Luke 13:1. There were some present at that season of the passover, that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Though this might be blood for blood, yet it was a profane action, and contrary to all laws which regard the sanctity of temples. This occurrence is related at large by Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews, book 18. chap. 5. Judas the Gaulonite revolted against the Romans, and refused to call any man lord. He and his people were destroyed.
Luke 13:5. Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish; as Judas and his people did, who led the Jews into a revolt against the Romans. It is not doubted but the men whom Pilate massacred were of that faction. Now, our Saviour directed the relators of this transaction to repentance, the only sure way to avert impending judgments. So Ahab, Hezekiah, and Nineveh obtained mercy. And had Jerusalem embraced the truth, and been reformed of its wickedness, its inhabitants would not have been infatuated to destruction. Whenever we hear of a visitation, or of an accident which has fallen on others, let us always fly for shelter to the Lord, and not judge those who have suffered from his rod. Acts 5:37.
Luke 13:6. A certain man had a figtree planted in his vineyard. A happy parable, luminous and striking in its figures. We learn from it that Israel perished for barrenness, having rejected and crucified the Lord of glory. We may also learn from it a series of most instructive lessons concerning the christian church.
(1) Every hearer of the gospel is compared to a tree, of whom the Lord expects fruit according to the culture bestowed on his soul.
(2) There are many barren souls in the pale of the church. Our sins are many, and our tears few. We deliver many warnings from the pulpit, but conversions seldom reward our toil. The crowd are devoted to the pleasures and cares of life, while the gleanings only seem left for the Lord.
(3) We find that God has long patience with barren souls. These three years I come seeking fruit, and find none. In every year, and in every change of circumstances, the Lord addresses the sinner with new arguments and motives to repentance, yet the sinner remains in barrenness still. (4) The justice of God is impatient to cut down the barren soul, it urges a thousand cogent arguments for his immediate punishment. Why cumbereth he the ground? Why should he be spared; he is neither awed by chastisement, nor softened by love? Why should he enjoy the bounties of providence? He will daily turn them to occasions of sin. Why should he be indulged with wife and children? He will assuredly poison them by his principles, and corrupt them by his example. Therefore cut him down, for indulgence is but a waste of mercy.
(5) Wicked men are spared solely through the intercession of Christ. He prays that they may be spared, till he shall employ new and additional means for their conversion. But if those means shall fail also, the Lord’s longsuffering mercy as well as justice will conspire to exscind the barren soul. Hear this, oh careless and negligent hearer. The axe is laid already at the root, while the woodman takes off his clothes to lay against it the mighty blows of a vindictive arm.
Luke 13:11. There was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years. She had laboured under a severe nervous depression all those years, sorely assaulted by the wicked one; yea, her body as well as her mind was bowed down under it. Oh what charity, what grace dwelt in the Redeemer, that after preaching the word of life he would not leave this poor abject creature a prey to the extreme of mental misery and bodily pain. May the same spirit of compassion rest on all his ministers.
Luke 13:19. A grain of mustard seed. See Matthew 13:32.
Luke 13:23-24. Are there few that be saved? Some of the jews presumptuously contended that every Israelite should be saved, and they most grossly wrested the sense of scripture to support so absurd a notion. They affirmed in substance, that an absolute promise of salvation was made to the third part of their nation then alive; for two parts perished by the sword and the pestilence when the city was destroyed by the Chaldeans. Rabbin Johanan, in Lightfoot, affirms, that although a man had learned [and practised] only one statute of the law, yet he should escape hell. On the other hand, some of the rabbins said that few should be saved. 2 Esdras 8:3. On this subject Resh Lachish was as much deranged as the late Mr. Johnson of Liverpool. They both affirmed that but one of a city, and two of a family or tribe, shall be saved. Hence the question here put to our Lord was a matter of debate in the schools; and the great wisdom of his answer reproves debates about nonessentials, especially about the final destiny of men, which does not belong to human decision. The injunction to strive to enter in at the strait gate, fully implies the possibility of every man’s salvation. If otherwise, our miseries are treated with derision. Nay, he said what was truly wise and proper. αγωνιζεσθε, agonize, fight, or labour to enter in at the strait gate, as explained in Matthew 7:13. “Christ has here obviously shown,” says Grotius, “that the number to be saved is nowhere so definitely decreed as to exclude the efforts of the human will, seeing all are invited to walk in the good way.” Poli. Synop. in loc. But no man can enter who does not mortify the flesh, renounce his own righteousness, and trust in Christ alone.
Luke 13:32. Go and tell that fox, behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to- day and to-morrow. On the third day I shall finish my work in his dominions of Galilee. But the words are especially understood of our Lord’s resurrection, as in the next verse. Ministers must not desist from the work of the Lord because of the frowns of men.
Luke 13:35. Ye shall not see me until ye shall say, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. These words are confessedly difficult. If we apply them, as some do, to our Saviour’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, it is obvious that Christ spake them after he had entered the city. Compare Matthew 21 and Matthew 23:39. They cannot refer to the day of judgment, but they may refer to Zechariah 14:4, when he shall stand in an explicable manner on mount Olivet. He shall come out of Zion as the deliverer from Gog and Magog, Ezekiel 38., and he shall then turn away ungodliness from Jacob.
We again follow the blessed Redeemer up to the season of the passover, where one told him of the foul tragedy of Pilate in the massacre of penitents presenting their sacrifices to the Lord. Those men had no trial, no advocate, nor were they allowed to make any defence. If pity and compassion were the motives of the relator, the act was laudable; but if, as in Luke 12:54, it was to draw words of reflections upon Pilate, the design did not succeed.
On the contrary, the Lord improved the tragic visitation, as all ministers should improve the catastrophes of providence. Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. These are awful words, and were fulfilled to the letter when the Romans stormed Jerusalem. A reformation would have saved the nation, but that grace seemed to be denied. The healing of the woman, afflicted for eighteen years, was a most gracious act of power and condescension; yet it roused the slumbering demon in the ruler’s heart in undisguised malignity. But under the terrific aspects of his own portrait, he hastily covered the nudity of his heart with the robes of an angel of light, pretending zeal for the sanctity of the sabbath day. So Jezebel hallowed the murder of Naboth with zeal to purge the land of blasphemy against the Lord, and against the king. Why ask for proofs of original depravity, when we are overwhelmed with evidence.
While the Lord was dropping gracious words in Galilee, and moving in a glorious sphere, one asked a question of Hebrew theology, which was much debated by their wise men, — whether few would be saved. And why ask a question which mortals cannot resolve? How infinitely superior is the wisdom of our divine tutor to that of the schools, in exhorting us to strive for salvation with all our powers. If the flesh is to be vanquished, if every unholy thought must be suppressed, and if we must love our enemies, we shall need that holy influence which creates a new heart and a right spirit within us. We must agonize in the fight, for the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent taketh it by force.
Above all, towards enemies and men disobedient to the gospel, let us cherish the sorrows and sentiments of the Saviour towards Jerusalem. Four times we read that he wept and lamented over the incorrigible city. Luke 19:41. Matthew 23:37. John 11:35. Yea, he wept, he preached, he prophesied with all the divine emotions of prophetic tenderness over the devoted city, which fought against all the cares of heaven for its conversion. May we learn to weep in his tears, and to grieve for sinners in all his grief.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 13". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent