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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary
Luke 12

 

 

Verses 1-3

72. Beware of Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:1-12; Mark 8:11-21; Luke 12:1-3; Luke 12:54-56)

In spite of all that Jesus had done, the Pharisees and Sadducees still demanded he produce a special sign to satisfy them. Jesus refused. They could look at the sky and work out what the weather would be like, but when they looked at Jesus' miracles they refused to believe what the miracles told them, namely, that Jesus was the Son of God. The only sign Jesus would give them would be his resurrection. Jonah came back to life after three days of apparent death, but Jesus would come back to life after three days of actual death. By this unmistakable sign the Father would prove to all that Jesus is his Son (Matthew 16:1-4; Luke 12:54-56).

Sin is compared to yeast, or leaven, in that it affects everything it touches. The Pharisees, the Sadducees and Herod were evil influences that spread through Israel as yeast spreads through a lump of dough. Jesus warned his disciples to beware of the yeast-like effect of these people. His probable meaning was that they were not to be influenced by the wrong teaching and hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees or the ungodly ways of people like Herod (Matthew 16:5-6; Mark 8:14-15; Luke 12:1).

The apostles missed the meaning of Jesus' illustration. They thought he wanted some bread (but not bread baked with certain types of yeast) and were worried that they did not have any. This showed that although they had twice seen him miraculously feed a large crowd, they still lacked the faith to believe he could provide for them. In addition they lacked spiritual understanding, and saw the meaning of Jesus' illustration only after he explained it to them (Matthew 16:7-12; Mark 8:16-21; Luke 12:2-3).


Verses 4-21

63. Concern about safety and security (Luke 12:4-21)

Some teaching that Jesus gave to the twelve apostles is repeated in other parts of the Gospels. This may have been given to the followers of Jesus in general, particularly those instructions and warnings that concerned putting loyalty to Jesus before the desire for personal safety (Luke 12:4-12; see notes on Matthew 10:28-33 above).

On one occasion when a crowd was listening to such teaching from Jesus, there was one person who showed no understanding of what Jesus was saying. Contrary to Jesus' teaching, personal safety and security were his main concern. He wanted Jesus to force his brother to give him a bigger share of an inheritance they had received. Jesus was not a rabbi who settled disputes about the law; he was a teacher from God and he was concerned about people's greed (Luke 12:13-15). He therefore told the story of a rich but foolish farmer who thought only of his prosperity, security and comfort. Suddenly the farmer died. Not only was his wealth of no further use, but it had prevented him from obtaining true heavenly riches (Luke 12:16-21).


Verses 22-34

42. Concern about material things (Matthew 6:19-34; Luke 12:22-34)

People who come into the kingdom of God should not view the material things of earthly life as others view them. They should put God's interests first and be generous in giving to others. Those who set their hearts on material things are being disloyal to God, and guarantee bitter disappointment for themselves in the end (Matthew 6:19-21).

To illustrate the results of right and wrong attitudes to material things, Jesus referred to a local belief about the results of good and bad eyesight. People believed that eyes were like windows that allowed light to enter the body and keep it in good health. Healthy eyes meant a healthy body (light); diseased eyes meant a diseased body (darkness). A healthy view of material things will result in a healthy spiritual life; but an unhealthy view will mean that the natural spiritual darkness already in the heart will become even darker (Matthew 6:22-23). A person can be a slave of only one master at a time. If people devote their attention to increasing their prosperity and comfort, they can no longer claim to be loyal to God (Matthew 6:24).

Others, however, get into bondage to material things not because they are greedy, but because they worry too much about having enough money to look after themselves. They should realize that if God gives life, he can also give what is necessary to maintain life (Matthew 6:25-27). If he cares for lesser things such as birds, flowers and grass, he can certainly care for his people. Believers should not be anxious concerning their material needs. Those who do not know God might be anxious, but believers should trust in God and put the interests of his kingdom first. They are under his rule and they should trust that as day to day difficulties arise, he will provide the answer (Matthew 6:28-34).


Verses 35-53

96. Be prepared at all times (Luke 12:35-53)

The followers of Jesus must always be ready for whatever circumstances they meet. They are likened to household servants waiting for their master to return home after a feast. Whether the master arrives home earlier or later than expected, he will be pleased if the servants are ready and waiting for him. Though they have merely done their duty, he may give them an unexpected reward by serving them a meal (Luke 12:35-38).

Another illustration of readiness concerns a householder who secures his house against burglary. Since he does not know when a burglar is likely to break in, he keeps the house secure constantly (Luke 12:39). Jesus used both illustrations to remind his followers to be ready always for 'the coming of the Son of man', whether in the coming crisis in Jerusalem or in the final crisis at the end of the age (Luke 12:40).

When Peter asked if the parable applied only to the apostles or to people in general, Jesus gave no direct answer but told another parable (Luke 12:41). The master of a household appointed one of his servants to the position of manager over all the other servants while he went away on a trip. He gave the manager-servant instructions concerning the running of the household, but when the master was away longer than expected, the man thought he could do as he liked. Suddenly the master returned and, on discovering what had happened, dealt severely with the manager-servant (Luke 12:42-46). All the servants guilty of wrongdoing were punished, but the one who had more detailed knowledge of his master's will was punished more severely. Everyone is accountable to God, but God expects more of those who know more (Luke 12:47-48).

Jesus gave one more warning about the need to be prepared for the crisis ahead. He felt a mounting tension as he saw that the cross would mean fiery judgment for some, a baptism of suffering for himself, and conflict for those who are opposed by hostile relatives because of their loyalty to him (Luke 12:49-53).


Verses 57-59

40. Legal obedience is not enough (Matthew 5:21-48; Luke 6:27-36; Luke 12:57-59)

After his explanation concerning right and wrong attitudes to the law, Jesus gives a number of examples. He introduces these examples with statements such as 'You have heard that it was said in the past'. This is not the same as 'It is written'. Jesus is not quoting from the Old Testament but from the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees. He is not contradicting the law but the interpretations of the law that the scribes taught. In so doing he explains the real meaning of the law and the necessity for more than mere legal obedience. He is not writing a new law, but showing his people that they must have a new attitude. The Jewish religious leaders used the law to govern outward actions, but Jesus wants to control the heart.

In his first example Jesus shows that to refrain from murder is not enough. The spirit of anger and revenge that leads to murder must be removed from the heart (Matthew 5:21-22). Besides controlling their anger, disciples of Jesus should try to make peace with those who are angry with them. Even in worldly affairs an offender would be wise to reach agreement with his opponent quickly. Otherwise he may find himself in worse circumstances by receiving an unfavourable judgment in court (Matthew 5:23-26).

Like murder, adultery is the final fruit of wrong thoughts and uncontrolled feelings. The eye sees, the mind desires and the body acts. Therefore, the eye, as well as the rest of the body, must be brought under control, whatever the cost. Temptation must be cut at the source (Matthew 5:27-30).

Another common sin that resulted from a misunderstanding of the law was divorce. In a time of widespread social disorder, Moses had introduced a law to prevent easy divorce and protect innocent partners (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Certain teachers then twisted the meaning of Moses' law to allow easy divorce. Jesus rejected such use of the law and referred them back to God's original standard (Matthew 5:31-32).

Many Jews considered that if, in swearing an oath, they did not use God's name, they were not bound by that oath. If they swore 'by heaven', 'by earth', 'by Jerusalem' or 'by the head' and then broke their oath, they felt no guilt, because such oaths did not use the name of God. Jesus says they should not need to swear oaths at all. Everything they say should be true, honest and straightforward (Matthew 5:33-37).

When Moses laid down a law code for civil governments, he established the principle that the punishment had to fit the crime. 'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a scratch for a scratch' meant that there had to be a heavy punishment for a major offence, and a light punishment for a minor offence (Exodus 21:23-25). But once again people took a legal regulation of civil government and twisted it to suit their purposes. They now felt free to take personal revenge on anyone who did them wrong. Jesus shows that his followers must not demand their rights every time they are wronged, but show loving forgiveness (attitudes that also were taught in the law of Moses; Exodus 23:4-5; Leviticus 19:17-18). The spirit that rules in their hearts must not be the same as that which rules in the code of legal justice (Matthew 5:38-42).

The saying that encouraged Jews to hate their enemies did not come from the law of Moses, as the above Old Testament references clearly show. It came from the traditions of the scribes. God's people must love their enemies. They are doing nothing exceptional if they love only those who are friends, for even the ungodly do that. The Christians' example is found in God, who gives rain and food to those who love him and those who hate him. He makes no distinctions, and as Christians follow his example, their character will become increasingly like his (Matthew 5:43-48).

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Luke 12:4". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/luke-12.html. 2005.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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