Grace For The Journey
Today’s passage is a short passage, just six verses, but a passage that arrests us and causes us to reflect on the depth of our spiritual perception, our real awareness about the things of God. Contextually we remember that ever since Luke 9:51, Jesus “steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” He is on a mission to go to Jerusalem to die for our sins. Here in chapter 12 it is like He pauses for a moment and looks back to the crowds who are following Him and He utters these thought-provoking statements and stirring questions to challenge the crowds – and us – to think about how spiritually “tuned-in” we are and how spiritually prepared we are for the judgment to come.
Without the meanness and the malice, Jesus turns to His followers and He says, “Let me clue you in.” His desire in these verses is to challenge our spiritual perception or awareness about spiritual things. Are we clued-in? Or are we clued-out or just clue-less.
This passage has truths that lead us to ask two main questions for all of us. First, we must ask of ourselves . . .
I. Am I Spiritually Perceptive?
Do I have a clue about what is going on spiritually? Jesus says to this crowd who is following Him, “You guys are not clued-in!” Look at what He says in verses 54 to 56, “Then He also said to the multitudes, ‘Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather;’ and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? There are two “weather events” mentioned in verses 54 and 55 respectively. In verse 54 Jesus says to the crowds, “Look, when you guys see a cloud rising out of the west, you have enough perception to know that a shower is coming.” And of course. that was true: a cloud rising over the Mediterranean Sea meant that water was evaporating, rising upward as the cloud moved over and climbed the cooler hills of Palestine. Rain is coming. There is an actual illustration of this in 1 Kings 18. Many of you know the story of Elijah’s praying for rain and how his servant ran back and forth, looking for a rain cloud and after checking seven times he looks out over the sea and says, “I see one about the size of a man’s hand,” and then the rain comes.
Jesus says, “You guys are really perceptive when it comes to the weather, but you are not perceptive at all when it comes to Me.” You can tell when it’s going to rain, but you don’t know the God who “reigns.” That’s His point here. He makes it again in verse 55, “And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is.” The blowing of the south wind meant a sirocco was on the way. The hot, dry wind blowing from the desert brought with it a scorching heat. People would feel the south wind blow and they would say, “There will be hot weather.” And so there was. Jesus says, “You guys are good at telling whether it’s going to be hot or cold or whether it’s going to rain. You are really good at it. You do not even need the Weather Channel. You are very perceptive when it comes to earthly things. But you fail when it comes to heavenly things.
In verse 56 Jesus concludes by saying, “Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?” The phrase “this time” refers to the time in which Jesus was speaking, the time of His entrance into the world as its Savior. It is a reference to the coming of His kingdom, here in part now, and in its fulness later. Remember that the Kingdom of God is both “now” and “not yet.” It is “now” in the sense of Jesus’ having come and making possible our salvation. It is “not yet” in that Jesus will come again and bring about consummation, a new heaven and new earth. It is already here in one sense. Jesus says earlier in Luke 11:20, “If I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The kingdom of God has come in part, in will come in full.
Jesus says to the crowds who are following Him, but not really following Him, just sort of hanging on and hanging around, but not really diving in, Jesus says to them, “You know you guys are really good with the weather, but that’s about it. You know nothing about Me, about My coming, about eternal matters. You are perceptive when it comes to things of the world, but blind when it comes to things of God. Don’t you know who I am? What the Old Testament has promised has come to pass.” The angel said to the shepherds at my birth. “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). All of the prophecies, all of His teachings, all of the miracles He did should have helped them “get it.” They were perceptive concerning the weather, but blind to the God who stands before them.”
We are not much better, are we? We are pretty wise concerning worldly things. Our priorities are not much different than those of 2,000 years ago. On the front page of nearly every newspaper is a eye-catching summation of the weather forecast. If there is any spiritual news at all to be read, it is generally buried deep on the inside of the paper. We are pretty adept at worldly things, but not so good at the spiritual things. We can time the sunset down nearly to the second, but we often fail to see what God is doing right here and right now in our lives.
With minimal evidence we draw conclusions from the observable world. We can deduce when it is going to rain, and we know when a hurricane will come. We even have photojournalists on the spot in advance to capture the big news story, but when it comes to spiritual things, when it comes to the things of God, we often have much greater difficulty seeing and perceiving.
What has happened this past week where God was at work, and you did not even know it? He is the God who grants you life. Is it possible while you have been looking for and waiting for the “big thing” to happen in your life that you fail to see God at work in the “little things,” working right now in your life? Can you see Him? Are you spiritually perceptive?
Second question . . .
II. Am I Spiritually Prepared?
Jesus gives us a mini-parable here in verses 57-59. Contextually we see that it Is meaning is to be interpreted with respect to what Jesus has just been talking about. He is talking about spiritual things and so he gives this mini-parable to drive home the point of our need for spiritual perception. This parable was spoken by Him more than once and in a different context elsewhere. But here, the meaning is clear: prepare for judgment. Verses 57 to 59 say, “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right? When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you shall not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite.”
Here is a general truth . . .
It is always best to settle accounts out of court.
Better to settle with one’s accuser before the dispute is brought before a judge. Settle up on your way to the judgment. Do not wait until the judgment. Settle before you get there. Contextually, do you see where Jesus is going with this? There is a judgment coming. A wise person is prepared for that judgment. Given the arrival of the Kingdom of God, we would be wise to get in right standing with the Judge of the universe right now before it is too late. If we wait until it is too late we may find ourselves like a man thrown into debtor’s prison from which he will never be able to be freed.
The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed to man once to die and after this the judgment.” The point here is . . .
Because the Kingdom of God has come, we must be prepared.
We must get our lives in order and make our peace with God, getting right before the Judge before it is too late.
On the one hand this is a truth for both Christian and non-Christian. We must live our days with the coming of Christ in mind. Repent and let go of anything that pulls you away from Jesus Christ: a friendship, a job, a behavior, possessions, greed, lust, pornography, bitterness, or unforgiveness. Settle your accounts, Christian, before you stand before the Judge.
But these words are directed especially at those who linger in the crowd, hanging around Jesus but never committing to Him, never receiving Him as Lord and following Him in baptism. There are many people in church every Sunday, close to spiritual things, but not saved. These are the ones to whom Jesus speaks most directly. He calls such people hypocrites because they draw conclusions about the weather based on minimal evidence, but ignore the evidence before them concerning Christ.
J. C. Ryle says, “We have got nothing worth having in Christianity, until we have peace with God … Let us never rest till we know and feel that we are reconciled to God…till this is done, nothing is done.” The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Be reconciled to God!” Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Like the man in the parable on his way to the judge, so we are on our way to stand before the Supreme Judge. We have an appointment in our calendar that God has made. We will stand before Him one day. Are our sins forgiven? Have we settled out of court?
There is a place called, “Speaker’s Corner” in London. It is in Hyde Park. Some of you will have heard of it. It is a place where you can go on any given Sunday afternoon and stand up and speak or pontificate on whatever you wish. I heard Alistair Begg tell about a guy one day getting up to speak at Speaker’s Corner. This man gets up and he is an atheist and he says, “They say there is a God in heaven, but I can’t see him. And they say that there is a Christ who came, but I can’t see Him.” And he went on and on like this and then he concluded to a smattering of applause to the crowd concerning his inability to see God and to see Christ. He was followed to the box by another man who stood up to speak after him. This man stood up with some difficulty. He had trouble balancing himself as he stood. This man spoke without looking out to the crowd and he said, “They say there is a sun in heaven. They say there is a moon in the sky. They say there are stars to behold, but I can’t see them – I’m blind.” And then he took his place in the crowd again. He had made the point eloquently.
Some of you are like the people in the crowd to whom Jesus speaks in this passage. You make deductions about all kinds of things every day based on minimal evidence. Jesus is here and He is speaking to you in His Word. Do you hear Him? Will you follow Him? Come to Christ Jesus before it is everlastingly too late.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”