Luke 12 – 17; John 11

“Rejoice with Me; for I Have Found My Sheep Which Was Lost”

The leaven of the Pharisees (Luke 12:1 – 5):

Notice verse 1 which states that a multitude had gathered and there were so many that they “trode one upon the other.” We don’t know whether the people within the multitude were trying their best to navigate in the crowd or whether they were jostling and competing with one another trying to get to Jesus. Probably a mix of both. We don’t see Jesus trying to address this. He turns to His apostles and speaks with them: “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

Leaven as a symbol is used in two ways in the Bible, as a good thing and a bad thing. As far as the Passover is concerned, leaven represents impurity that needs to be purged. Here Jesus specifies hypocrisy as the impurity to beware of. The Pharisees were strictly observant of both the oral and written law, so they were extremely judgmental of those who broke the Law of Moses or any other tradition within their subculture. Thus, they passed judgment on others even when the law didn’t.

This added an extra level to their hypocrisy. They not only hid their own sins but condemned others for cultural transgressions. This sort of hypocrisy exists in every group—not just religious groups—because we are all human. It takes a lot of introspection to detect this kind of hypocrisy in ourselves.

The sin against the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:10):

It can be confusing to decipher what it means to sin against the Holy Spirit. The Benson commentary says, “…If a man’s denying of me rise so high that he blasphemes and reviles the Holy Spirit, and ascribes the miracles wrought by him, in confirmation of the gospel, to the agency of Satan, this sin shall never be forgiven.” The Cambridge Bible Commentary says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit “…is expressly declared to be closely connected with the attributing of Jesus’ miracles to Beelzebub. On the exact nature of the ‘unpardonable sin’ theologians have speculated in vain, and all that we can see is that it must be the most flagrant degree of sin against the fullest light and knowledge.”

In other words, this sin is a willful rebellion against God. In order to commit this sin, one must have gained a perfect knowledge and understanding of Christ, and then deny that knowledge. The word “knowledge” is key. Until the Savior actually reveals Himself to us, we are in the realm of faith, not knowledge. Because complete knowledge is required to commit this sin, very few people have committed it.

Who is the Faithful and Wise Steward? (Luke 12:42-48):

Here Christ is talking about people who do the work of Christ, and those who don’t. The servant “knew his lord’s will” so he was a believer, but he was not charitable. In fact, he was cruel toward his fellow servants. The next verse talks about a person ignorant of the gospel who was kind. Which is the most acceptable in the kingdom of God? Confessing belief in Christ isn’t enough. He expects us to follow Him in our actions as well.

Forsaking all we have in order to follow Jesus (Luke 14:33):

Jesus is saying that we have to be willing to sacrifice our wealth and means in order to join Him in His kingdom, something which the Rich Young Man wouldn’t commit to do. In order to be fully committed to Jesus, the world can’t have any hold on us. As with any principle, living this law gets easier with practice. It helps to have the faith that God restores what we give up many-fold. The rewards are huge.

Reclaiming that which is lost (Luke 15):

In several parables, Jesus tells of the rejoicing that comes from finding something precious that was once lost. He emphasizes how precious we are to God. How can you help Christ find and reclaim His lost sheep?

No man can serve two masters (Luke 16:13 – 17):

No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You aren’t able to serve God and mammon.

It’s interesting that Jesus accused the Pharisees of serving two masters, especially since the much richer Sadducees would seem more worldly. Yet the scriptures say the Pharisees were “covetous.”

You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

So, maybe the Pharisees were not coveting money as much as they coveted prestige. Perhaps “mammon” is anything the world provides that distracts us from God’s work.
Jesus then talks about the “law and the prophets.” He is talking about the sections of the Tanakh, which we would call the Old Testament. The Five Books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy) are the Law (Torah). The Prophets (Nevi’im) consists of all the other books except Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles, which comprise the Writings (Ketubot).

Jesus also talks about the pivotal role of John the Baptist in connecting the Aaronic law with the higher law, and He assures the Pharisees that the Law will continue. In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the rich man wants someone from the dead to go back and testify to his family, so they won’t end up in hell as he has. The conclusion of the story is interesting since Jesus was talking about the value of the Law of Moses:

He said to him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.’

Christ is saying the Law of Moses was enough for those who sought confirmation through the spirit. Are the scriptures and the words of the prophets “enough” for us?

Lord, increase our faith (Luke 17:5-6):

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

The Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you would tell this sycamore tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

A mustard seed is perfectly obedient, just as all the elements and living things are. A mustard seed also starts very small, but slowly grows into a magnificent tree. Faith grows in small, sometimes imperceptible ways, step by step.

Jesus abode two days (John 11:6):

Jesus went down to Bethany in Judea even though his apostles objected. When He heard that Lazarus was sick He abode two days in His place before going to Bethany. Jesus knew exactly what was happening to His beloved cousin. He knew he was sick, and He knew he had died. But He delayed His arrival so He could perform the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead four days after Lazarus had been entombed.

This was Christ’s finale to His many miracles, so impressive that no one in the land could remain on the fence; they were either for Him or against Him after this.

Comfort for Mary and Martha (John 11:19-20):

And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.

This is a reference to the Jewish tradition of “sitting Sheva.” You also see this tradition in the Book of Job. When someone dies, he is quickly buried (by the next day). Then the family sits in the house with the door open and mourns for seven days, with friends and relatives arriving to sit and mourn with the family of the deceased. Jews today follow a similar pattern of mourning. They don’t prepare food, shower, watch TV, etc. This time set aside for mourning is healthy and admirable.

Caiaphas prophesies (John 11:50):

Caiaphas the wicked High Priest said, “Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”

He felt like Jesus could destroy the faith of the Jewish nation and it was better for Jesus to die than that the whole nation should lose its faith.