IV. Ministry on the way to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51–19:27)


IV. Ministry on the way to Jerusalem (9:51–19:27)

A. Belief and Unbelief (9:51–11:54)

9:51-56 As the time drew near for him to be taken up—a reference to his death, resurrection, and ascension—Jesus resolutely made his way toward Jerusalem (9:51). On the way, he would pass through Samaritan territory, so he sent messengers ahead in order that the Samaritans might make preparations for him (9:52). But since he was going to Jerusalem, the Samaritans did not welcome him (9:53). This passage reflects the racial and theological divide that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans (see, e.g., John 4:9, 20). When James and John saw how the Samaritans responded, they asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to destroy them (9:54). But Jesus rebuked them for their animosity (9:55). The Son of God had not come to destroy but to save, to deliver, to heal (see John 3:17). Such should be the attitude of his followers as well.

9:57-58 As Jesus traveled during his ministry, he encountered a number of would-be followers. They made a show of wanting to be his disciples, but in the end they weren’t willing to make a commitment. God’s goal is not merely your salvation but your discipleship. He doesn’t want you to just show up for church on Sunday; he wants you to be a visible, verbal follower of Jesus Christ every day of the week.

Luke provides three examples of people who talked a good game but who were unwilling to get off the bench. The first man told Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go (9:57). That sounded good, but Jesus has a way of going beneath your words to discover your motives. He told the man that foxes know where they’ll sleep at night, and birds know where they’ll nest for the evening. But the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (9:58). What he meant was that following his call to become a disciple will become hard at times. There will be uncertainties. In fact, “All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus,” Paul says, “will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). Will you follow him no matter what the cost?

9:59-60 When Jesus urged another man to follow him, the man pleaded, First let me go bury my father (9:59). This sounds like a reasonable request, but he wasn’t asking to go to a funeral. He was referring to the future death of his father. He wanted to make sure that he received his father’s inheritance. Then, when his circumstances were secure, he’d be equipped to be a disciple.

Jesus challenged him: Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God (9:60). In other words, he said, let those who are spiritually dead worry about such things. You can’t delay the calling of the kingdom. It’s God’s comprehensive rule over every area of life. Indeed, he calls you to be his follower right now, where you are, with whatever you have—not later, somewhere else, with a little bit more.

9:61-62 A third man responded in the affirmative but asked to say good-bye to those at his house (9:61). To this, Jesus insisted that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God (9:62). In other words, Jesus considered this man double-minded. He compared him to someone plowing a field while looking behind himself, and such farming will result in nothing but a crooked field. The man’s mention of his family left the door open for them to persuade him to rethink his decision. To all who want to have it both ways—being the Lord’s disciple and maintaining control of their own lives—Jesus insists, “You have to get off the fence to follow me. You must not allow even family relationships to trump loyalty to me.”

10:1-4 Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples to carry out the mission of proclaiming the kingdom of God in word and deed. They were to travel ahead of him two-by-two to the towns that he would be visiting (10:1). He gave them instructions similar to those he gave to the Twelve when he sent them out (see 9:1-2). There was much to do—the harvest was abundant—but those willing to do the kingdom work were few (10:2). Moreover, they would face much hostility; they would be like lambs among wolves (10:3). The mission required haste. They were not to carry supplies that one would normally take on a journey, and they were to avoid unnecessary distractions (10:4). There was no time to waste. But God would provide for all of their mission needs. The disciples were to be completely focused on their calling and not be deterred from it. Living God’s kingdom agenda isn’t easy. But since the King is sovereign, the outcome is sure.

10:5-12 The people they encountered who accepted the kingdom message would support them by demonstrating hospitality (10:5-8). The disciples would be granted authority to perform miracles as a way to authenticate their message about the kingdom of God and of the coming Messiah (10:9). Even those who rejected the message were to be informed of the nearness of the kingdom, but the disciples were to wipe the dust off of their feet as a witness against the unbelieving towns (10:10-11). That it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town (10:12) is a reference to the wicked Old Testament city destroyed by burning sulfur that rained from heaven (see Gen 19:24-25). Those who reject the clear revelation of God’s kingdom message through his emissaries, then, will incur a more severe judgment than they. The rejection of greater light brings greater judgment.

10:13-15 Jesus then pronounced judgment against three Galilean cities that had rejected his past ministry: Chorazin . . . Bethsaida . . . Capernaum (10:13, 15). Bethsaida was the hometown of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (see John 1:44). Capernaum was Jesus’s home during his ministry (Matt 4:13). The condemnation of the towns would be based on the revelation they’d received. The principle is this: the greater the level of revelation, the greater the judgment for rejecting that revelation. Jesus declared that the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon north of Israel would have repented long ago if they had seen and heard what these Galilean cities had (10:14-15). Capernaum, in particular, had witnessed many of Jesus’s miraculous works (4:31-41; 7:1-10), yet the majority of its inhabitants rejected him.

10:16 Whoever listens to you listens to me When Christ’s disciples speak his Word, the listeners hear Christ; therefore, whoever rejects them rejects Jesus. And to reject Christ is to reject the one who sent him—God the Father. That chain reaction of rejection will lead to eternal damnation.

10:17-20 When the seventy-two returned, they were full of joy. Jesus’s powerful name, even without his physical presence, was enough to give them authority over demons (10:17). To this, Jesus testified that he’d watched Satan fall from heaven like lightning (10:18)—a reference to the judgment on Satan when he rebelled against God and was kicked out of heaven (see Isa 14:12-14). Not only does this affirm the pre-existence of Jesus and that he was involved in Satan’s judgment, but it gives insight into how the devil was sentenced to earth, setting the stage for the angelic conflict and the creation of mankind (see Eph 6:12; Heb 2:6-8). It also shows that the spiritual warfare ministry of the seventy-two was a continuation of the defeat of Satan. Yet as special as this spiritual authority was, it was not to be the followers’ primary source of joy. More important than having wicked spirits submitting to them was having their names . . . written in heaven (10:20). To have a relationship with God—to be citizens of the kingdom and headed toward glory—is to be our supreme source of joy. Everything else is a bonus.

10:21-22 Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit that God’s will was being fully accomplished in his ministry, and he praised the Father for the spiritually inspired success of the seventy-two. His prayer demonstrates the unique, intimate relationship he shared with the Father, as well as his exclusive prerogative to reveal the Father to others who trusted in his words and works through childlike faith.

10:23-24 Jesus then said privately to his disciples that they belonged to that spiritual category of trusting children that he had just spoken of. They had seen and heard what many Old Testament saints had longed to see and hear: the coming of the Messiah and his kingdom.

10:25-27 An expert in the law came to test Jesus, asking him how one could inherit eternal life (10:25). This concept of inheritance involves not merely entering the kingdom, which is by faith alone in Christ alone, but receiving the rewards and quality of life associated with following God. When Jesus asked the man how he read the law, the man answered by quoting two passages of Scripture (10:26-27): Deuteronomy 6:5, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind and Leviticus 19:18, Love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus identified these as the two greatest commands from the Old Testament (see Matt 22:34-40). To love God is to passionately pursue his glory; to love your neighbor is to compassionately, righteously, and responsibly seek his or her well-being. The two are inseparable.

10:28-29 Jesus affirmed the man’s answer (10:28). But the man wanted to justify himself, so he asked, And who is my neighbor? (10:29). The question implied that he had no objective way to determine whom he should be loving. His assumption was that some people didn’t qualify to be his neighbor and were therefore undeserving of his love, so he wanted to know how Jesus would define a neighbor.

10:30-32 Jesus answered by telling a parable. A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, a distance of seventeen miles that involved a 3,000-foot drop in elevation. It was a dangerous journey. On the way, he fell among robbers who beat him and left him half dead (10:30). The first two travelers to pass by the crime scene were a priest and a Levite. Now, priests were responsible for interpreting the law and officiating in the temple. The Levites (the tribe from which the priests came) assisted the priests in their duties.

Perhaps these men had fulfilled their religious obligations in Jerusalem and wanted to get home, or perhaps they were on their way to Jerusalem and didn’t want to be late. Maybe they thought contact with the man would contaminate them or were afraid of being robbed themselves should they stop. Regardless, they didn’t want to be bothered with this stricken man, so they passed by on the other side of the road (10:31-32).

The priest and Levite are, unfortunately, like many religious people today who hold tenaciously to their theology but ignore those around them who are suffering. Broken people need someone to show them compassion and give them life—not merely talk to them and pray for them. This priest and Levite had run into an unplanned ministry opportunity, and they ignored it.

10:33-35 Then a Samaritan came along. The Jews’ hatred of the Samaritans had historical roots (see 9:51-56; John 4:9, 20). When Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, many Israelites were exiled from the land, but some were left behind. Then the Assyrians brought many captives from other lands to Israel. As a result, many Jews intermarried with these peoples. The Samaritans of Jesus’s day were descendants of those intermarriages, and the animosity between Jew and Samaritan was strong. Nevertheless, this Samaritan saw the man and had compassion on him, bandaging his wounds, taking him to an inn, and paying for his care.

Jesus chose to use a despised and rejected person to make his point. And our neighbors, too, are found in any and every racial and ethnic group. The care demonstrated by the Samaritan reflects the care that should be demonstrated by God’s people. The church of Jesus Christ ought to be a place where wounded people can come to receive love and life.

10:36-37 The man had asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (10:29). But Jesus turned the question around and asked, Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor? (10:36). In other words, he pressed, what kind of neighbor are you? Tellingly, the expert in the law couldn’t even bring himself to utter the words, “The Samaritan.” He simply said, The one who showed mercy to him. So Jesus exhorted him, Go and do the same (10:37).

Your neighbor is the person whose need you see, feel, and are able to meet. Mercy is compassion to a person in need. When you see a legitimate need with which you emotionally connect, and which is within your capacity to address, you are called in the name of Christ to demonstrate compassion. Love is not abstract and theoretical. It is concrete and requires action toward those who are hurting. Our devotion to God must be seen. To experience the life, blessing, and reward that the kingdom has to offer, we are to reflect our vertical love for God through our horizontal love to others.

10:38-39 Martha and Mary were intimate friends of Jesus. We see these sisters several times in the Gospels—the most well-known occasion being when Jesus raised their brother Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44). On this day, Martha had invited Jesus into her home for dinner (Luke 10:38). But while she was making preparations for her honored guest, her sister sat at the Lord’s feet . . . listening to what he said (10:39). Every time we see Mary, in fact, she’s at Jesus’s feet. In John 11:32, she fell at Jesus’s feet. In John 12:3, she anointed Jesus’s feet. Here in Luke, she’s listening at Jesus’s feet. To sit at one’s feet was the position of a learner in submission to a teacher. Mary loved Jesus and wanted to absorb everything he had to say.

10:40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks. And somewhere in the midst of her preparations, it dawned on Martha that she was preparing alone. Her sister was listening to a sermon, and Martha was becoming fed up with fixing the Messiah’s dinner all by herself. So she stormed out of the kitchen, ignored her sister, and said to Jesus, Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand. Just like that, Martha went from welcoming Jesus as her guest to blaming him for not caring about her. Notice her inference: Jesus, if you really cared, you wouldn’t be talking right now. You’d do things my way. Martha was so upset with her sister Mary that she refused to address her directly but asked Jesus to do so for her.

Martha had become so focused on what she was doing for Jesus that she’d become frustrated with Jesus. Luke says she was “distracted by her many tasks.” It’s easy for us to be distracted from God when we think we’re ministering to him. So remember that when your service to God affects your relationship with God and your fellowship with other believers, there’s a problem.

10:41-42 Jesus told Martha that she was worried and upset about many things, but only one was necessary. Martha had become so distracted by all of her service that she had forgotten the main thing. Mary, Jesus said, has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her (10:42). Jesus wasn’t suggesting to Martha that there was no work to be done. Rather, he was saying that when your work for the Lord damages your relationship with him, you need to reassess the amount of work and motivation for your service. Mary had chosen what matters most: relationship. She wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to sit in Jesus’s presence and humbly hear him teach. Mary understood that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut 8:3).

God wants you to serve him—but not at the expense of your relationship with him. If lately you are doing more for God but are colder toward God, if you are working harder but praying less, you need to do a spiritual reassessment.

11:1 The disciples witnessed Jesus’s intimate prayer to the Father on many occasions (3:21-22; 5:16; 6:12; 10:21-22). After he finished this time, one of his disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. They had observed his commitment to and the results of his prayer, and they wanted to have the same experience.

11:2 So Jesus spoke a model prayer for the disciples. He opened it this way: Father, your name be honored as holy. Prayer begins with our orientation to God. You must know the one to whom you are praying. Many of us have a mere thimble full of prayer because we have a thimble full of knowledge about God. If you know little about God, you won’t have much to say.

We begin by addressing him as “Father.” Regardless of what your earthly father was like, your heavenly Father is perfect. And he is “holy”—that is, he is separate from and transcendent over his creation. Holiness, in fact, is God’s chief characteristic. It’s the attribute that ties all of his other attributes together. His love is holy; his justice is holy; his mercy is holy. He is “holy, holy, holy” (Isa 6:3). We are to honor his name (i.e., his character and reputation) as holy, recognizing him as pure and distinct. He alone is to be worshiped and obeyed.

In light of this, we are to pray that his kingdom would come. God’s people are to be about God’s program. The people of the King are called to follow his kingdom agenda. As the Creator, God rules over the world, and his priorities are to be our priorities. No aspect of life falls outside of his kingdom rule. Our allegiance is to be total.

11:3 To accomplish God’s program, we depend on his provision. So we must pray that he would give us each day our daily bread. If we occupy ourselves with kingdom business, we can count on God supplying our needs (see Phil 4:19); nevertheless, we must ask for those provisions. Notice also that we must ask “each day.” We want to receive enough provision to last for years, but he will supply today everything that we need to accomplish his will today. This keeps us in daily dependence on him.

11:4 Disciples are to pray that God would forgive us our sins. Forgiveness is the cancellation of a debt. You cannot have dynamic fellowship with God if you are not dealing seriously with your sin. As the Holy Spirit reveals sin in our lives, we are to address it. We don’t deal with last week’s sins today; we deal with today’s sins today. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But we also must forgive everyone in debt to us. Just as God in Christ forgave us, so we are called to forgive one another (see Eph 4:32).

Do not bring us into temptation is a request for God to keep or protect us from any situation that we can’t handle. Every Christian will experience trials. What we need is God’s help in the midst of trial so we can say no to temptation. The purpose of prayer is to prepare you for a trial so that you can face the trial, honor God, and grow spiritually as a result.

11:5-8 To encourage his disciples to petition God boldly in prayer in spite of their circumstances, Jesus told them a story of two friends. One friend went to the home of the other at midnight, asking for bread to feed a visitor who’d come to stay with him (11:5-6). Yet, even though the time was inconvenient and his family was in bed, the man met his need because of his friend’s shameless boldness (11:7-8). Bold persistence in a relationship with God leads to needs being met.

11:9-13 Jesus follows this story with an invitation to his disciples to seek God in prayer with boldness. We are not to sit back and wait for things to happen. Jesus calls us to ask . . . seek . . . knock in prayer (11:9), and his followers can expect a positive response from the Father if they come to him boldly (11:10). Human fathers, though sinful, intuitively give food to their children rather than something that will harm them (11:11-12). How much more, then, will our perfect, holy, and righteous heavenly Father discriminate and give good gifts to his children? The best heavenly gift that God gives to those who ask is the Holy Spirit (11:13), who in the new covenant delivers God’s will to his children. Thus, the Holy Spirit is available to operate on God’s behalf through our prayers for our benefit and through us for the benefit of others.

11:14-16 Jesus continued to perform miraculous works that confirmed his identity. Once when he cast a demon from a mute man so that the man spoke, some of his opponents accused him of driving out demons under the authority of Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons—that is, Satan (11:14-15). Others demanded he give them a sign from heaven to prove his authority (11:16)—as if his miracles weren’t sign enough.

11:17-19 Jesus responded by explaining how ridiculous their accusations were. If Satan were driving out his own demons, he would be counteracting his own purposes (11:17-18). The devil will one day be defeated, but it won’t be because he defeats himself. He’ll be vanquished at the hands of King Jesus (see Rev 20:10). Furthermore, if Jesus were driving out spirits by the hand of Satan, then by whose power were the followers of the religious leaders driving them out? They couldn’t condemn Jesus without condemning themselves (11:19).

11:20-23 On the other hand, if he cast out demons by the finger—that is, the power—of God, then he must be Messiah bringing his kingdom (11:20). Jesus affirmed that he is the one with power over Satan, the strong man (11:21). Though Satan had bound people, Jesus demonstrated that he was stronger by overpowering his evil forces, setting captives free, and dividing up Satan’s plunder (11:22). The refusal of Jesus’s accusers to gather fellow Israelites to follow him as Messiah made them complicit in the eventual destruction of the nation (11:23). There can be no neutrality when it comes to Jesus Christ. He is either the Messiah or he is Satan, but he cannot be a mere teacher or miracle worker.

11:24-26 Jesus explained what happens when an unclean spirit leaves the person it had possessed and returns (11:24). When it finds its former “home” put in order, it returns with a whole host of demons more evil than itself. Then that person’s last condition is worse than the first (11:25-26). It’s not enough, then, to be rid of demonic activity in one’s life. The emptiness must be replaced by the Holy Spirit. There is no neutral position. We must not create a comfortable lodging place for the demonic realm to call home.

11:27-28 A woman pronounced a blessing on Jesus based on the blessedness of his mother Mary (11:27), but Jesus made it plain that admiration of him does not replace obedience to him (11:28). Attending church, praising God, and carrying a Bible are worthless when there is disobedience in one’s life.

11:29-32 Jesus condemned those demanding a sign of him (11:29; see 11:16). Gentiles in Nineveh believed Jonah, though he performed no miracles (11:30). The queen of the south traveled from far away to hear Solomon’s God-given wisdom, though he offered no heavenly signs (11:31). How much more should the crowds believe the Son of Man who is far greater than either Jonah or Solomon? (11:32). The only sign they would receive was the sign of Jonah (11:29), who had spent three days and nights in the belly of a huge fish, leading to the repentance of the Gentiles (see Matt 12:40). Similarly, Jesus would spend three days and nights in the earth—dead and buried. Then he would rise again as proof of his identity as the Messiah, leading also to the repentance of the Gentiles.

11:33-36 To listen and respond to Jesus is to receive light. When a person’s eye reacts properly to light, he can function normally. Jesus keeps you from operating in darkness and deception (11:34-35). When you respond to God’s truth, you are enabled to live an authentic life (11:36). You will clearly see your life’s path and make wise decisions.

11:37-41 Jesus accepted the invitation of a Pharisee to join him for lunch (11:37). When Jesus didn’t engage in the ritual cleansing that was the Pharisees’ custom before a meal, the Pharisee was shocked (11:38). So Jesus used the opportunity to show the Jewish leaders that their spiritual focus was wrongly placed and dishonoring to God. They were scrupulous to cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but they weren’t concerned with cleansing the greed and evil within their own hearts (11:39). Since God made the external and the internal aspects of man, obedience needs to be both internal and external. Proof that one is clean on the inside is demonstrated through service to others, particularly charitable giving to those who can do nothing in return (11:41). How you handle possessions reveals major truth about your inner life.

11:42-44 The encounter in 11:37-41 set off a chain reaction in which Jesus pronounced “woes” of condemnation on the Pharisees and experts in the law. He criticized them for their commitment to externals and the appearance of righteousness. They diligently tithed garden herbs and loved the front seat in the synagogues, but they failed to show justice to their neighbors and love for God (11:42-43). Instead of serving as safe spiritual guides for people, the Pharisees caused others to be contaminated—just as a Jew would become defiled by walking on an unmarked grave without knowing it (11:44; see Num 19:16).

11:45-46 Hearing this, one of the experts in the law told Jesus that he was insulting them too by saying such things (11:45). Thus, Jesus turned his sights on them. He pronounced woe on these experts in the Mosaic law because their legal prescriptions went far beyond the Old Testament commandments so that they loaded people down with burdens too heavy to bear (11:46). They neglected the very law that they studied and contributed to moving people further from God rather than closer to him.

11:47-52 While these men were happy to build monuments for dead prophets, it was the live ones they had a problem with (11:47-51). As their ancestors killed the Old Testament prophets, so the Jewish religious leaders wanted to kill the Messiah. In reality, these experts in the law were anything but experts. They had taken away the key to knowledge (11:52). They lacked true knowledge of God, and they denied others access to the truth as well.

11:53-54 The scribes and Pharisees didn’t take this lying down. They vigorously opposed him. They constantly questioned him, plotted against him, and sought to trap him in his answers. Jesus was their archenemy.

B. Discipleship and Opposition (12:1–15:32)

12:1-3 Jesus was getting national exposure. Many thousands were flocking to him. After his recent conflict with the religious leadership (11:37-54), Jesus warned his disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (12:1). Leaven or yeast slowly and imperceptibly permeates a batch of dough, and similarly the undetected wicked influence of the Pharisees could spread to many—even the disciples—if not guarded against. Nevertheless, Jesus promised that nothing would remain hidden forever. Secret motives and whispered words would one day be public knowledge (12:2-3). Nothing can be hidden from God.

12:4-7 Knowing his disciples were fearful of the Pharisees’ power and threats, Jesus comforted his friends. In light of their intimate connection with him, he urged them, Don’t fear. Though some of them would experience martyrdom at the hands of their opponents (see, e.g., Acts 12:1-2), such enemies of God could kill the body and do nothing more (Luke 12:4). The one to truly fear is God, who has authority to throw people into hell (12:5). In the grand scheme of things, birds are insignificant and of very little value, yet God cares for them. How much greater is his care for his children who trust him (12:6-7)?

12:8-10 When Jesus’s followers acknowledge him, even in a hostile context, God will acknowledge and honor them. They also will experience access to the Father in prayer as the Son confesses them before the Father (12:8). Conversely, the believer who does not publicly acknowledge association with Jesus will not receive recognition by the Father. He will lose rewards and experience unanswered prayer, since he won’t be endorsed by the Son (12:9).

Jesus gave two examples of negative responses—words spoken against him and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Words spoken against Jesus could be forgiven. But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be (12:10). Why? Because it is deliberate, willful rejection of Christ whom the Holy Spirit reveals. To reject the Holy Spirit’s testimony of Christ is to reject the only means God has provided for salvation.

12:11-12 God would not abandon his disciples. When they appeared before synagogues and rulers and authorities in Jesus’s name, the Holy Spirit would give them the words to say. An example of the fulfillment of this promise is seen in Peter’s testimony in Acts 4:8-12.

12:13-14 The more things change, the more things stay the same. Greed, covetousness, the desire to be rich—such cravings transcend time and culture. Jesus was confronted by a man who wanted his brother to divide the inheritance with him (12:13). But Jesus answered, Who appointed me a judge or arbitrator over you? (12:14). Jesus was on a spiritual mission. He had just finished teaching about the Holy Spirit (12:10, 12) and was talking about eternal, heavenly matters. But this man wanted to distract Jesus with temporal, earthly matters.

12:15 So Jesus used this as an opportunity to teach the crowds (note that he spoke to them not merely to “him”) about material strongholds in a person’s life. He said, Watch out and be on guard against all greed. Greed comes in all shapes and sizes. It appeals to people from all walks of life, regardless of income or social status. No one is immune to the attacks of covetousness. It is when the material takes priority over the spiritual. The man who spoke in 12:13 was as greedy as his brother whom he was complaining about. Therefore, we must have our defenses up at all times because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions. What you possess has nothing to do with what life is all about. Life does not consist of stuff.

12:16-19 Jesus illustrated with a parable. A rich man had a bumper crop. Having nowhere to store his harvest, he tore down his barns and built bigger ones (12:16-18). Once he solved the problem of what to do with all his stuff, he kicked back and said to himself, Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself (12:19). At no point did he say, “God has blessed me with an abundance. I have more than I need. Whom can I serve with what I have?” There was no room in this man’s life for anyone else. God doesn’t bless you just so you can build bigger storage spaces. He blesses you so that you can also bless others.

12:20-21 What was God’s assessment of this man and his materialism (i.e., prioritizing the physical over the spiritual)? You fool! Why was he a fool? After all, he had invested well; his retirement was secure. The problem was that his life was about to be demanded of him. And the things he’d prepared would go to someone else (12:20). The man saw gain; God saw loss. The man saw life; God saw death. According to Jesus, this man is what a person is like who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God (12:21). The man’s wealth is not the issue here; it’s that he hoarded it for himself with no thought of God or the temporal nature of life. Though he was physically rich, he was spiritually poor. He had everything except God—which means he had nothing.

12:22-26 Jesus explained to his disciples that it’s foolish to be anxious about food and clothing because life consists of more than these things (12:22-23). The disciples were more valuable than unclean birds that God feeds and cares for. How much more will he take care of his own children who trust him? (12:24). Worrying is foolish because it cannot bring about change to your situation. Think of it as a rocking chair: it will get you moving, but it can’t take you anywhere. You can’t add a single second to your life-span by worrying (12:25). If you can’t accomplish something so minuscule, why worry about the big stuff (12:26)?

12:27-32 Like the birds of the air (12:24), wildflowers don’t worry. Yet God cares for this simple aspect of his creation. And he is much more inclined to care for you (12:27-28). Another reason that worrying is foolish is because the Gentiles are anxious about the things of life. It’s one thing for unbelievers to worry, but believers who trust in a heavenly Father should not by filled with anxiety (12:29-30). Instead, Christ’s disciples have access to the spiritual realm when they prioritize the kingdom of God (12:31), with its promises and provisions, because the kingdom is the divine rule. As defenseless as his children are in the world, it would be the Father’s joy to give them (the little flock) kingdom covering (12:32).

12:33-34 The disciples were to divest themselves of anything that would prohibit the pursuit of the kingdom and its priorities (12:33). They were to pursue spiritual treasures above physical ones. When we value heaven more than earth, we build and protect true wealth that’s unlike treasure accumulated here that is subject to decay and theft (12:33). The heart follows treasures and not vice versa. So wherever you want your heart to be, put your treasure there; your heart will follow it (12:34).

12:35-40 As the disciples waited for Christ to return (that is, for his second coming), they were to be ready for service (12:35). He compared them to servants waiting for their master to return (12:36). They were to be alert and ready to receive him (12:37). Christ’s disciples today are also to be ready always, for his return could come at any time (12:40). During the darkness of this present age, followers of Jesus are to be ready and active. Our witness must be visible and clear. We must live with a sense of expectancy as we wait for our master’s appearing.

12:41-44 Peter wondered whether this teaching was for the Twelve only or for the crowd in general (12:41). Jesus’s response demonstrated that his teaching was for anyone who would receive and apply it. He introduced an illustration with the question, Who then is the faithful and sensible manager his master will put in charge? (12:42). The answer is that servant whom the master finds doing his job when he comes (12:43). The faithful servant of Jesus is the one who is given a task, performs it, and is blessed by it. The reward that Jesus will give to the faithful steward will be far greater than the challenges encountered in this service. Faithful believers will receive greater responsibility at the return of Christ (12:44).

12:45-48 Conversely, if one is not expecting his master to return and is, therefore, unfaithful and foolish, that person will be judged (12:45-46). Unfaithful believers will be weighed based on the level of their knowledge and responsibility, which means leaders will receive greater judgment than those who didn’t have that level of responsibility (12:48).

12:49-53 Jesus would bring division and not peace (12:51) because some would accept him, while others would reject him. In fulfillment of Scripture, in fact, he would bring division even within the same household (12:52; see Mic 7:6). His ministry would be fire that devours (12:49), but the goal of that blazing fire is national purification. This would involve Jesus’s baptism (12:50)—which is not a reference to his baptism by John, but a metaphorical reference to his coming death and resurrection to bring about redemption for those who respond to him.

12:54-56 Jesus acknowledged that the crowds knew how to interpret the natural signs of clouds and wind and make correct weather predictions (12:54-55). However, they couldn’t interpret the signs of the time (12:56). They couldn’t understand spiritual signs. Though many of them had seen the signs of his ministry, they refused to conclude that Jesus was the promised Messiah. They couldn’t see what was right in front of their eyes.

12:57-59 Jesus compared their failure to discern the signs before them (12:54-56) with someone settling a legal dispute. Rather than waiting to address a matter in court, a person should seek to settle out of court to avoid prison time and to decrease the penalty that has to be paid (12:58-59). Likewise, those who continue to reject Messiah, while the day of opportunity to be reconciled to God is available, will in the end face a more severe judgment.

13:1-5 Pontius Pilate was a ruthless ruler. Even before he confronts Jesus at the end of Luke’s Gospel, readers learn of the Roman governor’s violent nature. Some people told Jesus that Pilate had killed some Galileans and mixed their blood with their sacrifices (13:1). Perhaps they wanted to hear Jesus condemn Pilate for that; instead, Jesus used the opportunity to urge his listeners to repent (13:3).

Repentance is the inner resolve and determination to turn from sin and toward the Lord. The goal of repentance is to reverse, avoid, limit, or cancel divine judgment and the consequences of sin. That eighteen people were killed when a tower in Siloam fell on them (13:4) is a sobering reminder that regardless of the circumstances, death can come when we least expect it—on the righteous and the unrighteous. Unless we as believers repent of sin, we are subject to temporal judgment, including physical death. Unless the lost repent, they will perish eternally in hell (13:5).

13:6-9 Jesus told a parable of a fig tree that bore no fruit (13:6). The owner ordered his worker to cut it down (13:7). But the worker asked that the owner let him fertilize the tree. If it still bore no fruit next year, then he would cut it (13:8-9). A fig tree’s well-being is dependent on its bearing fruit, and this parable follows Jesus’s exhortation that people repent of sin (13:1-5). If good fruit is absent from a person’s life, some kind of judgment is certain. Inner repentance leads to an external demonstration of righteousness. Without visible fruit, professions of repentance are as genuine as a barren fig tree pretending to be healthy.

13:10-13 On another occasion, Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath when a woman came in who had been disabled by a spirit for over eighteen years (13:10-11) Her disability caused her to be bent over and unable to straighten up at all (13:11). For almost two decades, then, she saw nothing but the ground. But this day, Jesus set her free (13:12). She was instantly healed and began to glorify God (13:13) when she accepted his invitation to come to him.

Though she had a physical ailment, Luke tells us twice that it was not the real source of her problem. She had been “disabled by a spirit” (13:11) and “bound” by “Satan” (13:16). Thus, she was under demonic attack. The evil spirit was the root, and her physical deformity was the fruit. But Jesus was able to see what no one else could and took care of the spiritual issue.

13:14 Unfortunately, the leader of the synagogue was not happy. He had an order of service, and Jesus deviated from it. The Sabbath was for worship alone, not for work. He thus told the crowd to come on the other six days of the week to get healed, but not on the Sabbath (13:14). But if the man had known what fury Jesus was about to unleash, he perhaps would’ve kept his mouth shut.

13:15-17 Hypocrites! The synagogue leader and his companions didn’t practice what they preached. Even on the Sabbath, they would untie their ox or donkey and lead it to water (13:15). Such care for an animal is expected and not the kind of work that God had prohibited by the Sabbath command. So, if an animal is worthy of such mercy, shouldn’t a daughter of Abraham—a member of the covenant and its promises—be untied from her bondage on the Sabbath day? (13:16). With that stinging criticism from Jesus, all his adversaries in the synagogue were humiliated, and the crowd was rejoicing (13:17).

13:18-21 Jesus offered two parables to describe God’s work in bringing his kingdom (13:18). The kingdom is like a small mustard seed that grows large so that birds can nest in its branches (13:19). While God’s kingdom work began small and with seemingly insignificant people (fishermen and tax collectors), it would grow significantly and accommodate all of its citizens. The kingdom is also like leaven, which a woman mixed throughout a large batch of flour (13:20-21). Over time, God’s kingdom would continue to expand and work its way throughout the world.

13:22-30 As Jesus continued his ministry en route to Jerusalem, a person asked—in light of the opposition and rejection he was experiencing—if only a few people were going to be saved (13:22-23). Jesus made it clear that to enter the kingdom, one would have to accept him and his words. No other option was possible. He illustrated this by describing a homeowner shutting the door to his home, representing the kingdom. Once the entrance is closed, no one will be able to enter. Those who cry out for entry after it’s too late will face the consequences (13:24-27). Meanwhile, the godly will be saved. Some who are last will be first, and some who are first will be last (13:30) implies a great reversal. For example, though many Jews would reject Jesus, Gentiles would receive him. Gentiles would be among the first to enter, while Jews would be the last.

13:31-33 Some Pharisees approached Jesus and warned him to leave because Herod wanted to kill him (13:31). Herod Antipas was the tetrarch over Galilee, appointed by the Romans. This warning was presumably a pretext to get Jesus out of their area. But even though it meant traveling through Herod’s district, Jesus had to reach Jerusalem. That’s where he would complete his work (13:32-33). He had a mission to fulfill and a schedule to meet, and neither Herod nor the Pharisees could thwart him.

13:34-35 At the thought of Jerusalem, the city that housed the temple, Jesus lamented over its centuries of rejecting God and his prophets. As a hen desires to protect her chicks, Jesus longed to do the same for Jerusalem (13:34). But since the holy city was rejecting its Messiah, he would have to reject her. After his death and resurrection, Jerusalem would not see him again until his return to reign as King in his kingdom when believing Jews call out, Blessed is he who come in the name of the Lord! (13:35).

14:1-6 Jesus was invited to eat at the home of one of the leading Pharisees (14:1). One of those present was a man suffering from dropsy, a condition that resulted in his body being swollen with fluid (14:2). Knowing that they were watching to see what he would do, Jesus asked them if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath (14:3). No doubt they felt the same as the synagogue leader in 13:10-17, believing that it was unlawful to do so. But they were unwilling to answer and remained silent, so Jesus healed the man (14:4). Then he asked a question that showed they were hypocrites. Any one of them would help a son or an ox on the Sabbath if it fell into a well (14:5). So why was it wrong in their eyes to do good to a man by healing him? They were twisting God’s law to suit themselves.

14:7-11 When he noticed how the invited guests chose places of honor closer to the host, Jesus exhorted them to do otherwise. Rather than choosing the best seat, only to be asked to give it up to a more distinguished person, they should instead choose the lowest place. This would give the host an opportunity to move them up to a better seat (14:8-10). Notice that the first scenario results in humiliation, but the latter results in honor. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted (14:11).

The Pharisees exalted themselves, assuming that they held important positions in the kingdom. But Jesus sought to teach them the relationship between humility and exaltation. We are to live with an eternal perspective in mind—not with a desire for notoriety. Followers of Christ are not to exalt themselves by presumptuously seeking positions of greatness; rather, they are to assume lower positions of service and allow God to exalt them. Humility is the true path to glory.

14:12-14 Having spoken to the guests, Jesus then addressed the host. He encouraged him not to invite merely his friends and relatives to share meals with him (14:12) but to invite the poor and lame—those who could not repay him (14:13-14). Inviting the outcasts of society would indicate that he had an eternal perspective, since repayment for such would come at the resurrection (14:14).

14:15-24 One of the guests with him at the meal declared, Blessed is the one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God! (14:15). So Jesus told a parable emphasizing that many who expected to be there would be excluded from the kingdom. The man in the parable invited a large number of people to a banquet (14:16-17), but they all gave excuses explaining why they could not come (14:18-20). Angry at this, the man sent his servant to gather the rejected of society—the poor, maimed, blind, and lame (14:21). Even after this, there was still room for more (14:22). So the host insisted that others be brought in, since those originally invited had rejected it (14:23-24). Since most of the Jews rejected Jesus, his kingdom message would be declared and received by others—by the Gentiles. There’s no excuse for rejecting Jesus. The King and his kingdom must have priority.

14:25-26 Tremendous crowds were following Jesus (14:25). But he knew that many of them were merely following him for the show he was providing: the miracles, the healings, the exorcisms, the teachings. So he wanted them to understand that to truly be his disciple was costly and said that unless one were to hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, he could not be a disciple (14:26). Now, that’s a pretty tall order. Aren’t children called to love and honor their parents (see Exod 20:12)? Aren’t husbands called to love their wives as Christ loved the church (see Eph 5:25)? What did Jesus mean?

The parallel passage in Matthew helps explain. In Matthew 10:37, Jesus said, “The one who loves a father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; the one who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” The point is that Jesus deserves priority over every other relationship. If you must choose between Jesus and a family member, then, Jesus wins. Our love for him must be so strong that unbelieving family members think our love for them might as well be hate, because we chose to obey Jesus rather than do what they want. This is the call to and cost of discipleship.

14:27 The cost of discipleship doesn’t end there. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Jesus cannot be his disciple. Crucifixion was the Roman execution of choice for heinous criminals. And a condemned person had to carry his cross to his crucifixion site. So Jesus’s listeners knew what he was talking about. Many had seen it happen. Jesus was telling them that becoming his disciple would involve some form of suffering. Not every Christian disciple’s suffering is the same, but every Christian disciple will suffer. This is because to bear your cross and follow Jesus means to identify with him. And as Jesus told his disciples, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).

14:28-33 Continuing his discussion of the cost of discipleship, Jesus described two scenarios. In the first, a man decided to build a tower. Before beginning, a wise builder would naturally calculate the cost to ensure that he could complete the work (14:28-30). The second scenario involved a king going to war. Long before battle begins, a king must make sure that he has sufficient forces to defeat his enemy; otherwise, he should seek terms of peace (14:31-32). The follower of Christ must similarly count the cost of what it means to truly be his disciple. In particular, a disciple must renounce all his possessions (14:33). That means recognizing that you are a steward of all you have; you are not an owner. God has given you possessions to manage. You are to thank him for them, use them for his glory, and bless others with them. What you must not do is claim ownership.

14:34-35 Jesus concluded his discourse on the costly nature of discipleship with an observation about the nature of salt: Salt is good. That statement meant more to Jesus’s hearers than to most of us. To them salt not only flavored food but preserved it (there were no refrigerators!). But if salt loses its taste, how will it be made salty? (14:34). The obvious answer is that it won’t be. The saltiness of salt is what makes it salt! Without that, it isn’t fit for . . . the manure pile. Likewise, unless a Christian is willing to endure the costly nature of being a disciple, he is useless to the kingdom of God. Let anyone who has ears to hear listen (14:35) is Jesus’s way of saying, “Though everyone has ears, not everyone listens. You’d better pay close attention.”

15:1-2 One of the things the Pharisees and scribes hated about Jesus was that he spent time and ate with those whom they despised: tax collectors and sinners. As far as the religious leaders were concerned, such people were to be avoided—not welcomed. They thought Jesus should be hanging out with religious people who were serious about keeping the law.

15:3-6 Aware of this, Jesus told them a parable about a shepherd who owned a hundred sheep and lost one (15:3-4). Wouldn’t the man leave the ninety-nine and search for the missing one (15:4)? The way Jesus asked the question implies that the answer he expected was “yes.” Of course the shepherd would search for his lost sheep. Once it was found, he’d even hold a party and call everyone to rejoice with him over it (15:5-6). Jesus clearly considered this to be the most natural response to finding a lost lamb.

15:7 In the same way, the host of heaven party more over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need repentance. Hanging out with safe sheep when one is lost is as absurd as hanging out with only righteous people when you want to urge lost people to repent or to encourage erring believers to be restored to the Father. If you want to rescue the lost, you’ve got to go where they are. Sinners who repent, and erring saints who return, experience restored fellowship with God, and heaven rejoices. The Pharisees and scribes should have rejoiced too.

15:8-10 Jesus’s second parable was similar to the first. A woman lost one of her ten silver coins. Wasting no time, she went to great lengths to find it, lighting a lamp, sweeping the house, and looking everywhere (15:8). When she found it, she called her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her (15:9). The principle is the same as the previous parable. Heaven gets excited to see one sinner who repairs his relationship with God through repentance (15:10). The Lord goes to great lengths to see salvation and restoration take place in a sinner’s life. Do we?

15:11-13 The third parable continues the same emphasis as the first two (15:3-10). All three parables tell one story. They were prompted by the religious leaders’ anger at Jesus for welcoming and eating with tax collectors and sinners (15:1-2). Why would Jesus spend time with dirty sinners rather than righteous folks?

Jesus’s third story is usually called “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” However, the prodigal son—the reckless and wasteful son who got himself lost—is not the focus of the story. He’s an essential character, but ultimately the parable is about the older brother because Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees and scribes (15:1-3). Jesus wanted these self-righteous leaders who had no compassion on the lost to see themselves in him.

The story opens on a man with two sons (15:11). The younger of the two had become tired of the restrictions of living at home. He wanted to spread his wings; he wanted his freedom. So he asked his father to give him his portion of the inheritance. It would not be normal, of course, for a father to divide his estate before his death. But this one did it (15:12). In requesting his inheritance, it was tantamount to wishing his father were dead. The younger son was thus independent, unencumbered, and well-funded. And it soon became clear why he wanted to leave: He squandered his estate in foolish living (15:13). You can always find out what a person cares about when you look at how he spends his money. A person’s heart is revealed by his credit card statement. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (12:34).

15:14-16 Then the bottom fell out. When all his money was gone, a severe famine struck that country (15:14). The young man became so desperate that he accepted a job feeding pigs (15:15). Don’t miss that. This is a Jewish man accepting a job to feed unclean animals. Furthermore, he had nothing to eat: He longed to eat his fill from the pods that the pigs were eating. The “pods” were carob pods, the fruit of the carob tree, which were used to feed animals. Since no one gave him anything to eat (15:16), the pigs were doing better than he was. His newly acquired “freedom” had come at a high cost.

15:17-19 Then he came to his senses. Sometimes God lets us experience a tremendous fall because that’s what it takes to open our eyes. It took life on a pig farm to bring this young man to his senses. He finally saw things as they really were and realized he should never have left home. His father’s hired workers were doing better than he was (15:17). So he resolved to return, confess his sin against God and his father, declare his unworthiness, and ask to be treated like the hired help (15:18-19).

15:20-22 While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him. What does that imply? The father had been looking for him. When he saw his son, he was overwhelmed with compassion, ran to him, and embraced him (15:20). The son tried to say his rehearsed confession, but the father cut him off, commanding his servants to dress his boy with a robe, a ring, and sandals (15:21-22).

That’s a beautiful picture of salvation and the restoration of erring saints. A destitute sinner comes to a holy God in repentance and faith with nothing to offer but desperate need. God the Father responds with love and compassion, granting the sinner all the privileges of sonship in the family and showers him with blessings—“every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ” (Eph 1:3).

15:23-24 Yet all of this wasn’t enough. The father told his servants, “Let’s have a party.” He had them kill the fattened calf and prepare a feast (15:23). For his dead son was alive again; his lost son was found (15:24).

15:25-30 Finally, Jesus introduced his listeners to the older son. Since he’s telling this parable to the Pharisees and scribes (15:1-3), everything in the story leads us to the response of the older son. He was coming in from the field—which means he had been working—when he heard music and dancing (15:25). That meant there was a party going on that he didn’t know about. When he learned that the celebration was for his brother, he became angry and refused to go inside (15:26-28). The young fool had run off, wasted his inheritance, and wrecked his life. Then he came home to be treated like a king?

When his father tried to plead with him, the older son pointed to his years of service and obedience (15:28-29). In spite of all his hard work, he never even received a goat to celebrate with his friends (15:29). But when this son of yours came (Notice that he didn’t refer to him as “my brother” but as “this son of yours”) who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him (15:30). In other words, “I slave for you all these years and get nothing. But he blows your money on decadence and gets a bash.”

15:31-32 But the older son didn’t understand. He was always with his father (15:31). Safe, secure, provided for, loved. His brother, meanwhile, had been lost and as good as dead. Given that he was found and alive, it was only natural to celebrate (15:32).

What makes a shepherd rejoice? When a straying sheep is found. What gives a woman joy? When she finds her lost coin. What causes a father to celebrate? The return of his lost son whom he loves. The Pharisees and scribes were angry with Jesus for welcoming tax collectors and sinners (15:1-2) because they had failed to understand the heart of God. He longs for the lost to be found. He’s filled with joy when a single sinner repents and comes home. He rejoices when a relationship is restored.

Notice the abrupt ending of the parable. We don’t know how the older brother responded. Did he return to the house with his father to celebrate his younger brother’s repentance? Or did he walk away in disgust and jealousy? There’s no answer because Jesus intended the religious leaders to ask themselves these questions. Were their hearts where God’s heart is? Is yours?

C. Living in Light of the Kingdom (16:1–19:27)

16:1-4 Jesus told a parable to remind his disciples to live and use earthly resources from an eternal perspective. A rich man had a manager who handled his business transactions, but the manager was found to be corrupt. He had been squandering his boss’s possessions (16:1). So the rich man called in his manager to fire him (16:2). As we’ll see, the manager may have been dishonest, but he wasn’t stupid. Immediately, the wheels of his mind started spinning: What will I do? . . . I’m not strong enough to dig; I’m ashamed to beg (16:3). He didn’t have the physique to be a ditch digger, and he was too proud to stand on the street with a tin cup. He was a white-collar guy who didn’t want to give up his lifestyle. He needed a plan so that when his job was gone, people would welcome him into their homes and provide for him (16:4).

16:5-9 So he went to every person who owed his master money and cut deals with them. To one who owed a hundred measures of olive oil, he had him write fifty on his invoice (16:5-6). To another who owed a hundred measures of wheat, he had him write eighty on his invoice (16:7). Clearly he was being dishonest toward his employer, but he wasn’t trying to get his job back. He was trying to ingratiate himself with his boss’s debtors so that they might take him in or give him a job. Later, his master praised the unrighteous manager—not because he was faithful—but because he had acted shrewdly (16:8). Though he was out of a job, he cleverly found a way to provide for his future.

Jesus then told his disciples the lesson behind the parable: The children of this age are more shrewd than the children of light (16:8). In other words, unbelievers are often sharper than believers are. Though the manager had messed up his past, the man cunningly set things in motion to secure his future. So what should believers do? Make friends for yourselves by means of worldly wealth so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings (16:9).

Jesus reminded his disciples that they were stewards of their earthly resources, not owners. So they should use their possessions with eternity in mind. Christians ought to use their earthly resources wisely and generously for kingdom purposes. In this way, lives will be changed and people saved by the gospel. Such shrewd kingdom people will be greeted in eternity by a welcoming committee of friends whose lives were forever transformed by their righteous use of worldly wealth.

16:10-13 Jesus spoke a principle that we often see demonstrated in life. Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much. Likewise, the one who is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much (16:10). If you aren’t dependable in small things, you’re not likely to be dependable in more significant ones. So if you’re unfaithful in your use of worldly wealth, who will trust you with what is genuine? (16:11). You must be trustworthy with what God has loaned you in this life if you expect to receive anything of true value in eternity. And the only way to properly use money and possessions is to use them in service to God. You cannot have two masters. . . . You cannot serve both God and money (16:13). Either your money will serve God, or you will ask God to serve your money. Live your life and use your resources with eternity in mind.

16:14-15 After Jesus concluded this weighty teaching about money, the Pharisees scoffed at him because they were lovers of money (16:14). Jesus pointed out that God knew their hearts, regardless of how they justified themselves before others. They were self-deceived hypocrites, using their wealth to camouflage their greedy hearts. But what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight (16:15).

16:16-17 The Law and the Prophets, which is a shorthand way of referring to the Old Testament, teach about the kingdom of God—the rule or reign of God. This was an unbroken message up until the coming of John the Baptist. Since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed (16:16)—that is, the good news that the King of the kingdom, Jesus Christ, had come. God’s Word is more reliable than creation; it will last forever and not fail (16:17).

16:18 Jesus gave an example of the abiding authority of God’s Word: Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery. Marriage was God’s idea. In the beginning he declared that a man and woman who came together as husband and wife are “one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Therefore, divorce and remarriage without a biblically authorized reason (see commentary on Matt 5:31-32; 19:1-9)—ignores the authority of Scripture and results in adultery, since God has not cancelled the original marriage. Some of the Pharisees would permit divorce for virtually any reason, so they were not the law keepers they claimed to be.

16:19-21 Jesus had just finished teaching about having the right perspective on money (16:1-13) and condemning the Pharisees for loving money (16:14-15) when he told a story about a rich man—who was meant to illustrate the Pharisees—and a poor man named Lazarus (16:19-20). This wealthy man had access to every good thing life had to offer (16:19). Lazarus, on the other hand, was not only destitute but also covered with sores (16:20). He longed to eat the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, but all he received were dogs licking his sores (16:21). The contrast between the two men couldn’t be starker. From a purely earthly perspective, the rich man was the clear winner. But Jesus was about to provide a heavenly perspective.

16:22-24 Although the two men had virtually nothing in common in life, one day both suffered an event common to all human beings: death. However, after death, each experienced a complete reversal of fortune. When the poor man died, the angels took him to Abraham’s side or bosom (an idiom for heaven), but when the rich man died, he suffered torment in Hades (16:22-23). In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Greek word hades was used to translate the Hebrew word sheol—the grave, the realm of the dead. In the New Testament, the unrighteous are tormented in Hades (see 10:15). Thus, it is synonymous with hell.

Many people believe there is no afterlife. They argue that those who die simply cease to exist. But Scripture claims otherwise. The two men had different destinations: the poor man went up; the rich man went down. But both continued to exist. Some Christians prefer to believe that the unrighteous experience annihilation after death rather than conscious, eternal punishment. But Jesus disagrees. The rich man was not annihilated. Not only did he undergo torment, but he could also see Lazarus in comfort a long way off, speak to Abraham of his agony, and cry out for mercy (16:23-24). His faculties were intact.

16:25-26 In response to the rich man’s plea for mercy, Abraham gave him two answers. First, the man was receiving the just consequences of a life that had rejected God. While they lived, the rich man received his good things, and Lazarus received bad things. Yet, the rich man neither acknowledged God nor sought to care for his neighbor Lazarus with the wealth God had given him. Therefore, while Lazarus was comforted, the rich man was justly punished with agony (16:25). Second, Abraham told him that the reversal was permanent. A great chasm was fixed between them so that no one could cross over from one side to the other (16:26). The judgment of hell is so awful because it is forever. There is no escape.

16:27-28 Even though his destiny was permanent, the rich man had another request. His reference to Abraham as Father (16:27; cf. 16:24) shows that the rich man was Jewish, a descendent of Abraham, a member of the covenant people of Israel. Thus, he reflects the Pharisees who thought they were right with God simply because of their ancestry. He asked Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to his five brothers so that they didn’t end up in the same place of torment (16:28).

16:29-30 Abraham stated the obvious: They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them (16:29). In other words, he said, “Your brothers have God’s Word. Let them heed it. If they believe God’s promise of eternal life like their father Abraham did, they will be saved.” But that wasn’t good enough for the rich man. After all, he had access to God’s Word, but he hadn’t believed it. So, from his perspective, his brothers needed something more: If someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent (16:30). “Give them a tremendous miracle—a resurrection from the dead,” he reasoned, “and then they’ll believe and turn to God.”

16:31 That’s when Abraham ended the conversation: If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead. If one will not believe God’s Word, a miracle will not convince him. Though Jesus had performed countless miracles, still the Pharisees refused to believe he was the Messiah. And while he would rise from the dead, even that miracle would not persuade them (see Acts 5:30-33). Their hearts were hard. They were unwilling to believe.

Death comes for all. There is a heaven to be embraced and a hell to be shunned. All human beings will experience one or the other for eternity. This is what makes the church’s gospel mission so vital. We must do all we can to win people to faith in Christ. For at the grave, it will be too late.

17:1-2 Divine judgment for sin is bad. Divine judgment for causing others to sin is worse. Jesus warned against causing little ones—defenseless, vulnerable believers—to stumble, to fall into sin. At the final judgment, the one who leads them to sin will prefer to have a huge rock hung around his neck before being dropped in the ocean to drown (17:2). That’s how severe God’s retribution against such a person will be.

17:3-4 Christ’s disciple is to counteract sin in the life of a brother or sister Christian with a loving rebuke and forgiveness—not once but repeatedly: If he sins against you seven times in a day, you are to forgive him seven times. The number seven doesn’t denote a limit to forgiveness. In the Bible, seven is the number of completion. Thus, our forgiveness of one another is to be complete. We are always to be ready to forgive our brothers and sisters when they repent.

17:5-6 How did Jesus’s apostles respond to being commanded to forgive someone who sinned against them repeatedly in one day? Increase our faith. Fundamentally, they were telling him, “What you’re expecting isn’t normal. It would require superhuman faith to be able to do that. Please, supersize our faith!” Often we think that God’s asking for something that’s out of our reach, as if he wants the impossible.

But Jesus corrected their perspective: If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can command a tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea (17:6). In other words, such faith can cause the impossible to happen. The apostles wanted Jesus to give them a supersized faith, but Jesus said, “You only need a mustard-seed-sized faith.” The size of the faith, then, isn’t the issue. The right kind of faith is. That’s because the right kind of faith packs a powerful punch. A mustard seed is incredibly small. So, you don’t need big faith; you need true faith. Don’t be concerned with how big your faith is; be concerned with how big the object of your faith is. We don’t require tremendous faith. All we need is genuine faith in our tremendous God.

17:7-10 Jesus explained a scenario to his disciples. He wasn’t changing the subject. He was explaining what it looks like to have a mustard-seed faith that can do the impossible (17:6), like enabling a believer to forgive someone “seven times in a day” (17:3-4). If a servant went inside after working in the field, his master wouldn’t tell him sit down and eat (17:7). Instead, the master would expect the servant to finish his work by feeding him. Only then would the servant sit down to his own meal (17:8). Moreover, the master wouldn’t thank the servant for doing his job. To work in the field and prepare his master’s meal was what was expected of him (17:9).

There was nothing surprising about this master-servant relationship that Jesus described. He simply wanted his disciples to apply the concept to their relationship with God. True faith, mustard-seed faith, submits to divine authority. The duty of a servant is to honor and obey his master. The reason why many Christians lack the faith to forgive (see 17:3-5) is because they’re out of spiritual alignment. They make demands of God, and they’re unwilling to submit to him. If you are out of alignment with your Master, you’re not acting with mustard-seed faith. Trust God and obey him in the little things. Then you won’t need him to “increase your faith” because you’ll have the right kind of faith to do what seems impossible.

17:11-13 On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus passed between Samaria and Galilee (17:11). In a village he encountered ten men with the same problem: leprosy. Upon learning that Jesus was visiting their town, they cried out, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! (17:12-13). Not only were they suffering from the dreaded physical skin condition, but it also affected them relationally and psychologically. Lepers had to identify themselves by yelling, “Unclean! Unclean!” so that people would not get close enough to be contaminated by them. Furthermore, they had to live apart from others and could not participate in communal life (see Lev 13:45-46). Their condition was incurable from an earthly perspective. They needed heavenly intervention.

17:14 They asked for mercy, and Jesus demonstrated it. He commanded them to show themselves to the priests. As they went, they were cleansed. This instruction about going to the priests wasn’t pulled out of thin air. According to Leviticus 13–14, the priests were responsible for examining those with skin diseases and pronouncing them either clean or unclean. Once they were declared “clean,” they could return to full participation in the covenant community under the blessing of God.

17:15-16 When he noticed that he was cleansed, one of them returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God (17:15). He didn’t care what anyone thought: he was not ashamed to give God vocal praise for intervening in his life. In addition, he wanted to identify with Jesus. He knew where his blessing had come from. So he fell facedown at his feet and thanked him. But Luke tells us that this man was a Samaritan (17:16; see commentary at 10:33-35 on Samaritans).

17:17-19 Seeing only one of the ten return to praise God, Jesus wanted to know what happened to the rest (17:17). Nine Jews and one Samaritan were healed, but only the foreigner returned to give glory to God (17:18). So Jesus said to him, Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you (17:19). The word translated “saved” can also mean “deliver” or “make well,” depending on the context. Though all ten had been healed of their leprosy, clearly the Samaritan received something more as a result of his praise. The nine experienced external blessing, but only one experienced an internal spiritual blessing in response to his visible and vocal faith and gratitude to God. Many people, even believers, only want physical blessings from the Lord and lose out on the true spiritual blessings that come through worship, praise, and thanksgiving.

17:20-21 The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come. They wanted dates and times. But Jesus told them it was not something observable (17:20). The kingdom was not coming as they expected. They couldn’t point to it. The reason was because the kingdom of God was in their midst (17:21). The King was standing in front of them. He was the one who would usher in his kingdom, yet they didn’t recognize him.

17:22-25 Turning from the antagonistic religious leaders, Jesus taught his disciples about the coming kingdom. He urged them not to follow after false teachers with their deceitful claims (17:22-23). The coming of the Son of Man will be clear to all. It will not be done in secret (17:24). But first it [was] necessary that he suffer many things and be rejected (17:25). The disciples still didn’t understand that Jesus had come to suffer and die as an atoning sacrifice for sin. His return to rule on his throne in his millennial kingdom is still future.

17:26-29 He compared his future coming to the days of Noah (17:26). Back then, there was both deliverance and destruction—deliverance for Noah and his family, and destruction for everyone else. People went about their daily lives, giving no attention to God, until the flood came and his judgment fell (17:27). Similarly, it will be like the days of Lot (17:28). People were absorbed in the normal activities of life so that they failed to take God seriously. But when Lot left Sodom, God’s retribution fell on the city (17:29). The rapture will introduce the days of the Son of Man (17:26).

17:30-33 Christ’s future return and God’s accompanying judgment will follow a pattern similar to these Old Testament times of deliverance and judgment (17:30). So people must be prepared. We must not be attached to material possessions like Lot’s wife was (17:31-32). Judgment will be swift and comprehensive. There will be no time to reclaim anything. Those who fail to take God’s Word seriously and disobey will bear the consequences.

17:34-37 A great separation of humanity will take place. No matter where they are or the time of day, some will be taken in judgment, and some will be left to enter into the kingdom (17:34-35). People will be split apart based on their relationship to God. Where will this happen? Where the corpse is, there also the vultures will be gathered (11:37). Judgment, then, will come wherever death reigns. Just as a dead body draws vultures, those who are spiritually dead will draw divine punishment.

18:1-3 Jesus told parables for various reasons and to explain diverse spiritual principles. On this occasion, he told a parable to his disciples on the need to pray always and not give up (18:1). The story included two characters: a judge who had neither fear for God nor respect for people (18:2) and a widow who wanted justice against an unnamed adversary (18:3). From the outset, this doesn’t look good for the widow. Since the judge cared nothing for God or people, what could persuade him to rule in her favor? Moreover, in those days, if a widow didn’t remarry or had no family to care for her, she could easily end up destitute.

18:4-5 The widow needed action from the judge, but he was unwilling. He despised justice. She was too insignificant for him to trifle with. The problem for him was that she wouldn’t give up! In spite of his rejection of her case, the widow kept pestering him. So even though he didn’t fear God or respect people, he eventually gave the woman justice. Why? So that she wouldn’t wear him out. The Greek word translated “wear out” can also mean to “ruin one’s reputation.” Either way, he finally ruled in her favor against her opponent. The key to the widow’s persistence was her legal right to justice.

18:6-8 Having concluded the parable, Jesus asked his disciples a question: Will not God grant justice to his elect who cry out to him day and night? (18:7). If an unjust judge who doesn’t fear God will rule justly in a poor woman’s favor because of her persistence based on the law, won’t a holy God give justice to his people who pray to him with perseverance based on his Word? Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? (18:8). The question isn’t about God’s willingness to be just. The question is about our willingness to persevere by faith in prayer based on God’s Word. Believers have a legal right to answered prayer.

18:9-10 He told another parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else (18:9). A lot of people fall into that category. A Pharisee and a tax collector went to the temple to pray (18:10). Most of Jesus’s listeners would have assumed that they knew who the hero and the villain were in this story (but things are not always as they appear). The Pharisees were strict adherents to God’s law. The common people considered them the epitome of orthodoxy and godliness. Meanwhile, the tax collectors were considered vile sinners. They were Jews who collected taxes from their own countrymen on behalf of the Roman Empire, and they often took extra to line their own pockets (see 19:1-10).

18:11-12 The Pharisee spent his prayer praising himself. He thanked God that he was generous, fulfilled his religious obligations, and was not like other depraved people—especially the tax collector. He used other people as his standard of righteousness. And since he surpassed all of them, he celebrated his own virtue. Since he was “better” than everyone else, he assumed that God must be pleased with him.

18:13 Meanwhile, the tax collector stood far off at the outer edges of the temple, ashamed to approach God or even raise his eyes to him. Unlike the Pharisee, he didn’t praise himself but struck his chest and begged for God’s mercy. He recognized that he was a sinner. Since God himself is the standard of righteousness, the tax collector knew that he fell far short. His only hope was God’s grace.

18:14 Many of Jesus’s parables feature surprising reversals or shocking endings (see 10:25-37; 12:13-21; 14:16-24; 15:11-32), and this one is no exception. Jesus said that the tax collector—not the Pharisee—went home justified (declared righteous) before God. He understood that he was a sinful man before a holy God, and he humbled himself in God’s sight, pleading for mercy so that he might find salvation and restoration. The Pharisee, on the other hand, was self-righteous and self-sufficient. He was elevated in his own eyes because he compared himself to other sinners. Had he looked at himself in light of God’s character, he would have realized that he—like the tax collector—was a sinner. Grace will only be given to the humble, not to the proud (see Jas 4:6).

18:15-17 As parents brought their infants to Jesus so he might touch and bless them, the disciples rebuked them (18:15). But Jesus rebuked the disciples right back: Let the little children come to me (18:16). Then he used the opportunity to illustrate the disposition one must have to enter the kingdom and receive kingdom rewards. God’s kingdom is only available to those who receive it like a little child (18:17). In a parent-child relationship, children bring nothing to the table but their own weakness, need, and dependency. In the same way, we come to God through Jesus Christ, entirely dependent on him for both kingdom entry and kingdom blessing. These verses also support the importance of bringing children to Christ while they are young.

18:18 A man approached Jesus and asked, Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? In Matthew, he’s described as a “young man” (Matt 19:20). Luke says here that he was a ruler. All three Synoptic Gospels tell us he was rich (Matt 19:22; Mark 10:22; Luke 18:23). Thus, he is typically referred to as the “rich young ruler.”

18:19 Jesus asked the man, Why do you call me good? . . . No one is good except God alone. Before talking to him about how to get to heaven and to receive the rewards of inheritance, Jesus wanted to make sure he understood what it meant to be good. Furthermore, the only way Jesus could be called good is if he were in fact the Son of God.

18:20-23 When Jesus recited several of the Ten Commandments that address our relations with other people, the man assured him that he had kept them all since childhood (18:20-21). The man was either a bold liar or self-deceived. But rather than challenge this claim of perfect righteousness, Jesus appealed to the one thing that he knew the man lacked: love for his neighbor. So he told him to sell everything and give it to the poor so that he would have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (18:22). Upon hearing this, the man became extremely sad, because he was very rich. His love for his wealth superseded his love for people.

18:24-27 Jesus used his encounter with the rich young ruler to warn his disciples about the dangers of wealth. It is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God (18:24). In fact, squeezing a camel . . . through the eye of a needle would be easier (18:25) because the rich think that they are self-sufficient and that their wealth makes them acceptable before God. The disciples were shocked: Then who can be saved? (18:26). Jesus answered, What is impossible with man is possible with God (18:27). In other words, anyone can be saved—rich or poor. All are sinners, and all deserve eternal judgment. It’s not possible for a single person to receive salvation apart from God’s grace. God can work in the hearts and minds of even the wealthy to humble them so that they look to him, rather than to their riches, as their source of eternal life.

18:28-30 Since the rich young ruler was unwilling to sacrifice his wealth for the kingdom of God, Peter wanted to know what would happen to those believers who actually responded faithfully, who were willing to leave everything for Jesus (18:28). Jesus promised that a true commitment of discipleship would be rewarded. No sacrifice made for God’s kingdom agenda gets overlooked or forgotten. Faithful kingdom disciples will be repaid, sometimes in history but ultimately in eternity (18:29-30).

18:31-34 Jesus had predicted his approaching sacrificial death twice already (9:21-22; 9:43-45). As they neared Jerusalem, he once again clearly explained to them what was about to happen. Everything that was written concerning the Son of Man in the prophets—the Old Testament Scriptures—would be fulfilled (18:31). He would be handed over to the Gentiles (i.e., the Romans). They would mock him, spit on him, flog (beat) him, and kill him (18:32-33). Yet as unbelievable as this was, the last part was even more confusing: he would rise on the third day (18:33). The disciples were baffled; they couldn’t grasp it (18:34). They couldn’t understand how the Messiah could be killed in Jerusalem—the place where he was to be enthroned. They would need the Holy Spirit to provide full spiritual clarity.

18:35-39 As Jesus and his disciples approached Jericho, a blind beggar asked what the commotion was all about (18:35-36). When he learned that Jesus was passing by, he knew he couldn’t miss this opportunity (18:37). He had heard of Jesus’s healing ministry, so he cried out, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! (18:38). Though the crowds tried to shut him up, he kept crying out all the more (18:39). He knew that if this man were the Messiah, he could transform his helpless situation. How desperate are you for Jesus to intervene in your circumstances?

18:40-43 Though Jesus had planned to walk right by, he stopped in response to this cry of faith and asked the blind man what he wanted (18:40-41). Did Jesus really have to ask? Could the man’s need be more obvious? But Jesus wanted the man to make his request for all to hear. Lord . . . I want to see (18:41). With the blind man’s verbal proclamation of faith in Jesus’s ability to restore sight, Jesus healed him instantly. As soon as he had regained his sight, he became a disciple, following Jesus and glorifying God. This is the only appropriate response to the work of God in your life. As a result, the people who witnessed it gave praise to God (18:43).

This served as a spiritual lesson to the nation of Israel. If they would respond to the Messiah and acknowledge their spiritual blindness, God would grant them spiritual life and entrance into the kingdom that Jesus was offering. But would they humble themselves and receive him?

19:1-2 The blind man wasn’t the only person in Jericho to experience God’s grace that day. A wealthy chief tax collector named Zacchaeus had heard that Jesus was passing through. Since the Jews were subjugated by Rome, they paid taxes to the Roman Empire. Rome would employ Jews to collect taxes from their own people. However, tax collectors would often collect extra for themselves. So, needless to say, the Jews weren’t fond of Jewish tax collectors. In fact, they considered them traitors. That’s why in the New Testament you typically see tax collectors mentioned alongside prostitutes and sinners (e.g., Matt 11:19; 21:31; Luke 15:1). As a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus would have had a lot of money and few friends.

19:3-5 Though Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, he couldn’t because the crowd was so big and he was a short man (19:3). So he resorted to the only option left: he climbed up a sycamore tree (19:4). His desperation caused him to do something a bit below his dignity. But Zacchaeus was willing to endure some public scorn to see the one everyone had been talking about. When Jesus saw him, he said, Come down because today it is necessary for me to stay at your house (19:5). Notice, he didn’t say, “I’d like to stay at your house.” No, this was a divine appointment: “it is necessary.”

19:6-7 Zacchaeus was thrilled. He welcomed Jesus joyfully (19:6). But the crowd was in shock: He’s gone to stay with a sinful man (19:7). Some people in the crowd were probably hoping to have Jesus as their own dinner guest. Why had he chosen this sinner instead? Because sinners were the reason he had come in the first place (19:10).

19:8-10 Knowing that he was a sinner and knowing the grace that Jesus was showing to him, Zacchaeus said, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much (19:8). That’s what repentance looks like. Repentance doesn’t merely say, “I’m sorry,” it makes amends for wrongdoing. The crowds had complained that Jesus went to this wicked man’s home. But after Jesus got through with him, Zacchaeus would be a better man for the community and restore what he had taken from them. Jesus observed, Salvation has come to this house (19:9). Zacchaeus’s outward actions were testimony of an inward transformation. This was why Jesus came—to seek and to save the lost (19:10).

19:11-12 Once again Luke gives us the reason why Jesus told one of his parables. The people thought the kingdom of God was going to appear right away (19:11). Jesus proceeded to tell a story of a nobleman who traveled to a far country to receive . . . authority to be king (19:12). Jesus wanted his hearers to understand that his kingdom reign was not coming immediately. He would depart and return at a later time.

19:13-14 In the meantime, God would expect his followers (i.e., believers) to manage what he gave them until the King returned to be enthroned in Jerusalem. The nobleman commanded his servants to engage in business on his behalf until he returned. To ten of his servants, he gave ten minas, one to each (19:13). A mina was a coin worth about a hundred days’ wages. The nobleman’s subjects hated him, though, and declared that they didn’t want him to rule over them (19:14). God’s servants are called to follow him in obedience, even though the world rejects the King and his kingdom.

19:15-19 When the nobleman returned, he summoned his servants so he could learn how they had managed his money (19:15). The first servant had proved faithful with his master’s resources and earned ten more minas (19:16). For this stewardship, the master rewarded him with authority over ten towns (19:17). The second servant was also faithful (19:18). He didn’t earn as much as the first, but he earned in accordance with his ability. So the master similarly rewarded him (19:19).

Everything we have is a gift from God. We must recognize that we are stewards of our resources, not owners. God will call us to give an account for how we have managed our money, our possessions, our spiritual gifts, our relationships, and our time—and will reward or judge his people accordingly.

19:20-27 The next servant simply returned his master’s mina to him. He considered his master a harsh man so he did nothing with his money (19:20-21). His lack of stewardship was fueled by a lack of relationship and the failure to take seriously the knowledge of his master’s expectations and the fact that he would return. When the master heard the servant’s testimony, he chastised him. He could have at least put the money in the bank to earn a minimal amount of interest (19:22-23). But even this was too much for him. This servant (an unfaithful believer) wanted nothing to do with the responsibilities of stewardship. Unfaithful believers will experience negative consequences at the judgment seat of Christ (see 1 Cor 3:15). So his money was given instead to one of the servants who had been faithful (19:24). Don’t miss out on the eternal rewards that God has for faithful stewards who manage well what he has given them. Faithfulness results in kingdom reward; unfaithfulness results in lack and loss of reward (19:26). But worst of all are the consequences that await those who make themselves God’s enemies (19:27; see 19:14). These will experience eternal judgment.