Sermon outline for November 9:
Where Your Treasure Is, Luke 12:1-53
Luke 11 ended with Jesus’ most clear and pointed condemnation of “this generation,” which would be charged with all the blood of prophets from Abel to Zechariah (11:51-52). Throughout the following two chapters, this threat is in the background. Jesus’ instructions about persecution, possessions, readiness, and family relations are all given against the backdrop of looming catastrophe for Israel.
Fundamentally, Israel is threatened because she, and particularly her leaders, has been corrupted by the leaven of Pharisees. God is going to judge. But the Pharisaical program is related to the looming catastrophe in another way as well: Jesus sees the connection between the Pharisees’ hypocritical concern with the outside of the cup and their resistance to Rome’s presence in the Holy Land. And, like Jeremiah, He also sees that their resistance can only end badly for Israel.
“In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to the disciples first of all, ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy . . . .’” (Luke 12:1-53).
PERSECUTION AND FEAR
Jesus has only recently condemned the Pharisees as “hidden tombs” whose teaching causes uncleanness rather than purity. Because the Pharisees are hypocrites who mask their wickedness with a show of piety, they are among the things “hidden” that shall one day be “revealed” (12:2). The Pharisaical teaching is like leaven, a leaven of death, which, if permitted to enter the loaf, will pervert the whole. Jesus knows too that the Pharisees are on the hunt (11:53-54), not only for Jesus but for His disciples. The Pharisees show their true colors in response to Jesus, and their hidden corruption will be revealed as they openly persecute Jesus’ followers. Verse 11 makes it clear that the persecution will comes from Jews. The principle in verse 2 applies to the disciples as well: To this point, they have been confessing Jesus in a hidden way, but persecution will force them into the open, where they will truly be tested.
Jesus warns the disciples about the coming persecution from His enemies, but instructs them not to fear “those who kill the body” (vv. 4-5). Rather, they should fear the one who has authority to send them to hell. Confident in the Father’s care, the disciples should instead confess Jesus openly (v. 8), relying on the Spirit’s help (vv. 11-12; cf. Acts 4:8-12; 6:10; 7:54-60; etc.). Denying the Son of Man in His humiliation will be forgiven (cf. Luke 22:54-62), but denying the Spirit that will come will not be forgiven (v. 10). Fear of men is cancelled by a genuine fear of God, and true fear of God is shown in bold confession of Jesus.
WEALTH AND ANXIETY
As with the previous teaching on persecution, fear, and faithful witness, this section is also dominated by the threat of judgment. Israel is like the fool of the parable, who is amassing wealth and not seeing that her soul will be required of her (vv. 16-21). The disciples too need to beware of anxiously and eagerly seeking clothing, food, and other necessities. When judgment comes, they need to be able to detach themselves from their possessions without looking back (cf. Luke 17:31-33; 21:34-36). Disciples of Jesus can be confident that if the kingdom of God is foremost in their thoughts and actions, all they need will be added (v. 31).
Of course, Jesus’ instructions also apply more universally to our attitudes toward possessions and wealth. Jesus does not say that possessions are evil, but instead promises that our Father will provide us with all the things that the nations of the world seek (vv. 30-31). But He warns us that wealth is also a dangerous temptation and He gives instruction about how we are to handle our possessions.
-We must renounce all forms of greed (v. 15), which is idolatry (v. 34; cf. Colossians 3:5).
-We should not place any confidence in our wealth; it is not permanent.
-We should not be anxious or worrisome about the necessities of life (vv. 22-29). God knows what we need and will provide it. If we are not to be anxious about necessities, how much less should we be anxious about gaining luxuries.
-We should recognize that our possessions are not in fact ours, but are given so that we can use them charitably.
-While we are not Gnostics, we are also not anti-Gnostics. That is, our standard of proper behavior is not “we are for whatever Gnostics are against.” Our standard is Scripture, and our Lord Jesus tells us that our life “does not consist” of possessions (v. 15) and that “life is more than food, and the body than clothing” (v. 23).
READINESS FOR HIS COMING
Jesus instructions about readiness explicitly are connected with the threat of the “coming” of the Son of Man (v. 40). The disciples are to be busy with the work of the kingdom, not distracted by secondary pursuits, so that they will not be surprised by the Master’s return. Likewise, Israel as a whole had better not to be like the slave who beats fellow slaves (= Jewish persecution of Christians). If they do that, they will be beaten with many stripes (v 47).
Again, Jesus’ instructions have a wider application. The Son of Man came to Israel in A.D. 70, but Jesus “comes” in many different ways as well. He comes each week to visit and inspect us in worship; He comes at times of turmoil and crisis in the church; He comes at our death. In all these cases, we too need to be ready for His coming.
Family relations are another area affected by the coming judgment. As John said at the beginning, Jesus comes to judge as well as to save ?E to judge in order to save. He brings fire on the earth, and His “baptism” on the cross will bring division. Even the closest family relations will be severed by the coming crisis.