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Bible Commentaries
Luke 12

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-59

XII 1-59 Dispositions required in those who seek Salvation —Jesus declares that everything turns on this question of the soul’s salvation, for which a man must be prepared to face any loss, to renounce every other good whatsoever. Therefore, too, all must be on the watch constantly for the coming of the Lord, for the chance once lost is lost completely.

1-12 Instruction concerning the Future Preaching of the Disciples —(Matthew 10:26-33; Matthew 12:32; Matthew 10:19-20). In the introductory verse we are shown a great crowd (µ????de?, lit. tens of thousands’) so pressing round Jesus that they tread on one another; Jesus renews his warning to the disciples of the leaven (i.e. teaching) of the hypocritical Pharisees, and proceeds with instructions which find a very exact parallel in Mt. The particular points worth noting here are as follows: in 4 Jesus addresses his followers as ’my friends’, new in Lk (cf.John 15:15); in 8-9 ’the angels of God’ take the. place of ’my Father in heaven’ in Matthew 10:32-33; in 12 ’the Holy Spirit’ corresponds to ’the Spirit of your Father’ in Mt. Mt’s context for the sin against the Holy Ghost is more suitable than Lk’s; in Mt it comes immediately after the accusation of using diabolical agency. Here Lk seems to have the disciples rather than adversaries in view, as though to say that a disciple who, after having believed in Jesus and received the Holy Ghost, should then deny him would be guilty of an unforgivable sin; cf.Hebrews 6:4-6. It is not a question of a sin of its nature unforgivable, for Lk knows that Peter himself will deny his Master. But the prospect here is of one who appears before God still denying Christ.

Further 11-12 indicate that, since the Holy Spirit will speak through the disciples when they are brought before hostile judges, to deny Jesus then would be to sin against the Holy Ghost, cf.Mark 13:11.

13-34 the Detachment required in a Disciple —The section begins with an incident found only in Lk, followed by another of his special parables. The incident of 13-14 recalls the story of Moses in Exodus 2:11-15. The teaching of the Parable of the Rich Fool is in tune with the note that runs all through these later discourses, the supreme importance of the soul and its salvation. If Lk omits the solemn warning of Mark 8:37, Matthew 16:26b, it is here in a more graphic form. 21. ’Rich towards God’; either the using of one’s wealth for God’s service; or laying up treasure in heaven in the form of spiritual goods; or, more probably, using wealth for almsgiving to those whom Lk makes the special friends of God; cf. 12:33; 16:19 ff. As St Ambrose finely says, ’the hands of the poor, the houses of widows, are storehouses that endure for ever’.

22-34. Parallels in Matthew 6:25-33; Matthew 19:21, with but little change. The ravens and the lilies are contrasted with the Rich Fool. In 25 ?????a seems best rendered by ’span’ (of life) or ’age’. Thus the Rich Fool is again recalled; he could not extend his life in order to enjoy his hoarded goods.

29b. An addition to Mt, or rather another expressran for solicitude; to be ’lifted up on high’ is to be suspended, therefore ’be not in suspense’ about your needs.

31. Omit ’and his justice’ which is a gloss from Matthew 6:33.

32. A Lucan addition, thoroughly in keeping with this section, 9:51-18:30, which is remarkable for its alternation of severity and tenderness in the language of our Lord to his disciples; cf. 12:4, 7. For those who are faithful to the spirit of the Beatitudes which are here recalled the Kingdom of God is assured, cf. 6:20.

33-34. Lk here repeats the thought of Matthew 6:19-20 and concludes with the same warning: set all your thoughts and desires on the all-important object. In Semitic imagery the ’heart’ is the seat of consideration, not of affection.

35-59 The Necessity of Watching —According to his usual fashion our Lord concludes his instruction with a call to action; cf. 6:46-49. The insistent note is one of ’watching’ but the Greek ??????e?+^? does not mean watching like a spectator; it is rather to be awake and active, ’looking alive’ as we say. Thus the loins are to be girt, i.e. the skirts of the garments lifted up in preparation for labour and marching, as when the Israelites ate the first Pasch in Egypt, Exodus 12:11; as the master in 37b girds himself to wait on his faithful servants. The parable (35-38) is peculiar to Lk in this form, but it contains the same lesson as the somewhat similar parable in Matthew 25:1-13 which is proper to Mt. There is a strong note of allegory in 37b, for it is not the human fashion for a master to wait on his servants; but this is the Master of 22:27 and John 13:5. The conclusion then is that the disciple must be ready for his Master’s coming and not weary if he is long a-coming, a conclusion with which Mk ends the instructions of Jesus on the eve of the Passion, 13:33-37. But Lk omits the saying of Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36 concerning the uncertain time of the coming of the Son of Man, the secret of which is reserved to the Father alone and not shared even by the Son according to Mk. 41-46: parallel with Matthew 24:45-50 save for the introduction and the conclusion. This is the sole appearance of Peter in the Journey Narrative. The answer given by our Lord to his question seems to be a fuller explanation of the words of Mark 13:37, the conclusion of a similar instruction. Some see an allegory in the parable of

42-44: Peter is the steward set over all the other servants of the Lord.

47-48. Proper to Lk. Peter has asked whether his Master’s warning is meant for others besides the disciples. Here Jesus appears to say that everyone will be dealt with according to his correspondence with the light he has received; if the disciples have been shown special favour (cf. 10:23-24) then so much the more will be expected of them. The same lesson is applicable to the Jews in general who have been privileged to see and hear Christ.

49-50. Proper to Lk but recalling Mark 10:38-39; the patristic explanation is that the reference is to the fire of charity, since our Lord has come to baptise in the Holy Ghost and with fire; cf. 3:16; Romans 5:5. Lk may be recalling again the prophecy of Malachias to which he refers so often earlier; in Malachi 3:2-3 the prophet foresees the coming of the angel of Yahweh ’like a refining fire’ separating the good from the bad. This would carry on the idea of discrimination referred to in 42-48, where emphasis is laid on the standard of discrimination, i.e fulfilment or non-fulfilment of the will of God. The thought of his Father’s will perhaps here suggests to Jesus what the fulfilment of that will entails for himself, and hence explains 50. Comparison with Mark 10:38-39 seems to show that the baptism here spoken of refers to the Passion. In what sense is our Lord ’straitened’, i.e. hemmed-in, constrained, afflicted, until that baptism be accomplished? Perhaps it is an echo of John 12:32-34. Or is the source of his affliction the fact that while some accept his teaching, so many refuse? This is suggested by the theme of 51-53, which recalls the words of Simeon, 2:34-35; Jesus is a sign of contradiction. ’To give peace on earth’ must not be interpreted as an infinitive of purpose, but of consequence; Lk has not forgotten the message of 1:79; 2:14; 7:50. Mt includes this warning of our Lord in the instructions given at the mission of the Apostles; 10:34-36.

54-59. Parallels in Matthew 5:25-6; Matthew 16:2-23. The discourse thus concludes with a warning to the crowd about the urgency of the teaching just given; it is high time to be reconciled with God; the judgement of God looms and the result of that judgement is inescapable. Let them read the signs of the times, i.e. the appearance of John the Baptist and the coming of Jesus.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Luke 12". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/luke-12.html. 1951.
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