Luke

6:39-49

The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50

4. The acts of Messiah, 6:12-7:50

ii] Promises and principles, 6:17-49

c) A tree and it's fruit

Synopsis

Luke's account of The Great Sermon continues. Having expounded the absolute eschatological demand for brotherly love, v27-38, Jesus goes on to call for self-examination. He does this with a set of sayings and a parable.

 
Teaching

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 6:17-26.

 

ii] Structure: Sayings on discipleship:

Double saying - we are who we follow, v39-40:

"can the blind lead the blind? ....."

"a pupil is no better off than his teacher ...."

Saying on judging, v41-42:

"why do you see the speck in your brother's eye .......?"

Sayings - works reveal the person, v43-45:

"no good tree bears bad fruit, ......."

"each tree is recognised by its own fruit ......"

"a good man brings good things out of ...., kai ("but"??) ....."

The parable of the wise and foolish builder, v46-49:

Proposition, v46:

"why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord', .....?"

The wise builder, v47-48:

the one who hears and does.

The foolish builder, v49:

the one who hears and does not do, 49.

 

iii] Interpretation:

See Introductory Notes on the Great Sermon.

 

As a covenant renewal document, the Sermon on the Plain ends with a warning communicated in sayings and a teaching parable. Each exposes the potential state of a child of God apart from grace, unable to comply with the law of love and so facing judgment, sunpiptw, "collapse", the great fall. Without compassion we are a ruined house.

The first saying (illustration / proverb), v39-40, identifies the general state of human ignorance such that all are lost in blind musings - like teacher, like student. The second saying, v41-42, exposes the fact that we are not compassionate as God is compassionate and this is evidenced by our need to expose the failings in others, seeking to correct and improve them, while ignoring our own inadequacies. The third saying, v43-45, makes the point that our sorry condition (lost to God) is easily recognised because, as the worth of a fruit tree is recognised by its fruit, so is our condition recognised by our fruit, namely our little compassion. The parable, v46-49, sums up our desperate state, our fallen humanness; it reminds us that our house is without foundations, that we have heard and not obeyed, and are therefore unprepared for the shaking day when the eschatological flood will burst upon us.

As with the Sinai covenant, the law properly serves to guide the Christian life, but it also forces us to rely, not on our own faithfulness, flawed as it is, but on the faithfulness of Christ. The Christian life progresses by grace through faith and not the works of the law. Here, in the Sermon on the Plain, we are forced to refocus on our need for grace. The poor, hungry, weeping, persecuted, those broken before God, they are the ones who find mercy. So, we are reminded that only one man has built his house on firm foundations. Only he has heard and obeyed the Word of God, and only his house will survive the coming terrible day. Best we stay with him and his righteousness.

 

iv] Synoptics

See 3:1-20. Again, both Luke and Matthew record a very similar strand of tradition, with most scholars of the view that they both used Q as their source. As usual, there are some interesting differences.

i6:39-40 - The first part of this double saying in Luke is found in Matthew 15:14 (a different context, referring to the Pharisees, but the same point is being made), and the second part in 10:24-25 (a different context, and a different point is being made).

i6:41-42 - Matt.7:3-5. Both records are similar.

i6:43-45 - Matt.7:15-20, 12:35. Matthew provides a specific context ("Beware of false prophets"), whereas Luke generalises, allowing the immediate context to dictate its meaning;

i6:46-49 - Matt.7:21-27. Matthew again provides a specific context in v22-23, whereas Luke allows the immediate context to dictate the meaning of the parable.

 

v] Ethics:

For the LGBTQ+ Christian community, an interview in 1985 between televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker and Steve Peters, a gay Christian minister suffering from Aids, was groundbreaking. In the interview, Bakker said "I want to tell you, there's a lot of Christians here who love you and wouldn't be afraid to put their arms around you, and tell you that we love you and we care."

Since those days, confusion has reigned in Evangelical circles, with either an acceptance of the gay lifestyle, or an outright rejection of it as evil. The Great Sermon provides a path through this ethical dilemma in the way it relates law and grace.

Properly interpreted, the sermon forces us to accept that our life is without foundation; we have heard God's words and not done them - no one is righteous, no not one. Any fair reading of the Bible tells us that a gay lifestyle is both unnatural and immoral, but then, so is remarriage and divorce. And who can claim to have not looked at another person with lust in their heart, cf., Matt.5:27? We were designed to love one partner, and that person of the opposite sex. The Great Sermon, by means of its absolute eschatological demands, forces us to accept both the moral grandeur of God's law, and the simple fact that we have never, and will never, comply with it. So, gay and straight alike have built their house on sand, and so neither have any ground for speck-removal.

Acceptance of this reality takes us back to where the sermon began, back to grace. The children of the kingdom, those who will be satisfied to the full, those who will be filled with joy, are the destitute, the broken before God, the lost. God's children are those who hear his word, struggle to comply, doing the best they can but inevitably living a compromised life, and so for salvation, rest wholly on what Jesus has done for them - all is of grace, through faith.

The way forward is not by denying sin, but by affirming grace.

 

vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 6:39

Sayings on discipleship, v39-49: i] Two conjoined sayings concerning blind guides, v39-40. Although a reference to the Pharisees obviously lies behind the proverb and its exposition, Luke's focus is on those who are led, thus serving to reinforce the human condition, which condition needs to be recognised.

Can one blind man lead another? Will they not both fall into a pit?, Rieu, cf., Matt.15:14. We are all in the pit, along with our teachers.

Although probably not Luke's point, many commentators still argue that these verses are directed at teachers, rather than students, but they are divided on who these teachers are, eg.: Pharisees, disciples, Christian ministers... Where the teacher is identified as a Christian, numerous interpretations are suggested, eg., Don't teach while still blind; don't teach in a judgmental fashion; let Jesus do the teaching, etc.

de kai "also" - but/and and. Transitional, indicating a step in the sermon / paragraph marker. It is possible that kai here serves as an adjunctive, "He spoke to them a parable as well", Nolland.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - [he said a proverb, parable] to them. Dative of indirect object. Presumably disciples / seekers. The word "parable" has a wide set of meanings, here obviously for an illustrative saying; "Jesus went on to use an illustration", Barclay.

mhti "-" - not. Interrogative particle introducing a question where the expected answer is negative.

oJdhgein (oJdhgew) pres. inf. "lead" - [a blind person is able] to lead [a blind person]? The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able".

ouci "-" - not [both] Interrogative particle introducing a question where the expected answer is positive.

baqunon (oV) acc. "a pit" - [will they fall into] a pit? Referring to a deep hole, not just a ditch.

 
v40

"Pupils are no better than their teacher - [their] training only leaves them like him", Rieu; cf., Matt.10:24, Jn.13:16, 15:20. Like teacher, like student - ignorance breeds ignorance.

uJper + acc. "above [his teacher]" - [a disciple = pupil is not] beyond [the = their teacher]. Here serving as a comparative; "more than, beyond." "A student does not surpass his teacher."

kathrismenoV (katakrizw) perf. pas. part. "who is fully trained" - having been mended, restored, created = trained. The participle may be adverbial possibly temporal, "but when he is fully trained"; or possibly conditional, "but if he is perfectly trained", Moffatt, or it may be adjectival, as NIV, taking paV, "all", as a substantive, "everyone". Here obviously with the particular meaning of to make adequate, to furnish completely, to cause to be fully qualified, adequacy*.

estai "will be" - [all] will be. The subject is not identified and may be the student, "he", REB, but more likely Gk. "all"; "every disciple", RSV., "everyone", NIV.

wJV "like" - like [the teacher of him]. Comparative.

 
v41

ii] A saying concerning speck removal, v41-42, cf., Matt.7:1-5. Again, prompting self-examination - the test of a judgmental spirit. "The primary intent is self-examination, not the examination of others", Bock. The test immediately exposes the human condition; we are all into speck removal. As the apostle puts it, "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." "It is sheer hypocrisy to seek to help others with ethical minutiae while failing to attend to [Jesus'] central demands of discipleship", Danker. The simple fact is that nonjudgmental compassion is beyond us - aim at it, yes, but it is beyond us. We all tend toward speck-removal to cover our own sins, particularly if we are unsure of the extent of God's grace. So, this tendency toward speck-removal serves to expose our sinful state and prompts us to fall back on the grace God rather than law, on receiving rather than doing.

Nolland notes that many interpretations of v41-42 follow the "self-improvement" line, eg., that believers should develop the art of self-criticism before attempting to critique another person, or stronger, believers "should not judge or condemn", Stein. Good advice, but the problem is we do judge and condemn, having denied our failings and sublimated the guilt into righteous indignation. Such is the human condition.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to a new saying.

tiv "why" - why. Interrogative particle introducing a rhetorical question governing both coordinate clauses.

blepeiV (blepw) pres. "look at" - do you see. The present tense, being durative, may give the sense "Why do you continually observe ...?" The sense is figurative, "perceive."

to karfoV (oV) "the speck" - the twig, speck, splinter. Accusative direct object of the verb "to see." Referring to something small and hard. "Speck of dust", Barclay.

en + dat. "in" - in. Local; expressing space / place.

tou adelfou "brother's" - [the eye] of the brother [of you]. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. "Brother" in the sense of "fellow believer", or more generally, "fellow member of a group."

ou katanoeiV (katanoew) pres. "pay no attention to" - [but/and] you do not notice, consider carefully, look at attentively. This verb is much stronger than "see". We constantly note, in passing, the sins of others, but rarely do we examine our own failings.

thn dokon (oV) fem. "the plank" - the log, beam. Accusative direct object of the verb "to consider." As of a roofing or flooring beam in a house. Bock rightly observes that what we should "take careful notice of" is our "sin in general."

thn "-" - the. This article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "in one's own eye" into an attributive modifier limiting "plank"; "the plank which is in your own eye."

tw/ idiw/ dat. adj. "your own [eye]" - [in] one's own [eye]. Often just as if a possessive, so "your", but here taking its strengthened sense, "your own."

 
v42

pwV "how" - Interrogative, introducing a rhetorical question; "how, in what way ...."

legein (legw) pres. inf. "say" - [how are you able] to say. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "are able".

tw/ adelfw (oV) dat. "to [your] brother" - to the brother [of you. Dative of indirect object.

afeV (afihmi) aor. imp. "let me" - [brother,] allow, permit me [that i may remove the speck]. This imperative, used in conjunction with the hortatory subjunctive ekbalw, "I may cast out, remove", gives the sense "please allow me to remove."

to "-" - the. The article serves as an adjectivizer, turning the prepositional phrase en tw/ ofqalmw/ sou, "in the eye of you", into an attributive modifier limiting "speck"; "which is in your eye."

en + dat. "-" - in [the eye of you]. Local, expressing space / place.

thn "-" - [yourself] the [log in the eye of you]. The feminine article seems to stand with dokon, "log, beam", but its position in the text indicates that it may serve as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase en tw/ ofqalmw/ sou, "in the eye of you", into an attributive modifier limiting "plank, log, beam"; "the plank which is in your eye."

ou blepwn (blepw) pres. part. "when you [yourself] fail to see" - not seeing. This is the only time Luke uses the negation ou with a participle (usually mh). Probably an adverbial participle, temporal, as NIV, although possibly concessive thus introducing a subordinate circumstantial clause, "although"; "and yet you never notice the plank in your own eye?", Moffatt.

uJpokrita (hV ou) voc. "hypocrite" - hypocrite. Vocative. The secular meaning of "play-actor" is certainly present, although the intended meaning probably pushes more toward the Hebrew equivalent of "liar / godless / deceitful", so "frauds", Phillips, rather than "show offs", CEV. Jesus elsewhere describes the Pharisees as "hypocrites" and so he may well be using them as an example of "the self-righteous person trying to improve others while he ignores (hides!!) his own weakness", Danker.

ek + gen. "out of [your eye]" - [first remove the log] from [the eye of you]. Expressing separation; "away from."

tote adv. "then" - then. Temporal adverb.

diableyeiV (diablepw) fut. "you will see clearly" - you will see clearly. In classical Gk. the word "means 'look fixedly as in deep thought.' Plato notes it as a habit of Socrates", Plummer.

ekbalein (ekballw) inf. "to remove" - to take out [the speck]. The infinitive is adverbial, consecutive, expressing result, or final, expressing purpose; "you will then see clearly with the result that you will be able to remove..."

to "-" - the [in the eye of the brother of you]. Again, the article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "in the eye ....." into an attributive modifier of "the speck."

 
v43

iii] A saying concerning trees and their fruit, v43-45. Again, prompting self-examination - the test of obedience. The test immediately tells us that, left in our flawed humanity, we are cursed; our fruit is poor. Given that "what one produces is finally a product of what one is", Nolland, it is surely not possible to hide from what one is, namely, a "bad tree."

Most commentators think the saying has ethical intent. Fitzmyer, for example, argues that Luke is making the point that if we want to correct others (v41-42) then we must first demonstrate our own goodness by good deeds; Stein, "Be doers of the word and not hearers only", cf., James 1:22; Bock, "The call to love is a process of honest self-evaluation and correction. This is a prerequisite for being in a position to help others." See Nolland, p308, for a summary of some of the standard ethical interpretations of v43-45. Yet, the simple fact is that Jesus is not calling on us to produce good fruit, even though good fruit is required of us, but getting us to observe the fact that our fruit is rotten because we are a diseased tree - the human condition leaves us naturally flawed.

gar "-" - for. Possibly explanatory, but it may just function as a transitional connective, introducing the next saying.

kalon adj. "good" - [there is no] good, beautiful [tree]. In what sense "good": healthy, a good variety, fruit producing... ?

estin ... poioun "bears" - producing, doing, making [decayed, rotten, unsuitable, unfit, bad fruit, nor again = on the other hand is there a bad tree producing good fruit]. Periphrastic present, possibly underlining durative action.

 
v44

The presence of an introductory gar indicates that this verse serves as an explanation of v43, namely, that the nature / character of a tree is evidenced by its fruit. "Just as a person can't pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from brambles. so they can't pick good fruit from a bad tree."

gar "-" - for. Explanatory, "for you see"; "As everyone knows", TH.

ekaston pro. "each" - each, every [tree]. Possibly "each of [the] two", Jeremias.

ginwsketai (ginomai) pres. "recognised" - will be known. Probably a gnomic present, expressing an accepted fact - a general truth.

ek "by" - from [the one's own fruit, for not from thorns do they gather figs, nor from a thorn bush do they pick grapes]. Expressing source / origin; the source of the knowledge, which source is the state of the fruit. It is from the fruit that the worth of the tree is known.

 
v45

Both Matthew and Luke link this saying with the fruit-tree saying, but Matthew repeats it in 12:35, again with respect to the Pharisees, indicating that it may have originally served as a self-contained independent saying. It serves to apply the fruit-tree saying, v43-44, making the point that our Achilles heel is our mouth. Our utterances expose our character, which in turn serves to expose the dire state of our heart.

proferei (proferw) pres. "brings .... out" - [the good man] produces. The present tense is probably iterative here, expressing repeated action. Note the observation, "the mouth sometimes professes what the heart does not feel", Plummer.

to agaqon adj. "good things" - the good = good things. The articular adjective serves as a substantive, accusative direct object of the verb "to produce."

ek + gen. "of" - from. Expressing source / origin.

thV kardiaV (a) gen. "[the good stored up in his] heart" - [the good storehouse / treasure] of the heart. The genitive is adjectival, possibly possessive, "the heart's good storehouse", although Culy suggests that it is epexegetic. Again, commentators often proceed on the assumption that it is possible for a person to have a "good" heart and that this goodness is gained either by obedience and / or identification with Christ, eg., Marshall. With this approach the passage is understood to prompt "self-evaluation and correction", Bock, a prompt to "reform" our lives, Ellis, and thus "is a call to a true inner goodness of the heart", Nolland, a prompt "to bring forth goodness continuously from the treasure of their heart", Bovon. It is true that a moral imperative can be drawn from the saying, but primarily, given its context, it prompts self-examination and thus an awareness of our state of sin. Does not the mouth remind us that none are good, no not one?

gar "for" - [and the evil man produces evil things from the evil stored up in his heart] for. Introducing a causal clause explaining why the kindly nature mouths kindness and the evil nature mouths evil, namely because "everything is decided in the heart", Bovon.

ek + gen. "-" - from. Expressing source / origin.

kardiaV (a) gen. "what the heart [is full of]" - [abundance] of heart [speaks the mouth of him]. The genitive may be classified as verbal, subjective, so Culy, or adjectival, attributed; "from the overflowing heart his lips give utterance", Berkeley - the mouth gives us away

 
v46

iv] The parable of the wise and foolish builders, v46-49. The Great Sermon concludes with a teaching parable. Marshal suggests it serves "to stress the importance of obedience to what has been heard." As Stein puts it, the parable teaches that "the person who hears Jesus words and does them will escape judgment", and thankfully, "believers keep Jesus' commandments" (really!!!) and so do not face judgment, "because they are committed to him." So, the parable encourages obedience; "to build on the rock is to hear and to do", Danker; or, with a touch of the allegorical, "Just as there is only one foundation, so only those who are by personal contact with him built directly and squarely on the foundation of his Word, believed, applied and performed, will survive the storms here and hereafter", Gooding; or as a full-blown allegory, "a disciple must build his house on the rock which Jesus himself is", Tinsley. Given the old children's chorus, "Build on the Rock and not upon the sand", it's very hard not to interpret this passage in the terms of building our life on Jesus and his Word - which, by the way, is the best advice anyone can ever be given.

It is perverse, if not at least counter-intuitive, to suggest that this parable is not all about building our life on rock, but this is likely the case. The parable is not so much into telling us what to do, but is telling us what we have done; it confronts us with the reality that we have built our house on sand and so await the great sunepesen, "collapse". We have all heard God's words and have not put them into practice; we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, day in and day out, and therefore rightly face "ruin", judgment. Reminded of our "destitute" state, we are forced to rely on grace and by this means find "reward in heaven", v20-23. The parable reminds "the poor" of their human condition, and thus to "seek sure foundations" (Melinsky) in their Christian life - to live by grace rather than by works of the law.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the sermon.

kaleite (kalew) pres. "you call" - [why] do you call [me lord, lord]. The present tense is probably iterative, expressing repeated action; "why do you keep on saying that I am your Lord", CEV.

ou poieite (poiew) pres. "do not do" - [and] you do not do [what i say]? "Refuse to do", CEV, is too strong; inaction is better, "and not do what I tell you", Barclay.

 
v47

Luke's version of the parable focuses on the preparation of a good foundation for a building, rather than on the construction process; such is like a person who obeys the divine will and who therefore survives scrutiny at the day of judgment. Cf., Matthew.7:24-27 where the focus is on the wise / prudent and foolish builders. As already noted, Unlike Matthew, in 7:21-23, Luke gets to the point quickly.

oJ ercomenoV (ercomai) pres. part. "[as for everyone] who comes" - [everyone] the one coming [toward me]. Taking the adjective paV, "all", as a substantive, "everyone", the participle, as with "hearing" and "doing, putting into practice" is adjectival, attributive, limiting "everyone". The person who builds on a good foundation is like the one who comes, hears and does. The present tense is durative, indicating ongoing action, possibly "an abiding attitude", TH. There is no mention of the bad builder, v49, coming to Jesus, but it is surely assumed. Again indicating that the sermon is for disciples / seekers. "Everyone who comes to me, listens to my words and obeys", NCV.

twn logwn (oV) gen. "words" - [and hearing] the words [of me]. Genitive of direct object after the participle "hearing". The genitive mou, "of me", is adjectival, possessive, although it may be classified as verbal, subjective, "the words uttered by me." In Luke, the genitive modifier usually follows its noun so its placement here before logwn, "words", is emphatic, so Culy.

uJpodeixw (uJpodeiknumi) fut. "I will show" - i will inform, show, point out. In Greek literature the word is used to introduce an example. The subject is obviously Jesus, but syntactically it should be the singular collective paV, "everyone who comes .....", ie., an anacoluthon.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.

tini dat. pro. "what" - to whom [he is likened]. Dative of direct object after the uJpo prefix verb "to show, inform."

 
v48

Note variant "for it was founded upon rock" instead of "because it was well built." An obvious leaning toward Matthew's account.

oJmoioV adj. "like" - [he is] like, similar. Comparative adjective.

anqrwpw/ (oV) dat. "a man" - to a man. Dative of the thing compared.

oikodomounti (oikodomew) dat. pres. part. "building" - building [a house]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "man"; "a man who built a house."

eskayen kai ebaqunen "dug down deep" - [who] dug and went down deep. A hendiadys where two words in the Gk. are joined by "and" to form a single idea; "excavated".

epi + acc. "on" - [and laid a foundation] upon [the rock]. Spatial; "down upon."

genomenhV (ginomai) aor. part. "when [a flood] came" - [and a flood] having come, [the river burst upon, struck upon]. The genitive participle, and its genitive subject "flood", forms a genitive absolute construction, usually taken to introduce a temporal clause, as here.

th/ oikia/ (a) dat. "house" - [that] house. Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to burst upon."

saleusai (saleuw) aor. inf. "[could not] shake" - [it was not strong, able, had power] to shake [it]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "was not able".

dia to + inf. "because" - because of, on account of [it well to have been built]. This construction, the preposition dia + an articular infinitive, introduces a causal clause. The subject of the infinitive "it" is accusative, forming an accusative infinitive construction.

 
v49

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, here to a contrasting point.

oJ akousaV (akouw) aor. part. "the one who hears my words" - the one having heard [and having not done]. The participle, as with "the one not having done", serves as a substantive. The aorist is probably gnomic, expressing a general truth as NIV.

anqrwpw/ (oV) dat. "a man" - [is like] a man. Dative of the thing compared.

oikodomhsanti (oikodomew) aor. part. "who built [a house]" - having built [a house]. The participle serves as an attributive adjective limiting "man".

epi + acc. "on [the ground]" - upon [the earth, land]. Spatial; "down upon."

cwriV + gen. "without" - without, apart from [a foundation]. In Matthew's account the problem is building on sand, for Luke, the problem is building without a foundation.

h|/ dat. pro. "-" - which [the river struck against, burst upon]. The dative could be classified as a dative of disadvantage, but more properly a dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "to burst upon."

sunepesen (sumpiptw) aor. "it collapsed" - [and immediately] it fell together, collapsed. "The whole fell together in a heap", Plummer.

thV oikiaV (a) gen. "destruction" - [and the ruin, destruction] of [that] house [was great]. The genitive is adjectival, usually treated as verbal, objective; "It was smashed to pieces", CEV. Note that mega, "great", is emphatic by position (last in the Gk. sentence).

 

Luke Introduction

Exposition

Exegetical Commentaries

 

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