- Language Features
- Immediate Context
- Parallel Passages
Verse 2 is directly tied to verse 3 by the Greek word αντι (an-tee') which is translated in most versions as "Therefore," "Accordingly," or some variation. This means the outcome in verse 3 should be seen as a result of the principle stated in verse 2. This shows the greater principle is concealment and exposure rather than speech itself. Speech is an application of the more general principle already given.
A prominent feature of verse 3 is its Hebrew parallelism, which is usually two phrases given in different words but having the same or contrasting meaning. In this case, the phrase "said in the dark will be heard in the daylight" is parallel to "whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs." Since these two phrases are not contrasted, they are to be taken as synonymous. The wording is also more "flowery" than the preceding statement, another hallmark of poetry.
The emphasis here is not as much on "said" and "whispered" as the secretive aspect and the subsequent exposure of our speech. We see this emphasized in the terms dark/daylight, whispered/proclaimed, and inner rooms/roofs. This follows nicely the principle given verse 2, and is simply a poetic restatement with an emphasis on what a person says. Because it is poetry, we can allow for speech here to work as a metaphor.
Side note: Roofs were flat and open, and during some seasons were used like modern individuals might use a patio. To get a picture of how this may sound to a listener of the time, imagine having a private conversation using megaphones on a crowded beach.
The passage is directly preceded by verse 1 which states (ESV):
In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered
together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his
disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is
This ties verses 2 and 3 together with the preceding section by the introductory phrase "In the meantime," in which Jesus is pronouncing woes to the Pharisees and Lawyers for their duplicity and the approval of others (Luke 11:37-54). Examples include:
- you cleanse the outside of the cup, but inside are full of greed and wickedness
- you love the best seat in synagogues, greetings in marketplace
- you are like unmarked graves people walk over without knowing
Directly after this diatribe regarding the hypocrisy of the Pharisees/Lawyers, we have our passage in question, in which Jesus warns about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Hypocrisy, then, is the theme of this entire passage.
Verse 2 and 3 are followed by the following warning in verses 4 and 5:
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and
after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you
whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority
to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
This again is in regard to hypocrisy. Hypocrites are concerned with appearances, but their appearances do not match what they are in secret. The prescription for this is to fear God rather than men. Men do not know what we are in secret, so it is possible we may fool them by acting differently in public than we are in private.
In verses 6 and 7, Jesus argues that God doesn't even forget sparrows (which are sold by the penny), so he won't forget us who are worth so much more than sparrows: Again, the admonishment is to not fear men, but to fear God who even knows the number of hairs on our heads. Because God knows us intimately, He is able to judge us accurately. Therefore, we should be more concerned about his judgement than those of men. Also, he has authority to throw us in hell, whereas men can only harm our bodies temporarily.
This is then followed by stern warning about what we say regarding Jesus, making the transition from fearing man/fearing God back to our speech, which was the manner the topic was originally introduced. Here Jesus emphasizes our speech in the following ways:
- whoever acknowledges Jesus before men will he will acknowledge before God
- whoever denies Jesus before men he will deny before God
- whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven
- whoever is brought before the authorities (because of Christ), the Holy Spirit will teach what to say
This section on confession regarding Messiah (the Son of Man) is in contrast with the hypocrites, whose public and private speech are at odds in order to be favored by men. The disciples, on the other hand, will publicly proclaim the same things they talk about in private, regardless of the persecution that may result.
With everything in context, here's what it looks like in outline form:
- Woes to the Pharisees/Lawyers (11:37-54)
- Warning to beware of the Pharisee's hypocrisy (12:1-3)
- Warning not to fear men but God (12:3-7)
- Warning to acknowledge Messiah publicly (12:8-12)
A direct parallel with some variation is given in Matthew 10:26,27:
“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that
will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is
whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.
In this version, Matthew quotes Jesus as saying what he has told them in private they will make known in public. Either this is a different occasion when Jesus gave his disciples a similar teaching to that recorded in Luke, or this is the same occasion and the differences are due to the emphasis of the authors or variations in the source material they used.
In Matthew 10, the outline looks like this:
- Warning about persecution (16-25)
- Warning not to fear men but God (Matthew 26-31)
- Warning to acknowledge Messiah publicly (32,33)
- Warning that persecution will come from those closest to us (34-39)
We can see from this that the passage in Matthew has considerable overlap to the passage in Luke. However, Matthew emphasizes public confession in the face of persecution and omits the contrast regarding hypocrisy.
Luke and its counterpart in Matthew both have in common the admonishment to make a good confession. In Matthew, the disciples are told to proclaim what Jesus has taught them. In Luke, they are to acknowledge the Messiah before men. In both, they are told not to fear men, but God.
In the Lukan passage, however, this takes place in contrast to that of hypocrisy, which comes from the desire to please men.
In both accounts, the pivotal principle is the following which is nearly identical in all three synoptics:
Luke 10:2 (ESV)
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed,
or hidden that will not be known.
Matthew 10:26b (ESV)
...nothing is covered that will not be revealed,
or hidden that will not be known.
Mark 4:22 (ESV).
For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest;
nor is anything secret except to come to light.
Because of the following features of the passage we can accept speech here to function as a metaphor for what we do:
- passage is sandwiched in between a discussion on hypocrisy,
- emphasis is on concealment and exposure more so than speech,
- because the references to speech are poetic
According to the author, the bottom line is that nothing is hidden before God, so we should fear him rather than men. We certainly should not think that we can keep secrets.
Whether or not they will be revealed in the final judgement or not, we can not tell from the passage.