Luke 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" ( Luke 12:54 ).
covered--from the view.
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.
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."
6, 7. five . . . for two farthings--In Matthew 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.
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,
Luke 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.
14. Man, &c.--Contrast this style of address with "my friends," ( Luke 12:4 ).
who, &c.--a question literally repudiating the office which Moses assumed ( Exodus 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.
15. unto them--the multitude around Him ( Luke 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.
16-19. a certain rich man, &c.--Why is this man called a "fool?" ( Luke 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.
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 Psalms 39:6 , "He heapeth up riches and knoweth not who shall gather them."
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 ( Psalms 30:5 ), of "precious" faith ( 2 Peter 1:1 , 2:5 ), of good works ( 1 Timothy 6:18 ), of wisdom which is better than rubies ( Proverbs 8:11 )--lives and dies a beggar!
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?
29. of doubtful, &c.--unsettled mind; put off your balance.
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" ( Luke 12:31 [BENGEL]). Well might He say, "Fear not!"
33, 34. Sell, &c.--This is but a more vivid expression of Matthew 6:19-21
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.
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].
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.
41-48. unto us or even to all?--us the Twelve, or all this vast audience?
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.
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.
46. cut him in sunder--a punishment not unknown in the East; compare Hebrews 11:37 , "sawn asunder" ( 1 Samuel 15:33 , Daniel 2:5 ).
the unbelievers--the unfaithful, those unworthy of trust ( Matthew 24:51 ), "the hypocrites," falsely calling themselves "servants."
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.
49-53. to send--cast.
fire--"the higher spiritual element of life which Jesus came to introduce into this earth (compare Matthew 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].
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 Luke 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!
51. peace . . . ? Nay, &c.--the reverse of peace, in the first instance. 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."
Luke 12:54-59 . NOT DISCERNING THE SIGNS OF THE TIME.
56. how . . . not discern, &c.--unable to perceive what a critical period that was for the Jewish Church.
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.
58. When thou goest, The urgency of the case with them, and the necessity, for their own safety, of immediate decision, was the object of these striking words.