He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” – Luke 12:54-59
Today’s passage returns to the more traditional water elements of clouds and rain. It follows some hard teachings that Jesus was sharing earlier in the chapter about how traditional societal structures are likely to be disrupted if people really follow His teachings. Even things like family may be torn apart as people choose different ways to respond to the message that Jesus is sharing. The implication is that this conflict and change is an important part of the process of making our way to the undiscovered country and crossing the river than no one can cross.
Jesus is talking to the crowd and causing them to reflect on ways that they can predict certain weather outcomes based on past experience. For example, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is.” Once Jesus has them exploring their own experience with weather prediction he grabs them with a somewhat shocking accusation – he calls them “Hypocrites!”. Dictionary.com defines hypocrite this way “a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess…”
It is not clear who Jesus is directing this accusation at except those who are unable to interpret the obvious signs of the “weather change” that is standing in front of them. Presumably there were teachers of the law and religious leaders listening as well as other lay people and the disciples. Earlier in this chapter, Luke 12:41, Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?” Jesus did not really answer his question but began this discourse about reading the signs of the savior for which this passage is the culmination. I think the answer is that He was talking to everyone, including me as I read this thousands of years after the event.
Jesus asks the rhetorical question to the confounded crowd “You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?” I think in many ways what Jesus is getting at is that the signs of this spiritual squall they are experiencing should have been every bit as obvious as the signs they use to predict the weather, but there was a disconnect between the secular and the spiritual in their lives.
As the crowd is looking inward at their souls and the extent to which they can see the signs Jesus says “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” This would seem to be a strange statement unless these people were in fact allowing others to do their thinking and judging for them. Jesus follows with sharing an example “As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
I may be wrong but it seems like the core of what Jesus is trying to get at here is that the internal change and ability to see the spiritual truths He is sharing are supposed to result in an outward change in our behavior. Instead of allowing appointed judges to resolve conflicts we should be trying our best to resolve them ourselves while remaining in community with one another. Abdicating this responsibility is missing part of the process that is apparently required to be stripped down to the soul so we can be rebuilt in God’s image. If this is the case then conflict, and conflict resolution among followers of Christ, is a feature not a flaw. Practicing forgiving one another helps us learn to accept the forgiveness that God is freely offering through His son Jesus.
In order to become accurate spiritual “weather forecasters” we need to have experiences with listening to God’s spirit and applying it to our everyday lives, including our challenges and conflicts with one another. It is apparently only through this crucible of conflict that we can become children of God and learn how to see the unseeable and know the unknowable.
Prayer: God give us eyes to see that conflict when resolved within community can strengthen our spiritual eyesight.