Chapter 17: Where Much Is Given, Much Is Required

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 116–21


Map Chp. 17

The Later Judean Ministry

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Judea

The Leaven of the Pharisees—Hypocrisy and Courage

  

12:1–12

 

Parable of the Foolish Rich Man

  

12:13–21

 

Disciples Seek Kingdom of God Before Earthly Treasures

  

12:22–34

 

Preparation for the Lord’s Second Coming

  

12:35–59

 

Slaughter of the Galileans; Parable of the Barren Fig Tree

  

13:1–9

 

Jerusalem, Judea

Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah)

Jesus Proclaims His Messiahship

   

10:22–39

The Perean Ministry

    

Perea

Jesus Goes Beyond the Jordan

   

10:39–42

Woman Healed on the Sabbath

  

13:10–17

 

Parable of the Mustard Seed

  

13:18–21

 

Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem Begins

  

13:22–30

 

Warning About Herod Antipas

  

13:31–35

 

Interpretive Commentary

(17-1) Luke 12:49–53. What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, “I Am Come to Send Fire on the Earth”?

“When honest truth seekers accept the gospel, they forsake the world and gain its hatred. The sword of persecution, of domestic dissention, and of family bitterness is often unsheathed by their closest relatives. Thousands of devout converts, in this dispensation alone, have been driven from their homes and denied their temporal inheritances, for accepting Joseph Smith and the pure, primitive gospel restored through his instrumentality.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:335.)

Fig Tree

(17-2) Luke 13:6–9. What Does the Parable of the Fig Tree Mean?

“A certain husbandman (God) had a fig tree (the Jewish remnant of Israel) planted in his vineyard (the world); and he came (in the meridian of time) and sought fruit thereon (faith, righteousness, good works, gifts of the Spirit), and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard (the son of God), Behold, these three years (the period of Jesus’ ministry) I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down (destroy the Jewish nation as an organized kingdom); why cumbereth it the ground (why should it prevent the conversion of the world by occupying the ground and preempting the time of my servants)? And he (the Son of God) answering said unto him (God, the husbandman), Lord, let it alone this year also till I shall dig about it, and dung it (preach the gospel, raise the warning voice, show forth signs and wonders, organize the Church, and offer every opportunity for the conversion of the Jewish nation). And if it bear fruit, the tree is saved (the Jewish nation shall be preserved as such and its members gain salvation), and if not, after that thou shalt cut it down (destroy the Jews as a nation, make them a hiss and a byword, and scatter them among all nations).” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:477.)

(17-3) John 10:22. What Was the Feast of Dedication, and Why Was It Held?

Nearly two hundred years before the public ministry of Jesus began, Antiochus Epiphanes, a Selucidian king who controlled Palestine, attempted to destroy Judaism by compelling his subjects to accept the Greek culture. In a show of utter contempt for the Jewish faith, Antiochus sacrificed a pig (the filthiest of animals, according to the Jews) upon a small Greek altar built for the occasion within the temple confines. Following this, Antiochus prohibited all religious ordinances enjoined by the law of Moses and ordered the burning of all known copies of the Jewish law. Finally, he ordered that heathen altars be constructed throughout Palestine and that the Jews worship the heathen gods or suffer death. This suppression of the Jewish religion precipitated what is known as the Maccabean revolution.

Judas Maccabaeus, together with his four brothers, gathered about him a number of devout Jews who refused to honor the demands of Antiochus. They formed a guerilla army and waged relentless war against the troops employed by Antiochus to enforce his religious policies. Eventually, the Maccabees seized control of Jerusalem. Judas then proceeded to purify the temple (which for three years had been used to make offerings to Zeus) and restore the worship of Jehovah. The Feast of Dedication, sometimes called the Feast of Lights, or Hanukkah, was inaugurated to celebrate the recovery and rededication of the Jewish temple. The feast takes place in the month of Chislev, corresponding to portions of our months of November and December, and lasts for eight days. It is marked by elaborate meals, special synagogue services, and extra illumination in all homes. Hence its title, “Feast of Lights.” (See Harper’s Bible Dictionary, pp. 133, 406–7.)

(17-4) John 10:22–38. What Is the Significance of Jesus’ Appearance at the Feast of Dedication?

The Feast of Dedication, occurring some two months following the Feast of Tabernacles, gave Jesus another opportunity to declare his messiahship openly. The Jews, haughty in their challenges, were anxious to have Jesus declare plainly that he was the Christ. Jesus replied to their entreaties, “I told you, and ye believed not.” (John 10:25.) He told the Jews that the reason they did not accept his words was that they were not his sheep. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27.) (Note the similarity of his testimony here to that given earlier at the Feast of the Tabernacles [John 10:14–16].) Jesus then concluded his declaration of messiahship by referring to his power to give men eternal life and by announcing his relationship with his Father: “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30.)

As on a similar occasion (John 8:58, 59), Jesus’ plain statement of identification with God angered the Jews, and they took up stones to throw at him. But Jesus simply replied, “Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?” (John 10:32.) They replied that they were not stoning him for righteous works but because, as they said, “Thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” (John 10:33.) Plainly the Jews understood whom Jesus claimed to be.

(17-5) John 10:39, 40. Where Did Jesus Go Following His Encounter with the Jews at the Feast of Dedication?

Once again the Jews sought to take Jesus by force but did not succeed, because the time for his death and atoning sacrifice had not yet arrived. Instead, Jesus “went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.” (John 10:40.) This area beyond Jordan was known as Perea, a word which literally means “the land beyond.” Elder Talmage writes:

“The duration of this sojourn in Perea is nowhere recorded in our scriptures. It could not have lasted more than a few weeks at most. Possibly some of the discourses, instructions, and parables already treated as following the Lord’s departure from Jerusalem after the Feast of Tabernacles in the preceding autumn, may chronologically belong to this interval. From this retreat of comparative quiet, Jesus returned to Judea in response to an earnest appeal from some whom He loved. He left the Bethany of Perea for the Judean Bethany, where dwelt Martha and Mary.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 490.)

Points to Ponder

Charactericts of True Disciples

True disciples of Jesus Christ are committed by covenant to the standards that Jesus has revealed, but they face many obstacles from the temporal world. As you consider some of the barriers to the spiritual life, you may wish to understand in greater depth Jesus’ feelings in these matters:

Avoiding Hypocrisy

Jesus warned his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. What did he mean? When Jesus used these words, his disciples construed then to be a simple reference to bread, a possible rebuke since they had neglected to bring any nourishment for lunch. According to Luke, what did Jesus have in mind? (See Luke 12:1.)

Hypocrisy is defined as pretending to do or believe something while, in fact, practicing something else. Compare Paul’s statement concerning leaven in 1 Corinthians 5:7, 8 with the scriptures cited above. Why did Paul urge the saints at Corinth to purge themselves of the “old leaven”? What did he mean?

How can you avoid the “leaven of the Pharisees” in your own day? As you formulate your answer, consider the following statement from Elder James E. Talmage:

“These instances [i.e., the scriptures cited above], … are illustrative of the contagion of evil. In the incident of the woman using leaven in the ordinary process of bread-making, the spreading, penetrating, vital effect of truth is symbolized by the leaven. The same thing in different aspects may very properly be used to represent good in one instance and evil in another.” (Jesus the Christ, pp. 302–3.)

Faith in God Rather than Man

More to be feared than those who have power to take our lives is he who has power to destroy both soul and body in hell, meaning the Lord. (See Luke 12:4, 5; see also McConkie, DNTC, 1:334.) Some of the Lord’s agents will lose their lives in his service; nevertheless, why fear the wicked?

Read and underline D&C 99:13, 14.

The true disciple has faith in the Lord and in his watchful providence. He knows that not even a hair of our heads falls to the ground without notice. (See Luke 12:7.)

The powers of man are limited and finite; the powers of God are infinite and eternal.

Laying Up Treasures on Earth

Among the many who followed Jesus, there was one who urged the Savior to serve as mediator between himself and his brother in matters strictly temporal. This Jesus refused to do. As in the case of the woman taken in adultery, the Savior refused to intervene in matters involving legal administration. Instead he warned the disciple, if disciple he was, to “take heed, and beware of covetousness.” (Luke 12:15.) He said that a man’s life consists of more than the amount of property he possesses.

To illustrate his point, Jesus told a story about a “certain rich man” whose ground produced so plentifully that he ran out of places to store his goods. The man decided to tear down his old barns and build bigger ones. His wealth grew until at length he thought to himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” (Luke 12:19.) But the man had forgotten one important thing: the transitory nature of this life. He died that very night. Then what of his possessions? Elder Talmage comments thus:

“His plans for the proper care of his fruits and goods were not of themselves evil, though he might have considered better ways of distributing his surplus, as for the relief of the needy. His sin was twofold; first, he regarded his great store chiefly as the means of securing personal ease and sensuous indulgence; secondly, in his material prosperity he failed to acknowledge God, and even counted the years as his own. In the hour of his selfish jubilation he was smitten. Whether the voice of God came to him as a fearsome presentiment of impending death, or by angel messenger, or how otherwise, we are not informed; but the voice spoke his doom: ‘Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.’ He had used his time and his powers of body and mind to sow, reap and garner—all for himself. And what came of it all? Whose should be the wealth, to amass which he had jeopardized his soul? Had he been other than a fool he might have realized as Solomon had done, the vanity of hoarding wealth for another, and he perhaps of uncertain character, to possess.” (Jesus the Christ, pp. 439–40.)

Is it possible for a man to become wealthy and still maintain high standards of spirituality and unselfishness? How?

Preparation for the Lord’s Second Coming

According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, the parable given in Luke 12:36–39 refers to the apostles of Jesus, those special sentinels set to watch for the return of the Savior and to guide the saints.

“A little parable peculiar to Luke, warning the apostles to be ready for Christ’s Second Coming, which will be sudden. The apostles are compared to slaves left to watch the house (the Church) while the master (Christ) goes to a wedding feast (i.e. ascends into heaven). Their loins are girded because they have housework to do (preaching the gospel and ruling the Church), and they have lighted lamps, because their task is to enlighten a dark and sinful world by their shining example. Christ’s return from the marriage feast is his Second Advent, or it may mean his judgment of each individual soul at death. The ‘marriage feast’ here is not the final joy of the blessed, as in the parable of the Ten Virgins, but Christ’s session at the right hand of God between the Ascension and the Second Advent. (Dummelow, The One Volume Bible Commentary, pp. 754–55, as quoted in McConkie, DNTC, 1:676.)

As a disciple of Christ who is preparing for the second coming, what is your relationship to the Lord’s appointed servants? How will heeding their counsel help you to prepare?

Men approach what they think is discipleship in many different ways. Some give up all worldly possessions and spend their lives living and working among the poor. Others sacrifice marriage, family, and friends for a life of study, contemplation, and prayer. Still others strive to live “normal” lives while devoting time whenever possible to acts of service. Given the teachings of prophets, scriptures, and modern revelation, how do you view the responsibilities of discipleship? Is it possible to remain in the mainstream of life, or should we retreat? Can one rightfully seek after wealth and yet be of value to the Lord? Must one be willing to give all to be counted among the faithful who are prepared for the Second Coming? Ponder these questions and then continue to the next section.

(17-6) Must a True Disciple Make a Choice between the Kingdom of God and the World?

Running like a thread through our mortal probations is the element of personal choice. While none may compel us to choose one way in preference to another, we cannot escape decision making. True disciples of Jesus Christ place the kingdom of God before all else. As one prominent church leader has expressed it, “The kingdom of God or nothing!” (John Taylor in JD, 6:19.)

There are several reasons why this is so. The first is suggested by the following scriptural passages: Luke 12:48; D&C 82:3.

When we place other things ahead of the kingdom of God, we run the risk of losing that which we have been given. This, then, becomes the basis for one’s eternal judgment. Here is the principle and how it works: Matthew 25:29; 2 Nephi 28:30.

Finally, when we seek first the things of the world, as the foolish rich man did, we place that which matters most at the mercy of that which matters least. We may die possessed of great temporal riches but still be poor toward God.

Concerning the need to choose, Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the First Quorum of the Seventy, has written the following:

“There is a special sense of urgency infusing itself into many Church members everywhere that says, quietly, but insistently—this is the time for us to choose! It is not just that God will insist that we choose for our own sake, but that those who depend upon us, or use us as a reference point, need and deserve to know which way we are going. It is no good posing as a lifeguard if one is a non-swimmer. It is no good being a guide if one leaves his post and wanders with the multitude in search of another way, ‘for there is none other way,’ especially at a time when there is a sharper and sharper divergence in the way of the world and the straight and narrow way. The disciple must not only stand in ‘holy places’ but on holy issues and ‘not be moved.’

“In short, the events of our time and spiritual decay in the world have produced for us the equivalent situation faced by many of the disciples who followed Jesus. They followed him until he began to preach the ‘hard sayings’—the doctrines that really demand not only belief, but performance; doctrines which would distinguish them from their contemporary society. The Lord wants us to put some distance—behaviorally—between ourselves and the world, not because we love mankind less, but precisely because we do love men. It is for the world’s sake that we must sanctify ourselves. When Jesus’ followers faced their moment of truth, John records, ‘From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.’ Jesus turned to the remainder and queried them, ‘Will ye also go away?’ (John 6:66–67.)” (A Time to Choose, pp. 39–40.)