BibleTrack Home & Index
<< Luke 11
Luke 13 >>


This is the New King James text of the passages.
Click here to return to the KJV page with full commentary.

Luke 12:1-13:21     Listen Podcast


In this passage, we see the following in Jesus' ministry:

Watch out for those Pharisees! (Luke 12:1-12)

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.
2 For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.
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.
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.
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!
6 ¶ “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.
7 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
8 ¶ “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.
9 But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
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.
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.
12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you 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 to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, 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 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 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." 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 will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known." However, Jesus explains this statement in verse 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." 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, "Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on 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 ¶ Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 ¶ But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?”
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.”
16 ¶ Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.
17 And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’
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.
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.” ’
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?’
21 ¶ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
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.
23 Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.
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?
25 And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
26 If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?
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.
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?
29 ¶ “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.
30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.
31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.
32 ¶ “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
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.
34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will 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 "Teacher" in verse 13 is "didaskalos." 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 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, " not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will 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, "Then 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 waist be girded and your lamps burning;
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.
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.
38 And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
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.
40 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
41 ¶ Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?”
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?
43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.
44 Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.
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,
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.
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.
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.
49 ¶ “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!
51 Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.
52 For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three.
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.”
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.
55 And when you see the south wind blow, you say, “There will be hot weather’; and there is.
56 Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?
57 ¶ “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?
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.
59 I tell you, you shall not depart from there till you have 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, "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." 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 to Him, 'Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?'" 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 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.'" 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 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." 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."

Israel, you only have a few months left to repent! (Luke 13:1-9)

1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?
3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
6 ¶ He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.
7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’
8 But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it.
9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can 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, "But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize 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 bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can 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:

  1. John 2:13 (see notes)
  2. John 5:1 (see notes)
    This is probably a Passover festival, though not stated with certainty.
  3. John 6:4 (see notes)
  4. Matthew 26:20-21; Mark 14:17-18; Luke 22:14-16; John 13:1-3 (see notes)

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 ¶ Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.
11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.
12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.”
13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
14 ¶ But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”
15 ¶ The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?
16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”
17 And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude 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 put to shame." 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.

Just look at that message grow! (Luke 13:18-21)

18 ¶ Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?
19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
20 ¶ And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God?
21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all 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.