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3. The First Return to Capernaum. The First-fruits of the Believing Gentiles (Luke 7:1-10)
(Parallel: Matthew 8:5-13.)
1Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.2And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.3And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the [om., the] elders of the Jews,beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. 4And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly [urgently], saying, That he was worthy for5whom he should do this [to have this done for him]: For [said they] he loveth our nation,and he hath built us a synagogue [and our synagogue he himself built]. 6Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthythat thou shouldest enter under my roof: 7Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed [let my servant be healed, V. O.1].8For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant,Do this, and he doeth it. “9When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel [not even in Israel have I found so great a faith].10And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole [well] that had been sick.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 7:1. He entered into Capernaum.—Comp. Matthew 8:1-13, and Lange on the passage. The healing of the Leper, which Matthew places immediately before the recovery of the sick servant, had, according to the more exact account (Luke 5:12-16), preceded the Sermon on the Mount.
Luke 7:2. Servant.—That we are here not to understand the son, but the servant (παῖς here=δοῦλος, עֶבֶד, Acts 3:26), appears not only from the statement of Luke, that this sick person was very dear to the centurion, which in the other case would have been superfluous, but also from that of Matthew that he was sick in the house of the centurion, which certainly would have needed no mention if it had been his son. The cause why he so highly valued particularly this servant, apparently his only one, see Luke 7:8 b.—[To refer the centurion’s concern to the mere fear of losing a valuable servant, appears an exceedingly frigid interpretation of the phrase “was dear unto him.”—C. C. S.]
Luke 7:3. Πρεσβυτέρους.—Not necessarily ἀρχισυνάγωγοι (Acts 13:15), but elders of the people in the ordinary sense of the word. It need not surprise us to see such πρεσβύτεροι τοῦ λαοῦ come to the Saviour with an entreaty for help; for why should all adherents of the sacerdotal party at that period have been alike hostile to the Saviour? Even if they did not themselves share his expectation and his faith, yet they must have been afraid of turning their friend and protector, by the refusal of his request, into an enemy, since he, moreover,—as Jewish selfishness would easily calculate—if his servant should recover, would not feel himself indebted alone to Jesus, but also under personal obligation to them. They, therefore, bring his request to Jesus, adding commendation and urgent entreaty thereto, assuring Him: “He is worthy that thou shouldest do this for him.” And the Saviour, who had refused the weakly believing βασιλικός at Capernaum (John 4:46-54) to make him a visit, refuses this not to the afflicted centurion, and counts him worthy of this honor, not because he had built the synagogue, but because he had shown the heroic courage of faith.
Luke 7:5. And our synagogue he himself built.—There are several examples on record of individuals who had founded Jewish synagogues, see Lightfoot ad loc. Even the founding of one by a heathen suggests no difficulty, since the sanctity of the place did not depend upon the founder, but on the religious consecration. So did Herod also renew the temple. Moreover this centurion was, in all probability, a proselyte of the gate, like Cornelius (Acts 10:0) and so many others besides.
Luke 7:6. Sent friends.—This second sending is related by Luke alone, whose account supplements that of Matthew, without being in conflict with it. Now, when once the centurion believes that Jesus is on his way to his dwelling, he holds himself bound not only to await the Lord, but also to go to meet Him (πρός σε ἐλθεῖν, Luke 7:7), and it is just this that makes him diffident. Yet now he sends in his place—a very delicate and thoroughly natural touch—no intercessors, for these he needed no longer, but intimate friends of his family, who can in some measure take his place in greeting the highly honored Guest. It is much more probable that the Saviour addressed to the friends of the centurion the praise bestowed upon his great faith, which Matthew and Luke give account of, than that He should have uttered it to his face. Even though he did address himself by others to Jesus, Matthew could very well declare of the centurion, that he came to Jesus and entreated Him, according to the well-known rule: Quod quis per alium facit, ipse fecisse putatur, in the same manner in which it is said of Noah and of Solomon: “He built the Ark, or the Temple.”
Luke 7:7. Say in a word.—Even his affliction about his sick servant redounds to the honor of the heathen centurion, since commonly slaves were hardly treated by the Romans as persons, but rather as things. Still more to his honor is his humility, and most of all his vigorous faith, even though this was not free from heathen superstition. Without doubt he has already heard about Jesus, and represented the matter thus to himself, that the good Genii of health appeared, the evil fled before Jesus like troops at the will of the general. How mighty to him must the help of such a ruler of spirits have appeared. He asks nothing more than the word of command, before which the paralysis shall give way. From the power of his own words he concludes as to the might of the words of Jesus. As to the rest, that this centurion was no other than Chuza, Herod’s steward (Luke 8:3), is a supposition (Sepp) that is entirely without proof.
Luke 7:10. The servant well that had been sick.—There is just as little reason (Lachm., Tischend.) to expunge the phrase τὸν , as (Paulus, a. o.) to understand ὑγιαίνοντα only in the sense of recovering. Much better Bengel: “Non modo sanum, sed sanitate utentem.”—According to Matthew as well as Luke, therefore, the healing took place at a distance, as in John 4:46-54. This is, however, no good reason for considering these two accounts as different relations of the same miracle. “The distinct character of the Synoptical narrative, the humble power of faith of the stranger in Israel and its deep impression upon Christ, this anti-Judaistic feature, pregnant of the future, if it was once extant in the tradition of the church, could not possibly have been so obliterated by the fourth Evangelist, considering his own character, and have been perverted almost into the opposite” (Hase).—How much attraction, moreover, this miracle must have had for Luke, not only as physician, but also as Paulinist, needs no suggestion. The prophetic declaration of the bringing in of the Gentiles, which the Saviour, according to Matthew 8:11-12, uttered on this occasion, Luke gives in another connection, Luke 13:28-29.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. For the first time we find here in the Gospel of Luke witnesses of a miracle at a distance. An example of something of the kind we find in the life of Elisha (2 Kings 5:0), without, however, discovering a warrant in this agreement for finding here a mythical or legendary narrative in the gospels (Strauss), or for supposing the basis of both narratives to be a parable (Weisse). The point of attachment for the miraculous activity of the Saviour was undoubtedly given in the faith of the centurion and in the sympathy of his friends: “An invisible highway, we may say, for the victorious and saving eagles of the great Imperator.” Lange, Life of Christ, ii. p. 648. But the last ground of all must, however, be sought in the entirely unique personality of the Saviour. If He was really the one whom He affirmed Himself to be, distance in space could not then hinder His holy will, united with that of the Father, from working where He held it needful. What was possible to the prophet with the heathen Naaman certainly could not be impossible to the Son with the heathen centurion. By this very fact He exhibits to us the image of the working of the Father (John 5:17; John 14:9), which is impeded as little by time as by space. At the same time, we behold here as in a mirror, how He in heaven, exalted above all limits of the material world, can work directly even to the extreme limits of the earth. Much that is beautiful and striking respecting this and other miracles of the Saviour is found in the Notes on the Miracles of our Lord, by Archbishop Trench.
2. Only twice do we read in the Gospel that the Saviour marvelled; He who at other times exercised the nil mirari in Divine perfection; once at the unbelief of His fellow citizens at Nazareth (Mark 6:6), once at the faith of this heathen. And at this His wondering, we need not wonder; it is a proof the more for His true humanity. The whole history of the world may be called a continuous history of faith and unbelief, and by these two is the infallible judgment of the Lord respecting men and sinners determined. The praise which He bestows on this heathen is the more remarkable, because it evidently shows that the Saviour can praise and crown a great faith even where it is yet mingled with erroneous conceptions of the understanding.
3. A strong apologetical value lies in the impression which the report of the miraculous power of the Saviour had made upon a heathen, and in the expectation that a word at a distance would be sufficient to fulfil his wish. Respecting the Christ of the negative criticism, we understand just as little how He could give occasion to such a report as how He could excite so bold a hope in the heart of a heathen.
4. This whole history is a striking proof of the indispensable necessity of faith as a conditio sine qua non, as well of desiring anything of the Lord as also of receiving much from Him. At the same time the character of true humility, in opposition to the counterfeit, is here made evident. False humility suffers itself to be kept back from coming to Jesus by the sense of personal unworthiness; true humility confesses: “I count myself not worthy,” but—comes. Very beautifully Augustine says: “Dicendo se indignum prœstitit dignum, non in cujus parietes, sed in cujus cor Christus intraret.”
5. While the Saviour concedes to the heathen centurion such a benefit, He is not unfaithful to His own principle. (Matthew 15:24) More than by his building of the synagogue and the intercession of the elders for him was this centurion by his faith received into the Israel according to the Spirit, and made partaker of the περιτομὴ τῆς καρδίας (Romans 2:29), which is the real requirement in the kingdom of God.
6. The manifestation of faith in a heathen in contrast with the unbelief of the Jews has a strong symbolic side; comp. Matthew 8:11-12; John 1:11-13.—For a doctrine of prayer also the intercession of the elders and friends has a great significance, as a striking argument for the necessity and blessing of this service of love. Comp. James 5:16. “These elders, although they were not without faith, had nevertheless less faith than he who sent them (Luke 7:9). Yet do they entreat not in vain for him. Thus can often less favored ones profit others that are farther advanced more than they do themselves. Even so also the friends” (Luke 7:6). (Gerlach.)
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The first heathen who experiences the miraculous power of the Saviour.—Great faith: 1. Courageous in entreaty; 2. humble in approach; 3. joyful in receiving the benefit of the Lord.—The entreaty of the Jews for a heathen considered from its singular, touching, and successful side.—No greater love for Israel than the care for its highest interests.—Jesus ready to go wherever need and faith call Him. Urgent intercession the best service of friendship.—Prayer and faith most intimately connected together: 1. How true humility leads to faith; 2. how true faith never forgets humility.—Christ the true Ruler over sin and sickness.—Heathen precede the Jews into the kingdom of heaven.—There is more faith on earth than we know of.—Great faith, by Jesus 1 Remarked; 2. praised; 3. crowned; 4. held up for imitation.—The centurion of Capernaum before a threefold forum: 1. The judgment of man, Luke 7:4 (a): “He is worthy,” &c.; 2. the judgment of conscience, Luke 7:6 : “I am not worthy,” &c.; 3. the judgment of the Saviour, Luke 7:9 : “Such faith,” &c.—The great faith of the master of the house a blessing for all his household.—How distress drives to Jesus and how Jesus comes to the distressed.—Great faith a singularity: 1. This is not otherwise, 2. this cannot be otherwise, 3. this will not be otherwise.—The good which we remark in others, we ought to praise with cordiality.—Time and space no barriers to the helpful love of the Lord.—In order to be highly praised by the Lord, one must be humbled most deeply before Him.—A School of Love: 1. Of a heathen towards Jews; 2. of Jews towards a heathen; 3. of the Saviour towards both together; a, in the deed, b, in the word of His love.
Starke:—God is no respecter of persons. Acts 10:34-35.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—Christian governors ought duly to acknowledge the faithfulness and obedience of their subjects, take their necessities upon them, not leave them in their spiritual and bodily distress.—For their benefits men willingly entreat God and men.—Outward works are by men, on account of their own profit, most praised, but Jesus looks at the heart, and praises faith.—Hedinger:—Become nothing, that thou mayst be something in Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:9-10; 1 Peter 5:5—“Who has, to him shall be given, that he may have abundance.” The true grace of God is ever in growth and increase.—To the hero in war a heroic faith is well beseeming.—God has, even in the military profession, without doubt, His own.—Our best way to become worthy of the grace of Christ, is to count ourselves unworthy of it.—Majus:—The better a man knows God and himself, the humbler will he be.—Canstein:—Weak faith God does not despise, but a stronger faith nevertheless is more acceptable to Him.
Lisco:—Strong faith, 1. As to its nature; 2. as to its reward.—Coming to Jesus: 1. From what it springs: a. from believing confidence, b. from love to the brethren; 2. how manifested: a. with hearty humility, b. with unreserved confidence; 3. how rich in blessings it is: a. it procures us the applause of Jesus, b. it is salutary for others.—Palmer:—What is the faith which is well pleasing to the Lord, but which He does not find in Israel? 1. It is faith which springs from humility; 2. which is joined with love; 3. which aims after what is highest, and strives to appropriate it.—An entirely original application of Luke 7:8 in Cassianus Collat. Luke 7:5 : One must even so bring his thoughts under military command, summon the good, to the evil at once give their discharge.—Fuchs:—Concerning Christian faith: 1. Its source; 2. its expression; 3. its blessing.—Ranke:—Blessed he who seeks help of Christ, 1. For His love there is no man too mean; 2. for His power there is no wretchedness too great; 3. the condition of His help is for no one too hard.—Thym.—The sick servant at Capernaum: 1. The lord of the servant, 2. the sick man, 3. the Physician.—Bengel:—Faith: 1. Kind and test; 2. profit and praise.
Luke 7:7; Luke 7:7.—Tischendorf, after B., L., καὶ ἰαθήτω, instead of the Rec. καὶ ἰαθήσεται. The former appears more agreeable to the humble tone of the suppliant. [And the latter more expressive of his strong faith. This is supported by the other MSS. and by Cod. Sin.—C. C. S.]
4. A second Excursion from Capernaum. The Son of Man manifested as Compassionate High-Priest at Nain’s Gate and Simon’s Table; but at the same time as the Holy Messiah as opposed to the Offence taken by John, the People, and the Pharisees.
a. The Young Man At Nain (Luke 7:11-17)
(Gospel on the 16th Sunday after Trinity.)
11And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many [a good many]of his disciples went with him, and much people. 12Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother,13and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. Andwhen the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. 14And he came and touched the bier [the coffin]: and they that bare him stood still. And he said,Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 15And he that was dead [the dead man] sat up, and began to speak.And he delivered him to his mother. 16And there came a fear [an astonishment] on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and,That God hath visited his people. 17And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judea, and throughout all the region round about.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 7:11. The day after.—By this noting of the time, Luke gives us full liberty to make the raising of the young man at Nain to follow immediately after the healing of the servant of the centurion at Capernaum. It took place τῇ ἑξῆς sc. ἡμέρᾳ. If with some we were obliged to read τῷ, then surely καθεξῆς (χρόνῳ) would have followed. See De Wette ad loc.
Nain.—Ναΐν, perhaps נָאיִן, now only a little hamlet, Nein, only inhabited by a few families, then a small town in the tribe of Issachar, hard by the source of the brook Kishon, not far from Endor, two and a half leagues from Nazareth. The name signifies “The lovely,” perhaps on account of the pleasant situation in the plain of Esdraelon. Except in this passage it does not occur in the sacred history. The fathers Eusebius and Jerome knew it as a village two Roman miles southward from Tabor. See Winer in voce.
Of His disciples.—We may understand here μαθηταί in a more extended sense of the word, without thereby excluding the twelve apostles, who had been the day before called and consecrated, and to whose further training and strengthening in faith such a miracle as that now to be accomplished at the very beginning of their apostolic life was as desirable as beneficent. The multitude doubtless consisted partly at least of hearers of the Sermon on the Mount, who now were to see anew how the Saviour fulfilled His own precept, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.”
Luke 7:12. Carried out.—Comp. Acts 5:6. Graves were commonly outside the towns. Τεθνηκώς was apparently omitted by A. 54. because it was of course understood, for which reason there is no ground to put it in brackets, (Lachmann.) Respecting the variations of the reading αὕτη χήρα (sc. ἦν), which moreover only slightly change the sense, see Meyer ad loc.
Luke 7:13. The Lord.—An appellation peculiarly frequent in Luke; comp. Luke 10:1; Luke 11:39; Luke 12:42; Luke 13:15; Luke 22:61, especially adapted to indicate the majesty revealing itself in His discourse and action. Bengel has a fine remark: “Sublimis hœc appellatio jam Luca et Johanne scribente usitatior et notior erat, quam Matthœo scribente. Marcus medium tenet. Initio doceri et confirmari debuit hoc fidei caput, deinde prœsupponi potuit.”
Weep not.—As with Jairus, his fear, so with this widow her grief is first allayed, before the Lord displayed His miraculous might, ἐσπλαγχνίσθη. Comp. Matthew 9:36. It is the manifestation of the compassionate High-priest, which is so conspicuously dwelt on by the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews also, kindred as he is in spirit with Paul and Luke (Hebrews 2:16; Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:14).
Luke 7:14. The coffin (σορός). It was open above. Since the bearers and the funeral train had of themselves stopped at the approach and the address of Jesus, who certainly was not wholly unknown to them, it is not necessary with Meyer to remark in their instantly standing still a trace of the extraordinary. “Miracula prœter necessitatem non sunt multiplicanda.” If the bearers also felt compassion for the mother, it is more probable that they themselves expected help.
Young man.—The mighty word of the Prince of Life; comp. Luke 8:56; John 11:44. The instant rising and speaking of the dead, shows that not only life but also strength and health have returned, and the Lord, by giving him back to his mother, completes the miracle of His power by the highest act of His love. It is remarkable how the Saviour immediately after their restoration, manifests a visible care as to the dead raised by Him. To the daughter of Jairus He causes food at once to be given; Lazarus He causes to be relieved of his grave-clothes.
Luke 7:16. An astonishment.—Not with all, it is true, equally deep, and perhaps not wholly free from superstition, but yet so far of genuine stamp as it led to a thankful glorifying of God and the Lord Jesus. That they extol Him as a prophet will not surprise us if we consider that the prophets not only foretold future things, but also performed miracles, and among them the raising of the dead.
Hath visited.—Comp. Luke 1:68. In respect to the æsthetical explanation of the miracle, there is a beautiful homily of Herder’s, which deserves to be compared.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The raising of the dead belongs in the fullest sense of the word to that class of σημεῖα, which serve as symbols of the life-giving activity of our Lord, John 11:25-26. They do not become fully conceivable unless we hold fast to the union of the Divine and human in the person of Jesus, and to the certainty of His own resurrection. To consider the three dead persons whose resurrection is related to us as only apparently dead, is rationalistic caprice. But even though we acknowledge on good grounds the reality of their physical dying, it is by no means implied in this, that all receptivity for the influence of the miraculous word of the Saviour had departed from them. From the very fact that they heard this miraculous voice (allowing their raising to be once established by a purely historical criticism) we may, it seems to us, infer the opposite. For this voice makes its way, not to the body, but to the spirit, of the departed. And who now will decide when the separation of the spirit from the body is irrevocable, and their re-union utterly impossible? This only takes place when the bodily organism is wholly destroyed or rendered uninhabitable, and this is in these instances by no means the case. It is not mutilated, wholly decayed bodies which the Lord revives, but bodies that have just died, whose corporeal organism needs not to be re-created and restored, but only to be reanimated. “There was still a thoroughly trodden way between the corpse and the spirit which had left it, and so much is clear, that the corpse of the departed in its earliest stage is very different from a mummy or from a corrupt mass.” (Lange.) This remark is perhaps of no interest for those who conceive the connection between soul and body as external, such as there is between bird and cage; but the more deeply modern science considers, along with the undeniable distinction, the intimate connection also of spirit and matter, the less venturous appears the conjecture that the spirit immediately after death stands as yet in a closer connection with its scarcely-abandoned dwelling-place than many are disposed to believe. This appears especially to have been the case with the dead persons whom Jesus raised. Departed in a time in which life and immortality had not yet been brought to light, they could at most surrender themselves to death with composure, without longing after death; they were moreover still bound to the earth by holy bonds of blood or sympathy. If ever tears, prayers, and entreaties might still fetter a spirit to the earth or call forth a longing after life, it was here the case, and scarcely do they hear the voice of Omnipotence when they can and will obey.
2. If, therefore, the possibility of the raising of the dead, as related in the Gospel, cannot be denied per se, its reality is sufficiently established. The Saviour Himself enumerates νεκροὶ ἐγείρονται (Luke 7:22) among the signs of His redeeming activity, and what had already been performed by the prophets, beseemed Him, the highest Ambassador of the Father, yet more. Of the witnesses of these facts there were many, and those not exposed to suspicion, and even in a later period, testimonies as to this point are not wanting. See particularly the fragment of Quadratus, an Evangelist of the apostolic age, in Eusebius (H. E. iii. 3), who moreover declares that this apostolical writer was yet extant in his time, and was known to him as well as to the most of his brethren. Jerome also (Catal. Script, Luke 19:0) gives an account of it. When this account was written the youthful persons raised by the Saviour might have been still living.—The strongest proof of their truth lies however in the internal character of these narratives of miracles. Whoever, with freedom from prejudice, reads the account of the raising at Nain or at Bethany will always repeat the exclamation: ce n’est pas ainsi qu’on invente. As respects the silence of Matthew and Mark with reference to this miracle, it is difficult to give any other answer than conjecture. Perhaps it arises from the fact that the name of the youth or his mother was not more particularly known. The silence of Matthew could also be explained if we were at liberty to assume that in this expedition from Capernaum he had perhaps remained behind a single day in order to finish the settlement of his affairs. That of Mark is sufficiently explained by the fact, that his Gospel is laid out on a much more limited scale. In view of the great abundance of matter, moreover, no one of the narrators undertook to be complete, and the distinction into more ordinary and more difficult miracles, which latter especially they were not to pass over if these should not be controverted, was to them in their simplicity apparently wholly unknown.
3. In comparing the raisings of the dead on the part of the Saviour with those of the prophets on the one hand and those of the apostles on the other, there comes into view as well a remarkable distinction as a beautiful agreement. The Saviour’s raisings of the dead are attended with an exalted composure and majesty and acting from His own completeness of might, before which that tension and strain of all the powers of the soul which we more or less observe in the prophets and apostles, wholly vanishes. What to us appears supernatural, for Him appears the highest nature.
4. The event at the gate of Nain might be called one of the most striking proofs of the consoling doctrine of a providentia specialissima. The time of the death and the burial of the young man—the road taken by the funeral train—the meeting with the Lord directly at the decisive moment—nothing of all this is casual here. Time, place, and circumstances, all are ordered to reach a glorious goal; comfort to the afflicted; glory for the Lord; revelation of the quickening power of God.
5. The Saviour’s raising the dead was on the one hand a symbol of the life which He causes to arise in the spiritually dead world through His word and His spirit; on the other hand, a prophecy of that which in the ἐσχάτη ἡμέρα shall take place in far greater measure. Both points of view He Himself conjoins in the strictest manner. John 5:24-29.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Nain’s gate, the sanctuary of the glory of God. We see, here has He revealed His glory as: 1. The great Prophet who confirms His preaching with the most astonishing signs; 2. the compassionate High-Priest who dries the tears of the sorrowing; 3. the Prince of life who snatches from the grave its booty.—The journey of the Saviour in the midst of His disciples a perpetual confirmation of His promise, John 1:51.—The personal meeting together of the Prince of Life with the spoil of Death.—How Death strives with Life and Life with Death: 1. Death: a. strikes down the most vigorous age; b. rends the holiest bonds; c. occasions the bitterest tears; 2. Life is here: a. revealed; b. restored; c. dedicated to the glory of God.—The meeting of the Saviour with the funeral train a proof of the most special Providence of God.—Nain’s gate, a school for Christian suffering and consolation.—“Weep not:” 1. How easy to use this word; 2. how difficult to obey the injunction; 3. how blessed to dry the tears.—Christ the Life of man: 1. In the creation; 2. in the renovation; 3. in the resurrection.—The resurrection’s word of might: 1. The exalted tone; 2. the mighty working; 3. the God-glorifying echo of this word.—How the Lord: 1. Comforts the sorrowing; 2. awakens the dead; 3. unites the severed.—The dawn of eternity breaking over the gate of Nain.—Glory rendered to God, the best fruit of the miracles of Jesus.—How the word of the Saviour’s might transforms everything: 1. A funeral train into an array of witnesses of His miracles; 2. a bier of the dead into a field of resurrection; 3. a mourning widow into a thankful mother; 4. a public road into a sanctuary of the glory of God.—He who marvels at great faith has also compassion on the deepest misery.—The love of the Lord: 1. A prevenient; 2. a comforting; 3. an all-accomplishing love.—Ephesians 3:2-6.—The youth raised from the coffin; Jairus’ daughter from the death-bed; Lazarus from the grave.—The journeyings of Christ a gracious visitation of God to His people.—Nain, in a few moments changed from a vale of misery into a vale of beauty (Nain the lovely).—The work of the Lord: 1. On the soul of the mother; 2. on the body of the son.—Spiritually awakened children a gift of the Lord to parents.—Fear and joy here most intimately united.—The renown of the Saviour at this period of history of His life as yet continually on the increase.
Starke:—Genuine Christians follow Christ whether the way goes towards Cana or towards Nain—towards Tabor or towards Golgotha.—Brentius:—The Lord passes over no city with His grace. The day-spring from on high visits even the meanest villages and hamlets at the right time; oh, excellent consolation!—Cramer:—The world is a lovely Nain, but death destroys all pleasure therein.—Weep with them that weep, rejoice with them that rejoice.—Bibl. Wirt.:—Young people should not put the thoughts of death so far from them, but pray with Moses, Psalms 90:12.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—How often does the Lord call to one spiritually dead, “Arise”; and he nevertheless continues to he there.—Majus:—Those who are awakened to spiritual life speak with new tongues and walk in a new life.—Osiander:—Upon noble deeds follows a good report, a renowned name.
Lisco:—Christ the Vanquisher of Death: 1. In His gracious affection for man; 2. in His divine might and majesty.—The funeral.—Heubner:—Life presses in; death flies; admirable change: life is victorious over death.—Jesus’ look is even yet directed upon the suffering ones in His church.—“Whoever is afraid of death is afraid of the Lord Jesus.” Scriver.—The joy of reunion.—Arndt:—This history a mirror of sorrow and consolation: 1. A mirror of sorrow: a. Vanity of the world; b. return to the dust; c. the uncertain goal and hour; d. the vanishing of worldly comfort; e. the funeral train, the way of all flesh, processus mortis, 2. A mirror of consolation: a. Christ’s countenance, the friendly countenance of God; b. the compassionate heart of Jesus; c. His gracious voice: “Weep not;” d. His stretching forth the hand; e. His vivifying word.—Fuchs:—The preaching of the young man at Nain to the Christians of our time: 1. Who lives shall die; 2. who dies inherits life.—A glance upon: 1. The dead young man; 2. the weeping widow; 3. the almighty Lord; 4. the astonished people.—Rieger:—Two mighty dominions: 1. A dreary one of death; 2. a joyful one of life.—Petri:—The wholesome knowledge: 1. Of our true need; 2. of the Almighty help of the Lord.—Westermeier:—The funeral train in the gates of Nain: 1. The dead man who is carried out; 2. the mourners who follow after; 3. the Comforter who suddenly appears.
N. B. We may remark that the homiletical treatment of this narrative should be guarded against a too sentimental representation of the death of the young man, the sorrow of the widow, the joy of reunion, and the like. Nothing is easier than in this way to elicit from the hearers a stream of tears, but the sublime simplicity of Luke remains in this also an unsurpassed model, and the development of the specifically Christian element in this Pericope promises more fruit than the fanciful treatment of its merely human or dramatic elements.
b. The Embassy Of The Baptist (Luke 7:18-35)
(Comp. Matthew 11:2-19 in part, Gospel for the 3d Sunday in Advent.)
18And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things. 19And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus [the Lord, V. O.2], saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another [are we to look, προζδοκῶμεν, prob. subj.]? 20When the men were come unto him, they said, John [the] Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? 21And in that same hour [or, In that hour3] he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and 22of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight. Then Jesus [And He, V. O.4] answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. 23And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me [or, take offence at me]. 24And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 25But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately [sumptuously], are in kings’ courts. 26But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more 27than a prophet. This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger [angel, 28V. O.] before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee [Malachi 3:1]. For [om., For, V. O.5] I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than Hebrews 2:0; Hebrews 2:09And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized [or, having been baptized] with the baptism of John 3:0; John 3:00But the Pharisees and [the] lawyers rejected [set at nought] the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of [by] him. 31And the Lord said [om., And the Lord said, V. O.6], Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what [whom] are they like? 32They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying. We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we havemourned to you, and ye have not wept. 33For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. 34The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! 35But wisdom is justified of [by] all her children.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Luke 7:18. Of all these things.—The miracles which the Saviour had performed of late, especially moreover the raising of the young man at Nain, the report of which, Luke 7:17, had resounded so far. Respecting the place in which John lay in prison, see Lange on Matthew 11:2. Matthew brings this embassy into another historical connection, but to us it appears that the order of the occurrences in Luke deserves the preference. From both accounts, however, it appears that although the Baptist was deprived of his freedom, yet the intercourse between him and his disciples still continued in some measure.
Luke 7:19. Art Thou.—We also cannot possibly assume that John doubted respecting the person of the Lord. With reason has the interpretation as well of the ancient Christian Church as of the reformers, controverted this view as untenable.—But as little conceivable is it that he asked this question for the sake of his disciples alone, or that he would in this way even from his prison offer yet a last public homage to the Lord. (Osiander.) It is rather a question not of secret unbelief, but of increasing impatience. Not the Saviour’s person but His mode of action is to John a riddle. Matters move too slowly for him, especially as he himself is now condemned to involuntary inactivity. In vain does he wait for a speedy and public declaration of the Lord in respect to His Messianic dignity. It annoys him that the Saviour speaks more by deeds than by words, since these deeds, moreover, are not miracles of punishment, like those of the old prophets, but benefits, which perhaps did not so well correspond with the expectation which he had formed to himself of the Lord of the threshing-floor with His fan in His hands (Matthew 3:11-12). Perhaps, moreover (Ebrard), it was not pleasing to him that the Saviour hitherto had as yet made no sharply-marked separation among the people, as he himself had begun to do, but let this building fall, while, working formlessly, He journeyed here and there. We do not need, therefore, to assume “that it had become doubtful to him, how the revelation of God, made to himself, was to be understood.” (Hofman.) But certainly it must, from his point of view, have surprised him, that the Saviour as yet appeared more in a prophetical than in a properly kingly character. So far, but only so far, can we speak of a doubt, a temptation of the faith of the imprisoned Baptist, which will surprise us the less if we consider how completely as yet he stood within the limits of the Old Covenant, whose heroes distinguished themselves more in conflict than in endurance, and whose great reformer, Elijah the Tishbite, whose image he bore, had also known hours of abandonment and anguish of soul in his own experience. (1 Kings 19:2-4.) Why should a soul like that of the Baptist have only had its Tabor heights, and not also its Gethsemane depths? And this all becomes the plainer, if we consider that John perhaps in spirit foresaw his end, and, therefore, must have desired the more intensely to see yet before his death the revelation of the kingdom of God, to which his whole life had been devoted. Whoever condemns him, has certainly become acquainted with a life of faith more by description than from personal experience. At the same time he is no less an example worthy of our imitation, that he does not turn himself with his difficulty away from the Lord, but directly to the only one who can solve the riddle for him. As respects the objection, moreover, that he could not in his imprisonment have heard such remarkable reports, comp. Winer on the article Gefängniss, and Acts 24:23.
Luke 7:21. In that hour.—The disciples of John, according to this, find the Saviour in the midst of His miraculous activity; and this account of Luke, which is far from being “a merely explicative addition from his own hand” (Ewald), on the contrary explains to us why the Saviour gives to them just this answer taken from His employment at the time. In the account of the sick here healed, it must not be overlooked that Luke also, the physician, distinguishes the demoniacs from naturally sick persons (Meyer), and with peculiar emphasis designates the recovery of the blind as a gracious gift of the Lord (ἐχαρίσατο).
Blind.—While the Lord points to these tokens of His Messianic dignity (comp. Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 61:1), He shows, on the one hand, that the greater publicity wished for by John was already sufficiently attained; on the other, that He was not yet minded to speak otherwise than through these. The Baptist’s question itself was, moreover, affirmatively answered, for he received in this form the assurance: Jesus is truly the Christ. And so far as he himself, in a spiritual sense, had become poor, the gospel was also announced to him. The question whether here by the πτωχοί is to be understood outwardly or spiritually poor, is to be answered thus, that, as a rule, the latter were mostly to be found among the former, and that, therefore, both meanings are to be here united.
Luke 7:23. And blessed is he.—An intimation which was by no means superfluous, either for John, or still less for his disciples, and least of all for later times.—Whosoever shall not be offended in Me:—“rara felicitas,” Bengel, comp. 1 Peter 2:8.
Luke 7:24. And when—were departed.—In Matthew, τούτων δὲ πορευομένων ἤρξατο. It is as if the Saviour could scarcely wait for the departure of the messengers to remove immediately the unfavorable impression which the question of the Baptist had, perhaps, made upon the people. Not alone to vindicate the honor of John, but also to anticipate further difficulties conceived as to His person and His work, does He direct an explicit address to the people, in which He extols the character of John, but rebukes the wavering disposition of the people. If any one, perchance, thought that John had not remained consistent with himself, the Saviour lets this reproach so far as this fall upon the nation itself, that neither John, nor Himself, had as yet been able to please them. He makes no scruple of recalling to their memory the image of the Baptist in his most brilliant period.
A reed shaken with the wind?—The Saviour begins with intimating what John had not been; no reed, no weakling, and the like. The assurance that John had not been by nature a wavering and inconstant man, was at the same time a sure implication that the Baptist, therefore, did not doubt respecting the person of the Saviour, as Chrysostom has already justly remarked in his thirty-seventh homily. This first question is followed by no answer, since each one could give this for himself. Observe further the fine climax in the arrangement of the interrogations, κάλαμον, ἄνθρωπον, προφήτην.
Luke 7:25. A man.—The question is intended to contradict the conjecture, that John had sent to Christ because his imprisonment was burdensome, and he hoped to be free therefrom. An antithesis between his camel’s-hair garment in the wilderness on the one hand, and the sumptuous clothing of his enemies at the court on the other. In order to seek a weakling, one had to go not to the prison, but to the palace.
Luke 7:26. A prophet?—Instead of allowing that John had in any respect lost his claim to this name, the Saviour shows how far he was even exalted above ordinary prophets. He is something greater (Neuter) than all his predecessors, since he could claim to be the herald of the Messiah.
Luke 7:27. This is he.—Comp. Malachi 3:1. “He is, if ye will hear, Elijah who is to come, as Malachi prophesied; and before whom is Elijah to go to prepare the way? Malachi says: ‘Before God the Lord Himself.’ What does Jesus, therefore, testify of Himself, when He says, John has gone as Elijah before Him? Who hath ears to hear, let him hear!” J. Riggenbach.
Luke 7:28. Among those that are born of women.—Comp. Matthew 11:11. Luke has correctly adjoined the word προφήτης, which was already presupposed in the ἐγήγερται of Matthew. Among all the prophets John deserves to be called the greatest, because he was the messenger of whom Malachi has spoken. Respecting the ethical worth of his character, the Saviour does not here speak directly, but yet He would not have bestowed this praise upon His Forerunner, if the latter had only possessed prophetical dignity without high excellence of character. The second part of the declaration is by no means to be explained as a testimony of our Lord in reference to Himself (Fritzsche, a. o.). How can the King of the kingdom of heaven place Himself on an equality with those who are in His kingdom? No, He speaks of the least of His disciples, and this not only so far as they appear as apostles or evangelists, but without any distinction. He thinks of their preëminence above the most distinguished men of the Old Covenant, the array of whom closed with John. They had, through the light of the experience of His redeeming power, deeper insight into the nature, the course of development, and the blessings of the kingdom of heaven, than had been the portion of John. If this was true even of those who then believed in Jesus, how much more of us to whom, by the history of the centuries, His greatness has been so much more gloriously revealed.
Luke 7:29. And all the people.—It is a question, whether we have here a remark of Luke, meant to give, Luke 7:29-30, his hearers who dwelt out of Palestine a more particular account of the various reception which the baptism of John had found (Bengel, Paulus, Lachmann, Bornemann, Stier), or whether it constitutes a continuation of the discourse of the Saviour. The latter appears to deserve the preference, as the words εῖ̓πε δὲ ὁ κύρ., Luke 7:31, are on internal and external grounds suspicious, while, moreover, Luke 7:29-30 contain nothing additional which the Saviour Himself might not have said; and besides, there is no second example of so extended an interpolation of Luke without any indication of it. It is a statement of how differently the preaching and baptism of John had been judged, by which, therefore, the reproach, Luke 7:31; Luke 7:34, is prepared.—[“Luke 7:29 f. does not contain an intervening comment of Luke, which is opposed by his usage elsewhere, and is disproved by the spuriousness of εῖ̓πε δὲ ὁ κύριος, Luke 7:31 (b. Elz.), but is the language of Jesus, who states the different results which the appearance of this greatest prophet had had with the people and with the hierarchs. It must, however, be admitted that the words, in comparison with the force, freshness, and oratorical liveliness of the preceding, bear a more historical stamp, and therefore may with reason be regarded as a later intercalation of tradition.” Meyer.—C. C. S.]
Ἐδικαίωσαν τὸν Θεόν, i.e., not only: “They declared in act that His will, that they should receive the baptism of John, was right” (Meyer): but they approved the judgment of God, which called them sinners, that needed such a baptism unto repentance.
Luke 7:30. Ἠθέτησαν. It was God’s counsel (βουλή) that the Jews through the baptism of John should be prepared for the Salvation of the Messianic age. Since now the Pharisees and Scribes held themselves back from this baptism, they frustrated this counsel in relation to themselves (εἰς ἑαυτούς), and exhibited themselves, indeed, the bitterest enemies of themselves, as has been in all times the case with the rejectors of the Gospel. The Saviour in this whole remark, just as in John 5:33-35, looks back upon the period of John’s activity as one already concluded, and since He is conscious that the opposition against Him, at bottom, springs from no other source than that against John the Baptist, he finds the way prepared of itself for the following parable.
Luke 7:31. Whereunto then shall I.—Here the inquiry of perplexity, as in Mark 4:30 that of intimacy with His disciples. The answer is an irrefragable proof with how attentive and tranquil a look He observed daily life even in the plays of the childish world. In children He sees miniature men, in men grown-up children.
Luke 7:32. Like unto children.—We must declare against the common explanation, as if the children (the Jews) had so played and spoken among one another, for who should then have been the ones who would not dance when others played, nor weep when others lamented? Yet as little do we believe with Fritzsche, that Jesus and John are here reckoned in with their contemporaries, that the former were to be the speakers, and the latter the addressed. We reverse it rather, and consider Jesus and John indicated (according to Matthew) as ἑταῖροι, over against whom the people are introduced speaking, and complaining that these friends had always wanted something different from what themselves wanted and did. They had demanded of John cheerfulness, and he had come μήτε ἐσθίων μήτε πίνων; from Jesus they had expected strictness and sadness, and He manifested a mild and joyous spirit. In this view no feature of the comparison is lost, and yet the application is not forced or stiff. Comp. Lange, Life of Christ, ii. p. 761, with whose objections against the explanation of R. Stier we fully agree.
Luke 7:33. Neither eating bread, nor drinking wine.—Comp. Luke 1:15. John’s austere mode of life was wholly agreeable to the spirit of his teaching, but displeasing not only to the small court-party, but to all who, pervaded by the leaven of the Sadducees, held unrighteousness dear. They accused him not only of lunacy, but also of actual possession (the Scripture distinguishes the two, John 10:20). No wonder, for he would not dance when they piped before him.
Luke 7:34. The Son of Man.—Here is this appellation very especially fitting, as it comes at the beginning of a declaration which refers us to the Lord’s ideal Humanity. He was come eating and drinking, in no way despising the comforts of social life, but temperately enjoying them, even in company with publicans and sinners. But herein had legal self-righteousness found a heavy stone of stumbling. What they had not been able to endure in John, they appeared now to demand in Christ: austere, unbending sternness. And when He did not give ear to this demand, they had ready at once the names of glutton and wine-bibber, friend of publicans and sinners, in which, however, they did not consider that these latter words indicated His highest titles of honor (comp. Luke 15:2). Not only had the disciples of John taken offence at Him (comp. Luke 5:33), but also the Pharisees and all that were accustomed to see through their eyes. The greater part did not receive Him because He had not chosen to weep when they began a gloomy lay of mourning. It would have been a hopeless attempt to labor at the conversion of such a nation, if no exceptions to this sad rule had been found. To these the Saviour refers in the following words. [Notwithstanding that the author’s application of the similitude of the complaining children to the Jews is supported by the names of Bleek, De Wette, and Meyer, I cannot see sufficient reason for abandoning the usual interpretation, which reverses the application. It is confessedly the unreasonableness of the Jews in being satisfied neither with John’s mode of life, nor with our Lord’s, which is the point of comparison. Exactly parallel to this is the unreasonableness charged by the children in the parallel upon their fellows. To say that the complaining children were the unreasonable ones, in expecting their fellows to accommodate themselves to every whim of theirs, appears rather an afterthought, than one suggested naturally by the parable. It is true, the words are, “This generation is like unto children,” &c.; but, as Bleek admits, passages like Matthew 13:24 show that these words do not necessarily mean that the generation itself is like the complainers, but that the relation between this generation and our Lord and John, was like that set forth in the parable. There is certainly weight in Bleek’s objection, that this indefiniteness can hardly go so far as to liken the generation addressed to one class of the children, when it was meant to be represented as like the exactly opposite class. But this, it appears to me, does not turn the scale against the evident correspondence between the generation complained of by Christ and the children complained of in the parable.—C. C. S.]
Luke 7:35. But wisdom.—See different views in Lange ad loc. Perhaps we meet here with a proverb not unknown to the contemporaries of our Lord; at least this declaration has a gnome-like character. Wisdom can here be no other than the Divine Wisdom which had been revealed by John and Jesus, and in Jesus was personally manifested: her children are those who are not only born of her, but also related to her, in that they possess a wise heart; and the justification of wisdom takes place where she is acquitted of accusations of this kind, and acknowledged in her true character. Such a justification was to be expected from her children alone, but also from all her children. We are not to understand this saving as a complaint, but as an antithesis of the preceding; an encouragement at the same time for the disciples of Jesus, when they should afterwards experience something similar to that which He and John had experienced.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. It is a striking argument for the great difference between the Old and the New Testament, that even the greatest of the prophets can, at the beginning, accommodate himself only with difficulty to the Saviour’s way of working. Among all those lofty and brilliant expectations which had been excited by the prophetic word, the meek, still spirit of the Gospel could only gradually break a way for itself. John must continually take secret offence against Jesus, before he had become in spirit a disciple of the best Master. Thus this whole history is a continuous proof of the truth of the saying, Matthew 18:1 : “It must needs be that offences come,” and as here, the σκάνδαλα have served the purpose of hastening the revelation of the glory of the Lord, and the coming of His kingdom.
2. Here also, as in John 5:36, the Saviour adduces His ἔργα as arguments for the certainty of His heavenly mission,—a new proof of the agreement between the Synoptical and the Johannean Christ, but at the same time also a troublesome sign for every one who still with the apostles of unbelief demands: “ôtez-moi ces miracles de votre Evangile.” The Saviour did not perform the miracles that they might become stones of stumbling; on the other hand, they are intended to be means of advancement on the way of faith, and now as ever His answer to every one who secretly takes offence, but turns himself with his doubts to Him that they may be solved, and has remained receptive for rational persuasion, is: “The blind see,” &c. But whoever cannot, by the spiritual workings of Christianity in man and in mankind, be convinced of the fact that something superhuman is working concealed therein, for such an one all abstract grounds of proof are fruitless. From this follows, moreover, that only those who in person belong to the τυφλοῖς and κωφοῖς spiritually healed by Jesus, will possess a persuasion of faith which can be shaken by nothing subsequent. This is the true demonstration of the Spirit and of power, which constitutes the crown of all Apologetics. But precisely because the Saviour knows this, and foresees how much it costs flesh and blood to remove out of the way all offences taken at Him and His work, He pronounces all blessed who raise themselves to such a height. Another Macarism faith may perhaps subjoin: “Blessed he who, when he might take offence, turns himself to Jesus for healing!”
3. In an exalted tone and, moreover, with perfect justice, does the Saviour praise His imprisoned Forerunner. The whole life of John is a continuous commentary on that which is here said in a few words; and it impresses, therefore, its seal on the correctness of this description of his character. Not less, moreover, does a praise bestowed on such an occasion redound to the honor of the Saviour Himself. In the first place, we admire here His deep wisdom, which takes pains to obliterate in the best manner a perverted impression; and then quite as much the holy severity with which He, without respect of persons, censures the faults of His contemporaries. While the Saviour avoids making a direct declaration of His Messianic dignity, He places it indirectly in a clear light, inasmuch as He points as well to His distinction from, as also to His exaltation above, the position and spirit of the Baptist. And as the people, after what had just taken place, were, perhaps, already disposed to look down upon the prophet of the wilderness with contempt, He constrains them rather to throw a searching and shaming look into their own hearts.
4. “The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater.” One of the most admirable testimonies respecting the inestimable preëminence of the sincere disciples of the Saviour; but at the same time also a witness of Christ to Himself that may not be slightly esteemed. What a consciousness must He bear within Him who exalts His least disciple above the greatest of the prophets, and yet can declare: “I am meek and lowly of heart” (Matthew 11:29).
5. The diverse behavior of the publicans and Pharisees, in relation to the baptism of John, gives a convincing proof that self-righteousness sets a far greater obstacle to the coming of the kingdom of God in the heart, than the unrighteousness of the most deeply-sunken sinners. Comp. Matthew 21:31-32.
6. The reception on the part of their changeable contemporaries which fell to the lot of John and Jesus, recurs in all manner of forms as well in the history of the Theocracy under Israel, as in that of the Christian Church. This manifestation repeats itself continually where men judge after the flesh, where men judge the truth according to a previously settled system, instead of unconditionally subjecting themselves with their system to the wisdom of God; where, in a word, the natural man bears dominion. Only of the spiritual man does the apostle’s word hold good, 1 Corinthians 2:15. Each time the man wills otherwise than God, or he wills that willed by God at another time, in another way, and in another measure. The only infallible touch-stone, therefore, as to whether we already belong to the τέκνα τῆς σοφίας or not, lies simply in the relation in which we stand to God’s word and testimony. The truth of God is recognized with such assurance by the children of wisdom, because, even when it is in conflict with their natural feelings, it finds the deepest echo in the sanctuary of the heart and conscience. The children of wisdom are essentially identical with the νήπιοι (Luke 10:21), to whom the things of God have been revealed.
7. The crown of all the σημεῖα of the Lord, and at the same time the means whereby these are continually propagated in the spiritual sphere, is the preaching of the Gospel to the poor, which is, moreover, the highest signature for the divinity of the Gospel. Comp. 1Co 1:26; 1 Corinthians 1:31.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The fame of the Saviour finds its way to a solitary prison: 1. How John stands here with reference to Jesus: a. with a secret displeasure, b. with a question implying desire; 2. Jesus with reference to John: a. with a satisfying answer, b. an earnest warning, c. an emphatic commendation.—Doubts must bring us the quicker to Christ.—Doubt dies only in the immediate neighborhood of Him through whom it was raised.—“Art thou He that should come?” This question is answered, a. with the “No” of unbelief, b. the “Yea” of faith, c. the Hallelujah of thankfulness.—The great Advent question: a. its high significance, b. its satisfactory answer.—The miracles of the Saviour in the natural and moral world, His best credentials.—Christ yet continues to perform what He did in this hour.—Christ’s healings of the blind.—Christ’s raisings of the dead.—The preaching of the Gospel to the poor: 1. A clear credential for the Saviour, 2. an inestimable benefit for the world, 3. an infinitely exalted, yet holy commission for the Christian.—How poverty is related to Christ, and Christ to poverty.—The blessedness of those who are not offended in Christ: 1. An unusual, 2. a rich, 3. an obtainable blessedness.—The holy love and the holy earnestness of the Saviour over against honest doubters.—The flexible reed and the inflexible character of John.—One needs not go to the shore of Jordan to see shaken reeds.—The prophets in camel’s hair, the courtiers in sumptuous clothing.—The morally free man in bonds, and the slave of the world in freedom.—John a. equal to, b. exalted above, the prophets of the Old Testament.—The herald’s function of John the Baptist: 1. In its origin, 2. its significance, 3. its abiding value.—The greatness and the littleness of John the Baptist: 1. His higher position above other prophets. No prophet was a. enlightened with clearer light, b. privileged with a more excellent commission, c. crowned with a higher honor, d. adorned with a purer virtue than John 2:0. his littleness, as compared with the genuine disciple of the Saviour. The true Christian is, on his part, a. enlightened with clearer light, b. privileged with a more exalted commission, c. crowned with a higher honor (John 15:15), d. called to purer virtue than John.—The word of the Saviour concerning the greatness or littleness of John the Baptist: a. humbling for those that stand below him, b. encouraging for those that stand beside him, c. cheering for those who really stand above him.—The reception of the Baptist with Pharisees and publicans: 1. Very diverse, 2. fully explicable, 3. now as then of important consequences.—John and Jesus found and find the same friends and the same foes.—Knowledge that God is in the right is the beginning of conversion.—Enmity against the truth is at the same time enmity against one’s own soul.—The world of children the image of the world of men.—The alternation of frolicsome joy and complaints is after the manner of children, great and small.—The servant of the Truth never called to dispose himself according to the changing humors of his contemporaries.—How far is it permitted, or not permitted, the preacher of the Word to take account of the demands which others make of him?—Now, as ever, strict seriousness is condemned by the world as lunacy.—The Son of Man is come eating and drinking.—The temperate enjoyment of life approved and consecrated by the word and the Spirit of the Lord.—Christ the Friend of publicans and sinners: 1. A vile calumny, 2. a holy truth, 3. an exalted eulogy, 4. a joyful message, 5. an example worthy of imitation.—The Lord Himself a proof of the truth of His word, Luke 6:26.—The justification of Wisdom by her children: 1. Necessary, 2. certain, 3. satisfactory.—As long as there are children of Wisdom, that which is foolish has nothing to fear before God, 1 Corinthians 1:25.
Starke:—It is something beautiful and pleasant when teachers and hearers stand in good accord, and diligently edify one another.—Quesnel:—A Christian can draw profit even from novel tidings, if he applies them to his own edification and that of others.—Majus:—Learn to answer rightly the most weighty inquiry of all, who the true Saviour of the world is, and thou shalt be well enlightened.—According to Christ’s example we should rather prove with deeds that we are Christians, than with words.—Canstein:—It is something great when one can fearlessly appeal to truth and deed. 2 Corinthians 1:12.—Majus:—Those that walk after Christ find many hindrances and offences in their way, but these must be taken out of the way and overcome, Isaiah 57:14.—Osiander:—Steadfastness in all good is the most excellent ornament of a servant and child of God.—Brentius:—Careless and rough people are oftentimes easier to be persuaded by the word of truth, than presumptuous hypocrites and reputed wise men.—Whoever despises the counsel of God which is meant for his soul’s health, will experience God’s counsel against him with harm and pain.—Hedinger:—God can manage it so as to please no one: to say nothing then of a frail man with censorious fault-finders.—God’s former servants have been ever calumniated, how then should His present ones fare better?—The world cleaves to its wonted way, and calls evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20); wonder not thereat.—Osiander:—The teacher is not to be born that can please all men.—Majus:—Independent wisdom calls all fools to herself, and will make all wise, but few hear her and follow her.—Heubner:—Whoever does not find in Christ his salvation may wait therefor in vain.—Only one coming will overpass all our expectations, the coming of Christ.—Christianity is founded upon history, upon facts.—Christianity a religion of the poor.—Guyon (on Luke 7:28):—John is the type of the condition of penitence. Whoever has truly pressed into the sanctuary, into the kingdom of grace, whoever has arrived at the full enjoyment of grace, is greater, more blessed than he that remains still in penitence.—Luther (Luke 7:32-34):—“If one preaches the Gospel, it amounts to nothing; if he preaches the Law, it amounts to nothing again: he can neither make the people really joyous, nor really sorry.”
The Pericope (Luke 7:18-27, comp. Matthew 11:2-10). The double testimony which Jesus renders before the people: 1. The testimony concerning Himself, Luke 7:18-23; Luke 2:0. respecting John the Baptist, Luke 7:24-27.—Couard:—John , 1. As to his faith; 2. as to his walk; 3. as to his works.—Ph. D. Burk:—When Jesus will hold up before a soul its wretchedness out of Him. He tells it of the blessedness of those that abide in Him. Contraria contrariis curantur.—Thym:—The question of the Baptist. We take: 1. The question for testing: a. from whom it proceeds, b. how it arose, c. what it aims at. 2. The answer from experience: a. who gives it, b. to what it refers, c. what prize it proposes to us. 3. The testimony in truth: a. by whom it is given, b. what it sets forth, c. what aim it has.—Höpfner:—The glory of Jesus who came into the world in a servant’s form.—Florey:—What the Saviour requires of those who will prepare His way in the hearts of men.
Luke 7:19; Luke 7:19.—Rec.: πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν. [With A., Sin., 13 other uncials; π. τ. κύριον, with B., L., R., Ξ.—C. C. S.]
Luke 7:21; Luke 7:21.—For Rec.: ἐν αὐτῇ δὲ τῇ ὥρᾳ, Tischendorf, Tregelles, and Alford read: ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ὥρᾳ, as Meyer says, “on insufficient authority and insufficient internal evidence.” They are supported by B., L. Cod. Sin. has ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ.—C. C. S.]
Luke 7:22; Luke 7:22.—Rec.: ὁ Ἱησοῦς. [Om., ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford; in Lachmann, bracketed; om., B., D., Ξ., Cod. Sin.—C. C. S.]
Luke 7:28; Luke 7:28.—Rec.: ∆έγω γὰρ ν̔μῖν. [Om. γαρ, B. Cod. Sin., L., X., Ξ. read αμην λεγω. Tischendorf reads γάρ, and remarks: “nisi conjunctio adscripta fuisset, vix tam varie legeretur.”—C. C. S.]
Luke 7:31; Luke 7:31.—The words at the beginning of the 31st verse: Εἶπε δὲ ὸ κύριος, are in all probability spurious, and have been introduced from some evangelistarium, which might the more easily make a new address begin here, as Luke 7:29-30 did not appear to contain a saying of the Lord Himself, but an interposed observation of the evangelist, which, however, is not to be assumed. See below. [Om., Cod. Sin.]
c. The Dinner In The House Of Simon The Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50)
(Gospel on St. Mary Magdalene’s Day.)
36And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he wentinto the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat [reclined at table]. 37And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner7 [or, a woman who in the city was a sinner], when she knew that Jesus sat at meat [was reclining at table] in the Pharisee’s house,brought an alabaster box [or, flask] of ointment, 38And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash [moisten] his feet with tears, and did wipe them with thehairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee which had bidden [invited] him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of womanthis is that toucheth him; for [that] she is a sinner. 40And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master [Teacher], sayon. 41There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred42pence [denarii], and the other fifty. And [om., And, V. O.8] when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them [remitted it to] both. Tell me therefore, which ofthem will love him most? 43Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom heforgave [remitted] most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 44And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed [moistened] my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head [om., of her head,V. O.9]. 45Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman, since the time I came in, hath notceased to kiss my feet. 46My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hathanointed my feet with ointment. 47Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for [because, V. O.] she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven. the same loveth little.48, And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49And they that sat at meat [reclined at table] with him began to say within themselves,50Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And [But] he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
General Remarks.—1. Chronology. Although Luke makes the narrative of the feast in Simon’s house follow immediately on the embassy of the disciples of John, yet it by no means results from this, that the one took place immediately after the other. It is not improbable that, among others, the discourses of the Saviour given in Matthew, Luke 11:20-30, preceded it. But at all events both occurrences belong to the history of the public life of the Saviour in Galilee shortly before the second passover (John 6:4).
2. Harmony. It is a question whether this anointing is the same which the three other Evangelists mention at the beginning of the history of the Passion. Although distinguished men have given an affirmative answer to this question (Schleiermacher, Strauss, De Wette, Ewald), we have no scruple, nevertheless, to attach ourselves to those who declare for the original diversity of the two narratives. For both accounts agree only in this, that in the two cases the host is named “Simon,” and that the woman who anoints the Saviour dries His feet with the hair of her head. But on what grounds it is impossible that two Simons may have lived, of whom one was a disciple in Galilee, who treated Jesus with distrust, and the other a recovered leper in Judea, who clave to Jesus with faithful affection, we comprehend as little as why those whose doubts arise from the agreement of the two names, leave us yet two Judases, two Simons, and two Jameses in the circle of the apostles. And as respects the other circumstances, it scarcely needs suggestion that two affectionate and thankful women, quite independently of each other, might have the thought occur to them of bringing the Saviour an homage of such a kind. Besides these, all the features of the case are different: In this, the host is an enemy, there a friend, of the Saviour; here it was an anointing from thankful love, there, at the same time, an anointing for death; here Jesus is censured by a Pharisee, there the woman by a disciple; here it is haughtiness, there it is selfishness, which is the source of this hostility; here the sinner is pronounced blessed, there the female disciple is honored with the highest distinction. “A criticism which in these representations can see images with no solidity, dissolving into one another, because in them accidentally there are two hosts of the name of Simon, or some other similarities, would more easily become skilled in assigning titles and uniforms, than in distinguishing the highest delineations of character and exhibitions of peculiar dispositions in the higher region of the primitive Christian history or the Christian spiritual life.” Lange, Leben Jesu. Even the conjecture (Neander) that the name Simon has through an incorrect tradition been transferred from the second host to the first, we consider as arbitrary as unnecessary. With greater justice it might perhaps be assumed that Mary of Bethany had knowledge of the act of the Galilean woman, and had therefore the earlier come to the thought of showing her love and her thankfulness to the Saviour in a similar manner. The endeavor to identify the two accounts with one another presupposes a view of the incorrectness of the evangelical tradition, to which we are in principle opposed.
Luke 7:36. And one of the Pharisees desired Him.—Time and place are not particularly indicated. There is as little reason for ascribing the very invitation of the Pharisee to hostile intentions as for believing that it sprung from the good ground of esteem and affection. Perhaps pride itself impelled him to receive a Rabbi at his table, whose name was already upon so many tongues, and in respect to whom one did not know how high he might yet rise. And the Son of Man, who was come “eating and drinking,” yielded willingly to his invitation, although we may well suppose fie was not unaware (John 2:25) that it had sprung from an impure intent.
And reclined at table.—It appears from the sequel, without having His feet washed or being anointed. “Jesus lay supported on His left arm with His head turned towards the table, upon a pillow, and His feet were turned outward to where the attendants stood; moreover they were naked, as He had laid off His sandals.” De Wette.
Luke 7:37. A woman who in the city was a sinner.—The name of the town is not given. The conjecture that it was Jerusalem (Paulus) is quite as unfounded as many others. In any case, we are to seek the theatre of the event in Galilee. “Sinner” appears here to intimate especially an unchaste life, by which she stood in evil repute among her fellow townsmen. (See Luke 7:39.) Respecting the different ways in which a woman among the Jews might procure to herself the name ἁμαρτωλός, comp. Light-foot, ad loc.
Very early has this sinner been regarded as one and the same with Mary Magdalene, on which account the church has appointed this gospel for her memorial. See Winer, in voce, and Sepp, Leben Jesu, p. 281–292, who has also collected the most noticeable legends in regard to her person. Undoubtedly the identity of the persons is not mathematically demonstrable, but much less can we designate the difficulties which have been raised against it as entirely unremovable, and we doubt whether the Catholic church in this point deserves the opposition which, as a rule, falls to her share from the most of modern expositors. Tradition, which was acquainted with the second anointing by Mary, the sister of Lazarus, would not also, without some special occasion, have given the name Mary to the woman first anointing. That Mary Magdalene is first mentioned, Luke 8:2, certainly does not prove that she could not before this have anointed the Saviour in Simon’s house. Perhaps she had belonged to the unhappy ones, out of whom Jesus, only a short time before, about the time of the visit of John’s disciples (Luke 7:21), had expelled unclean spirits. A sinner like Magdalene had certainly not been received in the ordinary way into the most intimate circle of friends, and assuredly one can scarcely imagine a more beautiful occasion for it than the act here recorded in Simon’s house. We may add that precisely such a behavior as that recorded of the woman in Simon’s house agrees entirely with what is known to us respecting the loving Magdalene (John 20:11-18), especially if she had only lately been healed of her terrible plague. But enough concerning a conjecture, which certainly cannot be fully proved, but which still less deserves to be rejected without further inquiry. Comp. Lange, Life of Christ, ad loc. [I do not see what occasion the author has to regard Mary Magdalene as an extraordinary sinner. As Trench has well observed in his work on Miracles, demoniac possession appears to have implied a peculiar deficiency of the energy of personal will in the afflicted, whether natural or induced by weakening disease, but by no means to have implied of course any peculiar criminality. Undoubtedly sin, and especially sins of voluptuousness, tend very greatly to weaken the moral and voluntary energies. But there are so many other causes that may effect the same result, that to bring such an imputation against Mary Magdalene on no other ground, appears to me, I confess, little better than a posthumous slander. Then the mention of Mary Magdalene immediately afterwards, Luke 8:2, in a manner that does not betray the faintest consciousness of her having been mentioned before, is certainly very little agreeable to this identification. Our Saviour, moreover, although He came to seek and to save the lost, and although to His inward view one saved sinner was even as another, appears in the choice of His intimate companions to have maintained a Divine decorum, such as breathes through all His words and acts, and which may not without reason have been supposed to be operative in this case.—C. C. S.]
Luke 7:37. When she knew.—The meals at which Jesus took part appear to have had a somewhat public character. The entrance stood open to all, not because they were invited with Him, but because the concourse could not be hindered.
An alabaster flask, ἀλάβαστρον μύρου.—A very fine, mostly white species of gypsum, but not so hard as marble, and therefore not so serviceable for finely polished furniture. “Unguenta optime servantur in alabastris,” writes Pliny, xiii. 3, and to this notion apparently it is to be ascribed that they were accustomed to transport unguents and perfumes in alabaster flasks, which were sealed at the tops, and opened by breaking the long neck. Perhaps we are here to understand alabaster from Damascus and Syria, which was distinguished especially by its clearness, while the best Nard ointment was prepared at Tarsus in Cilicia. Comp. Friedlieb, Die Archæol, der Leidensgeschichte, on Matthew 26:6 seq.—Moreover, among the ancients there prevailed elsewhere also the custom of kissing the feet of those to whom it was intended to display a very especial reverence, especially of the Rabbis (Wetstein), and the noting of the moment when the whole transaction began (ἤρξατο), contributes not a little to heighten the vividness of the whole narrative.
Luke 7:38. And began to moisten His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head.—The question spontaneously presents itself to us, what may have given occasion to all this burst of feeling in the homage rendered by the woman. Without doubt she had previously seen and heard the Lord, and, in whatever way it may have come to pass, had already received a great benefit from Jesus. We are most disposed to understand this as a bodily healing and benefit, certainly not worth less than the debt of five hundred denarii. For this mercy she will manifest to the Lord her thankful love. Perhaps He had, in order to put her to the proof, delivered her indeed from the malady which was the consequence of her sinful life, but as yet withheld the word of pardon and grace, of which she stood in most need. So there burns along with the flame of gratitude the secret longing after a higher, a spiritual salvation in her heart. The impure wishes to be declared pure, the fallen to be raised up, the sorrowing to be comforted, the thankful for recovery to be blest with yet greater fulness of grace. For a shorter or longer time she has already been looking for an opportunity to draw near to the Saviour without being thrust back by an incompassionate hand, and now when she hears He is a guest in Simon’s house, she is withheld as little by false shame as by fear of man from following the drawing of her heart.
Luke 7:39. Now when the Pharisee … saw.—Without doubt the first feeling of the Pharisee was that of displeasure that such a woman had ventured to pollute his pure threshold. But with that is next joined dissatisfaction and doubt in reference to his guest, who, as he sees, is well content to be touched by such hands. Without any organ by which he is able to place himself in the woman’s condition or to estimate the beauty of her action, he judges according to the logic of the natural man and of the Jew imprisoned in prejudices. The major term of the syllogism which, in secret, he forms to himself, is double. A prophet would, in the first place, know what is hidden, and know accordingly the history of this ἁμαρτωλός, and, secondly, shudder at the contact of that which is unholy. That the former may be true of Jesus and the latter not, does not even enter his mind. The minor and the conclusion from his point of view need no statement. Among the Jews the idea commonly prevailed that a prophet must know everything secret, and that in particular the Messiah must be at a loss for an answer to no question; therefore the ensnaring questions which even to the end of His life they continued to propose to Him; therefore also the inference of the disciples (John 16:29-30).—As respects our Simon, moreover, it is scarcely to be doubted that he, how much soever he may have been λέγων ἐν ἑαυτῷ, yet also gave vent to his displeasure by looks, gestures, and light murmurs. The Saviour, however, has no need of that to hear him, He already reads in Simon’s thoughts. He vindicates the honor of the woman and His own in a noble parable, which He presents in so striking, so powerful a manner that we scarcely know which we should most admire: the skill with which He causes the accuser to appear as witness against himself, or the moderation with which He still spares His host, inasmuch as He forbears any severer censure; whether the holy irony with which He explains Simon’s deficiency in love, or the lofty seriousness with which He gives him to feel that his sin is yet unforgiven.
Luke 7:41. A certain creditor.—Under the image of the creditor the Lord depicts Himself, while, in the debtor that owed the more and the one that owed the less, we behold respectively the portrait of the sinner and of Simon. It results, therefore, from this, that the Saviour declares the action of the sinner to be a work of thankful love in consequence of a benefit received. It does not however necessarily follow from this that Simon also had been restored by a miracle from a sickness (Paulus, Kuinoel); the benefit bestowed on him (=50 denarii) was the honor of a visit from the Lord, the value of which, however, must have been exceedingly small in his eyes.
Δηνάρια, a Roman silver coin, =1 drachma = 16 asses [about 7½d. sterling, or 15 cents; 50 denarii =$7.50; 500 D. = $75.Luke 00: both sums worth then many times their present value.—C. C. S.].
Luke 7:43. I suppose.—The gravity of the Pharisee, before whom a problem is laid for solution, does not belie itself. With greater modesty than that with which he had just murmured in secret does he give his opinion, and is rewarded by the Saviour with an ὀρθῶς of holy irony, an ὀρθῶς which is about to turn itself immediately as a weapon against him.
Luke 7:44. Seest thou this woman?—Apparently Simon had as much as possible avoided looking at her. At least he must, after the parable he had heard, have regarded her with quite different eyes, and have seen in a great sinner a great lover, and so far a great saint, if he compared her with himself, the proud egoist. But now the word of rebuke breaks as a flood over him. The great distinction which the Lord had rendered to Simon by His coming He brings at once, with the noblest sense of dignity, into view.—I entered into thine house.—The σου at the beginning of the address gives emphasis to the tone of reproach, of which Simon is made conscious in a threefold comparison of his behavior with that of the sinning woman. No washing of the feet, no kiss of welcome, no anointing has he, at the entrance of his Guest into his dwelling, had ready for Him. What Meyer, ad loc., in reference to the first adduces as an excuse, namely, that the washing of His feet had not been absolutely necessary, since the Saviour had not come directly from His journey, is to our apprehension not satisfactory; for if this neglect had been entirely unimportant or accidental, the Saviour would certainly not have brought it up to him. As opposed to his lovelessness and his avarice, the benevolence and bounteousness in the sinning woman’s exhibition of love strikes the eye so much the more. Simon gives no water—she her tears, aquarum preciosissimas (Bengel), and instead of a linen cloth, the thousand hairs of her head. Simon gives no kiss upon the mouth, she kisses much more humbly the feet, of the Lord; Simon gives no ἔλαιον, but she something much more precious, μύρον. And this proof of her homage she presented to the Lord from the very time of his entrance, ἀφ̓ ῆ̓ς εἰσῆλθον. (See the textual notes on Luke 7:45.) The reading εἰσῆλθεν, has perhaps arisen from the fact that the woman was supposed to have entered after Jesus, so that she could not well have manifested her love to Him from His very entrance. This difficulty, however, vanishes if we consider that the woman, seeking for an opportunity for her work of love, would probably have entered very soon after the Saviour; and thus at the same time the antithesis is most distinctly preserved between that which the two, Simon and the woman, had done at His entrance into the house.
Luke 7:47. Wherefore I say unto thee. We consider it forced and unnatural to regard λέγω σοι as standing in a parenthesis (De Wette), and separated in some measure from οὗ χάριν. Better Meyer: “On this account I say to thee; for the sake of these her exhibitions of love, I declare to thee: Forgiven are her sins,” &c.
Ἀφέωνται—ὅτι ἠγάπησε πολύ.—According to the Roman Catholic exegetes, with whom, among others, De Wette also agrees, the words: Because she loved much, must indicate the proper cause, the antecedens of the forgiveness of the debt. The Romish church has here found a support for the doctrine of the meritoriousness of good works, and the Protestant polemics have undertaken to confute it by often in some measure doing violence to the text. To the unsuccessful attempts to escape from this difficulty must apparently be added the following: “Her sins are forgiven her (this she knows, and) therefore has she exhibited much love;” or this: “Her sins are forgiven her, that she might love much,” or “that the Pharisee, from her thankfulness, might be well able to conclude that already much must have been forgiven her,” &c. All these interpretations suffer shipwreck on the simple signification of the words, especially of ὅτι, and the parable also, Luke 7:41-42, shows evidently that the Saviour received her work as a token of thankful love. Had the woman really already received entire assurance of forgiveness, and her rich love now been the proof of it, as it is asserted, then the assurance, Luke 7:48, would have been, at least in a good measure, superfluous. No, the progress of the case is this: The woman held herself, by a former benefit (bodily healing perhaps, but not as yet any full assurance of forgiveness), quite as much favored by Jesus as if a debt of five hundred denarii had been remitted to her. Out of thankfulness for this benefit she had come believingly to Jesus (Luke 7:50), and had shown to Him in her love the strength of her thankful faith, and now she receives, in such a temper of mind, not out of merit, but out of grace, the assurance of the forgiveness of sins. Simon, on the other hand, considers himself as little favored by the visit of Jesus as by the remission of a debt of fifty denarii; therefore also he has shown the Lord little love.—“But to whom little is forgiven the same loveth little,”—and because he had so little faith and love he could moreover have little (or no) part in the forgiveness which he did not even earnestly desire.—However, the holiness of works seeks in vain a support in these words, for Jesus Himself says (Luke 7:50): “Thy faith hath saved thee,” and by this of itself makes known that her love had flowed from the fountain of faith. Because she believes and has manifested this her faith by love, therefore does forgiveness fall to her lot.—We can hardly see that now any other difficulty remains to be removed, since at all events we read elsewhere also that love covers even the multitude of sins, and that mercy rejoiceth against judgment, 1 Peter 4:8; James 2:13; Matthew 25:34-40. That she has deserved forgiveness by her love, the Saviour is as far from saying as that she has deserved it through faith; but only through the faith which works by love (Galatians 5:6), was she receptive for the benefit of forgiveness, which He immediately bestowed upon her purely out of grace. [Meyer’s explanation appears to me better: “This ὅτι ἠγάπησε πολύ does not contain the cause and therefore not the antecedent of the forgiveness. So Catholics interpret it, proving therewith their doctrine of the meritoriousness of works, and of late also De Wette, apprehending love to Christ as one with faith in Him; Olshausen, seeking to surmount the difficulty of the thought in his way, and interpreting love as receptive activity; Paulus, B. Crusius. The contrary is established, not by dogmatics (see the admirable remarks of Melanchthon, in the Apol. iii. 31 seq., p. 87 seq., ed. Rech.), but, as appears by the context, because this interpretation is entirely inconsistent with the παραβολή lying at the basis, Luke 7:41-42, as well as with the immediately following ᾧ δὲ ὀλίγον , &c, if love does not appear as the consequence of forgiveness; the antecedent, that is, the subjective cause of forgiveness, is not Love, but Faith, as appears from Luke 7:50. According to the context, therefore, it is correct to interpret ὅτι … of the ground of knowledge; Forgiven are, &c, which is certain, since she has exhibited love in a high degree. … Calov. Probabat Christus a posteriori.”—C. C. S.]
Luke 7:48. Thy sins are forgiven.—With celestial love the Lord ascends a yet more and more exalted climax in His language. First has He shown that He receives the homage of the sinful woman without any scruple; then has He said to a third person what a privilege is meditated for her, one much more excellent than she had hitherto enjoyed, namely, the full certainty of the forgiveness of sins; finally this assurance is personally addressed to herself, and sealed in her heart through the peace of God that passeth all understanding. The word αἱ πολλαί was uttered, it is true, in her presence, yet not to herself; the Lord, before this company, will not humble her more deeply, but on the contrary kindly raises her.
Luke 7:49. Began to say.—Just as in Luke 5:21. It would appear almost inconceivable that the same censure should have been already repeated, if we forgot that a Pharisaic heart at all times remains the same; besides, these guests need not of course have been acquainted with that which had already taken place at the healing of the paralytic.
Luke 7:50. And He said.—Not spoken at precisely the very instant when these thoughts were rising (Meyer), but probably because the Saviour heard the approach of the storm which would rise against the woman if she did not immediately withdraw herself. He gives her an intimation to leave the house before the peace which He had given her could be assailed or disturbed by any one.—Faith helped the woman, inasmuch as it brought her soul into the disposition in which she could entreat and receive the most ardently desired of all benefits from the Lord. A similar word of comfort was received by another woman, Mark 5:34. Comp. also the words of Eli to Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:17.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The readiness with which the Saviour could accept an invitation so grudgingly given as that of this Simon, belongs undoubtedly to the self-denial of His ministering love. He wished especially not to repel the Pharisees any more than was absolutely necessary, and knew moreover that many an ear that elsewhere would be closed to formal preaching might perhaps catch up the word of life when He clothed it as table-talk in the forms of daily life. Here also He may have had a special reference to the training of His apostles, who, brought up in a simpler condition, had hitherto observed the dark side of Pharisaism more from a distance. Finally, He could, by His personal presence, best put to shame the calumnious reports which, without doubt, were spread abroad in His absence in reference to Him and His disciples. Worthy of notice, moreover, is it that when He trod this threshold a sinning woman also sees the door open to her, for whom, according to Pharisaic severity, the entrance would assuredly have been forbidden. Καὶ ἰδού. Where Christ appears the law loses its power, and grace bears the sceptre.
2. The whole narrative of the penitent sinner is a gospel within the gospel, as well in relation to the inward temper which the Lord demands of repentant sinners as also in respect to the salvation which His grace affords them. In this sense the whole narrative, which redounds to the honor of Luke’s delicate taste, as physician and artist, deserves to be named an eternal history, and so far it is indifferent whether the chief character be Mary Magdalene or another. The chief matter is still her voice and her experience, which may be the share of every one among us. With justice did Gregory the Great write concerning this Pericope: “As oft as I think upon this event, I am more disposed to weep over it than to preach upon it.” It fits perfectly into the Pauline Gospel of Luke, which proclaims to us the justification of the humble sinner out of free grace.
3. The parable which the Lord presents to Simon for consideration is for this reason above all so remarkable, that on the one side it sets forth as well the self-righteous Simons as the unrighteous ἀμαρτωλοί as debtors, and on the other hand strongly emphasizes the great benefit of the New Covenant, the blessing of the forgiveness of sins.
4. Whoever so understands the word of the Lord, Luke 7:47, as that the love of the woman was the meritorious cause of her pardon, such an one reverses the sense and the meaning of the parable, as if it taught that the two debtors had begun to love their creditor in an unequal measure, and that the creditor in consequence of this had remitted to them the debts of unequal amount, which then we should have to call: wishing to reap the fruit before the tree has been planted. For a debtor who is not in condition to pay will not love his creditor, but flee from him, and love awakes in his heart only when he, on good grounds, can believe that the debt at one stroke is remitted to him. So judges Luther also when he writes: “The Papists bring up this declaration against our doctrine of faith, and say that forgiveness of sins is attained through love and not through faith; but that such is not the meaning is proved by the parable, which clearly shows that love follows from faith. ‘To whom much is forgiven,’ says the Lord, ‘the same loveth much;’ therefore if a man has forgiveness of sins, and believes it, there follows love; where one has it not, there is no love.”
5. “And He said to her, Thy sins are forgiven thee.” If we will not assume that the sinner here received nothing more than she already possessed, we are then certainly necessitated to suppose that the certain assurance of the forgiveness of sins had not been bestowed upon her before this meeting with the Lord. The benefit for which she comes to testify her thankfulness to Him cannot therefore possibly have been this assurance.
6. Simon and the sinner, with respect to the Lord, are two admirable types of the Roman Catholic and of the Evangelical church. The former is as little as Simon free from the leaven of self-righteousness, and takes secret or open offence at every revelation, at every confession, of the free grace of the Saviour. Like the proud Pharisee, she makes void the commandment of God for the sake of her own notions, and is not perfect in love for the very reason that she does not regard love as a consequence but as a condition of the forgiveness of sins. Here holds good the declaration of John, 1 John 4:17-18. The other, on the contrary, feels herself in many respects as polluted as the sinning woman at the table, but as one entirely unworthy she lies at the feet of the Lord, and does Him homage, not in order thereby to merit anything, but out of pure thankfulness that He has merited and earned all for her. So long as she has not yet entirely unlearned the significance of the word δωρεάν (Romans 3:24), the saying holds good for her: Thy faith hath saved thee; and she may go in peace. And this very faith will make her so much the richer in love and thankfulness, since she deeply feels that to her not fifty but five hundred denarii have been remitted out of grace. Thus does the gospel cherish and tend the fruit of obedience, which the law can indeed demand, yet cannot bring forth.
7. In order to understand the true relation between forgiveness and love, the parable Matthew 18:23-35, deserves especially to be compared.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The dinner in Simon’s house a proof of the truth of the word of the Lord, Luke 5:31-32.—Jesus ever ready to come wherever the sinner invites Him.—Great sin, great repentance; great faith, great love.—True and pretended, honor shown to the Lord in one and the same dwelling.—The poverty of an unloving, the riches of a loving, heart.—No sinning woman too bad to come to Jesus.—Love and honor united in her homage.—The steps upon which the Lord leads the sinner out of the depth upon the height: 1. He suffers her to approach Him; 2. He accepts her homage; 3. He assures her of the forgiveness of sins; 4. He causes her to go in peace.—The steps upon which the Lord leads the Pharisee from the height into the depth: 1. He seats Himself at his table; 2. He casts a look into his heart; 3. He makes his lovelessness manifest; 4. He puts him to shame before the sinner, and places him far below her.—Thankful love, how it is: 1. Richly attested, 2. unjustly censured, 3. powerfully vindicated, 4. blest a thousandfold.—The inventiveness of love.—The costliest thing not too costly for the Lord.—Frugality ill applied where love is to be shown to the Highest.—The blessed feeling of a heart that finally has pressed through to Jesus feet.—Here at Jesus’ feet, yonder on Jesus’ heart.—To every Simon has the Lord even yet something special to say.—The table-talk of the Saviour tested according to the apostolic rule, Colossians 4:6.—Christ beholds all other men stand in relation to Himself as debtors.—Every one receives forgiveness for as many or as few sins as he himself feels and repents of.—Thankful love cannot possibly precede the highest revelation of grace, but must necessarily follow it.—The self-righteous one his own judge.—One can judge rightly and yet condemn himself.—Seest thou this woman? 1. A sinner, and yet a sanctified person; 2. a mourner, and yet one blessed; 3. one condemned, and yet one crowned for eternal life.—The picture of the sinning woman in accord with the apostle’s confession respecting himself, 2 Corinthians 6:9-10.—God forgives in order that we may hold Him dear.—The penuriousness of disdain towards the Lord.—What disdain neglects, penitence supplies.—In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love, Galatians 5:6.—Set for the fall of one, for the rising of another.—The deepest ground of want of love towards Christ and the natural spring of love to Him.—Faith in the forgiveness of sins no dead letter, but an active principle of life.—The assured certainty of the forgiveness of sins, 1. An indispensable, 2. an invaluable, 3. an attainable benefit.—Who is this that forgiveth sins also?—Even the secret thoughts of the heart known to the Saviour.—Faith the only but also the certain way to deliver us.—No going in peace without faith; no faith without going in peace.
Starke:—J. Hall:—He is a wise teacher who accommodates himself to be all things to all men that he may gain all, 1 Corinthians 9:22.—The Christian, even a preacher, may indeed go to the festive meal, yet must he have regard of place, time, and occasion, to accomplish some good even there.—The female sex has also a part in the kingdom of God, 1 Peter 3:7.—The soul which truly feels its sins counts nothing too good and too dear for Christ.—Shamefacedness is both a sign and an effect of grace.—Majus:—Those converted to God give their members, which they have aforetime consecrated to sin, as instruments of righteousness, Romans 6:19.—Who hath not himself repented knows not the heart of penitent sinners.—Quesnel:—Sweet mildness of Jesus: happy he that also deals thus when he will amend his neighbor.—To convince and instruct one by questions is the best mode of teaching.—Brentius:—Sin a great and heavy debt, which we in and of ourselves cannot discharge.—Nova Bibl. Tub.:—When the veil of our prejudices is removed, our own heart condemns us.—The penitent kisses continually the feet of the Lord Jesus.—Even in the holiest place one has often evil thoughts.—To forgive sins is God’s work alone, and therefore Jesus has by this also demonstrated His Godhead.—Whom God and his conscience absolve from sin, he has no cause to be troubled at the blind judgment of the world.
Heubner:—Tears of repentant sinners are precious to God.—Pride has no sense of the love which God bestows on repentant sinners.—God knows, like a careful creditor, just how much every one owes Him.—What love to Jesus is, and how it arises.—Jesus teaches us here how we should deal with fallen ones.—Great sinners, great saints.—Palmer:—How love to Christ arises in a heart. It arises: 1. From the hope of attaining through Him forgiveness of sins; 2. from the certainty of having obtained forgiveness.—Schleiermacher:—Respecting the connection of forgiveness of sins with love, Pred. i p. 522.
Admirable work of art representing the Magdalene [or rather, this woman.—C. C. S.], by Correggio, Battoni, and many others.
Luke 7:37; Luke 7:37.—Agreeably to the most probable arrangement: ἥτις ἧν immediately after γυνή. [Cod. Sin. places the words so.—C. C. S.]
Luke 7:42; Luke 7:42.—Rec.: Μὴ ἐχόντων δὲ. Δέ is to be omitted. [Ins., Cod. Sin. and 15 other uncials; om., B., D., L., P.—C. C. S.]
Luke 7:44; Luke 7:44.—Rec.: ταῖς θριξὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς αὑτῆς. [Om., τῆς κεφ., A., B., D., Cod. Sin. al.—C. C. S.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Luke 7". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
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