Hey I’m Josh Hawkins, welcome to Episode 94 of Opening Up the Gospels. In Episode 93 we saw how Jesus said some very harsh words to the Pharisees and to the crowds in Perea from Luke chapter 11. He had rebuked the Pharisees once again for the “fence” that they had established around the Law and for their prideful boasting. Remember, Jesus isn’t rebuking them for actually obeying the Law - that’s what God had commanded the Israelites to do. He was angry at them because they were using their perfect obedience to brag about themselves in pride while looking down upon the rest of the people in Israel who did not keep the Law as perfectly as they did. That’s such an important point to understand, especially in light of what Jesus goes on to say in His next series of teachings in Luke’s Gospel. In today’s episode, we’re going to look at one of Jesus' extended teachings in Luke 12 and 13. But first, let’s take a look at our timeline so we can reorient ourselves to where we are at.
We began this period in the fall of 28AD with Jesus heading to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. He sent out the seventy before Him, pronounces judgment on Galilee, and gave the story of the Good Samaritan. Then, we see Him just outside of Jerusalem in Bethany, where Mary sat at His feet and heard His word. Then in Episodes 90 and 91, we looked at Jesus’ time in Jerusalem for the feast in October where He talked about Himself as the living water and the light of the world. Then after leaving the feast He ministers in Judea and Perea and teaches on prayer and also pronounces judgment upon the evil generation and talks about the sign of Jonah. At some point after that, we see Him in the Pharisees’ house for a meal where He pronounces more judgment and woes. And now sometime perhaps in November or early December we see Him giving this extended teaching that we're going to look at today from Luke 12 and 13. The next major chronological marker we have from the Gospels is in December when Jesus attends the Feast of Dedication.
Now let’s take a look at some key verses from Luke 12 and 13. There’s so much in this section, so I would definitely encourage you to read it on your own. Let’s start in Luke 12 verse 1:
"In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!"
(Luke 12:1–5 ESV)
Here we are, likely somewhere in Judea, where Luke says that the crowds are so large that the people are stumbling over one another. Jesus knows that His popularity is temporary. Look what happened up in Galilee. The masses followed Him everywhere when it seemed to benefit them in healing, food, or astounding teaching. But they eventually deserted Him up there. It’s almost like a replay down here in Judea. Once again He warns His disciples of the bad teachings of the Pharisees, calling it “leaven”, just as He has done in the past. This is all in context to what Jesus had just said in His rebuke to the Pharisees back just a chapter before in Luke 11 where the outside might look clean but the inside is full of greed and wickedness. This hypocrisy, Jesus says, will be revealed in time. Their desire to impress people outwardly will lead to a double life that will eventually ignore what God says altogether. God sees the heart, and Jesus warns His disciples here to make sure they rightly discern what the Pharisees teach and do.
Now Jesus doesn’t just accidentally start talking about judgment in verses 4 and 5. He says not to fear someone who can kill you, but to fear God. After you have been killed, He’s the one who can throw you into a fire that will result in eternal destruction. He is saying that the remedy for authenticity is the fear of God. God can’t be tricked, so if you want to be free from the praise of man and the bad hypocritical teaching of the Pharisees, fear the One who sees the heart. It doesn’t matter if people think you’re awesome or not awesome. Living before the judge of all with a humble and contrite heart is what’s most important.
This theme of hypocrisy and the heart is one of the important themes we see Jesus speaking about in this section. We’ve seen Jesus say that an internal, heart righteousness is necessary in order to inherit God’s promises and not be thrown into the fire of judgment. The crowds should heed Jesus’ words and not the Pharisees’, because their teaching will eventually lead people into pride and wickedness.
Well, let’s look back at Luke 12:
"Someone in 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 arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: 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 ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God … And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
(Luke 12:13–34 ESV)
Just a short while later before the crowds, Jesus speaks about the second important theme here in this extended dialogue, and that is wealth and possessions. Jesus is urging the crowds to seek after the inheritance that God will give, which is participation in His eschatological kingdom when the Messiah reigns from Jerusalem. In doing that, the heart will be free from covetousness and the love of money. Three times in this dialogue Jesus mentions “possessions”, encouraging the people to give them up so that their hearts are not anchored to this age and that they live as a pilgrim. A few verses later in verse 37, Jesus says:
"Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them."
(Luke 12:37 ESV)
So when the master comes back, He'll come and serve the servants. How’s that for a trade? Jesus says to them: "Lay down your possessions now, live without reward in this age, and when I come back and set up my kingdom, I’ll give you my possessions.” Wow.
Now the Pharisees loved money so much because of the way it gave them power and influence. Their hearts were tied down to reward and recognition before people in this age. In Matthew 23:13, Jesus said that the Pharisees actually kept men from inheriting the kingdom by their teaching and practice. Jesus as the good shepherd is warning the crowds to not be like them. By condemning their hypocrisy and their love for wealth and possessions, He is restoring the key of knowledge to them on how to actually inherit the kingdom and the promises made to Abraham.
Let’s keep going in Luke 12:
"“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, 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 her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”"
(Luke 12:49–53 ESV)
This has got to be one of Jesus’ clearest statements regarding His reason for coming to Israel, and this is a theme I have developed extensively in this entire series. He didn’t come to do some miracles and to wander around Israel just buying time before the cross. He came for the division of Israel. Just as John the Baptist said, Jesus was the one who would divide between the wheat, the righteous, and the chaff, the unrighteous. This division would even be among families. He came to be the very instrument of division itself. Those who would respond rightly to Him would get the promised Holy Spirit, but those who rejected Him would be subject to God’s wrath on the day of the Lord. Go back and watch Episodes 36, 37, and 38 for more on John the Baptist’s message to Israel about Jesus.
Let’s take a look now at the final part of this section in Luke 13:
And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”
(Luke 13:6–9 ESV)
If you’ve been tracking along with this series for a while, I trust you see what Jesus is saying here. From the beginning of this whole story in Luke 3, John the Baptist came preaching that God has been seeking the fruits of repentance from Israel. And here we are, in the third year since John started ministering and it’s like the Father is saying “Jesus, it’s time to chop down the fig tree, it’s not bearing any fruit.” But then Jesus says “let it alone for just a while longer. If it doesn’t bear fruit, we’ll cut it down.” Do you see the tenderness of Jesus here? He’s going to appeal for a little while longer to see if the nation will bear the fruits of repentance, and if they don’t, the covenantal curses will come upon them severely and their lives will not be spared at the coming judgment.
Now I’m not trying to be redundant here, but I just want you to see the potency of the story of what’s going on in the Gospels. All these themes ought to be so familiar to you by now - the themes of judgment, the tree, repentance, bearing fruit, etc. When you see it, everything comes alive.
Well, we’re out of time for this episode, but in the next episode we’ll continue to look at the events from Luke’s Gospel just prior to the feast of Dedication in December. As always, you can find all the past episodes in this series on my website, www.joshuahawkins.com/gospels. God bless, come back next time.