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Concerning Hypocrisy, Worldly Anxiety, Watchfulness, and His Approaching Passion.
C Luke XII. 1–59.
c 1 In the meantime [that is, while these things were occurring in the Pharisee's house], when the many thousands of the multitude were gathered together, insomuch that they trod one upon another [in their eagerness to get near enough to Jesus to see and hear] , he began to say unto his disciples first of all [that is, as the first or most appropriate lesson], Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. [This admonition is the key to the understanding of the principal part of the sermon which follows. The spirit of Phariseeism was one which sought the honor of men, and feared men rather than God. It was a spirit which yielded to public opinion, and, though seemingly very religious, was really devoid of all true loyalty to God. There were trials and persecutions ahead of Christ's followers in which no Pharisaic spirit could survive. The spirit of hypocrisy works in two ways: it causes the bad man to hide his badness for fear of the good man, and the good man to hide his goodness for fear of the bad man. It is this latter operation against which Jesus warns, and the folly of 317which he shows.] 2 But there is nothing covered up, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. 3 Wherefore whatsoever ye have said in the darkness shall be heard in the light; and what ye have spoken in the ear in the inner chambers shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. [Many fearing the storm of persecution which was soon to come upon the disciples would attempt to conceal their faith, but the attempt would be vain, for one could not even trust his own family (verses 51–53) to keep silent about what was said even in the inner chambers of the home. Bold speech would be best. The flat tops of Eastern houses were places from whence public proclamations were made.] 4 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 warn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. [It would be a time of fear, but the fear of God must dominate the fear of man. The fear of God should cause them to speak out, though the fear of man bade them be silent—Acts iv. 18–21.] 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pence? and not one of them is forgotten in the sight of God? [The Roman as here rendered penny, was worth about four-fifths of a cent. Two sparrows were sold for a penny (Matt. x. 29). For two pennies, an extra one was thrown into the bargain, yet even it, so valueless, was not forgotten of God.] 7 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not: ye are of more value than many sparrows. [These words assured them that whatever they might be called upon to undergo they would be at all times the objects of God's special care and providence.] 8 Also I say unto you, Every one who shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: 9 but he that denieth me in the presence of men shall be denied in the presence of the angels of God. [These words were intended to strengthen those who loved honor or 318 feared disgrace. If the disgrace of being cast out of the synagogue tempted them to deny Christ, or the honors given by their fellow-men seemed too precious to be sanctified for Christ's sake, they were to remember that the confession or denial of Jesus involved eternal honor or disgrace in the presence of the angelic host.] 10 And every one who shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Spirit it shall not be forgiven. [Persecution would urge them to blasphemy (Acts xxvi. 11). In his hour of trial a disciple must remember the tender compassion of the Master against whom he is urged to speak, and the extreme danger of passing beyond the line of forgiveness in his blasphemy. For blasphemy against the Holy Spirit see page 303.] 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues, and the rulers, and the authorities, be not anxious how or what ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: 12 for the Holy Spirit shall teach you in that very hour what ye ought to say. [The captive disciple planning his defense would be tempted to attempt hypocritical concealment or dissimulation. To prevent this, Jesus admonishes his hearers to rely upon the Holy Spirit for their utterance at such times. How fully such reliance was honored is shown in the apology of Stephen before the Sanhedrin, in Peter's defense before the tribunal, and in Paul's justification of his course, both before Felix and Agrippa.] 13 And one out of the multitude said unto him, Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me. [Some one in the multitude, seeing the authority and justice of Jesus, thought it would be wise to appeal to him to assist him in getting his brother to rightly divide the inheritance.] 14 But he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? [Jesus laid down the general laws of justice and generosity, but he did not enforce these laws by any other power than love ( John xiv.). If love toward Jesus did not move this brother to rightly divide the inheritance, the injured party must look to the state and not to Jesus for 319assistance.] 15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness [Jesus made the incident the text for an admonition. Covetousness made one brother say, “Divide,” and the other one say, “No, I will not;” so Jesus warned against covetousness]: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. [A man's goods are no part of his life, and so they can not preserve it. It is lengthened or shortened, blessed or cursed, at the decree of God. Covetousness is an inordinate desire for earthly possession. Though all ages have committed it, it is the besetting sin of our time. A clear view of the limitations of the power of property quenches covetousness; and Jesus gives such a view in the following parable.] 16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully [This man's sin was not theft or extortion. His wealth came to him honestly as a blessing from God]: 17 and he reasoned within himself, saying [his words betray his sin—his covetousness], What shall I do, because I have not where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods [Prov. i. 32] laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry. [It is a short speech, but it reveals character. The man's selfishness is shown in that he uses the pronoun “I” six times, and says nothing of anyone else. His covetous love of possessions is shown by the word “my,” which he uses five times. Compare his words with those of Nabal at I. Sam. xxv. 11. In his speech to his soul he asserts his trust that his “abundance” is a guarantee of “many years” of happy life; but it did not guarantee one day. The Eastern barn is a pit or dry cistern built underground with an opening at the top. These the man proposed to enlarge by pulling down the walls or sides and extending them.] 20 But God said unto him [God may be represented as saying what he does], Thou foolish 320one [His folly was shown in several ways: 1. He hoarded his goods instead of using them for his fellow-men; 2. Ownership of goods deceived him into thinking that he owned time also; 3. He thought to satisfy the hunger of the soul with the food of the body; 4. In commanding his soul in such a way as to show that he forgot that God could command it also], this night is thy soul required of thee [the man said “many years,” but God said “this night”]; and the things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be? [Death generally scatters possessions broadcast (Ps. xxxix. 6; Eccl. ii. 18, 19). For an echo of these words see Jas. iv. 13–15 .] 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. [To be rich in character is to be rich toward God. But we may be rich towards him by making him the repository of our hopes and expectations.] 22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. 23 For the life is more than the food, and the body than the raiment. 24 Consider the ravens, that they sow not, neither reap; which have no store-chamber nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more value are ye than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit unto the measure of his life? 26 If then ye are not able to do even that which is least, why are ye anxious concerning the rest? [If you can not add one little moment to your life, why should you be anxious about the smaller concerns of property?] 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I saw unto you, Even Solomon in all his glory [Song iii. 6–11] was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God doth so clothe the grass in the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven; how much more shall he clothe you, O ye of little faith? 29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, and what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. 30 For all these things do the nations of the 321world seek after: but your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. 31 Yet seek ye his kingdom, and these things shall be added unto you. [This passage from verses 22 to 31 (excepting verse 26) will be found almost verbatim at Matt. vi. 25–33. See pages 257–259.] 32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell that which ye have, and give alms; make for yourselves purses which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief draweth near, neither moth destroyeth. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. [The latter part of this section will be found at Matt. vi. 20, 21. See page 256. The original for the words “little flock” is a double diminutive, indicating at once the extreme smallness of the band of disciples, and also the tenderness of the Master for them. They are exhorted to remember that they are the heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and that their treasures are there. They are told to sell their possessions and give, because their official position in the kingdom at that time required it. Compare I. Cor. vii. 36. Purses were bound to the girdles, so that if a hole wore in them, their contents were lost. Having discussed the folly of amassing and trusting in earthly riches, and the wisdom of trusting in God, and amassing heavenly riches, Jesus passes to a new theme; viz.: a watchful service and its rewards. He may have been led into this theme by some interruption, such as that given at verse 13 or that at verse 41, or it may have been suggested to him by his own words about the little flock and the kingdom. The kingdom was not to come in a day, and the little flock must watch patiently and serve faithfully before his coming—Luke xix. 11–13.] 35 Let your loins be girded about [the long Oriental robe had to be lifted up and girded at the waist before the feet could step quickly—I. Kings xviii. 46 ], and your lamps burning [this was needful; for Oriental weddings take place at night]; 36 and be ye yourselves like unto men looking for their lord, when he will return from the marriage feast; that 322when he cometh and knocketh, they may straightway open unto him. [Thus honoring him by a speedy welcome.] 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 sit down to meat, and shall come and serve them. [The apostles had a foretaste of this honor on the evening of the last Passover—John xiii. 4, 5.] 38 And if he shall come in the second watch, and if in the third, and find them so, blessed are those servants. [Originally the Jews had three watches (Lam. ii. 19; Judg. vii. 19; I. Sam. xi. 11); but, following the Romans, they now had four watches. The second and third watches lasted from 9 P. M. to 3 A. M. The first watch is not mentioned because the marriage took place in it, and the fourth is not mentioned because in the latter part of it the day dawns and the virtue of watching was over—Luke xiii. 35.] 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what hour the thief was coming, he would have watched, and not have left his house to be broken through. [Jesus here illustrates watchfulness by a second figure. To some the coming of Jesus will be like that of a master whom they have served more or less faithfully. To others his coming will seem like that of a plunderer who comes in suddenly and deprives them of all they have. The Oriental houses were mostly made of mud or sun-dried bricks. Hence it was so easy to dig a hole in the wall than that the thief preferred to enter that way rather than to break open the door.] 40 Be ye also ready: for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh. [These words of warning confront every generation.] 41 And Peter said, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even unto all? [Peter wished to know if the exhortation to watchfulness applied merely to the apostles or to all who heard.] 42 And the Lord said, Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall set over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant, whom his 323lord when he cometh shall find so doing. [The answer of Jesus shows that he especially addressed the disciples, for a steward is distinct from the household. On him the whole burden and care of the domestic establishment rested. Thus Jesus showed that he meant the disciples, yet did not exclude any who heard from profiting by his discourse. Fidelity is the first requisite in a steward, and wisdom is the second. All Christians are stewards; preachers, elders, Sunday-school teachers, etc., are stewards of place and office. Rich men, fathers, etc., are stewards of influence and possessions.] 44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he hath. [As Pharaoh exalted Joseph—Gen. xxxix. 4; xli. 39–41.] 45 But if that servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46 the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth not, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the unfaithful. [Cutting asunder was a punishment prevalent among ancient nations ( II. Sam. xii. 31; Dan. ii. 5; Heb. xi. 37). The definite punishment is part of the drapery of the parable, and does not necessarily indicate the exact nature of the punishment which will be inflicted upon the wicked.] 47 And that servant, who knew his lord's will, and made not ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 but he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more. [The greater the powers and opportunities entrusted to us, the larger the service which the Lord requires of us. Ignorance does not entirely excuse, for we are stewards, and it is the steward's duty to know his master's will. There is a guilt of ignorance as well as of transgression. The parable pointed to those who listened with delight to Jesus, but were careless about 324 knowing his meaning. With the forty-ninth verse Jesus passes on to set forth the severe tests to which the fidelity and vigilance of his disciples would be subjected in the times upon which they were about to enter.] 49 I came to cast fire [a firebrand] upon the earth; and what do I desire, if it is already kindled? [The object of Christ's coming was to rouse men to spiritual conflict, to kindle a fire in the public mind which would purify the better part and destroy the worse. But the burning of this fire would excite men and stir up their passions and cause division and discord. The opposition of the Pharisees showed that this fire was already kindled. What therefore was left for Jesus to desire? His work as a teacher was practically accomplished. But there remained for him yet his duty as priest to offer himself as a sacrifice for the world's sin. To this work, therefore, he glances briefly forward.] 50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with [a flood of suffering; that is, the agony of the cross] ; and how am I straitened [distressed, perplexed] till it be accomplished! [The language here is broken, indicating the strong emotion of him who spoke it.] 51 Think ye that I am come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: 52 for there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. 53 They shall be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against her mother; mother in law against her daughter in law, and daughter in law against her mother in law. [Jesus here shows the hard plight of the disciple. If he were the young son he would find his father against him, and if he were the aged father he would be persecuted by the boy whom he had raised. Jesus came to conquer a peace by overcoming evil with good; a conflict in which the good must always suffer. His warfare was not, as the people supposed, a struggle against the heathen, but against the evil within them and around them. So long as evil abounded, these unhappy divisions would last.] 54 And he said to the 325multitudes also, When ye see a cloud rising in the west [the Mediterranean Sea lay in that quarter, and rains came from thence], straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it cometh to pass. 55 And when ye see a south wind blowing, ye say, There will be a scorching heat; and it cometh to pass. [The south winds of Palestine blew from the equator, crossed the intervening deserts and wildernesses, and were distressingly hot.] 56 Ye hypocrites, ye know how to interpret the face of the earth and of the heaven; but how is it that ye know not how to interpret this time? [That is, this period which began with the ministry of John the Baptist. They could at once read the signs of nature so as to declare what kind of storm was coming. But with the political storm arising out of conflict with Rome impending over them, and with the spiritual storm which the teaching of Christ was bringing upon them, about to burst, they stood still in ignorant indifference, and made no provision for the times of trouble.] 57 And why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right? [They had the warnings of both John and Jesus about matters and conditions which were so plain that they should have been able to see them without any warning whatever.] 58 For as thou art going with thine adversary before the magistrate, on the way, give diligence to be quit of him; lest haply he drag thee unto the judge, and the judge shall deliver thee to the officer, and the officer shall cast thee into prison. 59 I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou have paid the very last mite. [A mite (lepton,) was their smallest coin, being worth about two mills. For notes on this passage, see Matt. v. 25, 26, pages 239, 240. The passage here is an appeal to the people to avert the coming disasters. The Jewish rulers looked upon Jesus as their adversary. Accepting their valuation of him, Jesus counseled them to come to terms with him before it is too late.] 326
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