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B. The beginning of controversy with the Pharisees 5:12-6:11
One of Luke’s purposes in his Gospel and in Acts appears to have been to show why God stopped working particularly with Israel and began working with Jews and Gentiles equally in the church. [Note: Liefeld, p. 879.] The Jewish leaders’ rejection of Jesus was a major reason for this change. The conflict between them is an important feature of this Gospel.
This section of the Gospel includes six incidents. In the first one Jesus served notice to the religious leaders in Jerusalem that the Messiah had arrived. In the remaining five pericopes, the Pharisees found fault with Jesus or His disciples. Mark stressed the conflict that was mounting, but Luke emphasized the positive aspects of Jesus’ ministry that led to the opposition. [Note: Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 206.]
Mark recorded that the Pharisees voiced their question to Jesus, but Luke wrote that they asked Jesus’ disciples. Probably they did both. Luke chose to relate their question to the disciples apparently because Jesus then stepped in and answered for them (Luke 6:3). Thus Luke showed his readers Jesus’ position as the Master who comes to the defense of His disciples. Luke alone also mentioned the disciples rubbing the ears of grain in their hands, probably to give his readers a more vivid picture of what really happened.
The law permitted people to glean from the fields as they passed through them (Deuteronomy 23:25). However the Pharisees chose to view the disciples’ gleaning as harvesting and their rubbing the grain in their hands as threshing and winnowing as well as preparing a meal. The Pharisees considered all these practices inappropriate for the Sabbath.
5. Jesus’ authority over the Sabbath 6:1-5 (cf. Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28)
The final two instances of confrontation with the Pharisees that Luke recorded involved Sabbath observance. The Sabbath was one of Judaism’s main institutions, and Jesus’ violation of traditional views on Sabbath observance brought the religious leaders’ antagonism toward Him to a climax. Here was a case in point that Jesus’ new way could not exist with Israel’s old way. Sabbath observance had its roots not only in the Mosaic Law but in creation. Furthermore its recurrence every seventh day made it a subject of constant attention.
"The interesting thing about Jesus’ approach is that He was not simply arguing that repressive regulations should be relaxed and a more liberal attitude adopted: He was saying that His opponents had missed the whole point of this holy day. Had they understood it they would have seen that deeds of mercy such as His were not merely permitted-they were obligatory (cf. John 7:23 f.)." [Note: Morris, pp. 121-22.]
Jesus drew an analogy from Scripture (cf. 1 Samuel 21:1-9). His point was twofold, first that ceremonial traditions are secondary to divine service.
What David did was contrary to the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 24:9), yet Scripture did not condemn him for what he did (cf. 2 Chronicles 30:18-20). What Jesus’ disciples did was not contrary to the Mosaic Law, so the Pharisees should not have condemned them for what they did. Why did the Scriptures not condemn David for what he did? They did not because David was serving God. God permitted him to violate the ceremonial law, but not the moral law, without condemnation. In this sense he was above the law. (This may explain why God allowed David to perform some normally priestly functions such as offering sacrifices without rebuke.) Therefore the Son of Man (Luke 6:5), who is superior to David, had the right to set aside a Pharisaic tradition, not a divine law, in the service of God.
Jesus’ second point was that the Son of Man (cf. Luke 5:24), because of who He is, has the right to violate the Sabbath. Jesus was not violating the Sabbath by doing what He did, but He had the right to do so. This was another claim to divine authority, an emphasis that we have seen running through this part of Luke’s Gospel. God is greater than the laws He has imposed, and He can change them when He chooses to do so.
"David did not allow cultic regulations to stand in the way of fulfilling his divine calling of becoming king of Israel. Jesus has a similar mission which makes him ’Lord of the Sabbath,’ one who is authorized to decide when Sabbath regulations must be set aside to fulfill a greater divine purpose." [Note: Tannehill, 1:174-75.]
This incident elevates the readers’ appreciation of Jesus’ authority to new heights in Luke.
Luke again noted the primacy of Jesus’ teaching over His performing miracles (cf. Luke 4:15-16; Luke 4:31-33). He also mentioned that it was the right hand of the man that was useless, a detail of particular interest to a doctor. This detail shows the seriousness of the man’s case. Most people are right-handed. By now the religious leaders (cf. Luke 6:7) were looking for an occasion to criticize Jesus publicly believing that they had a case against Him. Jesus probably knew their thoughts at least because their intentions were now clear (cf. Luke 5:22). He could have known their thoughts because He was a prophet. Morris believed Luke was emphasizing Jesus’ deity. [Note: Morris, p. 123.] Jesus consciously provoked conflict by calling the man forward for healing. His initiative demonstrates His authority and His sovereignty.
6. Jesus’ attitude toward the Sabbath 6:6-11 (cf. Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6)
This incident happened on a different Sabbath from the one in the preceding pericope (Luke 6:6). Note the similar terms Luke used to introduce both events. He evidently placed it here in his narrative because it builds on the idea of Jesus’ authority over the Sabbath and advances it even further than the previous pericope does. As the authoritative Son of Man, Jesus declared that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath. Both incidents involved a controversy about what is more important, ceremonial law or human need. The Pharisees believed that it was unlawful to do virtually anything on the Sabbath, though they hypocritically did good to themselves but would not do good to others. They did permit life-saving measures, midwifery, and circumcision on the Sabbath. [Note: Mishnah Yoma 8:6, and Mishnah Shabbath 18:3 and 19:2.]
Jesus’ question had two parts. He first asked if it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath or if it was lawful to do evil. The obvious answer was that doing good was lawful but doing evil was not lawful. God had instituted the Sabbath for the welfare of humankind. His attitude of love should have characterized the Israelites as they observed the day. They, too, should have made it a special day for the blessing of people. The second part of Jesus’ question particularized it and pointed to its ultimate consequences. Obviously Jesus was speaking about saving a life (Gr. psyche) from physical destruction, not saving a soul from eternal damnation.
There was only one answer that the religious leaders could give. It was lawful to do good and unlawful to do evil on the Sabbath. However, they refused to answer because their answer virtually would have given Jesus their approval to heal the man. They did not want to do that because they wanted to retain their traditional abstinence from Sabbath activities. Jesus proceeded to do good and healed the man’s hand, but He did so without performing any physical work. There was nothing the critics could point to as an act that Jesus performed for which they could condemn Him. This method of healing pointed to Jesus being a prophet sent from God at least and to His being God at most.
Understandably the response of Jesus’ critics was violent. "Rage" or "furious" translates the Greek word anoia, which refers to senseless wrath (cf. 2 Timothy 3:9).
"He humiliated the religious leaders and healed the man all at the same time without even breaking the Pharisees’ law. It is no wonder that the religious establishment was furious and sought a way to get rid of Him." [Note: Martin, p. 219.]
Luke 6:11 is the climax of Luke’s section that describes the beginning of Jesus’ controversy with the religious leaders (Luke 5:12 to Luke 6:11). Luke did not say that this incident led them to plot Jesus’ death, as Matthew and Mark did. The intensity of the conflict did not interest Luke as much as Jesus’ sovereign authority over His enemies.
Jesus’ choice of the Twelve followed His conflict with the Jewish leaders. Luke implied that that hostility played a part in Jesus’ decision to spend the night in prayer before selecting the apostles. In view of mounting hostility it was imperative that He receive direction from His Father in this choice. A mountain or hill was a traditional place to pray since it provided seclusion and its elevation gave the person praying a special sense of nearness to God. Luke alone mentioned Jesus’ all night prayer vigil. It shows Jesus’ conscious dependence on God, a special emphasis in the third Gospel. The early church followed Jesus’ example (Acts 13:2; Acts 14:23; cf. Acts 1:2; Acts 1:24-26).
1. The selection of 12 disciples 6:12-16 (cf. Mark 3:13-19)
Luke prefaced Jesus’ teaching of His followers with an introduction of His most important disciples.
"It is clear that for Luke an important stage in the founding of the church is to be seen here, the choice of those from among the company of Jesus’ companions from the beginning of his ministry who were to be in a special sense the witnesses to his resurrection and the messengers of the gospel." [Note: Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 237.]
C. Jesus’ teaching of His disciples 6:12-49
Luke gave his readers an overview of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 4:14 to Luke 5:11) and then presented His relationship to His opponents (Luke 5:12 to Luke 6:11). Next he described Jesus’ relationship with His disciples (Luke 6:12-49). He arranged his material to identify the disciples first, and then he summarized what Jesus taught them.
There is some similarity between Luke’s narrative and the account of Moses ascending Mt. Sinai when he received the law from God and then descending and teaching it to the people (Exodus 19; Exodus 32; Exodus 34). [Note: Ellis, p. 113.] Perhaps Luke intended the reader to recognize the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:18 in this similarity.
Jesus selected the Twelve from the larger group of learners who followed Him around (cf. Matthew 10:2-4; Acts 1:13). Only Luke mentioned that Jesus called the Twelve "apostles" (lit. sent ones). Luke used this term six times in this Gospel (Luke 6:13; Luke 9:10; Luke 11:49; Luke 17:5; Luke 22:14; Luke 24:10) and 28 times in Acts. Each of the other Evangelists only used it once. This fact reflects his continuing interest in the mission that Jesus began and continued through these apostles and the whole church (Acts 1:1-2). The fact that Jesus chose 12 apostles now probably suggests continuity in God’s plan of salvation because the 12 apostles in one sense replaced the 12 sons of Israel (Jacob). However, I believe the many points of discontinuity with Israel are just as important and make the equating of Israel and the church impossible (cf. Ephesians 2).
Luke’s list contains the same names as those that Matthew and Mark have given us with some variation in the order. Only Luke mentioned that Judas Iscariot became a traitor.
|Matthew 10:2-4||Mark 3:16-19||Luke 6:14-16||Acts 1:13|
|1.||Simon Peter||Simon Peter||Simon Peter||Peter|
|9.||James, son of|
|James, son of|
|James, son of|
|James, son of|
|10.||Thaddaeus||Thaddaeus||Judas, son or|
|Judas, son or|
|11.||Simon the Cananaean||Simon the Cananaean||Simon the Zealot||Simon the Zealot|
|12.||Judas Iscariot||Judas Iscariot||Judas Iscariot|
2. The assembling of the people 6:17-19 (cf. Matthew 5:1-2)
The similarities between the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and what Luke recorded in Luke 6:20-49 seem to suggest that Luke condensed that Sermon. However the introductions to the two sections have led many students of these passages to conclude that Jesus gave two different addresses on separate occasions. Harmonization of the introductions is possible, and this would point to one sermon that Luke edited more severely than Matthew did. Matthew wrote that Jesus was on a mountainside when He delivered this address (Matthew 5:1), but Luke said that He was on a level place (Luke 6:17). The place where Jesus gave this sermon is the major problem in harmonizing the two accounts. [Note: See J. Manek, "On the Mount - on the Plain (Mt. Luke 6:1 - Lk. VI. 17)," Novum Testamentum 9 (1967):124-31.]
Apparently Jesus went up into a mountain near Capernaum to pray all night (Luke 6:12). There in the morning He selected the Twelve (Luke 6:13; cf. Mark 3:13-14). Then He descended to a level place where He met a large crowd that had come to hear Him and to receive healing (Luke 6:17-19). Luke tells us that they came from as far away as Judea and Jerusalem to the south and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon to the north (Luke 6:17). Such a site as Luke described exists near Capernaum. [Note: J. A. Findlay, "Luke," in Abingdon Bible Commentary, p. 1037.] Next Jesus apparently went back up the mountainside to get away from the huge crowd (Matthew 5:1 a). There His disciples came to Him and He taught them (Matthew 5:1-2). As the sermon progressed, more people made their way up the mountainside and began listening to what Jesus was teaching (Matthew 7:28; Luke 7:1; cf. Matthew 7:24; Luke 6:46-47). [Note: Martin, p. 219.] Another possibility is that the place where Jesus preached may have been a level place in a mountainous region (cf. Isaiah 13:2; Jeremiah 21:13). [Note: Bock, Luke, p. 187.] I believe the two sermons were really one.
Luke’s emphasis in this section was on Jesus’ widespread appeal and His willingness to give of Himself freely to help those who came to Him in need.
Clearly Jesus’ disciples were the primary objects of His instruction in this sermon (cf. Luke 6:13-19).
"Blessed" (Gr. makarios) in this context describes the happy condition of someone whom God has blessed with His special favor. [Note: See Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. "makarios," by F. Hauck and G. Bertram, 4:362-70.] Luke’s original Greek readers would have been familiar with the word.
"Originally in Greek usage the word described the happy estate of the gods above earthly sufferings and labors." [Note: Martin, p. 220.]
Poor disciples are those who have given up what the world offers to follow Jesus faithfully (cf. Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalms 2:12; Psalms 32:1-2; Psalms 34:8; Psalms 40:4; Psalms 84:12; Psalms 112:1). Some of Jesus’ disciples had already done this (cf. Luke 5:11; Luke 5:28). Such disciples characteristically look to God for their needs rather than to themselves or the world. The parallel passage in Matthew clarifies that spiritual poverty, namely, a recognition of one’s spiritual need, is at the root of this physically poor disciple’s thinking (Matthew 5:3).
"They rely on God and they must rely on Him, for they have nothing of their own on which to rely. . . . The rich of this world often are self-reliant" [Note: Morris, pp. 126, 127.]
The second part of each beatitude explains why the person in view is blessed or happy. Disciples who forego the wealth of the present world order to follow Jesus faithfully have Jesus’ promise that they will enjoy the benefits of the new world order, namely, the messianic kingdom. Jesus’ disciples are better off poor now, yet having a part in the coming messianic kingdom, than being rich now and having no part in that future kingdom.
"Human society perpetuates structures of injustice and exclusion, but God intervenes on the side of the oppressed. The disruptive effect of this intervention is often presented in Luke as a reversal of the structures of society: those with power, status, and riches are put down and those without them are exalted. This reversal was proclaimed in the Magnificat (Luke 1:51-53). A similar overturn of the established order was anticipated in Simeon’s prophecy that Jesus ’is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel’ (Luke 2:34)." [Note: Tannehill, 1:109.]
The Beatitudes 6:20-23 (cf. Matthew 5:3-10)
The choices of disciples 6:20-26
Matthew recorded nine beatitudes, but Luke included only four. Matthew gave no woes, but Luke recorded four. The four beatitudes precede the four woes, and the beatitudes parallel the woes in thought. The beatitudes are positive and the woes correspondingly negative (cf. Psalms 1; Isaiah 5:8-23).
Two types of disciples are in view throughout this section of the sermon, the poor and oppressed and the rich and popular. The first type can anticipate God satisfying their needs, but the second type should expect divine judgment. The comparisons call on the disciples to consider which group they want to be in. Matthew’s beatitudes are more ethical and describe what a disciple of Jesus ought to be. Luke’s beatitudes describe the actual condition of the two types of disciples and the consequences of those conditions. A beatitude is an acknowledgment of a fortunate state of being (cf. Psalms 1:1; Proverbs 14:21; Proverbs 16:20; Proverbs 29:18). They mock the world’s values by exalting what the world despises and rejecting what the world admires. [Note: Morris, p. 126.]
3. The Sermon on the Mount 6:20-49
Luke’s version of this important address, primarily aimed at Jesus’ disciples, is much shorter than Matthew’s (Matthew 5:3 to Matthew 7:29). Matthew’s account contains 137 verses whereas Luke’s has 30. Both accounts begin with beatitudes, contain the same general content, and end with the same parables. However, Luke edited out the teachings that have distinctively Jewish appeal, specifically Jesus’ interpretations of the Mosaic Law, the "legal matters." These parts had less significance for an audience of predominantly Gentile Christians.
"Luke’s including the Sermon in a form that relates to Gentiles shows the message is timeless." [Note: Idem, "A Theology . . .," p. 114.]
Some commentators refer to this section of Luke’s Gospel as the Sermon on the Plain. Some of them believe that it was a different sermon from the Sermon on the Mount, given on a different occasion and in a different place, as mentioned above. Others believe there was only one sermon, and they use this name to differentiate this version of the sermon from Matthew’s version that they call the Sermon on the Mount. I believe it is the same sermon and prefer to call it the Sermon on the Mount to avoid the implication of two sermons.
Following Jesus as His disciple also involved feeling hungry occasionally. However, Jesus promised ultimate satisfaction to those who chose discipleship. To those less fortunate, discipleship then and now sometimes involved and involves giving away some money that one might use for food. Sometimes students preparing for ministry have to live on meager rations to pay other bills associated with their commitment to study God’s Word and serve Him.
Likewise discipleship involves weeping and sorrow, but laughter will come eventually. Kingdom conditions are again in view. In one sense a disciple is to rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16). However in another sense the sin that surrounds us, and the hardness of the hearts of people with whom we share the gospel, are constant sources of sorrow.
Various forms of persecution will give way to ultimate reward and consequent joy. Note the logical progression in Luke 6:22 from hatred to ostracism to insults and finally to character assassination. Luke recorded in Acts that all these forms of persecution overtook the early Christians. The New Testament epistles also warn Christians about them (e.g., 1 John 3:13; 1 Peter 4:14; James 2:7). Not just the prophets of old but also Jesus Himself experienced these persecutions. Disciples can expect the same. God will vindicate them eventually and reward them for their faithfulness (cf. Luke 12:37; Luke 12:42-44; Luke 18:1-8).
The use of "Son of Man" here is significant since it combines the ideas of Jesus as God and as man. Discipleship involves commitment to Jesus as the God-man. The disciples who first heard this beatitude had not yet experienced much persecution for Jesus’ sake, but they would shortly. "In heaven" focuses on the ultimate destiny of the disciple. It is an alternative expression to "God" that Luke and Jesus used frequently.
The woes contrast with the beatitudes in content and in the structure of the passage (cf. Luke 1:53). They address those disciples who refuse to give up all to follow Jesus or who face temptation to draw back from following Him faithfully (cf. Luke 6:46-49). This section of the sermon begins with a word of strong contrast: but (Gr. plen). "Woe" means "alas," (NEB) or "How terrible," (TEV) and it introduces an expression of pity for those who are under divine judgment. [Note: Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 255.]
Disciples who choose present riches over identification with the Son of Man are pitiable because they can expect no greater riches in the future from His hand. The context clarifies that Jesus was not condemning the rich simply for being rich. He was warning those who were choosing present riches at the expense of total commitment to Him as His disciples. Wealth tempts people to think that they need nothing beyond money (cf. Luke 12:19).
The Woes 6:24-26
Similarly eating well and laughing are not wrong in themselves. However if a person decides not to follow Jesus because he prefers a fuller stomach and greater happiness than he believes he would have if he followed Jesus, he makes a bad choice. He is a fool for giving up what he cannot lose to get what he cannot keep (cf. Isaiah 65:13-14; James 4:9).
The opposite of experiencing persecution (Luke 6:22-23) is having everyone speak well of you. Disciples who find that everyone thinks that all they are doing is just fine need to examine their commitment to Jesus Christ. Unbelievers should disagree with and oppose to some extent those who follow God’s will faithfully because they hold different values. Jesus’ experience is what all of His disciples can expect to reproduce to some extent. False prophets often win wide acclaim (cf. Jeremiah 5:31).
Love (Gr. agape) involves demonstrating genuine concern for the welfare of another person regardless of that one’s attractiveness or ability to return love (cf. Romans 12:14-21). The enemies in view would be people who oppose disciples because of their commitment to Jesus. To bless (Gr. eulogeite) here means to wish someone well contrasted with cursing or wishing someone evil. "Pray" (Gr. proseuchesthe, the general word for prayer) in this context means asking God to do them good when they do you evil.
The conduct of disciples 6:27-38 (cf. Matthew 5:43-48; 7:1-2)
Jesus’ explanation of the importance of true righteousness was the heart of the Sermon on the Mount as Matthew narrated it (Matthew 5:17 to Matthew 7:12). The need of love is the heart of this sermon according to Luke. Matthew reported that Jesus spoke of true righteousness in relation to three things: the Scriptures (Matthew 5:17-48), the Father (Matthew 6:1-18), and the world (Matthew 6:19 to Matthew 7:12). Luke omitted Jesus’ teaching on the relationship of true righteousness to the Father that included instruction about ostentation (Matthew 6:1), alms-giving (Matthew 6:2-4), praying (Matthew 6:5-15), and fasting (Luke 6:16-18). The first of these sections laid down a basic principle and the last three dealt with the so-called three pillars of Jewish piety. Luke recorded some of Jesus’ teachings on these subjects elsewhere in his Gospel.
In the section dealing with the relationship of true righteousness to the Scriptures, Luke recorded only one of Jesus’ revelations. He combined Jesus’ teaching about God’s will concerning love (Matthew 5:43-47) and the importance of loving the brethren (Matthew 7:1-5). He passed over here Jesus’ explanation of His view of the Old Testament and His revelations about God’s will concerning murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and His summary of the disciple’s duty.
As we have noted previously, one of Luke’s main concerns, as is clear from his selection of material, was his concern for people. He did not present Jesus’ teaching about love contrasted with rabbinic distortions of the Old Testament, as Matthew did (Matthew 5:43-44). Rather he stressed Jesus’ positive command, the Golden Rule, which Matthew included later in his version of the sermon (Matthew 7:12). Luke recorded Jesus identifying seven actions that reveal true love in a disciple. These are all impossible to produce naturally; they require supernatural enablement. Demonstration of this kind of love reveals true righteousness in a disciple, righteousness imparted by God and enlivened by His Spirit.
Disciples should not resist the violent attacks of their opponents. The attack may be an insult (cf. Matthew 5:39) or a violent punch on the jaw (Gr. siagon). [Note: Morris, p. 129.] In either case, this is an attack on the disciple’s person. An attack against his family members might require their defense, though not with more than defensive action against the attacker. Disciples need to guard themselves against pride that sometimes masquerades as chivalry while at the same time defending those in their care and trying not to overreact against the attacker.
Taking the outer cloak (Gr. himation) implies that the setting is a street robbery. In legal disputes the undergarment (Gr. chiton, cf. Matthew 5:40) more often went to the victor. Luke pictured a robber taking an outer garment. The person being attacked should offer the robber his undergarment (undershirt) also. Matthew conversely pictured a lawsuit in which an enemy sues the disciple for his undergarment and the disciple offers his outer garment. In this whole section, Luke described what was more typical in the Gentile world and Matthew what was more common among Jews.
"The Christian should never refrain from giving out of a love for his possessions." [Note: Ibid., p. 130.]
"The teaching of the passage as a whole relates not so much to passivity in the face of evil as to concern for the other person." [Note: Liefeld, p. 893.]
In refraining from doing evil the disciple may suffer evil. This is how Jesus behaved and what He experienced (Luke 23:34; cf. 1 Peter 2:20-24). It is what He taught His disciples to do and to expect too.
This hyperbolic command summarizes the duty of a disciple regarding love of enemies, and all people for that matter. We should be willing and ready to sacrifice ourselves and what we have for the welfare of others. This "Golden Rule" was not original with Jesus, though He made it positive and strengthened it (cf. Tobit 4:15; Leviticus 19:18). [Note: Cf. Mishnah Shabbath 31a; and Epistle of Aristeas 207.]
Jesus next compared the courtesies that non-disciples extend to others with those that His disciples should extend. He proceeded from the general concept of loving (Luke 6:32) to the more concrete expression of it as doing good (Luke 6:33) to the specific example of lending (Luke 6:34). His point was that disciples should not only love their enemies but also love and express their love to their friends more than other people do.
The seven actions that Jesus commanded in Luke 6:27-31 are the following. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you. Furthermore do not retaliate when others attack you, give freely to those who ask of you, and treat others the way you would want them to treat you. This type of love marks a disciple off as distinctive (Luke 6:32-34) and is the type of love that God shows and enables the disciple to demonstrate (Luke 6:35).
"But" (Gr. plen) introduces another strong contrast (cf. Luke 6:23). Rather than loving, doing good, and lending, as other people do with a desire to receive in return, the disciple should do these things with no thought of receiving back. That is how God gives and it is therefore how His children should give. Jesus promised a great reward for disciples who do this. The children of God can demonstrate their relationship to "the Most High" by behaving as He behaves. The use of this name for God highlights the disciple’s exalted position. Mercy toward all people should mark disciples’ attitudes and actions as it marks God’s. This emphasis accords with Luke’s concern for people in need (cf. Luke 10:25-37). Matthew’s interest, on the other hand, was in God’s perfect righteousness (cf. Matthew 5:48; Matthew 19:21).
These verses explain what it means to be merciful as God is merciful (Luke 6:36). The first two examples are negative and the second two are positive. A judgmental attitude is not merciful. However some judging is necessary, so Jesus clarified that He meant condemning other people specifically. Judgment and condemnation are essentially God’s functions, not man’s. Rather a merciful person pardons others. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount Jesus was addressing interpersonal behavior, not the judicial system. Giving to others is also merciful behavior. What a person sows he or she will normally reap for evil or for good (cf. Galatians 6:7). Disciples will discover that they will receive back the same treatment that they have dispensed abundantly from God if not from man.
"The saying here may appear to speak in terms of strict retribution, but the thought is rather that human generosity is rewarded with divine generosity, not with a precisely equivalent gift from God." [Note: Marshall, The Gospel . . ., p. 267.]
In this parable the leader evidently represents a disciple and the led someone the disciple is seeking to guide into the way of life. If the disciple is blind, he will not be able to help other blind non-disciples find their way. Both disciple and non-disciple will stumble tragically. On another occasion Jesus called the Pharisees blind guides (Matthew 15:14). However here He compared His disciples to them. The disciples could be blind guides if they did not follow Jesus’ instructions about loving (Luke 6:27-38).
The parable of the blind guide 6:39-42 (cf. Matthew 7:3-5)
The character of disciples 6:39-49
In the previous sections of the sermon Jesus addressed the choices that disciples make and their conduct. He also spoke of the character from which those things spring. He used five parables (comparisons) to teach these lessons.
Changing the figure momentarily Jesus compared a disciple of His to a teacher. It is proverbial that a pupil cannot rise above his teacher in knowledge. The fact that some pupils do excel their teachers is an exception to the rule. The people the disciples would instruct in the truth that Jesus taught them would normally advance no farther than the disciples. This was especially true before the widespread availability of books. [Note: Morris, p. 133.] Therefore it was imperative that the disciples pay careful attention to Jesus’ teachings about love and apply them. The progress of the disciples’ learners depended on it.
Jesus returned to the figure of limited perception (Luke 6:39). It would be easy for a disciple to criticize those he was instructing and fail to realize his own faults since he was in the position of a teacher (Luke 6:40). It would be not only dangerous but hypocritical to try to help a learner overcome his deficiencies without dealing with one’s own failings first. If a disciple tried to teach his learner the importance of loving as Jesus taught but did not practice that kind of love himself, he could not remove his learner’s knowledge deficiency. His sin would be greater than his learner’s ignorance.
Thus Jesus stressed the importance of His disciples applying the truths He had taught them before they tried to teach them to other people. Their failure to do so would make them the spiritual equivalent of blind eye surgeons. They would be judging others but not themselves (Luke 6:37; cf. Romans 2:1-3).
The parable of the two trees 6:43-44 (cf. Matthew 7:15-20)
Jesus’ point in this parable was that a person of bad character cannot normally produce good conduct (cf. Matthew 12:33-35). Therefore His disciples needed to clean up their lives before they could minister for Him effectively. As a pupil follows the example of his teacher (Luke 6:40), so fruit from a tree follows the nature of that tree. In the Matthew parallel Jesus applied the parable to false teachers, but here it stands by itself and applies in this context to disciples of His. Conduct follows character as surely as fruit follows root, for good and for bad (cf. James 3:12). The conduct of Christians is sometimes bad rather than good because our character is still sinful. We are not totally good or totally bad.
"The text indicates that although fruit may not be a certain indicator, it can be a suggestive one." [Note: Bock, Luke, p. 200.]
The parable of the two men 6:45 (cf. Matthew 12:35)
This short parable makes more explicit the same point about human conduct that Jesus had just made about trees (cf. Matthew 12:35). The conduct of people follows from their character, for good or for bad (cf. Luke 3:7-9). The man’s treasury is his heart. What makes the heart good is proper orientation to Jesus as a disciple. The good man has chosen to follow Jesus faithfully as His disciple, but the evil man has decided to pursue worldly wealth and happiness. A person’s speech normally expresses what fills his heart.
The parable of the two claims 6:46 (cf. Matthew 7:21-23)
This is a very brief condensation of a parable that Matthew recorded more fully. Matthew’s interest in it connects with the mention of false teachers that occurs in the context of his account of the sermon. Luke simply lifted the main point of the teaching out and inserted it in his account. His interest was primarily Jesus’ warning to disciples to apply His teaching to their lives. Profession of discipleship is one thing, but what identifies a true disciple of Jesus is really doing God’s will (cf. James 1:22-25).
A disciple cannot legitimately refer to Jesus as his or her lord and ignore what He teaches. The double title was common in Judaism to strengthen the form of the address (cf. Genesis 22:11; Genesis 46:2; Exodus 3:4; 1 Samuel 3:10). Here it implies great honor. "Lord" was a respectful address, as we have noted, but in view of who Jesus was it came to imply the highest respect. Used intelligently it implied deity, messiahship, and sovereignty. However everyone who used this title, even Jesus’ disciples, did not always imply all of this when they used it, especially before Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.
The parable of the two builders 6:47-49 (cf. Matthew 7:24-27)
This final parable is an appeal to the hearers, primarily Jesus’ disciples (Luke 6:20), to obey the teaching that they had heard (cf. James 1:21-25; Ezekiel 13:10-16). As such it is a conclusion to the whole sermon. Luke omitted the response of the people, which Matthew mentioned.
Jesus compared a disciple who heard His teachings and then put them into practice to a house built on a solid foundation. Luke stressed the digging of a proper foundation. Perhaps he had Hellenistic houses with basements in mind. [Note: J. Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus, p. 27, n. 9.] The floodwaters represent the forces of enemies and temptations that seek to move the disciple from these moorings, perhaps even divine testing. The disciple who does not both hear and apply Jesus’ teachings, specifically what He had just taught about commitment choices and loving conduct, could anticipate ruin. It is as foolish to hear Jesus’ teachings without obeying Him as it is to build a house without first laying a solid foundation.
". . . in Matthew the difference between the two men is that they chose different sites on which to build; here they differ in what they do on the sites." [Note: Morris, p. 134.]
Throughout this sermon Jesus was not contrasting believers and unbelievers but disciples who followed Him and people who did not. The Gospel writers were not too concerned about identifying the moment when a person placed saving faith in Jesus and passed from death to life. This became a greater concern to the writers of the New Testament epistles. However even they were not as interested in nailing down the moment of regeneration as some of us sometimes are. Jesus and the Gospel writers put more emphasis on the importance of people making decisions to follow Jesus, to learn from Him, and to become wholehearted participants with Him in His mission. That was particularly Luke’s interest in relating what Jesus taught His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount. I am not depreciating the vital importance of trusting in Jesus in a moment of saving faith. Normally learning from Jesus precedes that moment.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Luke 6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26