Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
Lu 12:1-12. Warning against Hypocrisy.
1-3. meantime—in close connection, probably, with the foregoing scene. Our Lord had been speaking out more plainly than ever before, as matters were coming to a head between Him and His enemies, and this seems to have suggested to His own mind the warning here. He had just Himself illustriously exemplified His own precepts.
his disciples first of all—afterwards to "the multitudes" (Lu 12:54).
covered—from the view.
For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
2. hid—from knowledge. "Tis no use concealing anything, for all will one day come out. Give free and fearless utterance then to all the truth." (Compare 1Co 4:3, 5).
Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
4, 5. I say, &c.—You will say, That may cost us our life. Be it so; but, "My friends, there their power ends." He calls them "my friends" here, not in any loose sense, but, as we think, from the feeling He then had that in this "killing of the body" He and they were going to be affectingly one with each other.
But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
5. Fear Him … Fear Him—how striking the repetition here! Only the one fear would effectually expel the other.
after he hath killed, &c.—Learn here—(1) To play false with one's convictions to save one's life, may fail of its end after all, for God can inflict a violent death in some other and equally formidable way. (2) There is a hell, it seems, for the body as well as the soul; consequently, sufferings adapted to the one as well as the other. (3) Fear of hell is a divinely authorized and needed motive of action even to Christ's "friends." (4) As Christ's meekness and gentleness were not compromised by such harsh notes as these, so those servants of Christ lack their Master's spirit who soften down all such language to please ears "polite." (See on Mr 9:43-48).
Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
6, 7. five … for two farthings—In Mt 10:29 it is "two for one farthing"; so if one took two farthings' worth, he got one in addition—of such small value were they.
than many sparrows—not "than millions of sparrows"; the charm and power of our Lord's teaching is very much in this simplicity.
But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:
8, 9. confess … deny—The point lies in doing it "before men," because one has to do it "despising the shame." But when done, the Lord holds Himself bound to repay it in kind by confessing such "before the angels of God." For the rest, see on Lu 9:26.
But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.
And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.
10. Son of man … Holy Ghost—(See on Mt 12:31, 32).
And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
Lu 12:13-53. Covetousness—Watchfulness—Superiority to Earthly Ties.
13. Master, &c.—that is, "Great Preacher of righteousness, help; there is need of Thee in this rapacious world; here am I the victim of injustice, and that from my own brother, who withholds from me my rightful share of the inheritance that has fallen to us." In this most inopportune intrusion upon the solemnities of our Lord's teaching, there is a mixture of the absurd and the irreverent, the one, however, occasioning the other. The man had not the least idea that his case was not of as urgent a nature, and as worthy the attention of our Lord, as anything else He could deal with.
And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
14. Man, &c.—Contrast this style of address with "my friends," (Lu 12:4).
who, &c.—a question literally repudiating the office which Moses assumed (Ex 2:14). The influence of religious teachers in the external relations of life has ever been immense, when only the INDIRECT effect of their teaching; but whenever they intermeddle DIRECTLY with secular and political matters, the spell of that influence is broken.
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
15. unto them—the multitude around Him (Lu 12:1).
of covetousness—The best copies have "all," that is, "every kind of covetousness"; because as this was one of the more plausible forms of it, so He would strike at once at the root of the evil.
a man's life, &c.—a singularly weighty maxim, and not less so because its meaning and its truth are equally evident.
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
16-19. a certain rich man, &c.—Why is this man called a "fool?" (Lu 12:20) (1) Because he deemed a life of secure and abundant earthly enjoyment the summit of human felicity. (2) Because, possessing the means of this, through prosperity in his calling, he flattered himself that he had a long lease of such enjoyment, and nothing to do but give himself up to it. Nothing else is laid to his charge.
And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
20, 21. this night, &c.—This sudden cutting short of his career is designed to express not only the folly of building securely upon the future, but of throwing one's whole soul into what may at any moment be gone. "Thy soul shall be required of thee" is put in opposition to his own treatment of it, "I will say to my soul, Soul," &c.
whose shall those things be, &c.—Compare Ps 39:6, "He heapeth up riches and knoweth not who shall gather them."
So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
21. So is he, &c.—Such is a picture of his folly here, and of its awful issue.
and is not rich toward God—lives to amass and enjoy riches which terminate on self, but as to the riches of God's favor, which is life (Ps 30:5), of "precious" faith (2Pe 1:1; Jas 2:5), of good works (1Ti 6:18), of wisdom which is better than rubies (Pr 8:11)—lives and dies a beggar!
And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
22-31. (See on Mt 6:25-33).
The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
25, 26. which of you, &c.—Corroding solicitude will not bring you the least of the things ye fret about, though it may double the evil of wanting them. And if not the least, why vex yourselves about things of more consequence?
If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
29. of doubtful, &c.—unsettled mind; put off your balance.
For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
But rather 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.
32. little flock, &c.—How sublime and touching a contrast between this tender and pitying appellation, "Little flock" (in the original a double diminutive, which in German can be expressed, but not in English)—and the "good pleasure" of the Father to give them the Kingdom; the one recalling the insignificance and helplessness of that then literal handful of disciples, the other holding up to their view the eternal love that encircled them, the everlasting arms that were underneath them, and the high inheritance awaiting them!—"the kingdom"; grand word; then why not "bread" (Lu 12:31 [Bengel]). Well might He say, "Fear not!"
Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
33, 34. Sell, &c.—This is but a more vivid expression of Mt 6:19-21 (see on Mt 6:19-21).
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
35-40. loins … girded—to fasten up the long outer garment, always done before travel and work (2Ki 4:29; Ac 12:8). The meaning is, Be in readiness.
lights, &c.—(See on Mt 25:1).
And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
36. return from the wedding—not come to it, as in the parable of the virgins. Both have their spiritual significance; but preparedness for Christ's coming is the prominent idea.
Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
37. gird himself, &c.—"a promise the most august of all: Thus will the Bridegroom entertain his friends (nay, servants) on the solemn Nuptial Day" [Bengel].
And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
38. second … third watch—To find them ready to receive Him at any hour of day or night, when one might least of all expect Him, is peculiarly blessed. A servant may be truly faithful, even though taken so far unawares that he has not everything in such order and readiness for his master's return as he thinks is due to him, and both could and would have had if he had had notice of the time of his coming, and so may not be willing to open to him "immediately," but fly to preparation, and let his master knock again ere he admit him, and even then not with full joy. A too common case this with Christians. But if the servant have himself and all under his charge in such a state that at any hour when his master knocks, he can open to him "immediately," and hail his "return"—that is the most enviable, "blessed" servant of all.
And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.
Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?
41-48. unto us or even to all?—us the Twelve, or all this vast audience?
And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
42. Who then, &c.—answering the question indirectly by another question, from which they were left to gather what it would be:—To you certainly in the first instance, representing the "stewards" of the "household" I am about to collect, but generally to all "servants" in My house.
faithful and wise—Fidelity is the first requisite in a servant, wisdom (discretion and judgment in the exercise of his functions), the next.
steward—house steward, whose it was to distribute to the servants their allotted portion of food.
shall make—will deem fit to be made.
Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
44. make him ruler over all he hath—will advance him to the highest post, referring to the world to come. (See Mt 25:21, 23).
But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
45. begin to beat, &c.—In the confidence that his Lord's return will not be speedy, he throws off the role of servant and plays the master, maltreating those faithful servants who refuse to join him, seizing on and revelling in the fulness of his master's board; intending, when he has got his fill, to resume the mask of fidelity ere his master appear.
The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
46. cut him in sunder—a punishment not unknown in the East; compare Heb 11:37, "sawn asunder" (1Sa 15:33; Da 2:5).
the unbelievers—the unfaithful, those unworthy of trust (Mt 24:51), "the hypocrites," falsely calling themselves "servants."
And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
48. knew not—that is knew but partially; for some knowledge is presupposed both in the name "servant" of Christ, and his being liable to punishment at all.
many … few stripes—degrees of future punishment proportioned to the knowledge sinned against. Even heathens are not without knowledge enough for future judgment; but the reference here is not to such. It is a solemn truth, and though general, like all other revelations of the future world, discloses a tangible and momentous principle in its awards.
I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?
49-53. to send—cast.
fire—"the higher spiritual element of life which Jesus came to introduce into this earth (compare Mt 3:11), with reference to its mighty effects in quickening all that is akin to it and destroying all that is opposed. To cause this element of life to take up its abode on earth, and wholly to pervade human hearts with its warmth, was the lofty destiny of the Redeemer" [Olshausen: so Calvin, Stier, Alford, &c.].
what will I, &c.—an obscure expression, uttered under deep and half-smothered emotion. In its general import all are agreed; but the nearest to the precise meaning seems to be, "And what should I have to desire if it were once already kindled?" [Bengel and Bloomfield].
But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
50. But … a baptism, &c.—clearly, His own bloody baptism, first to take place.
how … straitened—not, "how do I long for its accomplishment," as many understand it, thus making it but a repetition of Lu 12:49; but "what a pressure of spirit is upon Me."
till it be accomplished—till it be over. Before a promiscuous audience, such obscure language was fit on a theme like this; but oh, what surges of mysterious emotion in the view of what was now so near at hand does it reveal!
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
51. peace … ? Nay, &c.—the reverse of peace, in the first instance. (See on Mt 10:34-36.) The connection of all this with the foregoing warnings about hypocrisy, covetousness, and watchfulness, is deeply solemn: "My conflict hasten apace; Mine over, yours begins; and then, let the servants tread in their Master's steps, uttering their testimony entire and fearless, neither loving nor dreading the world, anticipating awful wrenches of the dearest ties in life, but looking forward, as I do, to the completion of their testimony, when, reaching the haven after the tempest, they shall enter into the joy of their Lord."
For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.
Lu 12:54-59. Not Discerning the Signs of the Time.
54. to the people—"the multitude," a word of special warning to the thoughtless crowd, before dismissing them. (See on Mt 16:2, 3).
And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.
Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
56. how … not discern, &c.—unable to perceive what a critical period that was for the Jewish Church.
Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?
57. why even of yourselves, &c.—They might say, To do this requires more knowledge of Scripture and providence than we possess; but He sends them to their own conscience, as enough to show them who He was, and win them to immediate discipleship.
When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.
58. When thou goest, &c.—(See on Mt 5:25, 26). The urgency of the case with them, and the necessity, for their own safety, of immediate decision, was the object of these striking words.
I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.