REPENT OR PERISH
This chapter shows that righteousness by itself provides no hope for man, but presses upon us the solemn lesson of repentance. Thus it prepares the way for chapters 14 and 15, for chapter 14 shows man's character in contrast to that of God, yet God remaining a God of grace; while in chapter 15 the heart of God is revealed to man in his lost state, God rejoicing in bringing him back by sovereign grace.
The Jews told the Lord of the Galileans who had evidently been murdered by Pilate in the very act of their sacrificing. This must have taken place at Jerusalem, the center of sacrificial worship. The Jews were apparently thinking, not so much of the cruelty of Pilate, but of some supposed special sin of the Galileans that deserved such punishment. How adept we are in turning attention to the wrongs of others to avoid criticism of ourselves! The Lord answered with a deeply penetrating word. Did they suppose those who suffered in this way were by this proven to be worse sinners than others? He emphatically answered that this was not the case; and added, "but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (v.3).
To reinforce this He referred to another tragedy, evidently fresh in the minds of the people, in which eighteen victims had been killed in the collapse of a tower. These were dwellers in Jerusalem, so tragedies were not confined to the Galileans. But He pressed home the same lesson. Such things are a warning to the living to repent while they have time, for there is no difference between people as to the fact of their guilt: all need the same grace: all must repent or perish.
The fig tree planted in the vineyard (v.6) is a pointed illustration of the need to repent. The vineyard is Israel (Isaiah 5:7) planted in a fruitful hill, but through disobedience the vine had been plucked up and scattered among the nations (Isaiah 5:5-6). The remnant that God recovered from the captivity is looked at as a fig tree now in the vineyard. But as the vine had proven not true to proper character, so now the fig tree produced no fruit for three years. God was about to cut it down, but through the intercession of the dresser of the vineyard, there is one year of grace given. Christ is the Intercessor who has labored with His people that they might bring forth fruit for God, and God bore long with them before they were cut down after the rejection of their Messiah. Even the grace of His patient goodness did not lead them to repentance, but God's heart of goodness was manifested.
THE CROOKED MADE STRAIGHT
God's grace continued to be manifested in the ministry of the Lord Jesus. If the many rejected Him, yet He would not ignore any concerned individual. His teaching in the synagogue on the sabbath was for all who would hear, and there was one woman in special need. Her spine so affected as to leave her pathetically bent over, unable to stand erect (v.11). It is a picture of Israel being affected by the sad ravages of sin, her way twisted and crooked, and she brought down to a point of inability to help herself.
For one who realizes and acknowledges such helplessness, there is certainly grace available from God. The Lord Jesus called her, and without any preliminaries, pronounced her healed of her infirmity (v.12). He backed up His words by laying on His hands, and she was immediately made straight. Israel could have received such grace if only she acknowledged her crooked condition, as she yet will when faced with the great tribulation. The woman, in evident faith, glorified God, showing a lovely contrast to the general state of cold criticism fostered among the people by their religious leaders.
The ruler of the synagogue, rather than rejoicing that the woman had been healed from a pathetic infirmity, was indignant that she had been healed in his synagogue on the sabbath day (v.14). Mere religion without Christ is tragically unreasonable and coldly prejudiced. This ruler addressed, not the Lord, but the people, scolding them for coming on the sabbath day to be healed. He did not stop to consider that, if the healing the Lord was doing was work, then even preaching was work. But this was not servile work, no mere working for gain, which the law forbid (Leviticus 23:7). God certainly did not forbid such things as healing the sick under law. Only legal minded men could imagine such cruel restraints.
The Lord did not hesitate to brand the ruler as a hypocrite, for the Lord reminded him that his own actions condemned his words, for it was common for them to release their animals from their stalls and lead them to water on the sabbath days. They considered (and rightly so) that this was proper care and consideration for animals. But these rulers refused to allow such care for a suffering woman! Perhaps they expected monetary from their animals if they were well while they had no profit from a human being healed!
The Lord spoke of the woman as a daughter of Abraham. This involves more than a natural relationship, but the relationship of true faith (Galatians 3:7). After eighteen years of bondage to Satan, should she be kept under this bondage because it was the sabbath day? The Lord knew how to express matters in such a way as to show up the cruelty of mere religious prejudice.
His words put His adversaries to shame, although not ashamed enough to confess their wrong. At least the common people rejoiced in recognizing His works as glorious and not illegal. But prejudice blinded the leaders to the moral grandeur of what He was doing.
PARABLES OF THE MUSTARD SEED AND LEAVEN
This leads on in verse 18 to the Lord declaring the fact that even in the kingdom of God, which was being introduced, there would be the same opposing principles as were seen then in Israel. As Israel had degenerated into a state where its leaders were hypocrites, so in the kingdom of God such a state would develop. The grain of mustard seed, very small indeed, is a picture of the beginning of that kingdom. But it would grow into a great tree, outdoing the normal growth of a mustard plant. When it became great in the world, the birds of the air would lodge in its branches. Such is the present condition of the kingdom. This is outward Christianity -- Christendom -- for the fowls of the air symbolize Satan's activity, and Satan has today taken advantage of the growth of Christianity to introduce innumerable hypocrites, taking a place as though they were actually Christians. This is the external character of the kingdom today.
Its internal state is seen in the following parable (vs.20-21). In each case it is seen as introduced in purity, but eventually evil is admitted, for the kingdom has been entrusted to the hands of men who always introduce corruption into what God entrusts to them. The woman hiding the leaven in three measures of meal speaks of the professing church being guilty of introducing false doctrine into the very sphere where the precious purity of Christ as the meal offering is the food of God and the food of His saints, who are priests of God (Leviticus 2:9-10). The doctrine of Christ has been corrupted by subtle deceit, so the kingdom suffers this internal contamination in our present day.
Continuing to travel to various cities and villages on His way to Jerusalem, the Lord was questioned whether few will or many will be saved. He did not answer directly, but in a way to stir the serious exercise of the individual, for in speaking of the masses of humanity, people too often want to avoid personal responsibility. The Lord told his questioner to strive to enter in by the narrow gate, that is, to earnestly seek the true path of God. The wide gate (Matthew 7:13) is to be avoided, for many go in there, just following the crowd to destruction. One is not saved by his striving, but if one is lax and half-hearted about a matter so important, how can he expect God to show him grace? For the time would come when it would be too late for people to become concerned. Many will eventually seek to enter in, but will be unable. They will be much like Esau who earnestly sought the birthright he had lost by unconcern, but was rejected because he found no place for repentance (Hebrews 12:17). He wanted the blessing, but would not repent of his sin.
The future coming of the Lord at the Rapture is involved in verse 25 (cf.Mt.25:10), the Master having risen up, after long patience, to shut the door to heaven (the saved being first brought in). Then many will pray, not in honest repentance, but in desperation, wanting the door opened to them. How solemnly chilling is the Lord's answer, "I do know know you, where you are from." The Lord cannot acknowledge any true relationship.
The people will protest that He ought to know them because they have eaten and drunk in His presence (though they cannot say, "having fellowship with Him"), and that He has taught in their streets. Because of these outward contacts they demand some recognition. This is the very character of the hypocrite. He touches the fringes of Christianity by his formal observances, but in heart he does not know the Lord. Therefore the Lord repeated, "I tell you I do not know you, where you are from." He then adds the solemn words, "Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity." Their ability to deceive will no longer make way for them: their falsehood will be exposed.
What humiliation for those who thought they could brazen their way through every obstacle into heaven! These Jewish leaders boasted in their natural fathers -- Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- and in the prophets of Israel, but they would find they had no spiritual relationship with them at all. "Weeping and gnashing of teeth" would be theirs, while their fathers and the prophets would have the pure joys of the kingdom of God, from which they themselves would be thrust out. For the kingdom will be fully purified from the admixture of which we read in verses 19-21. They will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:41-42). The weeping is only in self-pity, not in repentance. Wailing is the attitude of complaining, for faith is absent. Gnashing of teeth is a spirit of rebellion, not corrected even by the solemn judgment of God.
However, verse 29 shows that if Jews debar themselves by unbelief, God will yet bring others (Gentiles) from the east, west, north and south to sit down in the kingdom of God. Those whom men consider "last" -- of no importance -- (as Jews considered Gentiles), will be first because of the reality of faith. Those who are considered "first" (as Jews considered themselves because of their outward show of religion to impress others) will be last. God is a God of truth, and all will be brought to its proper level in the day of His judgment.
Verse 31 shows us that hypocrisy hates exposure. The Pharisees attempted to intimidate the Lord by demanding that He leave or be killed by Herod. Of course, if they had any confidence that Herod would actually kill Him if He remained, they would certainly rather have had Him remain! The threat was hypocritical. However, it seems likely that Herod himself was involved in the hypocrisy, for the Lord in replying called him a "fox." It was an empty threat, made in the hope He would leave, rather than expose their hypocrisy. Thus, as He reproved their hypocrisy, they added to it!
The Lord instructed the Pharisees to return the message to Herod that the Lord would continue to cast out demons and do cures "today and tomorrow." The two days speak of testimony that would continue faithfully despite all objections, and the third day is evidently a reference to His being perfected in resurrection. It is clear that He does not speak of three successive literal days.
He continued His journey toward Jerusalem. He would not be frightened away from this purpose. It was in Jerusalem, not in Herod's domain of Galilee (Luke 3:1), that He would die. "But He would "walk," not run away. His measured, firm devotion to the will of God would not be affected by man's threats. It was Jerusalem, God's appointed center, that had achieved the notoriety of killing the prophets (v.33). The measure of her hypocrisy would yet be more emblazoned before the whole world in the murder of Israel's Messiah.
His heart expanded in a precious expression of tenderest love and concern for that guilty city: "How often I wanted to gather your children together" (v.34). He is far more than a prophet: He is Jehovah, the God of Israel, as of the whole creation. He had pleadingly spoken many times throughout the Old Testament, but now affirmed, "you were not willing."
Now the city was about to crucify its Lord. How then can these leaders any more glory in their house, the temple? The Master of the house having been cast out, their house is left desolate. This would not be for a short time either. With a solemn "assuredly," Israel was told they will not see Him until the time their attitude toward Him is totally changed, when (at the end of the great tribulation) they will give Him His place of supreme blessedness when He comes in the name of Jehovah, of whom He Himself is the perfect representation.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Luke 13". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent