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The Gospel of Luke
Chapter
12

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The Gospel of Luke Chapter Twelve
Commentary by Timothy H. Burdick

Before we look at verse 1 of chapter 12 in Luke, I would like you to go on a journey with me. Imagine yourself at a rock concert. People are screaming and tearing their clothes. They are in a riotous frenzy, pushing and stepping on one another, without regard for anyone else. All are trying to get a better view of the person or persons on stage.

The people of that day simply didn’t understand the mission of Jesus. They thought of Him as a teacher or wonder worker. They saw Him as something like a modern day pop star.

So having said all of that, let’s look at verse one: “Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to His disciples, saying: ‘be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’” While we can paint a mental picture of the crowd, and catch a glimpse of Jesus relating to His disciples, it is important to remember that He is speaking to us as His disciples, right now, in the Twenty-First Century, through His Word, the Bible.

You may be asking yourself, what did the “yeast” Jesus spoke about (or “leaven” in some translations) have to do with “hypocrisy?” Many times in the Scriptures, yeast was used as a synonym to help us understand the nature of evil. One example of this can be found in 1st Corinthians 5:8 - ”Therefore let us keep the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.”

Many times, evil causes us to play a role in life that we would not otherwise be comfortable with. Think of a person who is two-faced for example. They may treat you like their best friend, all the while thinking bad thoughts about you and stabbing you in the back every chance they get.

This is precisely what Jesus meant when He talked about “hypocrisy” on the part of the Jewish leaders called the “Pharisees.” They were saying one thing and doing another. The word “hypocrisy” came from the Greek plays of that time, in which actors would wear masks, pretending to be something they were not. In analyzing this verse, we can see then that Jesus is taking the Pharisees to task, because they were acting out a dual role, pretending to be something that they weren’t.

Again what Jesus said 2000 years ago, applies to us right now in the twenty-first century. He said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). 1 Peter 5:8 says this - “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Verses two and three of Luke 12, reveal to us that we can’t play games with God, for He knows the secrets in our hearts. “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms, will be proclaimed from the roofs.” Compare what Jesus is saying, with 2 Kings 6:11-12 - “This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, ‘Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’ “None of us, my lord the king said one of his officers, but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.” God will reveal everything about you.

What do you think that these three verses in Luke are saying to you? Do you ever try and play a dual role? Do you have secret sins in your heart? In this regard, David said, speaking of God, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.” Psalm 139:2. Every one of us, like David, should ask God to cleanse us of “secret sins” (Psalm 19:12).

We live in an age of fear; a time when people are very afraid. Jesus addressed this in Luke 12, Verses 4 and 5, when He said, “I tell you My friends, ‘do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear Him who after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes I tell you fear Him.’”

In these verses, Jesus is talking about the attitude we should have toward God. But, we often have too casual an attitude toward Him. While God is good and not willing that any should perish, we tend to go to an extreme. The popular conception of God is that of a divine sugar daddy in the sky. Yes He loves you, but there is more to Him than that.

Just as a child has a healthy fear of his or her parents, taking the form of respect, we need to cultivate such a fear of our Heavenly Father. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all that follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.” Like those of us who were brought up in a good home; if we were punished, we were punished out of love. God deals with us in much the same way. You can be assured He only wants the best for you. Many times, we develop wisdom and good understanding, because out of love, God says “no” to some of our desires.

In Luke 12:6-7, Jesus gives us an idea of just how valuable we are to the Father. ”Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Have you ever really thought, about how valuable you are to God? He loved you enough to give His life for you, and He loves you enough to help you live life fully on earth. Some times I think we forget just how valuable we are to God. Please stop and meditate on these verses. No matter what you have done, you can’t lose God’s love.

Many times we have a problem with self-image. The Bible says that if we have accepted Christ, we are new creations in Him. Paul said this in 2 Corinthians 5:17 - “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation the old has gone, the new has come!” So, the next time you feel bad about who you are, remember that you are precious in the sight of God. Again, Paul puts it this way, in Romans 8:17-18 - “Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, If indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”

In Luke 12:8, Jesus talks about the importance of public confession. “I tell you, whoever acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.“ In our culture, it is easy to go along with the crowd. But Jesus is calling for a radical commitment to God. Compare Mark 8:38, and ask yourself what Jesus is saying to you? He said, “If any one is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His Father’s glory.” It is easy to stand up in church, but Jesus is talking about not being ashamed to stand up against every day pressures., in word and actions. Let us say with Paul, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of every one who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).

Although Verses 9 and 10 of Luke 12 go together, I would like to look at each one separately. Verse 9 talks about the terrible consequences of disowning Christ. It says, “But he who disowns Me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.” Look at that word “disowned.” We have ALL said and done things which we wish we hadn’t. Christ is not talking about a one time incident in His statement. He is talking about a person who disowns God and wants nothing to do with Him.

Many people feel guilty and think that they may have committed the unpardonable sin. I have good news for you if you are in that camp. Just the fact that you are seeking after God shows that you have not committed it. Let’s see if we can understand this sin, in light of what Jesus says in Luke 12:10. “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

Peter spoke a word against Jesus (three times, actually), yet he was forgiven by Him, and he went on to become an outspoken leader in the church. To see Peter’s denial, look with me at Matthew 26:69-75 - “Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee,’ she said. But he denied it before them all. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ He denied it again with an oath: ‘I don’t know the man!’ After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, ‘Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.’ Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’ Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows you will disown Me three times.’ And He went outside and wept bitterly.”

Jesus, when speaking about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was speaking of a person who continually hardens their heart in rejection against God. To see the inner relationship between Christ and the working of the Spirit, look with me at 1 Corinthians 6:10-11. “Nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the Nname of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” So a total rejection of Christ is also rejecting the Spirit that works in us to draw us to the Lord. The Holy Spirit has been given to instruct us. The Holy Spirit is not a “force,” He is our Helper, Comforter and Guide.

Please look with me at Luke 12:11-12. “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” See how the Holy Spirit did just this in Acts 4:8-10 - “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit Said to them, ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: it is by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.’” See what Jesus has to say about the Spirit in John 14:26 - “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

It is not enough simply to look at truths about the Spirit, if we don’t apply them to our lives. In the twenty-first century, we have become too self-sufficient, too complacent in our Christian lives. We need to let the Lord instruct and guide us. We need Him.

Next in Luke 12:13 -14, we see someone in the crowd trying to put Jesus into the role of a mediator. “Someone in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed Me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ It is interesting to see how Jesus flatly refused to get involved in this. Sometimes, people want those of us who are Christians to get involved where we shouldn’t. But Like Jesus, we must not lose our primary focus.

Now in Luke 12:15-21, Jesus sandwiches a story in between two comments. It illustrates what He was talking about, when it came to “greed.” ”Then He said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ And He told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, you have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’“ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Jesus is not saying that there is anything wrong with planning ahead. In fact, the Bible teaches us to do exactly this. Look at Proverbs 16:9, to see what I mean - “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

All you have to do is count the personal pronouns in the parable of Jesus, to see what He was saying. The farmer, who built bigger barns, was simply absorbed in himself. There was no thought of others, let alone God. Neither is Jesus saying, that it is wrong to have nice things. He is simply saying that spiritual treasure is what we should be concerned about storing up in life.

Ask yourself some questions in light of what Jesus is saying here: Christ’s message, rather than what the world is saying, has to be our first priority in life. In stopping for a moment and thinking about this, what changes, if any, do you see occurring in your life? Also, as you do this exercise, ask yourself, how is my life being spent? Am I “rich toward God?”

Now meditate on Ephesians 3:8-9 - “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages passed was kept hidden in God, who created all things.”

Now we see a shift in what Jesus was saying. He again turns His attention from the crowds to His disciples. Look with me at Luke 12:22 and the verses that follow – “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. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.”

Notice that Jesus does not say that a healthy concern about your life is wrong. When He spoke of the “Gentiles” in Matthew 6:32 about this same subject, or as some have translated it, “pagans,” he was speaking of people outside of Christ who are obsessed with the needs of the body.

Think about all of the advertising that we both see and hear about the body. The same thing that was going on in the days of Jesus is also going on in the twenty first century. Scripture presents the idea that we should establish a completely new set of values and the apostle Paul has this to say. ”Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). When you are transformed in that manner, you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.

As Jesus so often does after stating a truth, He paints a picture in words, so that His disciples can grasp what He is saying. Jesus was an excellent communicator. He still is. As we communicate the Gospel to others, we need to display the same forethought, so that its great truths can be understood. Luke 12:24 and the following verses display this word picture: “Consider the ravens, they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”

Just as an aside. To understand what Jesus is talking about when He refers to Solomon, look with me at 1 Kings 10:4-5 - “When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.”

Now, that we have seen that, let’s pick up again with Luke 12:28 - “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will He clothe you, o you of little faith!” In Luke 12:24, Jesus talked about the ravens; how they don’t have to be overly concerned about how or where they get their food. In a different way, He now talks again about the value that God places on each one of us. He is reinforcing what He has already said, because sometimes, we tend to undervalue ourselves. But we don’t realize how much we mean to God. Again, see What Paul says about this. “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all — how will He not also along with Him, graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32).

Then Jesus goes on in Luke 12:29, “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.” Just as in this passage, the Bible talks a lot about where we “set our hearts.” For example, let’s look at Proverbs 4-23 - “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Jesus has told us where not to put our focus. Now in Luke 12:31, He gives a positive affirmation. ”But seek His Kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.”

To sum this entire passage up, let’s look at James 4:13-15. ”Now listen, you who say, ‘today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”

Now again, in Luke 12:32, Jesus again addresses the subject of fear.” Do not be afraid little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

Fear is something that we all face and especially humanity fears the unknown. The disciples of Jesus weren’t any exception. They followed a Man they called “teacher and Lord,” but now He was telling them something new as they traveled to Jerusalem. They thought He would set up His kingdom on earth, but He is telling them that He is going to die.

We can KNOW that they were confused and upset by His words. He turned to them and told them not to let this fear rule them. He told them that while they may not understand it with their minds, their Father intends to give them a share in His kingdom.

Many times, we are like the disciples, afraid of the unknown, afraid of changes. Jesus is telling us also that while there is always something new on the horizon, God’s kingdom is the one constant that remains in our lives. What are you afraid of today? What changes are you going through? It may be quite upsetting, but know also that it is the Father’s pleasure to give you the Kingdom with all it entails. Compare what He is saying here with John 14:1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God trust also in Me.”

After telling His disciples to trust Him totally, Jesus talks to them in Luke 12:33 of the relative unimportance of earthly treasure, compared with heavenly treasure. He said, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out. A treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Then He continues in verse 34, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

We live in a world of decay. In telling His disciples to “provide purses that won’t wear out,” He is telling them to set their priorities on what is eternal. For He concludes by telling them, that the way they store their treasure provides a good indicator of where their values lie. In order to see this just look with me at Luke 12:34 - “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Now, look with me at Luke 12:35-40 - “be dressed, ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when He comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for Him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when He comes. I tell you the truth, He will dress Himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if He comes in the second or third watch of the night. 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. You must also be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.”

In Luke 12:35-36, Jesus tells us about the lifestyle we are to live as believers. It is a lifestyle in which one is ready for service. He tells us to be “dressed” for this or to have the attire of our minds ready for service at all times. We don’t take His admonition seriously enough. If we did, this would be a different world. If we spoke to the world by our actions, they would listen to our words.

Look with me as Paul talks about our “wardrobe” - “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:12). Also look with me at 1 Peter 5:5 - “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (reference Proverbs 3:34).

In the next part of Luke 12:35, Jesus tells us to “keep our lamps burning.” In this day and age we might say something like “keep the porch light on.” He says in my paraphrase that watching for the Master with this idea of expectancy is a good idea. You are to be READY when He knocks or the “door” or rings the “doorbell” when He returns to this world.
But I really think that many of us have missed what Jesus is actually saying here. We have kept our eyes so focused on Christ’s coming that we have forgotten to watch for ways to serve Him right now! Then if we do serve, it is often so that everybody will notice us. In Matthew 6:1, Jesus says this: “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” We should act out of love for God and in accordance with His will; NOT so that others will notice us.

Many tend to talk about our service as though we are to make a sacrifice. It seems as though most of us see the “smallest ways” to serve God as almost demeaning. But nothing is a small act to God, if our heart is right before Him.

I want you to think about the story found in Mark 12:41-44. While this has primarily been used to talk about offerings, there is a larger application here. “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins. Calling His disciples to Him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury then all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on.’”

Before we leave this section, take a look at Luke 12:37. If you are ready for the Lord when He returns, His intention is that HE will serve YOU. Have you ever thought about Jesus serving you? In Luke 12:37, that’s precisely what it says – “It will be good for those whose Master finds them watching when He comes. I tell you the truth, He will dress Himself to serve and will come and wait on them.” Then in Luke 12:39-40, Jesus talks about the attitude of expectancy we must have in relation to His coming back to this earth.

Then in Luke 12:41 and following, we see Jesus addressing the question of one person, rather than catering to the huge crowd that was before Him. “Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” Notice how Jesus indirectly answers.

“The Lord answered, ‘who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘my master is taking a long time in coming’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.”

Jesus talks about three things in this passage of Scripture. First he talks about faithfulness, and not just faithfulness in the big things but in the little things, when we think no one is watching. But God is always watching. Luke 16:10 tells us, ”Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Secondly, the last half of this verse talks about the one Jesus talked about here in Luke 12, namely the wicked servant. It is important to note that just as faithfulness has its rewards, unfaithfulness comes with a price tag. Thirdly, He talks about the punishment of this servant. We will see more about punishment in the next two verses, but for now compare Luke 12:46 (“The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers”) with Matthew 24:51, where it says, “He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The bible shows that there are degrees of punishment, as seen in Luke 12:47-48. “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does NOT know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

In the next four verses, we see a trinity of concepts. Namely 1) judgment, 2) the suffering of Jesus and 3) peace.

1) Fire in the Bible, is often a type of judgment. In Luke 12:49, Jesus talks about how He wishes this judgment had already begun. “I have to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 2) Next in verse 50, He tells us about the baptism of suffering that He must go through. “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” Compare this with Luke 22:44, “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” 3) Thirdly, In Luke 12:51-53, Jesus tells us that His main mission on earth was NOT to bring peace. “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law.”

Was Jesus going to usher in world peace? He answered that question before any of His listeners could ask it. But His followers would be divided from the world because their allegiance was to be to Him.

As for Jesus’ disciples, then and now, the peace we strive for is not world peace, but peace with God. In order to see this, look at John 14:27 - “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

The Jews had all of the prophecies in the Old Testament that told about Christ, yet they did not believe Him. In Luke 12:54-57, Jesus chastises them for this dullness. He said to the crowd, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows you say, ‘it’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

But before we point the finger, I would I would ask you, are we any better at seeing what God is doing than the Jews were? I fear we are all to some extent like the servant who has been given much, but did not fulfill his obligations, as we saw in the preceding verses.

Not only will we be judged for the harm we do to others, but we will also be rewarded for the good we have done. While your salvation in Christ is sure if you know Him, we have varying degrees of reward in heaven, depending on how responsible we have been - see 1st Corinthians 3:12-15.

In the last verses of Luke Chapter 12, namely 57; 58 and 59, Jesus calls for people to settle their differences out of court. He asks, “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled to him on the way, or he may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

While the prison system was different in Roman times, this is still practical advice. Instead of always insisting on our rights, we are to look to God and be peacemakers. There are great rewards in eternity for those who look to the Lord in all things and share His peace with others.

Thank you for reading this, and I hope you will join me next time for Luke 13.

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