two?”  15 Then he said to them, “Watch out and guard yourself from all types of greed, because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 

16 He then told them a parable:  “The land of a certain rich man produced an abundant crop, 17 so he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  19 And I will say to myself, “You have plenty of goods stored up for many years; relax, eat, drink, celebrate!” ’

20 But God said to him, ‘You fool!  This very night your life will be demanded back from you, but who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  21 So it is with the one who stores up riches for himself, but is not rich toward God.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            12:13   Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”  One of the listeners had a family problem and since Jesus was both respected and available, wanted to divert Him into solving it.  If taken the most literally, the man's objection would be that the brother had refused to settle the estate, was delaying doing so.  Interpreters normally gloss the intent, however, as being “tell my brother to rightly/more fairly divide the inheritance with me.”  In his mind, the division was so outrageous it was as if no division had occurred at all.  Verbal exaggeration of the kind that would doubtlessly annoy Jesus ten fold worse than if the plea had been literally true.  (The fact that the response is primarily aimed at this objector rather than his brother argues that the problem was on his side of the family.)   

            The fact that he wanted Jesus to “tell”--instruct, order--the brother to act in a certain manner argues that he was convinced that the brother regarded Jesus as one whose judgment was to be respected.  Of course this would divert Jesus from the moral and spiritual instruction He wanted to emphasize and He was immediately determined to wrest the conversation back to that agenda.

 

            12:14   But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?”  Jesus disdained involvement.  His role was neither as “judge or an arbitrator” over legal disagreements.  His interests lay elsewhere.  For that matter, so should those of the objector. . . .

 

            12:15   And He said to them, Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”  Since he had diverted matters in an unintended direction, Jesus points out a very real danger that could easily underlay his question:  personal covetousness.  He needed to learn that life does not consist merely in how much one owns.  Possessions are morally neutral, but they are never an end in themselves.  Note how Jesus “stands off” from directly accusing the questioner of being guilty--however what is the relevance of raising the matter unless he is?--but insists he “take heed and beware of covetousness” . . . in effect, challenging him to judge himself.

 

            12:16   Then He spoke a parable to them, saying:  “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.  To illustrate, He provides a story based on two premises that the challenger would want found in his own life:  (1)  he is a “rich man”--not poor, not trying to just make ends meet either; (2) his property “yielded plentifully”--he didn't have to worry about crop production because it was all abundant.  If he didn’t have “everything he wanted,” he surely had enough to “get it”--or come close.  He is the model of success.  But prosperity has brought with it an unexpected problem. . . .

 

            12:17   And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’  He was faced with a farmer’s dream:  such an abundant yield that he had run out of storage space.  He could have used it as an opportunity for unusual generosity to the poor:  giving it to them free or at a cut rate.  That way he could have helped a large number and still had a more than abundant yield for himself.  The thought does not pass through his mind.

            Sidebar:  The mind frame was nothing new.  The apocryphal book of Sirach (29:8-13) effectively tears into it by arguing that charity is, ironically, self-beneficial:  Store up almsgiving in your treasury, and it will rescue you from all affliction” (verse 12).

 

            12:18   So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.  The decision to deal with his problem by replacing his old barns with much larger ones was not an illogical one if an unstated assumption is true:  “Because I am doing this well now, the future will inevitably be just as prosperous.  I will always need this extra room.” 

            Note also he is storing not only “my crops” but also “my goods,” as if he is using part of his prosperity to build up a reserve of ego enhancing objects as well.  Perhaps we should think of an ever growing stock of fine clothes and any other temporal possessions that he has a taste for.  He may rarely use them but they are his.  That’s the important thing in his mind.

 

            12:19   And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”   The unconsumed and unsold crops had to be put somewhere and this solved his short term problem.  It did nothing to resolve the severe self-centeredness that is revealed by his words:  (1) that the only person in the world who counted was himself; (2) all that counted beyond himself was the luxury and excess that his wealth made possible:  “eat, drink, and be merry.” 

            Luxury is not inherently evil, but its easily abused as one savors the delusion that it is one’s by “right” and that anyone who lacks it is to be looked down upon as unimportant and inferior.  Nor should we overlook the fact that he believed he would be around for many years to enjoy his prosperity.  (For businessmen--rather than farmers--sharing this delusion see the condemnation in James 4:13-17.)  The Proverbist was far wiser, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (27:1).  

 

            12:20   But God said to him, ‘Fool!  This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’  Since he was so wrapped up in his possessions, God decided to remove him from his wealth.  Job lost his to disasters; this wealthy man lost his to his own death.  “Whose will those things be which you have provided?” was the challenge.  Someone else’s; someone who had not worked for them.  If having is all there is to life, one suffers the ultimate catastrophe by death since then everything is lost.  “When he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him”--“his wealth will not follow him down into the grave” [NET]  (Psalms 49:17).

 

            12:21   “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”  With wealth comes responsibility, Jesus warns:  one must do right not only by oneself but also in relationship with God.  This, in someone living under the Jewish Law, meant a number of things.  Tithing was high on the list.  But so was charity toward the needy.  But none of these had entered his mind; only what the possessions would do for himself.  His self-obsession was inherently misguided, but he managed to make a bad situation even worse by forgetting his obligations to God as well. 

            The expression “rich toward God” is of special significance.  If, to him, earning a lot is what makes him “rich” . . . then spending a large amount of resources on what God wants done is required in order to be “rich” toward Him as well.  Penny-pinching God may deceive friends and associates, but God always knows the truth.  He never minds you being successful; He just wants to be sure you are fulfilling your other obligations as well:  “They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future . . .” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

 

 

Just As You Should Not Be Obsessed With Wealth, Neither Should You Be Obsessed with Your Poverty--God Is Still Quite Capable of Helping You (Luke 12:22-31):  22 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.  23 For there is more to life than food, and more to the body than clothing.  24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by worrying can add an hour to his life?  26 So if you cannot do such a very little thing as this, why do you worry about the rest?

27 Consider how the flowers grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these!  28 And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, how much more will he clothe you, you people of little faith! 

29 So do not be overly concerned about what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not worry about such things.  30 For all the nations of the world pursue these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  31 Instead, pursue his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

--New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            12:22   Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.  The “therefore” shows that there is an intended connection with what had just been said:  Jesus had dealt with the problem of covetousness in the heart of the aggrieved inheritance disputer (verses 13-15) and stressed how, at death, one losses it all (verses 16-21).  In other words, no matter how much you temporarily gain, you won’t keep it.

            In that context, this section serves as a caution to the prosperous that contentment with adequacy rather than abundance serves one quite well also--because God is deeply concerned with these people as well.  And to face Him is still what is going to happen when we all die.  Hence arrogance toward any one is profoundly out of place.

            Furthermore this is an encouragement to those with a lack of funds adequate to meet one’s needs:  Important as physical things are, life is still far more than just the material, painful though these limits are. . . . 

 

            12:23   Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.  Jesus is not scoffing at either nourishment or clothing:  He knows that we need both just as He Himself needed both.  Even so these things are still only part of our existence and not the totality of it.  Neglect of either physical or spiritual is folly.

 

            12:24   Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them.  Of how much more value are you than the birds?  The example of nature shows that God is concerned even with far “lesser” things than we are and has created nature in such a way to assure that they can be fed as well.  In regard to ravens in particular, God reminded Job that He “provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food” (38:41).

            Both human and non-human creation seem intended in Psalms 145:15-16:  “The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season.  You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”  The use of “thing” rather than “person” would argue that the Psalmist has in mind the creatures of the surrounding world rather than just the human population. 

 

            12:25   And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  If God providing for the animal world is not sufficient to prove that He is also concerned with His human creation as well, consider the fact that worrying about these things is not going to solve your problem.  He gives the example of someone who thinks he or she is too short and is tired of all the surrounding “giants” looking down upon them.  Worrying about it won’t fix the problem; it is incapable of making you taller no matter how much exhausting anxiety you pour into it.

            Almost all translations today opt for a different rendition of the Greek found here, resulting in some variant of “add a single hour to your life” (NIV) or, if you wish to make it more literal, consider the ASV’s “add a cubit unto the measure [i.e. length] of his life.”  In other words, worrying isn’t going to make you live any longer.  Modern medical and psychological studies would vigorously concur in this common sense judgment. 

 

            12:26   If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?  If worry can’t produce at least this modest a change, why should one worry about other things?  The sad fact is that virtually everyone has something or other they can worry about.  Not only “can” but often “have a good excuse to.”  But even then it is not going to do any positive good but only land up making you feel even more despondent.  So what have you accomplished besides deepening your own misery?

 

            12:27   Consider the lilies, how they grow:  they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  You don’t have to be wealthy to be blessed in ways you may not even recognize.  The lilies of the field do not labor yet their beauty really surpassed even the garments that a regal Solomon purchased.

 

            12:28   If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?  If God gives “clothes” to plants that will merely be burned as fodder in the oven tomorrow, who can doubt that He will provide for His own people?  To think otherwise would be to indicate just how “little faith” one has.  He may not arrange as much or the form we want, but He will still be acting on our behalf.

                       

            12:29   “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.  In other words, don’t be obsessed with getting the temporal necessities you would most prefer; be pleased that you have the ones that will do the job.  Don’t become preoccupied with them because that will only fuel further anxiety that will accomplish nothing.  I rather like Weymouth’s modern speech substitute for having an anxious mind:  “do not waver between hope and fear.”  Never certain; never calm; never happy--making an unpleasant situation a terrible one by the heavy emotional burdens you have added to your difficulties.

 

            12:30   For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.  The Jews liked to think of themselves as superior to other nations--and that is exactly what they were supposed to be.  Yet these supposedly inferior “nations of the world” had exactly that kind of preoccupation that was often shared by Jesus’ Jewish listeners.  They were, if you will, living down to the world’s standards rather than trying to live upward to a godly optimism.

            After all, they claimed God as “Father.”  And what father will fail to do everything he can to assure the well being of his offspring?  Will not the heavenly Father treat us at least as well as a merely earthly one? 

 

            12:31   But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.  If one puts seeking God’s kingdom as the first priority, then the necessities will be taken care of.  Jesus doesn’t promise that everyone will be wealthy; He does promise survival.  Only in a country where prosperity is the norm will such a promise be looked down upon as inadequate.  Everywhere else it will be counted as a considerable blessing.

 

 

In Order to Keep Your Priorities Right, Be Generous With Your Wealth to Help Others (Luke 12:32-34):  32 Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom.  33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves purses that do not wear out—a treasure in heaven that never decreases, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

--New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            12:32   “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  The core band of Jesus’ faithful followers was small compared to the many who rejected Him; hence the designation of them as a “little flock.”  One day it would be different and the numbers would vastly increase, but that lies in the future.

            Yet in spite of their small numbers they would still have the honor of being “given” God’s kingdom.  Usually we think in terms of people seeking (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31) or inheriting the kingdom (Matthew 25:34; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), but here the description is that they are “given” it--language that fits snugly with the other two expressions:  We inherit the eternal kingdom of heaven by being given admission to it; similarly the result of our passionate seeking the eternal kingdom is that God is happy to give us admission.

            If we wish to take the language to additionally refer to our entrance into the earthly manifestation of the eternal kingdom (the church) then the language also expresses our special responsibility toward it:  To “run” it and “manage” it in a way that honors the One who has given us this special opportunity and responsibility.  

 

            12:33   Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.  They needed to keep their priorities right.  Although they had the high honor of being “given the kingdom” (verse 32), they were to be “givers” as well:  selling their abundance and providing assistance to those that needed it.  It wasn’t that giving was virtuous, it was giving when there was genuine need that was virtuous.  They were not commanded to be gullible, nor are we.  On the other hand they were not to use caution as an excuse to be callous either. 

            Sidebar:  The assistance was sometimes done by giving the proceeds to the church for distribution (Acts 2:40-45; 4:32-37).  The giving itself was a voluntary decision as well as the amount to be given out of the proceeds (Acts 5:1-4:  “was it not your own? . . . was it not in your own control?”--verse 4).

 

            12:34   For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  If one’s treasures are on earth then one will be preoccupied with earthly matters. If one’s treasure is, so to speak, in heaven--if what one most values is there--then one will be preoccupied with those matters instead.  The fact that this is given immediately after the command to be charitable (verse 33) argues that we demonstrate where our “treasure” is by how we act.  Like James 2 argues at length, faith and works demonstrating that faith walk hand-in-hand.

 

 

Faithful Stewardship of One’s Moral and Spiritual Responsibilities Is Required Because No One Knows When the “Son of Man” Will Return (Luke 12:35-40):  35 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.’ “      --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            12:35   “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning.  Discipleship was to be a period of constant readiness and activity.  He illustrates this with a parable (verses 35-38) about servants waiting for their master’s return.  Such servants would be dressed and prepared for work by having their long clothes raised at the waist so they could tackle whatever needed to be done.  The lamps would be burning in preparation for his anticipated coming--both to greet him and to have light to carry out any immediate instructions he might give.

 

            12:36   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.  Although they know he will be returning from a wedding, they do not know when he returns.  By the very nature of such a joyous event--for it includes the accompanying feast as well--things might take considerably longer than anticipated.  Even so, their job was to be constantly ready to “immediately” open the door for his entry--regardless of when that might be.  It will be too late to do the preparation work when the master is already knocking at the door.  Likewise it will be too late for us to do our preparation work of godly living when the Lord returns for His people.

 

            12:37   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.  He will so appreciate their “going the extra mile” in preparedness that he will give them a signal honor.  In temporal terms of that day it would be hard to think of a greater one than to have the “service” roles reversed and have the master himself serve them food to eat.  (In Rome this reversal of roles was a once a year custom during Saturnalia.)

 

            12:38   And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.   The time of the return is uncertain and unpredictable so it could be during any of the night watches.  Regardless of the timing, if they are prepared the servants will find themselves “blessed” for their readiness.  As Jesus warned His disciples of when “heaven and earth will pass away,” “of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:35-36).

            Sidebar:  Although Jesus, in urging preparedness for His return, sometimes invokes the Roman image of four “watches” during the night (Mark 13:36):  6 to 9; 9 to 12; 12 to 3; 3 to 6, here he invokes the traditional Jewish one of there only being three.  In either case, the idea is that there is absolutely no way to be sure when the event occurs.  Ironical though it is, when you least expect it could be when it actually happens! 

 

            12:39   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.  We can interpret this in either of two settings.  If we are assuming a continuation of the image of a large household that we found in the previous verse, then the idea is that someone manages to break into the home while everyone is sleeping.  No one is alert and about because there would be no reason for them to be.  If there is the least significant possibility of danger, one would expect at least one person to be vigilant around the clock--even “the master of the house” personally.

            However the image seems to shift from a person in a large household to a person in a small one with few or no servants at all:  First of all the “master of the house” would surely have a group of his strongest servants with him, ready to grab the introducer.  Secondly note the “he would have watched”--singular not plural--as if he had to do it personally if it were to be done at all.  These factors would indicate a far more modest household so far as its resources.  Jesus, then, would be making the point that preparedness is essential regardless of where one is at on the socio-economic totem pole--from prosperous with varied servants to one where it is only your immediate family and this kind of responsibility falls on your shoulders alone.

 

            12:40   Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  No one knows when “the Son of Man” (an euphemism for Jesus) will be returning.  It is something not even the apostles are told.  Hence the need for not merely occasional alertness, but for it to become a way of life.  Not paranoid alertness--living in fear of it--but prepared alertness, knowing we are always giving it a good faith effort as we should.

 

 

Faithful Stewardship of One’s Moral and Spiritual Responsibilities Is Also Required Because Negligence of Them Will Bring Punishment (Luke 12:41-48):  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.     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            12:41   Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?  Peter’s question seems rather illogical--human beings often are!  If it describes the duty of all believers, then it must apply to the apostles because they also are believers!  On the other hand, how in the world could the message of constant preparedness be any less an obligation of believers in general than of the apostles?  Even under the Old Testament did God expect only priests to be strivers after moral purity and everyone else did not matter?  Of course not!

            Although the teaching found here has obvious relevance to anyone who seeks leadership responsibility in the church it obviously had special relevance to the apostles.  After all, the question of who should be regarded as leader among them was a question that sometimes vehemently rose to the surface (Luke 22:24).  Paul later spoke not in terms of one person occupying the position, but “to the most imminent apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5), indicating several could be pointed to.  On his second visit to Jerusalem after his conversion, he refers in particular to “James, Cephas, and John” as those who “seemed to be pillars” of the church (Galatians 2:9).

            Sidebar:  This is the only case in the gospels (verses 42-48) in which Jesus utilizes a parable to explain a parable.  Here the image is shifted from the servants in general to the chief servant in particular. 

 

            12:42   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?  Jesus raises the question of leadership in God’s household and how it can be obtained and gives the criteria for the decision in the next verse.  It is not blind luck, but exemplary behavior rewarded.               

 

            12:43   Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.  The standard of reward is not what he did at some point in the past, but what he is still doing when the master returns.  Past good service does not work as an “advance atonement” for betrayal of obligations and duties.  One must be continuing to act in faithful service the entire time.

 

            12:44   Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.  If there has been steadfast loyalty, he will be promoted to be administrator “over all” that the master owns.  In the apostolic application of this principle, the apostles began as mere disciples and were “promoted” to leadership during the process of the ministry, just as the servant here receives a promotion based upon actions and potential.

            Congregational leaders are similarly chosen on the basis of past behavior and potential for the future.  But once position has been given, there is still the responsibility to exercise its duties and obligations with all due diligence.  The teaching here is germane to anyone who exercises a position of ongoing responsibility in God’s kingdom.  This serves as far more than just a warning against apostolic abuse but that of every other “position” (de facto or de jure) that a person may have in serving God’s people.  

 

            12:45   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.  In the church this is hardly likely to happen--although in a few extraordinarily absurd cases they doubtlessly have.  But the more “pious” equivalent of abuse of power and position is a different matter:  to criticize, embarrass, humiliate . . . “to eat and drink and be drunk” on such abuse . . .  addicted to it . . . well that is very much a possibility.

            Sadly, for some people, responsibility goes to their heads and they see it as a blank check to do whatever they want rather than to act with restraint and respect.  As the ancient writer of Ecclesiastes 8:11 put it:  Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”  They’ve “gotten away with it” so far and have every expectation to continue to do so.  But it won’t work out that way. . . .

 

            12:46   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.  The servant will be shocked at the return and have no opportunity to hide his vile behavior.  There is no time to set things in order or to hide the evidence of past excess or even to pretend a return to moral integrity.  Instead there is only time to be punished as if he is a mere unbeliever.  The imagery here is clearly that of extreme punishment.  It will not be a mere rhetorical rebuke.

            A number of translations prefer to speak of punishment being with the “unfaithful” rather than “unbelievers.”  The underlying Greek can certainly be rendered either way quite justly and here the emphasis is not on whether he believed the right thing but whether he did the right thing.  In that context “unfaithful”--to duties, responsibilities, obligations--would be the better conceptual fit.  Intellectual embracing of the truth will do no good if behavior is the opposite.    

 

            12:47   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.  Note that punishment goes to others further “down the totem pole” of responsibility within the (divine) household as well.  None will escape answerability.  In this kind of case, though there is punishment, it is not as extreme as that inflicted on the chief of the household.

            What these translate into in terms of ultimate punishments after death we don’t have the foggiest.  But since all involve pain and suffering, it is inescapable that the eternal punishments will be so discomforting that we will hate it with a passion even though we find it inescapable.

 

            12:48   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.  Those who did not know his duties--the one who is ignorant--even though he did things worthy of severe punishment, he will receive lesser retribution in comparison with the other type of individual.  The reason is that knowledge brings responsibility.  God demands much of those who know much.  He cuts far more “slack” for those who have lacked that opportunity--even though punishment still exists. 

            In our temporal world, we have the same kind of situation.  Today we send a man to jail for life for murder, but for lesser offenses we give much less.  It is embarrassing, humiliating, sometimes outright painful to be so confined--but it is still of a far different order than that of the murderer.  What this language “translates” into in regard to post-death punishments, we are not told.  We are simply provided powerful imagery of pain and retribution.  If that is not enough to discourage us from that kind of life, would a literal detailing of all the “gory details” do the job any either?

 

 

Loyalty to Jesus Will Even Bring Division Within Families (Luke 12:49-53):  49 I have come to bring fire on the earth—and how I wish it were already kindled!  50 I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is finished!  51 Do you think I have come to bring peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division!  52 For from now on there will be five in one household divided, three against two and two against three.  53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”      --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            12:49   “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  Not all the challenges they would face would involve the temptation to treat others to excess and giving into their own self-serving weaknesses as in the parables He had just given.  Others would occur as the result of Jesus and His message being widely shared and successful.

            Today we might use the imagery of “the world is going to be turned upside down” to convey Jesus’ point.  Some would rejoice at the result and others would be horrified.  To the latter the Jesus movement would be like a horrible destructive fire destroying what they were used to:  No longer would the Old Testament be regarded as authoritative for it would be nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:13-23) along with the humanly invented religious traditions of the rabbis.  In contrast, to the follower of Jesus, this would be a purifying fire removing what was no longer needed and opening the door to a universal religion with no ethnic boundaries .     

            To produce this the crucifixion of the Lord would have to occur and that is already wearing on His emotions (verse 50).  From the standpoint of the disciples, the changes would result in intense disagreement with pro-existing system advocates . . . down to the household level (verses 51-53).  

            Sidebar:  The image of fire as purifying was rooted in the Old Testament (Numbers 31:23) and repeated in the New (1 Peter 1:7; Revelation 3:18).  The image of Jesus as a purifying fire is found in prophecy about the coming Messiah (Malachi 3:1-3).      

 

            12:50   But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!  What it is He doesn’t spell out but for it to be compared to “fire” (verse 49) requires that it be dangerous and painful.  In retrospect we know He speaks of the anguish of His trials and crucifixion--even thinking about it could be painfully tormenting in and of itself.  What were these things but a “baptism”--a burial in, an overwhelming--by both pain and suffering?  Thinking about it, is there any wonder that He wishes it over and done with? 

 

            12:51   Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth?  I tell you, not at all, but rather division.  Here we have paradox:  Jesus had twin goals of both peace and division and they were irretrievably interlocked.  As to peace:  Jesus had come to bring “peace with God on earth:  God wants such peace to exist (Luke 2:14); Jesus was the “prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6) since He was the tool God used to produce it.  Jesus also left Divine peace with His disciples (John 14:27).  In Acts 10:36 the apostle Peter describes the gospel as “the word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all.”

            On the other hand, the “peace” was to be strictly on God’s terms and no one else’s.  Because most human beings are, by acquired nature if nothing else, self-willed and self-centered, most find it impossible to accept God’s demands.  The result is “division” rather than unity in following God.  Hence the very act of trying to bring peace resulted in the sinful forces opposed to accepting God’s peace terms bursting out in open fury and rejection.  What had previously been discretely hidden behind a religious veneer, Jesus had “smoked out” and now burned brightly in the air for all to see.  Jesus had brought division--by His effort to bring peace . . . and it was the inevitable result of bringing peace!

 

            12:52   For from now on five in one house will be divided:  three against two, and two against three.  The spiritual divisions would exist down to the household level--households being composed of one or more families linked by marriage or kinship.  Their unity would be ripped apart because of the refusal to do the right thing.  In a household of five the division might easily be three embracing Jesus and two rejecting Him--or vice versa.

            Sidebar:  In cases of economically well off families, there would be one or more servants as well.  These don’t get mentioned in this example.  For one thing their survival instinct would have caused them to do their best to “stay out of the line of fire” and allow the family to aim their hostilities at each other rather than them.  Furthermore Jesus is concerned with the psychological anguish caused by one’s physical kin and “employees” are irrelevant to this.

 

            12:53   Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”  Religious conflict could put father and son on opposite sides.  It could make mother and daughter opponents.  Painful it would be--just like Jesus’ own future sufferings.  But like those, they would have to learn to endure it as well.  Jesus refuses to hide the reality from them.  Those who aren’t willing to face reality will ultimately be destroyed by it.

            This is almost like a first century update of the conditions the prophet Micah described:

 

                        5 Do not trust in a friend; / Do not put your confidence in a companion; /            Guard the doors of your mouth / From her who lies in your bosom. / For son    dishonors father, / Daughter rises against her mother, / Daughter-in-law against        her mother-in-law; / A man’s enemies are the men of his own household. /         Therefore I will look to the Lord; / I will wait for the God of my salvation; / My             God will hear me.  (Micah 7)   

 

 

 

Those Who Could Understand Easily Enough the Meaning of the Physical Phenomena Around Them, Were At a Loss to Understand The Significance of Jesus (Luke 12:54-56):  54 Jesus also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A rainstorm is coming,’ and it does.  55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and there is.  56 You hypocrites!  You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, but how can you not know how to interpret the present time?”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            12:54   Then He also said to the multitudes, Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is.  Jesus’ next remarks are addressed to the large crowds who came to hear Him rather than just the apostles or the broader body of disciples.  In regard to weather prediction, everyone had  quite accurate and proven rules of thumb:  A cloud coming from the west (the Mediterranean Sea area), for example, would argue for showers.  (As in the case of 1 Kings 18:44-45).

 

            12:55   And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is.  If the wind blew in from the southern desert, they would naturally expect scorching “hot weather” to soon arrive with it.

 

            12:56   Hypocrites!  You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?  There was an absurdity--a “hypocrisy,” if you will--that those who were so astute in judging temporal things could not discern spiritual ones.  They were not dumb.  They were not stupid.  But when it came to making important spiritual judgments, it was like they had lost all their natural talents.  Yet they had the testimony of the Scriptures about the coming of John the Baptist preparing the way for the Messiah.  They had John’s endorsement of Jesus.  They had seen Jesus’ pattern of miracles--promptly done and without fail.  Yet they were still unable to “discern [the spiritual implications of] this time” in which they lived.

 

 

The Failure to Use Good Judgment Lands You in Worse Trouble Than You Were Before—Both Temporally and Spiritually (Luke 12:57-59):  57 And why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?  58 As you are going with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, so that he will not drag you before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.  59 I tell you, you will never get out of there until you have paid the very last cent!”

--New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            12:57   “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?  If they were so good at judging what is only of passing importance--warm weather or rain storm--why in the world did they not use their full talents on judging (= determining) what is spiritually right and proper?  Making good judgments on these other matters demonstrated that it wasn’t a matter of couldn’t but wouldn’t.  They didn’t like the conclusions they would come to and therefore automatically ruled them “out of order and impossible.”  On these matters evidence didn’t really matter.  (Isn’t this really a polite way to imply that the comparatively unimportant things of life were counted as more vital than the truly significant ones of the soul and spirit?) 

 

            12:58   When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.  He urges them to use simple prudential common sense:  Make peace with your foe before you get dragged before a hostile judge and he throws your guilty carcass into prison. 

            It is hard to believe that His listeners were suicidal enough to do otherwise--or that His listeners thought for a moment that He was suggesting such either.  Hence it seems unavoidable that the implied but unspoken words of rebuke are surely along the lines of:  You are so self-blinded and oblivious that when you get to the truly important spiritual things of life, you won’t make peace with your Divine accuser before you lose all chance to do so.  If He’s not referring to literal temporal justice, what else could He be referring to?        

 

            12:59   I tell you, you shall not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite.”  Once in that temporal prison they aren’t going to let him out until he’s paid every cent.  And since if he had the money available at all, he would immediately have done so and be promptly left out, it is never going to get paid at all.  He has, in temporal terms, an unending punishment.  In spiritual terms the same thing.