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Monday, September 25th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Luke 18

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;

This delightful parable was evidently designed to follow up the subject of the last section, on the Coming of the Son of man (Luke 18:8). In so far as the closing verses directed the thoughts to the Second Personal Appearing of the Lord Jesus, it was as an event which would occur when least expected. But lest this should lead-as it has led-to the inference that it would be very speedy, or was quite near at hand, the more immediate design of this parable was to guard against that impression, by intimating that it might, on the contrary, be so long delayed as nearly to extinguish the expectation of His coming at all. Accordingly, while the duty of persevering prayer in general is here enforced, the more direct subject of the parable is unceasing prayer by the widowed and oppressed Church for redress of all its wrongs, for deliverance out of all its troubles for transition from its widowhood to its wedded state, by the glorious appearing of its heavenly Bridegroom.

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray. Compare Luke 18:7, "His own elect which cry unto Him day and night."

And not to faint, [ ekkakein (G1573), or, as the better supported reading, perhaps, is, engkakein (G1457a)] - 'and not to lose heart,' or 'slacken.'

Verse 2

Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:

Saying, There was in a [certain] city [ en (G1722 ) tini (G5100 ) polei (G4172 )] a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man - regardless alike of divine and human judgment; void of all principle.

Verse 3

And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.

And there was a widow in that city - weak, desolate, defenseless. Compare 1 Timothy 5:5, a verse evidently alluding to what is here said, "Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day."

And she came, [ eercheto (G2064)] - rather, 'kept coming,' as the imperfect tense implies. Indeed it was to get rid of this "continual coming" that the judge at length gave her redress.

Saying, Avenge me [ Ekdikeeson (G1556 ) me (G3165 ) apo (G575 )] of mine adversary - that is, by a judicial interposition.

Verse 4

And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;

And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God nor regard man;

Verse 5

Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

Yet (I have some regard to my own comfort: so) because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming, [ eis (G1519) telos (G5056) erchomenee (G2064)] - 'her incessant coming.' In 1 Thessalonians 2:16 the same expression is rendered 'to the uttermost.'

She weary - or 'annoy' me [ hupoopiazee (G5299) me (G3165)].

Verse 6

And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.

And the Lord - a name expressive of the authoritative style in which He now interpreted His own parable, "said, Hear what the unjust judge saith."

Verse 7

And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?

And shall not God - not like that unprincipled man, but the infinitely righteous "Judge of all the earth," And shall not God - not like that unprincipled man, but the infinitely righteous "Judge of all the earth,"

Avenge - redeem from oppression, his own elect-who are not like this poor widow in the eye of that selfish wretch, the objects of indifference and contempt, but dear to Him as the apple of the eye (Zechariah 2:8).

Which cry day and night unto him - whose every cry enters into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (James 5:4); and how much more their incessant and persevering cries,

Though he bear long with them? [ kai (G2532) makrothumoon (G3114), or, according to the preferable reading, makrothumei (G3114) ep' (G1909) autois (G846)]. This rendering is apt to perplex the English reader, to whose ear it fails to convey the obvious sense. The same expression is used in James 5:7 - "The farmer waitheth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it" [ makrothumoon (G3114) ep' (G1909) autoo (G846)]. So we should, render it here, 'though he bear long for them,' or 'on their account;' that is, with their oppressors. It is not with His own elect that God has to bear in the case here supposed, but with those that oppress them. And the meaning is, that although He tolerates these oppressions for a long time, He will at length interpose in behalf of His own elect.

Verse 8

I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

I tell you, he will avenge them speedily, [ en (G1722) tachei (G5034)]. As when "His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel" (Judges 10:16), so "His bowels are troubled" for His own elect, crying to Him day and night from the depths of their oppressions: He is pained, as it were, at the long delay which His wisdom sees necessary, and at the sore trial to which it puts their faith, and is impatient, so to speak, until "the time, the set time," arrive to interpose.

Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith (that is, any belief that He will come at all), on the earth? 'Yet, before 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, Is there any faith of a coming Avenger, any expectation that the Church's Lord will ever return to her, left on the earth?'


(1) Thus the primary, the historical reference of this parable is to the Church in her widowed, desolate, oppressed, defenseless condition, during the present absence of her Lord in the heavens. And the lessons it teaches, in this view of it, which are two-fold, are most precious. One lesson is, that though we are to be "always ready, not knowing when our Lord may come," we are at the same time not to be surprised though "the Bridegroom should tarry," so long as to wear out the patience of the most, and almost extinguish the hope of His coming. And the more so, as His coming will be needed, not only because the Bride can never be contented with anything short of the presence of her Beloved, but because in her widowed state she is exposed to all manner of indignities and wrongs, from which her Lord's coming alone will set her completely free. But another lesson is, that in these circumstances prayer is her proper resource, that though He seems to turn a deaf ear to her, she is to "pray always, and not faint," assured that she is dear to her Lord even when He seems to deny her; nay, that her incessant crying to Him is that which will bring Him to her at length; but yet, that the faith of His coming, through the length of the delay, will have reached its lowest ebb, and nearly died out, before the day dawn and the shadows flee away! It may be added that it would seem a law of the divine administration, that both judgment and mercy, when long delayed, come at last with a rapidity proportioned to the length of that delay. Of Judgment it is said, "He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1); and so it is said, "Their foot shall slide in due time" (Deuteronomy 32:35). Of mercy it is, here said, When at length it comes, it will come "speedily." But,

(2) The application of this delightful parable to prayer in general is so obvious as to have nearly hidden from most readers its more direct reference; and this general application is so resistle ss and invaluable that it cannot be allowed to disappear in any public and historical interpretation.

As the subject of this section has no connection with the two preceding ones, so the precise time and place of it are, as usual in this portion of our Gospel, left quite indefinite. But the purpose for which it was spoken-the lesson it was intended to convey-is more precisely expressed than in most other cases; because it is expressed both as a preface to it and as the concluding moral of it.

Verse 9

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

Verse 10

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. On these classes, see the notes at Matthew 3:1-12, Remark 2, at the close of that section.

Verse 11

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. The Pharisee stood (as the Jews did in prayer, Mark 11:25 ), and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 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, he 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 excellences. His religious merits complete his grounds for self-congratulation.

Verse 12

I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

I fast twice in the week, I give tithes (or the tenth) of all that I possess, [ ktoomai (G2932)] - or 'acquire;' 'of all my gains' or 'increase.' Not confining himself to the one divinely prescribed annual fast (Leviticus 16:29), he was not behind the most rigid, who, as Lightfoot says, fasted on the second and fifth days of every week, 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!

Verse 13

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

And the publican, standing afar off - as unworthy to draw near; but that was the way to get near (Psalms 34:18; Isaiah 57:15),

Would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven - "blushing and ashamed" to do so (Ezra 9:6),

But smote, [ etupte (G5180 ) rather, 'kept smiting'] upon his breast - for anguish (Luke 23:48) and self-reproach (Jeremiah 31:19),

Saying, God be merciful, [ hilastheeti (G2433)] - 'be propitiated' or 'propitious:' a very unusual word to occur here, and in only one other place 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 it can hardly be pressed.

To me a sinner, [ moi (G3427) too (G3588) hamartooloo (G268)] - literally 'to me the sinner;' as if he should say, 'If ever there was a sinner, I am he.'

Verse 14

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

I tell you - authoritatively,

This man went down to his house justified rather than the other. The meaning is, 'and not the other.'

For everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. This great law of the Kingdom of God is, in the teaching of Christ, inscribed over its entrance-gate as in letters of gold; but how vividly is it here depicted?


(1) The grand peculiarity of the religion of the Bible is salvation by grace; a salvation, however, unto holiness-not by, but unto, good works. It pervades the Old Testament (Exodus 34:6-7; Psalms 25:7; Psalms 34:18; Psalms 138:6; Psalms 147:6; Isaiah 57:15, etc.); though its full disclosure, in connection with the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, was naturally reserved for the New Testament. And yet, so natural is self-righteousness to the pride of the human heart, that it has found its way even into the doctrinal system of the Church; and by that apostasy which panders to all the corrupt inclinations of our nature, while preserving the form of evangelical truth, it has been erected into a most subtle scheme which, while apparently ascribing all to grace, is in reality a doctrine of salvation by works. (See the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent, Sess. VI. Decretum de Justificatione; particularly 100: 7: 9: with Can. 9: 11: VI. Decretum de Justificatione; particularly 100: 7: 9. with Can. 9: 11; 12: 13.) 'Even into Protestant Churches the very same doctrine has found entrance, under different forms of language, and in times of religious indifference and general degeneracy has spread its deadly virus over whole regions once blooming with health; nor is it effectually dislodged in any heart except by divine teaching.

(2) To be self-emptied, or "poor in spirit" is the fundamental and indispensable preparation for welcoming the "grace which bringeth salvation." Wherever this exists, that "mourning" which precedes comfort, that "hungering and thirsting after righteousness" which is rewarded with the "fulness" of it, is invariably found-as in this publican. Such, therefore, and such only, are the truly justified ones. "He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away" (Luke 1:53).

Here at length our Evangelist-after traveling over three hundred and fifty-one verses almost alone-gets again upon the line, traveling, as will be seen, in company with the two preceding Evangelists, though each, if one might so speak, on separate rails.

Verse 15

And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

And they brought unto him also infants, [ ta (G3588) brefee (G1025)]. This shows that some, at least, of those called "little" or "young children" in Matthew 19:13, and Mark 10:13, were literally "babes."

That he would touch them - or, as more fully given in Matthew, "that He should put his hands on them and pray," that is, invoke a blessing on them (Mark 10:16); according to venerable custom (Genesis 48:14-15).

But when his disciples saw it, they 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, etc.; Luke 18:39-40.) Here, it is plain from our Lord's reply, that they thought the intrusion a useless one, since infants were not capable of receiving anything from Him-His ministrations were for grown people.

Verse 16

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

But Jesus called them unto him, and said. In Mark, however, we have a precious addition, "But when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased" [ eeganakteese (G23)], and said unto them," SUFFER [THE] LITTLE CHILDREN [ ta (G3588) paidia (G3813)] TO COME UNTO ME, AND FORBID THEM NOT. What words are these from the lips of Christ! The price of them is above rubies. But the reason assigned, in the words that follow, crowns the statement-FOR OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD-or, as in Matt., "OF HEAVEN."

Verse 17

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein. See the note at Mark 9:36. But the action that followed-omitted by our Evangelist, and only partially given by Matthew, but fully supplied by Mark-is the best of all: "AND HE TOOK THEM UP IN HIS ARMS, PUT HIS HANDS UPON THEM, AND BLESSED THEM" (Mark 10:16). Now, is it to be conceived that all our Lord meant by this was to teach a lesson, not about children at all, but about grown people; namely, that they must become childlike if they would be capable of the kingdom of God, and for this reason they should not hinder infants from coming to Him, and therefore He took up and blessed the infants themselves? Did not the grave mistake of the disciples, which so "much displeased" the Lord Jesus, consist just in this, that they thought infants should not be brought to Christ, because only grown people could profit by Him? 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-as a German writer has well expressed it-yet 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.


(1) How different the feelings of Jesus from those of His disciples, in this as in so many other cases! They "marveled that He talked with the woman" of Samaria, while that "talk" was "meat to Him that they knew not of" (John 4:27; John 4:32): The cries of the Syrophoenician woman after Jesus were harsh in their ears, but they were music in His (Matthew 15:23; Matthew 15:28): And here, they think He has grown people enough to attend to, without being annoyed with untaught children and unconscious babes, who could get no possible good from Him; and so they administer to the expectant parents their damping, miserable "rebuke." But this was not more false in doctrine than the feeling that expressed it was at variance with His. It 'grievously vexed' Him, as the word signifies. His heart yearned after these babes just as "babes" and "little children;" nor are we capable of knowing the whole heart of Christ toward us if we leave out of it this most touching and beautiful element-the feeling that grievously vexed Him when infants were held back from Him. O what a spectacle was that which presented itself to the eye that was capable (if, indeed, there was one) of seeing into the interior of it-The Only begotten of the Father with an unconscious Babe in His arms; His gentle, yet mighty hands upon it; and His eyes upraised to heaven as the blessing descended upon it! Was not this one of those things which 'angels desired to look into?" For He was "seen of angels."

`He raised them in His holy arms, He blessed them from the world and all its harms: Heirs though they were of sin and shame, He blessed them in his own and in His Father's name.

`Then, as each fond, unconscious child On th' everlasting Parent sweetly smil'd, Like infants sporting on the shore, That tremble not at ocean's boundless roar,' etc.


(2) If Christ was "much displeased" with His disciples for interfering with those who were bringing their infants to Him, surely it is not enough that we do not positively hinder them. Whatsoever on our part is fitted to keep back children from Christ is in effect the same thing, and may be expected to cause the same displeasure. But that is not all. For, as it is an acknowledged rule, that whenever any sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded, so the displeasure of Christ at the attempt to keep back these children from Him carries with it the duty of bringing, or having them brought to Him, and the assurance of His benignant satisfaction with parents that bring them, and everyone who does anything to cause them to be brought to Him. Be stirred up, then, and emboldened, believing parents, to bring your babes, even from their first breath, to Jesus; and let the ministers of Christ, and all who would have His gracious complacency resting upon them, as the first and the last step in "feeding His lambs," bring them to Jesus!

(3) As the parable of the Good Samaritan has filled Christendom with Institutions for the relief of the wretched, over and above all that individuals have done in private, so this little incident-recorded by three of the Evangelists, yet occupying, even in the most detailed narrative of it, only four brief verses-has, over and above all that it has given birth to in private, filled Christendom with classes for the Christian training of the young; in the earlier ages, in a less systematic and comprehensive form, and chiefly by pastoral superintendence of parental instruction, but in these latter days on a vast scale, and to admirable effect. Nor can we doubt that the eye of Him who, in the days of His flesh, took up little children in His arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them, looks down from the skies in sweet complacency upon such efforts, blesses richly those that in obedience and love to Him engage in them, gathers many a lamb from among such flocks, to fold them in His own bosom above, and sends the rest as they grow up into the great world as "a seed to serve Him," a leaven to leaven the lump, that He may not come and smite it with a curse (Malachi 4:6).

(4) Let the intelligent reader note carefully the standing which this incident gives to children-even unconscious "infants" - in the Kingdom of God. "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of God." We have given reasons why this cannot mean merely, 'Let little children come to me, because grown people must be like them if they would enter the Kingdom.' What can be balder than such an interpretation of our Lord's words? But how natural and self-commending is the following sense of them: 'Ye are wrong in thinking that not until these children have grown to manhood can they get any good from Me. They also, even these unconscious babes, have their place, and not the least place, in the Kingdom of Heaven.' But if there could be any doubt whether our Lord was here speaking of the children themselves, or only of child-like men, surely His putting His hands upon them, and blessing them, ought to set that question at rest.

What could such actions mean, if not to convey some spiritual blessing, some saving benefit, to the babes themselves? Does any one doubt that children, dying in infancy, are capable of going to heaven? Or, does any Christian think that without the new birth, and the blood that cleanseth from all sin, they will be fit company for heaven's inhabitants, or find themselves in an atmosphere congenial to their nature, or without this will ever see it? But, if infants are capable of all that saves the soul, before they are capable of consciously believing in Christ, and even though they die before ever doing so, what follows? "Can any man forbid water" - said Peter of the Gentile Cornelius and his company - "that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?" (Acts 10:47). Of course, such application of the baptismal water to infants can have no warrant from our incident, except where the infants have been previously brought to Christ Himself for his benediction, and only as the sign and seal of His promised benediction.

But you may say, 'Is not faith explicitly and peremptorily required in order to baptism?' Yes, and in order to salvation too. Nay, "he that believeth not shall be damned." Are those who die in infancy, then, damned-because incapable of believing? 'O no,' it will be said; 'they were not contemplated in the demand for faith, in order to salvation.' Just so; and for that reason, since they are capable of the new birth, and forgiveness, and complete salvation-all in infancy and without any faith at all, just as truly as grown people-they are surely capable of the mere outward symbol of it, which brings them within the sacred enclosure, and separates them to a holy service and society, and inheritance among the people of God (1 Corinthians 7:14). Within this sacred enclosure, the apostle regards them as "in the Lord," and addresses them as such (Ephesians 6:1), inculcating on them obedience to their parents, as "well pleasing unto the Lord" (Colossians 3:20). The Christian household is thus to be a Christian nursery. Sweet view this of the standing of children that have been from their very birth brought to Christ, and blessed of Him, as believers may not doubt that their children are, and loved as dearly as if He took them up in His very arms, and made the blessing to descend upon them, even life for evermore! For more on this subject, see the notes at Luke 19:28-44, Remark 5 at the close of that section.

Verse 18

And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And a certain ruler asked him saying. Mark says, "And when He was gone forth into the way" - the high road, by this time crowded with travelers on their way to Jerusalem, to keep the Passover - "there came one running, and kneeled to Him, and asked Him,"

Good Master, what shall I do - in Matthew, "What good thing shall I do," "to inherit eternal life?"

Verse 19

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God, [ Ti (G5101) me (G3165) legeis (G3004) agathon (G18); oudeis (G3762) agathos (G18), ei-mee (G1508) heis (G1520) ho (G3588) Theos (G2316). So Mark 10:18; and so in the Received Text of Matthew 19:17, with trifling variation. But all recent critical editors-Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles-give the text of Matthew 19:17 thus - Ti (G5101) me (G3165) erootas (G2065) peri (G4012) tou (G3588) agathou (G18); heis (G1520) estin (G1510) ho (G3588) agathos (G18): 'Why askest thou me concerning what is Good? One is the Good One:' Alford adopts this into his text; DeWette and Meyer approve of it; and Olshausen thinks it admits of no doubt that this is the genuine reading. In spite of this, we venture to think that nothing but such overwhelming evidence in its behalf as it certainly does not possess would entitle it even to favourable consideration.

And this for two reasons: First, It makes our Lord's reply to this sincere and anxious inquirer incredibly inept. The man's question was, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Our Lord answers by asking him why he questioned Him regarding what was good-according to this reading. Is it likely our Lord would so answer him? especially as He presently tells him the thing he really wanted to know. But the conclusion of our Lord's reply, according to this reading, crowns its absurdity in our judgment: 'One is the Good One.' If this has any connection at all with what goes before, it must mean that the man had no need to inquire what was the good which men were to do, because One was the Good Being! But if there be no connection here, there is as little in what follows. And looking at this reading of our Lord's reply to a sincere and anxious inquirer after eternal life, nothing could persuade us that our Lord did utter it-in the absence, at least, of overpowering evidence from ancient manuscripts and versions.

But secondly, Since no one pretends that this is the reading of Mark and Luke, and since their account of our Lord's reply, while it gives a clear and pregnant answer to the man's question, differs totally from the sense of this special reading of Matthew, is it not a strong argument against this reading that it yields no proper sense at all, while the received reading gives the clear sense of the other two Gospels? We are well aware of the tendency of early transcribers to assimilate the readings of one Gospel to those of another, especially of two others which agree together; and we could give that consideration some weight here if the evidence otherwise were in favour of the special reading. Nor do we forget that, other things being equal, the more special a reading is the more probably is it the right one. But other things are not equal here, but far from it. It only remains, then, that we advert to the external evidence on the subject.

Only one manuscript of the oldest date-the celebrated Code Vaticanus (B) - was thought to have this reading; but the recently discovered Sinaiticus manuscript ('aleph (')), we now know, has it too. Two others (D and L) have it, together with three of the cursive or more recent manuscripts. Two of the Syriac versions, nearly all copies of the Old Latin and of the Vulgate, and the Memphitic or Lower-Egyptian, have it. Origen, in the third century, has the first part of it at least; and Eusebius, Jerome, and Augustine in the fourth century. Such is the evidence for this unnatural reading. Now, how stands the evidence on the other side? The only other manuscript of oldest date and greatest authority (A) is defective here; but the manuscripts with which it usually agrees have the Received Text. The next weightiest manuscript has it-the Codex Ephraemi rescriptus

(C) - and with it all other known manuscripts of the Gospels, except those above referred to.

An overwhelming number; and in weight, surely counterbalancing those above-mentioned. It is found in the oldest and most venerable of all the Syriac versions, the 'Peshito,' and in the text of the most critical one, the 'Philoxenian' or 'Harclean;' though the other reading is inserted in the margin. And it is found in the Thebaic or Upper-Egyptian version, which is thought to have claims to great antiquity. Of the Fathers, it is found in Irenaeus, and substantially in Justin Martyr, both of the second century, besides most of the later Fathers. On a review of the whole case, we hesitate not to say, that while the weight of external evidence appears to us to be clearly in favour of the Received Text, the internal evidence, arising from the inept character which the other reading gives to our Lord's reply, is decisive against it. We have been the more full in our statement upon this passage, because, while we hold that the true text of the New Testament must in every case be determined by the whole evidence which we possess, this passage affords a good example of the tendency of critics to be carried away, in opposition to their own principles, in favour of startling readings, and of the necessity, in such cases-even though one should stand almost alone-of expressing the result of the entire evidence in terms as strong as that evidence warrants. Scrivener ("Criticism of the New Testament") vindicates the Received Text, though with no reference to the inept character which the other one stamps upon our Lord's reply, and admitting too much in favour of the other reading from its harshness, and the tendency to assimilation. The only able critic who speaks out upon the 'absurdity' of this various reading is Fritzsche.]

Our Lord's response consists, first, of a hint by the way, founded on the appellation, "Good Master;" and next, of a direct reply to the inquiry itself. "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but One, [that is], God." Did our Lord mean by this to teach that God only ought to be called "good?" Impossible: for that had been to contradict all Scripture teaching and His own too. "A good man showeth favour and lendeth" (Psalms 112:5); "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good things" (Matthew 12:35); "Well done, good and faithful servant" Matthew 25:21); "Barnabas was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 11:24). Unless, therefore, we are to ascribe captiousness to our Lord, He could have had but one object-to teach this youth, on the one hand, that He declined to be classed along with other "good" people and "good masters;" and on the other hand, by reminding him that the only other sort of goodness, namely, supreme goodness, belonged to God alone, to leave him to draw the startling inference-that that was the goodness which belonged to Him. Unless this object is seen in the background of our Lord's words, nothing worthy of Him can be made out of this first part of His reply. But this hint once given, our Lord at once passes from it to the proper subject of the youth's inquiry.

Verse 20

Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.

Thou knowest the commandments. In Matthew (19:17-18 ) this is more fully given: "But," passing from that point, "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 saith unto him,"

Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. Our Lord purposely confines Himself to the commandments of what is called the second table of the law, which he would consider easy to keep, enumerating them all-for in Mark 10:19, "Defraud not" stands for the tenth commandment; otherwise the eighth is twice repeated. In Matthew the sum of this second table of the law is added, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," as if to see if he would venture to say he had kept that.

Verse 21

And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.

And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up: - "What lack I yet?" (Matthew 19:20) is an important addition in Matthew, though implied in the shorter answer of the other Evangelists. 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; but since after keeping all the commandments he was at a loss to know what that could be, 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 loveable except in the regenerate.

Verse 22

Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing - but that, alas! was a fundamental, a fatal lack.

Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. Since riches were his idol, our Lord, who knew this 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, except 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.

Verse 23

And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. Matthew, more fully, "he went away sorrowful:" Mark, still more fully, "he went away sorrowful:" Mark, still more fully, "he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved, for he had great possessions." 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 alternatives, 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. Let us now gather up the favourable points in this man's case, as here presented. First, He was of irreproachable moral character; and this amidst all the temptations of youth, because he was a "young man" (Matthew 19:22), and of wealth, because he was "very rich." Secondly, He was restless notwithstanding: his heart craved eternal life. Thirdly, 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. And Fourthly, So earnest was he that he came "running," and even "kneeling" before Him; and that not in any quiet corner, but "when He was gone forth into the way" - the open road-undeterred by the virulent opposition of the class to which he belonged, and by the shame he might be expected to feel at broaching such a question in the hearing of so many. How much that is interesting, attractive, loveable, promising, is there here! And yet all was in vain. Eternal life could not be his, because he was not prepared to give up all for it. He had not found the treasure hid in the field; he had not found the one pearl of great price; because he was not prepared to sell all that he had to possess himself of them (Matthew 13:44-46).

Verse 24

And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful - as he "went away," "he said," Mark says "He looked round about," as if first He would follow the departing youth with His eye, "and saith unto His disciples,"

How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! In Mark (Mark 10:24) an explanation of the difficulty is added, "How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter," etc., that is, 'With what difficulty is this idolatrous trust conquered, without which they cannot enter;' and this is introduced by the word, "Children" [ tekna (G5043)] - that sweet diminutive of affection and pity. (See John 21:5.)

Verse 25

For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God - a proverbial expression, denoting literally a thing impossible, but figuratively a thing very difficult.

Verse 26

And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?

And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? 'At that rate, how is anyone to be saved?'

Verse 27

And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God - `Well, it does pass human, but not divine power.'

Verse 28

Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.

Then Peter said - in the simplicity of his heart, as is evident from our Lord's reply,

Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. He was conscious that the required surrender, which that young ruler had not been able to make, had been made, not only by himself but by his brethren along with him, whom he generously takes in - "we have left all." Little, indeed, was Peter's "all." But, as Bengel says, the workman's little is as much to him as the prince's much. In Matthew's narrative Peter adds, "What shall we have therefore?" How shall it fare with us?

Verses 29-30

And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake,

And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. In Mark (Mark 10:29-30) the specification is so full as to take in every form of self-sacrifice: "There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake, and the Gospel's, but he shall receive an hundred-fold now in this present time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." This glorious premise is worthy of minute study.

First, Observe how graciously the Lord Jesus acknowledges at once the completeness and the acceptableness of the surrender, as a thing already made by the attached followers whom He had around Him. 'Yes, Peter, thou and thy fellows have indeed given up all for Me, and it makes you beautiful in Mine eyes; but ye shall lose nothing by this, but gain much.' Next, Observe how our Lord identifies the interests of the kingdom of God with the Gospel's and with His own-saying alternatively, "For the kingdom of God's sake," and "for My sake and the Gospel's." See the note at Matthew 5:11; and at Luke 6:22. Further, Observe the very remarkable promise-not of comfort and support, in a mere general sense, under persecution, and ultimate deliverance out of all this into eternal life-but of "an hundred-fold now in this time;" and this in the form of a re-construction of all human relationships and affections, on a Christian basis and among Christians, after they have been sacrificed in their natural form, on the altar of love to Christ. This He calls "manifold more," yea, "an hundred-fold more," than what they sacrificed for His sake. Our Lord was Himself the first to exemplify this in a new adjustment of His own relationships. (See the notes at Matthew 12:49-50, and Remark 3 at the close of that section; see also the notes at 2 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 6:18.) But this, it is added, "with persecutions;" for how could such a transfer take place without the most cruel wrenches to flesh and blood? Nay, the persecution would haply follow them into their new and higher circle, breaking that up too. Well, but "in the world to come life everlasting." And

`When the shore is won at last, Who will count the billows past?' (-KEBLE)

The foregoing promises are for everyone that forsakes his all for Christ - "There is no man," etc. But in Matthew 19:28, these promises are prefaced by a special promise to the Twelve: "And Jesus said unto them, 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 upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The words "in the regeneration" [ en (G1722) tee (G3588) palingenesia (G3824)] may be joined either to what goes before or to what follows after; and this, of course, materially affects the sense. In the former case it is, "Ye which have followed Me in the regeneration;" the meaning of which is, 'Ye who have followed Me in the new kingdom or economy which I am now erecting-the new life now begun.' Among the few who take this view of it are Hilary among the Fathers; Erasmus and Calvin, among the moderns. But by far the most and best interpreters, with whom we agree, connect the words with what follows: "Ye which have followed Me shall, in the regeneration," etc. But opinions are divided as to what is meant in this case by "the regeneration," and consequently, as to what is meant by the promise that the Twelve should "sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

One class of interpreters, understanding by "the regeneration" the new Gospel kingdom which Christ was erecting, would paraphrase the words thus: 'Ye who have forsaken all and followed Me as no others have done shall, in the new kingdom which I am setting up, and which shall soon become more visible and stable than it now is, give law to and rule the great Christian world'-which is here set forth in Jewish dress, as the Twelve tribes of Israel, to be presided over by the Twelve apostles on Twelve judicial thrones. In this sense certainly the promise has been illustriously fulfilled; and so Grotius, Lightfoot, etc., take it. But the majority of interpreters refer it to the yet future glory; and Luke 22:28-30 seems to confirm that interpretation. In this case it points to the time of the restitution of all things, when the great apostolic founders of the Christian Church shall be exalted to a distinction corresponding with the services they have rendered. Perhaps there is no need to draw a very sharp line of separation between these two views of the promise here made to the Twelve; and we do better, probably (with Calvin), to see in the present fact, that the "holy temple" of the Christian Church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles," and those "prophets" that supplemented their labours, "Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Corner-Stone," the assurance that in the future glory their place would correspond with their services in that high office. The reply of our Lord to Peter closes, in Matthew and Mark, with the oft-repeated words, "But many that are first shall be last, and the last first." See the note at Matthew 20:16, and Remark 4 at the close of that section.


(1) Is it not affecting to think how near this rich young ruler came to the kingdom of God without entering it? His irreproachable morals and his religious earnestness, amidst so much that was hostile to both; the ingenuousness with which he looked up to the Lord Jesus as qualified to solve his difficulties and relieve his anxieties on the subject of salvation, though belonging to a class that regarded Him with bitter hostility; and the courage with which he ran to Him, and knelt before Him in the presence of so many, with the eager inquiry, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" - when one thinks of all this, and then reads that, after all, "he went away" from Christ, how sad does it make the heart! But we must get to the bottom of this case if we would fully profit by it. What, then, was the defect? One thing only he lacked; but that, as we have said, was fundamental and fatal. "if any man love the world," says the apostle, "the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).

Now this was just what this youth did. Others might not have detected it; but He whose eyes were as a flame of fire stood before him. Had anything else been asked of him, he might have stood the test. But the one thing that was demanded of him was the one thing he could not part with-his possessions. He might have kept these and gone to heaven if the Lord had not expressly demanded them. But for this, had he only sat loose to them, and been prepared to part with them at the call of duty, that had been quite enough. For while many a one covets the world he does not possess, some sit loose to the world they do possess. The former are idolaters, and "no idolater hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." The latter have, in the eye of Christ, "left all and followed Him, and they shall have treasure in heaven." Thus this youth, instead of keeping, as he thought, all the commandments from his youth up, never kept the first and great commandment, which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart. Had he done so he would not have gone away from Christ. And thus, too, just as in the human body, one may want an eye, or a hand, or a foot, or all of these, and other members too, and yet be a living man, because none of these are vital; whereas the heart, being essential to life, cannot be wanted: so the soul may be spiritually alive, and on its way to glory, notwithstanding many imperfections; but there are defects, even one of which incompatible with life: "Without faith it is impossible to please God;" and "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His;" and "Covetousness is idolatry."

(2) While every condition in life has its own snares, the danger of wealth lies in the tendency to idolize it; and it is not unlikely that the apostle had this incident and the reflections that follow it in view when he thus directed Timothy: "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life" (1 Timothy 6:17-19). At the same time, this and numberless exhortations to the rich show the folly of taking our Lord's directions to the rich young ruler as a general direction to part with all worldly possessions to the poor in order to get to heaven. In that case such passages as those just quoted would have no meaning at all. Christianity was not designed to obliterate the distinction of ranks and conditions in life, but to teach and beget in the different classes of society the proper feelings toward each other, and toward the common Lord of all.

(3) Christians should learn from Christ Himself to appreciate the excellences even of the unconverted, while not blinded by these to what they fundamentally and fatally lack.

(4) The Human excellences of the Lord Jesus are not to be regarded as on a level with those of mere men. Though human in their nature, they are the excellences of the Only begotten of the Father, which take them quite out of the category of ordinary excellences, even though these were faultless. If something of this kind was not underneath our Lord's hint to the young man about there being none good but One, it will be difficult to make any dignified sense out of it at all; but if it was, all is intelligible and worthy of Jesus. And thus Socinianism, instead of finding the support here which it is so fain to catch at, is only baffled by it.

Verses 31-34

Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.

For the exposition, see the notes at Mark 10:32-34.

Verse 35

And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:

And it came to pass, that, as he was come nigh unto Jericho - on his way through Peraea to his last Passover,

A certain blind man sat by the way-side begging. In Mark the name is given - "blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus," But there and in Matthew it was "as they departed from," or "went out of Jericho;" and in Matthew it is not one, But "two blind men," beggars, that on this occasion received their sight. Several critics-as Greswell, Ebrard, Ellicott, Neander, Wieseler, with some of the Fathers-suppose one to have been healed on entering, the other on leaving Jericho. Others to whom this seems far-fetched, would leave the facts as recorded to speak independently for themselves. One thing seems clear, that these three narratives must have been written quite apart from each other; and another, that these divergences in the circumstantial details strongly corroborate the historical truth of the facts. Perhaps, if we knew all the particulars, 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. Had there been any collusion among the authors of these Gospels, they would certainly have taken care to remove these 'spots on the sun'-as Chrysostom, of the Fathers, with Olshausen, van Osterzee, and Alford, fail not to observe.

Verse 36

And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant.

And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant - a most graphic and natural touch; the sound being all he had to tell him what was going on.

Verse 37

And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.

And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.

Verse 38

And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

And he cried, saying, Jesus, son of David, in other words, 'Thou promised Messiah.' That this was the understood sense of the phrase is evident from the acclamation with which the multitude greeted Him on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9; see also Matthew 12:23).

Have mercy on me!

Verse 39

And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

And they which went before - "the multitude" (Matthew 20:31).

Rebuked him that he should hold his peace and not annoy or impede the progress of Jesus; very much in Rebuked him, that he should hold his peace - and not annoy, or impede the progress of Jesus; very much in the spirit of the Twelve themselves but a little before, when infants were brought to Him (see the note at Luke 18:15, and Remark 1 at the close of that section), and when the Syrophenician woman "cried after Him" (see the note at Mark 7:6). But O, how differently from them did Jesus feel!

But he cried so much the more, Son of David, have mercy on me! This is that importunity, so highly commended and richly rewarded in the Syrophoenician woman, and so often enjoined, (Luke 11:5, etc.; 18:1, etc.)

Verse 40

And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him,

And Jesus stood (or "stood still," as rendered in Matthew and Mark), and commanded him to be brought unto him. Mark (Mark 10:49-50) has this interesting addition: "And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort; rise, He calleth thee." It is just as one earnestly desiring an interview with some exalted person, but told by one official after another that it is vain to wait, because 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 are to be admitted-He has called you.' No doubt those who thus encouraged the poor man, knew well the cure that would follow. "And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus." How lively is this touch about the casting away of his garment! It is evidently the remark of an eye-witness, expressive of the exhilarating hope with which he was immediately filled.

And when he was come near, he asked him,

Verse 41

Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.

Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? It was plain enough to all present what the poor blind man wanted: but Jesus, by this question, would try him; would deepen his present consciousness of need; and would draw out his faith in Him. See the note at John 5:6.

And he said, Lord, [ Kurie (G2962)]. In Mark the term rendered "Lord" is "Rabboni" - an emphatic and confiding exclamation (see the note at John 20:16).

That I may receive my sight.

Verse 42

And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.

And Jesus - "had compassion on them, and touched their eyes," says Matthew, "and" "said unto him, Receive thy sight, thy faith hath saved thee."

Verse 43

And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.

And immediately he received his sight, and (now as a grateful disciple), followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.

Remark: This gracious cure, it will be observed, was quite casual. Blind Bartimeus sat that day, as usual, by the way-side begging; not dreaming that before its shadows fell he should see the light of heaven. But, like other blind people, his ears had doubtless been all the quicker to hear whatever was flying about. And there can be no doubt that the tidings sent to the imprisoned Baptist - "The blind receive their sight" - had flown to him, with, very possibly, the details of some of the cures. And just, as in the case of the Syrophoenician woman, and in that of the woman with the issue of blood, these tidings had worked in his heart the conviction that He was the promised Messiah, and such a confidence in His power and grace, that he would say within himself, 'O if He would but pass this way, how should I cry to Him, as "He that cometh in the name of the Lord;" and, poor beggar though I be, the Son of David would not shut His ear against me-for they tell me He never yet did that to any suppliant.

And who knows but He will come? They say he is even now in this region, and if He goes up to Jerusalem to keep the approaching Passover, He likely will come this way. But He may not come when I am here; and yet there is hope: but what is that stir I hear? What is it? "Jesus of Nazareth passeth by!" O transport! He comes, He comes! Now is my time.' So, before He comes up, the loud cry is heard, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" In a moving crowd, accompanying some great person on a progress, there are always some who keep ahead of the main body. These, catching the sound first, officiously try to silence him, that there may be no commotion, no interruption: 'Stop that dense crowd in order that the case of a beggar may be attended to? Why, at that rate He would never get on at all.' But the earnest suppliant is not to be moved by that. His opportunity has come, for which he had longed but scarce dared to hope; and he shall not be silenced.

Nay, "so much the more" did he cry, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" At length the glorious Healer comes up to the spot, and the whole crowd must halt, while He cures this believing beggar. And first, He commands him to be called. They hasten through the crowd to the road-side, and bid the poor man be of good cheer, because the Lord has sent for him. This gives his faith time to ripen. 'I thought it would come to that: Long looked for-come at last: my hopes refused to be damped: they could not silence me; my soul went forth to Him in yet louder cries, and not in vain: I'm to succeed; I shall, I shall!' Thus he comes into the presence of Jesus. "What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?" Since he could not see Him, the Lord takes this way of awakening, through his ears, the expectation of relief, and gives him an opportunity of presenting in explicit terms the desire of his heart. "Lord," is his ready answer, "that I may receive my sight." It is enough. The Redeemer's heart yearns with compassion; He touches his eyes, and immediately He sees as other men. Like the man out of whom went the legion of devils, he clings to his wondrous Benefactor, pouring out his grateful feelings, in which the wondering people also join.

Thus did this man catch his favourable moment, seize his opportunity, and obtain a rich reward. At other times he had cried in vain. And are there no opportunities-no favourable moments still-analogous to this, for getting the higher sight, for being healed in the higher sense? Are there not some seasons, rather than others, of which it may be said that "Jesus of Nazareth passeth by"? Seasons of affliction are such; but pre-eminently, seasons of religious awakening, of revival, and the effusion of the Spirit. And just as when, after a long, dull calm at sea, the wind gets up, all hands are astir to hoist the sails and catch the breeze, so then, if ever, as Jesus of Nazareth passeth by, should all that feel their need of healing stir up their expectations, and lift up their cries; and though there may be here also officious people who rebuke them, that they should hold their peace, their wisdom will be only to "cry so much the more." Nor can they more readily draw down His compassion and ensure relief, than by refusing to be silenced by such pretended friends.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/luke-18.html. 1871-8.
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