Signs of the Times

“The times, they are a changing.” I think that is how the saying goes. And this is the message Jesus told the people in Luke 12.54-59. Things are going to change – are you paying attention? Jesus has just given instruction to his disciples and now he addresses “the crowds” (v.54a).

Discerning the Way of God

Jesus, as is his custom, utilizes nature to make his point about the people. First, they can tell, but a cloud in the west, that rain is coming. It may begin small, but soon it will pregnant with rain and will open up for the land to receive it. “And so it happens.” Second, a wind will kick up from the south. Obviously, the people know, there is going to be a heat wave hit the land. “And it happens.” Jesus rebukes them for this ability to reconize the signs of the seasons but fail to see the signs of the time. They are hypocrites, two-faced, two-minded. They fail to see that prophetic word is coming to fulfillment even before their very eyes: the Messiah has come. They are weather-wise, but they are not Word-wise. For that, Jesus has nothing complimentary to say.

Making Peace with God

Because of their lack of preparation and inability to discern God’s way, Jesus admonishes them to seek peace with God, the supreme Judge. “Judge for yourselves,” Jesus says. Even without Jesus there before them they should be able to find their way with the light of Scripture. The way they are to seek is peace. Otherwise, there is bad news: the one who does not prepare to face the judge only has hard time to look forward to. There is still a debt before them, there are still charges unsettled. Therefore, the Judge has no choice but to throw the book at you.

The nation of Israel was marching toward certain judgment and destruction with both ears covered and their eyes squeezed shut. They refused to hear and heed the word of God and so they would face the full fury of God’s holy wrath. Indeed, we too are marching toward certain disaster if we act in much the same way, refusing to hear the word of the Lord. We can tell you the forecast for the next five days, but fail to acknowledge the coming storm of God’s anger because of our sins. God will have no choice but to sentence us, lock us up in eternal torment, and throw away the key. “Today is the day of salvation” – settle your account.

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A Call to Courage

A common phrase people use is “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Apparently, many people smelled the smoke radiating from the blazing Pharisees and scribes following the burn Jesus just gave them in Luke 11.37ff. So Luke tells us that “many thousands” of people have gathered around Jesus. Literally, “myriads” of people have come to hear Jesus. So many are there (upwards of 10,000 perhaps, according to some) that some of the people are being trampled. Imagine the buzz of electricity running through the crowd. “If only I could hear his voice,” “if only I could touch him,” “If only…” Here is the attitude God’s people today must once again ignite within His church: a fiery passion to hear the word of the Lord proclaimed. May there never come a day when the people stop their ears or desire not to hear the word of the Lord. People in other countries walk great distances to hear one sermon from God’s word, memorizing key passages read and take it back to their villiage, many of whom have never seen the inside of a New Testament. What hunger, then and now!

An Evil to be Shunned

The rest of Luke 12.1 begins the lesson Jesus wishes to impart that day. But we must realize this is a lesson to many different people, the first of which is his disciples. He tells them to watch themselves or be alert for the “yeast of the Pharisees.” There should be no confusion as to what the “yeast” is – Jesus explains it for us: it is hypocrisy. That is to say watch out for their duplicity. The idea behind hypocrisy is that the person who is a hypocrite is an actor, merely putting on a show externally but internally they are a different person all togehter. They are merely a play actor. The disciple must never become like them. Instead, we are called to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4.15). Our motives are to be pure and our actions are to match what is within us.

Jesus explains why the disciple is not to be an actor – man can never really hide anything. Either everything will be shown for what it is eventually in this life or God will remove entirely the mask used to cover over our true motives. The deeds we do and the words we say in darkness will be revealed in the light of day light. Truly Jesus came into this world to expose the deeds of darkness inasmuch as he was “the Light of the World.” However strong man’s desire to keep hidden his wicked deeds, his duplicity, nothing is hidden from God (see Heb 4.12).

A Virtue to be Cultivated

If hypocrisy is the evil to be shunned then godly fear is the virtue a disciple is to have. So often, a Christian’s fear is of the wrong things. Too often I hear or see how deathly afraid (pun intended) Christians are of death. This is unwarranted. I suppose we might be afraid of the way we may die (like being eaten by sharks or drowning), but we should not fear death. And in light of what Jesus says in Luke 12.4, even the way we die should not be a factor so much. Do not fear men and what they can do to the body, rather fear God for he controls your eternal destiny. And this is the key to overcoming (shunning) the evil of hypocrisy. Fear of what men may say or do to us would cause us to become the play-actor God hates. The Pharisees were masters of planting seeds of doubt and manipulating people, cultivating the hypocrisy that they themselves contained. Jesus says don’t allow this to happen. Cultivate the right kinds of the seeds, namely, revential fear of God. Fear the only who has control over the eternal, not those who believe they have control over the physical. Plainly, fear God, not man.

But the proper kind of fear we are to have is coupled with reassurance for the disciple. The sparrows are not forgotten by God; neither is the disciple. In fact, so intimately does God love and care for us, that he has the very hairs on our head numbered. What a profound thought that the infinite God of this universe still loves and cares for me in such an intimate manner. Stand in awesome fear of God, not in absurd fright of this life.

A Lord to Acknowledge

Jesus now gives us some very sober words concerning our attitude toward Him and how important that. For if we fail to “confess” (NASB) Jesus while on this earth, he will not “confess” us before the angels of God. Our understanding of confession is key. In the Greek, the word is homologese from the root homologeo. You may recognize homo which mean “same” and logo which means “word.” Hence, to confess means simply to “say the same word” about a person or thing. In this case, we speak the same word about Christ as the Son of God as God speaks. And we speak this word before or in front of men. This could be a call to evangelism or it may simpl be the “good confession” before a body of believers. I think the importance is that we recognize our Lord as the Christ. The promise is that if we do this, He will speak the same word as the Father about us. That is, our Father calls us “son” (Gal 3.26-27) and Jesus recognizes that, even affirming that fact to the angels of heaven.

However, the danger is in failing to speak the same word about Jesus. That is, we deny his divinity as the Christ. In this, there is a refusal to agree that Jesus is the Christ. Here is the precise definition of one who “antichrist” as given by the apostle John (1 John 2.22). This man is a liar and there is no affirmation before the angels in heaven. Only a sad condemnation.

In v.10, Jesus explains the unforgivable sin. Much can be said about this passage and for a more  thorough discussion of it click here to connect to my discussion site.

A Promise to Keep

The final words of this section deal (Luke 12.11-12) deal with the disciples on trial. There is coming a time in the ministry of the Twelve when they will be dragged into court and questioned about their preaching (see Acts 3, 4). What is a disciple to do? Jesus tells them not to worry (a key teaching of Jesus in his ministry). Rather, understand that the disciple is covered for the Holy Spirit will speak on their behalf, giving them the words they need to say at that time.

Do we still have this miraculous empowering today? I don’t think so. But we do have the Spirit’s words contained in the sum of Scripture (Eph 6.17). Hence, we must pour over God’s word, commit it to memory so that if we ever are called upon to give a defense for the hope within us (1 Peter 3.15), we are ready with a reasoned response of the things we believe. We are still taught through the Word of God, the Spirit’s words, what we are to say to anyone who asks us to defend ourselves.