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2. Do you imagine? etc. This passage is highly useful, were it for no other reason than that this disease is almost natural to us, to be too rigorous and severe in judging of others, and too much disposed to flatter our own faults. The consequence is, that we not only censure with excessive severity the offenses of our brethren; but whenever they meet with any calamity, we condemn them as wicked and reprobate persons. On the other hand, every man that is not sorely pressed by the hand of God slumbers at ease in the midst of his sins, as if God were favorable and reconciled to him. This involves a double fault; for when God chastises any one before our eyes, he warns us of his judgments, that each of us may examine himself, and consider what he deserves. If he spares us for a time, we are so far from having a right to take such kindness and forbearance as an opportunity for slumber, that we ought to regard it as an invitation to repentance.
To correct the false and cruel judgment which we are accustomed to pass on wretched sufferers, and, at the same time, to shake off the indulgence which every man cherishes towards himself, he shows, first, that those who are treated with severity are not the most wicked of all men; because God administers his judgments in such a manner, that some are instantly seized and punished, and others are permitted to remain long in the enjoyment of ease and luxury, Secondly, he declares that all the calamities which happen in the world are so many demonstrations of the wrath of God; and hence we learn what an awful destruction awaits us, (278) if we do not avert it.
The immediate occasion for this exhortation was, that some told him that Pilate had mingled human blood with sacrifices, in order that so shocking an event might bring sacrifices into abhorrence. As it is probable that this outrage was committed on the Samaritans, who had departed from the pure service of the Law, the Jews would easily and readily be disposed to condemn the Samaritans, and by so doing to applaud themselves. But our Lord applies it to a different purpose. As that whole nation was hated and detested by them on account of ungodliness, he puts the question, “Do you imagine that those wretched persons, who have been put to death by Pilate, were worse than others? You are perfectly aware, that that country is full of ungodly men, and that many who deserved the same punishment are still alive. He is a blind and wicked judge who decides as to the sins of all men by the punishments which they now endure. It is not always the most wicked man who is first dragged to punishment; but when God selects a few out of a large number to be punished, he holds out in their person a threatening that he will take vengeance on the remainder, in order that all may be alarmed.”
Having spoken of the Samaritans, he now approaches more closely to the Jews themselves. Eighteen men had at that time been killed by the fall of a tower in Jerusalem. He declares that those men were not more wicked than others, but that their death was held out to all as a ground of alarm; for if in them God gave a display of his judgment, no more would others, though they might be spared for a time, escape his hand. Christ does not, however, forbid believers to consider attentively the judgments of God, but enjoins them to observe this order, to begin with their own sins. They will thus obtain the highest advantage; for they will avert God’s chastisements by voluntary repentance. To the same purpose is the warning which Paul gives,
Let no man deceive you with vain words; for on account of these things the wrath of God cometh against the rebellious, (Ephesians 5:6.)
(278) “ Dont nous avons a penser quelle punition et damnation nous sentirons;”— “by which we are led to consider what punishment and condemnation we shall receive.”
6. He spoke also this parable. The substance of it is, that many are endured for a time who deserve to be cut off; but that they gain nothing by the delay, if they persist in their obstinacy. The wicked flattery, by which hypocrites are hardened, and become more obstinate, arises from this cause, that they do not think of their sins till they are compelled; and, therefore, so long as God winks at these, and delays his chastisements, they imagine that he is well satisfied with them. Thus they indulge themselves more freely, as if, to use the words of Isaiah, (Isaiah 28:15,) they had made a covenant with death, and were in friendship with the grave. And this is the reason why Paul denounces them in such earnestness of language for
treasuring up to themselves the wrath of God against the last day, (Romans 2:5.)
It is well known that trees are sometimes preserved, not because their owners find them to be useful and productive, but because the careful and industrious husbandman makes every possible trial and experiment before he determines to remove them out of the field or vineyard. This teaches us that, when the Lord does not immediately take vengeance on the reprobate, but delays to punish them, there are the best reasons for his forbearance. Such considerations serve to restrain human rashness, that no man may dare to murmur against the supreme Judge of all, if He does not always execute his judgments in one uniform manner. A comparison is here drawn between the owner and the vine-dresser: not that God’s ministers go beyond him in gentleness and forbearance, but because the Lord not only prolongs the life of sinners, but likewise cultivates them in a variety of ways, that they may yield better fruit.
I have resolved to place in immediate connection some events which are detailed by Luke alone, without a direct reference to dates; for on that point, as we have formerly mentioned, the Evangelists did not care much about exactness. We shall afterwards find a more suitable time for returning to the Harmony of the Three Evangelists.
11. And, lo, a woman Here is related a miracle performed on a woman who was cured, and the offense which the malignity of the Jews led them to take up, because our Lord had cured her on a Sabbath -day Luke says that the woman was held by a spirit of infirmity, so that her body was bent by the contraction of her nerves. As the nature of the disease is no farther described, it is probable that it was not one of an ordinary kind, or which was understood by physicians; and, therefore, he calls it a spirit of infirmity. We know that diseases of an unusual and extraordinary kind are, for the most part, inflicted on men through the agency of the devil; and this gave the more striking display of the divine power of Christ, which triumphed over Satan. Not that Satan rules over men according to his pleasure, but only so far as God grants to him permission to injure them. Besides, as the Lord, from whom alone all our blessings flow, makes his glory to shine with peculiar brightness in those blessings which are more remarkable, and of rare occurrence; so, on the other hand, it is his will that the power and tyranny of Satan should be chiefly regarded in extraordinary chastisements, though his agency is likewise employed in those more gentle applications of the rod, which we experience from day to day.
12. Woman, thou art delivered In this miracle, as well as in others, Christ exhibited a proof both of his power and of his grace; for in this manner he testified that he had come for the purpose of granting relief to the wretched. His power is expressed in these words, Woman, thou art delivered; for he authoritatively declares that deliverance was at his own disposal, and employs, at the same time, the outward sign, the use of which we have explained on a former occasion.
13. And glorified God. As to the people glorifying God, it is mentioned in order to inform us, that this was distinctly perceived to be a heavenly blessing. It was not some doubtful work which allowed room for argument on either side, but one which afforded ample and undoubted grounds for praising God. This discovers more strongly the malignity of the ruler of the synagogue
14. There are six days. This reprover does not venture to pass censure openly on Christ, but points the venom of his dislike to another quarter, and indirectly condemns Christ in the person of the multitude. What an astonishing display of furious malice! Six days, he tells them, were set apart for labor; but how incorrectly and foolishly does he define that work, which is not permitted but on six days! Why does he not likewise forbid them to enter the synagogue, lest they should violate the Sabbath? Why does he not order them to refrain from all the exercises of godliness? But granting that men are restrained from following their own employments on the Sabbath-day, how unreasonable is it that the grace of God should be limited in that manner!
On them, therefore, come and you shall be cured. He bids them come on the other days to seek a cure, as if the power of God lay asleep on Sabbath, and were not rather exerted chiefly on that day for the salvation of his people. What purpose is to be served by the holy assemblies, except to give an opportunity to believers for entreating the Divine assistance? That ungodly hypocrite talks as if the lawful observation of the Sabbath interrupted the course of God’s favors, hindered men from calling upon him, and took away from them all feeling of his kindness.
15. Doth not every one of you? etc Such a combination of malice and stupidity might easily have been exposed in many ways, but Christ satisfied himself with this single argument. If it be lawful on the Sabbath, to perform the offices of humanity to cattle, it is ridiculous to imagine that the due observance of it will prevent assistance from being granted to the children of God. The words of Christ present a twofold comparison: that of the cattle with the daughter of Abraham, and that of the halter by which the ass or the ox is tied to its stall with the chains of Satan, by which he holds men bound to their destruction. “You,” says he, “who are so scrupulous about observing the Sabbath, venture to loose oxen and asses, and lead them away to watering. And why may not I be permitted to perform a similar office of kindness to the elect people of God; especially when the necessity is more urgent, when some one is to be delivered from the snares of Satan? ”
Now though the wicked reprover was struck dumb with shame, yet we perceive that Christ never performed any work, however illustrious, which wicked men did not seize as an occasion for slander. Nor need we wonder that Satan labored, with incessant zeal and exertions, to subvert the glory of Christ; for he is constantly employed in spreading his clouds, in order to darken the holy actions of believers.
. Journeying towards Jerusalem. It is uncertain whether Luke speaks only of one journey, or means that, while Christ walked throughout Judea, and visited each part of it for the purpose of teaching, he was wont to go up to Jerusalem at the festivals. The former clause, certainly, appears to describe that course of life which Christ invariably pursued, from the time that he began to discharge the office which had been committed to him by the Father. To make the latter clause agree with this, the meaning will be, that, when the festivals were at hand, he attended, along with others, (226) the holy assemblies.
(226) “ Sa coustume estoit de se trouver;” — “his custom was to be present.”
. And one saith to him Although Matthew relates this answer, as if it were immediately connected with other sentences taken out of our Lord’s sermons, yet I rather think that the occasion of its being spoken arose out of the present question. The reason why the question was put appears to have been, that Christ, who declared himself to be the author of life, could with difficulty collect a small number of disciples. It might appear, that a small band of men was to be saved, and that the whole church was going to ruin: for the whole of that nation, among whom the doctrine of Christ made no great progress, and by whom it was universally rejected, had been adopted by God as the heir of life. A similar doubt steals upon us, when we look at the melancholy condition of the world. “‘ The greater part of men pursue a life which is utterly at variance with the Gospel. What is the meaning of this?” For this reason Christ, directing his discourse to all, exhorted them to strive to enter by the narrow gate These words were intended to withdraw his people from a foolish curiosity, by which many are retarded and involved, when they look around to see if any companions are joining them, as if they were unwilling to be saved but in a crowd. When he bids them strive, or labor, he conveys the information, that it is impossible to obtain eternal life without great and appalling difficulties. Let believers, therefore, give their earnest attention to this object, instead of indulging in excessive curiosity about the vast number of those who are going astray.
24. For many will seek to enter This was added, that we might not be deceived by a vain hope, as if the multitude of our companions would be of any avail to us. The flesh is willing to flatter itself, and many who now give themselves every indulgence, promise to themselves an easy entrance into life. Thus men practice mutual deception on each other, and fall asleep in wicked indifference. To shake off from his own people those flattering hopes, Christ declares that those who calculate that their possession of life is already certain, will be shut out. (473)
(473) Our author appears to have become apprehensive that this language was ambiguous, and, lest it might be interpreted differently from what he intended, he has taken care to insert in the French Version an explanatory clause: “ que ceux qui se font accroire qu'ils sont desia tout asseurez de la vie eternelle, et cheminent a leur plaisir sans souci, en seront rejettez;” —”that those who make themselves believe that they are already perfectly assured of eternal life, and walk on at their pleasure without concern, will be excluded from it.” — Ed.
. And when the master of the house shall have arisen Though these words, as I hinted a little before, were spoken on a different and later occasion, I have chosen to pay more regard to the doctrine than to the time: for it is no slight assistance to the understanding to read, in immediate connection, those passages which are closely related in meaning. As Christ had declared that to many, who shall desire to enter into heaven, the door will not be open, he now asserts, that they gain nothing by occupying a place in the church because God will at length arise in judgment, and shut out from his kingdom those who now lay claim to a place in his family. He employs the comparison of the master of a house, who, having learned that some wicked and dissolute persons among his own domestics steal out unperceived during the night, and expose the house to thieves, rises and shuts the door, and does not allow those night-prowlers to enter, who have been wandering through the public streets at unseasonable hours. By these words he warns us, that we must avail ourselves of the opportunity, while it is offered: for so long as the Lord invites us to himself, the door is, as it were, open, that we may enter into the kingdom of heaven: but the greater part do not deign to move a step. Christ therefore threatens, that the door will at length be shut, and that those who are looking for companions are in danger of being refused admission.
26. Thou hast taught in our streets Christ expressly states, that it will be of no advantage to the Jews, that he approached near to them, and permitted them to enjoy familiar intercourse with him, if, when called, they do not answer at the appointed day. But he does not follow out his comparison: for, after having spoken about the master of a house, he now states, without a figure, that he is himself the judge; and indeed the words, thou hast taught in our streets, can apply to no one but himself. We now perceive his design, which was, to warn the Jews not to allow themselves to lose, by their own neglect, the salvation which it is in their power to obtain.
28. When you shall see Abraham The Jews bore no resemblance to the holy fathers, and had no right to boast of being descended from them: yet nothing was more customary than to abuse the title of the Church. (474) Christ here assures them, that a bastard race, which has departed from the faith and piety of the fathers, has “no inheritance in the kingdom of God,” (Ephesians 5:5.) There is a silent but implied reproof, that those who were desirous to have companions in seeking salvation, did not endeavor to associate themselves with Abraham, and the prophets, and the holy fathers, instead of looking around among their contemporaries, who had degenerated greatly from their example into innumerable corruptions. “If you neglect (says he) to enter by the strait gate, because you are kept back by the great number of those who are going astray, do you not see that you are separated from the number of believers, and become involved with unbelievers?” If the aspect of the world now dazzles your eyes, the last day will cure you of this folly, but it will be too late: for you shall then know that you, and others like you, are excluded from the kingdom of God, and have no part with Abraham
(474) “ Et avoyent tousjours en la bouche le titre d'Eglise, duquel ils abu- soyent;” — “and had always in their mouth the title of Church, which they abused.”
29. And they shall come from the east He now draws a larger illustration from the fact, that the Jews, who reckoned themselves the only lawful heirs of God, were to be rejected, and that the Gentiles were to be substituted in their room, and obtain the life which was promised to Abraham and his posterity. He contrasts the Gentiles with them, in order to excite them to faith by a holy jealousy: as Paul writes, that“
it will be a distinguished honor of his ministry, if he excite any of his nation and blood to such an emulations,” (Romans 11:13.)
The Jews must have been stung by it: for they had an inordinate love of themselves, and proudly despised God and his gifts. But as we shall, ere long, meet with this sentence again in the Gospel by Matthew I now glance at it more slightly.
30. And, lo, they are last who shall be first The same words, as we shall elsewhere see, were frequently employed by Christ, but in a different sense, (Matthew 19:30; Mark 10:31.) All that he intended here was, to throw down the vain confidence of the Jews, who, having been chosen by God in preference to all the rest of the world, trusted to this distinction, and imagined that God was in a manner bound to them. For this reason, Christ threatens that their condition will soon be changed; that the Gentiles, who were at that time cast off, would obtain the first rank; and that the Jews, deprived of their honor, would not even occupy the farthest corner in the Church. (475)
(475) “ Ne tiendront pas mesme le dernier reng, ou quelque petit coin en l'Eglise;” — “will not hold even the lowest rank, or some small corner in the Church.”
It deserves our attention, that Christ gives the designation, daughter of Abraham, to one whose body had been enslaved by Satan during eighteen years. She was so called, not only in reference to her lineage, as all the Jews without exception gloried in this title, but because she was one of the true and actual members of the Church. Here we perceive also what Paul tells us, that some are
delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus, (1 Corinthians 5:5.)
And the length of time points out to us that, though the Lord does not immediately relieve our distresses, yet we ought not to despair.
It is difficult to ascertain the precise time when this happened, farther than that Christ was at that time residing in Galilee, as during the whole period of his public calling he remained longer there than in any other place. Certain persons, wishing to be considered as his friends, advise him that, if he wishes to be in safety, he should go beyond the boundaries of Herod’s jurisdiction. In what manner those who gave that advice were affected towards him we have no means of knowing; but I am strongly inclined to conjecture, that they attempted to drive him to some other place, because they saw that the greater part of the people in that place were attached to Christ, so that the Gospel was generally received. We must observe who those advisers were. Luke says that they were some of the Pharisees Now we know that that sect was not so favorable to Christ as to make it probable that those men were anxious about his life. What then? Their design was, to awaken in him such fears as would drive him to some place of concealment; for they expected that, in a short time, his authority would decline, and that his whole doctrine would vanish away. But we must also direct our attention to the first originator and contriver of this scheme, Satan; for, as he endeavored at that time to interrupt the progress of the Gospel, by terrifying the Son of God, so he constantly invents and hatches up new grounds of alarm, to strike the ministers of Christ with dismay, and to constrain them to turn aside.
32. Go, tell that fox It is certain, that the person here spoken of is Herod Antipas. Though he had throughout the character of a fox, and was as remarkable for servility as for cunning, I do not think that the term, fox, is intended to refer generally to the cunning of his whole life, but rather to the insidious methods by which he labored to undermine the doctrine of the Gospel, when he did not venture to attack it openly. Christ tells him that, with all his craftiness, he will gain nothing by his schemes. “Whatever artifices he may devise,” says Christ, “ today and tomorrow I will discharge the office which God has enjoined upon me; and when I shall have reached the end of my course, I shall then be offered in sacrifice.” That we may perceive more clearly the meaning of the words, Christ acknowledges, in the former part of his message, that on the third day—that is, within a very short time—he must die; and in this way shows, that he could not be deterred from his duty by any fear of death, to which he advanced boldly, with fixed purpose of mind.
33. It does not usually happen, etc. He next adds, that it is an idle bugbear, which is held out by false and hypocritical advisers; because there is no danger of death anywhere else than at Jerusalem. In this second clause he sharply attacks the Pharisees. “Is it you, who — I foresee — will be my executioners, that advise me to beware of Herod? ” The reproof extends, indeed, much farther; for he says, not only that preparations had been made for his own death in Jerusalem, but that it might be said to have been, for a long period, a den of robbers, in which almost all the prophets had been murdered. Many had, no doubt, been slain in other places, and particularly at the time when that cruel fury, (282) Jezebel, (Genesis 19:2,) raged against them; but because in no other place had the prophets, at any time, been fiercely tormented, Christ justly brings this reproach against the ungodly inhabitants of the holy city.
It usually happened that the prophets were slain there; because not only was it the source of all the ungodliness which spread over the whole of Judea, but it was also the field on which God trained his prophets. (283) We know that the more brightly the light of doctrine shines, so as to press more closely on wicked men, they are driven to a greater pitch of madness. What a dreadful example was it, that a place which had been chosen to be the sanctuary of divine worship, and the residence of the Law and of heavenly wisdom, should be polluted not by one or another murder,, but by a regular butchery of the prophets ! It undoubtedly shows how obstinate is the rebellion of the world in rejecting sound doctrine.
The exclamation which immediately follows in Luke, (Luke 13:34,) appears to be connected in such a manner, as if Christ had taken occasion from the present occurrence to inveigh, at this time, against Jerusalem But for my own part, I rather think, that Luke, having said that Jerusalem had been formerly stained by the blood of the prophets, nay, had been, through an uninterrupted succession of many ages, the slaughter-place, where the prophets were cruelly and wickedly put to death, immediately inserts, according to his custom, a statement which harmonized with that discourse. We have seen, on former occasions, that it is by no means unusual with him to introduce into one place a collection of Christ’s sayings, which were uttered at various times.
(282) “ Cette cruelle diablesse;” — “that cruel female devil.”
(283) “ Auquel Dieu a voulu que ses Prophetes ayent soustenu de grans combats et rudes alarmes;” — “on which God determined that his Prophets should sustain powerful combats and fierce alarms.”
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Luke 13". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany