Luke 6:39-49

House built on rock sitting securely as winds and floods engulf it.

 "House built on rock sitting securely as winds and floods engulf it." 
Reprinted from Icon: Visual Images for Every Sunday, copywrite© 2000 Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission.


Some formatting of this text might give the impression that we here have disconnected thoughts. We do not agree with that idea. If the reader will read the parallels of our text in Matthew, he will find that these same sayings were used for different purposes on different occasions. Verses 39, 40, 43-45 are found also in Matthew, but with different applications. (Verses 41-42 are not found elsewhere in the Gospels.) We agree with Franzmann ( Concordia Self-Study Commentary) who sees verses 39-49 as a unit with a common thread of thought from beginning to end.

Franzmann: The disciples are not to be blind leaders of the blind (like the scribes and Pharisees who led people to their ruin. Matthew 15:14), they must be FULLY TAUGHT, in order to be LIKE their TEACHER (40). To lead the blind, they need clarity of vision; they can lead people to repentance only as forgiven leaders, as men who have taken the LOG out of their OWN EYE by repentance (39-42). They can, moreover, lead people only by being what they proclaim, GOOD TREES bearing GOOD FRUIT, GOOD MEN producing good from the treasury of their HEARTS (43-45). In a rod, they can fulfill their function by hearing and doing the WORDS of their Lord, by taking up His teaching into their mind, heart, and will. Thus their life will be a HOUSE BUILT UPON ROCK, stable and unshaken when the house WITHOUT A FOUNDATION (the house of those who pay only lip service to their Lord, 46) falls in RUIN under the judgment of their Lord (46-49).

Luke 6:39 He also told them this parable:  "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher." 

"Parable" here means "illustration." AAT has "He pictured it to them in this way." 

Now follow two questions each with an emphatic form of a leading particle. The first expects an emphatic "no." The second expects an emphatic "yes." In ordinary affairs among people a blind man would never expect to lead other blind people, nor would the latter expect it of the former. But in matters of religion people show their utter stupidity by

  1. blind teachers who not only think that their blind teachers can see clearly but also advertise themselves as such, and

  2. blind people who actually think that their blind teachers can see, and

  3. these blind followers actually think that they are now seeing when they are really not.

Lenski: Nothing is worse than when people thing that they see when in reality they are blind, and when in their delusion they make bold to act as leaders and guides for others whom they think blind and who, indeed, are blind in fact. This was the fatal delusion of the scribes and Pharisees, whose was a self-willed, deliberate blindness, a fixed opposition to the light and to sight, who obdurately chose darkness rather than light (John 3:19) and proudly called their blindness sight (John 9:40-41).

Read John 9:39-41. Jesus coming into the world was for the purpose of removing spiritual blindness which is the delusion that says:  "I can see." The truly "seeing" person is the one who grieves over his own blindness. That is paradoxical but true. Compare St Paul before and after conversion. Read Philippians 3:4-14  or Timothy 1:12-16. Look at the fourth stanza of hymn #359 in the  Lutheran Worship. This is how the truly repentant person looks at himself.

In this context verse 40 of our text means that if the teacher is blind, the pupil cannot rise above the teacher's blindness. Every learner is thoroughly equipped just as is his teacher. If the teacher is thoroughly equipped with the stupidity of spiritual blindness that's just the way the learner will be. Likewise, if the teacher is equipped with spiritual sight and insight, the learner will be equipped with the same.

Luke 6:41  "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, 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 your brother's eye." 

These verses are not found in the Gospel of Matthew. Those who think that Luke's sermon is abbreviated from Matthew's sermon have a hard time accounting for the fact that these verses are not found in Matthew.

In these verses Jesus presents us with an exaggerated hyperbole. It is purposely ridiculous. But Jesus was not entertaining His hearers. He is showing how ridiculous the spiritually blind teachers are.

A "speck of sawdust" is a little stick as opposed to the "plank," a large limb. "Your brother" is "your neighbor." Think a bit. Actually, were a man to have a limb in his own eye he would not be able to see anything. But we are talking about the deluded man who thinks he sees a bit of spiritual darkness in his neighbor's eye but is wholly unaware of his own. Verse 41 portrays the hopeless condition of the man who is not only spiritually blind but totally deluded and proud of his blindness.

The first question is a "why" question, the second is a "how" question. Both are second use of the Law to make us examine ourselves. Christians are not immune to what is said here. The older one becomes the more he see the many instances of this in his own life.

"When you yourself fail" is translated by ATT "as long as you fail." We suggest that perhaps it could be concessive:  "although you yourself are not seeing the limb in your own eye." 

Jesus is stressing the blindness of the person to himself. Jesus calls such a person a hypocrite, a play actor, one who poses as something which he is not. When Jesus tells this person that he must first extricate the limb from his own eye He means that the individual must first repent. To be in Christ means to be a new creature, a different person, honest about himself (concerning his sinfulness) and honest about God (that He, for Christ's sake, forgives all sin). Only such a person is in a position to heal the spiritual wounds of another.

What Jesus here pictures is contrary to nature. That's how awful spiritual blindness is. And, its cure is impossible with men. Its cure is a miracle wrought by the Gospel which is the power of God to salvation.

Luke 6:43  "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. 45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." 

This is plainly explanatory. Verses 43-45 explain what precedes. Jesus is still talking about what He has been speaking about in verses 39-42. This is the third illustration. The first one (verses 39-40) was ridiculous. The second is even more ridiculous (verses 41-42). This one (verses 43-45) is so simple, contrary to nature, very apt.

Note the order of the words in the first sentence. The negative is places emphatically forward:  "Not is a good tree bringing forth worthless fruit." And then the converse is stated. We think that verse 44 is parenthetical. In that verse Jesus states a principle and then an example. It would be ridiculous to gather figs from thorn bushes or grapes from briar bushes. The deluded, spiritually blind are like inferior trees, like thorn bushes, like briar bushes. Who would expect beneficial fruit from such trees? But they in their delusion are thinking that they are producing beneficial fruits.

Fallen human nature is constantly wanting to be rewarded for poor or mediocre work. Christian teachers experience this constantly because of the flesh of their pupils, though they be Christians. It is a cross which teachers must bear.

Now Jesus makes application. "Evil" means actively evil:  "The beneficial person from the beneficial treasury of his heart bring forth that which is beneficial and the actively evil person from that which is actively evil brings froth the actively evil." 

Then follows another explanatory "for." The final sentence means: "From what his heart is full of, his mouth speaks." As the heart, so the speech. Jesus spoke gracious words. He spoke with authority. So can every Christian if he has a change of heart. The righteousness of Jesus' sermon is an inner righteousness, a heart-righteousness. The Christian should constantly be praying: "Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me." 

Luke 6:46  "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" 

A parallel to this verse is found at Matthew 7:21 but with a slightly different application. There it follows a paragraph (verses 15-20) about avoiding false prophets. And incidentally, there the illustration about a good tree not being able to produce inferior fruit is used in the context of false prophets.

Very likely "and" here in Luke 6:46 is adversative "but." What is meant by "not doing what Jesus says?" (By the way, Jesus is not using illustrations here. He is speaking literally.) The doubling of the word "Lord" helps us. This likely denotes the hyperactivity and hypocrisy of the person who is a spiritually blind person. Jesus is not talking about mere obedience. By "doing what He says" Jesus covers the whole matter of repentance and faith.

Lenski: The essential doing is faith, note the thought in John 6. There Jesus says: 'this is the work of God (subjective genitive), that you believe in Him whom He sent.' (Verse 29) And in verse 39: ' This is the will of the One who sent Me, that I lose none of that which He gave Me, but I will raise him up on the last day.' And verse 40: 'This is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him has life eternal, and I will raise him on the last day.'

Luke 6:47  "I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." 

Note that "comes to me" is mentioned only of the man in verse 47, not of the one in verse 49. That is hardly an accident. Furthermore, note that the participles, three of them, in verse 47 are present tense whereas the two participles in verse 49 are aorist. That is significant. Verse 47 is speaking about a person with whom his way of life is a constant habit. He is constantly coming to Christ, hearing His Word and doing it.

TEV translates: "obeys." JB. NEB, and NASB have "acts upon them." NIV has "puts them into practice." We object to all three of these renderings. Surely the word "do" covers both faith toward God and love toward neighbor. It is best to leave it as "does them" as KJV, NKJV, RSV, and AAT read it. The true Christian believes with his heart and confesses with his mouth that Jesus was raised from the dead. Romans 10:9. His faith works by loveGalatians 5:6. In Christ he is a new creature. The old things have passed away. They have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17. 

Verse 48 tells us why this builder was successful. He went down to bedrock and built his house thereon. Nothing is said about the house itself. We are left with the impression that the two houses looked very much alike. The difference lay in the foundation. Verse 48 tells us that the storm was not even able to shake this house. Not even a tremor. That is really solid. This denotes the firmness of the faith and life of the Christian. Look at 1 Corinthians 15:58. The Christian stands firm like a statue, unmovable. He has a good foundation.

Now comes the other man, the one in verse 49. The two aorist participles leave one with the impression that he had little patience with hearing and none with doing. His house was founded on the earth. This text reminds us of hymn #368 in Lutheran Worship or #370 in The Lutheran Hymnal. Christ is our solid rock. All other ground is sinking sand.

We think of 1 Corinthians 3:11Isaiah 28:16Romans 9:33. The rock here is the person, Word, and work of Christ whether we find that in the Old Testament or the New Testament. His Word will never pass away. His Word gives eternal life. John 6:68. Think of all the wonderful things which are said about the Word in Psalm 119.

The text tells us: "It fell immediately and the fall of the house was great." That, of course, ultimately denotes everlasting loss and destruction. Commentators differ as to what the rainstorm means. Does it denote death, the trials of life, or the final judgment? Perhaps all three are meant but it would seem that, since death is our greatest enemy, both temporal and eternal, the finality of death is pointed to here. In any case, if God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31.

We suggested "Make certain that you are a true disciple" as a theme for this text. This text is surely more than an example of what made the Pharisees squirm when Jesus preached. It is for me to examine myself, repent of my sins, and believe the Gospel.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Luke-John, Festival Season Sundays Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 37-39. Used with permission.

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