"Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?" (Luke 12:54-57)

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?" (Luke 12:54-57)

Why is the audience important?

Jesus is speaking directly to a crowd, rather than his close disciples - whom he was speaking with earlier.

It is critical to understand the context of Jesus' statement, most specifically who Jesus is speaking to. This opposes many interpretations of today's teachers who like to create generalities of each of Jesus' statements, as though he is making every statement to all of humankind.

This, however, does not result in an understanding of Jesus' teachings.

For example, what if a college physics professor walks into a third-grade classroom. Does he begin writing complex equations on the board and discussing quantum physics with the children?

Certainly not. He will speak in generalities - possibly trying to tell the kids what physics is from a more basic level. But in order to understand physics specifically, the kids will eventually (later) need to attend a college physics class.

Within the texts of the four Gospels, we find that Jesus spoke variously to 1) his disciples; 2) John's disciples; 3) the Pharisees; 4) the high priest; 5) specific students such as Mary; 6) those he was healing; 7) general crowds who had come to hear him speak.

He spoke differently with each of these and others - specifically regarding their situation and their concerns. Sometimes he spoke specifically about the Supreme Being and sometimes he spoke in generalities to help guide them generally towards the right direction in their search for truth.

This is what Jesus is doing in this statement to the crowd. He is not having a confidential discussion with his disciples about the Supreme Being. He is speaking generally to a crowd to help guide them in terms of who they should follow.

Notice Jesus is not speaking in flowery language to please the crowd. He isn't looking for a bunch of absent-minded followers. Rather, he calls them "hypocrites!"

Why? He is appealing to their sense of judgment. He says they know how to interpret the weather so keenly, but they are not making good judgments regarding their spiritual teachers - as they are following the Pharisees and high priests of the Temple sect.

What does interpreting this present time mean? 

He says:
"How is it that you don't know how to interpret this present time?"
The phrase "present time" is being translated from the Greek term, καιρός (kairos). The word can mean "a measure of time" but also notably, "to what time brings, the state of the times, the things and events of time" according to the lexicon.

So what is happening while Jesus is speaking to the crowd?

Jesus is speaking to the crowd. That is what is happening. Jesus is traveling around the countryside teaching. He was teaching people about the Supreme Being.

And while he is teaching, people are judging him. People are making judgments about whether Jesus is God's representative or not. The Pharisees and Sadducees were telling people that Jesus was not God's representative. They were spreading lies about him and trying to trap him by asking him certain questions.

Each of these people - many of which were following the Pharisees and were thus "hypocrites" - had to decide for themselves whether they would accept Jesus as God's representative or not. It was their decision. They each had to make this decision on their own. This is why Jesus said:
"Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?"
The word "right" is being translated from the Greek word δίκαιος (dikaios) - which means, "righteous, observing divine laws" according to the lexicon.

Why didn't Jesus advise them to follow the Jewish teachers?

Jesus is speaking of their making a decision relating to their spiritual lives. He is arguing against the institutional Jewish teachers such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the high priests. Instead, he is offering his own teachings as God's representative. Is he right?

Jesus is stating that they can discern the weather by looking at the sky. Why then can't they make a good decision about whom to follow?

This is the decision each of them needs to make. Their spiritual future will depend upon whom they choose to follow. If they follow Jesus, they will become enlightened. If they follow the Jewish institutions, according to Jesus they will be misled.

Does this also apply to today's institutions?

Today there are so many teachers from so many institutions who are giving us their various opinions and interpretations of scripture and what Jesus supposedly taught.

Many teach things like praying to Jesus to win football games and praying to Jesus to heal my leg or get me a better job or make me rich. They want us to believe that Jesus is some kind of super-waiter - we can just ask him for stuff and he will bring it to me - as long as I really believe that he will.

Meanwhile, most of these teachers stand up before their assemblies to speak to their followers in return for cushy salaries and expense accounts, teaching that Jesus' purpose in coming here was to "die for our sins."

Yet Jesus never taught any of this. If Jesus was simply going to die for everyone's sins, why did he bother teaching at all? Why would he waste his time walking throughout Judea teaching people how to love God? 

If all we have to do is accept that Jesus died for my sins then why bother praying? Why would he teach:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)
Why bother worshipping? Why bother reading scripture? We can just accept he died for my sins and then we're done, right?

Such a teaching is not simply irresponsible. It is blasphemous. Just consider Jesus' clear statement to those who teach these things:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:21-23)
Thus we find clearly that Jesus was not preaching what these teachers preach in the name of Jesus. Jesus was teaching "only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" will return to the spiritual realm - and thus be "saved."

This, of course, eliminates those who figure they would just "bathe in the blood of Jesus" and accept that he "died for my sins" to be "saved" and thus go to heaven - the spiritual realm. They are rejected by Jesus: "'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"

Doing someone's will means serving them. Jesus was teaching his followers to serve the Supreme Being. This is the key to returning to heaven (being "saved") according to Jesus.

And following Jesus' teachings - which showed people how to serve the Supreme Being - provides the foundation for serving God and thus pleasing Jesus. This is why he followed the above statement with:
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." (Matt. 7:24)