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.”