|<< Luke 11|
Luke 12:1-13:21 Listen
In this passage, we see the following in Jesus' ministry:
1 In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
2 For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
3 Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
8 Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:
9 But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.
10 And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.
11 And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
12 For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Verse 1 begins with a relational clause ("In the meantime") which ties this passage to the events of Luke 11:37-54 (see notes). Those Pharisees are up to no good. Jesus has just had a confrontation with them in chapter 11 where they were trying to entrap him into saying something punishable by law. Luke 11:53-54 say, "And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him." However, they just couldn't outsmart the Son of God.
Now Jesus issues a warning about them in verse 1 (the verse following Luke 11:53-54) to his disciples, "Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." Whenever "leaven" is used in an analogy, the context focuses on the way leaven spreads; it does not stay contained. So here, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees was spreading; that's the warning issued by Jesus to his disciples after the verbal duel Jesus has just had with them in chapter 11. Expect these Pharisees to bring on the persecution, Jesus goes on to warn. These very men who proclaim to represent God, are, in reality, hypocrites and have denied the Messiah. Therefore he says in verses 8-9 that he will deny them (the Pharisaical hypocrites) before God himself.
It's very important that we understand verse 10 here, "And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven." Are there people who can't be saved because of such a sin? To understand this verse, context is critical; this context goes all the way back to the preceding chapter to Luke 11:14-23 (see notes). Just prior to supper at the Pharisees house (Luke 11:37, see notes), Jesus had just cast out a demon from a man, and the Jewish leaders accuse him of doing it in the name of Satan himself. It is vital that we understand what brought on this condemnation. Specifically, they rejected the deity of Jesus and ascribed his source of power to Satan. You simply don't get a stronger rejection of Jesus as Savior than that. I personally believe that this situation is unique in that these leaders viewed face to face the manifestations of the Spirit through Jesus, and yet accused him of being motivated by Satan. Click here to see the notes on Luke 11:14-23 along with their parallel passages, Matthew 12:22-37, Mark 3:20-30. In the commentary on that passage, we explain in more detail what it means to "blaspheme" against the Holy Spirit.
By the way, notice that Luke 12:2 doesn't mean in context what it seems to mean when isolated. One might mistakenly think this verse means that the hypocrisy of the Pharisees will be exposed when Jesus says, "For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known." However, Jesus explains this statement in verse 3, "Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops." In other words, the message of Jesus Christ will not be stopped. That understanding is validated in Matthew 10:26-27 (see notes) where Jesus had previously said, "Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops." However, Jesus does seem to be making a contrast between the secret deeds and words of the Pharisees as compared to the open words of Jesus and his disciples.
Lay up some treasures in Heaven (Luke 12:13-34)
13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
This section starts out with a man asking for a little financial intercession between his brother and himself. The Greek word used for "Master" in verse 13 is "didaskalos" - meaning "teacher." The word occurs 58 times in the New Testament. 48 are in the Gospels and 41 refer to Jesus; 29 occurrences are in direct address to Jesus. So, this man was addressing Jesus as one would a well-respected Jewish rabbi...as one who is an expert in passing judgment regarding these kinds of disputes. Jesus uses this opportunity to talk about the satisfaction of sacrificing everything to follow Jesus. As on other occasions, Jesus is calling for total abandonment of one's current life to follow Jesus.
Let's keep in mind that Jesus is less than six months away from crucifixion at this point. To follow Jesus here is to literally be called upon to sacrifice one's life. That's why Jesus tells them in verse 22, "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on." It is important to recall that, in the end, no one stood with Jesus as seen in Mark 14:50 (see notes) where it is said just after Jesus was taken prisoner in preparation for his crucifixion, "And they all forsook him, and fled." Jesus explains here the high cost of discipleship in those extremely difficult days leading up to his crucifixion. He uses a parable to explain the fleeting satisfaction of physical wealth. The lesson to Believers today from this passage is to regard everything we own as belonging to God and be thankful for his provisions.
Keep watching for the Kingdom (Luke 12:35-59)
35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
36 And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
39 And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.
40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
41 Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?
42 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
49 I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?
50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
54 And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.
55 And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.
56 Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
57 Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?
58 When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.
59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.
Don't be confused by this passage. YOU MUST SEE THE PHARISEES HERE! This whole discourse began in Luke 12:1 (see above) in reply to the Jesus bashing that had been taking place on this occasion back in Luke 11:37-54 (see notes). Jesus is still presenting himself as the Messiah to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Is Jesus specifically referencing a future time in this passage, or is he talking about right then and there? Look at his words in Luke 12:40, "Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not." Peter is ready for the Kingdom to be established and understands that Jesus is the Messiah. So his question in Luke 12:41 is natural, "Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?" Here's what Peter knows for sure. He believes Jesus is the Messiah and is expecting the Kingdom to be set up soon; the Pharisees have rejected this message. So Peter wonders, "Jesus, who are you talking about with this parable of people being caught by surprise?" That would be the people in verse 45, "But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;" So, here's your question: Who are these people rejecting the Messiah and looking for another while at the same time abusing their subjects? If you said the Jewish leaders (aka Pharisees and Sadducees), you are correct. Oh...and the penalty of verses 47-58? It's intended to indict the Pharisees; with all of their knowledge of scripture, they rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
We see here that Jesus' message will bring division (verses 49-53). What is this baptism of verse 50? His crucifixion. Some will acknowledge the identity of Jesus as Messiah and Savior; others will not. This will result in division, even among families. Verse 53 looks so much like Micah 7:6 (see notes), it is easy to conclude that Jesus is drawing from this passage in his comments here. Micah 7:6 says, "For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a mans enemies are the men of his own house." Micah is talking about the restoration of Israel in the Kingdom to be established by the Messiah.
Inquiring minds want to know what the reference to "fire" is all about in verse 49. Some commentators say Jesus is referring to judgment, while others say that the Gospel spreads like fire. The Greek construction of verse 49 makes it difficult to cleanly translate into English. Doing a word-for-word translation, here's literally what it says, "Fire I came to cast into the earth, and what I wish [or will or desire] if now [or already] it has been set fire [or lit up]. You can see why some say the "fire" is judgment while other say the "fire" is the spreading of the Gospel. However, based upon the "baptism" of verse 50, I'm inclined to think that Jesus is talking about spreading the Word of the Gospel message in this instance. The "baptism" here is his crucifixion mission, but that must wait until the Gospel message has been sufficiently spread.
In verse 54 Jesus begins an indictment against these Jewish leaders for being unable or unwilling to use their knowledge of scripture to discern that the Messiah has come. It's as simple as predicting rainfall from approaching clouds. How did they miss it? Was it an innocent oversight on their part? Nope! Hypocrisy...right there in verse 56. That takes us back to the beginning of this discourse in verse 1 (see above), "the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."
1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
6 He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
We have no background on the incident referenced in verses 1-2. It would appear that Pilate had killed Jews making sacrifices, presumably for perceived rebellion against Rome. Likewise, we know nothing of the tragedy referenced in verse 4. Here's what we do know, repentance (change of mind and attitude) toward the Messiah's coming is vital. The time frame of the parable here is critical to this message - three years. At the beginning of the three years' ministry of Jesus, the Jewish leaders rejected the Messiah and the Kingdom. Now, three years later and just prior to his crucifixion, the fig tree (the Jewish leaders of Israel) still bears no fruit (the rejection continues). Perhaps Jesus is still referencing Micah's prophecy of the Kingdom in Micah 7:1 (see notes). Specifically, they still have not received the message of the Messiahship of Jesus and the coming Kingdom. Notice verse 8, "And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:" The chronology of this event in relation to Christ's crucifixion is significant here.
Jesus had gone to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7:10-11 (see notes). That festival was held each year in the seventh month (Tishri). Now, here we are at some point afterward, but prior to Jesus' crucifixion. Since Jesus is talking about the Jewish leaders' rejection of his Messianic message, this fig tree not bearing figs is certainly a reference to them and their failure to bear figs (i.e. receive the Messianic message). Thus, the reference to "these three years" in verse 7 must be significant, inasmuch as Jesus had been ministering on earth at this point to these Jews for three years. So, here's the fig tree parable - three years and no figs.
These fig trees yielded figs twice each year - in the first month (Nisan) and in the eighth month (Cheshvan). So, here we are, presumably, in the eighth month - four to five months prior to his crucifixion in the first month of the following year (Nisan). Though fig trees should be bearing fruit in the eighth month, the one in Jesus' parable is not. The goal in this parable is for the fig tree to bear fruit for the next cycle - the one occurring in the first month just prior to the crucifixion. So, the barren fig tree here is a metaphor for Jewish rejection of the Messiah. Incidentally, some have questioned the twice-each-year yield of figs in Israel. Click here to see photographs of a complete annual cycle showing fig trees bearing figs in March and October, the same time frame referenced here.
So, we're just a few months from the crucifixion here. The final rejection of Jesus as the Messiah and the establishment of the Kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament would take place at the cross. Interestingly enough, the new Jewish year would begin exactly 14 days before the crucifixion of Jesus. Per this parable, a longsuffering God gives them until that time to receive Jesus as their Messiah. However, Daniel had prophesied in Daniel 9:27 (see notes) that the Messiah would be "cut off," and Isaiah 53 (see notes) prophesied of the Messiah's suffering. Those prophecies were fulfilled at the cross, and the offer for the immediate restoration of Israel to their prophesied Kingdom expired...just as Jesus prophesied it would be in this parable in Luke 13:9, "And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down." Interestingly enough, Jesus withered the barren fig tree in Matthew 21:19 (see notes) within the week leading up to his crucifixion - kinda eerie, wouldn't you say? Related? I think so. That would have been the next opportunity for the fig tree to bear figs, and it did not...just as the week before Jesus' crucifixion would have been the last opportunity for the Jewish leaders to receive Jesus as the Messiah, and they did not.
Incidentally, while we aren't given an exact rendering regarding the length of time of Jesus' earthly ministry, this passage might just do it for us. It is logical to conclude that his reference to "three years" in verse 7 is analogous to the timing of his earthly ministry to that point. In verse 8 we seem to see a desire to continue the work into the fourth year. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that Jesus' earthly ministry (from John's baptism to Jesus' crucifixion) was somewhere between 3 and 4 years, encompassing four Passover Feasts.
Those Passover festivals during the ministry of Jesus are chronicled in the Book of John:
What we do not know is exactly how long before the Passover festival in John 2 Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Some portion of a year lapsed, adding to the subsequent three years leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.
Need more proof of hypocrisy? (Luke 13:10-17)
10 And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.
11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.
12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.
13 And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.
15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?
16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?
17 And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.
The hypocrisy of these Jewish leaders just keeps coming up in the discourse that began back in Luke 12:1 (see above). There's a woman who has had a crippling disease for 18 years; Jesus lays hands on her, and she is healed. Now the "ruler of the synagogue" becomes outraged because Jesus had done so on the Sabbath. Jesus points out that these hypocritical Jewish leaders will care for their animals on the Sabbath, but a woman can't get healed. That's outrageous! The people thought so too as we see in verse 17, "...all his adversaries were ashamed." Incidentally, healing on the Sabbath was NOT a violation of Mosaic Law. As it happens, the Jewish oral tradition of the day had deemed it a violation. These were man-made supplements to the Mosaic Law which held no real authority...except in their own legalistic system.
18 Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it?
19 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.
20 And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God?
21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
Have you ever seen a mustard seed? It's very, very tiny. The bush that grows from it is so enormous, it resembles a tree. Likewise, the message of the Kingdom started with Jesus. Just look at it now! It's huge; it worldwide! Jesus also used the mustard tree's growth as an example in Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-34 (see notes). Some Bible teachers have read more into this parable than I feel comfortable doing with any certainty. They have suggested evil on the part of the birds that lodge in the mustard tree. However, on this occasion, Jesus had been addressing the insincerity and hypocrisy of the Jewish leadership. I can see how that one might understand the birds in the tree to be these hypocritical Jewish leaders, inasmuch as they are integrated into the growth environment, but not part of the growth. In other words, they are the problem and not the solution.
In the same context, Jesus uses leaven as a metaphor for the anticipated growth of the Kingdom of God. Leaven (aka yeast) causes flat dough to grow. Some Bible teachers maintain that whenever a "leaven" metaphor is used, it's always indicative of evil. I have not found that to be the consistent use of the leaven metaphor. It's about rapid growth. Jesus uses the same parable in Matthew 13:33 (see notes). Both there and here, it's about the rapid growth of the Kingdom of God.