1. In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
Perhaps even while the Lord had been enjoying a meal in the home of this Pharisee, an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together. This was a large crowd indeed! The word “multitude” here is myriads in Greek. A myriad is ten thousand, and the Greek word for a throng is here as well. Thus there was gathered together a throng of tens of thousands of people. One would not say myriads plural, or call this a “throng,” unless there were at least 50,000 people present, according to Otis Q. Sellers in his audio study on Luke. Thus, it was a huge crowd indeed that gathered together to hear the Lord. Not only so, but it seems that they were acting rather like soccer fans do in Europe…they were so into it they were trampling each other to get a better view! The Lord does not immediately speak to this throng, however. Instead, He begins to teach a private lesson to His disciples first of all.
His message for his disciples is first of all a warning. They are to beware of leaven. Leaven is ever used in the Scriptures as a symbol of that which spreads quickly and thoroughly. In this case, the Lord Jesus uses it to symbolize the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Hypocrisy here means acting or putting on an act. Of course, the art of acting is something that we enjoy and appreciate in our culture, but we have to admit that it is a different story when someone puts on an act in real life, not in a film or television program, and pretends to be something he is not. This is the kind of acting these Pharisees were doing. This kind of hypocrisy is condemned again and again in the Bible. It is not right to act one way when you really are another. We must practice what we preach! These Pharisees were saying one thing and doing another.
2. “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.
The Lord goes on to speak this, a kingdom principle, that nothing is covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. This is more or less a repetition of what the Lord already said in Luke 8:17, “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.” This will be true in the kingdom. Our secrets will no longer be hidden then!
Yet this is true of what men have hidden in our day, the day of man. There are things that the Lord has covered, as is stated in Psalm 32:1, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered.” He whose sin has been covered by the Lord is covered for good. What the Lord has hidden will not be revealed at any time in the future. Yet what men have hidden will not remain secret, but will be made known by God Who will judge all the secrets of men (Romans 2:16) at His appearing and His kingdom (II Timothy 4:1.)
3. “Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.
This is true of the Day of Judgment, when God’s kingdom comes to the earth and nothing will be hidden before God. What men speak in the dark will be heard in the light, and what they speak in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. There will be no secret counsels of the workers of iniquity in that day, for all will be made known when God’s light shines upon it.
This is also too often true in our day, for nasty secrets have an amazing way of getting out, and we deceive ourselves if we really believe that “no one will ever know.” Yet even when men do seem to do evil works and get away with it, we can be certain that these things are not hidden before God.
The disciples in particular were under great scrutiny. They were going to represent God in His government, and so they could ill afford to be doing secret things in the dark and in inner rooms. As the Lord taught in public in the eyes of all, so His disciples were to be open about their work. We know that His words are already true of them, for in Scripture we have things recorded that they said in the dark, and these things are now heard in the light. We have record of things they spoke in the ear in inner rooms, and now they are proclaimed on the housetops. Because of the high position they received as disciples of the Lord, the very things these men did and said would be under great scrutiny by men. If they plotted wicked schemes and betrayed the Lord as Judas did, they could be assured that even this would become widely known. Judas’ betrayal was not a private thing, for it is detailed for us in the Word of God!
4. “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
This power, of course, is all that men have. Once we have killed someone, there is nothing more we can do with that person. We cannot bring that person back to life, yet neither can we keep God from raising him from the dead. God, however, can do more than just kill the body…much more!
5. “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!
Rather than fearing men who have the power to kill or the power to execute judicially, they should fear God, Who has the power, after He has killed, to cast into hell. Yet the word here does not mean “hell,” but is the word geenna. We would English this “Gehenna.” Gehenna was the name of a certain valley in Israel very near to the capital city of Jerusalem. This valley was initially the inheritance of a man who was known as the son of Hinnom. We first read of it in Joshua 15:8, in a passage describing the borders of the inheritance of the tribe of Judah. It formed part of the border between the land of Judah and the land of Benjamin, as we can see in Joshua 18:16.
Then the border came down to the end of the mountain that lies before the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, which is in the Valley of the Rephaim on the north, descended to the Valley of Hinnom, to the side of the Jebusite city on the south, and descended to En Rogel.
Now probably because of this valley’s proximity to the city of Jerusalem, along with its pleasant aspect and fertile character, this valley came to be used by the inhabitants of the city as a primary place of worship. Since it was a country place of great beauty and yet situated near the city, it seemed the perfect place to worship. Thus, this valley was where they practiced much of their idolatry. In fact, it is connected with the worst kinds of idolatrous worship, as we can see in II Chronicles 28:3.
He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.
We can see the same thing in II Chronicles 33:6.
Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.
So this valley was the place where men would make their children pass through the fire to Molech. This place came to be called Tophet, where these horrible practices were committed.
Now because of the horrible use to which this valley was put, when the righteous king Josiah sought to eliminate all idolatrous worship from Israel, one of the things he did was to defile the Valley of the Son of Hinnom by executing the idolatrous priests, burning their bodies, and scattering the ashes across Tophet. The Israelites, even when they were not worshipping the true God but were worshipping idols, had a strong consciousness of the clean and unclean laws God had given. To them, any place where a dead body or part of a dead body could be found was defiled, and anyone who touched that dead body was defiled himself and could not worship. Since, with the ashes of the priests scattered across the valley, they could not enter it without touching some of these ashes, they could no longer worship in this valley. Yet this also ruined the valley altogether, for no one wanted to farm the land or anything else, knowing that just to enter the land would defile them. Thus this valley became a permanent unclean place, and thus they used it as a refuse dump for unclean things. This too was convenient, for it is good to have your trash dump not too far from the city, and yet far enough to keep the smells and such away from the city.
This valley in Greek became known as Gehenna, Henna being the Greek form of “Hinnom,” and Ge meaning “of.” Thus “of Hinnom,” or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. This was their name for this very same valley, filled now with a garbage dump.
Now in Israel they kept things as long as they had any possible use. They did not throw things away until they could be considered completely worthless. Thus this valley was a place where worthless things were thrown. As such, the people of Israel would cast their most hated criminals upon the trash heaps of Gehenna after their executions as a final humiliation. This was a symbol that they viewed this person as utterly worthless.
Now this valley of Gehenna came to be used by the Lord as a symbol for a dreadful future reality. The Lord used this valley as a figure for the future lake of fire and brimstone, the place where God will dispose of men He finds utterly worthless. Brimstone is an old English phrase for sulfur. What they once called “brimstone and treacle” would now be called “sulfur and molasses.” Thus this is a lake of fire burning with sulfur. This would have a very unpleasant smell, as well as being very destructive.
Thus the Lord assures us that God is able not only to kill, but also to cast the dead into Gehenna. By this, He was referring to the lake of fire and brimstone where in the future God will cast all those who have not passed the final judgment, as we see in Revelation 21:8. These He will both kill and cast into the lake of fire and sulfur. This will be their end.
6. “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.
The Lord reassures these men. He points out that five sparrows are sold for two copper coins. We know that a penny is a copper coin, or at least used to be. With inflation now, we make our pennies out of an even cheaper metal than copper so it will be worth what we would call a cent today. But a real copper penny is one copper coin. Even if these copper coins were bigger than ours, they would not be worth much more than what our copper coins are worth. Thus, these five sparrows are sold for what we would call just a few cents. Yet the Lord assures us that not one of them is forgotten before God. Imagine it! God can remember every chicken you have ever eaten from in your lifetime. No creature is so small that it is forgotten by Him.
7. “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
God is not only able to cast into the lake of fire after He has killed, but is also able to raise to life any whom He wishes. This passage speaks of the re-creating of the bodies of even those long dead. When you want to know how many you have of a thing, you count it, as we would count money to see how much we have of it. When you want to keep a thing in its proper place, you number it. A coin collector might number his collection in order to index it. That way, he keeps all his coins in their proper place.
If God has the very hairs of our head numbered, that is not so He can know how many there are of them, but so that He can know how they are put together. God has the schematics for each person such that not even a HAIR will be out of place. Each one is numbered and put exactly where it should be when the person is brought back to life. Of course, those who have lost their hair to baldness have the comfort of knowing that this will be according to God’s original schematics, not the ones deteriorated by the ravages of sin.
This passage also raises the interesting question of the possible resurrection of animals. Is this what Christ is implying when He says that not one of them is forgotten before God? It is hard to say. There is only one passage I know of that seems to speak of resurrection for animals. This is Psalm 104:24-30.
24. O LORD, how manifold are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all.
The earth is full of Your possessions—
25. This great and wide sea,
In which are innumerable teeming things,
Living things both small and great.
26. There the ships sail about;
There is that Leviathan
Which You have made to play there.
27. These all wait for You,
That You may give them their food in due season.
28. What You give them they gather in;
You open Your hand, they are filled with good.
29. You hide Your face, they are troubled;
You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
30. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created;
And You renew the face of the earth.
This speaks of Leviathan. He has his breath taken away, dies, and returns to the dust. Yet then God sends forth His Spirit, and they are created. Does this mean Leviathan rises from the dead? Does it mean that individual Leviathans of the past will be raised, or merely that the species of Leviathan will be restored from extinction? This is hard to say, and we do not want to try to draw too much out of the passage.
When it comes to the resurrection of animals, I suppose that I would not necessarily be all that excited to see the chicken I had for supper raised from the dead, but I know it would be a pleasure to see the cute little kitten who is sleeping in my lap as I write this have a future apart from the grave. God does not tell us for sure about this, though, and since no kitten or chicken has ever read the Bible, I suppose He really had no reason to.
8. “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God.
Our witness is important to our future glory, it seems. If we confess the Lord Jesus Christ before men, He likewise will not fail to confess the truth about us in the future. We do confess the Lord Jesus Christ before men. If any wish to know it, we will let them know that we are believers in and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. They might not understand this. The first thing they will want to ask us is which church or which denomination we belong to. Most have no concept of believing in Christ other than following some denominational creed. Yet we need no such creed, for we have the Word of God that is our standard to believe and follow.
Notice that the Lord does not give exceptions for not confessing Him. He does not say it is okay to deny Him if it means you will avoid trouble. The expectation is that we will confess Him, even if it costs us our lives!
The Lord says if we do this, He will confess us before the angels of God. Remember that angels are messengers. Whether this is God’s human or superhuman messengers matters little. He will confess us before all such, if we confess Him.
9. “But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
On the other hand, those who repudiate or publicly disown Christ (for this is the stronger implication of the Greek word for “deny”) will be denied before the angels of God. What this denial implies we cannot be certain. Yet it is clear that our words before men are important. We must keep in mind, however, that there is forgiveness for failure, for Peter denied the Lord three times before the rooster crowed, and yet he was forgiven by the Lord.
10. “And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.
The Greek here reads to hagion pneuma, or “the Holy Spirit,” and so refers to the Person of the Spirit here, as we have discussed previously.
Here the Lord speaks of what many call the “unpardonable sin.” Yet this is not the place where what exactly this was is fully explained. In Mark 3:20-30, we learn more about what this is. There, the scribes ascribed the miracles of the Lord to Satan. This the Lord called blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.
While He was on earth, it was pardonable to reject the man Jesus since in all physical attributes He appeared to be just that: a man. One might be fooled into believing that He was not actually God from His physical appearance. The miracles of the Holy Spirit, however, were for the purpose of revealing God, and always worked as evidence of God that none could deny. Thus anyone who rejected the work of the Holy Spirit was openly rejecting God. This sin showed an unredeemable condition of heart, and no one who refused the clear, undeniable evidence of God presented by the Holy Spirit could ever be forgiven of that sin. Fortunately for us today the Holy Spirit never works in such an open, manifest way as He did at that time, and so blaspheming His work in this manner is not possible.
11. “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.
This was advice regarding going on trial. They were to prepare no defense, and to give no consideration to what they should answer or say. This seems like mad advice to us, until we consider why He tells them this in the next verse.
12. “For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
The reason they were not to consider what to say is because the Holy Spirit would teach them in that very hour when they had to defend themselves what they ought to say. Thus we see that this was not crazy advice, but was just what His disciples needed to prepare them for their coming witness in the Acts period. He assures them that at that time all of their public orations will be inspired by the Holy Spirit. Therefore they need have no fear as to what they will say when they are brought before various men who would judge them. The Holy Spirit would provide the very words of God for them whenever they were needed.
We need to keep this truth in mind as we examine what the disciples said when they were on trial in the Acts period. Some have had the tendency to critique the response the apostles made, and to suggest that they might have given a better answer. From this we know that all who suggest this do God a disservice, for they are actually not critiquing the words of men, but rather are criticizing the very words of God!
We need to realize that, while this was a promise the Lord made to His disciples, we have no such gift today. If we are ever brought before magistrates or authorities, we had best take very careful thought as to what we are going to say! If not, we may be found to give a poor witness before men of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Also, we need to realize that this is no advice concerning how we should conduct our ministries before men. This is not telling us that we should not prepare before giving a lesson on the things of God’s Word. We do need to prepare, or we may well end up doing a very poor job. The Lord gave us no such promise. We do believe that the Lord may help us when we are setting forth God’s Word. Even as we are teaching it, He may give us new light on the passage that we did not have before. Yet our words will not be inspired, and we should not trust in a promise that was never made to us.