Sunday, September 02, 2012

Luke 12:35-59 - The Right Kind of Focus

English: A warning sign with an exclamation mark
Are you old enough to remember the nuclear drills of the 1960s when you got under your desk to protect yourself? Or do you remember tornado drills in school, when you at the alarm you were to join your classmates in the hallway to await the coming storm? Or what about those first pangs, ladies, that made you think, “I think the baby might come soon, like maybe really soon!” The anticipation, the sense of responsibility to pay attention, the importance of preparation, all these are the sense of the passage before us today. Jesus points us to the right kind of focus in our lives. It is not on self and comforts, but on Christ and His End-Time Coming!

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 12:35-59 to teach believers that the right kind of focus is watching for His Return, obeying in the midst of opposition, and preparing for the Judgment.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about focusing on Jesus’ Return.
Pray and Read:  Luke 12:35-59

Contextual Notes:
Since the beginning of his Gospel, Luke has focused on the importance of walking in faith and not in unbelief. Luke’s Gospel makes a major shift at Luke 9:51 where Jesus leaves his Galilean ministry and turns resolutely toward Jerusalem and His coming Suffering, Death, and Resurrection. Luke’s message of trusting Christ sharpens, and his warning against unbelief hones in on the very religious yet unbelieving Jewish leadership. 
Luke shows us that new resolute focus in chapters 10 and 11, calling us to realign our own priorities to those of our resolute Lord: First, the priority of His Gospel to the nations (Luke 10:1-24); second the priority of our love for our neighbors (Luke 10:25-37); third, the priority of His Presence (Luke 10:38-42) walked out a higher priority of prayer in our lives (Luke 11:1-13); fifth, the priority of Jesus’ authority in our lives (Luke 11:14-28) which calls us to a high priority on repentance (Luke 11:29-36).
Luke 10:1-24              The Priority of His Gospel (for the nations)
Luke 10:25-37            The Priority of Your Love (for your neighbor)
Luke 10:38-42            The Priority of His Presence
Luke 11:1-13              The Priority of Your Prayer
Luke 11:14-28            The Priority of His Authority
Luke 11:29-36            The Priority of Your Repentance

First, Jesus condemns the wrong kind of religion – dead religion that is devoid of relationship with Him (Luke 11:37-54). Then he warns his disciples of hypocrisy and points away from the fear of man to the right kind of fear, the fear of God (Luke 12:1-12). Jesus next warns against materialism but instead to focus on being rich toward God (Luke 12:13-21), then warns against worry and encourages his disciples to trust the Lord for provision (Luke 12:22-34). The right kind of focus follows (Luke 12:35-59), then Luke’s outline calls us to the right kind of religion, one of repentance and grace (Luke 13:1-19).[1]
Luke 11:37-54            The Wrong Kind of Religion (without relationship)
Luke 12:1-12              The Right Kind of Fear (not of men, but of God)
Luke 12:13-21            The Wrong Kind of Focus (not greed, but God)
Luke 12:22-34            The Wrong Kind of Fear (not worry, but trust)
Luke 12:35-59            The Right Kind of Focus (not self, but His Return!)
Luke 13:1-9                The Right Kind of Religion
In a series of illustrations, Jesus reminds us that the world is rushing toward judgment day. To be ready, believers must serve God actively (Luke 12:35-53) and unbelievers must make peace with God before it is too late (Luke 12:54-59).

Sermon Points:
1.   Focus on watching for His Return (Luke 12:35-48)
2.   Focus on obeying despite opposition (Luke 12:49-53)
3.   Focus on preparing for His Judgment (Luke 12:54-59)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   Jesus now points them from a wrong kind of focus on material things and worry and fear to a right kind of focus on the eternal perspective of being ready for Christ’s Return. Jesus tells his disciples to be ready for his coming (Luke 12:35-36). Those who are ready and prepared will experience great joy when He returns (Luke 12:37-38) because He could return at any time (Luke 12:39-40). Jesus illustrates watchfulness in two illustrations. The first is of the servants waiting for the groom to come and begin a wedding banquet. The second is of an owner anticipating a thief. Christ’s servants would be found watching, waiting, and prepared for the hope of the Son of Man coming.
b.   When He appears, He will reward those who are faithful during His absence (Luke 12:41-44) and rebuke those who are faithless (Luke 12:45-48). Here Christ encourages those watching to be faithful by illustrating the character of a wise and faithful manager. If the manager is found faithful, he will receive greater responsibility. One that is faithless demonstrates that he has no relationship with Christ. He will be removed from His Presence forever (Luke 12:46) but the faithful servant will be rewarded (Luke 12:47-48).
c.   Luke 12:35 gird yourself: Long garments were drawn up around the waist and tucked in so that the servant could move freely and quickly. In Exod 12:11 the Passover was to be eaten with “your cloak tucked into your belt (KJV-your loins girded)” so they could leave Egypt quickly. This allusion to the Passover is clearly more than decoration. Jesus wants his hearers to connect the last redemption with the redemption of the Exodus. Lamp burning: a sign of vigilance like the continually burning lamp outside the curtain of the tabernacle (Exod 27:20-21; Lev 24:2).
d.   Luke 12:36 - Wedding banquet: Weddings were extravagant festivities lasting a whole week (Judg 14:17). Jesus is pointing in this scene to the end-time Banquet of the Messiah when “the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples” (Isaiah 25:6; 65:13-14) and when God’s servants receive their just reward (Luke 13:29; 14:15).
e.   Luke 12:37 – Dressed to serve: The image of the Master putting on servant’s clothes and serving is shocking to first century ears. Jesus demonstrated it in John 13 by washing the disciples’ feet.
f.    Luke 12:38 – Second or third watch: Jews divided the night into three watches: 6-10pm, 10pm-2am, and 2-6am (Judg 7:19), the Romans divided the night into four (6-9pm, 9pm-12am, 12-3am, 3-6am). Whichever system Jesus was using, it was the dead of night.
g.   Luke 12:39 – Thief: The verb for broken into means “to dig through,” as in digging through a sun-dried brick wall to break into a house. A thief is an interesting illustration of watchfulness. The Lord is calling them both to watch for His Return and to watch for the possible intrusion of thieves digging their way into the church.
h.   These two parables: of the Waiting Servants (Luke 12:35-38) and the Unexpected Thief (Luke 12:39-40) both echo several OT passages (Isaiah 13:6; Ezek 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1; Amos 5:18; Obad 15; Zeph 1:14-18; Mal 4:5-6).
i.     Luke 12:41 – Peter’s question leads Jesus to emphasize the disciples’ privilege and responsibility.
j.    Luke 12:42 – Faithful manager: The steward is a chief servant who is left in charge of the household while the master is away. They had significant authority over the master’s business, household staff, and personal affairs. This parable as a precedent in Gen 39:4-5, where Joseph found favor in his master’s sight and attended him; he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all he had.[2] There is also an end-time echo with Hab 2:3 and Luke 12:43, 45, 46. Habakkuk raises the delay of the eschatological salvation
k.   Luke 12:44 – Put him in charge: Because of the servant’s faithfulness, he is promoted to more authority. Slaves in Roman and Jewish society could rise to positions of great prestige and authority to manage their master’s affairs.
l.     Luke 12:46 – Cut him to pieces: The Greek word dichotomeo (cognate: dichotomy) is a strong word meaning to cut in two or dismember. Commentators are divided as to whether this is literal or figurative. Assign him a place with the unbelievers could mean to ostracize or not burying him among God’s people. In the context of the parable of the rich fool above, it appears that Jesus meant an allusion to hell, not just being cut off from God’s people, the church.
m. Luke 12:47 – Does not do what his master wants: Jesus says that sins of ignorance are deserving of less punishment than intentional sins (Num 15:22-26; Psalm 19:13; cf. Luke 23:34).
n.   Luke 12:48 – Given much, much required: This is the lesson of the parable of the faithful steward: Higher standards are demanded of those who have greater gifts and abilities. James 3:1 says that teachers will be judged more strictly. 2 Peter 2:20-22
o.   APPLICATION: Are you watching for His Return? Are you living your life in preparation for His Coming? Are you being faithful to the areas you are called to serve now? In your home? In your business? In your church?
a.   Jesus’ instructions on the need for good stewardship and watchfulness for His Return (Luke 12:35-48) now leads to a discussion of the critical nature of his present ministry. Jesus is already coming under the stress of his coming Passion. He says He is engaged in a cosmic war that will climax with his baptism of suffering God’s wrath for the world’s sins and will eventuate in fiery judgment on the earth (Luke 12:49-50). The gospel will divide families and people (Luke 12:51-53). Because of this war, everyone will be forced to take a side, wholehearted commitment no matter the price. Jesus’ coming provokes a time of a crisis of belief and decision.
b.   Luke 12:49 – Fire is a common symbol of God’s Judgment in the OT (Isiah 66:24; Malachi 3:2-3), the NT, (1 Cor 3:13-15; Rev 19:20; 20:14-15) and Luke (Luke 3:16-17; 9:54; 17:29). The fire both judges the wicked and purifies the righteous.
c.   Luke 12:50 – This baptism is the one James and John were so confident they could share in with Jesus (Mark 10:38-39). This baptism was the full identification with sinful mankind in which he bears our sins and punishment (Isaiah 53:6-7). Judgment is often pictured as an overwhelming flood in the OT: (Psalm 18:4, 16; 42:7; 69:1-2; Isaiah 8:7-8; 30:27-28; Jonah 2:3-6).
d.   Luke 12:52 – Division of close friends and families indicates great crisis. For Jesus it had already started (Luke 8:19-21; 2:49). For Israel, a national crisis as Micah 7:6 prophesied about the Assyrian conquest and the End when “a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.” The rabbis interpreted this passage as pointing to the great crisis before the coming of the Messiah when “children shall shame the elders, and the elders shall rise up before the children.”[3]
e.   APPLICATION: Jesus is a great uniter, but He is also a great divider. Perhaps there is animosity in your family because you have chosen to follow Christ wholeheartedly. Perhaps that opposition is at your work or in your classroom. Perhaps you find that your friends don’t appreciate your commitments to Christ. Jesus says, “Focus on obeying in the midst of opposition.” The opposition is not inspired by God, but it will make you stronger in your faith.” It is not about just being hard headed or self-righteous. That misses the point. It is about a humble, clear-headed, serious sense that you are committed to His way despite what those whose opinions you value think or say or do. Easier said than done, isn’t it? But the Lord sometimes calls us to tough decisions in order to honor Him. Obey Him. He is faithful.
a.   Jesus now turns back to the crowd (Luke 12:1, 13) and presses to them the end-time crisis and the preparation needed. He points out that although they know how to read the signs of the changing weather, they have failed to recognize the clear signs of the Kingdom in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus implies that it doesn’t take faith to perceive the weather (Luke 12:54-55), but they need faith to discern the spiritual signs all around them that the Messiah’s Day has come. It is important in this critical time to read the signs aright and make our commitment to Jesus before Judgment Day arrives.
b.   Luke 12:54-55 – A cloud rising in the west in that area contained moisture from the Mediterranean Sea and indicated rain (like the “cloud the size of a man’s hand” during Elijah’s time: 1 Kings 8:44). A south wind is a sirocco blowing off the desert meant hot, dry weather. That wind could wither up crops (Gen 41:6; Isaiah 40:7).
c.   Luke 12:56 – Hypocrites. Luke calls the Pharisees hypocrites here, Luke 12:1 where this scene starts, and Luke 13:15. They should know their Scripture. Daniel had predicted the time of Messiah’s coming (Daniel 9:24-27).
d.   Luke 12:57-59 - Settle the matter before court:  Some see little connection between the first and last illustration, but Jesus is just telling the same truth in a different way for his differing audience. Jesus tells them to get right with God before the final judgment. Jesus advises his hearers to try to settle the matter of your faith before you get to the judge (Luke 12:57-58). Why? Because there is a penalty for refusing to settle before court convenes: debtor’s prison (Luke 12:58-59).The terms magistrate, judge, and officer indicate a civil case involving unpaid debt. The magistrate is the same person as the judge who hears the case. The officer is the constable in charge of the debtor’s prison. The last penny (lepton) was the smallest coin available, the same coin as the Widow’s Mite (Luke 21:2). It was worth 1/128th of a denarius, a day’s wage (Mark 12:42; Luke 7:41; 12:6), i.e., the lepton was worth less than five minutes of a ten hour work day.
e.   APPLICATION: It is more than a little obvious that the birth pangs on this planet continue to heighten. Are you prepared for Jesus’ Return? Are you prepared to stand before the Judge, the Ancient of Days? He is coming back, and He will judge all. Settle your matter out of court. In this time of grace in which we live, make the clearly wise choice of asking Jesus to forgive you of your sins, to settle your account of sin debt with Him. Then turn control of your life over to Him. Declare Him Lord over you. Hint: He is already Lord over you. But acknowledge Him and his loving control and grace toward you. Settle out of court. Bow the knee while you have the choice. Become a follower of Jesus now.

F.F. Bruce, gen. ed. The International Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1209.
Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1993), 225.
Dwight J. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 316-319.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Victor Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton: Victor, 1994), 188.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion (Wheaton: Victor, 1991), 663.
David W. Pao and Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Luke,” G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, gen. eds., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 331-332.
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996), 126.
Mark Strauss. “Luke.” Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1: 430-433.
Charles R. Swindoll and Bryce Klabunde, The Declaration of Something Mysterious: A Study of Luke 10:38-16:18 (Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living, 1995), 74-88.
Harold L. Wilmington, The Outline Bible (Nashville: Tyndale House, 1999), 540.
11am Sunday, September 2, 2012, at Union Missionary Baptist Church, Rocky Mount, NC

[1] Luke 11:14-17:11 are called the Perean Discourses, during a time of ministry in Perea just east of the Jordan from about Sept A.D. 28 to April A.D. 29 when he returned to Jerusalem for his final week of ministry. Perhaps because it was winter, Luke records more teaching than activities of Jesus. Luke is the only record of these days and teachings with the exception of Matt 12:22-45 and John 10:22-42; 11:1-54. Like the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (Luke 6:20-49), this period of ministry nearer Jerusalem was marked with much teaching and many parables. In the Perean Discourses, Jesus resumes, repeats, and reinforces with more fullness some of his Galilean teaching.
[2] Note similar phrases in LXX (Gen 39:4-5) and Luke 12:42 and Gen 39:5b and Luke 12:44. The phrase of Gen 49:5b is found only one other time in the LXX at Jdt 8:10).
[3] m. Sotah 9:15