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Bible Commentaries
Luke 13

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Verses 1-9

10. Conversation on two Events of the Day: Luke 13:1-9.

Luke does not say that the following event took place immediately after the preceding, but only in a general way, ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ καιρῷ ( Luk 13:1 ), in the same circumstances. The three following sayings ( Luk 13:1-9 ) breathe the same engagedness of mind as filled the preceding discourses. The external situation also is the same. Jesus is moving slowly on, taking advantage of every occasion which presents itself to direct the hearts of men to things above.

The necessity of conversion is that of which Jesus here reminds His hearers; in Luk 12:54 et seq. He had rather preached its urgency.

1 st. Luke 13:1-3. The Galileans massacred by Pilate.

Josephus does not mention the event to which the following words relate. The Galileans were somewhat restless; conflicts with the Roman garrison easily arose. In the expression, mingling their blood with that of the sacrifice, there is a certain poetical emphasis which often characterizes popular accounts.

The impf. παρῆσαν signifies “they were there relating.” Jesus with His piercing eye immediately discerns the prophetical significance of the fact. The carnage due to Pilate's sword is only the prelude to that which will soon be carried out by the Roman army throughout all the Holy Land, and especially in the temple, the last asylum of the nation. Was not all that remained of the Galilean people actually assembled forty years later in the temple, expiating their national impenitence under the stroke of Titus? The word likewise ( Luk 13:3 ) may therefore be taken literally. A serious, individual, and national conversion at the call of Jesus could alone have prevented that catastrophe.

2 d. Luke 13:4-5. The Persons buried by the Tower of Siloam.

The disaster which has been related recalls another to His mind, which He mentions spontaneously, and which He applies specially to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The aqueduct and pool of Siloam are situated where the valley of Tyropeon, between Sion and Moriah, opens into that of Jehoshaphat.

Forty years later, the fall of the houses of the burning capital justified this warning not less strikingly.

When a disaster comes upon an individual, there is a disposition among men to seek the cause of it in some special guiltiness attaching to the victim. Jesus turns his hearers back to human guilt in general, and their own in particular; and from that, which to the pharisaic heart is an occasion of proud confidence, He derives a motive to humiliation and conversion, an example of what was called, Luke 12:57, judging what is right.

3 d. Luke 13:6-9. The Time of Grace.

Here again we have the formula ἔλεγε δέ , which announces the true and final word on the situation. (See at Luke 12:54.)

A vineyard forms an excellent soil for fruit trees. As usually, the fig-tree represents Israel. God is the owner, Jesus the vine-dresser who intercedes. ῾Ινατί ( γένηται ), To what end? Καί , moreover; not only is it useless itself, but it also renders the ground useless. Bengel, Wieseler, Weizsäcker find an allusion in the three years to the period of the ministry of Jesus which was already past, and so draw from this parable chronological conclusions. Altogether without reason; for such details ought to be explained by their relation to the general figure of the parable of which they form a part, and not by circumstances wholly foreign to the description. In the figure chosen by Jesus, three years are the time of a full trial, at the end of which the inference of incurable sterility may be drawn. Those three years, therefore, represent the time of grace granted to Israel; and the last year, added at the request of the gardener, the forty years' respite between the Friday of the crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem, which were owing to that prayer of Jesus: “ Father, forgive them.

The MSS. have the two forms κόπρια , from κόπριον , and κοπρίαν , from κοπρία . The proposition κἂν μέν ...is elliptical, as often in classical Greek; we must understand καλῶς ἔχει . The Alex., by placing εἰς τὸ μέλλον before εἰ δὲ μήγε , probably wished to escape this ellipsis: “If it bear fruit, let it for the future [live].” The extraordinary pains of the gardener bestowed on this sickly tree represent the marvels of love which Jesus shall display in His death and resurrection, then at Pentecost and by means of the apostolic preaching, in order to rescue the people from their impenitence. This parable gives Israel to know that its life is only a respite, and that this respite is nearing its end. Perhaps Paul makes an allusion to this saying when he admonishes Gentile Christians, the branches of the wild olive, saying to them, ἐπεὶ καὶ σὺ ἐκκοπήσῃ ( Rom 11:22 ).

Holtzmann acknowledges the historical truth of the introduction, Luke 13:1. He ascribes it to the Logia, like everything which he finds true in the introductions of Luke. But if this piece was in Λ ., of which Matthew made use, how has he omitted it altogether?

Verses 1-35


A great contrast marks the synoptical narrative: that between the ministry in Galilee, and the passion week at Jerusalem. According to Matthew ( Mat 19:1 to Mat 20:34 ) and Mark (chap. 10), the short journey from Capernaum to Judea through Perea forms the rapid transition between those two parts of the ministry of Jesus. Nothing, either in the distance between the places, or in the number of the facts related, would lead us to suppose that this journey lasted more than a few days. This will appear from the following table:

The fourth part of the Gospel of Luke, which begins at Luke 9:51, gives us a very different idea of what transpired at that period. Here we find the description of a slow and lengthened journey across the southern regions of Galilee, which border on Samaria. Jerusalem is, and remains, the fixed goal of the journey (Luke 9:51, Luke 13:22, Luke 17:11, etc.). But Jesus proceeds only by short stages, stopping at each locality to preach the gospel. Luke does not say what direction He followed. But we may gather it from the first fact related by him. At the first step which He ventures to take with His followers on the Samaritan territory, He is stopped short by the ill-will excited against Him by national prejudice; so that even if His intention had been to repair directly to Jerusalem through Samaria (which we do not believe to have been the case), He would have been obliged to give up that intention, and turn eastward, in order to take the other route, that of Perea. Jesus therefore slowly approached the Jordan, with the view of crossing that river to the south of the lake Gennesaret, and of continuing His journey thereafter through Perea. The inference thus drawn from the narrative of Luke is positively confirmed by Matthew ( Mat 19:1 ) and Mark ( Mar 10:1 ), both of whom indicate the Perean route as that which Jesus followed after His departure from Galilee. In this way the three synoptics coincide anew from Luk 18:15 onwards; and from the moment at which the narrative of Luke rejoins the two others, we have to regard the facts related by him as having passed in Perea. This slow journeying, first from west to east across southern Galilee, then from north to south through Perea, the description of which fills ten whole chapters, that is to say, more than a third of Luke's narrative, forms in this Gospel a real section intermediate between the two others (the description of the Galilean ministry and that of the passion week); it is a third group of narratives corresponding in importance to the two others so abruptly brought into juxtaposition in Mark and Matthew, and which softens the contrast between them.

But can we admit with certainty the historical reality of this evangelistic journey in southern Galilee, which forms one of the characteristic features of the third Gospel? Many modern critics refuse to regard it as historical. They allege:

1. The entire absence of any analogous account in Matthew and Mark. Matthew, indeed, relates only two solitary facts ( Mat 8:19 et seq. and Luk 12:21 et seq.) of all those which Luke describes in the ten chapters of which this section consists, up to the moment when the three narratives again become parallel ( Luk 18:14 ); Mark, not a single one.

2. The visit of Jesus to Martha and Mary, which Luke puts in this journey ( Luk 10:38-42 ), can have taken place only in Judea, at Bethany; likewise the saying, Luke 13:34-35, cannot well have been uttered by Jesus elsewhere than at Jerusalem in the temple ( Mat 23:37-39 ). Do not these errors of time and place cast a more than suspicious light on the narrative of the entire journey? M. Sabatier himself, who thoroughly appreciates the important bearing of this narrative in Luke on the harmony of the four Gospels, nevertheless goes the length of saying: “We see with how many contradictions and material impossibilities this narrative abounds.”

It has been attempted to defend Luke, by alleging that he did not mean to relate a journey, and that this section was only a collection of doctrinal utterances arranged in the order of their subjects, and intended to show the marvellous wisdom of Jesus. It is impossible for us to admit this explanation, with Luke's own words before us, which express and recall from time to time his intention of describing a consecutive journey: Luke 9:51, “He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem;Luke 13:22, “He was going through the cities and villages... journeying toward Jerusalem;Luke 17:11 (lit. trans.), “And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He traversed the country between Samaria and Galilee.”

Wieseler, taking up an entirely opposite point of view, finds in those three passages the indications of as many individual journeys, which he connects with three journeys to Jerusalem placed by John almost at the same epoch. It is hoped in this way to find the point of support for Luke's narrative in the fourth Gospel, which is wanting to it in the two first. The departure mentioned Luk 9:51 would correspond with the journey of Jesus, Joh 7:1 to John 10:39 (feast of Tabernacles and of Dedication), a journey which terminates in a sojourn in Perea ( Joh 10:40 et seq.). The mention of a journey Luk 13:22 would refer to the journey from Perea to Bethany for the raising of Lazarus, John 11:0, after which Jesus repairs to Ephraim. Finally, the passage Luk 17:11 would correspond with the journey from Ephraim to Jerusalem for the last Passover ( Joh 11:55 ). It would be necessary to admit that Jesus, after His Ephraim sojourn, made a last visit to Galilee, proceeding thither through Samaria (Wieseler translates Luk 17:11 as in E. V., “through the midst of Samaria and Galilee”), then that He returned to Judea through Perea (Matthew 19:0; Mark 10:0).

We cannot allow that this view has the least probability. 1. Those three passages in Luke plainly do not indicate, in his mind at least, three different departures and journeys. They are way-marks set up by the author on the route of Jesus, in the account of this unique journey, by which he recalls from time to time the general situation described Luke 9:51, on account of the slowness and length of the progress. 2. The departure ( Luk 9:51 ) took place, as the sending of the seventy disciples proves, with the greatest publicity; it is not therefore identical with the departure ( Joh 7:1 et seq.), which took place, as it were, in secret; Jesus undoubtedly did not then take with Him more than one or two of His most intimate disciples. 3. The interpretation which Wieseler gives of Luk 17:11 appears to us inadmissible (see the passage).

It must therefore be acknowledged, not only that Luke meant in those ten chapters to relate a journey, but that he meant to relate one, and only one.

Others think that he intended to produce in the minds of his readers the idea of a continuous journey, but that this is a framework of fiction which has no corresponding reality. De Wette and Bleek suppose that, after having finished his account of the Galilean ministry, Luke still possessed a host of important materials, without any determinate localities or dates, and that, rather than lose them, he thought good to insert them here, between the description of the Galilean ministry and that of the passion, while grouping them in the form of a recorded journey. Holtzmann takes for granted that those materials were nothing else than the contents of his second principal source, the Logia of Matthew, which Luke has placed here, after employing up till this point his first source, the original Mark. Weizsäcker, who thinks, on the contrary, that the Logia of Matthew are almost exactly reproduced in the great groups of discourses which the first contains, sees in this fourth part of Luke a collection of sayings derived by him from those great discourses of Matthew, and arranged systematically with regard to the principal questions which were agitated in the apostolic churches (the account of the feast, Luke 14:1-35, alluding to the Agapae; the discourses, Luk 15:1 to Luke 17:10, to questions relative to the admission of Gentiles, etc.).

Of course, according to those three points of view, the historical introductions with which Luke prefaces each of those teachings would be more or less his own invention. He deduces them himself from those teachings, as we might do at the present day. As to the rest, Bleek expressly remarks that this view leaves entirely intact the historical truth of the sayings of Jesus in themselves. We shall gather up in the course of our exegesis the data which can enlighten us on the value of those hypotheses; but at the outset we must offer the following observations: 1. In thus inventing an entire phase of the ministry of Jesus, Luke would put himself in contradiction to the programme marked out ( Luk 1:1-4 ), where he affirms that he has endeavoured to reproduce historical truth exactly. 2. What purpose would it serve knowingly to enrich the ministry of Jesus with a fictitious phase? Would it not have been much simpler to distribute those different pieces along the course of the Galilean ministry? 3. Does a conscientious historian play thus with the matter of which he treats, especially when that matter forms the object of his religious faith?

If Luke had really acted in this way, we should require, with Baur, to take a step further, and ascribe to this fiction a more serious intention that of establishing, by those prolonged relations of Jesus to the Samaritans, the Pauline universalism? Thus it is that criticism, logically carried out in questions relating to the Gospels, always lands us in this dilemma historical truth or deliberate imposture.

The historical truth of this journey, as Luke describes it, appears to us evident from the following facts: 1. Long or short, a journey from Galilee to Judea through Perea must have taken place; so much is established by the narratives of Matthew and Mark, and indirectly confirmed by that of John, when he mentions a sojourn in Perea precisely at the same epoch ( Luk 10:40-42 ). 2. The duration of this journey must have been much more considerable than appears from a hasty glance at the first two synoptics. How, in reality, are we to fill the six or seven months which separated the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:0, month of October) from that of the Passover, at which Jesus died? The few accounts, Matthew 19:20 (Mark 10:0), cannot cover such a gap. Scarcely is there wherewith to fill up the space of a week. Where, then, did Jesus pass all that time? And what did He do? It is usually answered, that from the feast of Tabernacles to that of the Dedication (December) He remained in Judea. That is not possible. He must have gone to Jerusalem in a sort of incognito and by way of surprise, in order to appear unexpectedly in that city, and to prevent the police measures which a more lengthened sojourn in Judea would have allowed His enemies to take against Him. And after the violent scenes related Joh 7:1 to John 10:21, He must have remained peacefully there for more than two whole months! Such an idea is irreconcilable with the situation described John 6:1; John 7:1-13.

Jesus therefore, immediately after rapidly executing that journey, returned to Galilee. This return, no doubt, is not mentioned; but no more is that which followed John 5:0. It is understood, as a matter of course, that so long as a new scene of action is not indicated in the narrative, the old one continues. After the stay at Jerusalem at the feast of Dedication ( Joh 10:22 et seq.), it is expressly said that Jesus sojourned in Perea ( Luk 9:40-42 ): there we have the first indication apprising us that the long sojourn in Galilee had come to an end. Immediately, therefore, after the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus returned to Galilee, and it was then that He definitely bade adieu to that province, and set out, as we read Luke 9:51, to approach Jerusalem slowly and while preaching the gospel. Not only is such a journey possible, but it is in a manner forced on us by the necessity of providing contents for that blank interval in the ministry of Jesus. 3. The indications which Luke supplies respecting the scene of this journey have nothing in them but what is exceedingly probable. After His first visit to Nazareth, Jesus settled at Capernaum; He made it His own city ( Mat 9:1 ), and the centre of His excursions ( Luk 4:31 et seq.). Very soon He considerably extended the radius of His journeys on the side of western Galilee (Nain, Luk 7:11 ). Then He quitted His Capernaum residence, and commenced a ministry purely itinerant ( Luk 8:1 et seq.). To this period belong His first visit to Decapolis, to the east of the lake of Gennesaret, and the multiplication of the loaves, to the north-east of that sea. Finally, we learn from Matthew and Mark that Jesus made two other great excursions into the northern regions, the one to the north-west toward Phoenicia (Luke's great lacuna), the other toward the north-east, to the sources of the Jordan (Caesarea Philippi, and the transfiguration). To accomplish His mission toward Galilee there thus remained to be visited only the southern parts of this province on the side of Samaria. What more natural, consequently, than the direction which He followed in this journey, slowly passing over that southern part of Galilee from west to east which He had not before visited, and from which He could make some excursions among that Samaritan people at whose hands He had found so eager a welcome at the beginning of His ministry?

Regarding the visit to Martha and Mary, and the saying Luke 13:34-35, we refer to the explanation of the passages. Perhaps the first is a trace (unconscious on the part of Luke) of Jesus' short sojourn at Jerusalem at the feast of Dedication. In any case, the narrative of Luke is thus found to form the natural transition between the synoptical accounts and that of John. And if we do not find in Luke that multiplicity of journeys to Jerusalem which forms the distinctive feature of John's Gospel, we shall at least meet with the intermediate type of a ministry, a great part of which (the Galilean work once finished) assumes the form of a prolonged pilgrimage in the direction of Jerusalem.

As to the contents of the ten chapters embraced in this part of Luke, they are perfectly in keeping with the situation. Jesus carries along with Him to Judea all the following of devoted believers which He has found in Galilee, the nucleus of His future Church. From this band will go forth the army of evangelists which, with the apostles at its head, will shortly enter upon the conquest of the world in His name. To prepare them as they travel along for this task, such is His constant aim. He prosecutes it directly in two ways: by sending them on a mission before Him, as formerly He had sent the twelve, and making them serve, as these had done, a first apprenticeship to their future work; then, by bringing to bear on them the chief part of His instructions respecting that emancipation from the world and its goods which was to be the distinctive character of the life of His servants, and thus gaining them wholly for the great task which He allots to them.

What are the sources of Luke in this part which is peculiar to him? According to Holtzmann, Luke here gives us the contents of Matthew's Logia, excepting the introductions, which he adds or amplifies. We shall examine this whole hypothesis hereafter. According to Schleiermacher, this narrative is the result of the combination of two accounts derived from the journals of two companions of Jesus, the one of whom took part in the journey at the feast of Dedication, the other in that of the last Passover. Thus he explains the exactness of the details, and at the same time the apparent inexactness with which a visit to Bethany is found recorded in the midst of a series of scenes in Galilee. According to this view, the short introductions placed as headings to the discourses are worthy of special confidence.

But how has this fusion of the two writings which has merged the two journeys into one been brought about? Luke cannot have produced it consciously; it must have existed in his sources. The difficulty is only removed a stage. How was it possible for the two accounts of different journeys to be fused into a unique whole? As far as we are concerned, all that we believe it possible to say regarding the source from which Luke drew is, that the document must have been either Aramaic, or translated from Aramaic. To be convinced of this, we need only read the verse, Luke 9:51, which forms the heading of the narrative.

If we were proceeding on the relation of Luke to the two other synoptics, we should divide this part into two cycles, that in which Luke moves alone ( Luk 9:51 to Luk 18:14 ), and that in which he moves parallel to them ( Luk 18:15 to Luk 19:27 ). But that division has nothing corresponding to it in the mind of the author, who probably knows neither of the two other canonical accounts. He himself divides his narrative into three cycles by the three observations with which he marks it off: 1 st. Luk 9:51 to Luke 13:21 (Luke 9:51, the resolution to depart); 2 d. Luk 13:22 to Luke 17:10 (Luke 13:22, the direction of the journey); 3 d. Luk 17:11 to Luke 19:27 (Luke 17:11, the scene of the journey). Such, then, will be our division.

Verses 10-21

11. The Progress of the Kingdom: Luke 13:10-21.

During this journey, as throughout His whole ministry, Jesus did not fail to frequent the synagogues on the Sabbath days. The present narrative introduces us to one of those scenes. Perhaps the feeling which led Luke to place it here, was that of the contrast between Israel, which was hasting to destruction, and the Church, which was already growing.

A glorious deed, which tells strongly on the multitude ( Luk 13:10-17 ), leads Jesus to describe in two parables the power of the kingdom of God ( Luk 13:18-21 ).

1 st. Luke 13:10-17. The Healing of the palsied Woman.

And first the miracle, Luke 13:10-13. This woman was completely bent, and her condition was connected with a psychical weakness, which in turn arose from a higher cause, by which the will of the sufferer was bound. This state of things is described by the phrase: a spirit of infirmity. Jesus first of all heals the psychical malady: Thou art loosed. Λέλυσθαι , the perfect: it is an accomplished fact. The will of the sufferer through faith draws from this declaration the strength which it lacked. At the same time, by the laying on of His hands, Jesus restores the bodily organism to the control of the emancipated will; and the cure is complete.

The conversation, Luke 13:14-17. It was the Sabbath. The ruler of the synagogue imagines that he should apply to Jesus the Rabbinical regulation for practising physicians. Only, not daring to attack Him, he addresses his discourse to the people ( Luk 13:14 ). Θεραπεύεσθε , come to get yourselves healed.

Jesus takes up the challenge. The plural hypocrites is certainly the true reading (comp. the plural adversaries, Luk 13:17 ). Jesus puts on trial the whole party of whom this man is the representative. The severity of His apostrophe is justified by the comparison which follows ( Luk 13:15-16 ) between the freedom which they take with the Sabbath law, when their own interests, even the most trivial, are involved, and the extreme rigour with which they apply it, when the question relates to their neighbour's interests, even the gravest, as well as to their estimate of the conduct of Jesus. The three contrasts between ox (or ass) and daughter of Abraham, between stall and Satan, and between the two bonds, material and spiritual, to be unloosed, are obvious at a glance. The last touch: eighteen years, in which the profoundest pity is expressed, admirably closes the answer.

Holtzmann thinks that what has led Luke to place this account here, is the connection between the eighteen years' infirmity ( Luk 13:11 ) and the three years' sterility ( Luk 13:7 )! Not content with ascribing to Luke this first puerility, he imputes to him a second still greater: that which has led Luke to place at Luk 13:18 the parable of the grain of mustard seed, is that it is borrowed from the vegetable kingdom, like that of the fig-tree ( Luk 13:7-9 )!!

This so nervous reply brings the admiration of the people to a height, and shuts the mouth of His adversaries. Jesus then, rising to the general idea, of which this deed is only a particular application, to wit, the power of the kingdom of God, developes it in two parables fitted to present this truth in its two chief aspects; the two are, the mustard seed ( Luk 13:18-19 ) and the leaven ( Luk 13:20-21 ).

2 d. Luke 13:18-21. The Two Parables.

The kingdom of God has two kinds of power: the power of extension, by which it gradually embraces all nations; the power of transformation, by which it gradually regenerates the whole of human life. The natural symbol of the first is a seed which acquires in a short time an increase out of all proportion to its original smallness; that of the second, a fermenting element, materially very inconsiderable, but capable of exercising its assimilating virtue over a large mass. Those two parables form part of the collection, Mat 13:31 et seq.; the first only is found Mark 4:30-31.

Vers. 18 and 19. Again the formula ἔλεγε δέ (or οὖν , as some Alex. read).

The two questions of Luk 13:18 express the activity of mind which seeks in nature the analogies which it needs. The first: “To what is like...,” affirms the existence of the emblem sought; the second: “To what shall I liken...,” has the discovery of it in view. Mark likewise introduces this parable with two questions; but they differ both in substance and form from those of Luke. Tradition had indeed preserved the memory of this style of speaking; only it had modified the tenor of the questions. We must certainly reject with the Alex., in the text both of Luke and Matthew, the epithet great applied to tree. Jesus does not mean to contrast a great tree with a small one, but a tree to vegetables in general. The mustard plant in the East does not rise beyond the height of one of our small fruit trees. But the exceptional thing is, that a plant like mustard, which belongs to the class of garden herbs, and the grain of which is exceedingly small, puts forth a woody stalk adorned with branches, and becomes a veritable tree. It is thus the striking type of the disproportion which prevails between the smallness of the kingdom of God at its commencement, when it is yet enclosed in the person of Jesus, and its final expansion, when it shall embrace all peoples. The form of the parable is shorter and simpler in Luke than in the other two.

Vers. 20 and 21. Jesus anew seeks an image ( Luk 13:20 ) to portray the power of the kingdom of God as a principle of moral transformation. There is here, as in all the pairs of parables, a second aspect of the same truth; comp. Luke 5:36-38, Luke 15:3-10, Matthew 13:44-46, John 10:1-10. We even find in Luke 15:0 and John 10 a third parable completing the other two. Leaven is the emblem of every moral principle, good or bad, possessing in some degree a power of fermentation and assimilation; comp. Galatians 5:9.

The three measures should be explained, like the three years ( Luk 13:7 ), by the figure taken as a whole. It was the quantity ordinarily employed for a batch. They have been understood as denoting the three branches of the human race, Shemites, Japhethites, and Hamites; or, indeed, Greeks, Jews, and Samaritans (Theod. of Mopsuestia); or, again, of the heart, soul, and spirit (Augustine). Such reveries are now unthought of. The idea is, that the spiritual life enclosed in the gospel must penetrate the whole of human life, the individual, thereby the family, and through the latter, society.

Those two parables form the most entire contrast to the picture which the Jewish imagination had formed of the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom. One wave of the magic wand was to accomplish everything in the twinkling of an eye. In opposition to this superficial notion, Jesus sets the idea of a moral development which works by spiritual means and takes account of human freedom, consequently slow and progressive. How can it be maintained, in view of such sayings, that He believed in the immediate nearness of His return?

The place which those two parables occupy in the great collection Matthew 13:0, is evidently the result of a systematic arrangement; there they have the effect of two flowers in a herbarium. Luke has restored them to their natural situation. His account is at once independent of and superior to that of Matthew; Mark accords with Matthew.

Verse 22

Second Cycle: A New Series of Incidents in the Journey, Luk 13:22 to Luke 17:10 .

Ver. 22 serves as an introduction to this whole cycle. Jesus slowly continues His journey of evangelization ( διεπορεύετο , He proceeded through the country), stopping at every city, and even at every village ( κατά , distributive), taking advantage of every occasion which presents itself to instruct both those who accompany Him and the people of the place, only pursuing in the main a general direction toward Jerusalem ( διδάσκων , ποιούμενος ). Nothing could be more natural than this remark, which is founded on the general introduction, Luke 9:51, and in keeping with the analogous forms used in cases of summing up and transition, which we have observed throughout this Gospel.

1. The Rejection of Israel, and the Admission of the Gentiles: Luke 13:23-30. An unforeseen question calls forth a new flash. It was probably evoked by a saying of Jesus, which appeared opposed to the privileges of Israel, that is to say, to its national participation in the Messianic blessedness.

Verses 23-27

Vers. 23-27. “ Then one said unto Him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And He said unto them, 24. Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25. When once the Master of the house is risen up, and shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us, and He shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26. Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets. 27. But He shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.

The question of Luk 13:23 was to a certain extent a matter of curiosity. In such cases Jesus immediately gives a practical turn to His answer. Comp. Luke 12:41, John 3:3; and hence Luke says ( Luk 13:23 ): “He said to them. ” Jesus gives no direct answer to the man; He addresses a warning to the people on the occasion of his question.

The Messianic kingdom is represented under the figure of a palace, into which men do not enter, as might appear natural, by a magnificent portal, but by a narrow gate, low, and scarcely visible, a mere postern. Those invited refuse to pass in thereby; then it is closed, and they in vain supplicate the master of the house to re-open it; it remains closed, and they are, and continue, excluded. The application is blended, to a certain extent, as in Luke 12:58-59, with the figure. ᾿Αγωνίζεσθαι , to strive, refers in the parable to the difficulty of passing through the narrow opening; in the application, to the humiliations of penitence, the struggles of conversion. The strait gate represents attachment to the lowly Messiah; the magnificent gateway by which the Jews would have wished to enter, would represent, if it were mentioned, the appearance of the glorious Messiah whom they expected. I declare unto you, says Jesus: They will think it incredible that so great a number of Jews, with the ardent desire to have part in that kingdom, should not succeed in entering it. The word πολλοί , many, proves the connection between this discourse and the question of Luke 13:23. Only Jesus does not say whether there will be few or many saved; He confines Himself to saying that there will be many lost. This is the one important matter for practical and individual application. It is perfectly consistent with this truth that there should be many saved. The meaning of the expression, will seek to enter in, Luke 13:24, is explained at Luk 13:25 by the cries which are uttered, and the knockings at the gate; and the meaning of the words, but shall not be able, Luke 13:24, is explained by Luke 13:26-27, which describe the futility of those efforts.

It is not possible to connect the ἀφ᾿ οὗ , when once, with the preceding phrase; the period would drag intolerably. The principal proposition on which this conjunction depends must therefore be sought in what follows. This might be καὶ ἄρξεσθε (not ἄρξησθε ), Luke 13:25 b: “When once the Master has risen...ye shall begin, on your side ( καί ),...;” or καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ἐρεῖ at the end of the same Luke 13:25: “He, on His side ( καί ), shall answer and say...;” or, finally, and most naturally of all, the apodosis may be placed, as we have put it in our translation, at Luke 13:26, in the words: τότε ἄρξεσθε : then ye shall begin. The word then favours this construction. The decisive act of the Master in rising from His seat to shut the door symbolizes the fact that conversion and pardon are no longer possible ( ἀφ᾿ οὗ , when once). What moment is this? Is it that of the rejection and dispersion of Israel? No; for the Jews did not then begin to cry and to knock according to the description of Luke 13:25. Is it the time of the Parousia, when the great Messianic festival shall open? No; for the Jews then living shall be converted and received into the palace. The words, when ye shall see ( Luk 13:28 ), strikingly recall a similar feature in the parable of the wicked rich man, that in which this unhappy one is represented in Hades contemplating from afar the happiness of Lazarus in Abraham's bosom. We are thereby led to apply what follows (“when ye shall see Abraham...,” Luk 13:23 ) to the judgment which Jesus pronounces at present on the unbelieving Jews, excluding them in the life to come from all participation in the blessings of salvation. Gess: “The house where Jesus waits can be no other than heaven; it is the souls of the dead who remind Him, Luke 13:26, of the relations which He had with them on the earth.”

This Luk 13:26 indicates the tendency to rest salvation on certain external religious advantages: “Thou wast one of ourselves; we cannot perish.” Is there in the words, I know not whence ye are ( Luk 13:27 ), an allusion to the false confidence which the Jews put in their natural descent from Abraham?

Verses 28-30

Vers. 28-30. “ There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 29. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

Wailings express despair, gnashings of teeth rage. The souls of the condemned oscillate between those two feelings. The article before the two substantives has the force of setting aside all former similar impressions as comparatively insignificant. Messianic blessedness is represented in Luke 13:28, according to a figure familiar among the Jews ( Luk 14:15 ), under the image of a banquet presided over by the patriarchs. From Luk 13:29 it follows that the believing Gentiles are admitted as well as the faithful posterity of Abraham. Thus there are really many persons saved.

The words and behold ( Luk 13:30 ) refer to the surprise produced by this entire reversal of position. The last here are not those who, within the confines of the kingdom, occupy the last place; they are, as the context proves, those who are excluded from it; they are in the last place, absolutely speaking. The first are all the saved. The first proposition evidently applies to the Gentiles who are admitted ( Luk 13:29 ), the second to the Jews who are rejected ( Luk 13:27-28 ).

Sayings similar to those of Luk 13:25-27 are found in Matthew 7:0, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, also in Mat 25:10-12 and Matthew 25:30. There is nothing to prevent us from regarding them as uttered on a different occasion. Those of Luk 13:28-29 appear in Matthew 8:11-12, immediately after the cure of the centurion's son. But they are not so well accounted for there as in the context of Luke. The apophthegm of Luk 13:30 forms (Matthew 19:30; Mat 20:16 ) the preface and the conclusion of the parable of the labourers called at different hours. In this context, the last who become the first are manifestly the labourers who, having come later, find themselves privileged to receive the same hire; the first who become the last are those who, having wrought from the beginning of the day, are thereby treated less advantageously. Is this sense natural? Is not the application of those expressions in Luke to the rejected Jews and admitted Gentiles more simple?

The Epistles to the Galatians and to the Romans are the only true commentary on this piece, and on the sayings of Luk 13:28-29 in particular. Now, as the historical truth of the whole passage is certified by the parallel of Matthew, we have a clear proof that the gospel of Paul no way differed in substance from that of Jesus and the Twelve.

2. The Farewell to the Theocracy: Luke 13:31-35.

When the heart is full of some one feeling, everything which tells upon it from without calls forth the expression of it. And so, at the time when the mind of Jesus is specially occupied about the future of His people, it is not surprising that this feeling comes to light with every circumstance which supervenes. There is therefore no reason why this perfectly natural fact should be taken to prove a systematic arrangement originating with Luke.

Verses 31-33

Vers. 31-33. “ The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto Him, Get thee out, and depart hence; for Herod will kill thee. 32. And He said unto them, Go ye and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. 33. Nevertheless, I must walk to-day, and to-morrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.

We cannot help being surprised at seeing the Pharisees interesting themselves in the safety of Jesus, and we are naturally led to suspect a feint, if not a secret understanding with Herod. Already at a much earlier date Mark ( Mar 3:6 ) had showed us the Herodians and Pharisees plotting together. Is not something of the same kind now repeated? Herod, on whose conscience there already weighed the murder of a prophet, was not anxious to commit another crime of the same sort; but no more did he wish to see this public activity of Jesus, of which his dominions had been for some time the theatre, and the popular excitement which accompanied it, indefinitely prolonged. As to the Pharisees, it was natural that they should seek to draw Jesus to Judea, where He would fall more directly under the power of the Sanhedrim. It had been agreed, therefore, to bring this lengthened journey to an end by terrifying Jesus. He penetrates their intrigue; and hence He addresses His reply to Herod himself, making the Pharisees at the same time His message-bearers, as they had been the king's message-bearers to Him. “I see well on whose part you come. Go and answer Herod...” Thus also the epithet fox, which He applies to this prince, finds its explanation. Instead of issuing a command, as becomes a king, he degrades himself to play the part of an intriguer. Not daring to show the teeth of the lion, he uses the tricks of the fox. Fault has been found with Jesus for speaking with so little respect of the prince of His people. But it must be remembered that Herod was the creature of Caesar, and not the lawful heir of David's throne.

The meaning of the first part of the answer (Luke 13:32 b) is this: “Reassure thyself, thou who seekest to terrify me; my present activity in no way threatens thy power; I am not a Messiah such as he whose appearance thou dreadest; some devils cast out, some cures accomplished, such is all my work in thy dominions. And to complete the assuring of thee, I promise thee that it shall not be long: to-day, to-morrow, and a day more; then it will be at an end.” These last words symbolically express the idea of a very short time; comp. Hosea 6:2. We may regard τελειοῦμαι either, with Bleek, as Attic fut. mid., or, what seems simpler, as a pres. mid. used for the fut. to designate what is immediately imminent. The term so near can be none other than that of His life; comp. 33b. Bleek and others give τελειοῦμαι the active meaning: “ I close [my ministry in Galilee].” But the word τελειοῦμαι in this context is too solemn to suit this almost superfluous sense.

The Alex. reading ἀποτελῶ , I finish, does not so well correspond to the parallel term ἐκβάλλω , I cast out, as the received reading ἐπιτελῶ , I work. It is probably owing to a retrospective influence of the word τελειοῦμαι .

Ver. 33. Short as the time is which is allowed to Jesus, it remains none the less true ( πλήν ) that He will quietly pursue His present journey, and that no one will force Him to bring His progress and work hastily to an end. The δεῖ , I must, which refers to the decree of Heaven, justifies this mode of acting. Πορεύεσθαι , to travel, the emblem of life and action; this word is opposed to τελειοῦμαι , which designates the time at which the journeying ends. Τῇ ἐχομένῃ ( the day following), Luke 13:33, corresponds to τῇ τρίτῃ ( the third day), Luke 13:32; Jesus means: “I have only three days; but I have them, and no one will cut them short.” Wieseler takes the three days literally, and thinks that at the time when Jesus thus spoke He was but three days' journey from Bethany, whither He was repairing. It would be difficult to reduce so weighty a saying to greater poverty of meaning. Bleek, who does not succeed in overcoming the difficulty of this enigmatical utterance, proposes to suppress in Luk 13:33 the words σήμερον καὶ αὔριον καί as a very old interpolation. No document supports this supposition, which would have the effect of mutilating one of the most striking declarations of our Lord.

The last words of Luk 13:33 are the answer of Jesus to the Pharisees. They, too, may reassure themselves; their prey will not escape them. Jerusalem has the monopoly of killing the prophets, and on this highest occasion the city will not be deprived of its right. The word ἐνδέχεται , it is possible, contains, like the entire saying, a scathing irony: “ It is not suitable; it would be contrary to use and wont, and, in a manner, to theocratic decorum, if such a prophet as I should perish elsewhere than in Jerusalem!” No doubt John the Baptist had perished away from that city. But such ironies must not be taken in the strict letter. Jerusalem could not let her privilege be twice taken from her in so short a time! The relation indicated by ὅτι , for, is this: “I know that the time which is at my disposal in favour of Galilee will not be cut short by my death; for I am not to die elsewhere than at Jerusalem...”

According to Holtzmann, this passage, peculiar to Luke and taken from Λ , was omitted by Matthew because of its obscurity. Must he not have omitted many others for the same reason?

Already, Luke 13:4-5, on occasion of an event which more particularly concerned the Galileans, the mind of Jesus had been directed toward Jerusalem. Now the thought of this capital become, as it were, the executioner of the prophets, takes possession of His heart. His grief breaks forth; the prelude to the tears of Palm-day.

Verses 34-35

Vers. 34 and 35. “ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! 35. Behold, your house is left unto you. But I say unto you, ye shall not see me until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.

It is surprising, at first sight, to find such an apostrophe to Jerusalem in the heart of Galilee. But were not the Pharisees whom Jesus had before Him the representatives of that capital? Comp. Luke 5:17: “There were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem. ” Had He not been setting their minds at rest as such? Such an apostrophe to Jerusalem, regarded from a distance, has something about it more touching than if He had already been within its walls. In Mat 23:37 it is placed, during His sojourn at Jerusalem, on one of the days preceding the Passion, and at the point when Jesus leaves the temple for the last time. This situation is grand and tragic; but is it not probable that this placing of the passage was due to the certainly too narrow application (see below) of the expression your house ( Luk 13:35 ) to the temple?

The words thy children have been applied by Baur not to the inhabitants of Jerusalem only, but to all Israelites, Galileans included; and he denies, consequently, that this saying could serve to prove the conclusion which has often been drawn from it, viz. that the narrative of the Syn. implies the numerous sojourns at Jerusalem which are related by John. But the relation of Luk 13:34 to the latter part of Luk 13:33 compels us to restrict the meaning of the word to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; its only admissible sense also in Luke 19:44; and, taken by itself, its only natural sense. Only, it is assumed that the fate of the population of the capital involves in it that of the other inhabitants of the country.

The contrast between I would...and ye would not, proves the sad privilege which man possesses of resisting the most earnest drawings of grace. As to Jesus, while mournfully asserting the futility of His efforts to save His people, He does not the less persevere in His work; for He knows that, if it has not the result that it might and should have, it will have another, in which God will notwithstanding carry out His plan to fulfilment. Some Jews saved shall become, in default of the nation as a whole, the instruments of the world's salvation.

Jesus represents Himself, Luke 13:34, as a protector stretching His compassionate arms over the theocracy and its capital, because He knows well that He alone can rescue them from the catastrophe by which they are threatened. It is, in another form, the idea of the parable of the fig-tree ( Luk 13:6-9 ). Now Israel rejects the protection which He offers. What more can Jesus do ( Luk 13:35 )? Leave to Israel the care of its own defence, that is to say,

Jesus knows it well, give it up to a ruin which He alone could avert. Such is the meaning of the words, your house is left unto you; henceforth it is given over to your guardianship. Jesus frees Himself of the charge which His Father had confided to Him, the salvation of the theocracy. It is in its every feature the situation of the divine Shepherd in His last endeavour to save the flock of slaughter, Zach. Luke 11:4-14. The application of the expression your house to the temple, in such a unity, must be felt to be much too special. The place in question is Canaan, the abode divinely granted to the people, and especially Jerusalem, the centre of the theocracy. The authenticity of the word ἔρημος , desolate ( Luk 13:35 ), appears more than doubtful both in Matthew and Luke. If this word were authentic, it would refer to the withdrawal of Jesus' visible presence; comp. Ezekiel 11:0, where the cloud rising from over the sanctuary passes eastward, and from that moment the temple is empty and desolate. But the government ὑμῖν , “is left to you,” and the want of sufficient authorities, speak against this reading.

Like a bird of prey hovering in the air, the enemy is threatening the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Jesus, who was sheltering them under His wings as a hen her brood, withdraws, and they remain exposed, reduced thenceforth to defend themselves. The adversative form, but I say unto you, is certainly preferable to that of Matthew, for I say unto you. “I go away; but I declare to you, it will be for longer than you think; that my absence may be brought to an end, you yourselves, by the change of your sentiments in regard to me, will have to give the signal for my return.” The words ἕως ἂν ἥξῃ , until it come to pass that..., are the true reading. This moral change will certainly ( ἕως ) come about, but when ( ἄν ) it is impossible to say. Some commentators (Paulus, Wieseler, etc.) think that the time here pointed to is Palmday, on which Jesus received the homage of part of the people, and particularly of the Galileans, to whom these sayings had been addressed. “Ye shall not see me again, ye Galileans, until we meet together on the occasion of my entry into Jerusalem.” But how poor and insignificant would this meaning be, after the previous sayings! What bearing on the salvation of Israel had this separation of a few weeks? Besides, it was not to the Galileans that Jesus was speaking; it was to the representatives of the pharisaic party ( Luk 13:31-34 ). In Matthew's context, the interpretation of Wieseler is still more manifestly excluded.

The words which Jesus here puts into the mouth of converted Israel in the end of the days, are taken from Psalms 118:26. This cry of penitent Israel will bring the Messiah down again, as the sigh of Israel, humbled and waiting for consolation, had led Him to appear the first time ( Isa 64:1 ). The announcement of the future return of Jesus, brought about by the faith of the people in His Messiahship ( ὁ ἐρχόμενος ), thus forms the counterpart to that of His near departure, caused by the national unbelief ( τελειοῦμαι ).

How can any one fail to feel the appropriateness, the connection, the harmony of all the parts of this admirable answer? How palpable, at least in this case, is the decisive value of Luke's short introduction for the understanding of the whole piece! The important matter here, as everywhere, is, above all, the precise indication of the interlocutors: “The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying...”

Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on Luke 13". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/luke-13.html.
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