Chapter XI


Incident or sayings
88. The sign of Jonah
89. Light and darkness
90. The scribes and Pharisees

91. Teachings about the future

92. Parable of the rich man
93. Be not anxious for your life
94. Parables about the future




As we have said, document P appears to be a sort of collection of sayings of Jesus, with little regard to context or place. The next set of remarks recorded therein have to do with another request to Jesus for a sign.


Once more the scribes and Pharisees come to Jesus and ask him to perform a sign. Document P reports a verse in the middle of the accusation of madness about them wanting a sign (v.11:16), but it does not report any response from Jesus until later on. Luke reads as follows:
(Luke 11:29-32;Matt.12:39-42)
        This generation is an evil generation; it seeks after a sign; but there shall be no sign given to it but the sign of Jonah. For even as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites causing them to repent, so shall I, the son of man, be to this generation.
        I tell you, the queen of the south shall rise up [in the judgment] with the men of this generation, and shall condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon; and look you, a greater than Solomon is here.
        And the men of Nineveh shall stand up [in the judgment] against this generation, and shall condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and again, a greater than Jonah is here.

I have placed the words "in the judgment" in brackets since they are but doubtfully from Jesus, who has never spoken of a "final judgment" or an end of the world. Matthew misinterprets the book of Jonah by making the "sign of Jonah" to be his adventure inside the whale; but Luke correctly interprets the sign of Jonah to be the preaching which caused the Ninevites to repent, fictional though that story may be. And Matthew is doubly incorrect in his interpretation, since Jonah was the only one who experienced the sign of the whale, so it could not have been a sign to the Ninevites. Assuming it happened at all. It is, though, a little shocking to have Jesus say that he is greater than Solomon or Jonah; perhaps that was added by someone else.
But the important thing to note is, as with the previous event reported in Chapter VIII (Mark 8:11-13), that Jesus refuses to perform any sign but his preaching. The content of that preaching is the only sign he will give. And refusal to perform any sign is consistent with the parable of refusing to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple during his forty days in the wilderness.


Some enigmatic remarks about light and lamps follow the previous sayings, without any context or situation being given:
(Luke 11:33-34;Matt.5:15,6:22-23)
        No man, when he lights a lamp, puts it in the cellar, neither under a bushel, but on a stand, so that people coming in may have light.
        The lamp of the body is the eye; and when your eye is single, then is your whole body is full of light; but when it is evil then your body is full of darkness.

Matthew appears to have taken these statements out of document P and inserted them in his Great Sermon. The antithesis of the eye being single versus the eye being evil is not easy to understand. "Single" probably meant unified, whole or complete, moving in a single direction, referring more to the life or the spirit or the psyche than the optical organ; and "evil" probably meant scattered, not unified, multiple directions, but we would scarcely today use the word "evil" to refer to that condition. Luke has one more statement which is not found in any other gospel:
(Luke 11:35-36)
        Look and see, then, if the light that is in you isn't really darkness.
        If therefore your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it shall be wholly full of light, like when the lamp with its bright shining gives off light.

This last statement seems like a turgid redundancy; of course when your body is full of light then it is full of light. Anyhow, none of these remarks opposing light and darkness help us to understand anything of Jesus' teaching or how to get to that state of being "full of light".


In the next event, a Pharisee had invited him to dinner, and was shocked that Jesus did not wash his hands before eating. We have seen this issue being raised in a previous section, but here in Luke he launches into a long list of curses directed at the Pharisees. All of his criticisms are contained later in Matthew when he has arrived in Jerusalem, so we will postpone discussing these criticisms until we come to that chapter in Matthew. Luke adds that after he came out of the Pharisee's house, the scribes and Pharisees kept trying to trap him in a blasphemous or actionable statement; but none of those questions or answers are given.


So far it should be evident that document P was simply a collection of sayings without any organization into any logical order. We have just seen comments on prayer, comments on whether Beelzebub is divided against himself, his response to a woman in the crowd about who is blessed, why he won't give a sign, comments about light and darkness, and criticisms of the scribes and Pharisees, with no place names, and no context that couldn't have been inserted by the compiler, except for the comments about Beelzebub. Now he starts speaking to a large crowd, "many thousands", about situations and circumstances that may arise in the future for his disciples and for future followers.
(Luke 12:2-3;Matt.16:11,10:26-27)
        Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy.
        For there is nothing covered up, that shall not be revealed; nor hid, that shall not be known. For whatsoever you have said in the darkness shall be heard in the light; and whatsoever you have spoken in the inner chambers shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

The first of these sayings is also found in Mark, but there he is upbraiding the disciples for not understanding what he's talking about. But here in Luke he identifies it precisely. Perhaps the second of these sayings should be rendered as, Whatsoever you have heard in the darkness or the inner chambers, you should speak out during the daytime and to as many people as possible. The sayings continue:
(Luke 12:4-5;Matt.10:28)
        Be not afraid of them that can kill the body, and that's the worst that they can do. But I shall warn you about whom you should fear: Fear him, who after he has killed has the power to cast your body into the valley of Gehinnom. I tell you truly, Fear him.

Matthew's rendition of this paragraph is shorter than Luke's, but makes the same point. The valley of Gehinnom was the valley to the south of Jerusalem which was used as a garbage dump and for the bodies of condemned criminals, and the high priest must have been the one who could order your body tossed there. The word found its way into English as "hell" or "Gehenna". Is he telling them to fear the high priest, and not speak before him? In any case Jesus goes on:
(Luke 12:6-9;Matt.10:29-33)
        Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and not one of them is forgotten in the sight of God. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. So fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
        And I say unto you, Every person that shall believe my teachings, that one shall be approved of by myself and by God the Father. But he who rejects my teachings that one shall not be approved of by myself or by God the Father.

(Luke 12:10-11;Matt.12:32;Mark 3:28-30)
        Every one who speaks a word against the son of man, it shall be forgiven him. But whosoever blasphemes against God shall not be forgiven.
(Luke 12:12;Matt.10:19-20;Mark 13:11)
        And when they bring you before the synagogues, and the authorities, and the rulers, be not anxious about what you will say: for son of man shall teach you in that hour what you should say.

We can accept all of these sayings as from Jesus, because they are found in both the gospel of Mark and in document P which both Luke and Matthew had. I have paraphrased them a bit because there is no evidence that Jesus actually used the terms "Holy Spirit" or "angels of God" or "MY father in heaven"; those terms did not exist in Jewish lore, but came into being after the church had spread. And as far as "MY father" is concerned, that term is only used by Matthew, where Mark and Luke report Jesus as saying "YOUR father". If Jesus actually claimed God as his personal father, no wonder he was executed by the Jews. God is the father (or mother) of all people; there is certainly no evidence against that.


The next section here in Luke or document P epitomizes the teachings of Jesus about wealth. Again we get a little dialogue between Jesus and a man in the crowd:

(Luke 12:13-15)
MAN: Master, please tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.

JESUS (impatiently): Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?

We can infer that the man's brother was trying to keep the family inheritance all to himself. But in his vexed outburst Jesus here denies that he is come to be a judge of men, and so much for the belief that Jesus would be the judge in any last judgment. Then he turns to the crowd and tells them:
(Luke 12:15-21)
JESUS: Take heed, and keep yourself from all covetousness. For a man's life does not consist in the abundance of things which he possesses.
        Listen to a parable, all of you: The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully. And he said to himself, My barns are not big enough to store this produce, so I will pull them all down, and build larger ones. And when it was done, he said to himself, Rejoice, for you have much goods stored up for many years; therefore, take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
        But God said to him, That was foolish; tonight your soul is required of you. And all those barns and produce, whose shall they be?
        So do not live like that; you should strive to store up heavenly treasure, not earthly treasure.

The last sentence has been paraphrased for clarity. But the point of this parable seems clear: do not hoard, do not accumulate goods or wealth excessively, for our lives are short. We may wonder what is heavenly treasure, and in the next section we will learn more about Jesus' teachings on that subject.


The next set of teachings are perhaps the most idyllic in all the gospels. Document P simply prefaces it with, And he said unto his disciples; and this is what he said.

(Luke 12:22-32;Matt.6:25-34)
        Therefore I tell you, Do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. For the life is more than the food, and the body than raiment.
        Consider the ravens, that they do not have to sow, nor reap either; they do not need storehouses or barns; yet God feeds them; and are you not of more value than the birds?
        And which of you by being anxious can add one inch to your height? If then you cannot do that little thing, why are you anxious about anything else?
        Again, consider the lilies, how they grow; they do not have to work, nor spin; yet still, I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like the flowers. But if God so clothe the grass in the field which today is green, and tomorrow is dried out for fodder, how much more shall God clothe you, all you of little faith?
        And you do not need to search for food nor drink, nor to be of a worried mind; for God your father knows that you have need of these things. Therefore, you only need to seek the reign of God, and all these things will come to you. And do not fear; it is God's pleasure to give you his kingdom.

Has anything in history ever been written so glowing with peace and tranquillity as these paragraphs? They may sound woefully impractical; but they are also found in the gospel of Thomas, so we cannot doubt that Jesus said them, nor that if he said them he meant them. In Luke, he continues, with a parallel in Matthew:
(Luke 12:33a)
        Sell all that you have, and give alms;

        Do not lay up treasures on earth for yourselves, which moth and rust can destroy and thieves break in and steal;
(Luke 12:33b-34;Matt.6:20-21)
        make for yourself purses that do not wear out, and heavenly treasure which will not fail you, which no thief can steal, nor can any moth destroy it.
        For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew's rendition of his first sentence here is significantly different from Luke's; in Luke he seems to be telling them to be penniless, whereas in Matthew he seems to only be offering them a complementary description of treasure on earth as opposed to treasure in heaven. This is twice now that he has used the phrase "heavenly treasure"; we can't tell if they were two different occasions or not. But what does he mean by heavenly treasure? This is not a question that I want to give an answer for, although it seems to me that peace and tranquillity as well as good deeds and improving the welfare of other people may be counted as a part of that treasure. But maybe worrying about our ledger balance with God actually degrades the value of our "heavenly treasure"; it may be better just to give what we can and help as much as we can, and just forget about that balance. Because when we die, we won't know how people will remember us or what they will say about us, but we will have lived a good life.


Without a break, Jesus begins giving them some more teachings about the future. Luke, or document P, continues:
(Luke 12:35-38;Matt.25:1-10?)
        Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning; and let yourselves be like men looking for their lord to return from a marriage feast, that when he arrives and knocks, they may immediately open the door for him. Blessed indeed are those servants, who the lord will find watching when he returns; I tell you truly, that he will put on an apron, and make them all sit down, and serve them himself. And if he comes later, and later still, and they be awaiting him, blessed are those servants.

Matthew reports a parable on this same theme later on, in Jesus' final discourse on the future, at the beginning of chapter 25, called the Parable of the 10 Virgins. Luke continues:
(Luke 12:39-40;Matt.25:43-44)
        But remember this, if the master of the house had known what time the thief was coming, he would have guarded his house, and not let it be broken into.
        Even so you should be ready at all times; for that day will come in an hour when you don't expect it.

Matthew tells this saying as part of his final discourse in Chapter XVI. But it's not easy to see how this could be interpreted as a prediction of his return from the dead. It's probably just a reminder to always be prepared for any eventuality. Luke continues with another teaching on the same theme:
(Luke 12:42-46;Matt.25:45-51)
        Who then is the faithful and wise servant whom the lord shall set over his household, to give them their food at dinnertime? Blessed is the servant who will be doing as instructed when his master returns. Indeed, his lord will put him in charge of everything in the household. But if that servant fritters away his time, thinking that his lord will be long in returning, and begins to abuse the other servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the lord will return without warning, and shall find him abusive and drunken, and shall dismiss him from his service, and let him become a beggar.

Again we are hard put to understand what he means to be telling us that we should do. It can be simply not to fritter away our time and to do what we are instructed to do; but isn't that self-evident? and it's really almost a gross misinterpretation to think it means that he himself will return to life unexpectedly. Such a view of this parable can only have arisen after a myth of his second coming had gained wide circulation. Luke ends the parable with a few more trivialities, which are probably not from Jesus but from his later followers:

(Luke 12:47-48)
        And that servant which knew his master's will, but did not perform it, shall be beaten with many stripes; and the servant who did not know his master's will, and therefore did not perform it, shall be beaten with only a few stripes.
        To whomsoever much is given, much will be required; and to whom is committed much, of him will they ask the more.


Jesus must have given many teachings to the crowds and his followers, but there is no assurance that we have them all, and there is no reason to expect this portion of Luke to have any overall organization or outline. The parable of the rich man and the teachings on anxiety would seem to be the most useful and important: not to seek too much wealth, and not to have too much anxiety over little things, but just take care of important things as they come.