Luke chapter 12

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What does Luke chapter 12 mean?

Luke 12:1—15:32 is the third major section of the "travelogue" of Jesus: a group of stories providing the disciples with the foundational theology they will need to build the church. In the first section (Luke 9:51—11:13), the disciples showed their devotion to Jesus and Jesus promised that God would bless them. In the second (Luke 11:14–54), the Pharisees rejected Jesus and Jesus revealed how their pious deeds masked their spiritually abusive leadership and rebellion against God and His prophets. This section and the next (Luke 16:1—19:27) are comprised of three smaller units that form a pattern:

  • Kingdom Focus: 12:1—13:9
  • A miracle and teachings on the kingdom and salvation: 13:10–35
  • A miracle and teachings on the kingdom and salvation: 14:1—15:32

  • Kingdom Focus: 16:1—17:10
  • A miracle and teachings on the kingdom and salvation: 17:11—18:34
  • A miracle and teachings on the kingdom and salvation: 18:35—19:27

This unit describes how Jesus' followers should respond to the coming of God's kingdom. This includes both disciples and the crowd that swarms around them. The disciples, who are charged with spreading news of the kingdom (Luke 10:1–9), need to reject the honor, safety, wealth, security, self-indulgence, and even community the world offers (Luke 12:1–53). The crowd needs to be aware that the kingdom is coming, and seek repentance and reconciliation with God and others (Luke 12:54—13:9).

The previous chapter dealt largely with the Pharisees' blasphemy against Jesus and the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:14–23). The Pharisees will be judged for their hypocritical words—even if they are only thought and not spoken. The Pharisees wish to destroy Jesus' life (Luke 11:53–54). Yet Jesus tells His disciples to reject the Pharisees' beliefs and to stand firm in the face of persecution or even death. Eternal separation from God is far more tragic than losing one's physical life. God cares for the sparrows; He knows, sees, and cares for His followers even more. When the disciples face civil and religious rulers with the power to kill, they must speak boldly about their allegiance to Jesus, relying on the Holy Spirit to give them words to say (Luke 12:1–12).

A man from the crowd calls out, demanding Jesus settle a family inheritance issue. Jesus is trying to tell the disciples how the coming kingdom of God will require sacrifice, but He also wants the crowd to have right priorities. He tells the parable of the rich fool. This describes a man overly focused on earthly wealth instead of his relationship with people and especially with God. After returning to the disciples' responsibilities, Jesus will come back to this same theme in Luke 12:54—13:9. For now, Jesus points out that you can gain great wealth but if you die, what good is it? Better to be a citizen of heaven and build up riches for eternity (Luke 12:13–21).

Diving more deeply, Jesus exhorts the disciples to not be anxious about their physical needs. This is not to say believers are never to work, or care about themselves. Rather, it means to set aside paranoia, terror, panic, or angst over such things. If we are citizens of God's kingdom, He will provide what we need to serve Him properly. And if we focus on God's work, we will earn eternal treasures in heaven (Luke 12:22–34).

Going beyond money and security, Jesus tells the disciples they should not fall into the worldly ways of laziness and abuse of power as they represent Him as His servants. As His followers, they must be diligent with their duties, even if He is not directly with them. As leaders, they must be responsible with His resources and care for His followers (Luke 12:35–48).

Finally, Jesus tells the disciples that they may need to sacrifice family relationships. They must recognize that they will be separated from any family member who does not follow Jesus. Their contentment must come from the hope of their place in God's kingdom (Luke 12:49–53).

Jesus then returns His attention from the disciples to the crowd. They are savvy enough to detect changes in weather, but they lack common sense about the larger story. The kingdom of God has been inaugurated and they haven't noticed, let alone prepared. Instead of seeking security in wealth or indulging in pride, they should be working toward peace with each other (Luke 12:54–59).

In the final stories of this unit, Jesus points out that the crowds don't even have the foresight to make peace with God. Death will come whether they are ready or not. Yet, if they don't repent from their sins, they will be separated from God. They are not showing the fruit that comes from being part of God's kingdom and they are flirting with eternal damnation (Luke 13:1–9).

This pattern of two sections of three units each finishes out Jesus' "travelogue" as presented by Luke. After the last teaching, the parable of ten minas (Luke 19:11–27), Jesus will lead the disciples into Jerusalem where He will face the cross.
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