Luke 12 Divisions.
Luke 12:1-7 Hypocrisy And The Fear Of God.
The lawyers, in particular, had taken away “the key to knowledge” in that they interpreted God’s word through the lens of their tradition (11:52). In essence, their presuppositions and hermeneutics not only obscured the true meaning of the scriptures, but their tradition had as one of their purposes the nullification of God’s law. On top of this, they and their forefathers were guilty of murdering the very ones God sent to deliver His word to His people. One would think that if anyone should understand how to faithfully interpret the law of God it would be the lawyers. These were more than the lawyers of today, yes they adjudicated cases, but they did so with a supposed knowledge of the word. Instead, the wisdom of God stood as their accuser (11:49-51). The judgment of that generation Jesus would later make clear, was the destruction of the temple and with it the place of these lawyers and the other religious leaders (21:5-33 Cf. Mt. 24:1-35; Mk. 13:1-31).
Then, as the crowds gathered in enormous numbers, Jesus warned His disciples to beware of the leaven or teaching of the scribes and Pharisees, “which is hypocrisy” (v. 1 Cf. Mt. 16:6,12; Mk. 8:15). The leaders lacked fundamental integrity. As Jesus had earlier said, they were like hidden graves which men walk over without knowing. They gave the appearance of having spiritual life, all the while nothing but death reigned within. However, Jesus also made clear, that there was nothing hidden that would not be revealed (v. 2). This knowledge ought to elicit fear in these hypocrites, but as far as Jesus’ disciples were concerned this was reason for them not to fear them (v. 4 Cf. Mt. 10:26-28). Instead they needed to maintain their fear of the Lord, the very One who would bring all men’s deeds to light (v. 5). God sees and God knows, but this is also a word of comfort for His children, for it reminds us that God sees and knows us in all our circumstances and will care for us (vv. 6-7 Cf. Mt. 6:26).
Luke 12:8-12 From Fear To Confession.
Jesus just taught the disciples the importance of fearing God, and not fearing men. Some believers have had to actually face death for their faith (v. 4). For some, the only escape would be to deny the Lord (vv. 8-9). In this situation it must have been a great comfort to know that as God cares for sparrows, and is aware of every hair on their heads, that He would give them the words to speak when the challenge came (vv. 6-7, 11). The title ‘Son of Man’ carried eschatological significance, like Daniel’s vision of the throne room of heaven (7:13). Therefore, it is not surprising that Jesus would say that all who denied Him on earth, would be “denied before the angels of God” (v. 9 Cf. II Tim. 2:12). But all those who confess Jesus before men, Jesus will confess them before these same angels (v. 8 Cf. Rom. 10:9). As Matthew pointed out, it is also a confession before the Father (10:32-33 Cf. I Jn. 2:23). Furthermore, Mark describes a person’s denial of Christ as being ashamed of Him (8:38).
Couched within these solemn words are more concerning the Holy Spirit. Those who speak a word against the Son of Man may be forgiven, but those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven (v. 10). In Matthew and Mark, this truth follows upon the opinion of some, that He casted out demons by the power of Satan, when it was through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Cf. Mt. 12:31-32; Mk. 3:28-30). As Jesus said, it is only through the Holy Spirit that one can make a good confession. To speak against the Spirit is to deny oneself the only means of receiving forgiveness. “Such deliberate rejection of the One (the Holy Spirit) who can bring a person to repentance and faith, such sin makes forgiveness impossible” (NGSB, p. 1629). It would be the Holy Spirit, the Helper who would give the saints the words to say at the time of testing (v. 12 Cf. Mt. 10:19-20; Mk. 13:11; Jn. 14:26). Therefore, to deny Christ was to speak against the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Clearly there is no neutrality in one’s confession.
Luke 12:13-21 Contentment And Service.
Keeping in mind what Jesus had just taught His disciples regarding the need to be faithful in persecution, it strikes one as odd that anyone would ask Jesus to tell their brother to divide their inheritance (v. 13 Cf. Dt. 21:17). Did the questioner fear that his brother might die in the persecution and he would have nothing? Whatever the case may be, it is clear that Jesus did not see it as His place to judge or arbitrate the man’s case. There were others who could adjudicate his concern (v. 14). However, Jesus did warn the man and the crowd listening, not to be overcome with covetousness, “for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (v. 15). Paul was a man who thought he had kept the whole law, until he reflected on the tenth commandment (Rom. 7:7). He would then teach Timothy and his other readers to be content with what they have (I Tim. 6:6-10).
It is contentment that Jesus also taught. Only a fool would lack contentment, ever wanting more (vv. 16-20). Presumably the man had barns big enough to meet his own needs, so when a harvest came in that exceeded his capacity to store it all, why would he then not give the excess to those in need? What could be the point of tearing down his existing barns and building bigger, if it were beyond his capacity to use it all? The man should have thus been rich toward God, which would have yielded to him a better return when he passed from this life to the next (v. 21). What is more, the fool in Jesus’ parable thought that by hording his harvest he could be free from work and “eat, drink, and be merry” (v. 19). As long as we live on this earth, our call to work, to exercise dominion as God’s stewards, will not end. So contentment is also being content with our role in this commission.
Luke 12:22-34 Do Not Worry, Seek The Kingdom, Invest In People.
Again, when we see a ‘therefore’ we ask what it is there for, and in this case Jesus draws a connection to what He has just taught concerning the parable of the rich man, who was covetous and wanted to be free from regular exercise of dominion stewardship (vv. 13-21). The rich man was blessed with an unusually great harvest, and rather than give to others in need, he wanted to tear down his barns and build bigger ones, and not because he feared not having enough to get through a winter or because he wanted to help even more people, but so he could “eat, drink, and be merry” (v. 19). Basically he wanted to be free from the regular exercise of the dominion mandate, which God gave to humanity to exercise dominion in the earth as His stewards. The rich man was only concerned with laying up treasure for his own use, instead of helping others and therefore being rich toward God (v. 21). Despite all that this man had he still worried about having to daily labour for the necessities of life. This then is the context of Jesus’ “therefore” (Cf. Mt. 6:25-33).
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about your body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing” (vv. 22-23). For some people life is not only all about necessities, but it is also about looking good. Jesus teaches us that there is more to life than our needs and wants. The reason that we should not worry is because our heavenly Father promises to feed and clothe us. As Jesus said, birds do not need huge storehouses, because God takes care of them. Therefore if God so takes care of the birds, how much more His covenant children (v. 24 Cf. Job 38:41)? Furthermore, Jesus also makes the point that worry, in and of itself, will not supply a person with anything. Adding one cubit to one’s stature may actually refer to one lengthening their lifespan (v. 25).
So the quality and length of one’s life cannot be increased by worrying, in fact, the exact opposite may be the case. Food and clothing are our basic needs, and so if worrying will not help us with these things, how much less should we not worry about things less necessary than these (v. 26)? Many worry beyond the necessities, to how they appear. Yet even here Jesus says that the lilies are also beautiful in appearance, greater than Solomon, and this beauty also comes from God (v. 27). If this then is the case with flowers that fade or the grass that withers, how much more for His children, who He calls to be His dominion stewards in all the earth? This then is part of what it means to live by faith-trusting in our heavenly Father for all our needs (v. 28). It is important to note that Jesus does not say that looking beautiful is not important or superfluous.
The existence of creatures and plants which are beautiful in appearance is a constant reminder that God created things beautiful in appearance, and this is part of what He saw as “good” (Cf. Gen. 1-2). This passage actually hearkens back to Jesus instruction and model of prayer. When we ask God to provide our daily bread, we are not so much asking God to do something He would not otherwise do. As Jesus said, our heavenly Father knows what we need. Rather, it is really about aligning our will with His. He would rather that we focus our attention on His kingdom as His stewards in this world (vv. 29-31 Cf. Ch. 11; Mt. 6:31-33). Jesus then brings things to an amazing climax-His kingdom promise. “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v. 32). This is the promise of the successive administrations of the one covenant of grace.
This promise ought also to be the focus of our daily communion with God, of His kingdom coming, and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven (Cf. 11:2). Jesus then hearkens back to the point He made with His parable of the rich but foolish ruler (vv. 13-21). One ought to give of their abundance to those who are in need, and in doing so one will be making investments that will last for all eternity (v. 33 Cf. Mt. 19:21). Some envision this as some sort of riches in heaven that parallel what one may be giving up. However, are these “riches” not the very lives which we are able to impact and change for their good, and God’s glory? Is this not the point Jesus is making here-God can take care of our needs and even our wants, so what we should focus on is what He is focused on, and that is saving sinners to live for God’s glory. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (v. 34 Cf. Mt. 6:19-21).
Luke 12:35-53 The Faithful And Evil Servants.
Unlike Matthew and Mark, whose treatment of the second coming and final judgment follows upon Jesus pronouncement on the destruction of the temple, Luke deals with it much earlier than his treatment of Jerusalem and the judgment of 70 AD (21:5-33), although He does reiterate the need to watch (vv. 34-36), after the transition verses of 32-33 (Cf. Mt. 24:34-35; Mk. 13:30-31). Unlike what he will write concerning the destruction and judgment of 70 AD, the second coming and the final judgment does not have then occurring time referents. Of the second coming, no man, other than the Father, knows that hour (vv. 39-40). The final judgment is what is ultimately in view (v. 48). There would also seem to be a parallel with the wise and foolish virgins of Matthew 25:1-13 (Cf. I Pet. 1:13). Furthermore verse 37 echoes Matthew 24:46, which also concerns the final judgment.
Besides verse 37 finding a parallel with Matthew 24:46, here are some other parallels with Matthew. Verse 42 with Matthew 24:45-46, verse 44 with Matthew 24:47 and 25:21, and verse 45 with Matthew 24:48. “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 40 Cf. Mk. 13:33). After his brief passage on the second coming (vv. 32-37), Mark launches into the plot to kill Jesus. Matthew, on the other hand, has several sections dealing with the second coming (24:36-25:46). However, for Luke, this passage follows upon his treatment of the importance of being rich toward God by helping others, and in so doing one will have “treasure in the heavens” (v. 33). We can say that the faithful servant is one that the master will find doing just this very thing (v. 48). Then Luke seems to reverse the order we find in Matthew and Mark, by turning to events concerning that generation, or “this time” (v. 56).
The main point of the present passage is remaining faithful in service. The evil servants stop persevering because they are impatient with the master, believing he has delayed his return. Of course, with the Lord, there can be no delay-He will return when the Father has determined it (Cf. I Th. 5:1-3; II Pet. 3:3-4). Luke then transitions to that present time as Jesus says that he came to bring fire (v. 49). Fire is judgment as it burns away the chaff so that what lasts will remain. It is a fire that will only come after His impending baptism-His death and resurrection (v. 50). It would seem that it is not the last day, but the close of the old covenant era, culminating in the destruction of 70 AD (vv. 51-53). We should also not lose the point that Jesus said that with His death and resurrection His work would be “accomplished” (v. 50). “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (Jn. 19:30).
Luke 12:54-59 Discerning The Time-Making Peace With Jesus.
At verse 49 Luke has transitioned from Jesus’ discussion about the second coming and final judgment, to the impending judgment of 70 AD, a judgment “on the earth.” In these present verses he criticizes His hearers for not being able to see the signs of the impending judgment. This is different from His discussion about the end, since that is a day or hour no one knows but the Father. He uses the analogy of weather forecasting, to highlight their hypocrisy for not seeing the signs of the then present time-“this time” (vv. 54-56 Cf. 19:41-44; Mt. 16:1-2). It seems clear that the example of one settling with an adversary is meant to refer to his hearers, who should be settling with Jesus while He stands among them (vv. 55-57 Cf. Ps. 32:6). The Jewish leadership, and with them the people, in not recognizing in Jesus the promised Messiah, were about to suffer in the impending judgment on what had become their house, but no longer His house.