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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Luke 12

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Verses 1-3

Vers. 1-3: The assured Success of their Ministry, and the Fall of their Adversaries. In the meantime, 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 house-tops. ” The words ἐν οἷς , on which, establish a close connection between the following scene and that which precedes. This gathering, which is formed as in the previous scene ( Luk 11:29 ), is readily explained by the general circumstances those of a journey. When Jesus had arrived at a village, some time was needed to make the population aware of it; and soon it flocked to Him en masse. ῎Ηρξατο , He began, imparts a solemn character to the words which follow. Jesus, after having spoken severely to His adversaries, now addresses the little company of His disciples, lost among that immense throng, in language full of boldness. It is the cry onwards, with the promise of victory. The words, to the disciples, are thus the key to the discourse following. The word πρῶτον , before all, should evidently be connected with the verb which follows, beware ye. Comp. Luke 9:61, Luke 10:5.

Meyer concludes, from the absence of the article before ὑπόκρισις , that the leaven is not hypocrisy itself, but a style of teaching which has the character of hypocrisy. This is a very forced meaning. The absence of the article is very common before terms which denote virtues and vices. (Winer, Gramm. des N. T. Sprachidioms, § 19. 1.) Leaven is the emblem of every active principle, good or bad, which possesses the power of assimilation. The devotion of the Pharisees had given a false direction to the whole of Israelitish piety (Luke 12:39; Luk 12:44 ). This warning may have been repeated several times (Mark 8:13; Mat 16:6 ).

The δέ adversative of Luk 12:2 determines the sense of the verse: “But all this pharisaic hypocrisy shall be unveiled. The impure foundation of this so vaunted holiness shall come fully to the light, and then the whole authority of those masters of opinion shall crumble away; but, in place thereof ( ἀνθ᾿ ὧν , Luk 12:3 ), those whose voice cannot now find a hearing, save within limited and obscure circles, shall become the teachers of the world.” The Hillels and Gamaliels will give place to new teachers, who shall fill the world with their doctrine, and those masters shall be Peter, John, Matthew, here present! This substitution of a new doctorate for the old is announced in like manner to Nicodemus ( Joh 3:10-11 ). Here, as there, the poetical rhythm of the parallelism indicates that elevation of feeling which arises from so great and transporting a thought. Comp. the magnificent apostrophe of St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 1:20: “ Where is the wise? Where is the scribe...? ” By St. Paul's time the substitution had been fully effected. Ταμεῖον , the larder (from τέμνω ); and hence the locked chamber, the innermost apartment, in opposition to the public room.

The roofs of houses in the East are terraces, from which one can speak with those who are in the street. This is the emblem of the greatest possible publicity. The mouth of the scribes shall be stopped, and the teaching of the poor disciples shall be heard over the whole universe. The apophthegms of Luk 12:2-3 may be applied in many ways, and Jesus seems to have repeated them often with varied applications. Comp. Luke 8:17. In the parallel passage ( Mat 10:27 ), the matter in question is the teaching of Jesus, not that of the apostles; and this saying appears in the form of an exhortation addressed to the latter: “ What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light. ” Naturally the maxim which precedes ( Luk 12:2 of Luke) should also receive a different application in Matthew ( Mat 10:26 ): “Everything that is true must come to the light. Publish, therefore, without fear whatsoever I have told you.”

Verses 1-12

8. The Dinner at a Pharisee's House: Luk 11:37 to Luke 12:12.

Agreeably to the connection established by Luke himself ( Luk 12:1 ), we join the two pieces Luk 11:37-54 and Luk 12:1-12 in one whole. Here, so far as Galilee is concerned, we have the culminating point of the struggle between Jesus and the pharisaic party. This period finds its counterpart in Judea, in the scenes related John 8-10. The background of the conflict which now ensues, is still the odious accusation refuted in the previous passage. The actual situation assigned to the repast is, according to Holtzmann, merely a fiction, the idea of which had been suggested to Luke by the figures of Luke 11:39-40. Is it not more natural to suppose that the images of Luk 11:39-40 were suggested to Jesus by the actual situation, which was that of a repast? It is true, a great many of the sayings which compose this discourse are found placed by Matthew in a different connection; they form part of the great discourse in which Jesus denounced the divine malediction on the scribes and Pharisees in the temple a few days before His death (Matthew 23:0). But first it is to be remarked, that Holtzmann gives as little credit to the place which those sayings occupy in the composition of Matthew, as to the “scenery” of Luke. Then we have already found too many examples of the process of aggregation used in the first Gospel, to have our confidence shaken thereby in the narrative of Luke. We shall inquire, therefore, with impartiality, as we proceed, which of the two situations is that which best suits the words of Jesus.

This piece contains: 1 st. The rebukes addressed to the Pharisees ( Luk 11:37-44 ); 2 d. Those addressed to the scribes ( Luk 11:45-54 ); 3 d. The encouragements given to the disciples in face of the animosity to which they are exposed on the part of those enraged adversaries ( Luk 12:1-12 ).

Verses 1-59


A great contrast marks the synoptical narrative: that between the ministry in Galilee, and the passion week at Jerusalem. According to Matthew ( Mat 19:1 to Mat 20:34 ) and Mark (chap. 10), the short journey from Capernaum to Judea through Perea forms the rapid transition between those two parts of the ministry of Jesus. Nothing, either in the distance between the places, or in the number of the facts related, would lead us to suppose that this journey lasted more than a few days. This will appear from the following table:

The fourth part of the Gospel of Luke, which begins at Luke 9:51, gives us a very different idea of what transpired at that period. Here we find the description of a slow and lengthened journey across the southern regions of Galilee, which border on Samaria. Jerusalem is, and remains, the fixed goal of the journey (Luke 9:51, Luke 13:22, Luke 17:11, etc.). But Jesus proceeds only by short stages, stopping at each locality to preach the gospel. Luke does not say what direction He followed. But we may gather it from the first fact related by him. At the first step which He ventures to take with His followers on the Samaritan territory, He is stopped short by the ill-will excited against Him by national prejudice; so that even if His intention had been to repair directly to Jerusalem through Samaria (which we do not believe to have been the case), He would have been obliged to give up that intention, and turn eastward, in order to take the other route, that of Perea. Jesus therefore slowly approached the Jordan, with the view of crossing that river to the south of the lake Gennesaret, and of continuing His journey thereafter through Perea. The inference thus drawn from the narrative of Luke is positively confirmed by Matthew ( Mat 19:1 ) and Mark ( Mar 10:1 ), both of whom indicate the Perean route as that which Jesus followed after His departure from Galilee. In this way the three synoptics coincide anew from Luk 18:15 onwards; and from the moment at which the narrative of Luke rejoins the two others, we have to regard the facts related by him as having passed in Perea. This slow journeying, first from west to east across southern Galilee, then from north to south through Perea, the description of which fills ten whole chapters, that is to say, more than a third of Luke's narrative, forms in this Gospel a real section intermediate between the two others (the description of the Galilean ministry and that of the passion week); it is a third group of narratives corresponding in importance to the two others so abruptly brought into juxtaposition in Mark and Matthew, and which softens the contrast between them.

But can we admit with certainty the historical reality of this evangelistic journey in southern Galilee, which forms one of the characteristic features of the third Gospel? Many modern critics refuse to regard it as historical. They allege:

1. The entire absence of any analogous account in Matthew and Mark. Matthew, indeed, relates only two solitary facts ( Mat 8:19 et seq. and Luk 12:21 et seq.) of all those which Luke describes in the ten chapters of which this section consists, up to the moment when the three narratives again become parallel ( Luk 18:14 ); Mark, not a single one.

2. The visit of Jesus to Martha and Mary, which Luke puts in this journey ( Luk 10:38-42 ), can have taken place only in Judea, at Bethany; likewise the saying, Luke 13:34-35, cannot well have been uttered by Jesus elsewhere than at Jerusalem in the temple ( Mat 23:37-39 ). Do not these errors of time and place cast a more than suspicious light on the narrative of the entire journey? M. Sabatier himself, who thoroughly appreciates the important bearing of this narrative in Luke on the harmony of the four Gospels, nevertheless goes the length of saying: “We see with how many contradictions and material impossibilities this narrative abounds.”

It has been attempted to defend Luke, by alleging that he did not mean to relate a journey, and that this section was only a collection of doctrinal utterances arranged in the order of their subjects, and intended to show the marvellous wisdom of Jesus. It is impossible for us to admit this explanation, with Luke's own words before us, which express and recall from time to time his intention of describing a consecutive journey: Luke 9:51, “He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem;Luke 13:22, “He was going through the cities and villages... journeying toward Jerusalem;Luke 17:11 (lit. trans.), “And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He traversed the country between Samaria and Galilee.”

Wieseler, taking up an entirely opposite point of view, finds in those three passages the indications of as many individual journeys, which he connects with three journeys to Jerusalem placed by John almost at the same epoch. It is hoped in this way to find the point of support for Luke's narrative in the fourth Gospel, which is wanting to it in the two first. The departure mentioned Luk 9:51 would correspond with the journey of Jesus, Joh 7:1 to John 10:39 (feast of Tabernacles and of Dedication), a journey which terminates in a sojourn in Perea ( Joh 10:40 et seq.). The mention of a journey Luk 13:22 would refer to the journey from Perea to Bethany for the raising of Lazarus, John 11:0, after which Jesus repairs to Ephraim. Finally, the passage Luk 17:11 would correspond with the journey from Ephraim to Jerusalem for the last Passover ( Joh 11:55 ). It would be necessary to admit that Jesus, after His Ephraim sojourn, made a last visit to Galilee, proceeding thither through Samaria (Wieseler translates Luk 17:11 as in E. V., “through the midst of Samaria and Galilee”), then that He returned to Judea through Perea (Matthew 19:0; Mark 10:0).

We cannot allow that this view has the least probability. 1. Those three passages in Luke plainly do not indicate, in his mind at least, three different departures and journeys. They are way-marks set up by the author on the route of Jesus, in the account of this unique journey, by which he recalls from time to time the general situation described Luke 9:51, on account of the slowness and length of the progress. 2. The departure ( Luk 9:51 ) took place, as the sending of the seventy disciples proves, with the greatest publicity; it is not therefore identical with the departure ( Joh 7:1 et seq.), which took place, as it were, in secret; Jesus undoubtedly did not then take with Him more than one or two of His most intimate disciples. 3. The interpretation which Wieseler gives of Luk 17:11 appears to us inadmissible (see the passage).

It must therefore be acknowledged, not only that Luke meant in those ten chapters to relate a journey, but that he meant to relate one, and only one.

Others think that he intended to produce in the minds of his readers the idea of a continuous journey, but that this is a framework of fiction which has no corresponding reality. De Wette and Bleek suppose that, after having finished his account of the Galilean ministry, Luke still possessed a host of important materials, without any determinate localities or dates, and that, rather than lose them, he thought good to insert them here, between the description of the Galilean ministry and that of the passion, while grouping them in the form of a recorded journey. Holtzmann takes for granted that those materials were nothing else than the contents of his second principal source, the Logia of Matthew, which Luke has placed here, after employing up till this point his first source, the original Mark. Weizsäcker, who thinks, on the contrary, that the Logia of Matthew are almost exactly reproduced in the great groups of discourses which the first contains, sees in this fourth part of Luke a collection of sayings derived by him from those great discourses of Matthew, and arranged systematically with regard to the principal questions which were agitated in the apostolic churches (the account of the feast, Luke 14:1-35, alluding to the Agapae; the discourses, Luk 15:1 to Luke 17:10, to questions relative to the admission of Gentiles, etc.).

Of course, according to those three points of view, the historical introductions with which Luke prefaces each of those teachings would be more or less his own invention. He deduces them himself from those teachings, as we might do at the present day. As to the rest, Bleek expressly remarks that this view leaves entirely intact the historical truth of the sayings of Jesus in themselves. We shall gather up in the course of our exegesis the data which can enlighten us on the value of those hypotheses; but at the outset we must offer the following observations: 1. In thus inventing an entire phase of the ministry of Jesus, Luke would put himself in contradiction to the programme marked out ( Luk 1:1-4 ), where he affirms that he has endeavoured to reproduce historical truth exactly. 2. What purpose would it serve knowingly to enrich the ministry of Jesus with a fictitious phase? Would it not have been much simpler to distribute those different pieces along the course of the Galilean ministry? 3. Does a conscientious historian play thus with the matter of which he treats, especially when that matter forms the object of his religious faith?

If Luke had really acted in this way, we should require, with Baur, to take a step further, and ascribe to this fiction a more serious intention that of establishing, by those prolonged relations of Jesus to the Samaritans, the Pauline universalism? Thus it is that criticism, logically carried out in questions relating to the Gospels, always lands us in this dilemma historical truth or deliberate imposture.

The historical truth of this journey, as Luke describes it, appears to us evident from the following facts: 1. Long or short, a journey from Galilee to Judea through Perea must have taken place; so much is established by the narratives of Matthew and Mark, and indirectly confirmed by that of John, when he mentions a sojourn in Perea precisely at the same epoch ( Luk 10:40-42 ). 2. The duration of this journey must have been much more considerable than appears from a hasty glance at the first two synoptics. How, in reality, are we to fill the six or seven months which separated the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:0, month of October) from that of the Passover, at which Jesus died? The few accounts, Matthew 19:20 (Mark 10:0), cannot cover such a gap. Scarcely is there wherewith to fill up the space of a week. Where, then, did Jesus pass all that time? And what did He do? It is usually answered, that from the feast of Tabernacles to that of the Dedication (December) He remained in Judea. That is not possible. He must have gone to Jerusalem in a sort of incognito and by way of surprise, in order to appear unexpectedly in that city, and to prevent the police measures which a more lengthened sojourn in Judea would have allowed His enemies to take against Him. And after the violent scenes related Joh 7:1 to John 10:21, He must have remained peacefully there for more than two whole months! Such an idea is irreconcilable with the situation described John 6:1; John 7:1-13.

Jesus therefore, immediately after rapidly executing that journey, returned to Galilee. This return, no doubt, is not mentioned; but no more is that which followed John 5:0. It is understood, as a matter of course, that so long as a new scene of action is not indicated in the narrative, the old one continues. After the stay at Jerusalem at the feast of Dedication ( Joh 10:22 et seq.), it is expressly said that Jesus sojourned in Perea ( Luk 9:40-42 ): there we have the first indication apprising us that the long sojourn in Galilee had come to an end. Immediately, therefore, after the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus returned to Galilee, and it was then that He definitely bade adieu to that province, and set out, as we read Luke 9:51, to approach Jerusalem slowly and while preaching the gospel. Not only is such a journey possible, but it is in a manner forced on us by the necessity of providing contents for that blank interval in the ministry of Jesus. 3. The indications which Luke supplies respecting the scene of this journey have nothing in them but what is exceedingly probable. After His first visit to Nazareth, Jesus settled at Capernaum; He made it His own city ( Mat 9:1 ), and the centre of His excursions ( Luk 4:31 et seq.). Very soon He considerably extended the radius of His journeys on the side of western Galilee (Nain, Luk 7:11 ). Then He quitted His Capernaum residence, and commenced a ministry purely itinerant ( Luk 8:1 et seq.). To this period belong His first visit to Decapolis, to the east of the lake of Gennesaret, and the multiplication of the loaves, to the north-east of that sea. Finally, we learn from Matthew and Mark that Jesus made two other great excursions into the northern regions, the one to the north-west toward Phoenicia (Luke's great lacuna), the other toward the north-east, to the sources of the Jordan (Caesarea Philippi, and the transfiguration). To accomplish His mission toward Galilee there thus remained to be visited only the southern parts of this province on the side of Samaria. What more natural, consequently, than the direction which He followed in this journey, slowly passing over that southern part of Galilee from west to east which He had not before visited, and from which He could make some excursions among that Samaritan people at whose hands He had found so eager a welcome at the beginning of His ministry?

Regarding the visit to Martha and Mary, and the saying Luke 13:34-35, we refer to the explanation of the passages. Perhaps the first is a trace (unconscious on the part of Luke) of Jesus' short sojourn at Jerusalem at the feast of Dedication. In any case, the narrative of Luke is thus found to form the natural transition between the synoptical accounts and that of John. And if we do not find in Luke that multiplicity of journeys to Jerusalem which forms the distinctive feature of John's Gospel, we shall at least meet with the intermediate type of a ministry, a great part of which (the Galilean work once finished) assumes the form of a prolonged pilgrimage in the direction of Jerusalem.

As to the contents of the ten chapters embraced in this part of Luke, they are perfectly in keeping with the situation. Jesus carries along with Him to Judea all the following of devoted believers which He has found in Galilee, the nucleus of His future Church. From this band will go forth the army of evangelists which, with the apostles at its head, will shortly enter upon the conquest of the world in His name. To prepare them as they travel along for this task, such is His constant aim. He prosecutes it directly in two ways: by sending them on a mission before Him, as formerly He had sent the twelve, and making them serve, as these had done, a first apprenticeship to their future work; then, by bringing to bear on them the chief part of His instructions respecting that emancipation from the world and its goods which was to be the distinctive character of the life of His servants, and thus gaining them wholly for the great task which He allots to them.

What are the sources of Luke in this part which is peculiar to him? According to Holtzmann, Luke here gives us the contents of Matthew's Logia, excepting the introductions, which he adds or amplifies. We shall examine this whole hypothesis hereafter. According to Schleiermacher, this narrative is the result of the combination of two accounts derived from the journals of two companions of Jesus, the one of whom took part in the journey at the feast of Dedication, the other in that of the last Passover. Thus he explains the exactness of the details, and at the same time the apparent inexactness with which a visit to Bethany is found recorded in the midst of a series of scenes in Galilee. According to this view, the short introductions placed as headings to the discourses are worthy of special confidence.

But how has this fusion of the two writings which has merged the two journeys into one been brought about? Luke cannot have produced it consciously; it must have existed in his sources. The difficulty is only removed a stage. How was it possible for the two accounts of different journeys to be fused into a unique whole? As far as we are concerned, all that we believe it possible to say regarding the source from which Luke drew is, that the document must have been either Aramaic, or translated from Aramaic. To be convinced of this, we need only read the verse, Luke 9:51, which forms the heading of the narrative.

If we were proceeding on the relation of Luke to the two other synoptics, we should divide this part into two cycles, that in which Luke moves alone ( Luk 9:51 to Luk 18:14 ), and that in which he moves parallel to them ( Luk 18:15 to Luk 19:27 ). But that division has nothing corresponding to it in the mind of the author, who probably knows neither of the two other canonical accounts. He himself divides his narrative into three cycles by the three observations with which he marks it off: 1 st. Luk 9:51 to Luke 13:21 (Luke 9:51, the resolution to depart); 2 d. Luk 13:22 to Luke 17:10 (Luke 13:22, the direction of the journey); 3 d. Luk 17:11 to Luke 19:27 (Luke 17:11, the scene of the journey). Such, then, will be our division.

Verses 4-7

Vers. 4-7. Personal Security. 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.

The success of their cause is certain. But what of their personal future? After Luk 11:49 there was good cause for some disquiet on this point. Here the heart of Jesus softens: the thought of the lot which some of them will have to undergo seems to render His own more dear to Him. Hence the tender form of address, To you, my friends. Certainly Luke did not invent this word; and if Matthew, in whom it is not found ( Luk 10:28 et seq.), had used the same document as Luke, he would not have omitted it. Olshausen has taken up the strange idea, that by him who can cast into hell we are to understand, not God, but the devil, as if Scripture taught us to fear the devil, and not rather to resist him to his face (1 Peter 5:9; Jam 4:7 ).

The MSS. are divided between the forms ἀποκτεννόντων (Eolico-Doric, according to Bleek), ἀποκτενόντων (a corruption of the preceding), and ἀποκτεινόντων (the regular form). The term Gehenna (hell) properly signifies valley of Hinnom (˜ ֵגיאּהִנֹּםַ , Joshua 15:8, comp. Luke 18:16; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31, etc.). It was a fresh and pleasant valley to the south of the hill of Zion, where were found in early times the king's gardens. But as it was there that the worship of Moloch was celebrated under the idolatrous kings, Josiah converted it into a place for sewage. The valley thus became the type, and its name the designation, of hell. This saying of Jesus distinguishes soul from body as emphatically as modern spiritualism can do. What are we to think of M. Renan, who dares to assert that Jesus did not know the exact distinction between those two elements of our being!

Jesus does not promise His disciples that their life shall always be safe. But if they perish, it will not be without the consent of an all-powerful Being, who is called their Father. The sayings which follow express by the most forcible emblems the idea of a providence which extends to the smallest details of human life.

To make a more appreciable sum, Luke speaks of five birds of the value of about two farthings. Matthew, who speaks of two birds only, gives their value at one farthing; that is, a little dearer. Did five cost proportionally a little less than two? Can we imagine one of the two evangelists amusing himself by making such changes in the text of the other, or in that of a common document! The expression before God is Hebraistic; it means that there is not one of those small creatures which is not individually present to the view of divine omniscience. The knowledge of God extends not only to our persons, but even to the most insignificant parts of our being, to those 140,000 hairs of which we lose some every day without paying the least attention. No fear, then; ye shall not fall without God's consent; and if He consent, it is because it will be for His child's good.

Verses 8-10

Vers. 8-10. The Recompense of faithful Disciples, contrasted with the Punishment of the Cowardly, and with that of Adversaries. 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. ” The profession of the gospel may undoubtedly cost the disciples dear; but if they persevere, it assures them of a magnificent recompense. Jesus, when glorified, will requite them by declaring them His before the heavenly throng, for what they did for Him by acknowledging Him their Lord below at the time of His humiliation. The gnostic Heracleon remarked the force of the prep. ἐν with ὁμολογεῖν . It expresses the rest of faith in Him who is confessed. Luk 12:9 guards the disciples against the danger of denial. This warning was by no means out of place at the time when they were surrounded by furious enemies. It is to be remarked that Jesus does not say He will deny the renegade, as He said that He would confess the confessor. The verb is here in the passive, as if to show that this rejection will be a self-consummated act.

Ver. 10 glances at a danger more dreadful still than that of being rejected as a timid disciple. This punishment may have an end. But the sin of which Luk 12:10 speaks is for ever unpardonable. This terrible threat naturally applies to the sin of the adversaries of Jesus, to which His thought recurs in closing. They sin, not through timidity, but through active malice. By the expression blaspheme against the Holy Spirit Jesus alludes to the accusation which had given rise to this whole conflict ( Luk 11:15 ), and by which the works of that divine agent in the hearts of men (comp. Matthew 12:28, “If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God ”) had been ascribed to the spirit of darkness. That was knowingly and deliberately to insult the holiness of the principle from which all good in human life proceeds. To show the greatness of this crime of high treason, Jesus compares it with an outrage committed against His own person. He calls the latter a simple word ( λόγον ), an imprudent word, not a blasphemy. To utter a word against the poor and humble Son of man is a sin which does not necessarily proceed from malice. Might it not be the position of a sincerely pious Jew, who was still ruled by prejudices with which he had been imbued by his pharisaic education, to regard Jesus not as the expected Messiah, but as an enthusiast, a visionary, or even an impostor? Such a sin resembles that of the woman who devoutly brought her contribution to the pile of Huss, and at the sight of whom the martyr exclaimed, Sancta simplicitas. Jesus is ready to pardon in this world or in the next every indignity offered merely to His person; but an insult offered to goodness as such, and to its living principle in the heart of humanity, the Holy Spirit, the impious audacity of putting the holiness of His works to the account of the spirit of evil, that is what He calls blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and what He declares unpardonable. The history of Israel has fully proved the truth of this threatening. This people perished not for having nailed Jesus Christ to the cross. Otherwise Good Friday would have been the day of their judgment, and God would not have continued to offer them for forty years the pardon of their crime. It was its rejection of the apostolic preaching, its obstinate resistance to the Spirit of Pentecost, which filled up the measure of Jerusalem's sin. And it is with individuals as with that nation. The sin which is for ever unpardonable, is not the rejection of the truth, in consequence of a misunderstanding, such as that of so many unbelievers who confound the gospel with this or that false form, which is nothing better than its caricature. It is hatred of holiness as such, a hatred which leads men to make the gospel a work of pride or fraud, and to ascribe it to the spirit of evil. This is not to sin against Jesus personally; it is to insult the divine principle which actuated Him. It is hatred of goodness itself in its supreme manifestation.

The form in which Matthew ( Mat 12:31-32 ) has preserved this warning differs considerably from that of Luke; and that of Mark ( Mar 3:28-29 ) differs in its turn from that of Matthew. It is wholly inconceivable, that in a statement of such gravity the evangelists arbitrarily introduced changes into a written text which they had before their eyes. On the contrary, we can easily understand how this saying, while circulating in the churches in the shape of oral tradition, assumed somewhat different forms. As to the place assigned to this declaration by the synoptics, that which Matthew and Mark give, immediately after the accusation which called it forth, appears at first sight preferable. Nevertheless, the connection which it has in Luke's context with what precedes and what follows, is not difficult to apprehend. There is at once a gradation in respect of the sin of weakness mentioned Luke 12:9, and a contrast to the promise of Luke 12:11-12, where this Holy Spirit, the subject of blasphemy on the part of the Pharisees, is presented as the powerful support of the persecuted disciples. There is thus room for doubt.

Verses 11-12

Vers. 11 and 12. The Aid. When they bring you unto the synagogues, and before 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. ” Jesus seems to take pleasure in enumerating all the different kinds of powers whose hostility they shall have to feel. Συναγωγαί , the Jewish tribunals, having a religious character; ἀρχαί , Gentile authorities, purely civil, from provincial prefects up to the emperor; ἐξουσίαι , any power whatsoever. But let them not make preparation to plead! Their answer will be supplied to them on the spot, both as to its form ( πῶς , how) and substance ( τί , what). And their part will not be confined to defending themselves; they will take the offensive; they will bear testimony ( τί εἴπητε , what ye shall say). In this respect, also, everything shall be given them. Witness Peter and Stephen before the Sanhedrim, St. Paul before Felix and Festus; they do not merely defend their person; they preach the gospel. Thus the Holy Spirit will so act in them, that they shall only have to yield themselves to Him as His mouthpiece. The parallel passage occurs in Matthew in the instructions given to the Twelve ( Luk 10:19-20 ). The form is different enough to prove that the two compilations are not founded on the same text. Comp. also a similar thought ( Joh 15:26-27 ).

This saying attests the reality of the psychological phenomenon of inspiration. Jesus asserts that the Spirit of God can so communicate with the spirit of man, that the latter shall be only the organ of the former.

Holtzmann sees in all those sayings, Luke 12:1-12, only a combination of materials arbitrarily connected by Luke, and placed here in a fictitious framework. A discourse specially addressed to the disciples seems to him out of place in the midst of this crowd (p. 151). Yet he cannot help making an exception of Luke 12:1-3, which may be regarded as suitably spoken before a large multitude. But if we admit ever so little the historical truth of the striking words, I say unto you, you my friends ( Luk 12:4 ), we must acknowledge that they serve to distinguish the disciples from other persons present, and who are not of the same mind. The promise addressed to faithful confessors ( Luk 12:9 ) also receives from the hostile surroundings a quite peculiar appropriateness. The threat of Luk 12:10 supposes the presence of adversaries who have calumniated Jesus. In short, the announcement of persecutions, and the promise of the Holy Spirit's aid, Luke 12:11-12, find a natural explanation if, at the very moment, the disciples were in a perilous situation. All the elements of this discourse are thus in perfect keeping with the historical frame in which it is set by Luke. And this frame is only an invention of the evangelist!

9. The Position of Man and of the Believer in relation to this World's Goods: Luke 12:13-59.

The occasion of this new discourse is supplied by an unexpected event, and without any relation to what had just happened. This piece embraces: 1 st. A historical introduction ( Luk 12:13-14 ); 2 d. A discourse addressed by Jesus to the multitude on the value of earthly goods to man in general ( Luk 12:15-21 ); 3 d. A discourse, which He addresses specially to the disciples, on the position which their new faith gives them in respect of those goods ( Luk 12:22-40 ); 4 th. A still more special application of the same truth to the apostles ( Luk 12:41-53 ); 5 th. In closing, Jesus returns to the people, and gives them a last warning, based on the threatening character of present circumstances ( Luk 12:54-59 ).

Verses 13-14

1 st. The Occasion: Luke 12:13-14.

A man in the crowd profits by a moment of silence to submit a matter to Jesus which lies heavily on his heart, and which probably brought him to the Lord's presence. According to the civil law of the Jews, the eldest brother received a double portion of the inheritance, burdened with the obligation of supporting his mother and unmarried sisters. As to the younger members, it would appear from the parable of the prodigal son that the single share of the property which accrued to them was sometimes paid in money. This man was perhaps one of those younger members, who was not satisfied with the sum allotted to him, or who, after having spent it, still claimed, under some pretext or other, a part of the patrimony. As on other similar occasions (the woman taken in adultery), Jesus absolutely refuses to go out of His purely spiritual domain, or to do anything which might give Him the appearance of wishing to put Himself in the place of the powers that be. The answer to the τίς , who? is this: neither God nor men.

The difference between the judge and the μεριστής , him who divides, is that the first decides the point of law, and the second sees the sentence executed.

The object of Jesus in this journey being to take advantage of all the providential circumstances which could not fail to arise, in order to instruct the people and His disciples, He immediately uses this to bring before the different classes of His hearers those solemn truths which are called forth in His mind by the unexpected event.

Holtzmann is obliged to acknowledge the reality of the fact mentioned in the introduction. He therefore alleges, that in this special case the common source of Matthew and Luke contained a historical preface, and that the latter has preserved it to us, such as it was. We accept for Luke the homage rendered in this case to his fidelity. But, 1 st. With what right can it be pretended that we have here something exceptional? 2 d. How can it be alleged that the occasion of the following discourse was expressly indicated in the Logia, and that, nevertheless, in the face of this precise datum, the author of the first Gospel allowed himself to distribute the discourse as follows: two fragments (Luke 12:22-31; Luk 12:33-34 ) in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-33; Mat 6:19-21 ); another fragment ( Luk 12:51-53 ) in the installation discourse to the Twelve ( Mat 10:34-36 ); finally, various passages in the great eschatological discourse (Matthew 24:25)? Weizsäcker feels the impossibility of such a procedure. According to him, Matthew has preserved to us the form of the discourse exactly as it appeared in the Logia. But what does Luke in his turn do? Drawing from those great discourses of the Logia the materials which suit him, he forms a new one, purely fanciful, at the head of which he sets as the origin a historical anecdote of his own invention! In what respect is this procedure better than that which Holtzmann ascribes to Matthew? Such are the psychological monstrosities in opposite directions to which men are reduced by the hypothesis of a common document.

Verses 15-21

2 d. To the People: Luke 12:15-21. The Rich Fool. Πρὸς αὐτούς (“He said unto them ”), Luke 12:15, stands in opposition to His disciples, Luke 12:22. This slight detail confirms the exactness of Luke, for faith is nowhere supposed in those to whom the warning, Luke 12:15-21, is addressed. The two imperatives take heed and beware might be regarded as expressing only one idea: “Have your eyes fully open to this enemy, avarice;” but they may be translated thus: “Take heed [to this man] and beware.” Jesus would set him as an example before the assembled people. The Greek term, which we translate by covetousness, denotes the desire of having, much more than that of keeping what we have. But the second is included in the first. Both rest on a superstitious confidence in worldly goods, which are instinctively identified with happiness. But to enjoy money there is a condition, viz. life, and this condition is not guaranteed by money. Περισσεύειν , the surplus of what one has beyond what he needs. The prep. ἐν may be paraphrased by though or because: Though he has or because he has superabundance, he has not for all that assurance of life.” The two senses come nearly to the same. We should probably read πάσης , all covetousness, instead of τῆς , covetousness in general: the desire of having in every shape.

Ver. 16. The term parable may signify an example as well as an image; when the example is fictitious, it is invented as an image of the abstract truth.

This rich farmer has a superabundance of goods sufficient for years; but all in vain, his superfluity cannot guarantee his life even till to-morrow.

He speaks to his soul (‡ ֶנפֶשׁ , H5883), the seat of his affections, as if it belonged to him (“ my soul;” comp. the four μοῦ , Luk 12:17-18 ); and yet he is about to learn that this soul itself is only lent him.

The words: “God said unto him,” express more than a decree; they imply a warning which he hears inwardly before dying. The subject of ἀπαιτοῦσιν (the present designates the immediate future) is neither murderers nor angels; it is the indefinite pron. on, they, according to a very common Aramaic form; comp. Luk 12:48 and Luke 14:35. This night is the antithesis of many years, as required is that of the expression “ my soul.”

Ver. 21. Application of the parable. The phrase laying up treasure for himself is sufficiently explained by Luke 12:19.

Rich toward God might signify, rich in spiritual goods. But the prep. εἰς , in relation to, is unfavourable to this meaning. It is better to take it in the sense of laying up a treasure in the presence of God, in the sense of the saying, He who giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord. To become God's creditor, is to have a treasure in God; comp. Luke 12:33-34.

Verses 22-24

Vers. 22-24. Disengagement as resulting from confidence in the omnipotence and fatherly goodness of God. “ 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? ” The words unto His disciples, Luke 12:22, are the key of this discourse; it is only to believers that Jesus can speak as He proceeds to do. Not only should the believer not aim at possessing superabundance, he should not even disquiet himself about the necessaries of life. Of the family of God ( Luk 12:34 ), the disciples of Jesus may reckon on the tender care of this heavenly Master in whose service they are working, and that in respect of food as well as clothing.

Therefore: because this false confidence in riches is folly. Luk 12:22 formally states the precept; Luk 12:23 gives its logical proof; Luk 12:24 illustrates it by an example taken from nature. The logical proof rests on an argument a fortiori: He who gave the more (the life, the body), will yet more certainly give the less (the nourishment of the life, the clothing of the body). In the example borrowed from nature, it is important to mark how all the figures employed sowing, reaping, storehouse, barn are connected with the parable of the foolish rich man. All those labours, all those provisions, in the midst of which the rich man died, the ravens know nothing of them; and yet they live! The will of God is thus a surer guarantee of existence than the possession of superabundance. In the Sermon on the Mount, where Matthew has those sayings, they occur apart from any connection with the parable of the foolish rich man, of whom there is no mention whatever. Again, a flower torn from its stalk (see on Luk 11:5-10 ). It is certainly not Luke who has cleverly imagined the striking connection between this example and the preceding parable. It must therefore have existed in his sources. But if those sources were the same as those of Matthew, the latter must then have had such gross unskilfulness as to break a connection like this!

In the last words, the adverb μᾶλλον , joined to διαφέρειν , which by itself signifies to be better, is a pleonasm having the meaning: to surpass in the highest degree.

In contrast with divine power Jesus sets human powerlessness, as proved by the sudden death of the rich man, which completes the proof of the folly of earthly cares.

Verses 22-40

3 d. To the Disciples: Luke 12:22-40. Disengagement from earthly goods. The following exhortations suppose faith. The believer should renounce the pursuit of earthly goods: 1. From a feeling of entire confidence as to this life in his heavenly Father ( Luk 12:22-34 ); 2. From his preoccupation with spiritual goods, after which exclusively he aspires, and because he is awaiting the return of the Master to whom he has given himself ( Luk 12:35-40 ).

Verses 25-28

Vers. 25-28. “ 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 you, O ye of little faith? ” Luk 12:25 expresses in a general way the idea of the inefficacy of human cares. Μεριμνῶν , participle present: by means of disquieting oneself. ῾Ηλικία might refer to age; we should then require to take πῆχυς , cubit, in a figurative sense ( Psa 39:6 ). But the word seems to us to be connected with what is said about the growth of plants, which is sometimes so rapid; it is therefore more natural to give ἡλικία its ordinary sense of stature. Πῆχυς , cubit, thus preserves its literal meaning. Plants which give themselves no care, yet make enormous increase, while ye by your anxieties do not in the least hasten your growth. Luk 12:25-26 correspond to Luke 12:23. Your anxieties will not procure for you an increase of stature; how much less advantages of higher value! The example which follows, taken from nature ( Luk 12:27 ), corresponds with that of Luke 12:24. After reading the delicious piece of M. F. Bovet ( Voyage en Terre-Sainte, p. 383), it is hard to give up the idea that by the lily of the fields we are to understand the beautiful red anemone ( anemone coronaria) with which the meadows throughout all Palestine are enamelled. Yet Jesus may possibly mean either the magnificent white lily ( lilium candidum), or the splendid red lily ( lilium rubrum), which are found, though more rarely, in that country (Winer, Lexicon, ad h. v.).

From want of wood, ovens in the East are fed with herbs.

Verses 29-34

Vers. 29-34. The Application. 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.

With the cares which He leaves to the men of this world ( Luk 12:29-30 ) Jesus contrasts the care which He recommends to His own ( Luk 12:31-34 ). Καί ( Luk 12:29 ): and consequently. ῾Υμεῖς , ye, might contrast men with the lower creatures cited as examples, the ravens, the lilies. But according to Luke 12:30, this pronoun rather serves to distinguish the disciples from men who have no faith, from the nations of this world. Jesus thus designates not only the heathen, in that case He would have said simply the nations, but also the Jews, who, by refusing to enter into the βασιλεία , condemn themselves to become a people of this world like the rest, and remain outside of the true people of God, to whom Jesus is here speaking ( the little flock, Luk 12:32 ).

Πλήν ( Luk 12:31 ): “All this false seeking swept away, there remains only one which is worthy of you.” “The kingdom of God,” as always: that state, first internal, then social, in which the human will is nothing but the free agent of the divine will. All these things, to wit, food and clothing, shall be given over and above the kingdom which ye seek exclusively, as earthly blessings were given to the young Solomon over and above the wisdom which alone he had asked. Καί : and on this single condition. Πάντα was easily omitted after ταῦτα by a mistake of sight (confusion of the two τα ). Bleek acknowledges that this passage is more suitably put in Luke than by Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount, where the entire piece on confidence is only very indirectly connected with the charge of covetousness addressed to the Pharisees.

The expression little flock, Luke 12:32, corresponds with the critical position of the small group of disciples in the midst of undecided or hostile myriads, Luke 12:1; it recalls the you, my friends, Luke 12:4. Jesus here gives consolation to the believer for times when the interests of the kingdom of God place him in a position of earthly privation (Gess). The a fortiori argument of Luk 12:23 is here, Luke 12:32, reproduced in a higher sphere: “Will not He who has provided with so much love for your eternal well-being, provide more certainly still for your poor earthly maintenance?” What faithful servant would have to disquiet himself about his food in the house of the master for whom he works day and night? And when this master is a Father! It was from experience that Jesus spoke in such a style.

From the duty of being unconcerned about the acquisition of riches, Jesus passes, Luke 12:33, to that of their wise employment when they are possessed. This precept constitutes, according to De Wette, the great heresy of Luke, or, according to Keim, that of his Ebionite document salvation by the meritorious virtue of voluntary poverty and almsgiving. But let us first remark, that we have here to do with believers, who as such already possess the kingdom ( Luk 12:32 ), and do not require to merit it. Then, when Jesus says sell, give..., is it a commandment? Is it not the sense rather: “Have no fear; only do so! If you do, you will find it again.” Finally, for a member of the society of believers at this period, was not the administration of earthly property a really difficult thing? Was not every disciple more or less in the position of Jesus Himself, who, having once begun His ministry, had required to break off His trade as a carpenter? The giving away of earthly goods is here presented, first as a means of personal emancipation, that the giver might be able to accompany Jesus, and become one of the instruments of His work; then as a gladsome liberality proceeding from love, and fitted to enrich our heaven eternally. In all this there is nothing peculiar to Luke, nor to his alleged Ebionite document. Comp. in respect of the first aspect, the history of the rich young man (in the three Syn.); and, in respect to the second, the word of Jesus in Matthew: “ Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least...ye have done it unto me,” and the whole of the judgment scene ( Mat 25:31-46 ).

It must not be forgotten that the kingdom of God at this period was identified with the person of Jesus, and the society of disciples who accompanied Him. To follow Jesus (literally) in His peregrinations was the only way of possessing this treasure, and of becoming fit to spread it in consequence. Then, as we have seen, it was an army not merely of believers, but of evangelists, that Jesus was now labouring to form. If they had remained attached to the soil of their earthly property, they would have been incapable of following and serving Him without looking backwards ( Luk 9:62 ). The essential character of such a precept alone is permanent. The form in which Jesus presented it arose from the present condition of the kingdom of God. The mode of fulfilling it varies. There are times when, to disentangle himself and practise Christian love, the believer must give up everything; there are other times when, to secure real freedom and be the better able to give, he must keep and administer. When Paul thus expressed the Christian duty, possessing as though they possessed not ( 1Co 7:29 ), it is evident that all he had in view was the disengaged and charitable spirit commended by Jesus, and that he modified the transient form which this precept had assumed. There is in the expressions of Jesus a sort of enthusiasm of disdain for those earthly treasures in which the natural man places his happiness: “Get rid of those goods; by giving them away, change them into heavenly treasures, and ye shall have made a good bargain!” This is the being rich toward God ( Luk 12:21 ). Every gift made by human love constitutes in the eyes of God the impersonation of love, a debt payable in heaven. Love regards love with affection, and will find means to requite it.

By this mode of acting, the believer finds that he has a treasure in heaven. Now it is a law of psychology ( Luk 12:34 ) that the heart follows the treasure; so, your treasure once put in God, your heart will rise unceasingly toward Him. This new attitude of the believer, who lives here below with the eye of his heart turned heavenwards, is what Jesus describes in the sequel. The heart, once set free from its earthly burden, will live on the new attachment to which it is given up, and on the expectation with which it is thus inspired, Luke 12:35-38.

Verses 35-38

Vers. 35-38. The Parable of the Master returning to his House. 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.

Ver. 35. The long oriental robe requires to be taken up, and the skirt fastened under the girdle, to allow freedom in walking ( Luk 17:8 ). If it is night, it is further required that one have a lighted lamp in his hand, to walk quickly and surely to his destination. Those two figures are so thoroughly in keeping with the position of the servant spoken of in the following verses, that we have no doubt about Luk 12:35 forming part of the parable, Luke 12:36-38. The faithful believer is described as a servant waiting over night for the arrival of his master, who is returning from a journey. That there may be no delay in opening the door when he shall knock, he keeps himself awake, up and ready to run. The lighted lamp is at his hand; he has even food ready against the time of his return. And it matters not though the return is delayed, delayed even to the morning; he does not yield to fatigue, but persists in his waiting attitude. ῾Υμεῖς , ye ( Luk 12:36 ), your whole person, in opposition to the lighted lamps and girded loins. The word γάμοι , marriage, might here have the sense of banquet, which it sometimes has (Esther 2:18; Esther 9:22; and perhaps Luk 14:8 ). It is more natural to keep the ordinary sense, only observing that the marriage in question is not that of the master himself, but a friend's, in which he is taking part. What does the master do when received in this way? Moved by such fidelity, instead of seating himself at the table prepared, he causes his devoted servants to seat themselves, and, girding himself as they were girded, he approaches them ( παρελθών ) to serve them, and presents them with the food which they have prepared for him. And the longer delayed his arrival is, the livelier is his gratitude, the greater are the marks of his satisfaction. Among the ancient Jews, the night had only three divisions ( Jdg 7:19 ); later, probably after the Roman subjugation, four were admitted: from 6 to 9, from 9 to midnight, from midnight to 3, and from 3 to 6 o'clock. If, as cannot be doubted, the master's return represents the Parousia, this parable teaches that that event may be long delayed, much longer than any one even of the disciples imagined, and that this delay will be the means of testing their fidelity. The same thought reappears in the parable of the ten virgins ( Mat 25:5 ), “ While the bridegroom tarried; ” and again in that of the talents ( Mat 25:19 ), “ After a long time, the lord of those servants cometh. ” Jesus thus proclaimed His return, but not the immediateness of that return.

One hardly dares to apply the promise included in this parable: The Lord in His glory serving him who has faithfully waited for and served Him here below! There is an apparent contradiction of Luke 17:7-9. But in the latter passage Jesus is expressing the feeling which should animate the servant: “ I am, after all that I have done, but an unprofitable servant. ” Jesus wishes, in opposition to pharisaism, to sweep away the legal idea of merit. Here He is describing the feeling of the master himself; we are in the sphere of love both on the side of the servant and of the master.

The variations of Luk 12:38 do not affect its general meaning.

The Parousia is a sweet and glorious event to the servants of Jesus ( Luk 12:35-38 ). But at the same time it is solemn and awful: for He who returns is not only a well-beloved Master, who comes to requite everything which has been given for Him; He is also a thief who takes away everything which should not have been kept.

Verses 39-40

Vers. 39 and 40. Parable of the Thief. And this ye 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. ” Γινώσκετε , ye know, should be taken as indic. rather than as imper.; this knowledge is the basis of the exhortation, Luke 12:40. The application should be made as follows: If the hour of attack were known, men would not fail to hold themselves ready against that hour; and therefore when it is not known, as in this case, the only way is to be always ready.

The real place of this saying is possibly that given to it by Matthew ( Mat 24:42-44 ) in the eschatological discourses; Mark is here at one with him.

Of all the sayings of Jesus, there is not one whose influence has made itself more felt in the writings of the N. T. than this (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; Rev 16:15 ); it had awakened a deep echo in the heart of the disciples. It indicates the real meaning of waiting for the second advent of Christ. The Church has not the task of fixing beforehand that unknown and unknowable time; she has nothing else to do, in virtue of her very ignorance, from which she ought not to wish to escape, than to remain invariably on the watch. This attitude is her security, her life, the principle of her virgin purity. This duty of watching evidently embraces both the disengagement and the attachment which are commanded in this discourse.

Verses 41-48

Vers. 41-48. The Parable of the Two Stewards.

The magnificence of the promise, Luke 12:37, has struck Peter; he asks himself if such a recompense is intended for all the subjects of the Messiah, or ought not rather to be restricted to those who shall play the chief part in His kingdom. If that is the meaning of his question, Luke 12:41, it relates not to the parable of the thief ( Luk 12:39-40 ), but to that of the Master's return ( Luk 12:35-38 ), which would confirm the impression that Luk 12:39-40 are an interpolation in this discourse, to be ascribed either to Luke or to the document from which he borrows. The question of Peter recalls one put by the same apostle, Matthew 19:27, which, so far as the sense goes, is exactly similar.

Jesus continues His teaching as if He took no account ( ἄρα , then) of Peter's question; but in reality He gives such a turn to the warning which follows about watchfulness, that it includes the precise answer to the question. For a similar form, comp. Luke 19:25-26, John 14:21-23, et al.

All shall be recompensed for their fidelity, but those more magnificently than the rest who have been set to watch over their brethren in the Master's absence ( Luk 12:42-44 ); as, on the contrary, he who has been in this higher position and neglected his duty, shall be punished much more severely than the servants of a less exalted class ( Luk 12:45-46 ). Finally, Luke 12:47-48, the general principle on which this judgment of the Church proceeds.

Jesus gives an interrogative form to the indirect answer which He makes to Peter's question: “ Who then is the steward...? ” Why this style of expression? De Wette thinks that Jesus speaks as if He were seeking with emotion among His own for this devoted servant. Bleek finds again here the form observed, Luke 11:5-8: “Who is the steward who, if his master comes to find him, shall not be established by him...?” Neither of the explanations is very natural. Jesus puts a real question; He invites Peter to seek that steward (it ought to be himself and every apostle). Matthew, by preserving ( Luk 24:45-51 ) the interrogative form, while omitting Peter's question, which gave rise to it, supplies a remarkable testimony to the fidelity of Luke's narrative.

The stewards, although slaves ( Luk 12:45 ), were servants of a higher rank. The θεραπεία is the general body of domestics, the famulitium of the Latins. This term corresponds to the all in Peter's question, as the person of the ruler to the us in the same question. The fut. καταστήσει , shall make, seems to indicate that the Church shall not be so constituted till after the departure of the Master. Καιρός , the due season, denotes the time fixed for the weekly or daily distribution; σιτομέτριον , their rations.

There is a difference between the recompense promised, Luke 12:44, to the faithful steward and that which was pledged, Luke 12:37, to the watchful servant. The latter was of a more inward character; it was the expression of the master's personal attachment to the faithful servant who had personally bestowed his care upon him. The former is more glorious; it is a sort of official recompense for services rendered to the house: the matter in question is a high government in the kingdom of glory, in recompense for labours to which the faithful servant has devoted himself in an influential position during the economy of grace. This relation is indicated by the correspondence of the two καταστήσει , Luke 12:42; Luke 12:44.

This saying seems to assume that the apostolate will be perpetuated till the return of Christ; and the figure employed does indisputably prove that there will subsist in the Church to the very end a ministry of the word established by Christ. Of this the apostles were so well aware, that when they were themselves leaving the earth, they took care to establish ministers of the word to fill their places in the Church. This ministry was a continuation, if not of their whole office, at least of one of its most indispensable functions, that of which Jesus speaks in our parable the regular distribution of spiritual nourishment to the flock; comp. the Pastoral Epistles and 1 Peter 5:0. The theory which makes the pastorate emanate from the Church as its representative, is therefore not biblical; the office is rather an emanation from the apostolate, and thus mediately an institution of Jesus Himself. Comp. Ephesians 4:11: “ He gave some as...pastors and teachers. ” It is Jesus who will have this ministry, who has established it by His mandatories, who procures for His Church in every age those who have a mission to fill it, and who endows them for that end. Hence their weightier responsibility.

Verses 41-53

4 th. To the Apostles: Luke 12:41-53.

Up till now, Jesus had been speaking to all believers; from this point, on occasion of a question put by Peter, He addresses the apostles in particular, and reminds them of the special responsibility which attaches to them in the prospect of their Master's return ( Luk 12:41-48 ); then He gives vent to the emotions which fill His heart in view of the moral revolution which He is about to work on the earth ( Luk 12:49-53 ).

Verses 45-46

Vers. 45, 46 represent an apostle or an unfaithful minister under the image of an unprincipled steward.

The condition of fidelity being the constant watching for the master's return, this servant, to set himself more at his ease in his unfaithfulness, puts the thought of that moment far off. So the minister of Jesus does, who, in place of watching for the Parousia, substitutes the idea of indefinite progress. What will become of his practical fidelity, since it is the constant watching for the Lord which should be its support? Beating, eating, and drinking are figures, like the regular and conscientious distribution ( Luk 12:42 ). The ecclesiastical functionaries described in this piece are those who, instead of dividing the word of Christ to the Church, impose on it their own, who tyrannize over souls instead of tending them, and show themselves so much the more jealous of their rights the more negligently they discharge their duties. Διχοτομεῖν , strictly, to cleave in two, denotes a punishment which was really used among the nations of antiquity (Egyptians, Chaldeans, Greeks, Romans; comp. also 2 Samuel 12:31; 1 Chronicles 20:3; Heb 11:37 ). But this literal meaning does not suit here, since we still hear of a position which this servant is to receive, at least if we do not admit with Bleek that in these last words Jesus passes from the figure to the application. Is it not more natural, even though we cannot cite examples of the usage, to understand the word in the sense of the Latin expression, flagellis discindere, to scourge the back with a rod (the: shall be beaten with many stripes, Luk 12:47 )?

The portion in question after this terrible punishment is imprisonment, or even the extreme penalty of the law, the cross, for example, which was always preceded by scourging. The word ἀπίστων , “with the unbelievers,” might support the explanation given by Bleek; but though the application pierces the veil of the parable, the strict sense is not altogether set aside: “those who cannot be trusted,” strangers to the house. Matthew says: the hypocrites, false friends (the Pharisees). A faithless apostle will be no better treated than an adversary.

To have one's portion with is a Hebraistic and Greek expression, which signifies to share the lot of...

Verses 47-48

Vers. 47 and 48. The Principle. And that servant which knew his lord's will, and prepared nothing, 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.

Along with the superiority of position described above, the apostles had received a superior degree of knowledge; it is to this new advantage that Luke 12:47 a refers. It is connected with the preceding; for the higher the servant is placed by his master, the fuller are the instructions he receives from him. The same manner of judging will be extended to this other kind of superiority. Ostervald, understanding ἑαυτόν with μὴ ἑτοιμάσας , translates, “who prepared not himself. ” This ellipsis is inadmissible. The meaning is, who prepared not [what was necessary to receive his master according to his wishes]. It is the antithesis of Luke 12:35-37.

The servant whom the master has not initiated so specially into his intentions is nevertheless responsible to a certain extent. For he also has a certain knowledge of his will; comp. the application of this same principle, Romans 2:12.

Ver. 48b . The general maxim on which the whole of the preceding rests. The two parallel propositions are not wholly synonymous. The passive ἐδόθη , was given, simply denotes an assigned position; the middle form, παρέθεντο , men have committed, indicates that the trust was taken by the master as his own interest; the figure is that of a sum deposited. Consequently the first term is properly applied to the apostolic commission, and to the authority with which it is accompanied; the second, to the higher light granted to the apostles.

What is claimed of each is not fruits which do not depend on the labourer, but devotedness to work. Meyer thinks that the more signifies “ more than had been committed to him.” It is more natural to understand: more than will be exacted from others who have received less.

On the subject of the verbs παρέθεντο and αἰτήσουσιν , see Luke 12:20.

Mark has preserved ( Mar 13:37 ), at the close of the parable of the porter, which he alone has, but which refers to the same duty of watchfulness as the two preceding parables in Luke, this final exhortation: “ What I say unto you, I- say unto all, Watch. ” This word corresponds in a striking manner to the meaning of Jesus' answer to Peter in Luke: “All should watch, for all shall share in the Master's personal requital ( Luk 12:37 ); but very specially ( περισσότερον , Luk 12:48 ) ye, my apostles, who have to expect either a greater recompense or a severer punishment.” On this supposition, Luke relates the question of Peter and the indirect answer of Jesus; Mark, a word of Jesus which belonged to His direct answer. How is the relation between the two to be explained? Holtzmann thinks that Luke of himself imagined the question of Peter, founding on this last word of Jesus in Mark. He cannot help confessing, further, that this interpolation has been very skilfully managed by Luke. Such procedure, in reality, would be as ingenious as arbitrary; it is inadmissible. The account of Luke, besides, finds a confirmation in the text of Matthew, in which the interrogative form of the answer of Jesus is preserved exactly as we find it in Luke, and that though Matthew has omitted Peter's question, which alone explains this form. Weizsäcker supposes inversely that the question of Peter in Luke was borrowed by the latter from the interrogative form of the saying of Jesus in Matthew 24:45: “ Who is then the faithful servant...? ” But Mark's account stands to defend that of Luke against this new accusation. For, as we have seen, the last words of the discourse in Mark had no meaning except in reference to Peter's question reported by Luke. Luke's form cannot be derived from Mark without protest from Matthew, nor from Matthew without Mark in his turn protesting. We have evidently, as it were, the pieces of a wheelwork taken down; each evangelist has faithfully preserved to us those of them which an incomplete tradition had transmitted to him. Applied to a written document, this dividing would form a real mutilation; as the result of a circulating tradition, it admits of easy explanation.

Verses 49-53

After having thus followed the natural course of the conversation, Jesus returns to the thought from which it had started, the vanity of earthly goods. He shows how this truth directly applies to the present situation ( Luk 12:49-53 ).

Vers. 49 and 50. The Character of the immediate Future. I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I if it be already kindled? Luke 12:50. But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! ” “Is it a time,” said Elisha to the unfaithful Gehazi, “to receive lands and cattle when the hand of God is upon Israel,” that is to say, when Shalmaneser is at the gates of Samaria? Is it a time for the believer to give himself up to the peaceable enjoyment of earthly goods when the great struggle is beginning? The Church is about to be born; Israel is about to perish, and the Holy Land to be given over to the Gentiles. Such is the connection, too moving to be expressed by a logical particle, which is implied by the remarkable asyndeton between Luke 12:48-49. Πῦρ βάλλειν , strictly, to throw a firebrand. Jesus feels that His presence is for the earth the brand which is to set everything on fire. “Every fruitful thing,” says M. Renan, “is rich in wars.” Jesus understood the fruitfulness of His work. The expression I am come, which Jesus frequently uses in the Syn., finds its only natural explanation in His lips in the consciousness which He had of His pre-existence. The fire in question here is not the fire of the Holy Spirit, as some of the Fathers thought. The sequel proves that it is the spiritual excitement produced in opposite directions by the coming of Jesus, whence will result the διαμερισμός , the division, described from Luk 12:51 onwards. Two humanities will henceforth be in conflict within the bosom of every nation, under every roof: this thought profoundly moves the heart of the Prince of peace. Hence the broken style of the following words. The εἰ may be taken in the sense of that, which it often has, and τί in the sense of how: How I wish that this fire were already burning!” (Olshausen, De Wette, Bleek.) But this meaning of the two words εἰ and τί , and especially of the second, is not very natural. Accordingly Grotius, Meyer, etc., have been led to admit two propositions, the one forming a question, the other the answer: “And what will I? Oh that it only were already kindled!” The sense is radically the same. But the second proposition would come too abruptly as an answer to the preceding. Ewald recurs to the idea of a single sentence, only he seeks to give to θέλω a meaning which better justifies the use of εἰ : “And of what have I to complain if it be already kindled?” This sense does not differ much from that which appears to us the most natural: “What have I more to seek, since it is already kindled?” This saying expresses a mournful satisfaction with the fact that this inevitable rending of humanity is already beginning, as proved by the event recorded Luke 12:1-12. Jesus submits to bring in war where He wished to establish peace. But it must be; it is His mission: “ I am come to...”

Meantime this fire, which is already kindled, is far yet from bursting into a flame; in order to that there is a condition to be fulfilled, the thought of which weighs heavily on the heart of Jesus: there needs the fact which, by manifesting the deadly antagonism between the world and God, shall produce the division of which Jesus speaks between man and man; there needs the cross. Without the cross, the conflagration lighted on the earth by the presence of Jesus would very soon be extinguished, and the world would speedily fall back to its undisturbed level; hence Luke 12:50. The δέ is adversative: “But though the fire is already kindled, it needs, in order that it may blaze forth, that...” The baptism in question here is the same as that of which Jesus speaks, Matthew 20:22 (at least if the expressions analogous to these are authentic in that passage). Jesus certainly makes an allusion to His baptism at the hands of His forerunner, which included a consecration to death. The figure is as follows: Jesus sees Himself about to be plunged into a bath of flame, from which He shall come forth the torch which shall set the whole world on fire.

The Lord expresses with perfect candour the impression of terror which is produced in Him by the necessity of going through this furnace of suffering. Συνέχεσθαι , to be closely pressed (straitened), sometimes by the power of love ( 2Co 5:14 ); elsewhere, by that of conflicting desires ( Php 1:23 ); here, doubtless, by mournful impatience to have done with a painful task. He is under pressure to enter into this suffering, because He is in haste to get out of it. “A prelude of Gethsemane,” says Gess in an admirable passage on this discourse. Here, indeed, we have the first crisis of that agony of which we catch a second indication, John 12:27: “ Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? ” and which is breathed forth in all its intensity in Gethsemane. Luke alone has preserved to us the memorial of this first revelation of the inmost feelings of Jesus.

After this saying, which is a sort of parenthesis drawn forth by the impression produced on Him by the thought in the preceding verse, He resumes at Luk 12:51 the development of His declaration, Luke 12:49.

Vers. 51-53. The Picture of the Future just declared. Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, nay; but 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. ” Δοκεῖτε , suppose ye, is no doubt aimed at the illusion with which the disciples flattered themselves, yet hoping for the establishment of the Messianic kingdom without struggles or sufferings ( Luk 19:11 ). Jesus does not deny that peace should be the final result of His work; but certainly He denies that it will be its immediate effect.

The simplest solution of the phrase ἀλλ᾿ ἤ is to take it as an abbreviation of οὐχὶ ἄλλο ἤ : “Nothing else than...”

Vers. 52 and 53 describe the fire lighted by Jesus. By the preaching of the disciples, the conflagration spreads; with their arrival, it invades every family one after another. But “the fifth commandment itself must give way to a look directed to Him....Undoubtedly it is God who has formed the natural bonds between men; but Jesus introduces a new principle, holier than the bond of nature, to unite men to one another” (Gess, p. 22).

Even Holtzmann observes that the five persons indicated, Luke 12:52, are expressly enumerated, Luke 12:53: father, son, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law. Matthew ( Mat 10:35 ) has not preserved this delicate touch; are we to think that Luke invented this nice precision, or that Matthew, finding it in the common document, has obliterated it? Two suppositions equally improbable. ᾿Επί indicates hostility, and with more energy in the last two members, where this prep. is construed with the acc.; probably because between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law religious hostility is strengthened by previous natural animosity.

Verses 54-59

5 th. To the Multitudes: Luke 12:54-59.

After having announced and described the rending, the first symptoms of which He already discerns, Jesus returns anew to the multitude whom He sees plunged in security and impenitence; He points out to those men, so thoroughly earthly and self-satisfied, the thunderbolt which is about to break over their heads, and beseeches them to anticipate the explosion of the divine wrath.

Vers. 54-56. The Signs of the Times. 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? ” ῎Ελεγε δὲ καί , He said also, is, as we have already seen (i. p. 276), the formula which Luke uses when Jesus at the close of a doctrinal discourse adds a last word of more gravity, which raises the question to its full height, and is intended to leave on the mind of the hearer an impression never to be effaced: “Finally, I have a last word to address to you.” This concluding idea is that of the urgency of conversion. Country people, in the matter of weather, plume themselves on being good prophets, and in fact their prognostics do not mislead them: “ Ye say, ye say..., and as ye say, it comes to pass.” The rains in Palestine come from the Mediterranean ( 1Ki 18:44 ); the south wind, on the contrary, the simoom blowing from the desert, brings drought. These people know it; so their calculation is quickly made ( εὐθέως ); and what is more, it is correct ( καὶ γίνεται , twice repeated). So it is, because all this passes in the order of things in which they are interested: they give themselves to discover the future in the present; and as they will, they can. And this clear-sightedness with which man is endowed, they put not forth in the service of a higher interest! A John the Baptist, a Jesus appear, live and die, without their concluding that a solemn hour for them has struck!

This contradiction in their mode of acting is what Jesus designates by the word hypocrites. What they want is not the eye, it is the will to use it. The word καιρός , the propitious time, is explained by the expression, Luke 19:44, the time of thy visitation. Δοκιμάζειν , to appreciate the importance.

Mat 16:1-3 ought not to be regarded as parallel to our passage. The idea is wholly different. Only in Matthew our Luk 12:56 has been joined with a parable similar to that of Luke in point of form, and that by an association of ideas easily understood.

Vers. 57-59. The Urgency of Reconciliation to God. Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right? 58. ( For) While 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.

A new example ( τί δὲ καί ) of what they would make haste to do, if their good-will equalled their intelligence. ᾿Αφ᾿ ἑαυτῶν , of yourselves; same meaning as the “at once ye say” ( Luk 12:54 ). It should be so natural to perform this duty, that it ought not to be necessary to remind them of it. But alas! in the domain of which Jesus is speaking, they are not so quick to draw conclusions as in that wherein they habitually move. Their finger needs to be put on things. Τὸ δικαῖον , what is just, denotes the right step to be taken in the given situation, to wit, as the sequel shows, reconciliation to God by conversion.

The following parable ( Luk 12:58 ) is presented in the form of an exhortation, because the application is blended with the figure. The for ( Luk 12:58 ) has this force: “Why dost not thou act thus with God? For it is what thou wouldst not fail to do with a human adversary.” We must avoid translating the ὡς ὑπάγεις , “ when thou goest” (E. V.). ῾Ως signifies “ whilst thou goest;” it is explained by the in the way which follows. It is before arriving at the tribunal, while you are on the way thither, that you must get reconciled to him who accuses you. Once before the judge, justice takes its course. The important thing, therefore, is to anticipate that fatal term. ᾿Εργασίαν δοῦναι seems to be a Latinism, operam dare. In the application, God is at once adversary, judge, and officer: the first by His holiness, the second by His justice, the third by His power. Or should we understand by the creditor, God; by the judge, Jesus; by the officers, the angels ( Mat 13:41 )? Will it ever be possible, relatively to God, to pay the last mite? Jesus does not enter into the question, which lies beyond the horizon of the parable. Other passages seem to prove that in His view this term can never be reached ( Mar 9:42-49 ). There is in the whole passage, and especially in the I tell thee ( Luk 12:59 ), the expression of a personal consciousness wholly free from all need of reconciliation.

Matthew places this saying in the Sermon on the Mount ( Luk 12:25-26 ); he applies it to the duty of reconciliation between men as the condition of man's reconciliation to God. It cannot be doubted that this saying, placed there by Matthew in virtue of a simple association of ideas, finds its real context in Luke, in the discourse which is so perfectly linked together.

Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Luke 12". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/luke-12.html.
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