A. The kind of attitude those who will face persecution should have.
1. (1-3) A warning to beware of hypocrisy.
In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.”
a. When an innumerable multitude of people had gathered: As Jesus continued in the general direction towards Jerusalem, vast multitudes came to hear Him. The crowds were so large that some were injured (so that they trampled one another).
b. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy: Jesus spoke this primarily to His disciples (He began to say to His disciples), warning them against the great danger of hypocrisy, likening it to leaven.
i. Hypocrisy is like leaven in the sense that it only takes a little bit of it to affect a great mass. A little bit of hypocrisy can be like a little bit of arsenic. In light of their tremendous popularity, it was especially important for the disciples to remember this. The temptation to hypocrisy is often strongest to those who enjoy some measure of outward success.
ii. “Such is hypocrisy, which also, as leaven, is: 1. spreading; 2. swelling; 3. souring the meal.” (Trapp)
iii. Some think that the only way to avoid being a hypocrite is to never aspire to a higher standard. But this is dangerous both for ourselves and for society. We should aspire to a high standard, yet be honest about our difficulty in fulfilling that standard.
c. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known: The art of being a hypocrite depends on concealment, but one day all will be revealed. We can only be hypocrites before men, but never before God. He sees through the actor’s mask.
i. In 1985, a nationally known evangelist and preacher wrote a book condemning sin in America, especially sexual sin and pornography. Just a short time later, he tearfully confessed years of involvement in these very sins, and promised repentance – but was arrested for similar crimes again a few years down the road. His hypocrisy may have surprised many people, but not God. God knew all along.
2. (4-5) Do not fear persecution.
“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”
a. I say to you, My friends: It’s difficult to know if Jesus said this to His disciples (as in Luke 12:1-3) or to the multitude. Given the context, it is probably best to think that Jesus spoke to His disciples, but in the plain hearing of the crowd.
i. The connection to His previous words may be that hypocrites will always despise the faithful, so the followers of Jesus must be ready to face persecution.
b. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body: When Jesus spoke to these disciples of His about martyrdom and persecution, He knew that all of them – except John – would die martyr’s deaths for Him. He also knew of His own coming suffering.
i. Given the recent display of opposition to Jesus (Luke 11:53-54), it is reasonable to think that the disciples felt the increasing stress and anxiety leading up to the crucifixion. They needed to gain the same peace Jesus had, and put fear into perspective.
c. After that have no more that they can do: All persecutors can do is kill, and God has ultimate power over the life and death of the believer. Therefore, we shouldn’t fear our persecutors, but have a healthy respect of God that makes us more concerned with obeying Him than any man.
i. “A man has but one life to lose, and one soul to save; and it is madness to sacrifice the salvation of the soul to the preservation of the life.” (Clarke)
d. Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell: The word translated hell is Gehenna. It is derived from the words Valley of Hinnom, which was located on the south and west sides of Jerusalem. In the Old Testament it was a place of child-sacrifice to Molech (2 Chronicles 28:3, Jeremiah 7:30-31, 19:1-6, 32:35). The reforming King Josiah stopped child sacrifice in the Valley of Hinnom (2 Kings 23:10) and it became a garbage dump, a stench with continually smoldering fires. In the days of Jesus it became associated with eternal, fiery punishment – what is called the lake of fire in other passages (Revelation 19:20, 20:10-15).
e. Yes, I say to you, fear Him! There are literally millions of examples of people standing strong for Jesus through persecution – of those who honored God more than honoring man. Following is the particular story of an Englishman named Rowland Taylor.
i. In a book first printed in 1890, John Ryle describes the death of Rowland Taylor, who was executed in England because he believed that priests could marry and that the bread and wine of communion did not become the actual, literal, body and blood of Jesus.
ii. On the last day of January 1555, Taylor appeared with two others before the Bishop of Winchester, and was charged with heresy and dividing the church. When they refused to change their minds, they were condemned to death. When condemned, they replied back to the Bishop, “We know that God, the righteous Judge, will require our blood at your hands, and the proudest of all of you shall repent this receiving again of Antichrist, and of the tyranny you now show against the flock of Christ.”
iii. On February 4, Taylor was kicked out of the priesthood, and that night, his wife and son were permitted to eat dinner with him. After dinner they left, with much affection and tears. The next day, he was led out to Hadleigh to be executed, so that he would be burned to death in the city where he served as a pastor and in front of his congregation.
iv. When they left the London jail on the morning of February 5, it was still dark. Taylor’s wife suspected he might be taken that morning, so she waited with her two daughters outside the jail. When she called out to him, the sheriff allowed her to come with her daughters for one last meeting with her husband. Rowland Taylor took his little daughter Mary up in his arms, while Elizabeth knelt with him and said the Lord’s Prayer. They prayed together, then kissed and hugged, and Taylor said to his wife: “Farewell, my dear wife: be of good comfort, for I am quiet in my conscience. God shall raise up a father for my children.” He kissed his daughter Mary and said, “God bless you, and make you His servant;” and, kissing Elizabeth, he said, “God bless you. I pray you all stand strong and steadfast to Christ and His Word.” As he was led away, his wife called out, “God be with you, dear Rowland: I will, with God’s grace, meet you at Hadleigh.”
v. The journey from London to Hadleigh took several days, and all along on the trip, Rowland Taylor was joyful and merry, as if he were going to a banquet or a party. But on February 9, 1555, they came into Hadleigh. When they were still two miles from town, Taylor leapt off his horse and started on foot – but he was walking fast, almost as if he were dancing. The sheriff asked him how he felt, and he said, “Well, God be praised, good master sheriff, never better; for now I know I am almost at home… even at my Father’s house… O good Lord, I thank You! I shall yet once before I die, see my flock whom You, Lord, know I have most heartily loved and most truly taught. Good Lord, bless them, and keep them steadfast in Thy Word and truth.”
vi. When they came into Hadleigh, they put a hood over his head and came over a bridge. At the foot of the bridge was a poor man with five children, who cried out, “O dear father and good shepherd, Dr. Taylor, God help you, as you have many a time helped me and my poor children.” The streets were crowded on both sides with people who wanted to see him; when they saw him being led to death, they cried and wept with all their strength. People cried out, “Ah, good Lord, there goes our good shepherd from us, that so faithfully has taught us, so fatherly has cared for us, and so godly has governed us. O merciful God! What shall we poor scattered lambs do? What shall come of this most wicked world? God Lord, strengthen him and comfort him.” Taylor answered back, “I have preached to you God’s Word and truth, and am come this day to seal it with my blood.”
vii. When they came to the town square, he heard a great multitude and asked where they were. When they told him they were at the place he would be executed, he said “Thank God, I am even at home,” and he took the hood from his head. When the people saw his face, there was an outpouring of emotion. They wept and cried out, “God save you, good Dr. Taylor! Jesus Christ strengthen you; the Holy Spirit comfort you,” and many other such things. Taylor wanted to speak to the people one last time, but as soon has he opened his mouth, a guard put a spear right up to his open mouth, and made him stop.
viii. He started giving away his clothes – first his boots, then his coat and jacket, till all he had left was his pants and shirt. He then cried out with a loud voice, “Good people, I have taught you nothing but God’s Holy Word, and those lessons that I have taken out of God’s blessed Book, the Holy Bible; and I am come here today to seal it with my blood.” But then one of the guards clubbed him over the head and said, “Is that keeping your promise of silence, you heretic?” So, seeing he could not speak, he knelt down to pray. A poor woman came to kneel beside him and pray, and the guards tried to push her away but she would not go.
ix. When he had prayed, he came to the stake he would be tied to and he kissed it, stepped into a barrel, and stood with his hands folded in prayer and his eyes towards heaven as they tied him to the stake. After some agonizing delays, they finally lit the fire and Rowland Taylor prayed out loud: “Merciful Father of heaven, for Jesus Christ my Saviour’s sake, receive my soul into Your hands.” Then he stood perfectly still as the fires arose around him, without crying or moving, until a guard clubbed him on the head and his brains fell out, and his dead corpse fell into the fire. A marker was left that simply said, 1555: Dr. Taylor, in defending that which was good, at this place left his blood.
3. (6-7) Realize your great value to God.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
a. Not one of them is forgotten before God: If God remembers the sparrows, He will not forget you – so don’t lose heart. There are few things worse than the sense of being forgotten; Jesus assured every believer that their life was precious and remembered before God.
i. Before he left London to be executed, Rowland Taylor wrote his final thoughts in a book and presented them to his son: “I say to my wife and to my children, the Lord gave you unto me, and the Lord has taken me from you and you from me: blessed be the name of the Lord! I believe that they are blessed which die in the Lord. God cares for sparrows, and for the hairs of our heads. I have ever found Him more faithful and favourable than is any father or husband. Trust, therefore, in Him by means of our dear Savior Christ’s merits. Believe, love, fear, and obey Him: pray to Him, for He has promised to help. Count me not dead, for I shall certainly live and never die. I go before, and you shall follow after to our long home.”
b. The very hairs of your head are all numbered: It has been said that a redhead has about 90,000 hairs; a dark-haired person has about 120,000 hairs, and a blonde has about 145,000. Yet God knows exactly how many hairs you have; if He knows that about you, He also knows all the important things.
c. You are of more value than many sparrows: Those who are persecuted are tempted to give in to the feeling that they are worthless and no one cares for them. Yet a loving God in heaven values each one.
i. Matthew 10:29 tells us that one could buy two sparrows for one copper coin. Here we learn that five sparrows cost two copper coins. There was a discount for buying more, from .5 copper coin per sparrow to .4 copper coin per sparrow.
4. (8-10) The importance of a good confession.
“Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.”
a. Whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God: Jesus comforted the faithful, explaining that the suffering Christian will be given the reward of allegiance and honor before the throne of God (the idea being that the angels of God surround His throne).
i. Among early Christians the confessors had special honor. They were those who endured suffering for Jesus, yet were spared death.
b. He who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God: Even as there was an honorable reward for the faithful, there is a terrible penalty for the faithless. They would be denied and disgraced before the throne of God.
i. Jesus did not say, denies Me in their heart or denies me in their mind; He said, denies Me before men. There is a real and important place for a public declaration of allegiance to Jesus. For many, this is the most difficult thing of all – and is usually difficult because of a fear of man, the exact thing Jesus warned against in His previous words (Luke 12:4-7).
ii. The test to either confess or deny Jesus before men may come in many ways; but it will always come. It is helpful to be determined in heart and mind before the test comes.
iii. Jesus clearly called His listeners to a choice. As before in Luke 11:23 the choice is to either be with Jesus or against Him. Here the choice is to confess Jesus or deny Him.
c. Speaks a word against the Son of Man: This probably refers to a moment of weakness (especially in public testimony), which could be forgiven. In contrast, he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit is in a settled rejection of God’s truth, which will not be forgiven.
i. Jesus said this when it seemed He was more popular than ever (Luke 12:1). Yet Jesus knew that being regarded as popular wasn’t the same as truly being confessed and trusted. Even as He called His hearers to make a choice, He warned against making the wrong choice.
ii. The Holy Spirit’s main ministry is to testify of Jesus (He will testify of Me, John 15:26). When that testimony of Jesus is fully and finally rejected, one has truly blasphemed the Holy Spirit and essentially called Him a liar in respect to His testimony about Jesus. Those who reject Jesus in a settled sense are guilty of this sin.
d. It will not be forgiven: The eternal consequences of this sin force us to regard it seriously. How can one know if they have in fact blasphemed the Holy Spirit? The fact that one desires Jesus at all shows that they are not guilty of this sin. Yet continued rejection of Jesus makes us more hardened against Him and puts us on the path of a full and final rejection of Him.
i. Some people – as a joke or a dare – intentionally say words they suppose commit the sin of blasphemy against the Spirit. They think it a light thing to joke with eternity. Yet true blasphemy against the Spirit is more than a formula of words; it is a settled disposition of life that rejects the testimony of the Holy Spirit regarding Jesus. Even if someone has intentionally said such things, they can still repent and prevent a settled rejection of Jesus.
ii. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven – not because it is a sin too big for God to forgive, but because it is an attitude of heart that cares nothing for God’s forgiveness. It never has forgiveness because it never wants forgiveness God’s way. It may want forgiveness on its own terms, but never God’s way.
iii. The way to not blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to receive Jesus Christ, and to put one’s loving trust upon Him today. It means to stop rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to Jesus.
5. (11-12) Don’t worry about what to say – the Holy Spirit will help you.
“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
a. Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities: Jesus also warned them that men would persecute them in civic arena (magistrates) and religious arena (synagogues). They could expect opposition from both city hall and the halls of religion.
i. Jesus spoke these words to men who would face this exact challenge. Thousands upon thousands since them have faced this challenge and received God’s sustaining grace in it.
b. Do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say: Jesus’ disciples could have perfect trust in God in such moments of great testing, knowing that the Holy Spirit would speak through them even if they were unprepared.
i. “It was not the humiliation which early Christians dreaded, not even the cruel pain and the agony. But many of them feared that their own unskilfulness in words and defence might injure rather than commend the truth. It is the promise of God that when a man is on trial for his faith, the words will come to him.” (Barclay)
ii. “Alice Driver, martyr, at her examination, put all the doctors to silence, so that they had not a word to say, but looked upon another. Then she said, Have ye no more to say? God be honored; you be not able to resist the Spirit of God in me, a poor woman…So the chancellor condemned her, and she returned to the prison as joyful as the bird of the day.” (Trapp) She was burned at the stake two weeks before the end of Queen Mary’s reign (Bloody Mary).
iii. The word answer in Luke 12:11 is the ancient Greek word apologeomai – “apology.” It means to make a defense or give an adequate answer. We get the modern term apologetics from just this word and idea.
c. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say: This gave them confidence that the Holy Spirit would speak to and through them at the necessary moment, even if they were not prepared with a statement.
i. This isn’t a justification of poor preparation in teaching and preaching God’s Word, but it is a promise of strength and guidance for the persecuted that have an opportunity to testify of Jesus.
B. Attitudes in regard to material possessions.
1. (13-15) The overall principle regarding material things.
Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
a. Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me: Jesus had just taught on our great value to God and on the importance of standing for Him. In the midst of this teaching, a man interrupted Jesus to ask that He take his side in a financial dispute.
i. According to the law of the day, the elder brother received two-thirds of the inheritance and the younger brother received one-third (Barclay). This man did not ask Jesus to listen to both sides and make a righteous judgment; he asked Jesus to take sides with him against his brother (“Tell my brother to divide the inheritance”).
ii. Obviously, Jesus’ previous words about the need for full commitment and God’s care for us didn’t penetrate this man’s heart. He felt he needed to fight for what was his.
iii. “If each of them learned the real meaning of life, and sought as its chief endeavor to be ‘rich toward God,’ the question of possessions would settle itself. The one would be eager to share, while the other would be careless about receiving.” (Morgan)
b. Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you? It wasn’t that Jesus is unconcerned about justice; but He was all too aware that this man’s covetousness would do him more harm than not having his share of the inheritance.
i. We may fight and fight for what is ours by right; and in the end, having it may do us worse than if we had let it go and let God take care of the situation.
ii. Jesus did not feel it was His responsibility to judge every matter and solve every problem. There were some disputes that He refused to become entangled in.
ii. Here is where the deceptive nature of the heart is such a challenge. We often mask our covetousness by claiming we are on a righteous crusade.
c. Take heed and beware of covetousness: Jesus used the man’s request to speak to him and the crowd about covetousness. Perhaps the man’s passionate request for justice really had a low motive; perhaps he was more animated by covetousness than by justice.
i. “Actually beware scarcely does justice to the force of phylassesthe, which is rather ‘guard yourselves.’” (Morris) The idea is that we all are under attack from covetousness, and we must protect ourselves from it.
ii. “Great possessions are generally accompanied with pride, idleness, and luxury; and these are the greatest enemies to salvation.” (Clarke)
iii. “To divide property between covetous men is to prepare for future strife. To make men free from covetousness, is to make peace.” (Morgan)
d. One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses: This is the overall principle that Jesus will develop in the following teaching on material things. When we live with the attitude that our life does consist in what we possess, we live in covetousness, and covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
i. “Covetous men by gaping after more lose the pleasure of that which they posses, as a dog at his master’s table swalloweth the whole meat he casteth him without any pleasure, gaping still for the next morsel.” (Trapp)
2. (16-21) The parable of the rich fool.
Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
a. The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully: The man in Jesus’ parable was blessed with fertile ground; we can assume that by adding hard work to the fertile ground, he was a financial success. He was so successful that he had trouble managing his resources (I have no room to store my crops).
i. His trouble and anxiety were reflected by the words, “What shall I do?” “When we are young we think that to be rich means to be free from anxiety altogether…But this rich man was just as full of cares as the beggar without a sixpence in the world.” (Morrison)
b. I will do this: With a wealth of resources, the man in the parable had his life confidently planned. He would build to better manage his wealth, and then enjoy life to the fullest.
c. But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you”: In one night, all the man’s accomplishments and plans were ruined. He made business plans and life plans, but could not control the day of his death – and all his accomplishments and plans were instantly nothing.
i. The man was a fool – not because he was rich, but because he lived without any awareness of and preparation for eternity.
ii. Your soul will be required of you is the language of obligation. This man owed his life, his livelihood, and his wealth to God; but most of all he owed his soul to God, and it would be required of him. It was obligated to God every day of his life, but would be required on the day of his death.
iii. Everyone would think the man in the parable was a great success, but God said he was a fool. Eternity proved the man a fool, and his story showed that it isn’t only sin to give material things too high a place in your life – it is also stupid.
d. Whose will those things be which you have provided? In a sense, those things did not belong to God, because the man never surrendered those things to God. They did not belong to the rich fool, because he could not take those things with him. Perhaps they only belonged to the Devil.
i. “Poorer than the poorest beggar he had to leave this world.” (Geldenhuys)
e. So is he who lays up treasure for himself: The rich man in the parable thought it was all for him. He said, my crops, my barns, my goods, my soul. Everything was about him, and nothing was about God. It was proved in the end that nothing was his – even his own soul was subject to God. He didn’t have any crops, any barns, any goods, and his soul was dead.
f. So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God: The man’s problem was not in that he had treasure on earth; but that he was not rich toward God.
i. We may become rich toward God by sacrificial giving to those in need (Luke 12:33, 18:22; 1 Timothy 6:17-19). Also, by trusting in Jesus for every necessary thing (Revelation 3:17-18).
ii. We can’t obscure the fact that earthly riches often keep us from going after heavenly riches as we should. Paul wrote: But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. (1 Timothy 6:9) Most of us are afraid of poverty; we should be afraid of wealth.
iii. John Wesley taught and lived wisely regarding riches. He said that you should earn as much as you can, save as much as you can, and give as much as you can. He himself lived on £28 British pounds a year and gave the rest away, even when his salary went from £30 to £60 to £90 to £120 over his lifetime.
3. (22-23) A warning against worry.
Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.”
a. Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life: Greed and worry are closely connected. Greed can never get enough, worry is afraid it will never have enough – neither have their eyes on Jesus.
i. “You can be as unfaithful to God through care as well as through covetousness.” (Bruce)
ii. Do not worry is a loving command. We often fail to appreciate what damage worry does in our lives. Research clearly shows that stress deteriorates our immune systems; people under constant or high stress show lower T cell counts, essential for immune response. Stress has a definite affect on fertility. Prolonged stress has been shown to affect the brain, making a person less able to respond to future stress. And stress also is related to sudden heart failure.
b. Do not worry: There is a difference between a godly sense of responsibility and an ungodly, untrusting worry. However, an ungodly, untrusting sense of worry usually masquerades as responsibility.
c. Life is more than food: The worry Jesus spoke of brings man down to the level of an animal who is merely concerned with physical needs. Your life is more, and you have eternal matters to pursue.
4. (24-28) Reasons not to worry.
“Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?”
a. Consider the ravens… God feeds them: God provides for the birds, and He takes care of them. Therefore, we should expect that God would take care of us.
i. Yet take careful note: the birds don’t worry, but they do work. Birds don’t just sit with open mouths, expecting God to fill them.
b. Of how much more value are you than the birds? The worry many people have over the material things of life is rooted in a low understanding of their value before God. They don’t comprehend how much He loves and cares for them.
c. Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? Worry accomplishes nothing; we can add nothing to our lives by worrying. There may be greater sins than worry, but there are none more self-defeating and useless.
i. Can add: The ancient Greek may mean adding to life instead of adding to height, but the thought is the same. Indeed, instead of adding to our life, we can actually harm ourselves through worry. Stress is one of the great contributors to disease and poor health.
d. If then God so clothes the grass: God even takes care of the grass, so He will also certainly take care of you. We are confident of the power and care of a loving heavenly Father.
i. God cares for the flowers, but that means that every day for the flowers is not sun and sweetness. If every day was sunny, and there was never clouds and rain, the flowers would die quickly.
ii. You of little faith: “‘Little faith’ is not a little fault; for it greatly wrongs the Lord, and sadly grieves the fretful mind. To think the Lord who clothes the lilies will leave his own children naked is shameful. O little faith, learn better manners!” (Spurgeon)
5. (29-31) God’s intention is that your attention be on His kingdom and His treasure, not the kingdom and treasure of this world.
“And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.”
a. Do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind: Jesus’ good news is simple. You don’t have to hold on to the things of this world with a death grip. Jesus let go of everything heaven itself held and was happy with a simple trust in God.
i. Anxious mind translates the ancient Greek word meteorizesthe, with the root word meteor. Trapp thought the sense was, “Hang not in suspense, as meteors do in the air, not certain whether to hang or fall to the ground.”
ii. “The original of the text is not easy to explain, for the word translated ‘doubtful’ [anxious] is not used anywhere else in the New Testament. It appears to have something to do with meteors, so that the passage might be rendered, ‘Neither be ye of meteoric mind.’” (Spurgeon)
b. For after all these things the nations of the world seek: Jesus contrasted the life of those who do not know God and are separated from Him with those who do know God and receive His loving care. Those who know God should seek after other things.
i. “You say again that you cannot help being anxious. Then, my dear friend, I must very solemnly ask you what is the difference between you and the man of the world?” (Spurgeon)
c. But seek first the kingdom of God: This must be the rule of our life when ordering our priorities. Yet it is wrong to think that this is just another priority to fit onto our list of priorities – and to put at the top. Instead, in everything we do, we seek first the kingdom of God.
i. For example, we rarely have to choose between honoring God and loving our wives or being good workers. We honor God and seek first the kingdom of God by being good husbands and good workers.
ii. We should also remember this statement in its immediate context. Jesus reminds us that our physical well-being is not a worthy object to devote our lives unto. If you think it is worthy that your god is mammon, then your life is cursed with worry, and you live life too much like an animal lives, concerned mostly with physical needs.
iii. Jesus didn’t just tell them to stop worrying; He told them to replace worry with a concern for the kingdom of God. A habit or a passion can only be given up for a greater habit or passion.
d. And all these things shall be added to you: If you put God’s kingdom first, and do not think that your physical-well being is a worthy object to live your life for, you then may enjoy all these things. He promises heavenly treasure, rest in divine provision, and fulfillment of God’s highest purpose for man – fellowship with Him, and being part of His kingdom.
i. This choice – to seek first the kingdom of God – is the fundamental choice everyone makes when they first repent and are converted. Yet every day after that, our Christian life will either reinforce that decision or deny it.
6. (32-34) Trust in God’s provision builds generosity in the followers of Jesus.
“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
a. Do not fear, little flock: The original uses a double diminutive, as in little, little flock (Trapp, Clarke). It was to this small and unlikely flock that the Father would give the kingdom unto. It was a little flock, but it was His flock.
i. They were little, but they were a flock – meaning they have a Shepherd. Better a little flock with the Good Shepherd than a big flock with a hireling.
b. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom: This was true in a personal sense for the disciples, because they enjoyed the presence of King Jesus and the benefits of His reign among them. It was also true in another sense; Jesus would ascend to heaven and in a sense, leave the kingdom in the hands of these disciples. Such a great calling was also a promise of great blessings, protection, and provision.
i. Jesus gave them confidence when He said your Father instead of saying “My Father.”
c. Sell what you have and give alms: The command to give away what we have is a test of discipleship, and it is also a tool to train us as disciples. It points to giving as an antidote or cure to covetousness.
i. “Readiness to respond to the call of renunciation is a sign of genuine conversion, a sign of undivided loyalty to Jesus, a sign of unwavering faith in Him.” (Pate)
d. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also: The correlation between where your heart is and the location of your treasure isn’t a suggestion; it is a simple fact. If you regard your material possessions as your treasure, then your heart is set here on this earth.
i. “If a person’s primary interests are earthbound, that is where his or her commitment will be.” (Pate)
ii. We should not forget that this teaching about riches and greed came from the man who interrupted Jesus’ sermon with the request to settle a dispute between he and his brother. To this man (and to all), Jesus warned about the location of his treasure and his heart.
C. Attitudes in regard to Jesus’ return.
1. (35-40) Be ready and waiting for your Master’s return.
“Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
a. And you yourselves be like men who wait for their master: If the followers of Jesus are to not be greedy or worried, they are to put their focus on the return of Jesus. This is something worth putting our lives into.
i. “These words of the Saviour are closely linked up with the previous warnings not to be worldly minded but heavenly minded.” (Geldenhuys)
b. Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning: The idea behind this phrase is well expressed in the NIV: Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning.
i. We are also reminded that Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path (Psalm 119:105). One may have an inner willingness to serve God (your waist is girded) but not have the illumination needed to serve Him well (the light of God’s word burning brightly).
c. I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them: The ready servants will be served by their Master and blessed; there is rich reward in living a life ready and expectant for Jesus to return.
i. “Those servants who are alert to their master’s return will be blessed. So blessed are they, in fact, that the lord will reverse the roles and serve them by girding up his loins and seating them at the table and serving them.” (Pate)
d. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect: We all know the embarrassment of being called on when unprepared. Jesus told everyone to be prepared for His coming – which is the most important thing anyone could ever be ready for.
i. A thief never announces his coming; he comes at a time when you would not expect him. The way to be on guard against a thief is to live in constant readiness, and the way to be ready for Jesus’ return is to live in constant readiness.
2. (41-48) Be good stewards in your Master’s absence.
Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?” And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
a. Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?” Jesus answered Peter, saying that He spoke to everyone, that all should be like a faithful and wise steward (manager). In a sense, Jesus said “I speak this parable to all who will live their life in readiness, even as a faithful and wise steward.”
i. All who are servants of Jesus must be ready for His return, but those who are ministers among His servants must all the more be ready. “Ignorance of the Divine shall not wholly excuse the sinner, he shall be beaten, but his stripes shall be few, his damnation shall be gentle compared with a minister’s, that knows his Master’s will but does it not; teaches it to others, but does it not himself…God looks upon wicked, loose, and scandalous and mischievous ministers as the greatest transgressors, and he will deal with them as such.” (Poole)
b. But if that servant says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming”: A poor steward lives without the expectation of his master’s return, and it shows in several areas of life.
· He mistreats the Master’s other servants (begins to beat the male and female servants).
· He is excessively given to the pleasures of this world (to eat and drink).
· He is given to intoxication (and be drunk).
i. Jesus here clearly connected the readiness for His return to a life of love, spiritual focus, and self-control. Likewise, the heart that says, “My master is delaying his coming” is connected to this kind of low and fruitless life.
ii. Some get weary of waiting for His return, or cynical about the return of Jesus because it hasn’t happened yet. This is the exactly the attitude Jesus warned against here. If, in the perception of some, Jesus is delaying his coming, it is to rescue more people from the judgment to come upon the world in the very last days.
c. The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him: Ready or not, one day the master will come. When He comes, He will punish those who were not ready and denied His coming, and will reward the ready.
d. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few: When the master comes, He will let the punishment match the offence. Those who knew how to be ready and yet were not will be punished worse than those who did not know and were not ready.
3. (49-53) Jesus brings purifying fire and division.
“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
a. I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! One might regard this fire in a few possible ways.
· It may be that the fire Jesus spoke of was judgment to come upon the Jewish people in the following decades. “In Jewish thought fire is almost always the symbol of judgment. So, then, Jesus regarded the coming of his kingdom as a time of judgment.” (Barclay)
· It may be that the fire Jesus spoke of is the power of the Holy Spirit that could only come after He had accomplished His work on the cross (I have a baptism to be baptized with).
· It may be that the fire Jesus spoke of is the spread of the good news and the coming expansion of the work of His kingdom across the globe, which could not happen until He had accomplished His work on the cross.
i. The fact that Jesus spoke of His suffering as a baptism is meaningful. He wasn’t sprinkled with suffering; He was immersed in agony. In the same way, we are to baptized into Jesus Christ and baptized with the Holy Spirit, immersed and overflowing.
b. How distressed I am till it is accomplished! Jesus was distressed until His work on the cross was accomplished because He knew all the good that would come of it. Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2).
c. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother: This may be the price one must pay for being a faithful steward. When you follow Jesus faithfully, there may very well be division for His sake.
i. “His coming would inevitably mean division; in point of fact it did. That was one of the great reasons why the Romans hated Christianity – it tore families in two.” (Barclay)
4. (54-56) The urgency to discern the times.
Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?”
a. You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? Jesus rebuked the people of His day because they did not discern this time. They should have understood more about the prophecies regarding the first coming of Jesus and appreciate the obvious signs confirming Jesus as the promised Messiah.
i. Jesus’ listeners knew that when clouds formed in the west over the Mediterranean Sea, rain was on the way. They knew that when the warm wind blew south from the Arabian desert, a heat wave was coming.
b. He also said to the multitudes: Jesus spoke this to the multitudes, not only to His disciples. Jesus wanted everyone to discern this time and be ready for His return.
i. In our present times there are many reasons to believe that Jesus is coming soon, adding to our sense of urgency as we hope to discern this time.
· The stage is set for a rebuilt temple, necessary to fulfill the prophecies of the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). Since 1948 Israel is a nation again, and hopes of a rebuilt temple continue to rise among a minority of Jews.
· The stage is set for the sort of world-dominating confederation of nations, heir to the Roman Empire to arise (Daniel 2:36-45, Revelation 13:1-8, Revelation 17:10-14). It will likely be connected to the modern European Community, arising out of the goals of their leaders and the chaos of the times.
· The stage is set for a political and economic world leader to arise, the sort of single political leader who will lead this world-dominating confederation of nations (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12, Revelation 13:4-7).
· The stage is set for the kind of false religion the Bible says will characterize the very last days (2 Thessalonians 2:4, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, Revelation 13:11-15, Revelation 17:1-6).
· The stage is set for the kind of economic system predicted for the very last days (Revelation 13:15-17). The technology is available, and the need is present.
ii. None of these guarantees that the return of Jesus is soon. It is possible that in the wisdom of God, the time is not soon – yet, if that were the case, God would have to allow the same kind of circumstances that mark our present age to assemble again at a later time.
5. (57-59) Knowing the times, get right with God now.
“Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right? When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you shall not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite.”
a. Why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right? Jesus asked His listeners to think through it for themselves. Anyone who can judge what is right can see the importance and good of getting right with God before we come before Him as Judge. If one waits until they will stand before His throne of judgment, the time will then be too late.
b. Make every effort along the way to settle with him: In the illustration Jesus used, it made sense to settle before appearing before the judge. By analogy, we can say that in light of the work of Jesus at the cross, God offers a settlement out of court (before judgment) with God, by putting our trusting love in who Jesus is and what He did for us on the cross.
c. You shall not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite: Jesus reminded them (and us) of the great penalty of not settling with God before the Day of Judgment. All of this presses upon us the urgency to get right with God now, and to live in readiness and anticipation of the return of Jesus.
i. Jesus here alluded to the idea that there is a price to be paid in hell (till you have paid the very last mite). This helps to explain the fearful yet Biblical truth that hell is eternal; because payment for sins is required, and imperfect humanity can’t make a perfect payment, required by a perfect God.
ii. The coin Jesus referred to here was “The Lepton; lepton means the thin one; it was the smallest coin.” (Barclay)
iii. The punishment of hell is eternal, just as life is eternal in heaven (Matthew 25:46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9). The torment of hell is forever (Revelation 14:11), and the fires of hell are not quenched, burning forever (Mark 9:48). The unjust have their own resurrection, presumably with bodies suited to endure the punishment of hell (John 5:29, Acts 24:15)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission