SERMON ON THE PLAIN: BLIND GUIDES, EYE-DOCTORS, AND ROTTEN FRUIT

shd10-speck-and-log

Luke 6:41-45

As Luke records Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, we note that so far, Jesus has taught about love. His followers are to love their enemies and treat all people, but especially their enemies, with compassion and mercy. In other words, Christians are to go out of their way to treat everybody with the utmost respect and kindness. That is the essence of what real love is: how we treat others.

At this point in the sermon, Jesus delves into the psyche of the Christian mind to deal with a most heinous sin: the sin of self-delusion.

1. Seeing yourself in the right light

He begins with this:

He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? (Luke 6:39)

At first, it seems like Jesus is completely changing the subject. He had just taught about loving our enemies, lending freely without expecting to get anything back, and other very thought-provoking notions. Jesus’ teaching was in stark contrast to the dry-as-dust teaching of the scribes. Why was their teaching so dry and burdensome? It’s because of the truth buried in verse 39! The scribes were pretty much a useless bunch in terms of leading God’s people because they were “the blind” trying to lead “the blind.”

There is no more delusional a man than one who thinks he is a fount of wisdom when, in fact, he has none. This was the fatal delusion of the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They thought they were the repositories of God’s wisdom of the ages. But they were, in reality, the “blind guides” of verse 39. It’s understandable that the average man is “blind” or unlearned. But it’s particularly pathetic when a man automatically assumes he has all kinds of knowledge simply by virtue of his position in life, his title, or even his education! None of these blessings make one wise. And the point of this brief parable is that nothing good can come from an ignorant man trying lead an ignorant man. Eventually they will “fall into a pit.” In other words, sooner or later both the delusional teacher and the ignorant student will be worse off than before.

But what is this “pit” they fall into? Some Bible scholars rightly note that Jesus is teaching his disciples some very profound and deep spiritual truths so the “pit” of the parable to them represents Hell. There is some merit to this view. The delusional teacher of the Law doesn’t have the truth in him and the ignorant follower is in the exact same state. Without the truth of the Gospel, there is no hope for either of them.

Here was a powerful warning from Jesus to His disciples. They should be careful who they are listening to. It may well be that Jesus’ message is stronger than that. The Twelve, most of whom were listening to Jesus’ sermon, were destined to replace the blind guides. But if they were to assume the role of teacher and leader, they must do so with humility and not pride, like the scribes and the Pharisees. They must be motivated by love, the kind of love Jesus had just been teaching about.

Following this, Jesus makes an interesting statement:

Students are not above their teacher, but all who are fully trained will be like their teacher. (Luke 6:40)

As we read this proverbial-sounding statement, we immediately think of instances where this is not necessarily true. Many students out pace their teachers in terms of knowledge. So right away we know Jesus has something more than mere knowledge or even wisdom in mind here. The key is character. And the primary application of this verse has to do with Jesus, the Teacher, and his disciples, the students. The connection with the previous verse is comes into view. One day, the Twelve will be the teachers and they will, eventually be fully trained, just like their teacher, Jesus.

This was so important for these men to hear at the outset of their journey with Jesus. Here they were, “unschooled and untrained,” according to Acts 4:13, yet our Lord has just informed them they would be the teachers one day. The distance between them and the scribes and the Pharisees was great, but the distance between them and Jesus was immense!

What Jesus had done with these two verses was tell His friends that whatever the scribes and Pharisees thought about themselves, they were in truth ignorant and blind and that they, the disciples, would be thoroughly trained and taught by Jesus to be the spiritual leaders the aforementioned groups never were. Though they could never be the Teacher He was, they would be what the people needed.

2. Humility is the key

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say, `Friend, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from the other person’s eye. (Luke 6:41-42)

The kind of humility needed by the disciples is fleshed out in these two verses.

In Matthew, this teaching is tied to an admonition against judging others. Here in Luke it is part of the teaching against the blind haughtiness of the scribes and Pharisees. It’s easy to see how this humorous injunction relates to both situations! The scribes and Pharisees were experts on how other people ought to lives their lives and they were the only ones fit to judge.

Here is one group of verses never meant to be taken literally. It is physically impossible for a man to walk around with a plank of wood sticking out of his eye. The same is true regarding the “speck,” which in the Greek would be something like a “piece of straw.” It’s a ridiculous picture of two men walking around with big, long things poking out of their eyes.

It’s just as ridiculous for a spiritually blind guide to try and lead a spiritually blind person. See the connection? Jesus is teaching the same thing twice. Blind guides lead blind followers into pits, and how ridiculous is it for an eye doctor with a pole hanging out of his eye to convince a poor guy with a piece of straw in his eye that he knows what’s best for him! That’s the essence of what Jesus is saying here. Whatever other wonderful applications you can find, this is the simple meaning of these four verses.

The would-be eye doctor of Jesus’ illustration is called a “hypocrite.” This word is used to describe a person who pretends to be something he is not. We call them actors, and in Jesus’ homey story, the actor is a deliberate deceiver. The blind guide and man with a pole in his eye are both deceivers, trying to convince others they have what the he needs. In both cases, the end for the hypocrite is not good.

If these disciples, the Twelve and others listening to Jesus, wanted to follow in their Master’s footsteps, they could never develop egos like the scribes and Pharisees, thus deluding themselves, and they needed to remain humble, never thinking they were something they were not.

Jesus is certainly not discouraging the disciples, or by application any member of the Body of Christ today, from acts of mutual discipline. The last clause suggests the distinct possibility of removing the “speck” or “straw” from another’s eye. However, it is only after God’s grace has removed the plank from one eye, that the former pretend eye-doctor will be able to see clearly enough to help out another in need.

3. Bearing the right fruit

In Matthew, these verses follow a teaching on false prophets, here they are given in connection with the plank-eyed hypocrites. The meaning is broad but obvious: a man is known by the fruit of his life as surely as a tree is.

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. (Luke 6:43-44)

In some versions, the word “for” starts off verse 43. Often going from Greek to English, “for” is unnecessary and left untranslated, but here verse 43 cries out to have it! “For no good tree bears bad fruit…” Verse 43 is intimately connected to what preceded it. Jesus is teaching that if you have a plank in your eye, you are producing bad spiritual fruit. Therefore pull it out and start bearing the right kind of fruit. Good fruit comes from a healthy tree and followers of Jesus ought to be producing good fruit. Bad fruit, obviously, comes from unhealthy trees.

Every tree, good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, is known by the quality of its fruit. This is important to note. All trees – note ALL trees – are capable of producing fruit. But the abundant fruit of some trees may not be fit to eat no matter how good it may look. One bite of really awful, sour fruit and you know that tree is not a good tree! The connection between, (1) the blind guides, (2) the plank-eyed hypocrite, and (3) the fruit from the bad tree should have been obvious to those listening as it should be obvious to us. Not every teacher or spiritual leader is what they seem. If you think yourself a spiritual leader, make sure you are genuine; that you have been taught and trained by Jesus, and that your life is bearing the right kind of fruit

Here is the punchline:

Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in their heart, and evil people bring evil things out of the evil stored up in their heart. For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. (Luke6:45)

This is what Jesus wanted His disciples, and us, to take away from His sermon. Only the good man is capable of doing good things as they are already in his heart. The evil man can only produce evil works because that is what is in his heart. This truth is so important, Jesus repeats it three times!

It’s what’s inside a man that counts. What’s inside will eventually find its way outside for all to see. All of this hearkens back to the very beginning of Jesus’ sermon were He taught the beatitudes which reveal how the human heart is made new by receiving the Kingdom of God.

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