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Settle Out of Court

Luke 12:54-59

It’s good to be back to this text in Luke chapter 12. I’m so glad to be back here. I, I learn so much every single week from the Lord Jesus Christ and how he deals with people, how he deals with situations. And this text is, is no different.

He’s actually going to be addressing the crowds today, which is, we’ve been, we’ve been going through the text and seeing him really teaching and training the disciples, teaching the, the Twelve obviously, but also the other disciples that are there.

But at the close of this chapter, and we hope to get through this chapter today, Jesus is making an evangelistic appeal to the crowd. He’s calling this unbelieving crowd to be reconciled to God. As I said, he’s, he’s been throughout most of this chapter teaching and training his disciples. This is a chapter really on discipleship: discipleship in the midst of hostility, in the midst of a hostile culture, immediately hostile right in front of him.

And it makes this chapter really a model for Christian discipleship. Christ commands us as the church to make disciples, so this chapter really does belong in the Christian’s discipleship manual. Very good to use it.

He begins the chapter by anchoring his disciples, as we’ve seen, anchoring their hearts in the fear of God, anchoring them in the fear of God. And from that foundation he unpacks the principle that those who fear God need to fear nothing else. If you fear God, you’ll fear nothing else, no one else, nothing at all. Creation, even death itself, cannot make you afraid.

But if you do not fear God, you will be subject to every kind of fear and worry and anxiety. “The fear of man lays a snare,” Proverbs 29:25 says, “but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” We’re seeing that principle here, and on that principle, the fear of the Lord, Jesus, then, in the chapter, he forbids all anxiety, all worry, in order to free the hearts of his disciples from any thorns and snares that would entrap and ensnare them, entangle them in the unbelieving world, things like food and preoccupation with health and preoccupation with what we wear and where we live and all those mundane issues.

With hearts that are freed up from worry, we can occupy our minds, our lives with what really matters, like things pertaining to the kingdom of God. Look at verse 32. Jesus says, “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” So based on that, “Sell your possessions, give to the needy, provide yourselves with money bags that do not grow old and with a treasure in heavens, in the heavens, that does not fail, where no thief approaches, no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

That’s the word that launches Jesus into this whole section on stewardship, on being good stewards before our returning Master. He turns his mind, Jesus does, and turns his disciples’ minds and this whole crowd to the purpose of our lives, to live out a stewardship before God.

All of us, believers and unbelievers alike, all of us will give an account of our stewardship to God. We’ll give an account. We’ll answer to the Son of Man when he returns, and in light of that return, and in light of the sure return of Christ, we need to think carefully about what God has given us and what Christ has entrusted to us. We need to consider our stewardship.

We’re going to give an account. We know this. We’re going to give an account of how, how we’ve used our time, how we’ve spent our days, what do we do during the day, what do we do with our minutes, our hours. How do we use gifts that God has given us? How do we use the money that he allows us to earn, the talents that he’s given us to earn that money, the abilities, education, experience, work? How do we use our retirement? Christ is going to come, return, and examine everything.

So we need to stay, as it says there in verse 35, Jesus says, “Stay dressed for action.” We need to keep our lamps burning. We need to be like men who are waiting for our Master to come home. We need to work diligently while he’s away so that when he returns, we receive him with joy and give a good account when he calls us to account.

It’s that thought, this thought of the return of the Son of Man, his coming to reward the faithful and the wise, and also to recompense the unfaithful and the wicked, that is the thought that prompts his comments about coming judgment in the current division that exists in the world.

Verse 49, he says, “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled.” We’ve already seen Jesus has been speaking primarily to his disciples. He’s teaching them, he’s getting them ready, he’s getting them to, to think of what’s ahead. He’s training them for the future and their ministry in the future. We see again in verse 50, his mind is set on the cross, which is just a few short months away, this baptism of judgment that he’s going to undergo for all of his people, all of those who trust him.

And so Jesus knows his own people will be safe, his disciples will be safe. He’s going to see to that even as they experience pain: family pain, deep pain, child pain, parent pain, of division, that relational pain that goes so deep, verses 51-53. Even as they go through that pain, they are going to take refuge beneath his cross, knowing that they have escaped the wrath of God, knowing that the pain is worth it. They’re going to find enjoyment in the Father’s care, his protection, his kindness, his compassion. And they’re going to learn that they have a whole new family, a whole new family.

But that thought sends him into this text that we’re entering into right now, that there are still other sheep to gather. He’s leaving his disciples on earth. When he ascends into heaven after the resurrection, he’s leaving them there to make disciples. He’s going to give them the Great Commission. There are other sheep to gather. There are others even in this crowd, on this day, on this occasion, that do not yet know him and have not begun to follow him.

So it’s those people that he has compassion on. It’s those lost sheep, those who are still trapped in their sins. And he turns to them now. Look at verse 54: “Jesus also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, “A shower is coming.” And so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say “There’s going to be a scorching heat, and that happens.”

“‘You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, the officer puts you in prison. I tell you, you’ll never get out until you have paid the very last penny.’”

There’s something for all of us here in the text, believer and unbeliever alike, something for all of us, and we want to acknowledge the division that Jesus spoke about in verses 51-53, separate the lessons to be learned here for unbeliever and also for believer.

So since this is an evangelistic text, Jesus is speaking evangelistically, how do you think I ought to preach it? Evangelistically, right? So if you’re here today and you’re not yet a Christian, that’s no accident that you’re here today and you’re not a Christian. You’re here by God’s design. You need to listen carefully. It’s no accident you’re here. You need to listen very carefully to what Jesus is saying to you.

And I want to encourage you to listen so carefully and heed his warning and obey the Lord by, by trusting what he’s telling you here because he’s telling you the truth. He’s telling you the truth in all compassion. And putting it simply, he’s telling you get right with God. Get right with God. Make your peace with God.

So if you know that you’re not a Christian, or I might say, maybe you think you’re a Christian, but you have some doubts; maybe, maybe you’ve been professing Christ for a long, long time, or maybe a short time, but your conscience bothers you because you know in your heart of heart, you’ve been calling yourself a Christian, but you haven’t been living that way at all, been living for yourself, again, my friend, it’s no accident that you’re here. That’s no accident. And so you need to listen to what Jesus says because God is speaking to you today. On behalf of Christ, I implore you, be reconciled to God. Today is the day of salvation. So this text is really written for you, and I want you to listen carefully.

For those of you who have already taken refuge in Christ, you’ve trusted in his atoning work on the cross, that the fact that he has died on the cross for your sins personally, all your sins of thought, word, and deed, sins of omission, commission, every way possible, that you have broken the Ten Commandments, you’ve broken the two greatest commandments to love God, love your neighbor. You have not kept those commands. For those of you who find in him a righteousness that is not your own, but a righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus Christ, then here’s the way you need to listen to this.

First, you need to pay attention to how Jesus is evangelizing because you need to do the same thing. You need to pay attention to his, his, his way of thinking and his way of speaking to this unbelieving crowd. And, and you want to do that because you need to practice this. Why?

Because, second way to apply this, is you need to think about the stewardship that you have from God. You’ve been entrusted with this Gospel. You’ve got to go out. You’ve got to say something to those people you know and love, and you know they don’t walk with the Lord. You have a stewardship from God. You’ve been entrusted with a precious Gospel. And so you need to preach the Gospel to other people. He’s going to hold you to account.

He provides us here with an example: how to evangelize the lost, how to preach repentance, how to call sinners to faith. So listen carefully, not only so you can learn this pattern, but so that you can be reminded of the stewardship that you have from God to proclaim this saving Gospel, the Gospel that saved you.

So think carefully about that last Gospel conversation you had. Think carefully about the people that you work with that you have, you need to be speaking the Gospel to, and you’re not. Think about those family members. You know how difficult it is with family, right? Ask God to give you courage to overcome your cowardice so that you can bring the Gospel to them, give you wisdom on how to bring Gospel into the conversation.

And if you can think back and you can honestly say, “You know, it’s been a while since I’ve really had a Gospel conversation,” then you need to be praying for more opportunity from God, and you need to listen with a view, here, to being more faithful in your stewardship, learn from Jesus’ pattern of proclamation, here, today.

So we’re going to divide the text into two parts. You, most Bible translations have the, the verses grouped into three and three. There’s six verses here, so grouped into three verses and three verses. But we’re going to start here as Jesus points out the, the basis of accountability, and then he calls the crowd to account. He advises them to be reconciled to God.

And so a first point, Jesus says to the crowd in verses 54 and through 56, number one, he tells them, “You have the ability to reason.” I’m just summing up what he’s saying. “You have the ability to reason.” Look at the text, verse 54. “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, “A shower is coming,” and so it happens. When you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be a scorching heat,” and it happens.

So he’s not, he’s not commending them for their meteorology. He’s not, he, he’s not commanding them, saying, “You need to get a job at the local weather station.” He is just pointing out their ability, here, to reason basic things. They make weather predictions all the time. It’s an agrarian society. Their crops and what they do in the field depends on the weather. So they make weather predictions all the time, and they’re not wrong about them, either.

“He’s telling you the truth in all compassion. And putting it simply, he’s telling you get right with God. Get right with God. Make your peace with God.”

Travis Allen

But this is not a commendation. He’s not patting on, them on the head and saying, “Good job.” This is the basis for indicting them and for warning them. The comment itself about the cloud rising in the west and the one coming out of the south, similar to sayings that we hear and repeat in our own day. “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.”

But these sayings here are specific to southern Palestine, this Judean setting where he happens to be on this occasion. So cloud rising in the west, that’s one that rises, it comes from the Mediterranean Sea. The west wind drives that cloud formation over the land. A rainstorm ensues. Sometimes it’s quite severe, like the one recorded during Elijah’s ministry in 1 Kings 18:44, as he warned Ahab, “You need to get there with your chariot because there’s a storm coming, you’re going to be bogged down.” Cloud was rising in the west. They could predict the result of a west wind, cloud coming from the west, with a reliable degree of accuracy, enough to make plans.

The next one, verse 55, about the south wind, this is a wind blowing up from the south, brought hot air from the Negev desert up to the north into Judea. There’s one who described this as “a furnace blast of desert air.” So it could raise the temperature, actually, as much as 30 degrees in an hour. That’s quite a temperature rise. Severe changes in climate which they could predict rather accurately and reliably.

Notice the, the pattern, though, in these two verses. That’s just the stuff of the verses. Look at the pattern. He makes it clear by repeating it twice. The pattern he identifies is this: “When you see, you say, and it happens.” There’s a, there’s a connection between what they see, what they say, what is the connection there. It’s the judgment they make in their minds. So they see, they say, that’s what happens.

They’re not prophets. They don’t have some revelatory knowledge. They have everything that you and I have. They’re equipped with sight. They’re equipped with judgment, with reason. “When you see, you say, and it happens.” That’s the pattern, even emphasized, there, in the first part, the speed of the pattern, how quickly they’re able to come to the conclusion. “When you see the cloud rising in the west, you say at once.” That’s the word “immediately.” “You immediately say. You’re not even, I mean you, you’ve, you’ve repeated this so long, you’ve made the judgment so often, it’s an immediate thing.”

There’s, so there’s, he’s pointing out there is nothing whatsoever wrong with their ability to make an observation and to reason accurately about the things that they see. Nothing wrong with their eyesight, nothing wrong with their critical faculties, nothing wrong with their ability to recognize and interpret and believe, by the way, believe the meteorological signs that they see. They make observations, they exercise judgment, make critical judgment, and they’re not wrong about them.

Leads to verse 56, where Jesus lowers the boom on the crowd. He’s pretty strong. “You hypocrites!” Hmm. “You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

If that charge of hypocrisy seems to come like a bolt from the blue to you, if it’s hard to understand for you, maybe because we’re not used to thinking like Jesus thinks. We’re not used to speaking like he speaks. We, we need to be the ones catching up to him in his thinking. He’s way ahead of us. We need to see and understand how he sees and understands this. It’s how he views man’s condition.

Because the word “hypocrisy” is exactly the right word to summarize the sins that he’s seeing here. He says, “You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky.” “You know how to interpret,” in other words, “you know how to interpret signs in this physical, temporal world.” So that’s not the problem. We live in a physical, temporal world. We’re familiar with how the world works. We see the phenomena, able to process it through our physical senses, our seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching. We observe and make judgments, and that’s not unimportant. We need to do that.

The contrast that Jesus points out is, and he puts it in a rhetorical form, a rhetorical question, “Why do you not know? Based on that, why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” He’s not looking for an answer. He knows the answer. He’s just trying to provoke them to think about this. “What could be the problem? If it’s not your ability to see, it’s not your reason, it’s not your judgment, what’s the problem? What explains this contradiction that afflicts your reasoning process when it comes to the present time?”

He’s basically saying, “You’ve employed your senses, your critical judgment to interpret the appearance of the world you live in, the earth and the sky, but you have turned off your senses and turned off your judgment, and you’ve failed to see what’s happening in the world right before your eyes. Prophetic scriptures are being fulfilled in front of you right now. Before your very eyes, John the Baptist came. He, he came preaching.” They’re witnesses to the powerful nature of his preaching and his ministry.

And now that Jesus has come, they’ve heard his teaching with an authority like no one else they’ve ever heard. They’re shocked. They marvel at him. They even, even though they’re hypocrites, they love hearing him best, the, the authority of the scribes and the Pharisees. They love,  who doesn’t love seeing a lawyer put in his place? That’s exactly what Jesus did. They’ve seen his miracles, his use of divine power. It can only be explained as divine power. Creative power. He’s healed people. He’s cast out demons. So he’s got authority over disease. He’s got authority over the spiritual world. He’s fed the hungry, he’s changed the weather, he’s raised the dead.

He told John’s disciples when they came, asking him, “Are you the one to follow, or should we expect somebody else?” “Go tell John what you’ve seen and heard. The blind receive their sight. The lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear. The dead are raised up. The poor have good news preached to them.”

That’s a fulfillment of Scripture. We need to take note of that today as well. It’s not just for this crowd, there, to witness it on this, on this occasion 2,000 years ago. This is written accurately, reliably in our text of Scripture. We have the holy, authoritative witness of God’s Word that we just read.

You know what? We are more accountable than even these people sitting right in, when Jesus was right in front of him. Why? Because we have the entire record written before us. There’s no confusion whatsoever. Has anything like this happened in the world, ever, in the thousands of years of human history?

The word translated here in our ESV text is “present time.” It’s not the word kronos, which is, refers to chronological time, a succession of moments that we would mark on a watch. Jesus uses a word here, kairos, refers to a distinct season, refers to a particular era or epoch. It happens within chronological time, but it’s not really talking about time measured by a watch or a succession of moments. It’s talking about an event; it’s talking about a time, a season.

So he wants the people in the crowd to notice this, and beloved, you need to notice this as well. Something has changed drastically in the world. Something is different. Why is it 2021 and not 6082? Because Christ came. We mark our calendars because something happened in the world.

Something’s happening here. Something is radically different than the normal, mundane life of clouds and rain and scorching heat and wind. Something is different. So he’s asking, “Are you seeing this? Are you, are you watching? You’ve watched all this other stuff. Why aren’t you seeing this?” He draws attention to it by putting the term kairos at the front of the sentence, which in Greek is how you emphasize something. He adds a demonstrative pronoun. It reads like this, “The appearance of the earth in the sky you know how to interpret. But this time, this kairos, why do you not know how to interpret?”

Again, he’s not incredulous here, as if he doesn’t understand how this can be. He knows exactly what’s going on. But he poses the question to make them think about this present time. It’s rhetorical. It’s provocative. It’s calling them to think.

And I’m calling you to think. Think, my friend. If you’re here today, if you don’t know Christ as Savior, if you’re not following him in the obedience of faith as your Lord, I’d like to challenge you to put this target that Jesus is shooting at, put that target squarely on your own chest. Let Jesus’ words find their mark in your heart because these are saving words. These are kind words. Let him expose your own thinking to you. Because his words make the difference between life and death.

One commentator says, “You’re intelligent enough where your worldly interests are concerned, but you turn off your brain when it comes to eternal interests.” He’s just summarizing what Jesus is saying there. It’s true, isn’t it? Real thoughtful, observant when it comes to things pertaining to my body, things pertaining to my life, my wealth, my home, things are pertained to my family, things I can see, things I can feel, touch, investments I make. We’re real watchful. Some guys have apps on their phones, watching, watching stuff and making sure. “What’s the stock doing?”

Another says, “You understand the winds of the earth, but not the winds of God. You can discern the sky but not the heavens. Still another: “This clear-sightedness with which you’re endowed you’ve failed to put forth in the service of higher interests.”

That’s it in a nutshell. And to put it plainly, for anybody who’s thinking with just worldly vision and refusing to use spiritual thinking, your reason is failing you, big time. Unless you repent, it’s going to cost you, and it’s going to cost you big.

So how is this hypocrisy? How is it hypocrisy? Can’t we just chalk this up as a simple mistake? I mean, can’t we just say, “Well, it’s just humans being humans? What do you expect of us?” It’s just a failure to apply reason to times and seasons instead of wind patterns and weather. Is this just an error of not being used to the spiritual world? After all, it’s invisible.

So what is, why is this hypocrisy? What is Jesus seeing here that we’re not seeing? Want to illustrate this to, by having to turn to Romans chapter 1, Romans chapter one. The, the men yesterday were looking at this text in STM. So if you were there, you’re, you got a head start on this. Romans chapter 1.

This is Paul’s starting point for proclaiming the Gospel. It’s where he starts. He starts with what we can know and what we can see and discern from the created world. He starts with an accountability that we have before God. Paul indicts the entire world. He exposes the basis of its condemnation before God. And you’re going to, you can sum all that up by using the word that Jesus has used, “hypocrisy.”

In a word, the world is guilty of hypocrisy. In what way? Well, for pretending that they don’t know when in fact they do know, for playing like they’re not accountable when in fact they know very well they’re accountable. They just ignore it. Hypocrisy.

Paul begins in Romans 1:18. That’s where we’ll start. He begins in Romans 1:1, actually, but we’re going to start in Romans 1:18. He says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Catch that? Unbelievers suppress. They hold down what they know to be true. They refuse to allow that truth to come up to the surface so they can look at it, so they can see it plainly, acknowledge it, much less submit to it. They hold it down, they don’t want to see it. They know it’s there, but they say, “No, I’m not looking at it.”

What’s that? That’s not a reason issue. That’s not a reason problem. It’s a heart issue, isn’t it? It’s a will issue. “I will not look.” Verse 19: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, for God has shown it to them.” Knowledge of God is perspicuous, perspicuous, just a big word for “plain.” It’s plain. It’s lucid. What can be known about God is clear to them. Why? Because that’s how God made it. He didn’t create all things to put you in confusion. He created all things so you can see, so you can see the knowledge of him, and it’s clear to you.

So what about those people who tell us, and they tell us, seemingly in all sincerity, they would believe. They even want to believe if only there is sufficient evidence of God in the world. What about them? Well, are you going to believe them, or you going to believe the Spirit of God who writes the Apostle Paul and says, “They know”? What are you going to believe? If we believe Paul, we know that they’re lying.

And that’s reinforced in verse 20, where Paul says, “God’s invisible attributes,” verse 20, “his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made.” This doesn’t mean that all men know God equally well. Doesn’t mean all men know God fully, accurately, through what they see in nature, through what they can discern and study.

But notice, they can observe enough to perceive the very attributes of God. This is a world born into it all the time are budding theologians. Children grow up discerning and intuiting God. They have to be taught away from knowing that there’s a God who made them. Atheists are very willing to try to do that.

All men and women born into this world, created by God, have a head start on knowing God. They perceive his eternity here, his eternal power. They perceive his omnipotence. They perceive his aseity, the fact that he is self-existent, he’s independent. They perceive his infinity. If he created all finite things, then he must be by definition not finite, but infinite. They perceive his simplicity, perceive his spirituality, other attributes as well. They know he is the source of all being. His, their existence is based on him.

So, end of verse 20, they’re without excuse when they don’t worship God. They’re without excuse. Paul says in verse 21, “For although they knew God,” there it is, there, “they didn’t honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, their foolish hearts were darkened.” Notice that Paul writes with this presupposition firmly established in his mind: “Although they knew God.” They knew him. All men and women born into this world, they know God.

They don’t know him as they ought to know him. They don’t know him fully. They don’t know him because of their sin, intimately, savingly. But they do know God innately. They do sense him intuitively. John Calvin called this the “census divinitas,” saying that all men sense God internally.

Another way to say it: There are no genuine atheists. Anybody who’s professing to be an atheist, telling you they don’t believe that there’s a God, they’re lying to you. And God knows that they are. That’s why he says it here. They sin when they claim to be atheists because this verse tells us that they do know God, even if they deny God’s existence to your face and to his.

There are no genuine atheists because God created no such creature. God created every single human being to be a worshipper. But instead of worshipping God as God, they refused to honor God as God, refused to get, refused to give thanks to him. The light then began to dim. They became futile in their thinking. Their foolish heart was darkened. Look at verse 22: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools. They exchanged the glory of the immortal, immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

Total folly in this decision that they have made. And notice it’s a decision that they have made. They “exchanged,” the verb allasso, the active voice. Active voice means that this isn’t something that happened to them, passive voice. This is active voice. They’re the subject. They are the ones who “exchanged,” something they have actively chosen for themselves. They preferred to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.

Okay, we could say more, but let’s go back to Luke chapter 12. Keep this in mind in Luke chapter 12, verse 56, because now I think it’ll be easier for us to see why Jesus is so quick on the draw, showing no reluctance whatsoever to summarize their sin as “you hypocrites.” There is this Romans 1 perspective that reveals all failure to honor God as God, all refusal to live in gratitude and to give thanks to him. It is hypocrisy.

All hypocrisy is pretending; it’s wearing a mask. That’s literally what hypocrisy is, is to be an actor, to play an actor on the stage, wear a mask, cover up your true identity, act like someone you’re not. And so it’s hypocritical to pretend you don’t see the truth when you are suppressing it. Right? Any kid in your backyard pool trying to hold down a big inflated beach ball, pushing it down below, and you say, “What are you doing holding down that beach ball?” And he says, “What beach ball?” “The one you’re holding down, that you’re putting so much effort into.”

That’s what sinners are doing. Hypocritical to say the knowledge of God isn’t plain and clear when God says it is. Hypocritical to act like there’s no evidence of God when God says this world is full of it, full of evidence. It makes visible what is invisible about God, that is, his eternal power and divine nature. Do you not marvel when you drive through nature, when you see the mountains, when you look across the vastness of the ocean?

If you do any more further, deeper, exploratory study of the world, this earth, its environment, whether you use a microscope to look small or a telescope to look big, does this world not astound you with the power evident in it?     Where’d that come from? Hypocritical to say there’s no evidence of God when we’re living in it, we’re swimming in it. We’re breathing it every single day.

Hypocritical to pretend that you don’t know God when God says, “Oh, yes, you do.” It’s hypocritical to refuse to acknowledge the decision that you have made to worship created things such as self. It’s the idol of the modern age, preferring self-will over God’s will. It’s hypocritical.

Living in God’s world, making use of the physical signs that he has given us to live life in his world, which we do all the time. Just like the people in this crowd, we, too, see the signs. We immediately make the judgments. We articulate our judgments. We make adjustments in our lives to the changes even in the weather.

What we’ve observed, discerned, judged, adjusted to, when it finally happens, we’re not at all surprised. We look at our app and it says, “Snow,” and I say, “I’m not going out when it snows.” We don’t say, “Whoa, how’d that happen?” We’re not surprised. West wind, rainstorm; south wind, heat wave. It happens just as we expect it to happen.

But something very unordinary happened when Jesus came and walked the earth, something amazing. Something written in prophetic scriptures 1,000 years and more, before he walked the earth, and then explained and interpreted to us. The meaning of the historical reality is interpreted to us in the New Testament. Prophetic Scriptures.

And instead of falling on your face and repenting of your sin and changing your entire philosophy, replacing your broken, corrupt, distorted worldview with a biblical worldview clarity, what explains that, that stubborn commitment to stay the same as you are? That’s a bar, bad bargain to make. Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t pretend you don’t know, that you can’t see, that you’re unable to discern the time of Christ.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with your ability to see, to reason, make judgments, adjust to new information. You just need to acknowledge, confess, repent, acknowledge that something radical has happened, that Jesus is indeed someone you must account for, someone whose life demands a verdict from you, that you acknowledge his Lordship and you fall on your face and you repent of your sins and you believe in him.

So as Jesus points out, hypocrisy is a sin that all sinners, all unbelievers, commit. They may claim not to know, but they do know. They may protest, saying spiritual things are unclear to them, that they can see or interpret the signs, but it’s not true.

Truth is, they want to live their lives just the way they want to live them. They want to stay the same. They want to keep on serving their own physical, temporal interests because their hearts still love themselves. That’s the issue. So my friend, if that’s you, just repent this instant. Give it up. Believe this Gospel.

And if you need a greater, stronger encouragement and motivation to do so, listen to the second point from Jesus. Number two, you have to reconcile to God. You have the ability to reason. So reason. You have to reconcile with God. I might add you should reconcile to God before it’s too late. Now is the appointed time. Today is the day of salvation.

Jesus speaks, here, in terms that everyone can understand. He appeals to natural instinct for self-preservation. He does that, but notice how he begins with a moral argument here in verse 57. Jesus asked them, “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” Dikaios is the word for “right” or “righteousness.” He’s talking about what’s right, what’s morally right.

King James Version renders that verse a little bit more accurately when it says, “Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” “Of yourselves.” In other words, this, the idea here is that this kind of judgment Jesus is talking about, judging matters of right and wrong, should and should not, truth and error, these are moral judgments that are familiar to everyone. We all make these internal moral judgments, and we do this all the time.

“But instead of worshipping God as God, they refused to honor God as God, refused to give thanks to him.”

Travis Allen

Admittedly, our moral judgments aren’t always correct, not always right. But they are correct often enough. So they provide us with a moral compass for living ethically in the world. Otherwise, if we didn’t, and we didn’t have this sense of moral judgment, ethically we’d be ripping ourselves apart. Well, we’re kind of doing that today in 2021.

But, but, but, but in a, in just, in a sense, we, we have to have a sense of ethics and shared morality, which we do, because the law of God is inscribed on our hearts, and we all sense it. Our laws aren’t perfect, but they do keep us driving in our lane on the road, so we’re not smashing into each other all the time, don’t they?

We all make internal moral judgments. You know by instinct that stealing is wrong, and murder is wrong, and committing sexual immorality is wrong. You may be prone to letting yourself off the hook for some of those starter sins, like anger leading to murder, or lust leading to sexual sin, coveting leading to stealing. We’re prone to let ourselves off the hook for things like that, violating moral imperatives.

But when someone else violates one of those commandments, and you’re on the receiving end of it, well, all of a sudden your sense of justice awakens, protests strongly. It’s exacting. It notes every angle of the offense with legal precision. You don’t need to be told. That sense of justice and judgment is innate to you because that’s how God created you. Again, Romans 2:15, Paul says, “The work of the law is written on our hearts, while our conscience also bears witness, and our conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse us.” God knows your heart. God knows what you see and don’t see. God knows your judgments.

So verse 57, Jesus asks, “And why do you not judge of yourselves,” from your own moral faculties, “what is right?” Again, it’s a rhetorical question here. He’s not asking for an answer. He wants us to think, to ponder, reflect, think more carefully than we’ve been doing about this.

So what of it? Why don’t we judge what’s right? Perhaps it’s because we’re afraid of what we’ll find when we look into the mirror of truth, when we turn our own moral reasoning inward, when we take a moment to consider ourselves and bring ourselves before the bar of God’s righteousness. Maybe we’re frightened of what we’ll discover. We seem to know intuitively and innately that we’re guilty before a holy God. We know intuitively and innately that we’re under his just condemnation, and one day we’ll face his wrath.

But for some reason, the way we act in the physical world, we ignore that in the spiritual world. Ladies, how, how many of you count it as the, the very essence of friendship when a good friend of yours, when you come walking into a public place, a good friend of yours takes you aside and says, “I know you don’t know this, but in the back of your hair, it’s going like this.” Usher you into the restroom and you’re like, “Oh, thank you so much,” and you look immediately into the mirror so that you can rectify bad-hair day. “How in the world did my husband let me get out of the house like this?”

So does it make any sense that when Jesus says, “You’ve got a moral bad-hair life,” that we don’t want to come and look into the Word of God, the mirror? We want to push it away and say, “No, I’d rather live without knowing.”

For all of you who will stop and consider and allow yourselves to see, for all who allow yourselves to judge your own life, look into the mirror of God’s perfect truth, to discern, turn your critical faculties inward on yourself and, and discern your true condition before the righteousness of God, you know what? Jesus has words of hope here. He, he loves you. He has compassion. And these are words of mercy. Even though they’re very strong, they’re words of mercy.

Hope comes in, in the form of a warning in verses 58 and 59, but it’s a warning of love and wisdom. He provides, you need to see this, he’s providing free legal advice here. And you’d be wise to listen to him because you know what? He happens to be the prosecuting attorney. He also happens to be the judge. So listen, if you’re prosecuting attorney in a case where you are dead wrong, if he is coming to give you free legal advice before the trial, might want to take some notes.

Verse 58: “As you go,” “As you go.” You can’t see it in English, but it’s there in the Greek. He made a switch there. He’d been using plural forms, speaking to the entire crowd. Here, he switches to the singular, and what that means is that he is speaking to individuals. He’s speaking to each and everyone of us. It’s like, it’s as if you need a picture of this in your mind’s eye, that Jesus is looking at you in the eye, saying to this to you personally.

“As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you.” That word “drag” is like a violent dragging, dragging, kicking and kicking and screaming. Resistance is futile. You’re going with that big guy when he takes you. “Lest he drag you to the judge, the judge hands you over to the officer, the officer puts you in prison. I tell you, you’ll never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

This short parable forces the listener to think of himself as being in jeopardy of going to what’s called debtors’ prison. This isn’t something we think about too often in our own country. We have people in debt. I mean, our country is swimming in debt. Our government is swimming in debt. But there’s nobody putting you in debtors’ prison. First-century world, they got this perfectly.

In fact, just to help you get that image in your mind, turn back to Matthew chapter 18. If you’ve been doing daily Bible reading with us, you know that we’ve just kind of gone through this in Matthew chapter 18, so this will be familiar with you. Matthew 18, we see another story Jesus tells, and this one, the theme of it, is the importance of forgiveness. You’ll see that as we tell the story here.

Jesus sets the story, though, of the theme of forgiveness, he sets it in the same setting. It’s the peril of debtors’ prison. Look at Matthew 18 in verse 23. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants, and when he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.”

There’s no question here about the justice of this. This guy, he owes the king money. He’s required to pay it back. He, he’s borrowed from this king, and so he owes a debt. There’s no question. Same kind of assumption being made in Luke chapter 12, by the way. You owe, you owe. So look at verse 25: “Since he could not pay.” Ten thousand talents, by the way, is just as, as astronomical amount. It’s unpayable debt. There’s no way personally in ten thousand lifetimes is going, well, maybe ten thousand, but a, a lot of lifetimes is going to pay this back, certainly not as a single lifetime pay ten thousand talents.

So, Matthew 18:25, “Since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold with his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.” So by selling the man’s, the man, his wife, his children into slavery, the king’s, he’s just trying to recoup, recover some of his losses.

Verse 26: “So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, I’ll pay you everything.’ Out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him, forgave him the debt. When that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe!’ His fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me and I’ll pay you.’ He refused, went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt.

“When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed,” thinking they’re next. “They went and reported to their master all that had taken place, and then his master summoned him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’”

The forgiven slave failed to apply the same principle of forgiveness to his fellow slaves, so the king revokes his kindness and chooses to enforce the original verdict. Verse 34: “In anger his master delivered him over the jailers until he should pay all his debt, and so my heavenly Father will do it to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

In the original situation, he was going to be locked in prison and then sold into slavery, he, his wife, his children. So what does that mean? He’s going to recover his losses. The king’s going to recover his losses selling the man into slavery. And that effectively severs his tie, his relational tie to that slave. He relinquished his authority over the man after the sale takes place. Whatever he got from that sale, he got.

Now, however, the last state is worse than the first because the king has locked the man up until he should pay all his debt. What’s that mean? This guy’s going to rot in jail. He’s going to wait for his children to grow up, make money, keep on paying the king until those ten thousand talents are repaid. It’s not going to happen. It’s an unpayable debt. This guy is never getting out of here alive.

Back to Luke 12, Luke 12:58. With that picture in mind, look at this a little more closely. “As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way.” What’s he saying? Settle out of court. And what is Jesus assuming when he says that? “You’re not going to win this case. You’re guilty, you’ve got a debt to pay and what’s more, you know it.” He didn’t mar, argue the merits of the case at all. He just assumes, “You’re guilty.” Can you see that? He’s not stopped here to prove his case. He’s not improving the merits of it, say, “Well, you know, by the way, this and this and this.”

As his listeners, we’re all debtors before God. And you say, “How? I mean, what do I owe to God? It’s my bank account, the cars in my name. These are my clothes that I’m wearing. This is my body, my life. My will, my decisions.” Oh, yeah? Who gave you that life? Did you self-create? Did you self-originate? Are you the product of spontaneous generation? You know that’s ludicrous, but more often than not, that’s how we think, especially in this modern age we live in. Radical liberalism has taken hold, where we want the autonomous self.

And we’re remarkably unreflective about this point, that God has given us our life. We’re so incredibly dull when it comes to all the good things that we’ve received from God, all the things we did not and do not merit from God. He’s given us life. He’s chosen to sustain our lives, giving us a, a breath of air for each inhale. He’s chosen to sustain us, to provide for us, in varying degrees, according to his choice. He’s given us talents and minds and bodies, strengths, gifts, interests. He’s even allowed many of us to improve upon that by what he’s given us through education and training and experience and refinement, upbringing in homes. God has done all that. You think you’re the, you’re the reason for yourself?

God’s like that king in Matthew 18. He’s given all that he’s given, like, like a loan, or even better, like an investment. God doesn’t give to us so that we can squander his gifts given to us on self-indulgence. He certainly doesn’t give to us so that we can use his gifts to sin against him, but we do. He doesn’t give us gifts so that we can transgress his law, so we can take personal credit in pride for what we do, all of it using his gifts. God’s invested. He wants a return. He’s going to require an accounting for the stewardship of life that he’s given to each and every one of us.

What else do you owe him? Well, as we heard earlier from Paul in Romans 1:21, we owe him honor, honoring God as God. We owe him thanks for everything, thanking God. Honoring God as God means at the very basic, we owe him full obedience. We owe him a life of perfect righteousness. Got to keep every single one of his Ten Commandments in thought, word, and deed, very single law, whether it’s a, can’t sin, and sins of omission or commission.

We can never have a solitary or momentary lapse or interruption in our obedience to those two great summary commandments the lawyer explained for us back in Luke 10:27. The first commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. The second commandment, like it, to love your neighbor as yourself.” Can’t have one lapse, one moment where we don’t do those things. “He must be perfect,” Jesus says, Matthew 5:48, “as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That’s a divine bar of righteousness.

So if you’re not ready to settle that account, if you know that you’ll never be able to pay back what you owe to God, if you know that you’re not ready to stand before God as you are, to give an account of your stewardship, to explain to him how you’ve invested what he has given to you for his glory and his glory alone, if you know that, and that bothers you, if that bothers you, that’s a good thing. That is a grace from God. If it bothers you, and your conscience is pricked, listen, Jesus offers hope here, so pay close, close attention.

Look at verse 58: “As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him.” He doesn’t say that if there’s no hope of settling. “Make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, the officer put you in prison.” Again, settle out of court. Once you arrive at court, it’s out of your hands.

The divine court system exercises a strict chain of custody so that you no longer have a say in where you go and what you do. You don’t “pass go.” You don’t “collect $200.” You go, not to jail, which is temporary confinement, you go straight to prison, eternal confinement.

So short of an out-of-court pretrial reconciliation with God, who is your opponent at law, you will become subject to a chain of custody from which you will never be free, from your opponent to the judge, from the judge to the bailiff, from the bailiff straight into debtors’ prison. When can you get out? When can you get out on good behavior? When will you be released? Jesus says, verse 59, “I tell you, you’ll never get out until you pay the very last penny.” “Penny” is the word lepton. A. T. Robertson, the Greek scholar says it comes from leppo. It’s a peel off the bark, very small, thin brass coin, 1/8 of an ounce. Same word used to speak of the widow’s mite.

So these ancient debtors’ prisons were cruel and exacting. Often they would beat a debtor, an inmate, as an incentive to his family or friends to pay up and settle the debt. If we think God backs off on his justice at this point, Jesus is telling us, “No, he does not.” He demands payment. He demands all the payment, down to the very last penny. He sets nothing aside. He exacts and pulls out the very last scrap, the very peel of the bark, an eighth-of-an ounce coin, every last thing required for repayment.

Not happening, not happening in this prison. When can you get out? When are you up for parole? How much good behavior can you have? Never. It’s an eternal sentence. Because like the guy who owed ten thousand talents rotted in jail with no means to repay, you go there. You’re never getting out.

So Jesus has some friendly counsel for you. Reconcile with God. We’re all, verse 58, on the way, on the way, which means we’re all shuffling, predictably, inexorably, heading toward the day of reckoning, heading toward that judgment. We’re on a conveyor belt of time, and we’re heading there, and we’re going to stand before Christ.

Whether we like that or not, whether we agree with it or not, even if we’re aware of it or not, we have an opponent who’s above us, who is taking us to court. You may not think you have an issue with him, but the Bible promises you he’s got an issue with you. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. Romans 6:23: “The wages of that sin is death.” Your opponent at law is God, your Creator, the law-giver, the judge. You have no case. He has a case against you. He’s actually written it in black and white, so you can read the case he has against you. He’s made everything plain and clear. You just need to take up and read the case.

Philip Ryken suggests, once we see how hopeless our case really is, we’ll be compelled to settle it, especially when we realize we’re running out of time. We’re already well on our way to judgment. So true.

So, verse 57, “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?” That’s right. You know inside your heart it’s right. Settle out of court. Settle now before your day in court arrives and the long arm of justice grabs you, and the iron fist of justice holds on to you, and that bailiff throws you into prison and says, “You’re not getting out until the last penny is paid.”

That’s the word for all of you who are not yet Christians, and I call you “friends.” I’ve shared, I’ve shared your place. I’ve heard messages like this, hardened  my heart, and walked away. I say that with shame, not with pride. If I was a wise man, I would have listened right then and there, and I would have repented and saved myself so many griefs.

I pray that today is your day of salvation, that God makes you alive together with Christ. Colossians 2:13 says he’s, if you’re alive with him, he’s forgiven you all of your trespasses. He’s cancelled out this record of debt that’s written against you. It stands against you with its legal demands. He’ll set it aside. He’ll nail it to the cross.

So make peace with God. Repent of your sins. Put your faith in Christ. Jesus endured, verse 50, he endured a baptism of judgment for all who will believe. Follow him as your life-long Lord.

For you Christians, does this pattern of preaching help you? I think it does. Does it clarify for you how to preach the Gospel, the nature of the demand on the sinner? Nothing wrong with the sinner’s ability to reason. He makes moral judgments all the time, so just acknowledge that and help him to acknowledge that, see that. Teach the Gospel to the sinner with enough clarity that it will awaken your unbelieving friend and family member and neighbor and coworker to the need. Let them see their indebtedness to God. Show them their danger and tell them, “Friend, you have to reconcile with God.”

Christian, that’s our stewardship. That’s what we get to join Christ in and do for the rest of our earthly lives. That’s what we’re on earth to do. We’re not here to serve ourselves. We’re not here to pad the nest. We’re not here to have a, a retirement of ease. We’re here to serve him, to proclaim this glorious Gospel of salvation of sinners from the grace of God. Amen? Let’s pray.

Our Father, we, we look to you and the power of your Holy Spirit to regenerate and give new life, to point us to the all-sufficient Savior who is the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no salvation apart from you, apart from your initiative, apart from your choice, apart from your sovereign decision to save a sinner.

So we ask that you would be pleased to save many, and those who are here who do not yet know you, I pray that you would save their souls, you’d open their eyes and let them see their condition before you, and settle accounts with you before it’s too late. We know, we don’t know our day, we don’t know how much time we have left. Today could be the day of reckoning. Today could be the day when we don’t take another breath.

So we ask, Father, to be gracious to some, you’d be pleased to open eyes. In fact, we, we want to see a revival in our land. We so desperately need sinners to awaken. There’s been a false awakening, what they call “woke” religion. It is deplorable. They cry, “Justice!” but there is no justice. And even worse, there’s no mercy, there’s no compassion. There’s no grace. There’s no salvation. There’s no clarity of sin. There’s no clarity of transgression. There’s no clarity of true debt before you.

So we pray that you would awaken many to see their true condition according to Jesus Christ, and they would flee to you for refuge, that they would be joined in that baptism of judgment that Jesus endured on the cross.

Pray that you would use us, Father, as imperfect as we are we, that you would use us, and underneath the leadership and the Lordship of Christ, that you’d be pleased to use us to proclaim this Gospel faithfully, accurately, with wisdom and grace. We love you. We thank you for our participation in the truth because of you. In Jesus’ name, amen.