“Fear not, Little Flock”

In Luke chapter 12 Jesus gave a sermon to a crowd so big they were “stepping on one another.” [Luke 12:1] Yet most of the public talk was directed to his personal disciples, his apostles - his “friends” - whom he called his “little flock.” [Luke 12:32] The sermon is almost completely unknown to vast majority of the two billion “Christians” on earth today at the beginning of the 3rd Millennium. This is a great tragedy for the Christian Church with its 10,000 sects and denominations. For perhaps no other chapter of the New Testament could so uniquely and singly lay out in broad strokes the basis for judging every person who claims to believe in Jesus Christ.

Unlike his most famous sermon called by many the Sermon on the Mount - or even another similar sermon called the Sermon on the Plain - this message deals with personal instructions to only his close followers. Thus, every Christian ought to make a study of this address the subject of an intense and thorough study. The following article is an outline of just some of the material in the wondrous sermon where our Lord Jesus encourages his disciples: “Do not be afraid, little flock.” [Luke 12:32]

The Danger of Hypocrisy

Luke chapter 12 is unique in that the account reveals exactly who Jesus was speaking to. For example, at the very beginning of the sermon Luke states that Jesus speaks to his disciples about hypocrisy. Consider the opening words to this important message from the Nazarene.

LK12:1 At about this same time crowds in the thousands gathered so that they were stepping on one another. Jesus began to speak to his disciples first: “All of you pay close attention so that you are on guard against the leaven of the Pharisees -- which is hypocritical. LK12:2 There is nothing that is covered up that will not become known, for what is secret will become known. LK12:3 So then, whatever you [disciples] say in darkness, it will be heard in the light; and whatever you whispered in secrecy will be announced from the rooftops. LK12:4 Now I tell you [disciples], my friends, do not become frightened of those who kill the body but can do nothing more. LK12:5 Rather, I will indicate to you [disciples] the One to fear - you [disciples] fear the One who after killing the body has authority to hurl into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you [disciples], fear this One! LK12:6 Are not five sparrows sold for two assarion? And yet not one of them is overlooked in the sight of the God. LK12:7 But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be frightened. You [disciples] are worth more than many sparrows. [Nazarene Saint Rendering]

Jesus told his disciples to be on guard against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees when he said: “All of you pay close attention so that you are on guard against the leaven of the Pharisees -- which is hypocritical.” [Luke 12:1 NCMM] Guard against the leaven of the Pharisees: This is a courageous statement given the Pharisees are likely still present, and that Jesus has just pronounced woes against them in the previous chapter. [Compare Matthew 16:6 and Mark 8:15.] This warning about hypocrisy must be kept in the context of the words that follow directed to the disciples.

With hypocrisy in mind Jesus cautions his disciples: “There is nothing that is covered up that will not become known, for what is secret will become known. So then, whatever you [disciples] say in darkness, it will be heard in the light; and whatever you whispered in secrecy will be announced from the rooftops.” [Luke 12:2, 3 NCMM] Another version renders this first phrase: “There is nothing covered up which is not going to be exposed.” [PME] Though this may include the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, it is also possible Jesus is aware of private talk among his own apostles. Surely later one in particular is to be exposed - Judas. No disciple of the Nazarene can remain under the delusion that negative things can be spoken of others in secret and not exposed in the end. At the latest during the parousia-judgment. Things spoken in secret, particularly criticisms of others, have ways of back-firing. [Ecclesiastes 10:20] To Jesus hypocrisy here is speaking something negative and hurtful in private and the in behaving in a friendly way to the object of the secret talk.

In the Gospel of Matthew the Nazarene uttered the fear-inspiring words: “Out of the good person’s heart comes a treasure of goodness; and expelled out of the wicked person’s wicked treasure comes wickedness. But I tell you that every fruitless word humans speak will be held to account on Judgment Day. For by your words you will be declared ‘Not Guilty,’ and by your words you will be accursed.” [Matthew 12:35-37 NCMM] So with these words in mind, the opening words of Jesus in Luke 12 caution his disciples against loose talk in private.

Often a hypocritical slanderer would never speak in public, or even in the presence of the one being criticized. They would be too afraid to do that! But, Jesus makes it clear, such secret and hurtful speech is heard by Another - a Heavenly One. It is the God of Jesus Christ who ought to be feared. Jesus tells his disciples: “Now I tell you [disciples], my friends, do not become frightened of those who kill the body but can do nothing more. Rather, I will indicate to you [disciples] the One to fear - you [disciples] fear the One who after killing the body has authority to hurl into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you [disciples], fear this One!” [Luke 12:4, 5 NCMM] The Nazarene clearly taught the fear of God, as did his inspired disciples. [Compare Romans 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:1; Colossians 3:22; 1 Peter 2:17; Revelation 14:7]

There is another form of speech, a godly one, the Nazarene now addresses to his disciples.

The Need to Confess Christ

While there are some secret things that should never be discussed, there are other things that should be spoken publicly. Jesus told his disciples: “I tell all of you [disciples], anyone whoever confesses me before people, the Son of Humankind will also confess the same in the presence of God’s angels. LK12:9 However, the person who denies me in the sight of people will be denied in the sight of God’s angels.” [Luke 12:8, 9 NCMM] Another version puts it: “… who publicly acknowledges me.” [PME] The disciples must speak about his Master in public. [Compare Romans 10:9-11; Hebrews 13:15.] Genuine faith will always move a disciple to speak to others. [2 Corinthians 4:13]

Avoiding evil, hypocritical speech, as well as publicly confessing Christ is a wonderful start. However, the Nazarene continues to give a most serious warning about greed.

Guard Against Greed

LK12:13 Now someone in the crowd called out: “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me!” LK12:14 But Jesus told him: “Man, who appointed me a judge or arbitrator over you? LK12:15 Then Jesus said to the crowd: “Look out and be on guard against all kinds of greed, because even if someone is wealthy life does not result from one’s possessions.” LK12:16 So Jesus told them all a parable: “A certain rich person’s farm produced a good crop. LK12:17 So he began to say to himself: ‘What should I do, because I have no place to gather in all my produce? LK12:18 So the farmer said, ‘This is what I will do. I will tear down my barns and I will build larger ones. Then I will gather into them all the grain and my goods things. LK12:19 Then I will tell my soul, ‘Soul, you have many good things stored up for many years. Rest now, eat, drink and be merry!’ LK12:20 But then the God said to him: ‘Fool, during this very night they will demand your soul from you. Now to whom will all you prepared belong?’ LK12:21 So it happens to the person who saves for self but is not rich with regard to God.” [NCMM]

At this point in Jesus’ sermon someone in the great crowd calls out and asks the Nazarene to settle a dispute over inheritance. We do not know the real circumstances. It may well be this person had a legal right to his inheritance which his brother has extorted. The main problem was that the man had gathered to a crowd listening to a spiritual teacher and he raises a family and financial problem. He betrays his greed and materialism in such an environment. [Compare Proverbs 20:21.]

Though Jesus could have easily acted as judge regarding this Jews problem, he is no so audacious to act a part he has not been appointed to. But he does give a stern warning to all: “Look out and be on guard against all kinds of greed.” What does Jesus mean by greed or covetousness? Greed is defined as a desire for more. In Latin the word is CUPIDATIS. The Greek is PLEONEXIAS [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 4124, desiring more]. There are many forms and degrees of greed from mild gambling to deceitful extortion. The greedy Christian is to be shunned. [1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 6:9, 10] Greed or covetousness runs in bad company. [Mark 7:22; Romans 1:29; James 4:2]

Jesus states a simple principle about life in general: “One’s life does not result from one’s possessions.” Jesus then continues with a parable about a rich farmer who had a particularly good crop, a wind-fall as it were. Now there is nothing wrong with this in itself. But Jesus strikes at humanity’s greed and desire for more security. Note that in the parable the rich farmer uses the personal pronoun [I, me] a dozen times indicating his ego-centric obsession with self. He does exactly what James 4:13-15 cautions against - planning for the future without thinking about God and neighbor.

The rich farmer is thinking years ahead and in all of his self-talk he never mentions God, nor does he utter one work about charity to the poor. Rather, he plans to really enjoy himself - “eat, drink, and be merry.” There is nothing wrong with this in itself. [Ecclesiastes 2:24; 11:9] But it can become only self-focusing. [James 5:5] And suddenly the One he is ignoring comes on the scene in the parable.

God addresses him as a fool, that is someone unreasonable from the bigger perspective - really, a simpleton, or stupid, no matter how shrewd his business dealings. God asks an important question: who inherit all these possessions. The phrase is a strong echo of Ecclesiastes 2:18, 19 which describes the vanity of working only for material things, and in the end leaving it all to a fool who will squander the inheritance.

The rich farmer has really been “the person who saves for self.” Rich is defined as one with a surplus. Wealthy is a person with a surplus who is propertied. Both of these terms are relative to the cultures in which they live. To the billionaire the million is a pauper. To the millionaire the person with an income of $50,000 is rat broke. Saving merely for himself - without any thought for others - was what leads to this farmer’s condemnation. A person will be judged on how they use their riches or wealth. There are warnings in Proverbs that sound like the Nazarene. Proverbs 23:4, “Do not labor for riches.” Proverbs 28:20, “The man who wants to get rich quick will quickly fail.” Proverbs 30:8, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, grant me only my share of bread to eat.”

These words must have caused the Nazarene’s disciple some misgivings about their own concerns of the future. That is anxiety about basic needs in life.

Anxiety and the Kingdom

LK12:22 Now Jesus turned to his disciples and said: “And so I tell you [disciples], do not be anxious regarding your souls as to what you will eat, nor regarding your body as to what you will wear. LK12:23 For the soul is more than food and the body more than clothing. LK12:24 You [disciples], consider the ravens how they do not sow or reap. They have neither barn or storehouse, and yet the God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than these birds? LK12:25 But which one of you [disciples] is able to add but a cubit to his life-span by anxiety? LK12:26 If you cannot do such a small thing, then why are you anxious about the rest? LK12:27 You [disciples], consider how the lilies grow. It does not labor or spin. But I tell you that Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as one of these. LK12:28 So if these are in the field of a meadow today and tomorrow thrown into an over, how much more the God clothes you of little faith. LK12:29 So, all of you [disciples] do not keep seeking what you will eat or what you will drink, and do not continue to be anxious. LK12:30 For these things the non-Jews of the world of humanity continue to strive after, because your Father is aware you need these things. LK12:31 Instead, all of you [disciples] continue to seek His Kingdom and everything else will be provided to you. LK12:32 Do not be afraid, little flock, your Father was well pleased to give to you [disciples] the Kingdom. LK12:33 Sell your possessions and give to charity. Make for yourselves purses that never wear out - an inexhaustible celestial treasure - where a thief can never get close and moths never consume. LK12:34 For where your treasures are there also will be your hearts. [NCMM]

Jesus now addresses this matter of anxiety over life needs and insecurities. His words are similar to those he had spoke some years before in the Sermon on the Mount. [Matthew 6:25-34] Here Jesus repeats them because they can never be heard enough.

Jesus tells his disciples, “Do not be anxious.” This anxiety involves three things: food, drink, and clothing. These are the most primary needs for human existence. Jesus does not have in mind anxieties over luxuries. Modern western societies with all their riches and wealth are still plagued by anxiety and worry, not over food, drink and clothing, but because of their luxuries. In this regard millions of Christians have self-inflicted wounds that destroy faith and end up causing a person to blame God for their problem. [1 Timothy 6:5-10]

The counsel of the Nazarene stands in contrast to the modern “prosperity preachers” who twist scores of Bible verses to convince Christians they deserve to be rich and will become so if they donate “love gifts” to them. Such “lovers of money” [Luke 16:14] will not find God very “friendly” when they stand before Him in the judgment. [Luke 16:9]

The Nazarene gives one of his 60 commandments, “Do not keep seeking what you will eat and what you will drink.” Jesus has in mind life’s aims or goals. Jesus considers only the most basics of life - food, drink, and clothing. And even these are not to remain a focus of anxiety. We can imagine how our Lord would feel about those whose daily concerns involve western society’s luxuries. If we listed these they would fill the entire page. It is a sad fact that if all those who claim to be Christians were judged on Luke chapter 12, virtually all of Christendom will hang its head when before the judgment seat of Christ. [2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 John 2:28]

It is natural to be worried or have anxiety from time to time. However, Jesus teaches, “Do not continue to be anxious.” There are probably no great daily concerns that eat away at the fiber of individuals than their constant concerns about the necessities of life. The modern problem is that hundreds of items have been added to the Nazarene’s meager list of food, drink, and clothing. So while the Christian world publishes hundreds of books on how to lose weight, the third world is starving, or at least living at the same standards they did two thousand years ago.

The world in general makes material things their constant concern and “continue to strive after” more and more. One way to observe this are the subjects people talk about. Rather Jesus tells his disciples to “continue to seek His Kingdom.” That is, strive to find, make it your chief care, set your heart on, eager to have. It is a continual process for the Nazarene disciple. [Compare Romans 8:5-8 and Colossians 3:1, 2.] In the end Life will be billions of years long, and this brief heartbeat of time in the present life is not worth pursuing a life-style that either ignores God, or places Him in a very little corner.

Jesus promises that God will care for his worshippers. That is the bare necessities of life - food, drink, and clothing. Despite this promise, it does not mean there will be times when some Christians being persecuted may go without. [Compare 1 Corinthians 4:11 and 2 Corinthians 11:27.] Jesus says not to be afraid. Jesus anticipates a normal reaction to what he has just told them.

The Nazarene tells this “little flock” not to fear. Who is this “little flock”? There are several views on the identity of this “little flock.” Some maintain it is the whole Church and that this is limited in number. Reading the context of chapter twelve it is clear to others that the “little flock” is limited to Jesus’ apostles. Return to Luke 12:22 and the beginning of the context. This does not mean that the counsel of our Lord cannot be extended to other disciples in principle. However, those who claim to make up the “little flock” would be under charge by their Lord to do what verse 33 directs.

What a surprise for this little flock which include a tax-collector and working fishermen. Jesus tells the “little flock”, “Sell your possessions and give to charity.” The Greek is literally “sell your belongings and give gifts of mercy.” Jesus gives these instructions directly to his “little flock” - that is, his apostles. They did exactly as he told them. [Compare Luke 18:28.] After the ascension of Christ the early Church followed the example of the apostles. [Acts 2:44, 45; 4:32-37] This was something voluntary and no one was forced to sell their property. [Acts 5:1-6] No where in all of Paul’s writings does he instruct the churches to follow this example. He does encourage sharing and suggests an economic equalization was the better way. [Romans 12:13; 2 Corinthians 8:14, 15] He instructs Timothy to give orders to the rich. [1Timothy 6:17-19]

Clearly, it is the heart that is involved in greed and anxiety. It is indeed from the heart that one’s real treasure is manifest. Ask: what is it I really treasure in life? What do I think about the most? What do I talk about most often? What do I read about most often? If those who know me best were asked what my central focus was what would be there answer? Only each individual can answer: what do I think about the most?

Seeking first the Kingdom would involve another attitude about the future - the Return of Christ.

Waiting for the Lord’s Return

LK12:35 “Strengthen your thighs with your lamps lit. LK12:36 You [disciples] should be like men waiting for their Lord, so that when he returns from the marriage banquet and arrives knocking they may open the door at once. LK12:37 When the Lord arrives blessed are those slaves he discovers have kept watching. I tell you [disciples] this truth: he will put on his apron and have them recline at table while he comes close to serve them. LK12:38 Even if he arrives in the second or third watch [of the night] and he finds [them ready] - those are blessed. LK12:39 But all of you understand this: if the master of the house was aware in what hour the thief would arrive, he would not have allowed him to break in. LK12:40 All of you be prepared because in an hour you do not think it to be the Son of Humankind will return.” [NCMM]

Moving from anxiety and fear regarding material needs and future security, Jesus moves to the right spiritual attitude for every disciple of the Nazarene: a constant spirit of expectation in the Return of the Master. Jesus is to repeat some of this later during the last week of his life. [Matthew 24:43, 44; Mark 13:35] The Nazarene directs his disciples “to be ready for action, with belts fastened.” [NEB] They were to be “like men waiting for their Lord” to Return. Here he alludes to what he will later call the Parousia. He does not tell his apostles he will return in their life time. He tells them no matter when he returns to be prepared. That means to “keep watching.” This state of alert may be characterized by faithful obedience, continued charity, constantly growing spiritual enlightenment, and an expectant heart yearned for Christ’s return.

“Be prepared,” Jesus says. Each day the disciple of the Nazarene must be a genuine Christian, evidenced in deep faith, charitable love, care for others in the Church, introducing others to Christ, and self-sacrificing endurance. No matter when Christ returns it will be a moment not expected by his disciples. [For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32.] Anyone who tells you differently should never be followed. [Luke 21:8]

As this point in the Nazarene’s sermon, Peter asks a question.

Who is the Faithful Steward?

LK12:41 Now Peter asked: “Lord, do you speak this parable to just us or also to everyone else?” LK12:42 And the Lord said: “Who is the faithful and wise steward? The one the Lord will appoint over his body of attendants to continue to provide allotments of wheat at the proper season? LK12:43 Blessed is that slave whom the returning Lord finds doing the same. LK12:44 Truly I tell you [disciples], he will appoint him over all of his possessions! LK12:45 However, if that slave ever says in his heart, ‘My Master delays his return’ -- and begins to beat male and female servants and to eat and drink and get drunk -- LK12:46 the Lord of that slave will return on a day that he did not expect and in an hour that he did not know. And he will cut him in two and will put him with the unfaithful. LK12:47 Now that slave who knew his Lord’s will but did not prepare and do according to it will be beaten with many strokes. LK12:48 But the one who was not aware but did things worthy of a beating will be beaten with only a few. Now to everyone to whom much was given, much will be required from him; and the one who was entrusted with a lot, they will ask even more from him. [NCMM]

Jesus is also to mention his answer against at Matthew 24:45-51. There is a huge crowd and Peter wants to know if this parable of the ready servants applies directly to the apostles only are to others. Jesus asks a rhetorical question which the following analogy is to answer.

The parable is of a house servant who is appointed over the household slaves. The phrase “body of attendants” is from the Greek THERAPEIAS [therapists; curing staff]. The 1st Century Jewish philosopher actually reports that a commune of Christians in Egypt called their members by this Greek word. It is possible the immediate question of Peter, as well as the identity of the "little flock" mentioned above, indicates the “faithful steward” is the body of the apostles. At the same time the principle could be applied to any Christian who is in fact faithful and wise and who feeds other community members.

The faithful steward would first have to have access to such food. It is interesting that if the parable were viewed literally, we do find the apostles later actually in charge of the literal feeding of the early Church members. [Compare Acts 6:1-7.] That body of elders throughout the Gospel Age who have busied themselves as slaves to the whole household could be described as such a “faithful steward.” [Compare notes on 1 Corinthians 12:27, 28 and Ephesians 4:11-16.] The happy “faithful steward” will be that one as part of “we the living” of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. Whenever the Lord returns there will be either individuals or bodies of people who will fit the Lord’s parable.

It is unfortunate that large numbers of members of the Church, as well as many so-called scholars, have written of the “delayed parousia.” An entire theology has been structured on the idea that Christ and his apostles expected the parousia in their life-time, making all of them great disappointments. It is very serious state of mind to begin to think the Lord is not coming. [Compare Habakkuk 2:4-6.]

Jesus also states there is an “evil slave.” This slave looses faith in Parousia and “begins to beat” fellow slaves. Also the evil slave starts to become to concerned with eating and drinking and indeed becomes a habitual drunk. The unfaithful steward becomes focused on the very things Jesus mentions above. They seek those things the Nazarene warned about. When the Master returns he threatens to cut such a slave in two.

In this parable other than the faithful slave, Jesus lists three other types of Household slaves - all members of the Christian Church - and the various punishments they will receive: a] the unfaithful steward who harmed his fellows; b] the slave who but did not perform; and, c] the slave who did not know what to do. The evil slave will share the fate of the unfaithful, that is “the traitor’s lot.” Unlike the faithful Christian who remained busy in the care of their fellows and was appointed over the Lord’s possessions, this Christian slave is thrown in with the infidels.

The next Christian is familiar with the Lord’s teachings. However, this disciple “does not get ready or act.” [GDS] Or, “made no attempt to carry them out.” [NEB] Many Christians belong to this group of slaves: they do not harm others, but neither do they respond positively or energetically. When the Lord returns they will be severely beaten with the figurative 40 strokes. How this will take place is not described. It surely will include deep embarrassment when in the presence of the Lord. [Daniel 12:2; 1 John 2:28]

The final slave was in the Household but ignorant of the Master’s will. Millions in modern Christendom fit this category of those unknowing slaves. They are still members of the Christian Church but either due to their leadership or their own failure to learn the Master’s will it is not clear to them what is required. These will still be beaten but with few strokes. The whole parables tells us several things: a] it tells us something about our Lord, that he is not just a passive, all forgiving Savior; and, b] though the Lord metes out severe punishment to those who deserve it, he is also very merciful to the last two slaves, who are not assigned with the infidels. These later slaves are not described as beating their fellows or getting drunk.

One of the points of Jesus’ illustration is that not all Christians are equal in gifts of responsibility. These gifts vary. [Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:27-31; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 4:10, 11] Christian men who are elders will be held accountable for what they do or do not do. [Titus 2:1, 2] Mature Christian women will be held responsible for what they teach younger women. [Titus 2:3, 4] Christian parents will be held responsible for what they teach their children. [Ephesians 6:1-4] Degrees of responsibility within the Church varies according to gifts and blessings. To be given an assignment and fail to carry it out is a most serious matter.

Some have been misguided into thinking that Christ is all peace and love and virtually lacks any other attributes. What was one reason Jesus Christ even came in the first place? Concluding his sermon, the Nazarene makes surprise statement.

I Came to Cause Division

LK12:49 “I came to hurl fire upon the earth - and how I wish it was already ignited! LK12:50 And I have a baptism to be baptized with - and how I am distressed until it is finished! LK12:51 Do you [disciples] think that I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you! Rather, division! LK12:52 For from now on in one house five will be divided against three, and three against two, and two against three. LK12:53 A father will be divided against a son, and a son against a father, a mother against the daughter, and a daughter against the mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law.” [NCMM]

Jesus had already said something similar a bit earlier. So this was not the first time his disciples heard some of these things. [Matthew 10:34-36] Now Christ tells his disciples one of the reasons he came to the earth: “I came to hurl fire upon the earth.” Or as other versions render this: to build a fire, set the world on fire. Any retrospective of history can see how this lone carpenter from Nazareth did indeed set a fire on earth. The Jews held that when Messiah came universal peace would begin. However, Jesus teaches just the opposite. The fire will not start until after his execution and the spread of his Church throughout the Roman world.

The Nazarene says he did not come to “bring peace on earth.” One of the reasons modern rabbis do not think Jesus was the Messiah is because of their view that when Christ comes peace will come to earth. Since this has not happened, they reason Jesus could not have been Messiah. However, Jesus taught exactly the opposite. If he did not come to bring peace, what was it the Messiah expected to do?

Instead he says he came to “cause division.” That is, discord or dissension. Not only would there be divisions between individuals and families, the Church itself would be fractured, resulting in the 10,000 schisms today. Paul also writes of the need for this division within the Church: “The Christ is divided. … It is actually not for the better, but for the worse, that you meet together. For first of all when you assemble for meeting I hear that schisms exist in your midst. In part I believe this. Now there is a necessity that opinionated heresies exist in your midst that those approved may also become manifest among you.” [1 Corinthians 1:10;11:17-19 NCMM] If he said that nearly two thousand years ago imagine what his assessment would be today.

Jesus borrows from Micah 7:2 in describing the divisions Christianity would bring in households. Such divisions continue to this day. Jesus did not promise one Church with perfect unity. Such unity was for but a moment when the Church reached maturity by the end of the 1st Century. [Ephesians 4:12-16] Since, as Paul predicted in 1 Corinthians 11:17-19 and elsewhere, the Church has remained divided into 10,000 schisms of sects, organizations, and denominations. This has also divided families. This division will continue until Christ comes with his angels to separate the wheat [or, sheep] from the weeds [or, goats] within his own Church.

In part this is all due to the great apostasy foretold by Jesus and his inspired disciples. [Matthew 13:25, 39; 2 Thessalonians 2:2, 3] But divisions become about for other reasons - some of them honestly. They are brought about due to a Christ-conscience - when a sensitive and devoted disciple realizes that leadership in his church or organization has abandoned the plain truths of the Nazarene and his inspired disciples. Such a conscience cannot abide living under the brutal control of a religious hierarchy who had hidden agendas and self-centered motives. Such a fire with its divisions will continue right up to the Return of Christ as wheat and weeds grow together in the same periods of time.

But, how does Jesus bring his marvelous sermon to a conclusion? How does he wrap up what he has said before? Note that he ends with two analogies of what his “genuine disciples” should do.

Learn to Interpret the Seasons

LK12:54 Then Jesus also spoke to the crowds: “When you see the clouds building in the west, right away you say a rain storm is coming and so it happens. LK12:55 Also, when a south wind begins to blow, you say it will be hot and it happens. LK12:56 Hypocrites, you can interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How come you are not aware how to interpret this present season? LK12:57 Also, why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? LK12:58 For as you are on your way to a ruler with your adversary before the law, on the way work out your dispute with him and get rid of the problem. Otherwise, he will drag you before the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the court officer, and he will put you in prison. LK12:59 I tell you, you will be no means ever get out until you have paid back the last lepton.” [NCMM]

No speaker whose sole purpose is to create peace and harmony addresses his audience as “hypocrites.” But this is exactly what Jesus does. The language of Jesus to the crowd at large is harsh for he knows the vast majority have not come to learn but to see signs. These same people will later scream for his execution. The Nazarene has condemned his generation and this will be fulfilled in the year 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the death of one million Jews.

He concludes with two analogies: a] the need to be alert to current trends and the prophetic horizon; and, b] the need to make peace with God before the judgment.

First, he condemns these hypocrites who claimed Yehowah as their God because they fail to interpret or discern “this present season.” He uses the analogy of predicting the weather. These people could look at the sky and tell what the weather was going to do, but prophetic events escaped their notice. They were completely oblivious to their momentous period in history.

Likewise today, millions of Christians - like the Jews of the 1st Century - have failed to read their Bibles and come to an understanding of the prophetic horizon. Like the nations they make the pursuit of material things their primary interest in life. As a result, should the Master return in our own life-time, these will find themselves unprepared.

Christ’s second analogy is a lesson in making peace with God before the Day of Judgment arrives. Jesus analogy is likely to mean the righteous Jew should not set his relationship with the Judge and make for peace before the coming cataclysm. One million Jews failed to do this and perished in the siege of 70 AD. On the other hand thousands of Christians saw the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecies about Jerusalem, and so escaped into the mountains.

Judgment is a major theme of the Nazarene. Indeed, while he only uses the word “salvation” twice, he uses the word group judge and judgment about 60 times. [For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on God and Judgment in Biblical Articles.] In this analogy Jesus stresses the point in his conclusion to do what is necessary to come to peaceful relations with God. One way to learn what is required is by reading this marvelous sermon of our Lord several times. Then after comprehending what the Nazarene taught, make every effort to live by his teachings.

In review, what are some questions we could ponder on this Christine sermon in Luke chapter 13?

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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