As Jesus continues on his journey toward Jerusalem, he continues to instruct his followers as to the nature of what it means to follow him: to not worry, to be watchful, and to realize following him is not always without strife or struggles.
Jesus continues to attract crowds, to the point they are trampling one another. While this happens, however, he instructs his disciples as to how following him means focusing on things beyond wealth, health, and safety. In our chapters today, he first wants the disciples (notice he is speaking to them, not the crowd) to beware of the Pharisees and their teachings. This warning moves from an admonition aimed at the Pharisees to instructions about God’s care and concern for those who follow Jesus in spite of hard circumstances. I tend to think that being brought before the rulers and authorities would not be taken as a delightful thing, but rather, something that would cause concern among the disciples. God’s care—illustrated by his concern for sparrows, small as they are—includes concern for the disciples, who will be guided by the Holy Spirit in these circumstances. Remember that the Holy Spirit is a (perhaps the) chief character in Luke’s two-part writing. When the Holy Spirit is mentioned, God is definitely at work in the events at hand.
Jesus uses a comment by a man who felt cheated by his brother’s willingness to share their inheritance to warn the people and his disciples about greed. He tells the crowd (perhaps he is still focused on the disciples, but the crowd certainly was within earshot) a parable about a man who continues to build bigger barns. The goal of the man is to get “enough” to one day be able to take it easy. The focus on that which is earthly is misguided, Jesus says. Focus rather on kingdom things that matter more and have life even beyond one’s earthly life.
This leads to Jesus giving his disciples instructions about not worrying. Again, the purpose of these instructions is to help his disciples see that focusing on the kingdom (“seek his kingdom,” v. 31) is priority over the things we often worry about or spend much of our time focusing on. God’s love for us is enough to provide care for us, so our focus needs to be on Him who provides, not on attempts to create self-sustenance in our own lives.
That focus on the kingdom carries over into how watchful we are to be. It is easy for us, I think, to assume Jesus will not return in our lifetime. After all, it has been two thousand years or so since he left, why would now be the time? I think Jesus’ instructions may be less about the fact he may return in the next hour and more about having a lifestyle that is so focused on him that the time of his return is of little consequence to us. Jesus has given us the responsibility of living a kingdom life now, it only makes sense for us to continue to live that life, especially when we consider his return.
Following Jesus, however, does not always mean life will be “peaceful.” Jesus reminds his disciples that to follow him means to give up everything, including relationships, if needed. This story may have resonated with Jesus’ early followers more than with us since many of his followers would have been faced with the challenge of turning against the beliefs of their family in order to follow Jesus.
Jesus wants his disciples to understand following him means bearing fruit that is consistent with the calling they have received. If one is an orchard owner, to give up ground in order to raise a tree that produces no fruit is a waste of resources. The whole purpose of growing the tree is to gather the fruit, so if it does not, it needs to be removed. The same is true for us. As followers of Jesus, our lives need to look like his and bear the fruit of him. If we are not, we are “wasting resources,” in a sense, but certainly not living the life we were called to live.
Keeping the Sabbath laws seem to be one of the primary ways in which conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus arose. Perhaps these laws were the easiest to quantify, so also the easiest to observe being broken. Jesus points out to the Pharisees that their law keeping was inconsistent and they missed the important point of bringing health and life to people, not preventing it from happening.
Our chapters close with a reminder of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and his impending death that would happen there. He is shown lamenting their rejection of him, a prophet set to die in Jerusalem for his people.
Every week our lessons will include seven questions (really question sets) that you may either pick and choose those questions that best suit your family unit, or you may use one question set for each day.
- When you go to church and hear warnings against behaving in the wrong way, whom do you expect those warnings to be spoken against? How do you think Jesus’ disciples—and the crowds surrounding them—reacted to hearing Jesus’ warnings against the Pharisees? Why is it comforting to know that God has concern for the sparrows and for you and even when you are arrested or brought before those against you, the Holy Spirit will be guiding you? (Luke 12.1-12)
- Why is it easy for us to want to get bigger and better things? In what ways can we prevent ourselves from being like the rich fool in this passage? What do you think it means to be “rich towards God?” (Luke 12.13-21)
- Why do we worry so much? In what ways have you found yourself concerned about what you will eat or what you will wear? What examples can you give from your own life (or from others you know) that show the power of seeking first the kingdom of God? How has God provided for you in these circumstances? What specific ways would you recommend to people to help them seek first the kingdom of God? (Luke 12.22-34)
- Have you ever thought about when Jesus will return? Many people have claimed the end of the world on this date or that date. In what ways does doing so miss the point of Jesus’ parable here? How can you be ready and focused on the “return of the master” today? What sort of things would indicate you are not ready? What helps you focus on being prepared? (Luke 12.35-48)
- How has your faith proven to be a division between you and others? Why is it so difficult for us to want to follow Jesus if we know doing so brings animosity or strife between others and us? (Luke 12.49-59)
- In what ways do you feel like your life bears good fruit? How surprising is it for you to hear Jesus tell a parable about the need to bear good fruit and the punishment that will come upon those who do not? How can you better bear good fruit? (Luke 13.1-17)
- How does Jesus’ description of the kingdom of God compare to what you might have expected him to say about the kingdom? In what ways do we assume the kingdom will be big and powerful, rather than starting small and growing? How have you seen “small” moments of kingdom living result in large changes of lives over time? (Luke 13.18-35)
Every week this section will list possible activities you and your family unit can do. You may pick one or perhaps do several during the course of a week. All are intended to be suitable for any age.
- Jesus makes a comparison between followers of his and those waiting for a master to return from a wedding banquet. Study the customs of weddings in Jesus’ day in order to better understand the point Jesus is making here.
- What laws did the Jews have about the Sabbath? Why would they have considered watering a donkey or ox appropriate, but not healing a woman?
- In what ways does Jesus describe the kingdom of God in Luke’s gospel? Find all of the passages about the kingdom. What sort of description can you give of the kingdom from these passages?
- Pick one of the stories Jesus tells in Luke 12-13 and draw or create a picture of the scene Jesus describes in that passage.
- Think of specific ways you can be more watchful today as you try to follow Jesus better.
- Find a mother hen and her chicks. Watch how she takes care of and guards her chicks. How does this help you understand better Jesus’ words in Luke 13.24?
Find lessons, posts about the passages we are studying, and more information at 1homebiblestudy.org.
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This work by South Plains Church of Christ and Robert A. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attributions-NonCommerical-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.
Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission. All rights reserved.