Trinity Eighteenth Sunday Morning Prayer (3 October 2021) St Luke 12:1-12
Last week, we meditated about Jesus condemning the pharisees, the scribes and the lawyers. A pharisee invited Jesus to dine with Him. He was surprised when Jesus did not wash His hands before meal. Jesus knew His inner thoughts and condemned the pharisees and the spiritual leaders because of their practices gave importance to the rituals. We heard about Jesus’s expectation on us. We should aim to fulfil these expectations of Jesus.
Today’s New Testament reading is the continuation of last week’s New Testament reading. Today’s meditation is based on our New Testament reading, the gospel according to St Luke, chapter 12 verses 1–12. The spiritual leaders in Jerusalem considered Jesus’ teaching a threat to the rules and practises that they taught. So they began to urge him vehemently and to provoke him to speak of many things. They lay wait for him and sought to catch something out of his mouth that they might accuse him. The people followed Jesus to experience His miracles or to hear what Jesus preached. But the spiritual leaders followed Jesus to find fault with His words.
We will have more clarity about this scenario from the version in Matthew 16. Jesus came to Galilee and healed many people. There was a huge crowd. Jesus did not want to send the people hungry. He fed the people with seven loaves and a few fishes. Matthew 15 says that the men who were fed were 4000 in number. The pharisees and sadducees tempted Jesus to show a sign from heaven. Jesus did not give a sign from heaven but quoted prophet Jonah as the sign. Then Jesus and His disciples went to the other side of the coast. They collected the leftover meat in seven baskets. But the disciples forgot to take the bread with them. Again, there was a great multitude gathered, insomuch that they trode one upon another. Even though it was a big crowd, Jesus started speaking to His disciples and said, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matthew 15:6 and Luke 12: 1). But the disciples did not understand what Jesus meant. They reasoned among themselves and said it was because they did not bring any bread. But Jesus was not referring to the bread loaves.
He spoke to His disciples about four themes: 1) leaven of the pharisees, 2) fear and guidance, 3) confess before angels, and 4) forgiveness
1. Leaven of the pharisees
In Luke 12:1, Jesus said to His disciples, “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” That is, Jesus cautioned them to be careful about the false teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. We should know what the spiritual leaders taught and compare with Jesus’s teaching.
The word pharisee is derived from the Greek word pharisaios. The Aramaic word Perisha means ‘separated one’. Pharisees were separated from the ways of the foreign influences that were invading Judaism and from the ways of the common Jewish people in the land. They believed they were separated to preserve and protect their national integrity and strict conformity to Mosaic law. But later they inclined to self-righteousness and hypocritical customs and rituals. From the four Gospels we know that pharisees were scholars and followers of the Old Testament laws given through Moses. Their practice was different to what they preached. They believed in the Thora which is the first five books of the Old Testament written by Moses. They believed in LORD Jehovah and did not accept Jesus as Messiah because Jesus’s teachings were slightly different from the Old Testament Teachings. Let us see a few examples:
- The first commandment says, “I am the LORD thy God: Thou shalt have none other gods but me”. Pharisees believed this and did not accept Jesus as the only begotten Son of God.
- The seventh commandment says “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The one who caught in adultery should be stoned was the law given by Moses (Leviticus 20:10). But Jesus forgave the woman who was caught in adultery and asked her not to sin anymore (John 8).
- Pharisees and the Israelites did not do any work on sabbath day. But Jesus healed many on sabbath day and said, “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matthew 12:8).
- The Old Testament law given through Moses said “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe”. But Jesus asked Peter to forgive his brother seven seventy times a day. Jesus asked us to love our enemies and neighbours as ourselves.
The principles of the religious leaders were different from Jesus’s teaching. They were brought up in Old Testament laws given through Moses and could not accept Jesus and His teachings. Jesus called them hypocrites because their lives did not reflect their teaching.
The spiritual meaning of leaven is old or sin. Jesus cautioned His disciples to be aware of the old theologians. They were living their lives based on Old Testament theologies. Their lives were with sin and led to eternal death. They guided others also to live sinful lives. Matthew 23:13 says, “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in”. Jesus came as Christ to give salvation to everyone, without which no one can enter into heaven. But the spiritual leaders were not ready to receive salvation through Jesus Christ. They emphasised on following Old Testament laws and influenced the people not to believe in Jesus. Jesus cautioned His disciples about the pharisees because they shut the door of heaven and prevented others from entering into the kingdom of heaven.
2. Fear and guidance
In Luke 12:4 Jesus said, “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.” Jesus told His disciples not to be afraid of physical death and gave guidance about how they should witness for Him. Luke 12:11 and 12 He said, “When they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say”. In those days, the spiritual leaders were in authority and controlled the people. But Jesus preached about second birth and resurrection. The religious leaders followed Jesus to find fault on Him. When Jesus said that He was the son of God, the chief priest rent his clothes. He told Jesus had spoken blasphemy and declared that Jesus was worthy to be dead. Matthew 26:59 says, “the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death”. Jesus knew the future and how He would be troubled by the spiritual leaders. They persuaded the multitude that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. In Mark 13:9 Jesus cautioned His disciples saying, “take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them”. Jesus asked the disciples not to be afraid of the spiritual leaders because their authority could only bring physical death, not eternal death. The apostles’ lives are good examples to this teaching. After Jesus’ death, the disciples stood before the council and were killed. When Stephan stood before the council, he was not afraid of physical death. Just as Jesus promised, the spirit of the LORD God came upon him and he opened his mouth and preached about Jesus. The religious leaders killed Stephan but they could not stop him from inheriting eternal life.
3. Confess before angels
In Luke 12:8 Jesus said “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God.” In these verses, Jesus refers to the second coming and the Great White Throne Judgement. On the day of Judgement, Jesus shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 1 John 4:15 says, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God”. We read in Revelation 3:5, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels”. Jesus promised that He will confess our names before angels if we are witnesses for Him before men.
In Luke 12:10 Jesus said, “whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.” In these verses, Jesus talked about forgiveness. When we repent and turn to God, we receive forgiveness and are washed by the blood of the Lamb of God. After Jesus was resurrected and ascended into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us to inherit eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. However, we should be careful not to speak irreverently against the Holy Ghost. The Old Testament Jews gave false witness about Jesus and killed the Lamb of God. Jesus said even they would be forgiven when they repented and turned to God. But if we speak against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven in this present life and eternity.
Let us self-examine ourselves. Jesus separated us to be His children and we are His disciples. Today, we too must be careful about the “leaven of the pharisees”. There are various theologies and teachings that are not in line with what Jesus taught. We should be extra-cautious about these. We are in the end days. We hear about people being persecuted around the world. We hear news about Christians facing tough situations in this country also. But we don’t need to be afraid of those who can only kill our body. Holy Spirit will guide us what to do and speak. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed”. Jesus Christ shed His precious blood and offered salvation to all of us. We are saved by the blood of the Lamb of God. Are we bearing witness for Jesus in our everyday lives? Is our life an example of how Jesus wants His children to live? Do we blaspheme against the Holy Ghost? Hebrews 4:30 cautions us, “grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption”. We have to overcome, bear witness for Him and endure to the end to inherit eternal life. I pray we live our lives as His living witnesses and remain faithful to our calling.
May the LORD God fill us with His heavenly knowledge to live our lives following the Holy Spirit’s guidance. May He help us to preserve ourselves and keep us away from false teachings. May He strengthen us to be His witnesses. May we prepare ourselves and others for the kingdom of heaven. Amen!