Do Not Conceal Who You Are (Luke 12:1-12)
A very large crowd of multiple thousands gather to hear Jesus. The word used is for tens of thousands, but it is also used to indicate a very large crowd that can’t be counted. There were so many gathered that they were stepping on each other. And it is in the midst of this crows that Jesus begins teaching his disciples. The teachings are not meant to be exclusive to the disciples, but it is to them that they are primarily directed. Much that is taught here appeared in the instructions to apostles before being sent out (Matthew 10).
First and foremost, Jesus warns his disciples to beware of the effect of the Pharisees, in particular their hypocrisy. As R. L. Whiteside points out in The Four-Fold Gospels, “The spirit of hypocrisy works in two ways: it causes the bad man to hide his badness for fear of the good man, and the good man to hide his goodness for fear of the bad man.” It is this point which serves as the foundation for the remainder of Jesus’ lesson. Nothing hidden is not later exposed. Jesus used this proverb several times for different situations (Matthew 10:24-26 - the hidden slander as they teach; Mark 4:21-22 and Luke 8:16-17- the hiding of deeds). Eventually everything will be brought to light (I Corinthians 4:5).
Just as sins cannot remain hidden (Numbers 32:23), neither can a follower of God hide who he is. Since it is impossible to keep this hidden, Jesus tells his disciples not to fear men. The worse man can do is kill the physical body, but that body is temporary anyway. It is God who should be feared because God could send a person to eternal hell. And there is nothing that God isn’t aware of within this world. Sparrows are sold cheaply but God knows each one. You can buy two sparrows for a penny (Matthew 10:29) and for two pennies an extra sparrow is added to the four purchased. We are much more valuable in God’s sight than they. So while we must fear God because He can send us to hell, we should not fear that God might forget us or overlook our plight. God even knows how many hairs each of us have on our heads.
With God watching over us, and knowing the fear of the Lord, we must be bold to confess Christ before other people. If we stand up of Jesus, he will stand up for us (Mark 8:38).
A person can willfully deny Jesus and be forgiven, but when a person willfully denies the Holy Spirit it will not be forgiven. As mentioned early, Jesus is not saying that a God is unwilling or unable to forgive someone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit, but is acknowledging that when a person is willing to sin in this fashion, he will not return from his sin; therefore, he cannot be forgiven because he will not repent. The disciples needed to keep this in mind because the persecutions they would face would compel some to blaspheme (Acts 26:11). Yet in this hour of severe persecution, they should not worry about their defense. God would be with them to tell them what to say (see Acts 6:10 for an example).
Possessions (Luke 12:13-34)
A man in the crowd interrupts Jesus’ discourse, demanding that his brother be told to divide the inheritance they received. Teachers of the law were frequently called upon to render judgment in disputes. This man felt that he did not receive a fair division of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17) and wanted Jesus to take his side.
But Jesus refused. There were men appointed to make judgments in such matters. Just because this man wanted Jesus to take up his case did not imply that Jesus was required to settle such matters. There is some irony here because Jesus is the ultimate Judge of the world (John 5:30; Acts 10:42). Moses was initially rejected because of his judgment (Acts 7:35). Yet Jesus came not to judge but to save (John 12:47) and some are attempting to force him to be a judge. The problem lies in the fact that the man is not appealing for help but demanding that Jesus do as he directs (Romans 9:20).
Jesus uses this man’s demand as an opportunity to teach his audience. Just as there is a danger in hypocrisy, there is also a danger in covetousness. Too many people judge success and failure by what the own.
The parable of the rich man illustrates this point. A man had such an abundance of crops that it exceeded his capacity to store them. He decided that he would replace his barns with larger ones and then relax because he had enough to support himself for many years. But without his knowledge, he had come to the end of his life. He focused so much on gaining comforts in this life that he neglected to prepare for eternal life.
Our focus should not be on this life. Life is more than physical things, such as food and clothing. God cares for the animals, and they manage to survive by leaving year to year with what grows. If God is able to provide for the animals, he can provide for those whom he considers more valuable.
We spend too much of our time worrying, but worry cannot change things. Worry cannot increase our height or increase the length of our lives. If we don’t have control over such small things, we shouldn’t expend energy worrying over greater things. Worry simply indicates that we do not trust in God’s care for us.
God’s kingdom should be our focus and trust that God will take care of the rest. It is not an imposition on God. God gladly chose us to be His children. Much of the reason we hang on to the things that we have is because of our fear of the future. The parable of the rich man shows a person who wasn’t comfortable until he had many possessions. But what Jesus is teaching us is to be free with our possessions to help other people.
Some have taken Jesus words to an extreme to say that Christians are to live a life of poverty. Christians still have obligations to support themselves (II Thessalonians 3:10) and their families (I Timothy 5:8). But we should never let our desire to have insurance against the future to prevent us from helping others (Psalm 62:10; I John 3:17). It is the same command given by Paul, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (I Timothy 6:17-19; see also Luke 3:11; Acts 4:34-37). This is the only sure way to invest in the future.
Readiness (Luke 12:35-48)
Trusting in God does not equate to laziness. We are servants of God who must be always ready to do our Master’s will (I Peter 1:13). Girding refers to pulling a long robe and tucking it through a belt so that it would not interfere with running (I Kings 18:46). We don’t know when we will be called for service and we must always be ready (Romans 13:11; Ephesians 5:14). The parallel is made to servants waiting for the master to return from a wedding. The exact moment is not known, but the fact that he will return is clear. Jesus assures them that the master will be so pleased that he will have his servants sit down and serve them himself, something the apostles experienced in a small part later (John 13:4-5). Even if his return is later than expected, those servants still prepared at his return will be blest.
Ultimately what we are waiting for is the return of Christ. Just as we don’t know when our house will be robbed, we don’t know when Christ will return. But the fact that we don’t know when a thief will come, it doesn’t mean we don’t always act as if it might not be that day – that is why we lock doors. For the same reason, because we do not know when Christ will return, we act as if it will be today (I Thessalonians 5:6).
Peter asked Jesus if his words about being prepared only applied to the apostles, who were being directly addressed and who were charged with leading Christ’s people, or did they apply to everyone, such as the multitude listening to his teachings. The apostles were stewards of Christ (I Corinthians 4:1-2). As stewards, they had a particular need to be always ready and to insure that the remaining servants are also ready. But each servant also is obligated to be ready. A servant who proves himself faithful will be exalted.
But a servant who thinks the master isn’t coming soon will be tempted to stop being a servant and take on the role of a master – but he will be a poor one. He will be killed when the master returns unexpectedly.
Others will just be negligent. They know they should be ready, but they figure there is plenty of time to prepare later (James 4:17). Such servants will also be caught off-guard when the master comes and they too will be punished.
Still others never learned the master’s will, but they still acted in a careless fashion. These too will be punished, though not as severely as the former two. While ignorance will be taken into account, it will not spare a person from punishment (Leviticus 5:17; II Thessalonians 1:8).
The concept is that with greater knowledge and responsibilities comes greater accountability (James 3:1).
A Cause of Division (Luke 12:49-53)
Jesus came to set hearts in the world on fire. It is a passion that will cause conflict and discord (Matthew 10:34-36) and like all fires, it will either destroy or it will purify, depending on what is being operated upon (I Corinthians 3:11-15). Jesus’ desire is that it were already started because he must be immersed in suffering before it can start and he doesn’t enjoy the thoughts of what is coming.
As he told the apostles, he now tells a wider audience that he isn’t here to bring peace, but to cause division. It is not division for division’s sake. Rather the teaching of the gospel will divide people between those who believe and those who reject the message. We have already seen it happen among the Jews as Jesus taught (John 7:43; 9:16; 10:19). Division results because a world caught up in sin will not accept truth (John 1:5; 3:19-21). Families will be divided as a result of the gospel.
Some have lost sight of this fact. Peace and harmony is demanded at any cost. Conflict itself is seen as sinful. But as long as sin remains in the world, there will always be conflict (I Corinthians 11:17-19). Truth doesn’t leave room for falsehood.
Notice the Signs (Luke 12:54-59)
People are able to foretell weather by watching for telling signs. In Israel, clouds coming from the west, over the Mediterranean Sea, indicated rain. Wind from the south indicated hot temperatures.
Yet, there has been a multitude of signs indicating the Messiah’s arrival and great changes that are about to take place, but they are pretending not to see the signs (Galatians 4:4; Acts 3:24-26). By calling them hypocrites, Jesus is stating that they have seen the indications, but they are not acting up them.
Even if everyone else pretends not to notice, Jesus challenges each person in the multitude to make up their own minds concerning what they have seen. He uses the illustration of going to court that he used in Matthew 5:25. When you know you are going to end up in court, you attempt to solve the problem immediately, before you actually end up in court because the outcome will likely be more lenient or favorable. In the same way, if they will pay attention to the signs and take action now, before the events actually arrive, things will go more favorably with them. If they delay, they will get caught up in the events and will not escape every terror of them.
By this, I believe Jesus is laying the foundations for warning people of the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem. The destruction is inevitable, but if they refuse to see the signs, they will suffer in the judgment that will come upon Israel.