Please read Luke 12
Spring is approaching. It is the last months of Yeshua’s ministry. He is still in, or around, Jerusalem in His homeland of Judea (for He was born in Bethlehem), right under the noses of the religious leaders who were feeling so threatened by Him, and the masses kept gathering and gathering to follow Him. Των μυριαδων του οχλου = myriads of people. A μυριάδων (myriad) is literally ten thousand, so myriads would literally mean more than twenty thousand, but the word is often used figuratively to signify a crowd or multitude too numerable to be counted. There had been no waning in Yeshua’s popularity, indeed it kept increasing, thereby increasing the threat felt by the Jewish leaders. Their sense of threat was not just envy that He was more popular than they, there was a genuine fear of what the Romans would do if this growing movement aroused their attention, and this was the largest group of people to gather around Yeshua thus far. Everyone was jostling to get closer to Him, to hear His words, to touch His garment, to make contact with this Son of Man who brought hope.
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.” Luke 12:1-3 NKJV
Fear leads to hypocrisy as people seek to hide what is in their hearts. These religious leaders who made such a show of building lavish tombs for the prophets of old were, behind closed doors, rejecting the One those prophets had foretold and plotting to kill the Son of God. Notice that this warning against hypocrisy was directed firstly to our Lord’s talmidim (disciples), those who would in time become the leaders of the early church. They would face the same temptations to hypocrisy that had ensnared the Pharisees and Torah experts. They needed to be diligent in guarding themselves against such. Likewise, all who would follow them into leadership in the body of Christ need to guard against hypocrisy in our own lives. It is a warning for us as much as it was for them. Yeshua promises to make the hypocrites fail – to unmask for all to see what they are hiding. He loves us too much to allow any evil to remain hidden where it can continue and grow. We see the fulfilment of this promise in every church scandal that is exposed.
“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 (Gehenna); yes, I say to you, fear Him! Luke 12:4-5 NKJV
Yeshua encouraged His followers that there’s no need to fear the Romans, nor even their own religious leaders, but let the fear of God banish all these other fears. Gehenna (גי הנם Gê Hinnom, Valley of Hinnom) was a Hebrew word, and corresponded primarily to Hebrew conceptions. The Valley of Hinnom, was originally a pleasant valley outside Jerusalem, which had first been rendered infamous by the child sacrifices of Molech worship; then defiled by Josiah with corpses; and lastly kept from putrefaction by large fires to consume the corpses and prevent pestilence. This once fair valley, thus successively defiled with hideous corrupting rites, by putrefying corpses, and then with blazing fires lit to consume what would otherwise have occasioned pestilence, was taken by rabbinical writers as a symbol for the place of torment.
Notice that Yeshua addresses this warning to His friends. It was not so much a rebuke as an encouragement to look beyond their current circumstances and lay aside the fear of man for the fear of God. We can respond poorly when it feels like our life has been ripped from our control and placed in the hand of others with evil intent. Yeshua here reminds us that we are not really in the hands of those who may be seeking to do us harm, rather we remain for all eternity in God’s hands – don’t focus on how much control ungodly men have over our temporal destiny, instead focus on how much control God has over our eternal destiny. Be a God-fearer, not a man-fearer.
“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.” Luke 12:6-7
The One who has control over our eternal destiny greatly loves us, and cares about every detail of our lives, to the extent of keeping a count of the number of hairs on our head. Yes, He cares more about us than we care about ourselves.
Our creator cares deeply for all of His creation, even tiny sparrows that we place so little value on. So do not fear, even if your life is threatened, even if your enemy seems to be succeeding against you, even when you are unjustly treated, do not fear because God loves you and He is greater than all.
“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.
Yeshua is continuing on the theme of the fear of God overcoming the fear of man. He is preparing His followers to face the false accusations and judgments of those leaders in their community whose hearts are hardened against Messiah. When men try to judge and sentence you for following Yeshua, remember that God Himself will judge and sentence them. Better to be condemned by man than condemned by God – for God can surely rescue you from man’s judgment, but none can rescue from His judgment.
Yeshua warned here that those who deny Him before men (as Peter would later do – three times) will be denied before the angels of God. Yet, Peter’s example shows us that this sin is completely forgivable, we can be totally restored after such even as Peter was. To deny Christ is an act of weakness, an act of fear. All such can be repented of and forgiven, restoring us to fullness in Christ Jesus.
Then Yeshua moves from an act of weak fear to an act of pride – from denying Him to attempting to denounce Him by blaspheming the Holy Spirit, declaring that the works which testify to Yeshua’s union with the Father (John 3:2, John 5:36, John 10:25, 32 & 38, Matthew 11:4-6) are displays of demonic power.
To equate the Holy Spirit of the Most High God with the work of other gods is to undercut the fundamental thesis of the biblical text; namely, that the God of Israel is infinitely superior to all other gods. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is mentioned in three of the gospels, Matthew 12:22-32; Mark 3:22-30; and here in Luke 12:10. It is prideful judgment and slander willing to go to any lengths to denounce the son of God being attacked; a willful, wide-eyed slandering of the work of the Spirit, attributing to the devil what was undeniably divine. The miracles Yeshua performed were credentials of heaven, they were “the works of My Father” (John 10:38) that gave evidence that “the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.“. The religious leaders pridefully declared these good works to be the credentials of hell. They could not deny that many real, significant miracles which benefited their recipients were performed by Yeshua, so the only way they could discredit Him was to discredit the source of His power – the Holy Spirit.
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.” Luke 12:8-12 NKJV
This exhortation to the multitude now following Yeshua reflected His instructions to the twelve when He sent them out in Matthew 10:18-19. The same Holy Spirit that was evident in all the good works of the Father that Yeshua was doing will teach them, and us, what to say when we need it. Not only do we have no need to fear the outcome of any persecution or trial, we need have no fear of the process or of our own inadequacy to handle that process well, for the Holy Spirit will teach us in the moment what we need for that moment. The book of Acts later recorded several instances of this – both with the apostles and with other followers of Christ.
And someone from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”
But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?”
Then He said to them, “Watch out and be on your guard against every form of greed, for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you prepared?’ So is the one who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:13-21 LSB
And someone from the crowd.—Better, one of the multitude. The request implied a recognition of Yeshua’s stature as a scribe or Rabbi, but it was for the purpose of asking Him to assume the legal stature of that office on this man’s behalf. Yeshua had been teaching them of things pertaining to eternal life and this man’s only thought concerned things pertaining to this world. As interpreters of the Law, the scribes were appealed to as advocates and arbitrators in questions of property or marriage. The precise nature of the case is not stated here because it is irrelevant. Although the time will come when He judges all the world, Messiah had come this time not to judge but to save mankind from our sin. Skillfully, He redirected attention back to eternal things.
And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single cubit to his life span? Therefore, if you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek, but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give it as charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:22-34 LSB
Yeshua’s focus shifts from the man who wanted Him to judge on his behalf, to His disciples as He continues on the theme of seeking God’s kingdom instead of worrying about the things of this world – reminding them once again of His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-34.)
“Gird up your loins, and keep your lamps lit. And be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find awake when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. You too, be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”
Now Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?”
And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many beatings, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a beating, will receive but a few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required, and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. Luke 12:35-48 LSB
Yeshua encourages us to be awake, alert, prepared for service and meeting the needs of others. Those who serve faithfully will be served by the very King of kings.
In response to Peter’s question as to whether this was just for them or for everyone Yeshua responded affirming the blessings for those who have been put in charge and faithfully serve their charges while warning that their punishment will be much more severe if they start satisfying their own lusts. Even those who have been given the privilege of leadership will be assigned a place with the unbelievers if they serve themselves instead of those they are called to lead.
“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12:49-53 NIV
Yeshua reminded His disciples of exhortations He had given them when He first apostello‘d them in Matthew 10:34-36 (Sent Out – Renewal Blog). Although He brought a message of peace with God, the uncompromising nature of that peace would bring much conflict with all who refused to repent and submit to it.
He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? Luke 12:54-56 NIV
“This present time” was the day of their visitation with invitation to salvation through repentance and faith.
“Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” Luke 12:57-59 NIV
It was not that they did not know what was right, but that they did not act on their knowledge. The call to repentance had been sounded loud and clear through both John the Baptizer and Yeshua the Son of God “try hard to be reconciled on the way“. There was an urgency in the hour, the time was now to repent and follow their Messiah but instead many were passing unrighteous judgment on the preachers of repentance and it was this unrighteous judgment that would lead to the conflict even within families that Yeshua was warning them of.
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Holy Bible. New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
4. —. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020.
5. The Lockman Foundation. The Legacy Standard Bible. [Online] https://lsbible.org/.
6. Bible Commentaries. Luke 12:5. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: December 27th, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/12-5.htm.
7. Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary. Luke 12:1. Study Light. [Online] [Cited: December 28th, 2022.] https://www.studylight.org/commentary/luke/12-1.html.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* What were the important things Jesus wanted His disciples to learn in the midst of this huge crowd?
* Why was Jesus unwilling to act as judge between the man and his brother?
* What is it about Jesus’ message that leads to conflict between people?