Luke 12:1 - Crowd-Dough

Luke 12 opens with a description of the setting, "...many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another." While this may seem that Luke includes this to emphasize the quantity of people gathering to hear Jesus speak, there are indications that this is not the reason or not the only reason. First, Luke does not say that the people are gathering around Jesus or gathering to hear him speak, just that they "gathered together." Also, there is that strange additional note that they were "trampling" one another. When we read the content of Jesus' teaching, the purpose for this setting is revealed.

The first thing that Jesus says to his disciples is, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy" (12:1). Luke notes the gathered, dense crowd to be an image of Jesus' teaching. Just as the Pharisees are yeast, the bad growth in the dense dough of Israel, so the crowd is the dense dough and the bad growth that is occurring is trampling of one another.

This is a striking setting for teaching. Jesus is trying to teach while there is the commotion and actual physical harm done to bodies. But Jesus offers his own yeast. In contrast to the yeast of the Pharisees, Jesus, within the dense dough of the crowd, teaches, injecting good yeast, anti-hypocrisy, urging the disciples to be whole, men of integrity with their insides matching their outsides.

In contrast to the leaven, that is hypocrisy, of the Pharisees, Jesus will demonstrate his integrity, the consonance of his inner and outer worlds throughout Luke's Gospel, doing the very things he admonishes here. He will not "lay up treasures on earth" (12:21) because he will leave with nothing and he will not be anxious but seek first God's kingdom even when he is in a situation most susceptible to anxiety: false accusations and capital punishment.

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