New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

12:1 In the mean time, when the many thousands of the crowd were gathered together, so much so that they trod one upon another, he began to say to his disciples first of all-

As in the account of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, we get the idea of the Lord purposefully focusing upon the disciples, despite the presence of crowds of well over 10,000. His interest was in developing that small core, rather than getting superficial acceptance from thousands.

Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy- The disciples were overly influenced by the Pharisees. They were worried that the Pharisees were not happy with the Lord’s teaching (Mt. 15:12). He had to warn them above all of the danger of the influence [yeast] of the Pharisees (Lk. 12:1 Gk.). And yet they still misunderstood Him- they thought He was talking about literal bread (Mk. 8:15,16). He encouraged His followers 'be themselves'. He spoke much of not being a hupokrites, an actor. Those who follow Him are not to act a part before others, as if all the world's a stage, being what others want in the audience of the world of eyes that surround us, acting as an actor does, merely to please others. He continued the image when He warned of not doing things "to be seen [Gk. theathenai]of men". Don't let them be a mere theatre audience to you- be yourself, living life in the constant presence of God's eyes, not man's. This was a major theme with the Lord. Paul likewise teaches us that every man should “be as he is” (1 Cor. 7:26 RV). This is why the Lord Jesus taught His men "first of all", i.e. most importantly, to beware of hypocrisy. This was a cardinal point in Christ's manifesto. We must ask whether it has this place in our discipleship. It can be that the ecclesial audience is a kind of theatre, showing gratitude for the pleasing entertainment of the speakers. Yet the opposite should be true- God is the audience, we are living bared lives before His gaze.

The Lord taught that hypocrisy was like leaven- once it begins in a community of believers, it so easily spreads and engulfs all (Lk. 12:1-3). In this context He went on to say that “there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed... whatever you have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light”. It is so easy, and we have all done this, to say something about somebody, and ask our hearer not to repeat it. But even in this life, as well as at judgment day, what is spoken in the ear comes out on the housetops. In discussion about fellowship matters, divorce etc. we can so easily say one thing to one group of brethren and something quite different to another. But this, the Lord taught, is hypocrisy. Let us decide our principles and live and speak by them, in humility and sensitivity and simplicity. Because all will be revealed, both in this life and in the coming day of judgment, we ought to be without such hypocrisy.

The Lord taught His followers “first”, or ‘most of all’, to beware of hypocrisy. For us, all the world is not to be a stage, and we are not to be merely actors upon that stage. Hypocrisy is that living out of a persona, acting, rather than being the person God created us to be. In the Lord Jesus men saw the word made flesh (Jn. 1:14). There was perfect congruence between the person He presented Himself as, and the person He essentially was. This was why He could so easily touch the true person in others. And I think this is the meaning of the otherwise enigmatic insistence that the Cherubim’s faces, their appearances, and ‘themselves’ were all one (Ez. 10:22). The Russian [Synodal] version translates this: ‘Their view, was who they themselves were’. So often in our encounters with others there is no real dialogue, rather a conflict of monologues. This is why so many a debate between a Christian and a Mormon, e.g., has come to nothing; for perhaps both of them are merely showing one of their personas.

12:2 But there is nothing covered up that shall not be revealed, and hid that shall not be known- See on Mt. 10:27.
Whatever we have spoken in darkness will be revealed for all to hear and know (Lk. 12:2,3)- our words will as it were be cited back to us before others in that day. The Lord says this in the context of warning us not to have the leaven of hypocrisy in the matter of our words- there's no point in saying one thing to one person and something different to someone else, because our words will be gone through at the judgment and will be open for everyone to hear. We should live, He implies, as if we are now before the judgment; speaking things we wouldn't be ashamed for anyone to hear. Note in passing how he says that hypocrisy in our words is like leaven, that corrupts and spreads within an individual and a community. Once somebody starts being hypocritical with their words, someone else does. Even every word of murmuring against each other will be judged; and hence, James points out, it is bizarre that we should be doing this with the judge standing before the door (James 5:9).

12:3 Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors shall be proclaimed upon the housetops- The reference to “closets” (AV) takes us back to Mt. 6:6, where He uses the same word to speak of how we should pray in closets and then we will be openly rewarded by the Father. The ‘open reward’ is clearly in the Kingdom (Mt. 6:4,18; Lk. 8:17; 1 Cor. 3:13). Could this not be saying, then, that in the Kingdom, the answers to the prayers we are now making will be openly proclaimed to all from the housetops? Hence there is an awesome connection between our feeble words of prayer now, and the nature of our eternal existence in the Kingdom.
"God shall judge the righteous and the wicked (at the second coming): for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work... for God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or bad" (Ecc. 3:17; 12:14). Note the emphasis on "every". Even what we have spoken in the ear will be shouted out (Lk. 12:3) -implying others will somehow observe our judgment, cp. Mt. 12:41. If the judgment is merely a yes/no statement which has been worked out taking our whole life into consideration, then this emphasis on every work having a time for consideration and judgment "there" is pointless. However, these verses must be considered in conjunction with those which speak of God's 'forgetting' of bad deeds on account of how people later chose to live. However, this need not mean that they are erased from God's infinite knowledge; all too often we perceive God's memory as a vast memory bank which can have our sins erased from it. But His knowledge knows no such bounds of human perception; yet He is willing not to hold those things against us, and to therefore count us as having never committed them.

Ultimately, nothing remains secret; at the day of judgment, what we spoke in darkness (i.e. In our own minds) will be heard in the light of God’s Kingdom (Lk. 12:3). Note how Paul read the Lord’s words here in this way – for he surely alludes here when he speaks of how “the hidden things of darkness” are “the counsels of the hearts” which will be revealed at His return (1 Cor. 4:5). The implications of this are awesome. The thoughts and intents of our hearts in this life will be eternally open and manifest in the eternal light of God’s Kingdom. In that day, our brethren will see every one of our hidden thoughts. To live now according to the principle ‘I can think what I like, but I won’t act like it, for the sake of appearances to others’ is therefore foolish. Who we are now in our hearts is whom we shall ultimately be revealed to be. So we may as well get on and act according to how we really think; for throughout eternity, what we think now will be manifest to everyone, seeing that a man is as he thinks in his heart.

12:4 And I say to you my friends- Assuring them that they had nothing ultimately to fear at the last day; for we are His friends. If we are His friends, the friends of the Son of God, the prince of the kings of the earth- why fear audience response when we witness? The labored assurances of the next verses about being of more value than sparrows etc. are all in the context, therefore, of assuring us that we need not ultimately fear negative response to our witness.

Do not be afraid- The Lord was quite clear that His followers should expect death and serious suffering for preaching Him. He perceived that fear of audience response would be a strong factor in the temptation not to preach Him. But He gave the reason for not fearing in :3- all shall be revealed at the day of judgment. Belief in the doctrine of final judgment therefore has huge impact upon life in practice- in this case, giving us strength not to fear the consequences of our witness. For many believers today, persecution unto death is not a likely consequence of witness; fear of slight embarrassment, being thought ‘odd’ for turning a conversation around, is a very small price. The Lord is asking us here to accept that witness for Him may well cost us death. If we accept that, accept it as part and parcel of the Lord’s basic message, then our approach to witness will be quite different. Fear of audience response will no longer be a major factor, if we have solemnly accepted that we are prepared to die for the sake of preaching the Gospel.

Of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do- Mt. 10:28 adds: "But are not able to kill the soul". "They" cannot touch our essential self. It is our ‘real self’ which will eternally endure. In this sense, for the faithful, their body may be killed but their soul cannot be. I take this to mean that who they essentially are is for ever recorded by the Lord, and they will be given that same personality at the resurrection. Significantly, the Bible speaks not of the ‘resurrection of the body’ [it’s the creeds which speak of this], but rather “the resurrection of the just”, “the resurrection of the dead”. The resurrection is more about resurrected characters than resurrected bodies, although the process will involve a new body being given.

12:5 But I will warn you about whom you shall fear. Fear Him, who after He has killed has power to cast you into Gehenna. Yes, I say to you, fear Him!- The fear of the eternity we might miss, condemnation, is to be infinitely greater than our fear of death in this life.  The Jews believed that ‘hell’ had three sections: Gehenna, a place of eternal fire for those Jews who broke the covenant and blasphemed God; ‘the shades’, an intermediate place similar to the Catholic idea of purgatory; and a place of rest where the faithful Jew awaited the resurrection at the last day. This distinction has no basis in the Bible. However, it’s significant that the Lord Jesus uses ‘Gehenna’ and the figure of eternal fire to describe the punishment of people for what the Jews of His day would’ve considered incidental sins, matters which were far from blasphemy and breaking the covenant – glancing at a woman with a lustful eye (Mk. 9:47), hypocrisy (Lk. 12:1,5; Mt. 23:27–33), not giving a cup of water to a “little one”, forbidding a disciple of John the Baptist to follow Jesus (Mk. 9:39–43); not preaching the Gospel fearlessly and boldly (Mt. 10:25–28). These matters were and are shrugged off as of no eternal consequence. But just like the prophets of Israel did, the Lord Jesus seizes upon such issues and purposefully associates them with the most dire possible punishment which His Jewish hearers could conceive – Gehenna. Time and again, the Bible alludes to incorrect ideas and reasons with people from the temporary assumption those ideas might be true. The language of demons, as we will show later, is a classic example. And it’s quite possible the Lord is doing the same here with the concept of Gehenna – the punishment for the Jew who breaks the covenant and blasphemes. The Lord was primarily teaching about behaviour, not giving a lecture about the state of the dead. And so He takes the maximum category of eternal punishment known to His audience, and says that this awaits those who sin in matters which on His agenda are so major, even if in the eyes of the Jewish world and humanity generally they were insignificant.

12:6 Are not five sparrows sold for two very small coins? And not one of them is forgotten in the sight of God- See on Mt. 10:29. Two sparrows were sold for one coin; and five were given for two coins. The sparrows were so little worth that one was thrown in for free. Yet the sparrows are represented in the presence of God (Gk.); even animals have their representative Angels there. This is ‘how’ in one sense a personal God sees and knows all things; because His Spirit / Angels are in His presence reporting all things to Him. At least this is how we are invited to perceive it. The sparrows aren’t forgotten in the presence of God, and we are of more value than many sparrows (Lk. 12:6,7); Matthew has: ‘Your Father feeds the sparrows; are you not of more value [same Greek as in Luke] than many sparrows?’ ; ‘no sparrow falls to the ground  without your Father knowing... you are of more value than many sparrows” (Mt. 6:26; 10:29,31). The sparrows being in God’s presence is paralleled with His feeding them [Gk. ‘to bring them up’] and being aware of what is happening to them on earth. God feeds / raises the sparrows through His Angelic messengers.

“An inscription of the Emperor Diocletian setting out the maximum prices that might be paid for various articles of commerce shows that sparrows were the cheapest of birds used for food...” (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Leciester: I.V.P., 1992)). This is another example of the Lord’s radical collision course with the Rabbis; He taught that God’s care even embraces sparrow. For the Rabbis explicitly forbad prayers that mentioned God’s care for birds, because they argued that it was dishonouring to God to associate Him with something so small as a bird (Berith 5.3). And the Lord purposefully stood that idea upon its head. The Rabbis had a whole list of unforgivable sins, like murder, apostasy, contempt for the Law, etc. But the Lord went further. His many words of judgment weren’t directed to the murderers and whores and Sabbath breakers; they were instead directed against those who condemned those people, considering themselves righteous. He calls those who appeared so righteous a ‘generation of vipers’. The publican, not the Pharisee, finds God’s acceptance, according to Jesus. And again, the Lord is making a telling point- because Rabbis held that repentance for publicans was almost impossible, because it was impossible for them to know exactly all the people they’d cheated. Very clearly, the Lord’s message was radical. He was out to form a holy people from whores and gamblers, no-good boys and conmen. And moreover, He was out to show that what God especially judges and hates are the things that humanity doesn’t think twice about: hypocrisy, self-righteousness, judgmentalism, exclusion of others… 


12:7 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered- The redeemed are a community whom man cannot number (Rev. 7:9), as many as the stars in the sky which neither Abraham nor any man could number. The Lord may be making an allusion to this in order to highlight the scale of knowledge which God has- He numbers the community of believers exactly, over space and over time, and He also numbers the hairs on every one of His people. This vast knowledge of God is often referred to in the Psalms as a guarantee that therefore God will ultimately protect His people. Lk. 21:18, which we have shown to have similarities with the preaching commission of Mt. 10, comments that “there shall not an hair of your head perish”. The question is whether the Lord is assuring His preachers that they will not ultimately die; it might sound like it, from such assurance. And yet earlier verses in the preaching commission sound as if the preachers will indeed suffer, quite possibly unto death. And we know that some of them did suffer death. So what are we to make of these assurances of protection, so strong that the preacher should be fearless and not fear death as a consequence for preaching? I suggest that the Lord, as often in His teaching, is speaking on an elevated, spiritual level. The possibility of death for witness is a clear theme of His, especially in Revelation. These strong assurances of protection and salvation from death would therefore be His way of saying that His ultimate salvation of His preachers at the resurrection will involve the preservation of them as unique personalities, down to the hairs of their head. And therefore they should not fear death in this life. For He knows them. The fear of death revolves around the sense that I as the sum of all my experiences, my uniqueness, shall be no more- and the Lord is urging us to believe that God not only knows our unique attributes better than we do, but shall ultimately preserve them in the resurrection of the body and in the nature of the life eternal.

Fear not!- The Lord is asking a lot here; He’s asking for us to preach without fear of consequence and audience reaction. That is a step beyond preaching knowing the likely price, and being willing to pay that price. To know that price and yet preach without fear is a step beyond being willing to accept consequence.

You are of more value than many sparrows- The same word is used in the same context in Mt. 6:26. Having spoken of how God provides for the birds of the air, the Lord drives home the comparison: “Are you not much better [s.w. “of more value”] than them?”. The term is again used in Mt. 12:12: “How much then is a man better than a sheep”. We must give full weight to this triple emphasis on how much more valuable we are than the mortal animals whom God is so careful for. The request that we do not fear is repeated and labored throughout the section. It is fear of what others think and may do which so often holds us back from witness, be it to family members or literally approaching people on the street. With such laboured assurances, we are to overcome fear and therefore confess Him openly (:8).

12:8 And I say to you, every one who shall confess me before men- Confessing Christ before men can also be an allusion to baptism, not just bucking up the courage to give someone a tract at work (Rom. 10:9,10). This allusion is confirmed when we realize that “confess” translates two Greek words, ‘to confess in’. We confess in Christ by baptism into Him. In another sense, our witness is because we are in Christ, we are Him to the world, and therefore His fearlessness unto death in witness should be ours. The Lord spoke of how if we confess Him before men, He will confess knowledge of us before the Father; and if we deny Him, He will deny us. This language is applied by John to John the Baptist- for he comments that John the Baptist "confessed and denied not, but confessed, I am not the Christ" (Jn. 1:20). In this sense, John Baptist is being set up as our example in preaching- and again, John comments that we too are to confess the Son and not deny Him (1 Jn. 2:23), after the pattern of John the Baptist. And yet note what John's 'confession' was- it was a profession of his unworthiness, that although he was the herald of the Christ, he was not Jesus. Again, we see here a pattern for our witness to the Lord. Eph. 6:15 speaks of our each being 'sandaled' with the preparation of the Gospel. Who prepared the way of the Lord by preaching, wearing sandals? John the Baptist. It seems Paul is alluding to John here, setting him up as the preacher's example. The reference to "loins girt" (Eph. 6:14) would also be a John allusion- the record twice (in Mt. 3:4; Mk. 1:6) stresses how John had his 'loins girded'.


Him shall the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God- See on Mt. 10:32; Lk. 13:8; 1 Tim. 5:21. So close are the Lord and the Angels and such His respect and love for them, that it seems that Jesus will even feel ashamed or embarrassed before them when He comes to consider one of the unworthy at the day of judgement- Luke 12:8 implies that the same feeling of embarrassment and shame which the unworthy have now when backing out of preaching will be felt by Jesus when He looks on them at the judgement. And it is quite possible that one of the things which motivated our Lord to continue hanging on the cross was the thought of praising God in the midst of the Angels at His ascension: "My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation (of Angels?): I will pay my vows before them that fear Him".

But in the same way as the Angels minister condemnation, they also joyfully  give  eternal  life to their faithful charges, on Christ's command at the judgement- "him shall the Son of man also confess before the Angels of God" (Luke 12:8). This is perhaps the fact alluded to in 2 Cor. 10:18: "not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth (at the judgement)". To be commended implies to be commended to somebody- the Angels?

When He says He will confess us before the Father, He means He will confess our name before God (Rev. 3:5); He knows us according to our names / characters. He speaks of ecclesial members as "names" in Rev. 3:4; He calls His own sheep by name, and they each know His voice, responding to His word individually. The call to one sheep will only be recognized by that sheep; the others won't respond (Jn. 10:3). He will take individual note of each sheep, treating them accordingly, as the shepherd leads more gently those that are with young (Is. 40:11). It seems that even now, we each have our own individual name with the Father and Son, encompassing their understanding of our essential character. It may even be that in the record of Scripture, God inspired the writers to record the names of individuals according to His judgment of them (or at least, how the faithful viewed them at the time), rather than by the names they actually went under. What mother would have named her child Nabal (fool), or Ahira (brother of evil, Num. 1:15), or 'sickness' or 'wasting' (Mahlon and Chilion)? These names were either given to them by others and the use adopted by God, or simply God in the record assigned them such names.   

The same two words for "confess [in]" are found in Rom. 10:9 “If you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus… you shall be saved”. The idea of homolegeo seems to be of public confession; literally to homo-logos. The Lord uses the word logos with reference to the “words” of our preaching before men (Mt. 10:14). Homo has the sense of being together with others. It can carry the sense of ‘assent’, in that ourlogos comes together with the logos of another; but the majority of NT usage is clearly with the sense of professing, making our logos before others. At the day of judgment, the Lord will “profess” His verdict to men (Mt. 7:23) and here we learn that He will “profess” it to His Father too. The weight of evidence on the basis of usage is that this word refers to public profession of a logos, of our innermost thought- which is exactly in line with the themes of the Lord's teaching here: that our internal thought and position, our logos, is crucially important; but if it is a Christ-like logos then it will be impossible to conceal it, it must naturally become public, for a city set on a hill cannot be hid. Consider the evidence:
-Herod confessed [AV “promised”] with an oath” in front of witnesses to give Herodias’ daughter whatever she wished (Mt. 14:7)
- John the Baptist confessed in his preaching (Jn. 1:20)
- If anyone confessed openly that Jesus was Messiah, then they would be cast out of the synagogue (Jn. 9:22; 12:42)
- The Pharisees confessed their doctrinal positions, i.e. they openly taught them (Acts 23:8)
- Paul confessed his beliefs publically when on trial (Acts 24:14)
- Timothy confessed his confession before many witnesses (1 Tim. 6:12)
- Some openly confess their knowledge of God when their private lives don’t match that public confession (Titus 1:16)
- The faithful confessed their faith in God’s promises before all (Heb. 11:13)
- Teachers confess a doctrinal position about Jesus in their teaching and must be assessed by their audience accordingly (1 Jn. 2:23; 4:2,3,15; 2 Jn. 7).

According to the Lord's teaching here, he who refuses to make this public profession will not be accepted in the day of judgment; the Lord Jesus will not confess such a person before “My Father”. Rom. 10:9,10 likewise predicate salvation upon this public confession. And the contrast in Matthew 10:32,33 is between confessing Christ and denying Him before men, leading to being denied by Jesus before “My Father”. Without doubt, 1 Jn. 2:23 has all this in mind when teaching that “Whosoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father, but he that confesses [s.w.; AV “acknowledges”] the Son has the Father also”. Taken together, these usages of confession present a solid case- that salvation is related to public confession. That is not to say that salvation is by works, nor is it to say that evangelism is the be all and end all of the Christian life- after all, we all have different gifts, some are more pastoral than evangelical. Salvation is by grace through faith; and if we believe, then we cannot be passive, we become a city set on a hill which cannot be hid. Otherwise, as the Lord teaches several times in the Sermon on the Mount, we have not really believed in God’s grace. The Sermon teaches that there is no such thing as a secret Christian, a candle lit which nobody else sees or gets a hint of. In this area particularly, we are faced with the temptation of sins of omission- to consider that we are believers because we have mentally assented to certain theological propositions about Christ, but not making any public commitment or confession about them. No wonder the Lord raised this theme in encouraging His preachers to go forth fearlessly.

12:9 But he that denies me- The whole purpose of the true church is to be a light to the world- “the only cooperative society in the world that exists for the benefit of its non-members”, as William Temple put it. The Lord will tell some in the last day that He never knew them, He will deny them; and yet He will deny those who never confessed Him before men (Mt. 8:23; 10:32,33). These people will have prophesied in His Name [i.e. preached to the ecclesia], and done “mighty works” for Him; but the fact they didn’t confess Him before men is seen as not knowing Him; for to know Him is to perceive that we are intended to confess Him before men. This, perhaps, is our greatest danger. The presence and witness of God is no longer in a tent in the Sinai, nor in a Jerusalem temple. God reveals Himself through the group of ordinary, mixed up folks who comprise the ecclesias. For the watching world, we present proof that Christ is indeed alive; we provide the visible shape of what God and Jesus are really like. This is how vital is the matter of witness. It is utterly fundamental to the whole purpose behind our having been called. If we deny Christ, we deny that Jesus is the Christ (1 Jn. 2:22); and yet we deny Christ if we don’t preach Him (Mt. 10:33). It follows that if we really believe that Jesus was not just Jesus of Nazareth but the Christ of God, therefore we won’t deny Him but will preach Him. This is why there is connection between confessing Jesus as Christ and preaching Him (Jn. 9:22; Acts 18:5; Phil. 2:11). A grasp of who the Lord Jesus really is and the height of His present exaltation will naturally result in a confession of Him to the world, as well as a deep personal obedience to His word and will (Heb. 2:1).

There are at least three Biblical examples of people denying Jesus- the same Greek word is used- and yet repenting. Peter denied the Lord “before all” (Mt. 26:70), and yet was restored. The entire crowd around Jesus, including the healed woman, initially ‘denied’ they had touched Jesus (Lk. 8:45); but the woman then came out into the open and confessed Christ before all. The Jews ‘denied’ Christ (Acts 3:13,14) but then repented and were baptized publically. The point is, that in the moments when we deny Him, He denies us; but we can change the situation.

It’s tempting to wonder whether all this talk of confession and denial is only really relevant to those standing trial for their Christian faith, with the threat of death before them and the possibility of saving their life if they make some symbolic denial of Christ. But the words for confessing and denying occur together in Tit. 1:16 about those within the ecclesia who “Profess [s.w. ‘confess’] that they know God, but in works deny Him”. We can make the profession of faith before men, and in the public confession of baptism- whilst effectively denying the faith in our lives. There were some within the ecclesias of the first century who ‘denied’ the Lord (2 Pet. 2:1). External membership can appear as ‘confession’, but the point is that it isn’t necessarily. It can actually be a front for denial of Him…

In the presence of men shall be denied in the presence of the angels of God- The Lord Jesus in the last day will confess, or witness to in a legal sense, for His people "before the angels of God" (Lk. 12:8,9); and yet He uses the same language to describe how right now, He confesses us in Heaven in the presence of His Father (Mt. 10:32). Thus when we witness- or don't witness- to our relationship with Him, the Lord Jesus either confesses or denies knowledge of us before His Father. Right now. And this, therefore, is a foretaste of the final judgment. And we face these foretastes day by day in human life, as we encounter the choices of confessing or denying our Lord.

There is a direct correlation between our attitudes to witnessing before men now, and the attitude of the Lord Jesus about us in Heaven “before”, or ‘before the face of’, the Father. Witnessing is essentially personal, each of us individually “before men”. As modern life progresses in reducing relationships to online abstractions, we must remember this. An individual may press the right keys on their keyboard, send money online to a preaching organization- and yet never be making any witness about Christ before the faces of men. Indeed, those with whom the person does have face to face relationships may well be totally unaware he is a Christian. It’s this kind of thing which the Lord is addressing in such demanding terms- our witness before men , not in some anonymous world of avatars, is related to how we witnesses about us before the face of God in Heaven.  

So whoever denies the Lord before men will be denied before the Angels. Two words are used here, the first weaker than the second. If we deny Jesus, He will utterly deny us before the Angels- what we do now on earth is even more strongly reflected in Heaven and at judgment day. The Heavenly response to our words and actions is out of proportion to our words. This surely inspires us in our daily words and decisions.

12:10 And everyone who shall speak a word against the Son of Man- The sin of stating that Jesus was Satan's agent rather than God's could not be forgiven whilst it continued to be the position of a person- although repentance was always possible. For those who had accepted Jesus as God's unique agent, they can be forgiven all manner of failure, including speaking "a word" against Him. Maybe the Lord foresaw the situations in which persecution could be avoided for an apparently few words calling Him accursed. And He, along with Matthew, wanted to assure those who would do this in the weakness of a moment that in fact they had not blasphemed the Spirit and were not beyond forgiveness. The 'speaking against' is clearly parallel to 'blaspheming'. Blaspheming the name of Jesus was and is required by various anti-Christian regimes such from Judaism through the Roman empire to fundamentalist Islamic states today. Surely the Lord had this in mind. And the encouragement is that this is forgivable. But to decide He is not the Son of God but the embodiment of evil is a situation for which there is no forgiveness because it is wilfully continued in. The Lord has just stated that whoever is not with Him is against Him (:30), but here He foresees a situation when one of those who is ultimately 'with Him' will speak 'against Him'- and yet be forgiven. Because that moment of failure was not the overall position of a man's life. The denials by Peter, replete with curses / blasphemy, would surely be the parade example.

The “son of man” here could refer to the Lord Jesus, but it could just as comfortably mean ‘human beings’. One angle on this passage is to remember that the Gospels were written as a means of preaching to Jewish people at some point after the Lord’s resurrection. The message may be: ‘Whatever sin you committed against Jesus, even to the point of crucifixion, is forgivable. But now the Holy Spirit is witnessing to you through the apostles to repent and accept His forgiveness. If you refuse that, then there will [obviously] be no forgiveness for you’. The Lord foresaw the situation as it would be in the lives of his audience, and that explains His language here.

It shall be forgiven him, but to him that blasphemes against the Holy Spirit it shall not be forgiven- Whenever we sin, we are judged by the court of Heaven as deserving condemnation. Yet now is our day of opportunity; the verdict really is given, but we can mercifully change it. Consider the implications of the parallel Mk. 3:29: "he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness but is in danger of eternal damnation". Not being ever forgiven is paralleled with having eternal damnation. The implication is that when we sin and are unforgiven, we are condemned. But in this life we can be forgiven, and therefore become uncondensed. Abimelech was "but a dead man" for taking Sarah (Gen. 20:3), as if although he was alive, for that sin he was in God's eyes condemned and dead. But that verdict for that case was changed by his change of the situation. 

12:11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious how or what you shall answer, or what you shall say- The Lord wanted His truth to be witnessed by His people to the authorities in "heavenly places" (Eph. 3:10). The Lord wanted to give even kings and rulers the chance of repentance. We too should not consider anyone anywhere beyond The legal language suggests that a court case was going on- in the court of Heaven, situations on earth are tried, and the witness of the apostles at their earthly court cases against them was used in the court case against the rulers which was going on in Heaven.

12:12 For the Holy Spirit shall teach you in that very hour what you should say- Luke's later volume records how indeed this happened to the persecuted apostles (Acts 4:8; 6:10; 7:2,53,55 and throughout the trials of Paul). But there is a very clear application to the events of the very last days, which the run up to AD70 prefigured. The allusion is to Ex. 4:12, where God tells Moses at the time of the Egyptian persecution of God's people, "I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say". This persecution lead to intensified prayer to God, resulting in  the deliverance of the suffering saints at Passover time, after a period of especial distress and 'time of trouble' for the surrounding world due to the plagues. After this deliverance, God's people went into the wilderness and were declared God's Kingdom. All these events form a remarkable latter day prophecy. The gifts of the Spirit may be given to some in the Elijah ministry in order to enable them to make a more powerful witness (as in Rev.11:6). Similarly Joel 2 prophesies the pouring out of the gifts "before the great and terrible day of the Lord" (:31). Malachi surely refers to this passage when prophesying the Elijah ministry "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Mal. 4:5). This suggests that the three and a half year Elijah ministry of the last days (James 5:17) will be accompanied by Spirit gifts, and will coincide with the time of persecution.

12:13 And one out of the crowd said to him: Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me- The Lord replies by asking the man to think again about who had given Jesus authority- for if indeed God really had given Jesus authority, then the man ought himself to fear the judgment of Jesus- for as the Lord goes on to show in the parable of the rich fool, He has the power to reject those who are materialistic, exactly because He has such authority from God. The Lord is pushing the man to look at himself and think of himself at the end of his life and before the final day of judgment; and to cease paying a mere lipservice respect to the authority of Jesus, but to take this for real, realizing what it means for his own personal responsibility.

The law required an elder brother to inherit a double portion (Dt. 21:17), but the Lord replies that He is being asked to be a "divider"- perhaps hinting that this man is asking the Lord to support his request for a simple division. Presumably because he considered his brother to be wealthy enough and he considered he needed the wealth more. The Lord's reply is to call their deceased wealthy father a "fool" and to warn the man against covetousness and materialism.

The Lord’s response was to tell the parable of the rich fool- a parable which ought to be seriously worrying for every one of us, rich or poor. He put the immediate argument between the brothers in the perspective of eternity; the eternity we may miss because we got too distracted with the immediate argument of the moment. And the Lord’s basic message in this case was: “Be rich toward God. Give Him whatever you have”. This cut right across the issues of life’s unfairness, missing out on wealth, not getting our share of respect... to the essential question which should have made both brothers feel uncomfortable. Had they, have we, given all they had to the Lord’s cause? We may lack the quick thinking or penetrating analysis required to make this kind of fast response when confronted by others’ conflicts. But we can surely analyze our own conflicts, at our own pace, in the light of eternity; and regain perspective, even if our opponent fails to do this. We need to cut to the essence of why we are feeling as we are; pray for God to help you in this, for accurate self-examination is so hard. If we don’t connect and engage with the core issues, then even if the immediate problem [e.g. the argument about the inheritance] is resolved, then other issues will still then arise.  It will only be a matter of time. The more we focus on resolving just one conflict, the more we will realize that in fact we are dealing with a tangled web of multiple conflicts. We cannot change others, but we can come to understand ourselves, and to define and engage with the essential issues which we personally face in the whole conflict.

12:14 But he said to him: Man! Who made me a judge or a divider over you?- As noted on :13, this is not to be read as meaning 'I am not your judge, why ever would you think that?'. The answer to this rhetorical question is 'God'. The man was to quit worrying about material issues and conflicts with his brother, and focus instead on his relationship with God. The Father and Son will indeed judge and divide between men at the last day- but on the basis of spiritual and not secular things. The ultimate judgment and division between men will be made on the basis of how they have handled such issues of judgment and division in their secular lives; and seeing we need His absolute grace in the time of the final judgment and division, we need to show it now. All such conflicts with our brethren are therefore a dry run of judgment day; we make the answer now. Note too the allusion to Ex. 2:14, whereby the Lord presents Himself as a new Moses.

12:15 And he said to them: Take heed and keep yourselves from all covetousness. For a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses- See on Lk. 17:32. As noted on :13 and :14, the true life is that to come, and that will be predicated upon how far in this life we have judged and divided rightly with secular issues now. The Lord seeks to prize apart the connection between a person and their possessions; a connection which has become the dogma of our materialistic age. The life, the personality, is to be seen as of paramount importance; 'Who "am" I?' is to be the question we return to time and again in our self-examination. The way of naming houses and lands in the name of the owner indicates the chronic degree of identification between possessions and personhood which there is in so many minds. But we are to make a great divorce in our minds between who we really are, and what we possess.

12:16 And he spoke a parable to them, saying: The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully- The aorist could imply that the ground was about to bring forth plentifully. The way the man talks about building bigger barns in order to store his "goods" suggests he is fantasizing about wealth, about actually getting a large harvest and turning it into goods; to spend time and labour demolishing existing barns and building greater when the intensity of harvest is upon him is foolish, and suggests an unreal fantasy about wealth rather than reality. Likewise his assumption that his harvest would be so huge that he could live from it for the rest of his life... is perhaps somewhat unrealistic.

The man's wealth was because of the "ground"- stressing that his wealth actually was from God's blessing. By fixating upon it as if the wealth was personally his, the man became an effective atheist, the fool who says in his heart that there is no God (Ps. 14:1).

12:17 And he reasoned within himself, saying: What shall I do, because I do not have anywhere to store my crops?- Jesus pinpointed the crucial importance of self-talk in this parable of the rich fool, who said to himself that he had many goods, and discussed with his own “soul” or self the need for greater barns etc. If we at least realize that our self-talk is potentially our greatest adversary [‘Satan’], then we will find the strength to move towards genuine spiritual mindedness, bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Luke's Gospel opens with the record of Simeon's prediction that the Lord would reveal the thoughts of many hearts. One way He does that is through the parables recorded by Luke; they all feature the inner speech, the self talk, of people. The rich fool (12:16–20); the unfaithful servant (12:42–46); the prodigal son (15:11–32); the unjust steward (16:1–8); the unjust judge (18:2–5) and the owner of the vineyard (20:9–16). By hearing the self talk of those characters, our own inner self talk is revealed to us. The rich fool's "What shall I do?" becomes our own question: "What should I do?". This was significant in the first century world, where outward appearance was seen as so important and most people were disinterested in their self talk. Appearance and external action was seen as all important; and yet the Lord repeatedly persuades His audience to look at their hearts.

His ground is bringing forth plentifully, but the bumper harvest hasn't yet come- because he would hardly build bigger barns after the harvest has been gathered. He foresees a bumper harvest, and decides to build bigger barns and fantasizes about the luxury retirement this could bring him. And then, zap, his soul / life is required of him. He dies. The point of the parable is that the man's attitudes were wrong; it is a critique of what he thinks, his self talk, rather than his actions.  

"What shall I / we do?" is a question which keeps occurring in the Gospels and Acts. It is one of those phrases which flies out of the text, forcing us to engage with it and to ask ourselves the same question (Mt. 20:32; 21:40; 27:22; Mk. 10:17; Jn. 6:28; 11:47). And especially in Luke: 3:10,12,14 [the whole account of the gospel begins with people being forced to ask this question]; 10:25; 12:17; 16:3,4; 18:18,41; 20:13,15. And Luke brings the question to a head when the crowds ask Peter: "What shall we do?", and the same question is on the lips of the repentant Saul (Acts 2:37; 9:6; 10:6; 22:10). The answer of course is to repent and be baptized. But the rich fool ignored that and identified himself with his possessions (:15), and answered accordingly.

12:18 And he said: This will I do. I will pull down my barns and build greater ones, and there will I store all my grain and my goods- The Greek phrase for bestowing / gathering / storing into barns is to be found in Mt. 3:12; 13:30; Lk. 3:17- every time in the context of gathering God's people into God's Kingdom. This is what he should have been doing with his time and wealth. The barn represents the Kingdom. The man should've sought the things of God's Kingdom or barn, rather than his own, trying to build his own fake Kingdom here on earth (: 31). As noted on :17, the answer to the question "What shall I do?" ought to have been to devote himself to the Lord.

Solomon's obsession with building the temple and his own houses shows a massive attraction towards material things. Ecc. 2 chronicles how he crazily tried to accumulate every branch of material possession. Solomon figuratively chastised the people with whips in the form of the excessive tax he raised in order to build store cities (1 Kings 9:15,19), in which to store all his accumulation. Surely this is behind the Lord's parable of the rich fool, devoid of wisdom in practice, who built ever bigger barns because of his lack of understanding about the future Kingdom. The Hebrew for "store cities" (2 Chron. 8:6) is also translated "to heap up", strengthening the connection with the rich fool (Lk. 12:15-28). That parable stresses the self-centredness of the fool- just circle all the occurrences of the word "I". A similar over-use of personal pronouns in Ecc.2:4-8 makes the same point. Ecc.2:26 records how Solomon reflected that the sinner "heaped up" treasures- using the same word as for his "store cities". He saw his error, but wasn't bothered to do anything about it. 

It has been posited: "Roman farming manuals, for example, contain admonitions that storage facilities should be used so that the farmer can wait until a more propitious time to sell his crops. Cato, for one, advises that a farmer should "have a well-built barn and storage room and plenty of vats for oil and wine, so that he may hold his products for good prices; it will redound to his wealth, his self-respect, and his reputation" (On Agriculture 3.2). Prov. 11:26, on the other hand, says that "people curse those who hold back grain"".

12:19 And I will say to my soul: Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years- see on Mt. 6:25; 1 Cor. 15:32. The rich fool reasoned that because he had had a big harvest, he would build bigger barns and relax, because he had enough to last him “many years” (Lk. 12:18,19). The unreal element here is that a harvest doesn’t last many years, especially in a Middle Eastern climate with no way of effectively preserving it. And the lesson, on reflection, is obvious. Riches don’t last for ever, he who earns big wages puts them into a bag with holes in… and yet there is the genuine conviction that they will last much longer than they do. Another unreal element here is that the rich man is described as speaking with himself. It's hard for some cultures to appreciate how Middle Eastern culture is a collective affair. Decisions are taken through much discussion with other people. Likewise, the rich man plans out how to enjoy his wealth alone. There is no speech to his family; he invites himself to rejoice with himself. But all these unreal elements about this man signpost to us the loneliness, insulation and selfishness which is brought about by excess wealth and the increase of investments. It's so relevant to the 21st century. By the way, there's a word play going on here. The man whose land brings forth many things (eu-phoreo) and therefore wants to be merry (eu-phraino) is actually a fool- aphron- an a-phron person, a person without those things. All those things were "required" of him, as a loan is required. They weren't really his. And as so often, the parable is left hanging, with no actual response from the man. We have to imagine where the man's mind turned, what he thought... and take the lesson.

Take your ease, eat, drink, be merry- A direct quotation from Epicurean philosophers. The Lord is directly engaging with secular ideas current at the time. But no quotation marks or used, nor acknowledgment of sources given. Many of the Bible's 'difficult passages' are because of these kinds of allusions to contemporary phrases, ideas and literature, many of which are not preserved today.

This is also a direct quote from the LXX of Ecc. 8:15: "there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and enjoy”. But that is the perspective of the man who lives with no perspective of future judgment.

For each aspect of true spirituality, there is a fake counterpart; an appearance of peace when a man has no peace with God; a semblance of prayer and Bible study when actually these are performed as exercises devoid of meaning. The pseudo-believer takes “ease” (Lk. 12:19) in his materialism; and yet this is the same word used about the true “rest” which the Lord gives in His ecclesia (Mt. 11:28). If we allow ourselves to be caught up in this, then we are effectively having our part in the spirit of antiChrist. There will not only be a fake Jesus, but there is already within our natures a shadow spirituality, which apes the real thing, and thereby seeks to persuade us that we can take the crown without the cross. In this lies the colossal practical relevance of this theme to the serious believer.

12:20 But God said to him: You foolish one, this night is your soul required from you, and the things which you have prepared, whose shall they be?- The parable of the rich fool is the Lord's response to a man asking him to get involved in persuading the man's brother to share the inheritance of their late father. As ever, the Lord replies to such questions obliquely and always in terms of overarching higher principle. His parable here features the question of who shall receive what a man has carefully laid up and saved during his life. It's as if He is asking the man to stop worrying about receiving the inheritance- and instead consider his father to actually have been a fool for laying it all up in store and not using it himself for God. Here again we see the Lord's apparently simply stories actually having a radical twist to them. The fool's children and family aren't mentioned. But most wealthy men were married at that time or at least within some wider family context. They aren't mentioned because the Lord was focusing on the fact the man was so self centered. Whether or not they existed, the man saw his wealth as for his own enjoyment. The Lord is also cutting hard into the idea that a man who built up wealth and left it to others was actually a good man, a relative to be proud of. Indeed, a wise man who saved his wealth for future use rather than spent it. But the Lord calls the man a fool. This is all built in to His question "Whose shall [these things] be?". 

God calls the man a "fool"; for the fool has said in his heart [and this parable talks much of this man's heart] that there is no God (Ps. 14:1). He speaks to himself and the voice of his own self talk is his authority. But then God speaks to him- and takes away his life. He has acted as if God doesn't exist. His life consisted in what things he owned, rather than in God. Such materialism is hereby branded effective atheism.

Gk. / RVmg. "They shall require of thee". Who are the "they"? The reference could be to "the goods" of :19, "the things" of the latter part of :20. The things required his life. He didn't own them, they owned him. And so he had no life of his own. Or the "they" could be the Angels, to whom we shall give account at the day of judgment (:9). A similar, related Greek word is in :48- as God has given much to us, so "they"- the Angels- will require of us during the judgment process. But the exact same Greek word translated "required" occurs only in Lk. 6:30- we should give to others and not 'ask again' of them. The connection teaches that insofar as we 'require' of others, so it will be 'required' of us. If we forgive freely without demanding repentance, so God will treat us; if we 'require again' of others in this life, so God will of us. In a sense our lives are required of us when we die in that our next conscious moment will be the judgment.

The word for "required" was a commercial term, used of a loan. The man, every man, has life and whatever wealth we have as a loan from God. It must be repaid- if we don't use it. Like the one talent man, he had not used it at all but had become lost in narcissism. Jim Elliot's words are so true: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”. This reasoning cuts so hard against the modern ideal of building up a pension pot large enough to empower a retirement of luxury living.

This is an allusion to various passages from the Apocrypha, especially Ecclesiasticus- as noted on :19, the Lord is again  engaging with contemporary ideas.

"Prepared" is the same word as "prepared" in v. 47. We must prepare ourselves, our character and personality; we provide or prepare by being generous to others, v. 33. Because we do not have an immortal soul that is somehow recycled into us through reincarnation, our soul / life is given to us by God. In the parable of the rich fool, the Lord says that in the day of his death, his soul was “required” of him. The Greek word for ‘required’ means ‘to ask back, to request to be given again’. The fact we have life [a ‘soul’] makes us responsible to God; and at the judgment we will be asked to give that life back to Him with an account. And, as the parable shows, this utterly precludes a focus upon material acquisition. The Lord goes on to say that therefore we should take no anxious thought about what our soul will eat or wear- because our soul / life is in fact God’s soul / life, and He will care for it until He takes it back to Himself (Lk. 12:22). The soul is greater than food and clothes (Lk. 12:23 Gk.). The wonder that we are alive, with God’s life in us, should be far greater to us than what we feed or clothe it with. Because we can’t take that life out of ourselves until God does, nor can we give it to another person, nor can we make our body / soul grow taller, therefore we should not take anxious thought for the material things related to it, which are all peripheral compared to the wonder of the fact that we have life from God: “why take ye thought for the rest [Gk. ‘the things that are left over / extraneous’]?” (Lk. 12:26). And to drive the point home, we are bidden “consider” (s.w. ‘discover’) the birds and plants, who are simply content with the life God has given them. This was the Lord’s way of doing what Solomon did in Ecc. 3:17-20- showing that man and plants and animals are all possessed of the same God-given spirit / life. As Gen. 2:7; Ecc. 12:7 make clear, the spirit / life is given by God to our bodies; it doesn’t come from anywhere else. There is no reincarnation. And this is no painless Bible fact; it demands that we live lives that are His, and not lived out as if our spirit / life / soul is ours. The fact that God “holdeth our soul in life”, a reference to Gen. 2:7, means that David wanted to “make the voice of his praise to be heard” (Ps. 66:8,9). This was the meaning of the basic facts of creation for David!

The man who built greater barns realized on the night of his death that all his laid up treasures could not be his after his death. And yet this is couched in the very language of Ecclesiastes. We can come to that attitude and understanding right now; and if we don’t, we will come to it on our deathbeds or at judgment day. The parable of the pounds may be intended to describe our dealing with wealth. This is how it would have appeared to the Lord’s first hearers.

12:21 So is he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God- Without in any way seeking to teach justification by works, it is also true that there are Bible passages which imply that there will be a reckoning up of a man’s good works at the last day. The rich fool should have been “rich toward God” (Lk. 12:21); he should have hoarded up spiritual wealth and fruit against his last day rather than material things. Yet this of course will not have been consciously done; yet the judgment process will reveal the good works of the righteous to them and others.

"Rich towards" is a phrase only used elsewhere in Rom. 10:12, where Paul observes that the Lord is "rich towards" all believers. The fool had failed to perceive God's richness, or generosity, towards him; and so he was rich towards, or generous to, himself rather than God.

12:22 And he said to his disciples: Therefore I say to you, do not be anxious for life, what you shall eat. Nor yet for your body, what you shall put on- This is all building up to the momentous challenge of :33 to sell what we have and give to the poor. The allusion is to how God provided food and clothing for Israel as they journeyed through the desert to the promised land.

The Lord's teaching is concerned with how we think, with inculcating spiritual mindedness. The exhortations in this section against materialism arise out of that- they are appeals not to be materialistic and faithless in God's provision, because this leads to our thinking, our heart and mind, being on those things rather than with the Lord. It's true that the Greek translated 'thought' can mean 'no anxious thought'. But the problem is that we can make this mean that we are in fact allowed to spend a lot of time thinking about material things, so long as we're not 'anxious'. This line of interpretation seems to ignore the wider context. We can be spiritually minded, the Lord is teaching, if we simply accept that we shall never go hungry or naked. God will provide for His children who trust in Him. The Lord clearly saw material concerns as being the great enemy of daily spiritual mindedness. The emphasis upon not taking thought is considerable- the Lord uses the word five times in swift succession (Mt. 6:25,27,28,31,34). And He repeats the command not to take thought for what we shall eat or drink (Mt. 6:25,31). Luke's record records this warning not to worry about what we shall 'eat and drink' only once (Lk. 12:29), but it is prefaced by the parable of the rich fool, upon whose lips we find the same words. After he has spent a lifetime amassing wealth, he says to himself "eat, drink and be merry" (Lk. 12:19). Clearly we are to understand him as a man who failed to live by the Lord's principles not to worry about eating and drinking. Yet he was not poor. He was fabulously rich. The point is thus established that the rich, or at least those who have enough to eat and drink, are not to consider the Lord's principle as speaking only to the desperately poor who are tempted to worry about what they shall eat. The principle applies to the rich too. For it is a basic human principle that all of us, rich or poor, are tempted to expend mental thought about how we shall basically survive. The omission of the Sermon in John is typical of how John omits much of the Synoptic material, and yet repeats it in essence. He records the same 'eat and drink' language about our need eat and drink of the flesh and blood of the crucified Lord Jesus (Jn. 6:53). The point perhaps is that instead of expending mental energy worrying about how we shall eat and drink, we are to instead focus upon absorbing the Lord Jesus into our lives. And all material things will somehow fall into place. A similar idea is to be found in the Lord's warning not to worry about what clothing to "put on", because He uses the same word about how the rejected man had not 'put on' the wedding garment of the Lord's righteousness (Mt. 22:11). Repeatedly the later New Testament appeals for us to "put on [s.w.] the Lord Jesus" (Rom. 13:12,14; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 4:24; 6:11,14; Col. 3:10,12; 1 Thess. 5:8), so that in the last day we may 'put on' the clothing of immortality (s.w. 1 Cor. 15:53,54; 2 Cor. 5:3). If putting on this garment is our mental focus, then we need not worry about what we shall 'put on' for clothing in this life.
This is alluded to in Phil. 4:6. How do we obey that command to "take no thought for your life"? By praying consciously for every little thing that you need in daily life, e.g. daily bread. We do not have two masters; only one. Therefore, the more we grasp this, the more we will give ourselves solely to Him. And this leads on, in the thinking of Jesus, to having no anxious thought for tomorrow; for a life of total devotion to Him means that we need not worry about tomorrow (Mt. 6:24,25). If we seek first His Kingdom, then we will not be anxious for tomorrow (Mt. 6:33,34).

12:23 For the life is more than the food, and the body more than the clothing- I noted on :15 that the Lord is teaching us to make a radical divorce between our life and our possessions. The presence of the articles focuses attention upon the life and the body- and surely the Lord has in view the life to come, which will involve having a glorious body (Phil. 3:21), not existence in any disembodied sense. The contrast is therefore between this present life, and the life to come; this present body, and the body which is to be given us. It's a question of identification; whether we focus upon this present life and body, or perceive that this life is but a miniscule percentage of our eternal existence, when we will not be living this life with this body. The life and the body to come are "more" than the present life and body; and the Greek for "more" is elsewhere translated 'the greater part', the idea being 'the major portion'. The vastly greater part of our existence will be with the life and the body which is yet to come. If we are secure in Christ and confident of our eternal destiny by His grace, then issues pertaining to this life and this body become insignificant.

When the Lord taught that “the life is more than the food” which we worry about today (Lk. 12:23 RV), and “the body [which we shall receive] is more than the raiment”, He surely means that our hope of eternal life, the life, the only real and ultimate life worth having, should eclipse our worries about today’s problems of survival. Not worrying about food, drink and clothing, which God will provide, is likely an allusion to His provision for Israel during their wilderness journey to the promised land. And in this context the Lord encourage us: “Seek ye the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you… fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Lk. 12:31,32). If it is God’s pleasure to give us the Kingdom, then surely He will give us all basic necessities until that time comes. Our certainty of being there thus greatly relieves us from earthly cares, compared to the person who has no such hope.

12:24 Consider the ravens, how they do not sow nor reap. They have no store nor barn, but God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!- Gk. 'gaze into'. Surely He drew attention to some birds flying around. And the Greek words behind "Behold" mean more than a casual glance. He asks us to look for some time with deep penetration at the birds of the natural creation, and learn a lesson.

As always, the Lord applied His words to Himself. For we sense in Mt. 8:20 that He had really thought about His words. Yes, the Father feeds the birds- but they have nests, and the Son of Man at least that night had nowhere to lay His head. Note too that the birds of the air are generally unclean (Acts 10:12). The fact God feeds even the unclean animals ties in with the Lord's opening comfort when He began the Sermon that His message is for those who worry about their uncleanness and spiritual inadequacy before God.

Sow... reap... gather into barns  are words repeatedly used by the Lord Jesus, especially in Matthew, for the work of the Gospel. The seed of the word is sown (Matthew records three sowing parables- Mt. 13:3,24,31 cp. Mt. 25:26); , then reaped at Christ's return (Mt. 25:26- as in 2 Cor. 9:6; Gal. 6:7-9; Rev. 14:15), and finally gathered (by the preachers and Angels, Mt. 3:12; 12:30; 13:30,47; 22:10; 25:26,32), "into my barn" (Mt. 3:12; 13:30)- the Kingdom. We cannot simply ignore all this use of identical language in Matthew's Gospel. I noted at Mt. 6:25 and elsewhere that the Lord is often saying 'Do not worry about the activities which are part of this life, but focus instead on doing those activities in a spiritual sense'. I gave the example of how the command not to worry about what we shall physically eat and drink implies that we should instead be concerned about our spiritual eating and drinking. Remembering the focus of the Sermon upon the need for outgoing, proactive sharing of the Gospel, it would be fair to conclude that the Lord wishes us to not worry about sowing, reaping and gathering into barns in the literal sense, but instead to concern ourselves with doing those things in the work of the Gospel. 'Focus on sharing the Gospel, and all the material things will fall into place if you just trust that they will work out OK'.

God consciously feeds the birds with their every mouthful. In the same way, God individually and consciously cares for each blade of grass. Fundamentally, they do not grow so much as a result of chemical combination or photosynthesis, but due to the conscious care of God using such processes. The idea of every little thing in life and the world being controlled by Angels contradicts the notion that God has set this world in motion according to certain natural laws, and that things continue without His direct intervention- as if the whole system is run by clockwork which God initially wound up. Intervention in this system by God has been called 'the hand of providence'. However, these ideas surely contradict the clear Biblical teaching that every movement in the natural creation is consciously controlled by God through His Angels, thus needing an energetic input from Him through His Spirit for every action to occur. "Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeds them" suggests that God consciously feeds the birds with their every mouthful. See too Mt. 5:45; 6:30; 10:29-31; Job 38:12,32; 39:27; Amos 9:6; Is. 40:7; Ps. 90:3; 104: 13; Prov. 11:1.

Things being "better than" or "of more value than" is quite a theme in the thinking of the Lord Jesus. The Greek word is used by Him at least three times in this way. Better than the birds, than many sparrows (Mt. 10:31), than a sheep (Mt. 12:12). Doubtless this thought was developed in the Lord by His observation of birds, flocks of sparrows and sheep- developing the implications of the simple thought that we are of more value than them to God. For we are made in His image in a way in which they are not.


12:25 And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to the measure of his life?- As always, the emphasis is upon the state of the heart. No amount of mental worry can add anything to us. And so our hearts and minds should instead be devoted to the God who can transform our body into an eternal state of existence. The same word for "add" occurs in Mt. 6:33. We cannot ultimately 'add' anything to ourselves in secular life; if we seek first the things of God's Kingdom [i.e. 'take thought' for them rather than our material life], then what is necessary for the material, human life will be added to us. The concept of 'addition' suggests we are to see ourselves as ourselves without the issues of food, clothing and survival. We are then to decide how we are to take care of those 'additional' issues. And the Lord is teaching that we are to focus upon spiritual things and the service of God's Kingdom, believing that He will 'add' these things to us. To perceive ourselves independent from our human, secular needs and position is hard. But Paul got the idea right when he spoke of how we bring nothing into this world and can take nothing out (1 Tim. 6:7). 'We' come into this world; we exist, but have nothing added to us initially. And 'we' exit this world, likewise without anything 'added'.

No amount of secular thought can add age to our lives. Because life, the eternal life, comes only from God. So it is to Him that our hearts belong. Again, the Lord Jesus was the word of the Sermon made flesh in His own example. For we read that He grew in stature before God (Lk. 2:52 s.w.)- not by anxious worldly thought. Perhaps Zacchaeus thought upon the implications of the Lord's words, because Luke uses the same word to note that he was of inadequate stature (Lk. 19:3). The 'stature' that we seek to attain is not any physique or longevity in this life- but the "stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13 s.w.). The amount of thought and effort that goes into trying to live longer, adding a cubit to our lifespan, is immense. And understandably so, for those who have only this life. Surely the Lord is saying that we should give no anxious thought to this, but rather, give our mental energy to growing into the age / stature of Himself.

12:26 If then you are not able to do even that which is least, why are you anxious concerning the rest?- The least is to add age to our lives, even just a little bit. The Lord is arguing from the viewpoint that "life" is the most important thing we have. To add a fraction to its length is "the least"; and therefore concerns about what we do with that life is "the rest" which should not be worried about exactly because we cannot add length to our lives. This is an unusual but powerful argument against anxious worry. We cannot extend our lives; and therefore, given our inability, we shouldn't worry about "the rest" because we simply have no power to change it anyway. All we can do is to surrender our lives and existence into the hands of a loving Father and His Son.

12:27 Consider the lilies- Gk. 'to study deeply', used only here in the NT. Whilst no doubt the Lord with a wave of the hand did draw attention to the mountain lilies growing where He was teaching, He was most definitely not inviting us to take a cursory glance at them. But rather to study them; and the unusual Greek word used for "consider" drove home that point. Perhaps He picked one and invited the disciples to gaze at it in silence for some time.

How they grow- The Greek can mean 'in what way' and also 'how much', 'to what great extent'.

They do not toil, nor do they spin- As so often in the Lord's teaching and parables, He was careful to balance what He said with relevance to both men ['toiling' in Greek has the idea of heavy labour], and women [spinning]. The appeal for those who are 'toiling' in heavy labour to come to Christ (Mt. 11:28) is an invitation to know in this life a lifting of the curse of labour which came upon Adam. This is not to say that we shall not have to labour, but the desperate toiling for survival is mitigated by the knowledge that God will ultimately provide for His people.

Yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these-

It is hard to avoid the connection with the description of the righteous as being clothed in glory at the last day. The clothing metaphor is repeated throughout the NT in this connection (e.g. Rev. 3:5,18; 7:9,13; 19:8). Of course we are dealing with metaphor here- plants are not literally clothed, although perhaps the Lord was alluding to them flowering as their 'glory'. The lily is glorious for what it is, not because it has laboured to make itself something other than it is. We will be made glorious by God in Christ. The city set on a hill cannot be hid. We are who and as we are before God. There is nothing to cover with clothing. This consideration alone puts the whole issue of present clothing into perspective.

The Lord Jesus hinted indirectly at Solomon's pride when he said that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one wild flower, symbolic of how God would clothe, with imputed righteousness, even the weakest believer.  This reference to Solomon is only one of several hints that our Lord read Solomon in a negative light.  In this context He warns against excessive attention to food, drink and clothes- all things which the court of Solomon revelled in to a quite extraordinary extent. "Take therefore no (anxious) thought for the morrow... sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Mt. 6:34) sounds like a rebuke of the way Solomon did just this in Ecclesiastes, as he intellectually battled with the sadness of knowing that all his achievements would mean nothing in the future. "But", says Jesus, "seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Mt. 6:33)- clearly a reference to Solomon seeking Divine wisdom and subsequently being blessed;  surely the Lord is telling us to follow Solomon's example in this, but to avoid his pride and materialism. Solomon didn’t seek the future Kingdom of God, but rather his own. The Lord taught that we should love our enemies, and not fall into the trap of only loving those who love us (Mt. 5:44-46). He seems to be alluding here to Solomon’s claim that wisdom says: “I love them that love me” (Prov. 8:17). Maybe I’m wrong, and the Lord didn’t have His mind there on that passage; but in the context of Him re-interpreting and re-presenting Solomon to us, it seems likely that He was consciously showing that God’s grace is in fact the very opposite of what Solomon thought. God loves His enemies, and doesn’t only love those who love Him; and this is to be our credo likewise. The record of how Solomon spoke of his building of the temple can now be seen as blatant pride in his external appearance of spirituality;  without the foregoing analysis of the hints of Solomon's pride, this wouldn't necessarily be a correct conclusion to reach;  but with all these inspired links, surely we can read the following as pure pride: "Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven (hardly praying in his closet!  Was the Lord alluding to Solomon in Mt. 6:6?)... the house that I have built for thy name" (1 Kings 8:22,44).  Solomon's frequent emphasis on the fact that he built the house makes a telling connection with the principle that God does not live in houses built by men (Acts 17:24?)  

12:28 But if God does so clothe the grass in the field, which today is- The blessings God gives us do not come by clockwork- we thankfully recognize they are individual acts of mercy towards us. Perhaps our sometimes 'clockwork' prayers are an indication that we think God's blessings of food etc. are clockwork too? In the same way, God individually and consciously cares for each blade of grass. Fundamentally, they do not grow merely as a result of chemical combination or photosynthesis, but due to the conscious care of God using such processes. The worry-free life is a characteristic of the true believer. If God gave us His Son, how much more will He not give us “all things”?  “Clothe” translates the Greek amphi-hennumi- to enrobe around. The Lord seems to have been referring to a type of wild flower that appears to be draped around by its natural skin, rather like an iris. God gives the wild flowers robes… although they do not spin them or work for them. Solomon’s robes weren’t as beautiful as them. And how much more will God clothe us, both literally and with salvation (for this is how the Bible usually uses the idea of God clothing us). God does so much for the lilies, who are to be ‘thrown into the fire’… a phrase which inevitably connects with the Lord’s other uses of that idea to describe the final condemnation of the wicked (as in James 1:11). God cares for flowers, and He even cares and provides for those whom He will one day condemn. For God to keep such people alive is a conscious outflowing of His lavish energy, His gracious gift of life and health. If He does that for things and persons which will ultimately be ‘thrown into the fire’, how much more will He clothe us. Let’s remember that creation isn’t run on clockwork; God makes His rain come, and His sun to rise, on the just and unjust; He’s aware when a bird falls from the air; counts the hairs on our heads, as a mother dotes over a new-born baby’s features. Just by keeping alive humanity (indeed, all of creation), God is lavishing His grace and consciously outgiving of Himself.

And tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more shall he clothe you- The idea of 'casting' is used by the Lord with reference to condemnation at the last day; and 'the oven' is reminiscent of the imagery of Gehenna fire to destroy the rejected. If God shows so much care and gives so much passing glory to that which shall be rejected and be ultimately unused by Him in eternity- how much more will he clothe us whom He loves and has accepted with His nature. All worry about what garment we shall physically put on, let alone whether it has a brand name on it or not, becomes subsumed beneath the wonder of the metaphor of our final clothing.

O you of little faith?- The Lord tells the disciples that they are “of little faith” if they don’t perceive and live by what He is teaching about God’s care for the flowers. The ‘faith’ is surely faith in the simple fact that God lavishes His loving care upon us, just because, like a flower, we are here as His creation, in His eternal purpose. All flesh is as grass, and yet the Lord speaks as if God treats us as better than the grass “which is today in the field and tomorrow is cast into the oven” (Lk. 12:28).

The "little faith" is not so much in God's promised provision of physical clothing, but in the promise of final clothing in salvation. But God's care even for those whom He shall condemn, keeping them in life, and the glory He gives to the plant and animal creation which last but for days, is sure encouragement that He shall so much more super abundantly clothe us with salvation- and also, will ensure we don't go physically naked in this world. The Gospel records, as transcripts of the disciples' early preaching, show the disciples appealing to others to have faith, to believe and be baptized. And yet the same accounts record so often how weak and small was the disciples' faith. Matthew is a classic example: Mt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20. It was on the basis of this acknowledged weakness of their own, that the disciples could appeal so powerfully to others. The more real they showed themselves to be, the more credible was their appeal.

12:29 And do not seek what you shall eat and what you shall drink, neither be of doubtful mind- Clothes have been mentioned in :28. These are the three things God provided for Israel in their wilderness journey. The same old clothes, food (manna) and water, of course. But He provided for them. God will provide, but the question is, how does He provide? The same word is used in Mt. 25:36,38,43 about the believer in Christ who is not clothed, and needs to be clothed by other believers- some of whom refuse to, whilst others do. If God really does provide food and clothing for His people- why are some apparently without them? One window onto that question might be that potentially all such needs have been met, in that the food and clothing is within the brotherhood. But there can be a dysfunction, in that it is not shared out as it should be- meaning that some go without the provision which God has potentially provided. But another window is that David could say that he had never seen the seed of the righteous begging bread at any time in his long and varied life (Ps. 37:25). And despite a lifetime in the poorer world I also have yet to encounter this. The promise holds true, in my observation.

We are to firmly believe in His provision, without being in any sense "doubtful" about it. This lack of doubt will remove all materialism and concern about providing for our futures.

12:30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, but your Father knows you have need of these things- God's people who worry and spend their thoughts on eating, drinking and clothing are no better than the Gentile world. This was a radical thing to say to first century Jews. It is a common Biblical theme that the unspiritual amongst God's people shall share the judgments of the world whom in spirit they are like. The idea of the Gentiles seeking is of course from Is. 11:10, where we read that finally the Gentiles will seek unto Christ (as in Acts 15:17). Perhaps the idea is that we should right now have that changed direction of 'seeking' which the Gentile world will have in the future. Our practical life in Christ is really all about our response to the abounding nature of God’s grace. If we really believe it, then we will trust in Him and not worry. The difference between the Gentile world and the believer in Christ is quite simply that we believe that our Father has this level of care and concern for us; and therefore we will not worry, whereas the unbelieving world worry constantly about material things. This is how much of a ‘first principle’ this really is.

God knows our human situation. Our faithlessness and lack of spiritual mindedness is because of an unspoken sense that actually He is unaware of our needs and the nature of being human. But the God who knows all things is not unaware of humanity and the needs which accompany being human. Frequently the prophecies directed to the Jews returning from Babylon spoke at length of God's amazing knowledge- because the sense was that whilst God existed, He did not know close-up about the human situation. He does, of course, know perfectly.

12:31 Seek His kingdom- Seeking is paralleled with taking thought in :29,30. The overall direction of our lives must be towards the Kingdom of God above all. If that is put "first", then actually there is no room for thought about much else. The idea is not 'Seek the Kingdom first, and other things secondly'. Rather must the 'seeking' of our thinking be towards the Kingdom. 'Seeking' was a common Hebraism for 'worship'. But the Lord has defined 'seeking' as thinking, as the overall direction of our mental state, our heart. It was not merely a question of going through the worship rituals of Judaism in a holy space such as the temple. True worship is redefined as the state of our heart.

The Lord's prayer asked us to pray firstly for the things of His Kingdom; this reflects our priorities. I noted under Mt. 6:10 that the coming of the Kingdom in our lives is through the doing of God's will. The Lord's message is not simply that we should long for the coming of the Kingdom at His second coming; it is that starting right now, we should seek above all things to extend the principles of the Kingdom (as taught in the Lord's parables of the Kingdom) in our lives and in the world around us.

And these things- Semitic languages such as Aramaic and Hebrew can often have various levels of meaning in a phrase. The phrase may mean or say one thing, but also suggest something else. We are of course reading the expression of those phrases in Greek. Pas tauta (usually translated "all these things") need not necessarily be translated as a plural. The idea could equally be 'The whole, complete thing'- we might say 'The real deal'. And that would make sense of the connection between 'added' and Mt. 6:27, which speaks of how we cannot 'add' a cubit to our lifespan. The implication could be that 'the real deal', the real thing- eternal life, salvation in God's Kingdom- shall be added if we seek that Kingdom first and foremost. Alternatively, we can interpret more in line with the common translations and understand that 'all these things' is the same 'all these things' of the preceding verses- the material things which God knows we need. These things will be added to us if we do not seek them first, but rather seek God's Kingdom first. But there is the suggestion that the real 'all things' for us is eternity in God's Kingdom. For a discussion of what may have happened if these basic things are apparently not added to a believer, see on Mt. 6:31.

Shall be added to you- The same word is used just a few verses earlier, where the Lord has pointed out that we are unable to 'add' a cubit to our length of human life nor to our body height.

12:32 Fear not little flock. For it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom- See on 2 Cor. 8:9. The pleasure or will of our loving Father is that we should share His Kingdom, and that pleasure / will prospered through the cross of Jesus (Is. 53:10). God isn’t indifferent. He wants us to be there. That’s why He gave His Son to die. It’s as simple as that. The deepest longings we feel in our earthly lives, as parents, as lovers, are mere flickers of the hungering desire God feels for us. It is a desire that cost Him His very own crucified son. The Lord Himself knew our basic tendency to disbelieve the certainty of our salvation when He comforted us here not to fear- and the implication is not to fear condemnation, not to fear exclusion from the Kingdom.

He spoke of us all as a little flock, fearing it is not the Father's pleasure / will to give us the Kingdom. In doing so, He was as ever drawing on the language of the OT. Joshua-Jesus encouraged Israel that Yahweh delighted / willed that they should enter the land (Num. 14:8); but instead, they were too caught up with doubts... doubt about salvation, about what they could eat and drink day by day, and the giants in the land. This is the very context in which the Lord was speaking- fearing “the nations of the world”, doubting where food and clothes would come from, just as Israel did (Lk. 12:22-29). Yet the pleasure / will of Yahweh is that we should share His Kingdom, and that pleasure / will prospered through the cross (Is. 53:10). Therefore we should not fear or worry about our lack of material things, because God is eager to give us His Kingdom. The certainty of salvation which we may have ought to mean that worry about all human things of this life becomes irrelevant.

12:33 Sell that which you have and give alms. Make for yourselves purses which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail- The disciples were told to sell what they had (Lk. 12:22,32,33); but it seems they kept their fishing business. After having asked them this, the Lord again had to speak to them about forsaking all that they had (Lk. 14:33). Their claim to have left literally all and followed Him (Lk. 18:28) appears somewhat exaggerated. To follow Him meant taking up a cross (Lk. 14:27).

He warns the crowd not to everlastingly worry about where the next meal was coming from; and then in that very context, tells them to sell what they have (Lk. 12:29-33). He wasn't just talking to the rich. He was telling the desperately poor to forsake what little they had, so as to seek His Kingdom. He probably didn't mean them to take His words dead literally (cp. cutting off the offending hand or foot); what He surely meant was: 'Resign, in your mind, the possession of everything you have, concern yourselves rather with the needs of others and entering my Kingdom'. No wonder those crowds turned round and soon bayed for His blood. See on Mt. 6:19.

The idea is of incremental growth. It’s as if spirituality, both in personality and deed, is carefully noted in Heaven as it occurs.  

Where no thief draws near nor moth destroys- Or, "corrupt". James 5:2 alludes here and states that wealth is already rusted and moth-eaten. So this perhaps was the Lord’s idea here, although the grammar is unclear. The idea of gold is that it doesn’t rust. What appears to be permanent material wealth is not, and is already rusted in God’s eyes.

The Lord’s return is going to break up the house of those not looking for His return (Mt. 24:43 s.w.). It may be that ‘thieves’ is an intensive plural referring to the great thief, whom Jesus likens to Himself in Mt. 24:43. In this case He would be saying that He will take human wealth anyway at the last day- so we should give it to Him now and not seek it.
Because we know people (and brethren) who are richer and more wealth-seeking than we are, it's fatally easy to conclude that therefore we aren't rich, therefore we aren't materialistic. This is part of the subtle snare of materialism; that we all think that this is an area where we're not doing too badly; that really, we don't care that much where we live, or what the furniture's like, or whether we have money to take a holiday... But remember, our attitude to materialism is the litmus test of all our spirituality. None of us should be so quick to say that we're OK in this area. These words were spoken to a huge crowd of Jewish peasants. The Lord wasn't only referring to the few rich men who might be hanging around on the edge of the group. He was talking to all of them. He knew their mud walled homes which thieves could so easily dig through. That little cheap bangle, that ring, thinly buried under the bed mat after the pattern of Achan, that prized tunic... the petty riches of the poor which they so strove for, which to them were priceless treasures. This is what the Lord was getting at; and His point was that every one of us, from beggar to prince, has this 'laying up' mentality. He is almost ruthless in His demands.

12:34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also- Gk. ‘to there’. The direction of our heart is towards where our treasure is. If our treasure is in Heaven, with God, then our life direction will be towards Him and not towards earthly things. The emphasis of the Lord throughout the Sermon has been on the state of the heart. The overall direction of our heart, our thinking, is all important. That direction cannot be both to earthly things and Heavenly things. Laying up treasure on earth cannot be done whilst having treasure in Heaven. The emphasis of course is on ‘laying up’, wilfully incrementing, not the mere possession of wealth which the Lord may send into our hands. ‘Laying up’ means to increment, not to merely possess. But it is the overall direction of our hearts which will be the deciding factor in our eternal destiny; ‘to where’ they are directed. And we can direct them by deciding what our treasure really is, and where it is.

12:35 Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning-
Luke 12:35-39 speaks of the Master coming at night and then sharing the Passover meal with those who are "watching".  Israel were told to 'watch' throughout that first Passover night (Ex. 12:42 RV mg.), eating the meal with loins girded. Our Lord matches this with "let your loins be girded, and your lamps burning", referring to the virgins parable. Israel eating that meal together, huddled around the slain lamb, the oil burning lamps revealing their tense faces, is therefore a picture of what the new Israel should be like just prior to their deliverance.

12:36 And be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks- See on Lk. 17:31. How we respond to the Lord now is how we will respond at His return. Those who open to Him immediately will be saved. The wise virgins go immediately and are thereby accepted, whereas the foolish delay their response. The implication is surely that those who are ready to drop all and go when He knocks, will be saved. Our reaction in that split second of knowing ‘He’s back!’ will determine our eternal destiny; it will effectively be our self-judgment. And yet in this life too, the figure of the Lord knocking at our door is used to describe our response to Jesus in this life (Rev. 3:20). If there is no immediacy of response now, there will not be then.
The faithful watching for the Lord's return are here described as men waiting for their master to return from a wedding. But Christ's coming is also described as His coming to the wedding to marry the faithful. This difference may simply indicate that metaphor cannot be pressed too strictly or literally in the process of Biblical interpretation.

12:37 Blessed are those servants, whom the master when he comes shall find awake- Passover night was to be "a night of watching" (Ex. 12:42 RV mg.), strongly suggesting "watching in prayer" (Eph. 6:18; 1 Pet. 4:7; 2 Cor. 11:27). Similarly those who are found "watching" at the Lord's midnight coming (cp. that of the Passover angel) will be found acceptable. The picture of Israel in their family units huddled together around the Lamb, desperately focusing their attention on that saving blood, watching and praying, examining themselves- this is us, right now. For there can be no serious doubt that the second coming is almost upon our generation.

Our attitude to the second coming decides whether we will be in the Kingdom. In this sense we are judging ourselves, right now; we are formulating the outcome of the judgment seat by our attitude now towards the second coming.  The proof for this lies in a group of passages which suggest that everyone who truly loves the return of his Lord will be in the Kingdom. Of course, a true love of His coming is only possible if we hold correct doctrine, and if our faith and behaviour is mature enough to be able to look with quiet joy and confidence towards that day. Thus our Lord said that all those whom He finds watching will be welcomed into the marriage feast. And 2 Tim. 4:8 is plain enough: "All them also that love his appearing" will be rewarded along with Paul. Paul's own confidence in salvation was because he knew the earnestness of his desire to be "present with the Lord" Jesus (2 Cor. 5:8), such was the closeness of his relationship with Him. Is this really our attitude too? Can we feel like Simeon, that we are quite happy to die after we have just seen our Lord with our own eyes (Lk. 2:29)? Is there really much love between us and our Lord?

The foolish virgins knock on the door, i.e. ask for acceptance. At the second coming, the Lord knocked on their door, and they didn't answer immediately. They had decided their own fate by their dilatory response.

Truly I say to you, that he shall dress himself for service and make them sit down to eat, and shall come and serve them- The Lord’s self-crucifixion spirit was seen not only in His life and then finally in His death and subsequent life; but who He was in His mortal life, He will eternally be. He is the same yesterday as today and as for ever. He will dress Himself to serve us, as a servant, in His future Kingdom, reminiscent of how at the last supper and on the cross He in principle did the same (Phil. 2:7). Thus the spirit of the cross must be a way of life, and this feature of our characters will be seen in the Kingdom too.

The Lord’s exalted view of the disciples is reflected in how He washed their feet. To wash the feet of guests was more menial than we might imagine. It was normal to provide water for the guest to wash his own feet. The Midrash Mekhilta on Ex. 21:2 taught that a Jewish slave should never be required to wash his Master’s feet. But as a sign of extreme devotion and respect, some disciples of the most respected rabbis would wash their feet. Yet the Lord Jesus, having reminded them that He was indeed their Lord and Master, does this to them. And according to Lk. 12:37, He will do this again to us in His Kingdom, in that He will then tie a cloth around Him and come forth and serve us. It would seem the Lord was referring back to this prophecy when He tied a cloth around Him and washed the disciples’ feet. This was how highly He thought of them; and that incident was an enacted prophecy of the attitude He will have to us, whom the 12 symbolize, even in the glory of His Kingdom. He surely totally redefined the nature of Lordship and respect.  

The Master is so delighted that his servants are watching for Him that He immediately sits down and gets a meal ready for them, doing the serving Himself. There is an arresting element of unreality here. Would a Master really do this, at such an unlikely time at night, would he really serve himself, and would he really be so glad that the servants were waiting up for him? But these elements of unreality serve to teach the lessons: that the Lord will have unspeakable joy at His return because of our expectancy of the second coming, and He will surprise us by His glee and enthusiasm for us. See on 2 Tim. 4:8.

The master makes the servants "recline at table"; they are made to feel like the Master, by the Master Himself! This is what it means to be "in Christ". There's a kind of out of scale inappropriacy about the idea that if the Master comes and finds the servants awake, then He will gird Himself and serve them. Of course they ought to be awake! But it's as if He is so especially impressed by this fact. And we who live awaiting His return need to take note. And the idea of the master serving is of course the idea behind the description of the cross in Phil. 2:6,7. We should have the same awkward sense of wonder at the cross as we have when we recline at the breaking of bread. This implies that those who serve the emblems are in fact manifesting the Lord Jesus, and are actually of far greater significance than the president or the speaker. See on Lk. 13:7.

Ps. 36:8 says that God will "make us" partake of the blessings of the Kingdom of God. It reminds us of how the Lord Jesus said that in his Kingdom, he will "make us" sit down at a table, and he will come and serve us, knowing full well that he who sits at meat is greater than he who serves (Lk. 22:27). It isn't so difficult to imagine this scene: the Lord of glory wanting us to sit down to a meal, and then He comes and serves us. He will have to "make us" sit down and let ourselves be served. Perhaps "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom" (Mt. 25:34) likewise suggests a hesitancy of the faithful to enter the Kingdom. And perhaps the way the Lord had to 'make' the healed blind man look up and use his new sight was some kind of foretaste of this. There is even the suggestion in Rev. 7:15 that after the judgment process, the Lord will come down off His throne and mix with us, after the pattern of Joseph. See on Lk. 18:17.

The Lord Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. It is wrong to think that the Lord was only humble in His ministry, but will return with almost bitter indignation. This is not so. He girded Himself and served His men in the days of His flesh (Jn. 13:4); and He will do exactly the same again, in the glory of His Kingdom (Lk. 12:37). That same essential humility of God and Jesus will be with Him; He won't have changed. It is His fundamental, eternal characteristic. The fear of God lest Israel would not attain the promised land ("lest peradventure...", Ex. 13:17) shows His humility, in being so concerned for the salvation of petty man; and that characteristic likewise will be His, right up to and through and beyond the day of judgment. 
The Lord who will judge us knows us each individually. The question arises, ‘Why would all the servants stay awake in order to open the door (Lk. 12:37)? Why not just the night watchman? The answer is that there is a totally unique and special personal relationship between this Master and all His servants.

12:38 And if he shall come in the second watch and if in the third and find them waiting, so blessed are they- We must speak the word as others are able to hear it, expressing the Truths of Christ in language and terms which will reach them. There are some differences within the Gospels in the records of the parables. It could be that the different writers, under inspiration, were rendering the Lord's Aramaic words into Greek in different styles of translation. Also, we must bear in mind the different audiences. Mark speaks of the four watches of the night which would have been familiar to Romans (Mk. 13:35 cp. 6:48), whereas Lk. 12:38 speaks of the Jewish division of the night into three watches (cp. Jud. 7:19). Yet Luke seems to translate the Palestinian style of things into terms which were understandable by a Roman audience.

12:39 But know this- Our focus should be on ‘knowing’ that we don’t ‘know’ the time of His coming; and therefore watching at all times, living as if His return is imminent. This would be one explanation of why Paul and Peter write in their letters as if the Lord’s return is imminent when in fact He did not return in the first century.

That if the master of the house had known in what hour the thief was coming- The Lord is drawing a parallel between the householder watching, and the disciples / believers watching, being aware of the possibility of the Lord's return at any moment. He will only come unexpectedly, as a thief, to those who are not watching and are caught unprepared. But almost every usage of oikodespotes in the parables is concerning the Lord Jesus (Mt. 10:25; 13:27; 20:1,11; 21:33; Lk. 13:25). As so often, the Lord was speaking to the disciples but not forgetting to speak also to Himself. He was soon to ask them in Gethsemane to watch and pray with Him (Mt. 26:38); as if His watchfulness was to be theirs. In Mt. 13:52 He does also use this term about every scribe instructed in the things of the Kingdom. We are all the master of the house in the sense that we are to all be watching out for the household as a whole; the work of the Lord Jesus is to be our work. 'Watching' is thereby defined as not only watching ourselves, but watching out for the rest of the household. This is being presented here as the supreme way of not becoming unwatchful. By watching out for others we are watching for the Lord's return, living with the imminence of His coming over before us.

He would have stayed awake- The point is surely that if we were to know when the Lord is coming, then we would watch for Him at the time of His coming; just as a householder would watch out for a thief if he knew ahead of time when the thief was coming. Because we do not know when the Lord is coming, we must watch for His coming all the time, living as if He is coming imminently even though we do not know for sure whether He is or not. Therefore our living as if He is about to come is to be done independently of any hunches we may have that He is about to return, based as they usually are upon prophetic interpretations.

And not have left his house to be broken into- This is the key; recognizing that the household of God is in fact our household, and we are to watch out for it as we would for our very own family. Indeed, it  is our family. The connection is to Mt. 23:38 “Your house is left unto you desolate”. Here, “his house” is “broken up”. The Lord is saying that they were in the status of condemnation already. The physical breaking up of the temple would be the result of the elders of Israel not ‘watching’ as intended.

12:40 You also- be ready- The Lord was initially speaking to the disciples, the future elders of the church. The elders, represented by "the goodman of the house", have a special responsibility in this watching, so that the Lord's return is not thief-like to the 'house' of their ecclesia (Mt. 24:43).  They "watch for your souls" (Heb. 13:17). But in a sense, the duty of watching falls to each of us: we're all elders (Lk. 12:41-46). All believers are called to watch, and that watching involves watching for others. The connection with 1 Thess. 5:2,6 therefore suggests that one of the reasons for the unworthy experiencing the second coming "as a thief" will be the lack of awareness by their elders concerning the spiritual trials of the last days. The reverse is also true. A good latter-day elder will have to give his very soul to the work of watching over the flock, fully aware of the many dangers they face in the last days.   It is difficult to see how this vital role can be filled by those who have sold their souls to demanding employers. This work can’t be simply left to others. This passage teaches that the servant who must feed the household with appropriate food represents each of us; he must watch for the Lord's return and be diligent in feeding the household; yet (it must be stressed), this parable is intended for each of us (cp. Mk. 13:37). If he doesn't do this, he is rejected. We are set a high standard here. Christ is "the goodman of the house" (Mt. 20:11), but here "the goodman of the house" represents each of us (Mt. 24:43; Lk. 12:39,40). We are in Him, and therefore we must try to share his level of concern for his household. He carried his cross for us, for our salvation. And he asks us to share His cross, i.e. His devotion to the body of believers, even unto death. If we are in Him, we too must devote ourselves to the saving of the body.

The very same word and idea for "ready" is repeated in Mt. 25:10. Those who were "ready" and responded immediately to the news of the Lord's return were accepted. The 'readiness' is in being constantly ready to leave all and go to be with the Lord. We shouldn't be so surprised, therefore, that life in this world is so unbearable for the believers; for we are being led to a point where we will be ready and eager to leave all for the sake of being with the Lord.

For in the hour you do not expect- the Son of Man comes- The fact we do not know the date of the Lord's return is what makes us live in a spirit of constant readiness for His coming. The point is that we should be “ready” even when we “think not” that the Lord’s coming is near. The contrast is being drawn between on one hand our ‘readiness’, and on the other, our ‘thinking’, our computing, our calculations, the seeming to us, that the return of Christ is near. "The Son of Man comes" uses the present tense, whereas “Be… ready” would properly require the future tense. There may be here a hint that the future coming of the Son of Man in essence is ongoing in the life of the believer.

12:41 And Peter said: Lord, are you telling this parable aimed at us, or to everyone?- See on Mk. 13:34; Lk. 13:1. Peter perceived that the parable was aimed at those who had responsibility for the Lord's house / family. He wondered whether it could really be so that he and those immature disciples were really being spoken to as the elders of the new Israel; and he wondered whether actually the Lord meant that we are all elders. The Lord rarely answers questions directly, but lifts them to a higher level. And He does so here. He urges us each to take responsibility, and to grasp the urgency of living as if He will return any moment- knowing that this will mean giving an account for our responsibilities toward others.

12:42 And the Lord said: Who then is the faithful and wise steward- See on :41 and 1 Tim. 3:15. One aspect of spirituality leads to another. Thus the Lord commends the one who is watching for His coming, and then speaks of how those who are to be accepted at His coming are those busy preparing spiritual food for their brethren (Lk. 12:39,42). The implication is that he who is watching, truly watching, for the return will be busy about the brotherhood’s needs; and in caring for them is our own personal preparedness.  “Let patience have her perfect work... let brotherly love continue" sounds as if we must allow the process of righteousness inspired by spiritual acts of love and patience. We can obstruct that process (James 1:4; Heb. 13:1).

The Lord is replying to Peter's question as to whether we the hearers and readers are to assume that it is our responsibility to feed others in the household. The answer seems to be that yes it is, because this is what is naturally elicited by watching and being alert for the Lord's return.

Our ‘watching’ is to be expressed in terms of ensuring that all the household have their food at the appropriate time. In Mk. 13:34,35 the Lord expands on this parable in saying that each of the servants are given a different work, but He wants us to be like the doorkeeper [AV “porter”], whose job it was to simply watch- and “You, watch, therefore!”. Putting together the various images, we see that we are likened to the very master of the house; then to the chief steward who was to provide food for the household; and then to the lowest doorkeeper. We are thoroughly representative of the Lord Himself, the steward of the household, and the lowest servant, the doorkeeper. But throughout the analogies, we are to above all mirror the way in which they watched / looked out for the wellbeing of the household. Being occupied with this is what makes a person ready and watching for their Lord’s return.

This is the “good and faithful [s.w.] servant” of Mt. 25:21,23 who is commended for trading his Lord’s goods and making increase of them. Here, the duty of the faithful servant is to care for the household. These are different metaphors for the same reality- spiritual care for others is a way of increasing the overall wealth of the Lord and the progress of His household. We have been delegated a huge amount, and the Lord is ‘absent’, not in the sense that He is not spiritually with us, but in that He will not intervene in how we carry on His work. The salvation and spiritual prosperity of others is therefore in our hands. By laziness and unwise behaviour we can seriously damage them and limit the progress of the Lord’s business; and He being ‘absent’ will not forcibly intervene to stop us, in this life. The “wise servant” is likewise to be connected with the “wise [s.w.] virgins” (Mt. 25:2,4,8,9). The connection is, however, slightly odd. The wise servant is to provide food for the others in the household. The wise virgins were unable to provide oil for the weaker members of the household, because they were themselves weak and had fallen asleep when clearly they were intended to remain awake. If the connection with the next parable is indeed purposeful, then we are left with the picture of the wise virgins being wise only in that they intended to provide for others, although in reality they were too weak themselves to follow through with that intention in practice. But their intention to do so was counted to them as wisdom.

Whom his master shall set over his household to give them their portion of food in due season?- The idea is surely that if we are doing that now, we shall do it eternally. If we are found ‘doing’ care and provision for the household, then we shall be empowered to eternally do this in essence. The important thing is that when the Lord comes, He finds us engaged [at least mentally] with what we shall eternally be doing, living the essence of the Kingdom life now. We have been made ruler over the household now; we shall be set over it eternally if when the Lord comes He finds us doing what He has appointed us to do. When the Lord comes, He finds the servant either smiting the servants (Mt. 24:49), or feeding and caring for them (Mt. 24:45). Our attitude to our brethren in the moment of our Lord’s coming will decide our eternal future. The structure of the parable allows of no half way position. The purpose of any authority given to any of us within the household is in order to feed others. If that, in the end, is not being done, then we are abusing the trust and authority given us by the Lord. The “food” is called their sitometron in Lk. 12:42, their “portion of food”, or ration. The impression is given of a steward providing the right food [‘nourishment’] for the right persons at the right time. This is the essence of all care for others. Kairos, “due season”, means literally ‘time’, and is often used about ‘the time’ of the Lord’s return (Mt. 8:29; 13:30; 16:3; 21:34). Indeed it is used in the Olivet prophecy for this moment: “You know not when the time is” (Mk. 13:33). The idea seems to be that instead of worrying about calculating “the time” of the Lord’s coming, we are instead to be concerned with feeding others in the household at that kairos or time. This is the sign of our preparedness and watchfulness, and not our [apparent] skill in matching world events to Bible prophecies.

12:43 Blessed is that servant, whom his master, when he comes, shall find so doing- ‘Watching’ is a major theme here in the context; but the blessing in view here is for “doing”, actually providing nourishment for the household. Again we see the parallel between watching and doing. Watching can never be an academic interest in Bible prophecies. It has to be active, or else it isn’t ‘watching’ in the sense intended.

In "Shall find" we find emphasized the eternal importance of our attitude of mind at the moment of the Lord’s coming. Those who want to go to the Lord are confirmed in their desire by being snatched away to meet Him, whereas those who don’t have that immediacy of desire will be left behind, to be forcibly gathered to Him later.

12:44 Of a truth I say to you, that he will set him over all that he has- We each individually have this promise of being made ruler over all that Jesus has. The "all things" refers to the believers; a concordance study of these two words gives fair testimony to this. The ecclesia is the body of Christ, "the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22,23). Let us pause to exult in this fact; that Jesus exists for no one else except the believers. Each of us is promised by Him that He will make us ruler over "all that he hath", i.e. all the saints. We will each rule over each other because we will each be so closely identified with the Lord Jesus; yet in another sense there will be a hierarchy of spiritual glory in the Kingdom.

If we are doing what we have been empowered to do for the household now, then we shall be appointed to eternally do this. The state of perfection in the Kingdom is described as us (the complete church of all ages) having reached, "a perfect man... the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ", having grown up into Christ, who is the head of the body (Eph. 4:13,15). When the Lord comes, we will each individually be made ruler over all that He has, we will each individually be fully righteous, fully manifesting the Lord Jesus. There seems to be marked connection with the fact (brought out in the parable of the talents) that we will each have all the Master's goods, and the description in the next parable of those goods being distributed between us in this life (Mt. 24:47; 25:15). In the Kingdom we will no longer know partially, as a result of seeing parts of the whole picture; we will see face to face (1 Cor. 13:9,12 Gk.).

In this life, the servant was ‘made ruler over’ [s.w.] the household, his job was to feed his fellow servants. If he is found so doing at the Lord’s return, he will be made ruler over literally all that his master owns, “all his goods” (AV) is literally ‘all that He has’. This is a profound insight into the nature of eternity. All that God has will be put under us. God has not subjected the world to come to the Angels but to us (Heb. 2:5). This is because “all things” are to be put in subjection under the Lord Jesus (Heb. 2:8), and all that is true of Him is true of us. But that being part of Him is dependent upon our serving of our brethren within the household. He is the householder, but we also are, because we are in Him.

12:45 But if that servant- The parable of Mt. 25:26,30 likewise features two types of servant; the “faithful” servant [s.w.], and the equivalent of this "servant” is the “wicked and lazy servant… the unprofitable servant” (25:26,30). That servant who did nothing is paralleled with the servant who proactively got drunk, thought his Lord delayed, and beat his brethren. Despite all that bad behaviour, the real issue was that he did nothing positive for his Lord. So often, the fellow servants are effectively beaten because of the sins of omission, inaction, refusal to stand up for the abused.  

Shall say in his heart- The Bible knows nothing of a personal, cosmic Satan. Rather the real adversary is presented as the human heart, and therefore a huge amount of attention is given to the state of the human heart and the significance of our self-talk. Nobody consciously says ‘The Lord is delaying, great, now I can drink and abuse my brethren’. But the Lord puts His finger on the self-talk that goes on in our deep subconscious, and He does so in the context of warning against having a specific date in mind for the second coming.

My lord delays his coming- There is no turning to atheism or rebellion against the Lord, but rather the root cause of the misbehavior is placed by the parable upon the man’s mentality that because he knows the date of his Lord’s coming, he can just ensure he’s behaving properly when He comes. And this is the purpose of the parable- to challenge that idea and explain why the date must be left unknown by us. This is the same idea as the foolish virgins not taking oil with them in the next parable. The idea is simply that the foolish take no oil because they are certain they know the day and hour of the bridegroom’s coming; whereas the wise recognize that they do not know the exact day and hour, and therefore act accordingly by taking more oil in case there is a delay. This is exactly the point being made in the Lord’s teaching at the end of Matthew 24. Those who are convinced they know the day and hour, for whom the idea of flexibility or delay in the Lord’s purpose is anathema, are in fact those who fall asleep and are caught unprepared.

 The Lord Jesus / bridegroom “tarries” (Mt. 25:5), the same Greek word translated ‘delay’ in “my Lord delays His coming”. The Lord does delay His coming- the man’s mistake was in acting inappropriately because of this. God’s judgments likewise “waited”, or delayed, in Noah’s time (1 Pet. 3:20)- presumably for the 120 year period of Gen. 6:3. In a similar way, the judgment on Nineveh preached by Jonah also delayed- it came in the end, but their repentance meant that it delayed at that time. In the first century, all things were ready for the Supper- supper time had come. But the start of the supper has been delayed 2000 years by Israel’s rejection of the invitation to participate (Lk. 14:17). The evil servant misbehaved because he thought the Lord had delayed and therefore he could misbehave, so long as he got his act together at the time of the Lord’s coming. This parable is therefore an explanation of why we must recognize that we don’t know the date of the Lord’s return; if we do think we know it, then this will lead us into misbehaviour. Those with a determinate, black and white view of God and His prophetic style have often shown us the truth of this parable. They thought the Lord would return at a certain date, or once certain conditions had been fulfilled. These things happened, and the Lord didn’t come- and their behaviour went seriously downhill. 

Moses' sprinkling of Israel with blood and then going away for forty days (the period of probation), returning after a perceived delay to a people lost in revelry with only a faithful minority, must point forward to our Lord's ascension to the Father's presence after the blood sprinkling of the cross, and His subsequent return. The Lord's words here suggest he read this incident along these lines: "That evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delays his coming (cp. "Where is the promise of his coming?" and the people feeling Moses had delayed to return); and shall begin to... eat and drink with the drunken (cp. "the people sat down to eat and drink", 1 Cor. 10:7); the Lord of that servant shall come... in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder"- recalling the Levite's sudden massacre of the people on Moses' return. If the return of Moses from the mount is indeed typical of the second coming, then it would follow that the majority of the new Israel will be unprepared at the Lord's return also.

"The Lord (Jesus) is not slack concerning his promise (to return- of Jn. 14:3,18,28), as some men (in the ecclesia) count slackness", but is longsuffering (2 Pet. 3:9). The Greek for "slack" here means 'delay'; this is assurance that God is not 'delaying' as men dilly-dally in the execution of their plans, but is rather postponing this for a good reason. There’s an allusion here to Is. 30:17-19, which records how Israel would suffer for their sins, but then God would wait for a certain time until they cried to Him in repentance, before bringing about a time of blessing on the earth based around the Lord's presence in Jerusalem: "One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one (Dt. 28 language)... until you are left as a tree bereft of branches (how Paul describes what happened to Israel in the first century, Rom. 11)... and therefore (i.e. because you are such sinners) will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted (through your repentance), that He may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him. For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: you shall weep no more (the language of Is. 65:17-25, quoted in 2 Pet. 3:13): He will be very gracious unto you at the voice of your cry (of repentance): when He shall hear it, He will answer you". Not only is God delaying the Kingdom until there is repentance in Israel, but such is His mercy that He will not bring it about until such repentance. His purpose should not be seen, therefore, just in terms of the cold equation 'Repentance in Israel= second coming', but the supreme mercy and love which this arrangement shows should be appreciated. "And therefore will He be exalted" Isaiah comments- by those who understand these things. Rom. 11:32-36 is a marvellous example of this.

And shall begin- The idea is that only soon after he has begun his misbehaviour, the Lord comes. This highlights the point that because the man was sure that he knew the exact time of the Lord’s coming, and that time was not right now, therefore he did these bad things. The whole point of the parable is to explain why we do not and should not ever think we know the date of His coming. For it is this which is portrayed in the parable as the root reason why he begins beating the fellow servants and being self-indulgent, mixing with the unbelievers rather than the believers.

To beat the menservants and the maidservants- Smiting the fellow servants is related to keeping other company- with the drunken. It could be that this parable is intended to have a specific latter day fulfilment, in that it speaks of the last few days or little while before the Lord’s return. For the evil servant has only just begun to beat, eat and drink, when his Lord comes. The ‘smiting’ might suggest that the evil servant joins in the persecution of the Lord’s servants which will be ongoing in that final period of tribulation. 

The idea of the steward of the house smiting the fellow servant is referred to by Paul (in the Greek text) in 1 Cor. 8:12, concerning wounding the conscience of weak brethren. Paul's vision of the latter day ecclesia was therefore that materialistic elders would act with no thought as to their effect on the consciences of the flock, and thereby many would stumble. The Lord’s only other reference to fellow servants is in Mt. 18:28-33, where the deeply indebted servant ‘beat’ a fellow servant who owed him a relatively small amount. The beating of the fellow servants may therefore be intended to be understood in terms of refusing to forgive, and demanding what is due.

And to eat and drink and to be drunk- His duty was to feed his fellow servants, but instead he became obsessed with feeding himself. The Lord spoke of ‘eating and drinking’ as characterizing Noah’s world- and also Lot’s world (Lk. 17:28). There’s nothing wrong with any of the things Noah’s world were doing in themselves, but they were indulged in to the point of obsession. The man called to go in to the ark and care for those within it had instead gone outside into the world and engaged with them in their way of life.

The man himself becomes drunk; he is influenced by the company he now keeps. He is alluded to in 1 Thess. 5:3-7, where the picture is graphically created of a man who has been hard drinking for a whole evening, now at home stupefied, late at night. It is then that the thief comes; whilst dimly aware of his coming, the man is quite unprepared to meet him and keep his (spiritual) house intact. This will be the tragic position of those who through belief and practice are unready for their Lord. It seems that a materialistic eldership, uncommitted to the real needs of the household, indifferent to guarding the house, will contribute to our latter day apostasy as a community. And note the correspondence between those who are harsh on their brethren being those who are also caught up in the things of the world. The drunken servant starts to beat the fellow servants, using a Greek word which means to punish. This creates the picture of a worldly ecclesial elder over-disciplining others, whilst himself being guilty of the same things. He is transferring his guilt onto others, and punishing them with the punishment he subconsciously knows he deserves. No wonder there will be so much friction and disunity amongst spiritual Israel of the last days.

12:46 The master of that servant shall come in a day when he does not expect, and at an hour he does not know- The implication is that the unfaithful servant should have ‘known’ and ‘been aware of’ his Lord’s coming. He should have lived every moment as if this were the day and hour of the Lord’s coming; even whilst recognizing that he does not finally know it. There is another possibility, discussed in a separate digression- and that is simply that the faithful in [literally] the very last few days will in fact know that the day and hour. The language of the Olivet prophecy brims with certainty as to the faithful knowing the time: "When you shall see these things come to pass, know that it is near... you know that Summer is near... when you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is near... when you therefore shall see (same Greek translated "know") the abomination of desolation... when you see (Gk. know, understand, perceive) all these things come to pass, know  that the Kingdom of God is near". The idea is that we will understand clearly certain signs, and know therefore that the Lord is imminent. This all seems in marked contrast to the Lord's conclusion to the prophecy: "of that day and that hour knoweth no man". There is a marked connection here with the fact that he has just been saying that it will be possible to know once the signs are seen and understood. Surely he must be talking specifically to the twelve; they didn't then know the time, neither could they; but those who saw the signs by implication would know. In the context of these words about them not then knowing the day and hour, the Lord said that the believer at the time of his return who didn't know the day and hour of his coming would be found unprepared (Mt. 24:50). This is surely proof enough that the last generation will in some way know the day and hour, i.e. the appointed time (cp. Rev. 9:15), of the Lord's return. This point is a very powerful one.

This word ginosko is used of how the world of Noah’s day did not “know” until all too late (Mt. 24:39). We are to “know” the time (Mt. 24:33 “know that it is near”, “know this” Lk. 21:31). And yet we cannot know the time in terms of a calendar date. Therefore we are to “know” the time in living according to the principle that the Lord could come imminently, at this very moment.  

And shall cut him into pieces- Gk. ‘to cut him in two’, literally ‘to dichotomize’. This unreal and severe punishment- to cut a slave in half as punishment- emphasizes the extreme nature of the wrongdoing. This may also allude to the idea of cutting a covenant. The parties to the covenant passed between the pieces of the covenant sacrifice and thereby proclaimed that they should be cut in two if they broke the covenant. These condemned persons, in this particular teaching, would therefore refer to those who had already entered covenant with God and are being judged for it. And the hint is that they broke that covenant because they preferred to be hypocrites, to look good in the eyes of men when their heart was somewhere else. The evil servant will be "cut asunder", i.e. his hypocrisy will be openly revealed for the first time (remember, he was an ecclesial elder in mortal life, according to the parable). There will be a public dimension to the judgment process, for the whole purpose of it is for the learning of those present at it, rather than for God’s benefit. What we have spoken in the Lord's ear will be revealed by him openly ("from the housetops") at the judgment (Lk. 12:3). When the righteous receive their inheritance (i.e. at the judgment), then the fool will be held up to shame (Prov. 3:35 NIV).

And put him with the unbelievers- The Lord will appoint (the wicked servant) his portion with the unbelievers, his portion with the hypocrites (Mt. 24:51), reminiscent of a "goat" in the later parable  being told to go to the group of goats at the left hand side. They represent "the unbelievers", i.e. those responsible but lacking in real faith (the word is used concerning this group in Jn. 20:27; Mt. 17:20; Rom. 11:20; Heb. 3:12; Tit. 1:15; Rev. 21:8). The Lord’s self-indulgent servant will be cut asunder at judgment day- revealed for who he really is- and then be appointed his portion with the [other] hypocrites (Mt. 24:41). The rejected servants, who appeared to believe but who only play-acted, are in fact unbelievers. They have as little faith as the unbelieving world, although they think they believe and serve the Lord.

12:47 And that servant, who knew his master's will and did not prepare or did not do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes- Beating with stripes was a synagogue punishment. The Lord is developing the idea that He a new Israel is coming into being. "Prepare" is the same word used of John seeking to prepare the way for Messiah's coming in terms of getting people morally prepared (s.w. 1:76; 3:4). Those who had heard John's message, been baptized and potentially prepared for the Lord's coming... would be beaten much if they refused to respond further and instead rejected the Lord, as many of John's apparent converts did. "Prepared" is the same word just used in :20 of the rich fool 'preparing' for his wealth. The rich fool is therefore the servant who knew his master's will, but prepared for himself rather than for his Lord. Our efforts to 'prepare' for eternity are in step with the Lord's work through the Spirit to 'prepare' our places in the Kingdom (Jn. 14:2,3; Heb. 11:16 s.w.). We pray "Your will be done" (Lk. 11:2 s.w.) as a way of saying that we want the will of God, which is that we shall inherit our prepared place in eternity, to become our will; His preparation works therefore in tandem with our own. It is therefore a desire to 'do' the master's will which is a lead characteristic of those who shall be finally saved (Jn. 7:17).

12:48 But he that did not know and did things worthy of stripes, he shall be beaten with few stripes- We have here a clear statement of the principle that knowledge makes us responsible to judgment, being 'asked the more' at that day if we have been 'given much'.
"A fool's mouth is [will be] his destruction, and his mouth calleth for strokes [i.e. condemnation at the judgment, Lk. 12:47,48]" (Prov. 18:6). By our words we may be shouting out for condemnation.

We all commit sin worthy of "stripes". The word is only found elsewhere in the gospels in 10:30, of the wounding of the man saved by the Samaritan. And that man is each of us.

And to whom much is given, of him shall much be required- The judgment will 'require' of us a life lived in accordance with the knowledge of the Lord's will which we have been given. This is helpful to bear in mind when considering whether those who know less than we do are in fellowship with the Lord. Many of them are- it's just that we have been given more knowledge, and more shall be required of us.  The same word is used of how the Father seeks or requires fruit from His trees (13:6); the more effort He has made with them, the more fruit is required. And that seeking of response from us is ongoing now in the Lord's relationship with us; He in this sense searches for us until He finds us (15:6; 19:10; Jn. 4:23 s.w.).

And to whom people commit much, of him will they ask the more- Speaking of the principle of responsibility upon which our judgment will be conducted, the Lord hints at Angelic involvement in the judgment: "to whom men (our guardian angels?) have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Lk. 12:48 AV). See on Lk. 6:38. We who are literate, living in an age of mass ease and technology, we who have the benefit of hindsight in looking back upon the development of God's purpose with this earth... have had much committed to us. And much is therefore required.

12:49 I came to cast fire upon the earth, yet it is already kindled!- The Lord wished that the fire He came to kindle had already been kindled. This may be an allusion to a common Latin saying at the time: Nemo accendit nisi ipse ardet, 'No one can kindle another unless he himself burns'. In this case Jesus is likening Himself to a fire which ignites others; and yet He so wished that someone else had earlier come and been Messiah. Some of the Messianic passages describe Him being amazed that there had been no man, and He Himself therefore dressed for action and did the Messianic duty. It is an essay in His humility that He should have held such a view. It also reflects how there had been previous opportunities for Messiah to come.

The Gehenna fire of condemnation of the wicked is "already kindled" by men's attitude now. The tree that will not bring forth good fruit "is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Mt. 7:19)- alluding to the figure of Gehenna, into which the rejected will be 'thrown'. The ungodly are already like the chaff that will be blown away after the Lord's return (Ps. 1:4,5; 35:5; Job 21:18-20 cp. Is. 5:24; 17:13; 29:5; Dan. 2:35; Lk. 3:17). Those who lose their first love are now condemned (1 Tim. 3:6; 5:12). The Lord Jesus stands with the sword of judgment now going out of His mouth (Rev. 1:16), as it will do at the final judgment (Is. 11:4).

The disciples had wanted to bring fire down as Elijah had done, to consume their opponents. The Lord replied that His spirit is different; they didn’t know His Spirit, without which, Paul says, “we are none of his”. And yet still He patiently bore with them. However, He also says that He has come to send fire on the earth at the last day- an evident reference to Elijah. We could read the Lord’s treatment of the disciples’ request as saying ‘The time to act like Elijah will come- but it’s not now’. Likewise His comment that He came to bring division rather than peace. Elijah was renowned as the prophet who would turn the fathers to the children and bring peace in the land (Mal. 4:6; Ecclus. 48:10). The Lord may be saying: ‘You think, like some of the Jews, that I am a re-incarnation of John the Baptist, the Elijah prophet. I’m not. I’m the Messiah Himself. My spirit is different’. In that very context, the Lord stressed that He had a baptism to undergo, rather than to dispense to others as had John (Lk. 12:50). Perhaps the immaturity of the disciples was so great that they, former disciples of John, somehow believed that Jesus had turned into a re-incarnation of John. In this case, they would have been caught up in the surrounding world’s view of Jesus- for there was much speculation that Jesus was John the Baptist redivivus. The way John in his gospel labours the point that John the Baptist “was not that light”, i.e. Messiah (Jn. 1:8), perhaps is John’s recognition that finally, they got it right. You can imagine him preaching in those early days: ‘After John’s death we thought at times that Jesus was some sort of reincarnation of John. But Peter got it right, and now, I’m just making it clear also what the truth was. He wasn’t John the Baptist redivivus as so many thought. We were caught up a bit in that thinking; but we were wrong’.

The Lord Jesus spoke of how “I am come to send fire on earth [after the pattern of Elisha against apostate Israel]... I am come to give... division”. He parallels the fire of condemnation with division. And yet He says that this figurative fire is “already kindled”. If we are divided willingly, of our creation, then we stand self-condemned. This is how serious this matter is. I fear, really fear, that in the day of final account it may be that a brother or sister has lived separately from the world, believed all the right things, and yet his or her divisiveness means that they are condemned together with the immoral and the worldly.

The idea of fire from Heaven in Lk. 12:49-54 is associated by the Lord with division in the brotherhood. And the Lord went on to say that the Pharisees could interpret a cloud arising in the West as a sign that rain was coming, but they could not forgive their brethren, which was what was essential (Lk. 12:54). This just has to be a reference to Elijah, who saw a cloud arising from the West as a sign of rain. The Lord is, it seems, sadly associating Elijah with the Pharisees. And yet... despite all this, the Lord Jesus likens Himself to Elijah. He sent fire on earth as Elijah did (Lk. 12:49). And the context of the Lk. 9:54 reference to Elijah is that the Lord’s time had come that he should be received up, and he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem (Lk. 9:51). This is all very much the language of Elijah (2 Kings 2:1). And elsewhere Jesus quotes Elijah’s words “Your son lives” (1 Kings 17:23 = Jn. 4:50-53). What this shows is that the Lord saw what was good in Elijah, and He didn’t separate Himself from someone who didn’t have His Spirit. He simply wanted His followers to learn better from him.

12:50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and great is my distress until it be accomplished!- These words almost seem to be the Lord speaking to Himself. The immediate context is of judgment to come, and the divisive effect the Lord's work will have upon relationships. But His focus was upon His upcoming death for the salvation of His people. This was what He sought above all to 'accomplish'.

The cross was to the Lord a baptism He was being baptized with, it was not only accomplished in His physical death; the process was ongoing. He saw His death as the baptism with which He must be baptized (Lk. 12:50 cp. Rom. 6:3,4; Col. 2:10-12, His 'baptism-unto-death' Gk.); and yet He spoke of the baptism with which He was being baptized in an ongoing sense (Mt. 20:22). The Lord's fear of death was, it seems to me, to a far greater extent than what even we experience- doubtless because He knew all that was tied up with His death and how much depended upon it. Hence His "distress" He spoke of how "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" (Lk. 12:50). See on Heb. 5:7.

12:51 Do you think that I came to give peace in the earth? I tell you no, but rather division- Peace on earth was a feature of the messianic Kingdom. The Lord is emphasizing that His Kingdom had not yet come. Until then, there would be division between the kingdom people and the others. To be unwillingly caught up in a divided house / family is not, therefore, a sin or a sign of our personal condemnation. There must be schisms amongst us, that they might make manifest who the faithful are, by their attitude to them.

The Lord surely has in mind what He had commanded in Mt. 10:13, where He uses the same words to describe how the apostles were to let their peace come upon the households they entered- the peace of shalom with God, the salvation of Jesus. But that peace could return to them unclaimed, and the Lord's words here seem to imply that He is warning them that generally, their message of peace will not be accepted.

"Peace on the earth" is an allusion to the prophecies of peace in the Messianic Kingdom, and to the Angelic proclamation that there would be peace on earth through Christ (Lk. 2:14). The disciples were prone to be influenced by Jewish expectations and hopes for an imminent Messianic Kingdom to be established. The Lord's point is therefore surely that they were not to preach a gospel of immediate peace on earth, but rather one to come in the future; He made the point later that He had come to take peace from the earth (Rev. 6:4), but of course He offered peace with God through forgiveness and reconciliation which He would achieve through His life and death (Col. 1:20). 

12:52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three- Salvation, as Robert Roberts so frequently said, is an individual matter. It is not a collective affair. Compare two passages within the Lord’s teaching, which each use the same Greek words: “I am come to give… division. From henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three [i.e. sometimes they would be 2:3 and other times 3:2- there would be a series of disagreements over various issues]... a house divided against a house falls” (Lk. 12:52,52 cp. Lk. 11:17). What are we to make of this? Every divided house or Kingdom will “fall”, i.e. be condemned at judgment day (s.w. Mt. 7:27; Rom. 14:4; 1 Cor. 10:12; Heb. 4:11; James 5:12). And yet Jesus inevitably divides ‘houses’. Surely the Lord is teaching that every Kingdom and family will fall, because it will be divided, and therefore the only hope of salvation is purely individual. This was radical thinking in first century Palestine, where the destiny of the extended family was held to be uniform; i.e., you would end up in the last day wherever your extended family did. But the Lord is cutting through all this, and teaching that salvation is a personal matter. No single extended family will, as a unit, avoid being divided by the result of the judgment. The Lord’s teaching surely has some relevance to some Christian cultures which can likewise give the impression that large, well established Christian families will almost automatically all be saved.

12:53 They shall be divided, father against son and son against father- Division within families, especially between sons and fathers, was seen as far more awful than it is today. But the offer of Christ to be Lord, to be our head, is so compelling and colossal in implication that there can simply be no other option than division, at least emotionally and psychologically, between those members of a household who accept Him as Lord and head, and those who will not. The implications of what the Lord is teaching here outlaws any thought of marriage out of the faith; to consciously create a divided family from the start can only reflect a very low level of commitment to Him as Lord, Master and household head.

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- Why these specific examples? Perhaps the Lord envisaged the younger generation being more responsive than their elders. But maybe His point was that the younger members of an extended family were expected to obey the head of the household- and the good news of His Kingdom, His dominion over men and women, was that loyalty was no longer to be to the head of the family, but to Him. For He was offering men and women entrance into a new King-dom, where He was King and His dominion was accepted in the lives of those who accepted the Gospel of that Kingdom.

12:54 And he said to the crowds: Also, When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, Here comes a shower- and so it comes to pass- Showers are figures for the Messianic blessings. They were to perceive that His coming was imminent. This is all in the context, before and after, of forgiving our brother and living at peace. A joint focus on living as if the Lord's coming is imminent, reading life's signs to mean that we are living on the brink of His coming... this will enhance our relationship with our brother. For who, on their way to judgment day, is going to get into argument with his brother (:58). 

12:55 And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, There will be a scorching heat- and it comes to pass- As noted on :54, they were to interpret life as meaning that the Lord's return was imminent- and live with their brother accordingly (:58). The "scorching heat" is the language of condemnation. As they could discern that such heat was coming in the weather, so they ought to be able to have a sense of the reality of the two destinies before them: condemnation, or the showers of Messianic blessing (:54). And awareness of these things would affect how they lived with their brother and remove all divisions- which is the context.

12:56 You hypocrites- Hypocrisy may seem a strange charge to level at men who could read the weather but did not want to perceive the fact that there were definite outcomes to their lives, either showers of eternal blessing, or the scorching heat of condemnation. The charge of hypocrisy would seem to me to imply that they realized indeed who Jesus was, but were acting as if they didn’t. The Lord said as much in designing a later parable to have the Jews saying “This is the heir; come, let us kill Him” (Mt. 21:38). Another option is that their ability to read basic signs in the weather made them responsible to discerning who Christ was and their need to repent; and to not use our potential abilities is perhaps seen by the Lord as hypocrisy.

You know how to interpret the signs of the earth and the sky, but how is it you do not know how to interpret this time?- The "time" can be seen as the whole work of Jesus, rather than specifically the signs of His coming again. The “sign[s]” which they sought for were in front of them at the time of their asking for them. They therefore cannot really refer to fulfilled latter day prophecies. The lesson is that as farmers and shepherds act accordingly as they interpret the weather, so we ought to respond to the reality of Christ, knowing that we stand before either eternal life or eternal death, very soon.

12:57 And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?- We are to have an abiding sense of the imminent coming of the Lord, and the two possible outcomes it brings for us (showers of eternal blessing, or scorching heat of condemnation). If we have this perception, then we will judge rightly "for" or "among" ourselves. There will be no division amongst us (:51), only urgent forgiveness (:58)- which is the only 'right judgment' we can make.

The Lord warned the Jews that they were not discerning the signs of their times as they ought to- i.e. they were not paying heed to the imminence of the day of the Lord which was to come in AD70, and neither were they perceiving that Israel's king was in fact amongst them. He went straight on to tell them a parable about the need to agree with our brother, because they were on their way to judgment. He links these two themes, of their not discerning the signs of the times and their disagreement with their brother, with the question as to why they cannot judge rightly. He seems to be saying that their discernment of the reality of His coming in judgment was to be connected with their discernment of the need for love and forgiveness of their brother. The same basic link is found in Heb. 10:25, where we are exhorted to meet together and encourage one another "and so much the more, as you see the day approaching". See on Mt. 5:25.

12:58 For as you are going with your adversary before the magistrate, on the way give diligence to be rid of him. Lest he drag you to the judge and the judge shall deliver you to the officer, and the officer shall throw you into prison- See on :57 and Lk. 6:47. There is an urgency here- related to the fact that very soon, relatively speaking, we shall stand before judgment day and face either eternal showers of blessing, or the eternal death symbolized by the "scorching heat".

The Christian life is likened to a man on his way to his judge along with his adversary; and evidently, he ought to settle his differences with his brother before he arrives, for this judge will be extremely hard upon those who cannot be reconciled to their brethren. This would suggest that the Lord foresaw that getting along with our brethren would be a major part in the development process of His people; and as they draw closer to the day of meeting with Him, the more urgent is the need to settle their disputes, as He will be unsympathetic towards them. The Lord prefaces this parable by appealing for His people to ‘judge righteously’ because His judgment is about to come (Lk. 12:57 Gk.). By forgiving our brother and reconciling with him, we are judging righteously; we are in essence deciding our own judgment which is to be revealed at the Lord’s return- see on Mt. 13:47.

The Lord taught that our focus upon Him and His return should affect how we feel about others, even our enemies. Lk. 12:54-59 continues a theme of living appropriately to a belief that we shall all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. The Lord pictures us as walking to meet our judge, along with our adversary. And His parable assumes that we will automatically be found in the wrong, the case will go against us; and so therefore we better make peace with our adversary and drop the case. We are walking towards the day of judgment, our meeting with our Judge. The bottom line is that we should not be walking to judgment day carrying with us a case against our brother. Drop it, whatever it is. At least, in our hearts. It's simply impossible to live at peace with all- Paul spoke from much personal experience of living at peace with others insomuch as it depends upon us: "If it be possible, as much as depends upon you, live peaceably with all men" (Rom. 12:18). Again, this doesn't mean that abuse shouldn't be challenged and exposed. It should be. But we as sinners shouldn't be walking to judgment day carrying with us the weight of a case against our brother.

12:59 I say to you, you shall never get out, until you have paid the very last coin- This could mean that the only reconcilliation is in death, the last coin we have being our own life itself. This is the price for refusing to forgive and be reconciled. Whilst the Catholic idea of purgatory is incorrect, it could also be that judgment will be for our education; for it is for our benefit, not the Lord's, who already knows all things. And we can imagine those who have been unforgiving in this life learning the error of their ways, experiencing the dread prospect of condemnation before them, and then 'getting out' by grace. To live eternity in humbled awareness of grace, and how they ought to have been more forgiving in this brief life.