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LUKE - Chapter 12

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Luke 12

Supplemental Commentary:

Note.  Only those parts of the Third Gospel that are peculiar to it are commented on here.  For all other parts the reader should consult the Commentaries on the parallel passages in the other Gospels.

I.  THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS  3-21 (continued)

5. Ministry on the Journey to Jerusalem  9, 51 -- 18, 34 (continued)

12, 1-3:  The Leaven of the Pharisees.    1a.  Under this indefinite introduction, which tells us nothing specific as to the time and place, Luke groups all the various saying of Christ which are in this chapter.  Much of this material is found in the other Synoptics also but in different contexts.  Jesus undoubtedly spoke on the same or a similar topic on various occasions.  Still, the mention of these immense crowds which thronged to hear the Master points to an earlier period of the Ministry in Galilee rather than to the last months of our Lord's life.

1b.  Cf. Matt. 16, 6; Mark 8, 15.    2.  The same words are given in 8, 17 and Mark 4, 22 in the sense that the hidden truths of the parables will be made known.  If they are to be understood here in connection with the preceding words, then the sense is, "The hypocrisy of the Pharisees is hidden now from men's eyes, but on the day of Judgment it will be disclosed to all."  However, since 2-9 correspond almost exactly with Matt. 10, 26-33, it seems more probable that these verses should be considered as a single unit with the same sense as in Matthew (see Commentary there).

12, 4-12:  Encouragement in Persecution.    4-9.  Cf. Matt. 10, 28-33.    10.  The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: almost the very same words are recorded in Matt. 12, 32 and Mark 3, 28 f where they fit the context very well.  Here these words seem to interrupt the context on persecution, but note that the expression Son of Man is used in the preceding context (8), while the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the following context (12).    11 f.  Cf. Matt. 10, 19 f.

12, 13-21:  A Warning against Avarice.    13.  According to Deut. 21, 17 the firstborn son was to receive a double share of the paternal inheritance or twice as much as any of the other children.  Apparently in the case that was presented to Christ, the eldest brother had refused to give the younger the share to which he was legally entitled.    14.  There were courts of law for settling such cases.  Jesus refuses to intervene in purely secular matters.    15.  A warning based on great practical wisdom.  Man's true happiness, not only in heaven but even here on earth, is not at all in proportion to the earthly wealth he possesses.

16-21.  This forceful parable of the Rich Fool illustrates the truth that Christ has just enunciated (15) on the folly of accumulating wealth.  This man gives  himself no rest in his feverish pursuit of ever greater possessions.  Just when he thinks that he can enjoy his wealth, death separates him from it all.    19.  I will say to my soul is a Semitic idiom equivalent to "I will say to myself."    20.  We need not understand this to mean the rich man knew what God said to him.  This is simply a literary device of the parable, representing God's judgment of the rich man, as if it were spoken directly to him.  No doubt the world would have thought this man very wise in providing so well for the future.  But God's judgment is entirely different.  Knowing the infinitely greater value of the soul over the body, God laughs (cf. Ps. 2, 4) at the folly of the poor rich man.  They demand thy soul: i.e., thy life; it is immaterial who the they are.    21.  Cf. 33; Matt. 6, 20.  This conclusion to the parable is developed at length in the following verses (22-34).

12, 22-34:  Trust in God.  Almost all of these words of Christ occur also in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6, 19-21.25-33).  They fit well in the contexts of both the First and the Third Gospel.  There is no reason why they could not have been spoken more than once by our Lord.    22-31.  Cf. Matt. 6, 25-33.    24.  The ravens correspond to "the birds of the air" of Matthew.  Some birds indeed store up seeds and nuts for the winter, but not the ravens and crows; cf. also Ps. 146, 9.    26.  Peculiar to Luke.  The meaning of a very little thing depends on the interpretation of the preceding verse (see Commentary on Matthew).    29b.  And do not exalt yourselves: only in Luke.  The possession of great provisions for the future makes a man vain and gives him a sense of independence of God.  However, the Greek is literally, "Do not be raised up, do not be suspended," which may have the sense, "Do not waver," i.e., in your trust in God.    32.  Peculiar to Luke.  Christ addresses the disciples as His flock, because He is their Good Shepherd (cf. 15, 3, John 10, 1-18) who provides for their wants.  "He calls the flock of the elect little either from a comparison with the greater number of the reprobate or from His desire that they remain humble" (Venerable Bede).  To give you the kingdom: cf. 22, 29.

12, 35-41:  The Watchful Servants.  Similar words of our Lord occur partly in Matthew and partly in Mark.  These two Evangelists record the words as part of the Eschatological Discourse, spoken during Holy Week, where indeed they seem more suitable than in the present context.    35-38.  The little parable of the Master's Return from the Wedding.  Mark 13, 33-37 records a very similar parable of the Master's Return from a Journey Abroad.  But in Luke this parable has certain features in common with the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25, 1-13).  The general sense is perfectly clear: the hour of the Lord's coming is unknown and therefore we must always be ready.  But certain details are uncertain.  The lamps (35) are the festive torches as in the parable of the Ten Virgins.  We might indeed consider this a sort of continuation of that parable.  According to the oriental wedding customs, after the bridegroom and his male friends go to the house of the bride, they return with her and her female friends to the groom's house where the banquet is held (see Commentary on Matt. 25, 1-13).  Therefore the servants of the groom must be ready to receive the bridal party.    37b.  Contrary to custom, the bridegroom himself now ministers to his servants at table (cf. 22, 27b; John 13, 4).  He will gird himself (cf. John 13, 4), just as Christ expects that His servants' loins be girt about (35); the long, loose garments worn in the East were a hindrance to activity, and therefore, they had to be tucked up under the girdle.    38.  The second watch of the night was from 9 P.M. to midnight, the third from midnight to 3 A.M.  Just as in Matt. 25, 6, the bridegroom comes around midnight, much later than he was expected.

39 f.  Parable of the Thief at Night: exact parallel in Matt. 24, 43 f.    41.  Luke alone records this question of St. Peter, but the answer, whether given on this occasion or on another, is recorded in Mark 13, 37.

12, 42-48:  Exhortation to Vigilance.    42-46.  Parable of the Faithful Steward and the Wicked Steward: parallel in Matt. 24, 45-51.    47-48a.  The punishment of the disobedient servants will be in proportion to the knowledge that they had of their master's will.  Cf. also Jas. 1, 22; 4, 17; 2 Pet. 2, 21.    48b.  The greater the spiritual gifts that a man receives from God, the greater is his moral responsibility.

12, 49-53:  The Necessity of Struggle.  The result of Christ's preaching will be persecution for Himself and for His disciples.  The followers of Christ will be hated even by the members of their own household.    49 f.  Peculiar to Luke.  49 has been interpreted in various ways: the fire is understood of the purifying fire of the gospel of Christ (see note to text), or of the love of God which Christ came to enkindle in the hearts of men; but if these words are to be understood as having a connection with the following context, they seem to refer to Christ longing for His own passion and death as well as for the persecutions which His disciples were to suffer; in that case, fire and "sword" (Matt.) would be symbols of persecution.    50.  On the baptism of suffering, see Commentary on Mark 10, 38.    51-53.  Parallel in Matt. 10, 34 f; although 52 is peculiar to Luke.    51.  Luke has division where Matthew has "sword"; it is interesting to note that the Aramaic word for "sword" is also used in the figurative sense of "desolation, devastation," but not exactly in the sense of "disunion."

12, 54-59:  Time for Reconciliation.  In Matt. 16, 2 f our Lord refers to a similar popular weather rule, but there the context concerns the Pharisees who demand of Jesus a sign from heaven to prove that He was the Messias.  Here the sense is more general: the people are able to judge the face of the sky and of the earth, yet they are unable, not only to judge this time, i.e., to know that this is the Messianic time foretold by the prophets, but even among themselves to judge what is right.    58 f.  If there is a more intimate connection between these words and the preceding beyond the external link of the same word judge in both passages, the logical sequence seems to be, "Learn from the signs of the time that the period given to you in this life to be reconciled with your neighbor is limited."  Matt. 5, 25 f records the same words of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, where the context (a warning against anger) is more appropriate.


Confraternity Bible:

The Leaven of the Pharisees  1 Now when immense crowds had gathered together, so that they were treading on one another, he began to say to his disciples, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.  2 But there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, and nothing hidden that will not be made known.  3 For what you have said in darkness will be said in the light; and what you have whispered in the inner chambers will be preached on the housetops.

Encouragement in Persecution  4 "But I say to you, my friends: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.  5 But I will show you whom you shall be afraid of; be afraid of him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell.  Yes, I say to you, be afraid of him.  6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings?  And yet not one of them is forgotten before God.  7 Yes, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Therefore do not be afraid, you are of more value than many sparrows.

8 "And I say to you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, him will the Son of Man also acknowledge before the angels of God.  9 But whoever disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.  10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.

11 "And when they bring you before the synagogues and the magistrates and the authorities, do not be anxious how or wherewith you shall defend yourselves, or what you shall say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."

A Warning against Avarice  13 Now one out of the crowd said to him, "Master, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."  14 But he said to him, "Man, who has appointed me a judge or arbiter over you?"  15 And he said to them, "Take heed and guard yourselves from all covetousness, for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."

16 But he spoke a parable to them, saying, "The land of a certain rich man brought forth abundant crops.  17 And he began to take thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, for I have no room to store my crops?'  18 And he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store up all my grain and my goods.  19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast many good things laid up for many years; take thy ease, eat, drink, be merry.'  20 But God said to him, 'Thou fool, this night do they demand thy soul of thee; and the things that thou hast provided, whose will they be?'  21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich as regards God."

Trust in God  22 But he said to his disciples, "Therefore I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on.  23 The life is a greater thing than the food; and the body than the clothing.  24 Consider the ravens; they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storeroom nor barn; yet God feeds them.  Of how much more value are you than they!  25 But which of you by being anxious about it can add to his stature a single cubit?  26 Therefore if you are not able to do even a very little thing, why are you anxious concerning the rest?

27 "Consider how the lilies grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these.  28 But if God so clothes the grass which flourishes in the field today but tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more you, O you of little faith!

29 "And as for you, do not seek what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; and do not exalt yourselves 30 (for after all these things the nations of the world seek); but your Father knows that you need these things.  31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be given you besides.

32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.  33 Sell what you have and give alms.  Make for yourselves purses that do not grow old, a treasure unfailing in heaven, where neither thief draws near nor moth destroys.  34 For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

The Watchful Servants  35 "Let your loins be girt about and your lamps burning, 36 and you yourselves like men waiting for their master's return from the wedding; so that when he comes and knocks, they may straightaway open to him.  37 Blessed are those servants whom the master, on his return, shall find watching.  Amen I say to you, he will gird himself, and will make them recline at table, and will come and serve them.  38 And if he comes in the second watch, and if in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those servants!

39 "But of this be assured, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would certainly have watched, and not have let his house be broken into.  40 You also must be ready, because at an hour that you do not expect, the Son of Man is coming."

41 And Peter said to him, "Lord, dost thou speak this parable for us or for all alike?"

Exhortation to Vigilance  42 And the Lord said, "Who, dost thou think, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will set over his household to give them their ration of grain in due time?  43 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, shall find so doing.  44 Truly I say to you, he will set him over all his goods.  45 But if that servant says to himself, 'My master delays his coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maids, and to eat and drink, and to get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day he does not expect, and in an hour he does not know, and will cut him asunder and make him share the lot of the unfaithful.  47 But that servant who knew his master's will, and did not make ready for him and did not act according to his will, will be beaten with many stripes.  48 Whereas he who did not know it, but did things deserving of stripes, will be beaten with few.  But of everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and of him to whom they have entrusted much, they will demand the more.

The Necessity of Struggle  49* "I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?  50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!  51 Do not think that I came to give peace upon the earth?  No, I tell you, but division.  52 For henceforth in one house five will be divided, three against two, and two against three.  53 They will be divided, father against son and son against his father; mother against daughter and daughter against the mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

Time for Reconciliation  54 And he said also to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, 'A shower is coming,' and so it comes to pass.  55 And when you see the south wind blow, you say, 'There will be a scorching heat,' and so it comes to pass.  56 You hypocrites! you know how to judge the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that you do not judge this time?  57 But why even of yourselves do you not judge what is right?

58 "And when thou art going with thy opponent to the ruler, take pains to be quit of him on the way; lest he deliver thee to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.  59 I say to thee, thou wilt not come out from it until thou hast paid the very last mite."
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*

49: The image of fire refers to the purifying and cleansing power which the gospel, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, will exercise upon mankind.  But this power is effective only through Jesus' Passion and Death.