Sorrow Over Jerusalem (Luke 13:31-35)  

Certain places, families or individuals have long histories of chronic dysfunction. Though there is every advantage and opportunity, tragedy and failure seem to always prevail.

The nation of Israel, and specifically the city of Jerusalem was like this. Though they had every advantage as the people whom God had chosen out of all the nations of the earth, they consistently failed to obey God and truth, serving Him alone.

As certain Pharisees come to Jesus to tell him that he had best leave town, reporting that Herod Antipas was determined to kill him, it has been debated whether this was a true situation or merely a ruse to get him to move on. Either is imaginable.

In any event, Jesus tells them that his schedule will not be affected by that “fox.”  He will do his divinely-prescribed work today, tomorrow, and on the third day.

There is more than a hint of humor in verse 33 … “for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

In other words Jesus is saying, “I’m safe here because this is not Jerusalem, and as a prophet I have nothing to fear, since the history of the nation is to kill prophets there!”

But Jesus immediately affirms his special love for the city and the people of the nation, in spite of their rebellion. The warm picture is of a hen with her chicks safely under her wings. This is the way it could be for Israel, but their rejection made them like a desolate house – trading security for danger … life for death … blessing for destruction.

Quoting Ps. 118:26, a passage with clear, Messianic overtones, it was indeed to comprise the words of the crowds upon the occasion of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

The grand picture of this passage is of the readiness of God to forgive and prosper, a position far beyond the readiness of the people to receive, trust and follow. In the bigger view that extends even to our day, the masses of the people who do not trust in Christ continue, not because God is unwilling to forgive them, but because they are unwilling to yield and receive Him.

Luke 13:31 – At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”

32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” [from Psalm 118:26]

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The Narrow Door (Luke 13:22-30)

Did you ever go to a party or a wedding reception and be surprised by who was there, while also being struck by not seeing others you would have surely expected to be present?

As Jesus was going through the country of Israel and preaching the message of the Kingdom, presenting himself as the Messiah, it was impossible to not notice that the bulk of the population were not responding positively. Quite the opposite, especially from the ranks of the religious leadership. One would have expected a groundswell of affirmation.

This is probably what is behind the question that someone asks, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

The answer of Jesus comes with a story of a man giving a feast. When the door is open is the time for people to enter. A time would come when the door would be closed and it would be too late to be a part of the event, no matter how much pleading or arguing would ensue from those locked out.

This, of course, is a picture of the Kingdom and its constituents.

Throughout the history of Israel, the people thought that they were in good standing with God simply because they were God’s chosen people. Being born as such was enough. And throughout that history were repetitive times of failing to truly trust in God and obey his commands.

At the time of Christ, most of the people thought they were ipso facto members of the Kingdom by being members of the nation. But Jesus says that many of them will be on the outside, merely looking in at Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets. The people had no mental category for this thinking.

And beyond that, Jesus says people from the four directions of the compass will be included in the Kingdom. Read this as saying, “In the end, some of you who think you’re frontline, mainline Kingdom residents will find yourselves on the outside, with Gentiles taking your places at the feast table.”

What!!??

You may recall from back in Luke 4 when Jesus was in Nazareth, he suggested that Gentiles would receive the message of truth; and in response they took him out to a hill to throw him off a cliff. That’s how open the Jews were to any idea of those beyond the nation being a part of THEIR kingdom.

But the gospel message was to include all peoples, as would be seen in the expanse of the church… reaching all the way to our Gentile church in Hagerstown!

Yet at the same time, the door is narrow. Most folks do not believe the message or sense the urgency of faith and repentance. Assumptions of an OK status abound as a false notion of security.

Paul picks up this theme in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, quoting from Isaiah 49:8, As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

The door remains open, for now … though we know not for how long. Let us be sure we have entered in, while exhorting others to come and follow.

Luke 13:22 – Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

Mustard Seed and Yeast (Luke 13:18-21)

Even years ago as a child, I was terribly competitive about anything that involved keeping score and accumulating points. That hasn’t always served me well, but in one venue of my youth it was to my great benefit. I went to multiple VBS programs every year, and they always had Scripture memory competitions with points given for all sorts of participation. So I would memorize like crazy, just to win … which I would do, because losing was worse than death!

I don’t remember any prizes I ever received, except for one. It was a tie clasp that had a rectangular glass element that contained a single mustard seed. (When I was a kid and teenager, all the boys wore suits and ties to church every Sunday.)  I wore that thing for many years, and somewhere along the way of life and multiple moves, it got lost.

The clasp with the mustard seed was very cool. The seed was only about one millimeter in diameter, not even as big as a sesame seed. This was often thought of and considered as the smallest of seeds, hence also becoming an illustration of something very small – like the amount of faith that, if placed in God, could move mountains.

But another feature of a mustard seed is the tree that would come of it. Hey, we’re back to talking about dendrology again, but apparently mustard trees (there are varied species) grow extraordinarily fast. What I’ve read about this gives numbers that are so astonishing that I hesitate to repeat them.

But you get the picture. The idea is to present something that is very small … that grows to something very large … doing it in an amazingly short time … and producing something beautiful and productive.

Jesus says that this is what the Kingdom is like. It begins small (like a mustard seed) and grows quite large rather quickly (into a mature tree).  The birds that perch in the tree may be (picking up on some Old Testament allusions) a picture of the varieties of nations.

And upon the heels of this parable comes another of similar nature – that of the yeast in bread. The picture here is the same, one of something small and practically unseen, that grows into something very large. It penetrates.

These are good pictures of the Kingdom of God. When Christ was born, it was a small gathering. The only large crowd involved a host of angels. The people element was limited to a few shepherds. And though thousands would follow Jesus at certain points of his teaching ministry, at the time of his death, few true followers could be found – hidden away in a room or watching from a distance.

But after the resurrection, it began to grow. The church started with 5,000 at Pentecost, and before long there were church communities growing throughout the Roman world. Over time and with the western expanse of civilization, the redemptive message of Jesus would spread all over the world. It continues to happen, even as we ourselves support missionaries in places where the gospel has barely penetrated.

There are times when as Christians in a secular world we may feel that we are a part of something very small. And it will always be true that those who follow the broad road to destruction will outnumber those on the narrow path to eternal life in Christ.

Yet we have prophetic pictures of what it is like at the very end. Around the throne of God are multitudes of those who have been saved from every nation and people group. We are, truly, a part of something huge.

So as you go out on this Monday morning to take on the broader world, there is no reason for insecurity. You’re on the winning team. And you’re also on mission to grow the Kingdom. Be confident today.

Luke 13:18 – Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”

20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Healing a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17)

Have you ever heard the phrase “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?”  Probably you have heard it the other way around – to speak of gaining a win, just when it looked like a loss was about to happen.

Here in Luke 13, Jesus heals a woman who was crippled for 18 years by the presence of a spirit. It is incredible, she praises God for the healing, and all of the people have witnessed a miracle.

This is done in a synagogue on a Sabbath. Synagogues were the local gathering places for Jewish people all around the world. There was a ruler in place, a fellow who would be in charge of a variety of deeds related to the place and its ministry. A part of that involved assigning speakers to give a teaching sense of the meaning of whatever prescribed Scripture passages were read that day. Likely he either asked, or at least allowed Jesus to speak. And he likely had some hesitations while giving in to the crowd gathered who were focused on Jesus.

Sure enough, Jesus steals the show. It would be sort of like running a weekend music club, only to have a guest travelling through town outshine you and everyone else you featured regularly. Professional jealousy.

So the synagogue ruler tries to discredit the deed by the only thing he can come up with on the spot – that it was wrong for this to be done on the Sabbath, that is was working. Yep, it’s pretty silly … especially since there were Rabbinic teachings and allowances for dealing with animals and their needs on this day of the week.

Detractors from God’s work have been in every generation. Here on the occasion of the death of Billy Graham at age 99 with all that comprised his amazing life, while most articles rightly honor his legacy, there are a couple that mock him as a fraudulent and self-possessed scam artist. Wow! But it is not surprising. The world is full, has been full, will always be full of those who condemn God’s work. They are the ones who are self-possessed, having no room to serve anyone higher than themselves. This should not shock us or discourage us from continuing to do what is correct.

Luke 13:10 – On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

Repent or Perish, Fig Tree Illustration (Luke 13:1-9)

Life in this world is filled with terrible calamities and injustices. Many of you have heard me from time to time reflect upon the dear senior pastor of my youth who had such an effect upon my life through his encouragement. And you may recall my accounting of the story as to how he was tragically killed in a head-on collision with a truck – the driver being impaired in some fashion.

One of this pastor’s sons was my first-year college roommate, though he was actually two years ahead of me in school. He is now the president of an evangelical denomination called The Bible Fellowship Church. His younger brother – my exact age – is now an evangelist, having previously been a pastor for many years.

This younger of the sons had a son who was likewise a pastor, so if you’re keeping score, that is three generations of pastors. He was in his early years of ministry in a church in New Mexico when one evening a drunk driver going the wrong way on an interstate killed him in a head-on collision. Totally tragic – leaving a young wife and child.

How can this happen? Why doesn’t God stop these sorts of events?  Well, that’s a long answer, the short version being that these events are the sad realities for all of us in a fallen world; and God does answer ultimately – it’s called “heaven.”

But here is what you would have heard from the majority of Jewish people in the time of Christ. They would say that when something like this befell someone, it was because of sin in their lives or in their family – that it was a just recompense for some unknown iniquity. There are several passages in the gospels that counter this viewpoint.

In today’s portion, conversation is brought to Jesus about some event where certain Galileans where slaughtered in Jerusalem by Pilate at the time they were there for sacrifice. The details are unknown to us; social and political tensions abounded in those days even as they do in that region of the world in our own time.

Jesus also mentions another incident, unknown beyond this text, where a group of 18 people were the victims of a tower in Siloam randomly crashing upon them.

To each of these situations, Jesus says that these poor victims were not worse people than other around them (contrary to conventional religious thinking). Tragedies happen in an imperfect world. There are no guarantees. But something that is guaranteed is that those who do not repent spiritually are guaranteed to face judgment.

Illustrating this further is the additional words of Christ as he tells a parable about a non-productive fig tree. If I understand my dendrology (no extra charge for using that word again), it takes three years for a fig tree to produce fruit. The owner said to get rid of it as it was just taking up space, but the orchardist asks to give it one more year for additional fertilization and opportunity to produce.

The point is that the nation of Israel had not been producing the fruit of repentance, and in fact they were living in a period of grace wherein they could trust in Christ as the Promised One. But … but … but … judgment was soon coming.

But … but … but … judgment is coming; Jesus will return. And even Billy Graham passes away. The daily extension of our lives represents God’s extended grace to us to live in repentance and in production of the fruit of the life of Christ in us.

So let us use our granted time well – to be in right relationship with God and in his active service throughout the days God graciously gives us.

Luke 13:1 – Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

Understanding the Times (Luke 12:49-59)

Story 1 – Probably most of us have extended family situations where we find ourselves in very different “faith camps” regarding Jesus Christ, the Scriptures and objective truth etc. And it is likely true that we also find our relationships with those who reject our confidence in both the written and living Word to be often rather difficult. That difference constitutes two different worldviews, so it should not really be surprising to us.

Story 2 – One of my enduring memories of living in Texas for five years is the weather. No, not so much the summer heat; I’m talking rather about the manner in which the weather conditions could very suddenly become very, very violent. There would be blue sky overhead, with a wall of dark clouds rolling in. Moments later, the street lights would come on at midday, the wind would pick up, and it was time to get to the basement or a middle room.

Story 3 – Being a defendant in court is not a pleasant experience. You want to be sure to not be a guilty defendant. So, if you truly owe something, wisdom should drive your every effort to pay that debt and make the situation right before the judge deals with you in the harshest terms.

Let’s tie these three stories together with the three paragraphs in today’s reading.

Jesus taught that the reality of his coming would be that some will reject him while others believed in who he was. This was to be expected. Even families would be divided over this issue. That remains a truth to this day.

In Israel, west winds brought moist conditions from the Mediterranean, whereas south winds brought dry desert air. People knew what was coming by the direction of the winds. They should likewise be able to read the atmosphere of the day. Jesus was among them as the promised messiah. They should recognize this “wind condition” and accept him, though most were foolishly rejecting the obvious truth in front of them. This remains a truth to this day.

If it is wise to not ignore a situation that puts you into a perilous position before a human judge, how much riskier is it to ignore the judge of the universe? The Jewish people were not getting right with God. It is like having an increasingly loud knocking sound in the engine of your car, to which you respond by increasingly turning up the volume of the radio.

Understanding that truth divides, rightly understanding the times, and getting right with God – seems obvious, yet most people in all generations fail to see and do the correct thing.

Luke 12:49 – “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

54 He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. 55 And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. 56 Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?

57 “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Watchful and Faithful Servants (Luke 12:35-48)

Do you remember when you were a child in elementary school and the teacher would leave the classroom to go down the hall to the principal’s office?  She would say, “I will be back soon. While I’m gone I want reading group number one to read your story for the day. Group two may color quietly at your seats.”

After several minutes without a reappearance of the teacher, there would be some talking that increasingly interrupted the silence. And then Johnny would throw an eraser. Billy would toss it back. Pretty soon a riot was in full swing. And right at the very moment you raised your hand to throw a piece of chalk back at the class bully, the teacher walks in and looks at you.

Jesus Christ has gone to THE Principal’s office, and he’s still there. But someday the master teacher is coming back, and that is what our passage today is all about.

An exact identification of each element of these parables is debated to some extent, but the big idea is clear – it is about readiness. We cannot know the exact time when Christ will return, but we do know that we must be actively faithful, recognizing we are responsible for the blessings we have been given.

It is wrong for us to think that Christ surely has to come back very soon, given the crazy condition of our world, and therefore stop working and serving. And it is wrong to think that the Lord has delayed coming for so long that it certainly won’t happen in our lives, so why work hard in expectation of something we don’t think is going to eventuate.

In high school when I was a cross country distance runner, I was told that a college scout was going to come to my race. I was very excited about this; though when the race started, he was not there. At the end of the first of three laps on our course (of roughly one mile each), I did not see him. Likewise, no college coach after the second lap. I concluded he wasn’t coming and slowed down, finishing the race with a very average time. Yep, you guessed it – he was arriving as I began the third lap, and all he saw was a mediocre high school runner. I was no longer a recruit for that college.

An additional principle in the passage is that we are responsible and accountable for the giftings and blessings we have from the Lord. To whom much has been given, much is required. Have we all been given much?  Indeed, the blessings of life in the modern era give us innumerable ways of serving God and being a part of his worldwide effort of building the church. So let us be faithful … and ready.

Luke 12:35 – “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

41 Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?”

42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Foolishness of Worry (Luke 12:22-34)

A humorous moment in my early ministry years back in New Jersey was when I was visiting one of the many elderly shut-ins of the church. This particular lady was telling me about some of the challenges she had physically, and then she spoke about a fear of also developing some kind of dementia. She said, “I used to worry about getting Alzheimer’s, but then I just figured, ‘Oh, forget about it!’”  She wasn’t making a joke and looked surprised when I laughed at the remark.

The truth is that most of us worry about many more things than we should. I’m rather guilty of this one, more than most things I write about. When I’m worrying too much, and then I confront myself internally about it, the argument I give myself in return is, “Well, there really is something to be said for reasonable responsibility!”  And that is true. But still … worrying is over the top!

One time in my life when I did have some success in defeating worry was during my academic years in college and grad school. Between the two, there was a total of nine consecutive years of post-high school education. I was really into getting good grades, a mentality that drove me often into excessive worry and deep anxiety. After seven years of this, I finally wore out. Often, the difference between a B+ and an A- was double the effort. I told myself I had done well enough and wasn’t going to flunk out, that there were other life priorities I was not accomplishing well enough, and that I would henceforth do the best I could with a responsible amount of time applied to the academics. Beyond that, I wouldn’t worry if the grades were not of the “Dean’s List” category. It was a great relief. But I’ve had trouble applying this principle to other areas of life and responsibility. Being overly-competitive does not help!

Here are some points that Jesus made to his disciples on the issue of worrying, particularly about material assets and the supply of basic needs …

  1. The meaning of life is not about keeping score on material things.
  2. The God who takes wonderful care of the beautiful, natural world will certainly take care of his own people who are so much more valuable.
  3. Worrying does not accomplish anything, quite the opposite.
  4. Worrying about material things is the way the unbelieving world functions, and to worry means you are not kingdom-oriented.
  5. When you put the things of the kingdom onto the top of your mindful priorities, you find that the things of this world tend to somehow solve themselves.
  6. Things of this world can vanish and cause worry, things invested in eternity cannot perish – so obviously that should be a priority.
  7. When you get your mind set on true treasures, your heart – including control of emotions like worry – naturally follow.

So, don’t worry!  It’s stupid to do that!  Stupid is as stupid does. I know something about this.

Luke 12:22 – Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21)

Being wealthy is not all that it is cracked up to be!  Trust me, I know. Oh, no … did you think I was speaking of vast, personal riches? Not really, but I’ve often observed some wealthy people who have a lot of problems, simply because they are rich.

There is an interesting legal case going on right now with a woman from New Hampshire who is the winner of a $560-million lottery prize. Known only now as “Jane Doe,” she is suing to remain anonymous. One could imagine this desire, though it appears to be against state law. It was also stated in one article that she is losing $14,000 a day in interest by waging this fight. She has to be thinking that her life was a lot happier before all of this happened.

Today’s passage features a person in the crowd who says to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

We don’t know anything about this person beyond his question. He clearly believed himself to be getting the short end of a family inheritance. We may presume his claim to be just and this man to be a victim, though we don’t know his attitude. Did Jesus know his heart and answer in light of that knowledge? Or did Christ just use the incident as a teaching point about temporary material concerns versus eternal spiritual values.

In any event, it was not the role of Jesus to arbitrate such questions (though rabbis of the time would be called upon to adjudicate legal affairs). Christ uses it rather as an opportunity to make a teaching point about greed and true values systems.

The parable is a simple one of a farmer who was very successful and could have a guaranteed income from his abundance for the rest of his life. He could take life easy and, to reference one of the most famous quotes of Scripture (one of those that many people use and don’t even know comes from the Bible and the words of Jesus) … “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”

There has never been anyone who knew for certain the length of his or her life. We have seen in many ways in recent days and months how, for all of us, our lives hang by a thread. So it is foolish to presume upon the future with certainty.

It all comes down to our internal values systems. There is nothing wrong with seeking to be very successful. There is every good reason to prudently plan for the future. It is not sinful to have 401K plans or IRA accounts and other investments.

The error is to trust in them over trusting in God. Beyond that, it is wrong to horde the blessings that have their source ultimately in God’s grace and not be generous is using those resources to bless others in the Lord’s name.

Perhaps the functional question to test our hearts in this matter is to ask what we find ourselves both thinking about, along with what we find ourselves giving our time and treasure toward. Do we find ourselves focused upon accounts, investments, stock futures and closing bell indexes of the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 more than upon our ministering and serving lives?  Do we find that we are forever planning and intending to serve God and be more generous someday – after we just get a bit more financially stabilized?  These things can become patterns, and the next thing you know, there you are at age 75, still hoping to someday make God and service a frontline value of life.

It is one of those primary life enigmas … one of those counterintuitive truths: the way to GET the most is to GIVE the most. The way to find material world pleasure is through spiritual world investment.

Luke 12:13 – Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Warnings and Encouragements (Luke 12:1-12)

The current climate of political rancor in the USA has to be as bad as it has ever been. Accusations fly in every direction, and today’s leading voice may be tomorrow’s public goat for political exile – deservedly or not. Who will prevail in the end? With whom do you want to be identified?

As we saw yesterday, the divide between Jesus and the Pharisees was becoming more pronounced. The crowds, though still numbering in the thousands, were more often than not just curiosity seekers. They would not stick with Jesus to the end and be identified with him.

The time would come where it would be safer to not be identified with Jesus. The disciples needed to be prepared for this time. And as we know, they would not stand well in the darkest moments, though ultimately 11 of the 12 would go on to be effective witnesses near and far.

Being identified with Jesus was – both for them, and even for us – never going to be a popular stance with the masses of people. It could be fearful, for sure. And Jesus reminds the disciples to not fear human authorities who could even hold the power of capital punishment; but rather, they should have greater respect for the more powerful God who controls eternal punishment.

Even so, because of their relationship with God, their fear and respect was under the greater umbrella of God’s love and care. His love for them was the ultimate security – illustrated by being a God who cares even about the cheapest commodity of five sparrows who sold for 1/16 of a day’s wages. Even the number of hairs on their heads were known to God. So be confident; don’t fear.

The ones who should be fearful are the Pharisees who blasphemed the Holy Spirit (by attributing the genuine work of Christ to the power of Satan). Even those who denied Christ but later repented (such as Jesus’ earthly brothers) would be forgiven, but there was no hope for the Pharisees. This passage likely indicates that there was a work of the Spirit in them to convict them of the truth of Jesus as Messiah, yet even with that they rejected him.

Even when everything went poorly (humanly speaking as the disciples would be brought before human authorities for condemnation), the Holy Spirit would be with them and help them know how to respond in such a contingency.

It is not our natural joy or inclination to welcome being in the minority, particularly when our safety or security is threatened by our convictions. Yet this has been the common condition of God’s people throughout all of time. This is not something to fear. When keeping the larger, eternal picture in mind, there is no harm that can truly befall us. Even the worst thing that can happen is, in the bigger picture, the best thing that can happen. There is health in reminding ourselves of this truth on a regular basis, as we cannot know what all of the days of our lives may bring.

Luke 12:1 – Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”