Luke 12:1–12 . . . Bible Study Summary with Questions
Warnings and Encouragements
Hypocrisy is a serious obstacle to consistent Christian living. We disciples must understand hypocrisy or we're doomed to live it. The gospels give a multitude of examples of hypocrisy from which to learn. In last week's study, we studied an amazing dinner conversation. A Pharisee had invited Jesus home to dinner. With Jesus and his disciples, he invited a few of his friends, other Pharisees, and scribes who came to set Jesus straight. But at their very first judgmental question, Jesus began to speak very directly about their weaknesses and blind spots. He castigated the Pharisees for a concern dealing with outward appearance and a neglect of inner holiness. He blasted them for blatant hypocrisy.
Warning! Beware the Yeast of the Pharisees: Hypocrisy (v. 1)
Verse 1 is perplexing in many ways, for it places our Lord's teaching of his disciples in the midst of a very large and unruly crowd. Soon, Jesus and the disciples would be in Jerusalem where there'd be another hostile crowd (demanding the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Jesus). Jesus thus sought to prepare his disciples to face such a crowd, encouraging them to be bold in proclaiming the gospel in such circumstances. It was time to prepare them for the persecution that would surely and quickly come.
The subject that Jesus was addressing was hypocrisy, and the Pharisees have just provided an example of its dangers. On the outside, they looked fine. The prayed long, pious-sounding prayers while having the trappings of men of dignity and holiness; but inside, Jesus said, they were full of "greed and wickedness" (11:39). But how could the disciples possibly be tempted to be hypocritical like the Pharisees? To answer that question, we must appreciate the characteristics of the "fundamentals of hypocrisy."
a. Hypocrisy is conformity to the values and expectations of someone else. Hypocrites adjust and accommodate their appearance to what people think or feel is their priority. If a crowd prefers to re-color their gray hair, a hypocrite does similarly.
b. Hypocrisy is an inconsistency. Hypocrisy is evident in the discrepancy between the way things seem and the way they are, such as telling others what they should be doing and criticizing them for their failures while failing to practice what we preach. The Pharisees appeared to be righteous on the outside, but in reality they were wicked.
c. Hypocrisy is a deliberate deception. It deliberately appears to be what isn't; it's a charade. Appearance doesn't match reality, intentionally, such as acting the part of the pious Christian in public, in order to impress people who expect such a showing.
d. Hypocrisy is deception by our actions or our words. A hypocrite often acts or says things in such a way that causes people to arrive at the wrong conclusion, such as doing good things for selfish motives.
e. Hypocrisy is a deliberate deception, with either a positive or a negative motivation. We are, generally speaking, hypocritical when we try to achieve men's praise or to avoid their persecution. Face it: Hypocrisy is sin.
Let's distinguish between the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and that of the disciples. For the Pharisees, their goal was positive, but they were hypocritical, attempting to receive the praise of men. For the disciples, they were negatively motivated, attempting to avoid being persecuted by those who hated true righteousness and would reject and crucify Jesus the Messiah, persecuting and killing many of his disciples.
Warning! Everything Hidden Will Be Revealed (vv. 2–3)
Jesus concludes the passage about the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, and his warning to disciples, with his words in vv. 2–3. He warns them and us that there will be a day when all posturing and pretending, all bluster and hypocrisy, will be exposed for what it is at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Day of Judgment that the Scriptures talk so much about. Our only hope for that day's final judgment will be based on our self-examination and confession of sin today, not tomorrow.
Having learned how a disciple would be tempted to be hypocritical, the remainder of our Lord's words in this passage should be more easily understood. In vv. 2–3, Jesus gave the first reason why hypocrisy is foolish and futile. If we summarize the two verses as a principle, Jesus might mean this: Hypocrisy (i.e., hiding the truth) is futile because the truth cannot and will not be concealed for long. Some truth is more quickly evident than others; but sooner or later all truth will be evident to everyone. Hypocrisy is foolish and futile because it seeks to avoid the inevitable.
Regarding "everything hidden becoming revealed," Jesus might be saying one or more of the following: (a) the evil that man does will eventually be revealed; (b) the gospel will inevitably be revealed, in spite of our hypocrisy; (c) all truth — good or evil — will be revealed, which in essence makes both "a" and "b" true. The hypocrisy about which the disciples are being warned is that of seeking to conceal the gospel that they've believed and to conceal their discipleship. Jesus tells them that the gospel must be proclaimed publicly; it cannot be concealed. Trying to conceal the gospel would amount to trying to conceal the sun. Thus, hypocrisy is futile.
Encouragement! Fear God, Not Your Persecutors (vv. 4–5)
In v. 4, Jesus wanted his disciples to assess the up-front risks. What's the worst that can happen? he asks. The worst that Jesus' opponents could do would be to kill him, then kill his disciples; that's it. Then, Jesus says incredibly, "and after that [they] can do no more." One of the reasons we fear death is that we can't see beyond it. But Jesus is teaching his disciples about the kingdom of God, namely not to fear death. He wants to take away our fear of death, as we become like Christ; it's part of our discipleship schooling. He told his disciples — and he's telling us — that physical death isn't to be feared, but spiritual death should be feared because it amounts to spending eternity in hell.
In v. 5, our Lord tells us whom we're to fear. Jesus deals honestly with this basic human emotion of fear as he trains his disciples. Don't be overcome with your fear of men, he says. The most they can do is take your life; but your heavenly Father has power over eternal life, and that's much more important than physical life.
Encouragement! Sparrows Have Value, Hairs Are Numbered (vv. 6–7)
A fear of God's wrath shouldn't be the only motivator to help disciples deal with persecution and the threat of death. For God's love cares for the whole, as well as the details. In v. 6, Jesus mentions the monetary value of birds. In Jesus' day, some wild birds were sold as food. Jesus uses the smaller vs. greater argument here: If cheap sparrows aren't forgotten by God, how much more are you valued, you who "are worth more than many sparrows?" (v. 7)
Take heart. God's Word assures you that he'll never leave or forsake you; he always has you in mind; he values you much more than sparrows whose life he knows and has in mind. To underscore his point, Jesus says, "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered." He wants you to know that God knows you intimately, as a person who's distinct and about whom he knows every minute detail. Regardless, he still loves you!
Encouragement! Be Sure to Acknowledge Jesus (vv. 8–9)
Jesus, in vv. 8–9, is still speaking in terms of preparing his disciples — them and us — to withstand the pressure of persecution. His encouraging words help to steady us so that the fear of our persecutors doesn't cause us to deny our allegiance to Jesus. Church historians tell us that the twentieth century has seen more martyrs for Christ than all the previous centuries of church history combined. The issues of confessing Jesus publicly are still with us; Christians today must be prepared to die rather than deny Christ.
Encouragement! Forgiveness for Denying Christ Jesus (v. 10)
A difficult struggle of the early Church, following Roman Emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians, was how to deal with those who'd denied Christ. Some congregations offered them forgiveness after a time of penance; others didn't. Those churches that forgave did so on the example of Peter, who shamefully denied Jesus three times (22:54–62) and was restored three times by Jesus to his calling to "feed my sheep" (John 21:15–19).
How should one interpret v. 10a? Does it allow forgiveness for those who denied Christ and then seek forgiveness? Perhaps so. The future tense "will be forgiven" indicates "the last judgment." Verse 10b's sin focuses on "blaspheming the Holy Spirit," which happens when men attribute to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit. Such blasphemy is unforgivable! If you were to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, there'd be no hope of you being forgiven.
What's encouraging is that Christians who sincerely and genuinely seek to know God haven't committed this sin. In reality, if you had committed that unforgivable sin, you wouldn't be studying the Bible with fellow Hearty Boys as you seek to follow Jesus. You may doubt your own feelings; but don't doubt God's grace, for he has promised never to leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
Encouragement! The Holy Spirit Will Help You Bear Witness (vv. 11–12)
There will certainly be times when Christians are placed on trial for their faith; they'll face imprisonment or martyrdom. For us today, someone has asked this probingly: If you were on trial, accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? The question isn't whether you, a Christian, will get off and be released; the question is whether you'll present a strong testimony for Jesus on that occasion, whether you'll confess and glorify him clearly and boldly. Many who do confess him will be convicted and sentenced, but their boldness for Jesus will continue to echo in the ears of onlookers and oppressors, eventually bringing some of them to faith. So, be honest: How prepared and how sure are you of the verdict in your case? How conclusive is the evidence that you'll provide? Hopefully, you're encouraged by your answer.
- Q. 1 What hypocritical act have you personally had to struggle with the most?
- Q. 2 Assuming that Christians today (vv. 8–9) must be prepared to die rather than deny Christ, are you prepared to die for Christ?
- Q. 3 Do you have an example to share of how the Holy Spirit has given you words to say in situations of persecution?
Warnings and Encouragements
12 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. 2There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3What 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. 5But 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. 6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7Indeed, 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. 9But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10And 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, 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say."