Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
Luke 18:1-8. Parable of the importunate widow.
always — Compare Luke 18:7, “night and day.”
faint — lose heart, or slacken.
neither regarded — defying the vengeance of God and despising the opinion of men.
widow — weak, desolate, defenseless (1 Timothy 5:5, which is taken from this).
came — kept coming. See Luke 18:5, “her continual coming.”
Avenge me — that is, rid me of the oppression of.
continual coming — coming for ever.
the Lord — a name expressive of the authoritative style in which He interprets His own parable.
shall not God — not unjust, but the infinitely righteous Judge.
avenge — redeem from oppression.
his own elect — not like this widow, the object of indifference and contempt, but dear to Him as the apple of the eye (Zechariah 2:8).
cry day and night — whose every cry enters into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (James 5:4), and how much more their incessant and persevering cries!
bear long with them — rather, “in their case,” or “on their account” (as) James 5:7, “for it”), [Grotius, Deuteronomy Wette, etc.].
speedily — as if pained at the long delay, impatient for the destined moment to interpose. (Compare Proverbs 29:1.)
Nevertheless, etc. — that is, Yet ere the Son of man comes to redress the wrongs of His Church, so low will the hope of relief sink, through the length of the delay, that one will be fain to ask, Will He find any faith of a coming avenger left on the earth? From this we learn: (1) That the primary and historical reference of this parable is to the Church in its widowed, desolate, oppressed, defenseless condition during the present absence of her Lord in the heavens; (2) That in these circumstances importunate, persevering prayer for deliverance is the Church‘s fitting exercise; (3) That notwithstanding every encouragement to this, so long will the answer be delayed, while the need of relief continues the same, and all hope of deliverance will have nearly died out, and “faith” of Christ‘s coming scarcely to be found. But the application of the parable to prayer in general is so obvious as to have nearly hidden its more direct reference, and so precious that one cannot allow it to disappear in any public and historical interpretation.
Luke 18:9-14. Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.
stood — as the Jews in prayer (Mark 11:25).
God, etc. — To have been kept from gross iniquities was undoubtedly a just cause of thankfulness to God; but instead of the devoutly humble, admiring frame which this should inspire, the Pharisee arrogantly severs himself from the rest of mankind, as quite above them, and, with a contemptuous look at the poor publican, thanks God that he has not to stand afar off like him, to hang down his head like a bulrush and beat his breast like him. But these are only his moral excellencies. His religious merits complete his grounds for congratulation. Not confining himself to the one divinely prescribed annual fast (Leviticus 16:29), he was not behind the most rigid, who fasted on the second and fifth days of every week [Lightfoot], and gave the tenth not only of what the law laid under tithing, but of “all his gains.” Thus, besides doing all his duty, he did works of supererogation; while sins to confess and spiritual wants to be supplied he seems to have felt none. What a picture of the Pharisaic character and religion!
standing afar off — as unworthy to draw near; but that was the way to get near (Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 57:15).
would not lift up — blushing and ashamed to do so (Ezra 9:6).
smote, etc. — kept smiting; for anguish (Luke 23:48), and self-reproach (Jeremiah 31:19).
be merciful — “be propitiated,” a very unusual word in such a sense, only once else used in the New Testament, in the sense of “making reconciliation” by sacrifice (Hebrews 2:17). There may therefore, be some allusion to this here, though not likely.
a sinner — literally, “the sinner”; that is, “If ever there was one, I am he.”
rather than the other — The meaning is, “and not the other”; for the Pharisee was not seeking justification, and felt no need of it. This great law of the Kingdom of God is, in the teaching of Christ, inscribed, as in letters of gold, over its entrance gate. And in how many different forms is it repeated (Psalm 138:6; Psalm 147:6; Luke 1:53). To be self-emptied, or, “poor in spirit,” is the fundamental and indispensable preparation for the reception of the “grace which bringeth salvation”: wherever this exists, the “mourning” for it which precedes “comfort” and the earnest “hungerings and thirstings after righteousness” which are rewarded by the “fullness” of it, will, as we see here, be surely found. Such, therefore, and such only, are the justified ones (Job 33:27, Job 33:28; Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 57:15).
Luke 18:15-17. Little children brought to Christ.
infants — showing that some, at least, of those called in Matthew (Matthew 19:13) and Mark (Mark 10:13) simply “little” or “young children,” were literally “babes.”
touch them — or, as more fully in Matthew (Matthew 19:13), “put His hands on them and pray,” or invoke a “blessing” on them (Mark 10:16), according to venerable custom (Genesis 48:14, Genesis 48:15).
rebuked them — Repeatedly the disciples thus interposed to save annoyance and interruption to their Master; but, as the result showed, always against the mind of Christ (Matthew 15:23; Luke 18:39, Luke 18:40). Here, it is plain from our Lord‘s reply, that they thought the intrusion a useless one, as infants were not capable of receiving anything from Him. His ministrations were for grown people.
But Jesus — “much displeased,” says Mark (Mark 10:14); and invaluable addition.
said — “SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN TO COME UNTO ME” - “AND FORBID THEM NOT,” is the important addition of Matthew (Matthew 19:14) and Mark (Mark 10:14). What words are these from the lips of Christ! The price of them is above rubies. But the reason assigned, “FOR OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD,” or “of heaven,” as in Matthew 19:14, completes the previous information here conveyed; especially as interpreted by what immediately follows: “AND HE TOOK THEM UP IN HIS ARMS, PUT HIS HANDS UPON THEM, AND BLESSED THEM” (Mark 10:16). It is surely not to be conceived that all our Lord meant was to inform us, that seeing grown people must become childlike in order to be capable of the Kingdom of God, therefore they should not hinder infants from coming to Him, and therefore He took up and blessed the infants themselves. Was it not just the grave mistake of the disciples that infants should not be brought to Christ, because only grown people could profit by Him, which “much displeased” our Lord? And though He took the irresistible opportunity of lowering their pride of reason, by informing them that, in order to enter the Kingdom, “instead of the children first becoming like them, they must themselves become like the children” [Richter in Stier], this was but by the way; and, returning to the children themselves, He took them up in His gracious arms, put His hands upon them and blessed them, for no conceivable reason but to show that they were thereby made capable, AS INFANTS, of the Kingdom of God. And if so, then “Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” (Acts 10:47). But such application of the baptismal water can have no warrant here, save where the infants have been previously brought to Christ Himself for His benediction, and only as the sign and seal of that benediction.
Luke 18:18-30. The rich young ruler and discourse thereon.
This case presents some remarkable points.
(1)The man was of irreproachable moral character; and this amidst all the temptations of youth, for he was a “young man” (Matthew 19:22), and wealth, for “he was very rich” (Luke 18:23; Mark 10:22).
(2)But restless notwithstanding, his heart craves eternal life.
(3)Unlike the “rulers,” to whose class he belonged (Luke 18:18), he so far believed in Jesus as to be persuaded He could authoritatively direct him on this vital point.
(4)So earnest is he that he comes “running” and even “kneeling before Him,” and that when He was gone forth into the war (Mark 10:17) - the high-road, by this time crowded with travelers to the passover; undeterred by the virulent opposition of the class he belonged to as a “ruler” and by the shame he might be expected to feel at broaching such a question in the hearing of a crowd and on the open road.
Why, etc. — Did our Lord mean then to teach that God only ought to be called “good?” Impossible, for that had been to contradict all Scripture teaching, and His own, too (Psalm 112:5; Matthew 25:21; Titus 1:8). Unless therefore we are to ascribe captiousness to our Lord, He could have had but one object - to raise the youth‘s ideas of Himself, as not to be classed merely with other “good masters,” and declining to receive this title apart from the “One” who is essentially and only “good.” This indeed is but distantly hinted; but unless this is seen in the background of our Lord‘s words, nothing worthy of Him can be made out of them. (Hence, Socinianism, instead of having any support here, is only baffled by it).
Thou knowest, etc. — Matthew (Matthew 19:17) is more complete here: “but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which - as if he had said, Point me out one of them which I have not kept? - “Jesus said, Thou shalt,” etc. (Matthew 19:17, Matthew 19:18). Our Lord purposely confines Himself to the second table, which He would consider easy to keep, enumerating them all - for in Mark (Mark 10:19), “Defraud not” stands for the tenth (else the eighth is twice repeated). In Matthew (Matthew 19:19) the sum of this second table of the law is added, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” as if to see if he would venture to say he had kept that.
All these, etc. — “what lack I yet?” adds Matthew (Matthew 19:20). Ah! this gives us a glimpse of his heart. Doubtless he was perfectly sincere; but something within whispered to him that his keeping of the commandments was too easy a way of getting to heaven. He felt something beyond this to be necessary; after keeping all the commandments he was at a loss to know what that could be; and he came to Jesus just upon that point. “Then,” says Mark (Mark 10:21), “Jesus beholding him loved him,” or “looked lovingly upon him.” His sincerity, frankness, and nearness to the kingdom of God, in themselves most winning qualities, won our Lord‘s regard even though he turned his back upon Him - a lesson to those who can see nothing lovable save in the regenerate.
lackest one thing — Ah! but that a fundamental, fatal lack.
sell, etc. — As riches were his idol, our Lord, who knew if from the first, lays His great authoritative grasp at once upon it, saying, “Now give Me up that, and all is right.” No general direction about the disposal of riches, then, is here given, save that we are to sit loose to them and lay them at the feet of Him who gave them. He who does this with all he has, whether rich or poor, is a true heir of the kingdom of heaven.
was very sorrowful — Matthew (Matthew 19:22) more fully, “went away sorrowful”; Mark still more, “was sad” or “sullen” at that saying, and “went away grieved.” Sorry he was, very sorry, to part with Christ; but to part with his riches would have cost him a pang more. When Riches or Heaven, on Christ‘s terms, were the alternative, the result showed to which side the balance inclined. Thus was he shown to lack the one all-comprehensive requirement of the law - the absolute subjection of the heart to God, and this want vitiated all his other obediences.
when Jesus saw — Mark says (Mark 3:34), He “looked round about” - as if first following the departing youth with His eye - “and saith unto His disciples.”
How hardly, etc. — with what difficulty. In Mark (Mark 10:24) an explanation is added, “How hard is it for them that trust in riches,” etc. — that is, with what difficulty is this idolatrous trust conquered, without which they cannot enter; and this is introduced by the word “children” - sweet diminutive of affection and pity (John 21:5).
easier for a camel, etc. — a proverbial expression denoting literally a thing impossible, but figuratively, very difficult.
For, etc. — “At that rate none can be saved”: “Well, it does pass human power, but not divine.”
Lo, etc. — in the simplicity of his heart (as is evident from the reply), conscious that the required surrender had been made, and generously taking in his brethren with him - “we”; not in the spirit of the young ruler. “All these have I kept,”
left all — “The workmen‘s little is as much his “all” as the prince‘s much” [Bengel]. In Matthew (Matthew 19:27) he adds, “What shall we have therefore?” How shall it fare with us?
There is no man, etc. — graciously acknowledging at once the completeness and the acceptableness of the surrender as a thing already made.
house, etc. — The specification is still more minute in Matthew and Mark, (Matthew 19:27; Mark 10:29) to take in every form of self-sacrifice.
for the kingdom of God‘s sake — in Mark (Mark 10:29), “for MY sake and the Gospel‘s.” See on Luke 6:22.
manifold more in this present time — in Matthew (Matthew 19:29) “an hundredfold,” to which Mark (Mark 10:30) gives this most interesting addition, “Now in this present time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions.” We have here the blessed promise of a reconstruction of all human relationships and affections on a Christian basis and in a Christian state, after being sacrificed, in their natural form, on the altar of love to Christ. This He calls “manifold more” - “an hundredfold more” - than what they sacrificed. Our Lord was Himself the first to exemplify this new adjustment of His own relationships. (See on Matthew 12:49, Matthew 12:50; and see on 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.) But this “with persecutions”; for how could such a transfer take place without the most cruel wrenches to flesh and blood? but the persecution would haply follow them into their new and higher circle, breaking that up too! But best of all, “in the world to come life everlasting.” And
These promises are for every one who forsakes his all for Christ. But in Matthew (Matthew 19:28) this is prefaced by a special promise to the Twelve: “Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed Me in the Regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Ye who have now adhered to Me shall, in the new kingdom, rule, or give law to, the great Christian world, here set forth in Jewish dress as the twelve tribes, presided over by the twelve apostles on so many judicial thrones. In this sense certainly the promise has been illustriously fulfilled [Calvin, Grotius, Lightfoot, etc.]. But if the promise refers to the yet future glory (as may be thought from Luke 22:28-30, and as most take it), it points to the highest personal distinction of the first founders of the Christian Church.
Luke 18:31-34. Fuller announcement of His approaching death and resurrection.
(See on Mark 10:32-34.)
all written by the prophets concerning the Son of man be accomplished — showing how Christ Himself read, and would have us to read, the Old Testament, in which some otherwise evangelical interpreters find no prophecies, or virtually none, of the sufferings of the Son of man.
understood none, etc. — The Evangelist seems unable to say strongly enough how entirely hidden from them at that time was the sense of these exceeding plain statements: no doubt to add weight to their subsequent testimony, which from this very circumstance was prodigious, and with all the simple-hearted irresistible.
Luke 18:35-43. Blind man healed.
In Matthew 20:29-34, they are two, as in the case of the Demoniac of Gadara. In Matthew and Mark (Mark 10:46-52) the occurrence is connected with Christ‘s departure from Jericho; in Luke with His approach to it. Many ways of accounting for these slight divergences of detail have been proposed. Perhaps, if we knew all the facts, we should see no difficulty; but that we have been left so far in the dark shows that the thing is of no moment any way. One thing is plain, there could have been no collusion among the authors of these Gospels, else they would have taken care to remove these “spots on the sun.”
son of David, etc. — (See on Matthew 12:23).
rebuked, etc. — (See on Luke 18:15).
so much the more — that importunity so commended in the Syrophoenician woman, and so often enjoined (Luke 11:5-13; Luke 18:1-8).
commanded, etc. — Mark (Mark 10:49) has this interesting addition: “And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise, He calleth thee” - just as one earnestly desiring an interview with some exalted person, but told by one official after another that it is vain to wait, as he will not succeed (they know it), yet persists in waiting for some answer to his suit, and at length the door opens, and a servant appears, saying, “You will be admitted - he has called you.” And are there no other suitors to Jesus who sometimes fare thus? “And he, casting away his garment” - how lively is this touch, evidently of an eye-witness, expressive of his earnestness and joy - “came to Jesus” (Mark 10:49, Mark 10:50).
What wilt thou, etc. — to try them; to deepen their present consciousness of need; and to draw out their faith in Him. Lord “Rabboni” (Mark 10:51); an emphatic and confiding exclamation. (See on John 20:16.)
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