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the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Luke 13

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Verses 1-5

Repent or Perish

At the same time, that is the time when the Lord spoke of the attitude of the crowds toward God (Luke 12:54-James :), people come to Him with a report of a horrible event. The cruel, heartless governor Pilate had dealt with the Galileans with outrageous cruelty and insensitivity by killing them and mixing their blood with that of their sacrifices to God. By doing so, he had shown his deep contempt for their sacrificial service. The background of their report is that these Galileans must have sinned seriously. It is not so much about Pilate’s horrible act, but more about their assessment of what happened to the Galileans.

The Lord answers them that it is not for them to derive the sins of others from what they have suffered. If someone is affected by a disaster, we tend to look for causes and stay out of the way. It is about the other and not me, we think. Thus the friends of Job also judged his suffering and spoke to Job, but they spoke not right neither of him nor of God (Job 42:7).

The Lord makes the report with which people come to Him a message that is addressed to their own conscience. He is the Light that enlightens every human being, revealing the deplorable condition of all human beings without exception. His call to them to repent stems from His service of grace, but if they do not repent, the same fate will affect them. That is how it happened. The Jews who did not repent were, according to the Lord’s word, killed by the Romans in the destruction of Jerusalem. The Romans did with the Jews what Pilate did with the Galileans.

The Lord Himself adds another message. They have spoken about Galileans. It concerns people far away, in the north. He reminds them of an incident closer to home, of what happened to people from Jerusalem. Some time ago, eighteen inhabitants of Jerusalem died because a tower in Siloam fell on them. Why did the tower kill those very eighteen inhabitants and not other inhabitants, or more inhabitants? Is it because these eighteen people deserved to die and the others did not? Did those eighteen have a greater debt than the other people of Jerusalem?

Here, too, He says a clear “no” to this thought and makes the incident with the tower an event that must appeal to all of them in their conscience. If we are allowed to continue living while something bad happens to others, it is not up to us to raise the question of guilt. The Lord wants to speak to our own hearts and conscience with every event. It should lead people to realize that it could have happened to them too and that they will ponder where they will spend eternity if they die without Christ.

Verses 6-9

The Barren Fig Tree

Israel thought itself to be safe, but they were not aware of the precarious state in which they were now. It was completely inappropriate to speculate quietly about Galileans and it would be foolish to forget the people of Jerusalem. The Lord continues to address their conscience by showing them their own history in the form of a parable and what hangs over their heads from God.

He compares Israel to a fig tree planted by someone in his vineyard. The fig tree represents Israel that stands before God in its own righteousness. We see in Adam and Eve that after falling into sin they cover themselves with leaves of a fig tree (Genesis 3:7). With this they want to cover up their nakedness, their guilt before God. But that own righteousness does not suffice for God and therefore He makes garments of a skin. They stand before God covered by a sacrificial animal, which refers to Christ in Whom alone a sinner can stand before God.

Israel, too, has not been able to stand before God in its own righteousness. They said they could when they said that they should do all what God wanted them to do (Exodus 19:8; Exodus 24:3Exodus 24:7). Then God gave them the law to indicate how they could live for His honor and His joy. The vineyard is reminiscent of this because wine speaks of joy.

Has Israel fulfilled its promises to be righteous, and have they given God joy? When He came to seek fruit, He did not find it (cf. Isaiah 5:1-Judges :). In the parable the owner (God) tells the vineyard-keeper (the Lord Jesus) that he has been looking for fruit “on this fig tree” (Israel) for three years, but that he cannot find it. God has been looking for fruit in Israel in His Son for three years, but the people reject Him.

The proposal is to cut down the fig tree because it does not yield anything. Then something else can be planted that does bear fruit. However, the vineyard-keeper asks for an extra year of grace. Then he can try to do anything to get fruit. Thus the Lord Jesus is busy in grace and not demanding to win His people for God. Only through His intervention is God still prepared to endure Israel.

The extra year can also refer to the time between the ascension of the Lord and His rejection as glorified Lord in the stoning of Stephen. If, despite the extra time and effort, there is no result, the curse comes. And so it happened. Israel has disappeared from its place as a testimony. The fig tree, the symbol of their national existence, has been cut down and withered.

Verses 10-13

Healing of a Double Bent Woman

Although the Lord has announced the fate that threatens the Jews because they cover the ground uselessly, He still goes into their synagogues to teach the people. So also on this Sabbath. It is still the time of patience, and grace will not be prevent from helping individuals. The double bent woman is a picture of people full of spiritual weakness who are weighed down by the law and are therefore in spiritual need. They have no power to straighten up themselves and look up. The woman constantly sees only herself.

That is exactly what the law characterizes. The law requires man to meet certain obligations, but he cannot meet them. If someone is taking it seriously, he is increasingly burdened by the unbearable burden of the law. He is constantly occupied with himself in order to escape the judgment of the law in case of disobedience.

It is like with the man in Romans 7 who sinks further and further into the swamp of his own efforts to keep the law of God. More than forty times the word ‘I’ appears in that chapter. There is only a looking at himself, until he finally sees the Lord Jesus. Because of this he is drawn out of the swamp (Romans 7:25). That’s how it is with this woman who is bent double by a spirit of sickness. We can apply the spirit of sickness to the wrong education, which keeps people weighed down. The only One Who can free a man from it, is Christ when He speaks His liberating words.

Without the woman asking for it, the Lord calls her over. He sees her and knows her. He knows how long she has been living so double bent. His grace flows to her because she needs it. He knows that need. He speaks His liberating words. First He frees her from the spirit of sickness. Then He lays hands on her to give His power to her to straighten up. After His words that have freed her heart, He gives her strength for her body. The first one she sees is the Lord Jesus. The result is that she glorifies God. There are many believers who are double bent to the earth and therefore do not come to the glory of God. Whoever is truly liberated, thanks God.

Verses 14-17

Opponents Rebuked

An arrogant man, full of legal own righteousness, moderates to prescribe the law to God! God should not work on His own Sabbath day! What folly it is to suppose that God would keep the Sabbath day in a world full of misery by sin and in a land of Israel that has so turned its back on Him (John 5:17).

In His answer, the Lord points to what people think is normal, and what every natural conscience will approve, despite all legal reasoning. It would be cruel and not God’s thought to deprive a poor animal of its necessary food or drink because it is Sabbath. If one is not so cruel, how can one dare to challenge the grace of God to give freedom to a victim of satan?

Because the official of the synagogue and his colleagues take care of their cattle, but criticize God’s care for a man, the Lord calls them “hypocrites”. They are good for their animals and blame God for being good for a man. As an extra teaching to these legal hypocrites, the Lord gives two reasons for the healing of the woman. First, she is a real daughter of Abraham. He saw the faith in her that Abraham also had. The hypocrites may claim to be Abraham’s offspring, but in reality they spiritually have the devil as father (John 8:37; John 8:44).

Secondly, the woman was bound by satan for eighteen years. The woman was a believer (Galatians 3:7), but in her state of weakness satan had found an opportunity to bind her even further and prevent her from finding healing. The religion of religious leaders also made sure she wouldn’t be healed. The law does not set free, but leads to greater slavery. Only Christ in grace can change this situation.

It is therefore clear that the official does act as if he has great respect for God’s teachings, but that in reality he is an accomplice of satan. If he really had respect for the law, he would have rejoiced that the Lord had delivered the woman from that spirit of sickness that had bound her for such a long time. Surely he would also have asked if the Lord would also release him from his bondage to the law which he too could not keep and by which he was condemned.

Genuine respect for the law is reflected in its acceptance. Whoever takes the law seriously and is honest, will admit that he is not able to keep to the law and therefore cannot come to terms with God in that way. He becomes aware of the judgment that must hit him because he cannot keep the law. Then he is ready to appeal to the grace of God that appeared in Christ.

The teaching of Divine grace humiliates the opponents and fills many with great joy. Those who rejoice recognize the clear and good hand of God and feel the difference between Christ and the inanimate theology of the official of the synagogue, however little they see Who the Lord Jesus really is.

Verses 18-19

Parable of the Mustard Seed

The sickness of the woman has shown that the system of law is used by satan to keep people imprisoned. On the other hand, we see in the woman’s healing that by the service of the Lord Jesus the kingdom of God is breaking ground. Yet this are only incidents. It is not the public establishment of the kingdom, but the establishment of the kingdom in the hearts of individuals. What it looks like in the big picture, the Lord shows in two parables. There we see that the introduction of the grace and power of the realm does not yet bring about a perfect state of affairs. In the outer and inner condition of the kingdom the corruption has entered.

In the first parable, the Lord compares the kingdom to a mustard seed. This mustard seed is sown and grows and becomes a tree whose branches are used by the birds of the air to nest there. This is a picture of the development of Christianity which would become a powerful external system, where all kinds of evil influences – represented in the birds (cf. Revelation 18:2) – would be introduced.

That is indeed how it went. Christianity is now a worldly system, just like islam or Judaism. It is an active world power in which many people are in control, people who only bear the name ‘Christian’, but are not in their inner. They are enemies of God and His truth who introduce doctrinal errors in many areas. They distort the Word of God and abuse it to spread lies and exercise power over souls.

Verses 20-21

Parable of the Leaven

The Lord once again asks the question to what He will compare the kingdom of God. He wants to add another parable to the previous one and thus highlight the kingdom of God from a different perspective. By asking the question again, He holds the attention of the hearers and makes them think about it.

In the previous parable, that of the mustard seed, He shows the external growth of the kingdom, as the people look at it and deal with it. By adding the parable of the leaven, the Lord emphasizes its inner aspect. Leaven in Scripture is invariably a picture of sin, of what is wrong. If the kingdom of God is compared to leaven, it means that the kingdom of God assumes from within a characteristic that is sinful. There are not only evil influences, as is suggested in the birds in the previous parable, but there is a continuous and ever-increasing effect of evil which finally permeates the whole Christianity with sin.

In practice, we see that in the roman-catholic church, which as a religious system exercises its pernicious influence in Christianity and which, at the end, permeates the entire Christianity with it. Ecumenism will give it its full effect. So we see not only the rise of a small beginning and tremendous growing power on earth, but also a dogmatic system, spreading over a certain area (Christianity) and influencing people’s thoughts and feelings.

“A woman” brings in the leaven. The woman is a picture of the corrupt church. The three pecks of flour speak of the Lord Jesus, reminiscent of the grain offering in Leviticus (Leviticus 2:1-Nehemiah :). The destruction that the woman brings in has to do with the Person of Christ. His Person is affected. Demonic, disgusting teachings about Him have entered Christianity.

Verses 22-24

Enter Through the Narrow Door

Luke mentions again in between that the Lord is on His journey to Jerusalem and what He is doing on His way there. The Lord knows what awaits Him in Jerusalem, but He continues His service fearlessly. He must be killed in Jerusalem by the hand of the people. They will reject Him, but His words of grace continue to flow.

While He is learning somewhere on the way, someone has a question. Someone wants to know from Him whether there are just a few who are being saved. The question will have been provoked by His teaching. The Lord does not answer this question directly, but speaks in His answer to the conscience of the questioner. His concern is not with the question, but with the questioner.

In His answer it does sound through that there are few because one has to enter through a narrow door. Nothing can go in there that makes man great. He must become small. The essence is that the questioner must ensure that he is in the right relationship to God. That does not mean that he has to accomplish anything for it, but it does mean that he has to look for it so diligently that it can be compared with strife.

The point here is that one has to strive to enter through “the narrow door”. By ‘the narrow door’ is meant that one repents and converts to God in faith . That is simple, but it is also difficult, yes impossible for him who does not want to break with his old life. Nothing of the flesh and of the world can enter in. It is a strife to get that far.

The Lord speaks of those who understand that it is not enough to be among the chosen people. They realize that they have to be born again and therefore look up to God who points to the Lord Jesus as the door (John 10:9). Many will try to enter the kingdom, but do so on their own easy way, according to their own terms. They want to enter through the wide door, but they will not succeed.

They try to get the blessing of the kingdom without being born from God. They want to have all the privileges promised to Israel, without being born of water and the Spirit (John 3:3; John 3:5). That is impossible, however. They will try to enter and they cannot, because when they enter, they have to go through the narrow door, so repent and be born again, and they don’t want that. God has a house on earth where the door is open to anyone who wants to enter. That is only possible through that one door.

In the following verses, the Lord shows that there will come a time when the Lord of the house will get up and close the door, or to say with words of the parable of the beginning of this chapter, that the tree will be cut down (Luke 13:9). The time for Israel to enter into the blessing of the kingdom is then over. The invited guests have come to stand outside.

Verses 25-30

Outside the Door

There comes a moment when God puts an end to the possibility of entering through the door He has appointed, that is His Son. It is like with the door of Noah’s ark. For a long time, the invitation was made to escape the announced judgment. Then comes the moment that God closes the door (Genesis 7:16). The door will not open again until the judgments have cleansed the earth. No matter how people pounded the ark when it started to rain and the water started to rise, or how they kept pounding when it kept raining and the water kept rising, the door remained closed. Only those who went into the ark with Noah were safe and were saved.

So it is with the people who stand outside the door when God has got up and closed the door of grace. They will knock and ask that it be opened, but they will receive the Lord’s answer that He does not know where they come from. The time of grace is over when the Lord Jesus has got up to bring His judgments to the world and to His people (Isaiah 26:20-Ecclesiastes :).

The Lord knows the reactions that come when the door is closed and the judgments come. They will want to remind Him that He must have seen them anyway. They ate and drank in His presence! They were there when He taught in their streets. In this way they appeal to external privileges of which they apparently suddenly understand the meaning. The tragedy is that in doing so they are also delivering the clear proof of their guilt. He was there, and they did not want Him. He has taught in their streets, but they have despised Him and rejected Him, even worse than the nations. They have not repented. The time of grace is definitely over. The verdict is final. No change is possible.

The Lord emphasizes by saying “I tell you” that it will be so. He, the Omniscient, Who knows perfectly where they come from, says to them that He does not know where they are from. Wherever they come from, they are certainly not in connection with Him. Therefore He sends them away. They will never be in any connection with Him. The reason for this is that they are “evildoers“. They have always done their own will in all things and have not taken the law of God into account.

They are sent away, away from the Lord, to a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth “. There is ‘weeping’ because of the pain and sorrow. There is ‘gnashing of teeth‘ because of the anger that will continually control them (Acts 7:54). The torments of hellish pains will be made worse when they see the men they have always said they descended from. That only applied to their physical ancestry.

They never took part in the faith of these men. Spiritually they are the offspring of the devil in whose fate they share. They did not want to enter through the narrow door into the kingdom of God. They have not obeyed the voices of the prophets who have called for repentance. Now they are cast out, out of the kingdom, out of the place of blessing.

In their place there will be heathens from all corners of the world who will be reclining in the kingdom. They entered through the narrow door of repentance to God and faith in the Lord Jesus. The door is there not only for Israel but for all people from all over the world. God’s grace goes out to all.

The Lord ends His answer with a special word which shows that there is still grace for Israel. The message of grace went first to Israel and later to the Gentiles. Israel has rejected grace, and so the Gentiles are the first to share in the grace. Later, Israel, that is to say, a remnant, will also share in the grace. God has not rejected His people forever.

Verses 31-35

Lamentation Over Jerusalem

The Pharisees do not like the teaching of the Lord. When He enters the area of Herod on His way to Jerusalem, they come to Him with a message that Herod wants to kill Him. It seems that under the false pretext of caring for His life, they are trying to frighten Him with their message. The Lord is not impressed by their so-called care. He knows that Herod is a bad man. He also knows that the Pharisees are not better and their expression of interest and care for His Person is hypocrisy.

It also seems that Herod makes use of the mind of the Pharisees. In the hatred they both have for Him, they find each other and one uses the other for his own murderous plans. The Lord will not be influenced by any suggestion of the enemy. He has a work to do for His Father. With Divine contempt for this king who wants to kill Him, He calls him a ‘fox’ because of his cunning to thwart his testimony before God.

Of course the Lord sees through His intentions, and his cunning is in vain. He does not hesitate to say it clearly. They refuse Him Who has come to gather His people under His wings just as a hen her brood and prefer a fox. The Lord has come to do the will of God Who has sent Him. This will must be done at all costs. Therefore, just like all other days, He will do the work of God, today and tomorrow and every day thereafter.

He does a verifiable job. He casts out demons and perform cures, all works of grace. And then, on the third day – this is spoken figuratively, for it will take months before He suffers and dies – He will reach His goal. The words “I reach My goal“ literally means “will I be completed”. He will die at the time determined by God and at the place determined by God, not sooner and not later and not anywhere else. At the same time, it means that He is coming at the end of His walk on earth, that is to say that He will have achieved His goal. When He is risen, He will have fully achieved His purpose. Luke actually points this out by using the expression “the third [day]”, which often refers to the resurrection.

The Lord speaks of the fact that He is engaged in His work and that it must be completed. He must go on to the cross. He will take a new place in the heavenly glory through death and resurrection, after He has ended His course on earth. He also realizes that no human power will be allowed to stop him in his work until he has accomplished everything. He is on a journey to Jerusalem because there all the prophets have been killed. There is no other treatment awaiting Him other than all the prophets before Him.

However, he is more than a prophet. What He says about Jerusalem with sorrow, no prophet has been able to say. He is the God of Jerusalem. He mentions the name of the city twice in order to strengthen His inner compassion for this city. He is authorized and capable to gather them together out of a love that a hen also has for her brood (Jeremiah 31:10).

He would like to protect His people under His wings from all impending doom. (God is a Father with motherly feelings and as such He is an example for earthly fathers and mothers.) He could have been their shield and their very great reward (Genesis 15:1), but they did not want it. They have shown their rejection of Him many times by killing the prophets God had sent to them in His love.

Because Jerusalem had behaved so rebellious, the Lord surrendered them to themselves. He withdraws from the house of Israel and also from the temple which is no longer God’s house, but has become “your house”, which means their house. He leaves them to themselves and leaves. They will not see Him again, “until …”.

The ‘until’ is the announcement of a change in their mind. This change will be felt when they cry out: “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the LORD”. They will call this when the Lord Jesus returns to deliver His people, that is to say the faithful remnant of Israel, from their enemies.

Before that time, the people will still cry massively: “Away with this man” and “Crucify, crucify Him” (Luke 23:18; Luke 23:21).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Luke 13". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/luke-13.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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