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Luke 13:1. There were present.—The phrase is a peculiar one, and might be translated, “then there came up” or “arrived,” perhaps to bring tidings of this outrage. Whose blood.—The phrase is highly dramatic: the persons had been slain in the Temple, and their blood had been mingled with that of the sacrifices they were offering. Pilate.—This incident is not recorded in history. But similar events are known to have happened: Josephus tells of murders and massacres in the Temple, and of Pilate’s cruelty in repressing outbreaks. As these persons were Galilæans, we have, perhaps, here an explanation of the enmity between Pilate and Herod (Luke 23:12). Pilate had, we know, about this time put down an insurrection in Jerusalem with great severity (see Luke 23:19).
Luke 13:2. Suppose ye.—This thought was in their minds, though apparently they did not express it. What they regarded as a judgment upon others Christ advised them to take as a warning to themselves. Great public calamities may be signs of God’s displeasure, but it is a superstitious abuse of the doctrine to hold that the particular sufferers are greater sinners than other men.
Luke 13:3. Ye shall all likewise perish.—It is not for those who, by their sins, are liable to like judgments of God to pass sentence on others and to infer their exceptional guilt. The words are doubtless prophetic of the manner in which myriads perished in the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans.
Luke 13:4. Those eighteen.—An incident well known at the time, but of which we have no further information than is here given. Tower in Siloam is evidently a tower on the city walls near the Pool of Siloam, at the south-east corner. “It is an ingenious, but of course uncertain, conjecture of Ewald that the death of these workmen was connected with the notion of retribution, because they were engaged in building part of the aqueduct to the Pool of Siloam, for the construction of which Pilate had seized some of the sacred Corban-money (Jos. B.J, II., Luke 9:4)” (Farrar). It is noticeable that these two incidents are of a different character: the first was death inflicted by the cruelty of man; the second, death by accident. Sinners.—Lit. “debtors,” a different word from that in Luke 13:2.
Luke 13:5. Likewise.—Prophetic also of deaths by falling buildings in the siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Romans.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 13:1-5
Accidents not Judgments.—Whenever any great public calamity happens, there are never wanting persons who are ready to point out the special sin which has provoked it; and it is noticeable that they are, as a rule, more indignant at those who suffer wrong than at those who do wrong. They are eager to utter their harsh censures, while other men sit silent with dismay; they interpret the Divine Providence according to their private prejudices and theories, and, therefore, often contradict each other; and they carefully exclude themselves from the operation of the vengeance—“Whatever happens to them is a trial, while whatever happens to their neighbour is a judgment.”
I. The false inference.—To affirm that, by an invariable and most merciful law, sin entails punishment—national sins national punishment, personal sins personal punishments—is the duty of every Christian teacher; but to fix the times and assort punishments to sins, to affect to stand midway between heaven and earth and interpret the mysteries of Providence, is simply stark presumption in any uninspired man. It is not given to the sons of men to comprehend the goings of the Inhabitant of Eternity. The sweep of eternity is large, and gives scope and verge for the play of retribution beyond the reach of mortal eye. To play the interpreter, and say, “This punishment is a judgment on that sin,” is to play the fool. The Holy Scriptures affirm the mystery and delay of retribution; that it is not measured in mortal scales; that the sweep and fall of its scourge are not traceable by mortal eyes. They teach us that those “whose feet are swift to shed blood” often outrun the pursuing vengeance for a time, and for a long time—nay, beyond all bounds of time. They teach that many offences escape whipping here, though, sooner or later, the impartial lash falls on all.
II. The true lesson to be drawn from calamities.—The gospel teaches us a more excellent way of interpreting the facts of life than that of these presumptuous discoverers of judgments. Instead of dwelling on the mysterious fate of our neighbours, it bids us come quite home, and repent, lest we ourselves should likewise perish. It teaches us in effect that no evil is so evil as the spurious goodness which, separating us from our fellows, cries to its neighbours, as from a superior platform, “Stand down there, for I am holier than thou.” It teaches us that the accidents by which we suffer, so far from being personal judgments on personal sins, are parts of that great mystery of evil which is now suffered to task our thoughts and try our faith, in order that, by-and-by, it may lead in a complete beatitude, a profounder rest, an eternal good and joy. The only safe moral we can draw from the judgments of God, or what seem to us His judgments, is the warning, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Let us take the warning, and not judge one another any more. We are too apt, when we see any forlorn and solitary brother sitting, like Job, among the potsherds, to sit down beside him, like Job’s comforters, and hand him the very sharpest and roughest of the sherds that he may scrape himself withal. We are too apt, when any calamity befalls our neighbours, to assume that they must be sinners above all other men, and to speculate—sometimes in their hearing—on the crimson and scarlet dyes of their guilt. We need, therefore, to remember that accidents are not judgments, that accidents are not even accidents, since they are all ordered of God, and form part of that gracious discipline by which He lifts us through the graduated and rising circles of His service. They are sent for our sakes, who only stand and witness them, as well as for the sake of those who suffer them; not that we may judge others, but that we may examine ourselves.—Cox.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 13:1-9
Luke 13:1-9. Three Motives to Repentance.—We need to remember the spiritual tension, the awful feeling of urgency, if we would do justice to our Lord’s threefold summons to repentance.
I. The story of the Galilæans was probably carried to Jesus as a person who made Messianic claims of some sort, and who might be expected to show a practical interest in the honour of the country. Jesus startles His informants by the abrupt diversion of interest. He saw in the death of these Galilæans, with all its atrocity of circumstance, a picture and prophecy of the doom, which, within a single generation, should overtake the whole of the Jewish people. The moral motive to repentance is plain here. A tragic ending, a life cut short, is not to be a mere nine day’s wonder. It is a voice from heaven, an emphatic voice, to stagger and shock the careless, and to make them think seriously of God.
II. The next case is different. It was an accident. Has an accident a “moral”? If not, why did our Lord utilise this pure “accident” in a moral interest? In the lips of an unfeeling man such language would be unpardonably offensive. It is the use of it by such men that has brought it to discredit. But Christ’s interest in repentance was an absorbing passion. Such accidents ought, if we take Christ’s example here as a law, to help in the conversion of all who are awed and startled by them. Such emotions of pity, awe, sympathy, are not to be wasted. To see men moved, moved deeply, and yet not permanently, not to the point of changing their life to the bottom, and putting it right with God—this was what straitened Christ’s spirit, and moved Him to speak with such startling vehemence.
III. The insertion of the parable of the fig-tree at this point, even though it were spoken on another occasion, rounds off the lesson on repentance, it presents the same appeal, with the same importunity, on what seems to be at first totally different ground. The urgency of massacres and accidents, which do not happen every day, or at every door, can easily be evaded by most men. “These things are not likely to happen to us. It is absurd to make the bare supposition of them a motive in life.” Christ’s answer to this sceptical mood is the parable of the fig-tree. He seems to side with the mood, but does not allow it to evade His earnestness. Massacre and accident are extraordinary resources of which God avails Himself; but His goodness also—which is so unbroken in your life—is also designed to lead you to repentance. God tries every way, because men seek to evade Him by every way. He tries exceptional severity, because men take His goodness for granted; He tries uniform, ever-renewed, patient goodness, because He is good, and severity is His strange work. But it would be a fatal error to presume on His goodness. The parable ends with the same inexorable refrain as the verses about the Galilæans and the fall of the tower. Not to repent is perdition—if neither severity nor goodness startle men, they are lost. These stern, passionate utterances are the expression of the intense love of Christ. No one has ever loved like Jesus Christ, so no one has ever spoken with such awful severity and urgency. No one has been so pained with soul-travail for the conversion of men.—Denney.
Luke 13:1-5. The Lesson of Evil Tidings.
I. How men use evil tidings.—Jesus was from Galilee. Men are always too ready to gossip about the misfortunes of others. Christ had just been speaking about God’s judgments on men who knew His will and did it not. The bystanders at once named the destruction of the Galilæans by Pilate. Why? Because they thought the sudden death of these men was a mark of God’s displeasure at some grievous sin.
II. How Christ would have them used.—How quickly Christ saw the thoughts which had led the speakers to utter their evil tidings! He saw in them a fault which we are all too apt to fall into—the fault of always forming unkind judgments about people in misfortune; of always thinking, and even sometimes saying, the worst we can of people. Christ rebukes them for their want of charity, and cautions them for the future. God’s judgments will fall upon all unrepentant sinners.—W. Taylor.
Rash Judgments.—We are taught here—
1. To beware of rashly judging others.
2. Not to be too hasty in interpreting afflictive dispensations of Providence against ourselves.
3. To be thankful for our own preservation.
4. That it is our duty to mark and improve calamities, and especially violent and sudden deaths.
5. The necessity of genuine repentance.—Foote.
Sin and Punishment.
I. Punishment does follow upon sin.
II. Yet God spares more than He signally punishes.
III. Therefore no one can conclude from such instances that those who are punished are worse than their neighbours.
IV. The best use we can make of remarkable examples of this kind is to examine ourselves and to repent of our sins.
Luke 13:1. “Blood … mingled with their sacrifices.—The suggestion is: God must have been specially angry with these Galilæans, who were cut off by a heathen, in God’s house, at His altar, and when engaged in the act of worshipping God. The argument is similar to that of Job’s friends (Job 4:7; Job 8:20; Job 22:5).
“Vers. 2–9. Punishment and Long-Suffering.—Christ’s answer consists of two parts.—
I. A plain and literal threatening of general destruction to all who do not repent.
II. A new challenge to the repentance which alone can save, in a parable which exhibits long-suffering as an argument to repentance, and which passes from the people as a whole to each individual.
Luke 13:2-3. “Sinners above all the Galilæans.”—Our Saviour does not say that the calamity which had overtaken these Galilæans was not a punishment for sin. He contests not about that, but rather seems to agree to them so far, and draws that warning out of it. He only corrects the misconceit it seems they were in, in thrusting it too far off from themselves, and throwing it too heavily upon them that sacrificed.—Leighton.
Luke 13:3. “Ye shall all likewise perish.”—Jesus, with prophetic insight, immediately discerns the significance of this fact. In this carnage, wrought by the sword of Pilate, He sees the prelude of that which the Roman army would accomplish soon in every part of the Holy Land, and especially in the Temple—the last refuge of the nation. In fact, forty years later, all that remained of the Galilæan people was gathered in the Temple, and suffered, under the Roman sword, the penalty incurred by their present impenitence.—Godet.
1. Signal chastisements inflicted upon sinners by God warn us of His righteous anger against sin, and should lead us to examine ourselves and consider what we deserve.
2. His kindness and forbearance in sparing others who are equally guilty should be regarded by us as an invitation to repentance.
1. A change of mind.
2. Conviction of sin.
3. Grief on account of sin.
4. Hatred of sin.
5. Actual reformation.
6. Faith in the Redeemer.
Our Inability to Trace the Connection between Suffering and Sin.—Christ affirms, and all Scripture affirms, that the sum total of the calamity which oppresses the human race is the consequence of the sum total of its sin; nor does He deny the relation in which a man’s actual sins may stand to his sufferings. What He does deny is the power of other men to trace the connection, and thus their right, in any particular case, to assert it.—Trench.
“Likewise.”—The correspondence between what had happened to these Galilæans and what was to happen to the Jewish people is very striking.
1. In both cases the punishment was inflicted by the heathen.
2. The time was that of the Passover, when sacrifices were being offered.
3. They were slain with the sword.
Luke 13:4-5. “Upon whom the tower fell.”—Our Lord introduces this incident as showing that whether the hand of man or (so called) accidents, lead to inflictions of this kind, it is in fact but one Hand that doeth it all (cf. Amos 3:6). There is also a transference from the Galilæans—a despised people—to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, on whom the fulness of God’s wrath was to be poured out in case of impenitence.—Alford.
Luke 13:5. True and False Ways of Regarding Calamities.
I. Light-minded persons are inclined to deny the intimate connection between natural and moral evil.
II. Narrow-minded persons are disposed to interpret all such calamities as judgments upon exceptional guilt.
III. The true way to regard them is as a call to repentance.
“Likewise perish.”—In like manner with the former instance, this prophetic word of Jesus was literally fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem; houses and public buildings were burned and overthrown, and multitudes perished in the ruins.
Luke 13:6. A certain man had a fig-tree.—This parable is peculiar to St. Luke, and tells of impending destruction because of long-continued abuse of God’s mercy. The fig-tree is the Jewish nation, the vineyard is the Church, the owner of the vineyard is God, and the vinedresser is Christ (or. according to another interpretation, Christ is the owner, and the vine-dresser the Holy Spirit). It is hard not to see some reference in the seventh verse to the three years of Christ’s ministry. This is not, however, fatal to the identification of the owner with God, and of the vine-dresser with Christ, as in Christ’s coming to seek fruit God might be said to come. The objection to the identification of the vine-dresser with the Holy Spirit is that it represents Christ as one to be interceded with—a view of His character quite contrary to the spirit of the New Testament. It is useless to say that we should not press the parable too far by such identifications, as in the parables expounded by Christ Himself (those of the Sower and the Tares) every detail is shown to be significant.
Luke 13:7. Three years.—Apart from the allusion above noted, the time here specified is that within which a fig-tree, if it is going to bear fruit, should show some signs of fertility. Cumbereth.—Lit. “make of none effect,” “make idle.” It takes the place of a tree that might yield some fruit, and impoverishes the ground by drawing nutriment from it.
Luke 13:8. Lord.—I.e., “sir.” Dig about it.—I.e., dig holes for casting in manure.
Luke 13:9. Well.—This word is supplied to fill up the broken sentence. There is great solemnity in the significant gap left in the speaker’s words—in the suggestion that amendment is barely possible, but that a certain time will be allowed to see if it will take place. After that.—Omitted in R.V., but of course the words are understood in any case.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 13:6-9
The Barren Fig-Tree.—No doubt this parable, in its primary reference, set forth the then state of the Jewish people—the pains that had been spent upon them, the meagreness of spiritual results that had been yielded by them, and the certainty of Divine retribution if there were not a speedy change in their condition. But the solemn lessons which it contains are equally applicable to every individual whose life has been subjected to religious influences, and who has failed to yield the fruits of righteousness.
I. The worthless tree.—Note that it enjoyed special advantages. It was planted in good soil, and it was attended to by one who both knew how to apply, and was diligent in applying, helps to its growth and fruitfulness. It was not a tree growing wild among the rocks, or on the road-side, which the passer-by might strip of its scanty fruit, and which no one would be surprised at finding devoid of figs, even in the season when they were naturally to be expected. Nor can we fail to see the spiritual meaning of this. From those who are outside the influences of religion little can be expected. But from us, who are placed in the most advantageous conditions; who have been taught the truth as it is in Jesus from our earliest years; who have enjoyed all the helps and privileges the Church can give; to whom God’s Word is so familiar that we are in danger of losing reverence for it;—much is expected. There was no fruit upon this fig-tree. Yet it was not dead; and was probably all the more richly clothed with pretentious foliage because it bore nothing. Instead of being a fruit-bearing tree, it had become a tree of the ornamental kind, and—for it represents a being with moral responsibilities—it had no right to make the change. It was not planted for ornament, but to yield fruit; if it did not yield fruit, it had no claim to its place in the vineyard. In it, therefore, we have a picture of the mere profession of religion, as contrasted with genuine, vital religion. The person whom the fig-tree represents is in the Church; he has all the advantages of that position; he clothes himself in the guise and uses the language of the Christian. But one thing is wanting. He yields no fruit; no one is any the better for his existence; he exercises no good influence. Even in the case in which he is not a mere deceiver, masquerading as a religious person, all the privileges and blessings he enjoys go to his own nourishment—to feed his own self-complacency—and he is of no use or service to God or man. He is never known to do a generous, kindly, Christ-like action, or to assist in any good cause. And this is the great test of the value of a life. The goodness Christ requires is something that imparts itself and not something that merely pleases the eye. It yields fruit, which serves to feed and nourish the spiritual life of others.
II. The patient owner.—He is impoverished and disappointed by the fruitlessness of the tree. Its fruit would have value for him as an article of food and merchandise, and he is all the poorer for its absence. In the same way, and in as absolute a sense, we belong to God, our life has been ordered for us by Him, the place we occupy is that which He has assigned to us, and it is adapted to the purpose for which He has chosen it—viz., that of our yielding the fruits of righteousness and holiness. Some may be more favourably situated than others, but all have it in their power to yield some fruit. Note the patience and perseverance of the owner: “Behold, these three years I come, seeking fruit on this fig-tree.” More than three annual visits are implied. The fig-tree bears three times in the year—in early spring, in summer, and in autumn—fruit of different degrees of lusciousness and value. So that we are at liberty to think of the owner of this fig-tree as coming time after time during these three years, to see if there were any signs of fruit. Our Master also is patient. If He were not, what would become of us? If He did not know how to wait, which of us would not, long ago, have come under His sentence of condemnation? He comes to us every season—that is to say, whenever new circumstances occur in our lives, when there are fresh influences brought to bear upon us, or we pass into a new phase of experience. A great sorrow or a great joy befalls us, we are put into different conditions, and He comes in due time to see what gain we have made. And He is not easily discouraged, even if the condition of matters that meets His eye is unsatisfactory. He comes time after time to see if there is in summer what there was not in spring, if in autumn what was not in summer. He is slow unto anger, and time after time re-visits the tree, in spite of previous disappointments. And if we pass to the spiritual side of things, we see that He does more than visit the tree periodically. He Himself creates those new circumstances, He arranges those new events which are to our lives what the changes of season are to the tree. He sends them for the very purpose of exciting to fruitfulness, and every time that He has thus dealt with a life, or acted upon it, He draws near to it, to see if at last it is beginning to yield fruit. When, after protracted patience, there is no prospect of fruit, His sentence is simple and clear: “Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?” The decision of the owner is all the more serious for the reason which he alleges. The tree is useless. It has been planted there to bear fruit; it does not bear it, and there is no reason for any longer preserving it. It is taking up the space which might be occupied by a fruitful tree; it is not only doing no good, but it is hindering good from being done. The spiritual truth which is thus pictorially set forth is a very solemn one. God is patient, but there is such a thing as exhausting even His patience, and as making further long-suffering ridiculous. He waits long, but a time may come when He will be forced to leave to their fate those who are resolutely set upon disappointing Him.
III. The loving intercessor.—The owner has pronounced the sentence of condemnation, but an intercessor is found in the vine-dresser. He has a love for all the trees that are within his care; he loves this tree, not only for the fruit which it may yield, but also for its own sake. However, it is very noticeable that it is only a respite that he asks for. The success of his intercession is beforehand and by himself subordinated to the success of his undertaking. I will do so-and-so with it, and try all in my power to correct the defect; but if failure attend my efforts, I will not have a word to say in its behalf. There is a deep spiritual meaning in this. We are the subjects of intercession, but this intercession has conditions attached to it. There is One who loves us profoundly—loves us for our own sakes, independently of what we may become, or, to use this figure, of the fruit we may bear. But at the same time He knows that eternal life can only be given to those who live unto God, and who, by their fruits, give evidence of the genuineness of their faith in God and love for Him. He intercedes for us—that is, He asks for time to make use of every means within His power for stirring us up to be fruitful in all good works. The vine-dresser in the parable would have had no ground to stand upon, no reason to plead, if he had put in a word for sparing a tree that had proved itself hopelessly barren. And so in the spiritual side intercession avails in the case of those who, though backward and disappointing at first, yield to the heavenly influences brought to bear upon them, and begin to live unto God. The mercy which is shown to the penitent, whatever may have been the depth of their guilt, warrants no inference of mercy being shown to those who are finally impenitent. The plain, definite, solemn warning which the parable contains is, one may say, one of the means which the Heavenly Vine-dresser uses to make us bestir ourselves. The words are calculated to shake us out of indifference, and to urge us to begin at once to bear fruit towards God, in a devout and holy life.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE Luke 13:6-9
Luke 13:6-9. The Unfruitful Fig-Tree.
I. The vineyard.
II. The fig-tree in a vineyard.
III. The fig-tree visited.
IV. The fig-tree doomed.
V. The fig-tree spared.
I. The promise of fruit.
II. Patient waiting.
III. Deserved condemnation.
IV. Loving intercession.
The Lessons of the Fig-tree.
I. For the Jewish Church. 1. Its privileges.
2. Its unfruitfulness.
3. God’s forbearance.
II. For the individual Jew.
III. For the individual Christian.—
1. The value of Church membership.
2. Individual responsibility.
3. Unfruitful Church members need warning.
4. The day of grace is drawing to an end. What then?—W. Taylor.
The Teaching in the Parable—
I. Cuts up all pleas of negative goodness.
II. Calls on us to examine ourselves whether we be barren or fruitful, and to follow out the result aright, whatever it may be.
III. Calls on us to be thankful to the Lord for sparing us hitherto.
IV. Warns us not to abuse God’s mercy so as to presume upon it for the future.
The Parable also Teaches—
I. That a solemn responsibility attaches to those who are within the pale of revealed religion and of the Church.
II. That God notes the length of time that men continue fruitless under the means of spiritual culture.
III. To be cut down is the rich desert of all the fruitless.
IV. The purpose of the mercy that is shown to them is to produce a change in them.
V. Genuine repentance, however late, avails to save.
VI. The final destruction of those who are, after all forbearance, found fruitless, will be pre-eminently and confessedly just.
Luke 13:6. “Fig-tree in his vineyard.”—The most frequent emblem for the Jewish people is the vine. Here the fig-tree is chosen to imply advantages bestowed for a definite purpose, to be withdrawn if that purpose is not served. Vines belong to a vineyard: a fig-tree can only find a place in it by the choice of the owner of the vineyard. So God, of His own free will, chose Israel to occupy a special place in the world, and to fulfil special duties in the education of the world in spiritual things.
“Sought fruit.”—Cf. Isaiah 5:2 : “He looked that it should bring forth fruit.” He has a right to it, and will require it.
From Whom Results are Expected.—The time when God thus comes is not the day of judgment only; for the tree is represented as allowed to stand, with a view of its beginning to yield fruit. It is now, therefore, during our present state, that God comes seeking fruit from us. He expects results—
I. From those who have received a Christian education and are familiar with holy examples.
II. From the faithful sermons we have heard.
III. From the trials of life which are designed to discipline the soul.
“Fruit.”—There is a wonderful fitness in the simple image running all through Scripture which compares men to trees and their work to fruit. The three kinds of works whereof Scripture speaks may all be illustrated from this image.
I. Good works, when the tree, having been made good, bears fruit after its own kind.
II. Dead works, such as have a fair outward appearance, but are not the genuine outgrowth of the renewed man—fruit, as it were, fastened on externally, alms given that they may be gloried in, prayers made that they may be seen.
III. Wicked works, when the corrupt tree bears fruit, manifestly after its own kind. Here it is, of course, those good fruits of which none are found; both the other kinds of fruit the Jewish fig-tree only too abundantly bore.”—Trench.
Luke 13:7. “Cut it down.”—Threatenings precede judgment; in this the love of God is manifested, for the threatenings may excite a penitence which will avert judgment.
“Cumber the Ground.”—Why does it not only bear no fruit, but also hinder the land from bearing any, by occupying the place of a better tree? It is itself sterile and it sterilises the soil.
1. It occupies space.
2. It shuts out the sun.
3. It impoverishes the soil.
Luke 13:8. “Dig about it,” etc.—Sometimes affliction may turn the soul to God; sometimes the bounties with which He enriches us may have the same effect.
Time Left for Repentance.—The idea of God’s final sentence being delayed, that time may be left men to repent, runs all through the Scriptures. Before the Flood, there was appointed a space of a hundred and twenty years (Genesis 6:3); Abraham intercedes on behalf of Sodom (ib., Luke 18:23, seqq.); the destruction of Jerusalem did not follow till forty years after the ascension of Christ; and the coming of Christ is delayed through the long-suffering of God (2 Peter 3:9).
Luke 13:9. Intercession for a Respite.—Nature of Christ’s intercession: not that the sins of men may go unpunished, but that the sentence may for a while be suspended, to prove whether they will turn and repent.
The Significance of the Special Pains taken with the Tree.—The special treatment accorded by the vine-dresser to the barren tree represents the marvellous deeds of love wrought by Jesus in His death and resurrection, and afterwards in the gift of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the apostles, in order to rouse the nation from its impenitence. This parable informs those who hear it that their life hangs by a thread, and that that thread is in the hand of Him who speaks to them.—Godet.
Luke 13:10. In one of the synagogues.—Time and place are indefinite; probably in Peræa.
Luke 13:11 A spirit of infirmity.—(Cf. Acts 16:6, “a spirit of Python”). I.e., an evil spirit (cf. Luke 5:16)) who had the power of producing bodily weakness.
Luke 13:12. When Jesus saw her.—She does not seem to have asked to be cured; but the language of the ruler of the synagogue implies that she expected or hoped for cure, and therefore she may be credited with a measure of faith. Thou art loosed.—The negative part of the cure—the relief from the evil spirit that had bound her.
Luke 13:13. Laid His hands on her.—The positive part of the cure—the imparting of strength.
Luke 13:14. Said to the multitude.—It is noticeable that he did not address his rebuke to Christ directly, but covertly spoke against Him in his words to the people. Ought to work.—His folly is shown in his implied statement that the bestowal of Divine grace and help is a kind of working by which the Sabbath is profaned.
Luke 13:15. Thou hypocrite.—Rather, “ye hypocrites” (R.V.)—i.e., the ruler and those about him, or those of the Pharisaic sect to which he belonged, and which favoured such criticism. The hypocrisy or insincerity consisted in pretending a zeal for the Sabbath, when the real motive of the speech was to stir up enmity against Jesus. Doth not each one of you?—I.e., they themselves broke their own rule about the Sabbath, in order to show mercy to their cattle. The instance is an apt one: the woman bound down by her infirmity is as helpless as the beast tied to the manger.
Luke 13:16. Ought not this woman?—“Ought”—a repetition of the ruler’s phrase in Luke 13:14. The contrast is very strongly put—it is between a dumb animal and, not merely a human being, but one of the chosen people—“a daughter of Abraham” (by blood and by faith); the few hours of deprivation which a beast might be forced to endure by delay in watering are contrasted with her eighteen years’ servitude.
Luke 13:17. And when He had said.—Rather, “and as He said these things” (R.V.). All His adversaries.—Which implies that a number of them were present. All the people rejoiced.—Though He had abandoned Galilee, and Jerusalem had been hostile to Him, He still seems to have enjoyed a measure of popularity in Peræa (cf. Matthew 19:1-2).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 13:10-17
Work which Hallows the Sabbath.—This incident took place as Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath-day. This reminds us of the comparative prominence and frequency of these Sabbath-day cures. It is quite plain that nothing but the blindest Pharisaism, in its design to misinterpret Jesus and His work, could have led men to suppose that there was anything in these deeds of His inconsistent with the true observance of the day, or with the spirit of the Divine law. It is as obvious, on the other hand, that only a secularism equally blind and a similar misconstruction of His acts, could find in these Sabbath miracles any intention to abolish the day, to take away aught of its sacredness, or loose a jot of its Divine obligation. It was a reward for the faithfulness and diligence of these diseased folks, who, in spite of their ailments, were found in God’s house on the sacred day, that they should there meet with their gracious Deliverer.
I. The miracle.—The sufferer made no application to Jesus for healing. She had come to the synagogue because it was her wont, and because the effort to reach it and share in its blessing was one of the ways in which she fought against the advance of her malady. Jesus saw her and singled her out for a signal instance of His mercy. The expression afterwards used when He turned the attention of the ruler and all the congregation to her case, shows how deeply and tenderly He had looked into it. “Lo!” he said, “see how long she has suffered.” Her bent form and furrowed face were to Him as a book in which He read the story of her eighteen years’ bondage and of her patient struggle to sustain her infirmity. Her faithful attendance on Divine worship, and perhaps other features, to which we have no clue in the narrative, lighted up to Him her genuine, religious, spiritual character. For by the title He gives her hardly anything so commonplace can be meant as merely that she was a Jewess. In all probability it was intended to point her out as one of that inner circle of pious, believing Israelites—the class to which belonged His own mother, the parents of the Baptist, Simeon and Anna—those, namely, “who were looking for the consolation of Israel.” He called her to Him; He spoke the word of liberation; then He laid His hands upon her, and immediately she was cured. There were apparently two elements in the case to be dealt with; one physical—dorsal paralysis; the other nervous or mental—some infirmity which paralysed the will. With His word and touch together the cure was done. The word, majestic and commanding, proclaimed her free from the subtle bond, the root of the mischief, which chained her will. Then His hand laid on her, a sensible act to her faith, gave strength and suppleness to the disused muscles. As the woman rose erect from her long, sad bondage, her grateful piety broke forth in the instant into an irrepressible thanksgiving, a voluntary act of praise before all the people.
II. The indignation of the ruler of the synagogue.—The scene had become very offensive to the narrow mind of the presiding elder. The reputation of Jesus for piety and wisdom was by this time so universally acknowledged, that it was no doubt practically impossible for the most prejudiced synagogue ruler to prevent His taking part in the service. Even the president of a Peræan country synagogue had not been able to do so. Jesus was already noted for having set aside Pharisaic opinion as to Sabbath work. This particular Pharisee had probably hoped that no conflict of opinion would arise on the occasion. But that in open congregation, in the place of worship where he ruled, the daring innovator should perform one of His Sabbath-breaking cures was too much for him. It quite overcame any little sense and proper feeling he possessed. He broke out into angry vituperation. Not daring to attack the Lord directly, nor even the thankful woman, in a covert and cowardly manner, he spoke at them both.
III. Christ’s defence of Himself.—The Saviour answered him with a pungent and well-merited rebuke. “You reproach the people, but your quarrel is really with Me. You pretend to be zealous for the law, but you are only jealous of My work. You Pharisees deserve no credit for even conscientiously mistaken views about the sanctity of the seventh day. Your ideas of its observance are quite sane and sensible so soon as a question arises affecting your own material interests. You would have no scruples in relieving the wants of a suffering animal on that day by a certain amount of Sabbath labour. But when I loose from long years of Satanic bondage one of your human sisters, a daughter of the chosen family, and do it with no labour at all, you are filled with horror at the breach of the Sabbatic law.” Such hypocrisy is its own complete self-exposure. But this trenchant reply of Jesus completely shuts the mouths of His adversaries, and brings the admiration of the hearers to a height; for not only the words He had spoken, but the glorious things He had done, filled them with joy. Let us note the spiritual lesson of the woman’s story. She had come to her accustomed place in the synagogue in spite of all weariness and difficulty; and a blessed piece of work it was for her. Had she not gone that day to the place of worship, it is next to certain she had never met with Jesus. In the way of her usual waiting upon God—a troublesome routine it might have seemed to many—she got the blessing; not merely relief from her bodily chain, but, if we have read her character aright, the glorious liberty of those who saw in Christ Jesus the Lord’s salvation. What good cheer is in the story for those who, amid bodily infirmities, mental oppression, or household burdens and afflictions—tempting them to defer their duty to God’s house—find their way statedly thither! Every minister knows that these are often the most blest of all the company that gathers in God’s house. For the Master of the house sees them and calls them to Him To the drooping spirit, to the burdened heart of those who come there just because He bids them, He oft comes, as it were, all unbidden, and makes them glad with an unexpected visitation.—Laidlaw.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 13:10-17
Luke 13:10-17. The Infirm Woman in the Synagogue.—The third time our Lord, by a miracle of healing, stirred up the wrath of the ecclesiastical rulers at His supposed violation of the Sabbath-day.
I. The danger of falling, all unconsciously, into formalism.
II. Often seeming zealous championship for the truth is really zeal for the promotion of our own theories and ideas.
III. Our Lord’s five actions.—He sees, calls, heals, touches, and lifts up this infirm woman. He does so still with infirm souls.—Dover.
A Scene in the Sanctuary.—
I. An exemplary worshipper.
II. An unlooked-for reward.
III. Pretended zeal for the Sabbath.
IV. Unanswerable rebuke.—W. Taylor.
Christ’s Treatment of Women.—There is great beauty in the behaviour of Christ to women, whether it be the woman of Samaria, whose deep wound He probes so faithfully, yet with so light a touch; or the child of Jairus, to whom He speaks in her own dialect, holding her hand; or the widow of Nain, whom He bids not to weep; or she whose many sins were forgiven her, loving much; or Mary, for whose lavish gift He found so pathetic an apology—“She hath done it unto My burial.” This woman He would not heal from a distance, as though an alms was being flung to her; but neither was it for Him to attend upon her needlessly—such efforts that she can yet put forth must be made, and so He calls her to Him, lays His hand upon her, speaks kind words that name not the humiliating cause of her complaint; and even when the adverse criticism of the ruler requires Him to say all, His only thought of her is sympathetic—to Him she is honourable, as one of the holy race, and pitiful, as, to its owner, a helpless creature that needs drink on the Sabbath day. He will not refuse release and refreshment to His own. Satan had bound one who belonged by formal covenant to another, and Jesus dwelt with lingering pity on the long period of her thirst, whom He had led away to the watering.—Chadwick.
Luke 13:11. A Noble Character.—The noble character of this woman is plainly indicated by a number of particulars stated concerning her:—
I. Her faith—for she is a daughter of Abraham—i.e., not merely a Jewess, like the other women in the synagogue, but one of kindred spirit with her great ancestor.
II. Her steadfast resistance to the encroachments of her malady.
III. Her zeal in attending upon Divine worship.
IV. Her devout thankfulness, openly expressed, on being healed.
“Spirit of infirmity.”—Her sickness, having its first place in her spirit, had brought her into a moody, melancholic state, of which the outward contraction of the muscles of her body, the inability to lift herself, was but the sign and the consequence.—Trench.
“Bowed together.”—Probably she did not perceive that Jesus was present; but Jesus saw her.
Luke 13:12. “Loosed.”—This expresses the setting free of her muscles from the power which bowed them down, and then (Luke 13:13) the laying on of the Divine hands confers upon her strength to rise and stand upright. It would be, in such a case, one thing to be loosed from the stiffening of years, and another to have strength at once conferred to stand upright.—Alford.
Luke 13:13. “He laid his hands on her.”—The miracle is
(1) a representation of the gracious work of Christ on the soul.
2. It is an illustration of the kindness of the Saviour to afflicted, weak, and contrite disciples.
Five Kindly Actions.—In the healing of this woman our Lord did five things: He compassionately saw her; He called her; He healed her; He touched her; and He lifted her up. Thus does He also perfectly cure a sinful soul. He sees it, in His compassion; He calls it, by His internal inspiration; He heals it, by remitting its sin; He touches it, by the afflictive chastenings of His hand. He raises it up to things above, in the warmth of Divine love.—Ludolphus.
Luke 13:14. “Answered with indignation.”—The ruler of the synagogue is restrained, by some measure of awe, from openly attacking Jesus; He abstains also from directly rebuking the woman who had been healed, but most ridiculously reproves the innocent multitude. It is very significant that he admits the fact of healing.
Luke 13:15. “Loose his ox or his ass.”—Our Lord varied, from time to time, the arguments with which He abolished the fanatical formalism of the Pharisees respecting the Sabbath. Sometimes He appealed to His own inherent authority (John 5:17-19); sometimes to Scriptural precedents (chap. Luke 6:3-5), or to common-sense and eternal principles (ibid., Luke 6:9). Here, as in chap. Luke 14:5, He uses an argumentum ad hominem: they allowed men to loose and water their cattle on the Sabbath, to abridge a few hours’ thirst; was, then, this suffering woman not to be touched, not to be spoken to, to end eighteen years of suffering?—Farrar.
Luke 13:16. “Ought not.”—To the “ought” of ceremonial obligation (Luke 13:14) Christ opposes the “ought” of moral obligation—the Divine necessity of love.
There is here a Threefold Contrast:—
I. “Ox or ass” and “daughter of Abraham.”
II. Fastened to the stall, and “bound by Satan.”
III. A few hours of thirst and eighteen years of suffering.
Luke 13:19. Like a grain of mustard seed.—So small in size as to be a proverbial comparison among the Jews for anything exceedingly small. Garden.—Matthew 13:31 has “field.” A great tree.—Omit “great,” omitted in R.V. The plant in question sometimes grows as high as a man on horseback. The points of comparison are the insignificant beginning and the great outward extension of the kingdom of God founded by Jesus Christ. Birds of the air.—I.e., birds attracted by the pungent seed of the plant. Lodged.—I.e., found a shelter (cf. Luke 9:58). The Church is a place of shelter and of food.
Luke 13:21. Leaven.—“Except in this parable, leaven in Scripture (being connected with corruption and fermentation) is used as a type of sin. See Luke 12:1; Exodus 12:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9. Here, however, the only point considered is its rapid, and unseen, and effectual working” (Farrar). The idea, too, of the wholesome effect produced by leaven in the making of bread may be associated with the figure. Three measures of meal.—Probably the amount usually kneaded at one time (Genesis 18:6). The various allegorical explanations of this detail that have been given are more than usually frivolous and farfetched. Till the whole was leavened.—The process of change resulting in a complete transformation. This is a companion picture to that of the mustard seed, the latter setting forth the outward extension of the kingdom, the former the inward transformation effected by it. The comparison may also be extended to the effect produced by the gospel upon the character of the individual believer, when external life and habits, and the whole inner being, come under the influence of Christian truth.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 13:18-21
In these two parables our Lord sets forth a bright and cheering aspect of the future of the kingdom, exhibiting in the first of them its growth from small beginnings to great magnitude, and in the second its transforming influence on the mass in which it is deposited.
I. Outward growth.—The parable of the little mustard seed, as that of the sower, takes the process of vegetation as emblematic of the growth of the kingdom; but the sower barely appears, though His agency is part of the essence of the representation, and the place where the plant grows is “His garden.” But the seed is now the kingdom itself, and the only points brought into notice are the contrasted smallness of the beginning and bulk of the growth at the end. Jesus does not speak as a botanist, but in popular language; and it is enough to know that the mustard seed was a common proverbial illustration of extreme minuteness, and that the herb was a miracle of growth as compared with its tiny origin. The application is too plain to need any interpretation. It strikes home at once to the many among the first listeners who had recoiled from the (as it seemed to them) dreadful down-come from the long-cherished national hopes to the obscure Galilæan peasant and His handful of followers. He stole into the world in a despised corner of a despised land. He gathered a few believers, spoke some gentle words, laid His hands on a few sick folk, and then died. What proud incredulity would have curled the lips of men of influence and culture in that day, if they had been pointed to Him and His disciples, and bidden to see there the mightiest force, destined to universal dominion! The lesson is not less needed now than then. God’s great things have ever small beginnings, even as the seed of the “big trees” in California is smaller than that of many a much humbler conifer. The world’s great things begin large and dwindle fast. We have to learn reverence for the smallest seed which has vitality, and confidence that the quantity, and still more the quality, of the life in the little black packet of latent possibility is not measured by its size. So we shall not be led away by vulgar admiration of the big, which we mistake for the great and Divine, nor discouraged and impatient if a heritage be not “gotten hastily at the beginning.” The parable brings the small seed into sharp contrast with the large results, and implies the world-wide spread of the kingdom. The picturesque touch of the birds lighting on the branches is probably an allusion to Ezekiel 17:23, and a definite prophecy of the coming of the nations to partake in its blessings. The fowls of the air sing among the branches. Souls weary of flight fold their tired wings, and find rest, shelter, and joy there.
II. Inward change.—The parable of the leaven completes the picture of the growth of the kingdom by describing its inward operation, as the former does its outward growth. It spreads in space and increases in bulk; but it transforms inert matter into its own nature, and thus grows by assimilation. The eccentric interpretation of the leaven as the emblem of evil is disposed of by observing that it is the kingdom, and not its corruption, which is like unto leaven, and by remembering that the meal is improved, not spoiled, by it. The main lessons lie
(1) in the addition of the leaven to the meal, teaching that the quickening influence comes from without; that, in a word, if human society is ever to contain a kingdom of heaven, and be transformed thereby, it must be imparted, not developed. They lie
(2) in the hiding of the leaven, by which is taught the same truth of secret beginnings as in the former parable. They lie
(3) in the manner of the leaven’s working, which is fermentation. So the gospel stirs up movement in the dead man. Christ comes to bring peace at the end, but He must first bring a sword. Leaven works from within outwards. The gospel is planted in the depths of the individual spirit, and gradually permeates the whole being. It works underground in society, and only re-models institutions as the result of having remodelled men. The lesson lies further in the assimilative power of the leaven, which changes each particle of the meal, and, by means of each in turn, transmits the transforming power to the outer unleavened particles. It lies, finally, in hopes suggested by that “till the whole was leavened,” which foretells the permeating of the mass with quickening influence, and the complete assimilation of the individual to it.—Maclaren.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 13:18-21
The Kingdom of God.
I. Its rapid growth.
II. Its transforming power.
Emblems of the Kingdom.
I. Lessons from the mustard seed.—
1. Its personal teaching.
2. Its prophetical teaching.
II. Lessons from the leaven.—
1. The source of grace.
2. The secrecy of its workings.
3. The certainty of its success.—W. Taylor.
The Kingdom of God.
I. Its gradual extension.—Our Lord corrects the fatal error of His countrymen, that the kingdom of God would come as a sudden outbreak of Divine power. It is to grow, from small beginnings, in the hearts of men. How gradual it is in the individual we know from sad experience. How gradual among the nations the observation of eighteen hundred years has shown us. Yet we must never despair. Seed has in it the germ of life, a power of endless development, and is certain to fulfil in God’s own time its marvellous destination.
II. Its secret growth.—Not to be inaugurated by pomp and circumstance, or by the literal appearance of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven. Jesus corrects this error in the parable of the leaven. He teaches the quiet, unobtrusive character of true religion—how unnoticeable is its first infusion; how far beneath the human eye its growth. Religion is a hidden life, and it works spontaneously, by its own secret vitality, till it leavens the whole mass of society.—Griffith.
Fulfilment of the Prophesies here Contained.
I. The way in which these parabolic prophecies of the spread of the gospel have already been fulfilled is a proof of its divinity.
II. These parables open up delightful views of the future history of the Church, and furnish us with a call and an encouragement to exert ourselves for the universal diffusion of the gospel.—Foote.
Increase of Bulk and Change of Character.—In the one parable, that of the Mustard Seed, the kingdom is conceived of as a visible society, which is susceptible of increase in its bulk by addition to the number of its membership. In the other parable, that of the Leaven, the kingdom is conceived of as a moral or spiritual power, which is susceptible of increase in the transforming influence which it exerts on those who are subject to its operation.—Bruce.
The Conversion of the World.
I. The process is to take its rise from small and very unpromising beginnings, and yet shall prevail speedily to a vast extent.
II. The change is to be wrought by pacific means only, without the intervention of any force or violence whatsoever.
The Mustard Seed.
There are three great chapters in the history of Christ’s kingdom.
I. The germ.—It is something new. It is small at first.
II. The growth.
III. The glory.—The kingdom is one, though belonging to all ages and nations. It is a world-wide kingdom. It blesses and only blesses. It will yet become very great. We may be very hopeful about the future of the kingdom.—Wells.
I. The kingdom of heaven: its apparent insignificance.
II. Its vitality.
III. Its future grandeur.
I. The kind of change which Christianity works in the world.
II. The method by which this change is wrought.
The Kingdom of God has Two Kinds of Power.
I. A power of extension, by which it gradually embraces all peoples, and—
II. A power of transformation, by which it renews gradually the whole of human life. The natural symbol of the first is a seed, which in a brief space of time attains an increase disproportioned to its small size at first; that of the second, a small portion of leaven, which is capable of exerting its regenerative influence upon a large mass.—Godet.
Vitality and Influence.
I. Inherent vitality; development from within.
II. Contagious influence; a change wrought from acquiring a new force from without.
Progress and Growth.
I. Progress from a small beginning to a glorious consummation.
II. The cause of growth—the inherent, unquenchable life of the kingdom.
III. The manner of growth—silent, secret, unobserved.
Hopefulness and Patience Inculcated.—These parables inculcate
(1) hopefulness, and
(2) patience amid circumstances fitted to breed despondency and discouragement.
I. General reference.—In the general sense, the insignificant beginnings of the kingdom are set forth; the little babe cast in the manger at Bethlehem; the Man of Sorrows, with no place to lay His head; the crucified One; or, again, the hundred and twenty names who were the seed of the Church after the Lord had ascended. Then we have the kingdom of God waxing onward and spreading its branches here and there, and different nations coming unto it.
II. Individual reference.—The individual application of the parable points to the small beginnings of Divine grace; a word, a thought, a passing sentence, may prove to be the little seed which eventually fills and shadows the whole heart and being, and calls all thoughts, all passions all delights, to come and shelter under it.—Alford.
Luke 13:19. “A tree.”—The greatness of size attained by the mustard plant in the East causes it to rank as a tree as compared with garden herbs, though not as a great tree as compared with other trees.
“Lodged in the branches.”—Christ’s kingdom shall attract multitudes by the shelter and protection which it offers; shelter, as it has often proved, from worldly oppression, shelter from the great power of the devil. Itself a tree of life whose leaves are for medicine and whose fruit for food, all who need the healing of their soul’s hurts, all who need the satisfying of their soul’s hunger, shall betake themselves to it.—Trench.
The Lesson of the Parable.—The lesson of the parable obviously is:
(1) that the kingdom of heaven was to be, and was, small and apparently insignificant in its beginning; but
(2) that it was to rise into a magnitude that would far overtop all rival institutions. The Jews expected that it would begin as a full-grown tree, and they were scandalised at the apparent insignificance of our Lord’s position and following.
Luke 13:19-21. “A man … a woman.”—The two actions of sowing seed and of making bread are appropriated and assigned to a man and a woman respectively, in accordance with the different occupations usually followed by those of each sex. Any identification of the woman with the Church is therefore out of the question.
I. General reference.—In the penetrating of the whole mass of humanity, by degrees, by the influence of the Spirit of God, so strikingly witnessed in the earlier ages by the dropping of heathen customs and worship—in modern times more gradually and secretly advancing, but still to be plainly seen in the various abandonments of criminal and unholy practices (as, e.g., in our own time of slavery and duelling, and the increasing abhorrence of war among Christian men), and without doubt in the end to be signally and universally manifested.
II. Individual reference.—In the transforming power of the “new leaven” on the whole being of individuals. In fact, the parable does nothing less than set forth to us the mystery of regeneration, both in its first act, which can be but once, as the leaven is but once hidden, and also in the consequent renewal of the Holy Spirit, which, as the ulterior working of the leaven, is continual and progressive.—Alford.
Luke 13:21. “It is like leaven.”—The leaven—
1. Only acts upon meal—it would produce no effect upon sand—so there is an affinity between the gospel and man’s nature.
2. It penetrates to every part of the mass in which it is placed.
3. It operates gradually.
4. It produces a wholesome change—renders the meal more suitable for food.
“Took and hid.”—“Took” from without, “and hid”—i.e., put it where it seemed lost in the larger mass.
“The whole was leavened.”—
1. The whole heart of each man (1 Corinthians 10:5).
2. The whole world (Luke 24:47).
A Secret Influence.—The gospel has such a secret, invisible influence on the hearts of men—to change them and affect them, and all the actions that flow from them—that it is fitly resembled to leaven; so mixed thoroughly with the whole that, although it appeareth not in any part visibly, yet every part hath a tincture from it.—Hammond.
A Permanent Change.—Just as it is impossible that the leaven, after it is once mixed with the dough, can ever again be separated from it, because it has changed the nature of the dough; in like manner it is impossible that Christians can be severed from Christ.
The Spiritual Leaven.
I. Christ, the Son of God, became man and dwelt among us.
II. Converted men, women, and children, are let into the openings of corrupt humanity, and hidden in its heart.—Arnot.
“Leavened.”—The parable indicates that the influence is internal and noiseless, not dependent upon external organisation so much as upon quiet personal agency and example, since the leaven transforms the dough lying next, until it is all leavened.—Popular Commentary.
1. The individual.
2. The family.
3. Society at large.
The Two Main Ideas Illustrated by the Parable are—
(1) that the kingdom of heaven, when Divinely introduced into the mass, did not attract attention, but
(2) it began silently to operate, and will continue to operate until the whole of human society is brought under its influence.
Luke 13:22. Went through cities, etc.—Not a direct journey. To Jerusalem.—The last journey through Peræa to Jerusalem.
Luke 13:23. Then said one.—Probably a Jew (see Luke 13:28); he can hardly have been a disciple. The question he asked was one frequently debated in Jewish schools, some maintaining universal salvation, others limiting it to a few elect (2EEsther 8:1). It is plain that by salvation is here meant final acceptance with God and entrance into heaven. Christ does not directly answer the question, but turns the attention of his hearers to the sort of persons that will be saved, rather than to their relative number. In Luke 13:29, however, the fact that the saved will be many in number seems to be hinted at.
Luke 13:24. Said unto them.—Not simply to him who asked the question; the answer Christ had to give deserved the attention of all. Strive.—In the plural; the word used is a very strong one, being taken from the contests in the arena, and might be rendered: “strain every nerve to force your way in.” Strait gate.—Rather, “narrow door” (R.V.): the word “gate” having been probably taken from Matthew 7:13. Seek to enter in.—I.e., evidently by some other way than the narrow door of repentance and faith. There may be a contrast between seeking (i.e., desiring) and striving.
Luke 13:25. When once.—Lit. “from the time that.” There is great force in the abrupt transition from Luke 13:24 to Luke 13:25. “The image of the closed door is preserved. The master of the house, at a certain hour, rises from the table and closes the door, so that even the inmates who may be lingering out too late are not only refused admission, but are not recognised as members of his family” (Speaker’s Commentary). Some commentators have sought to tone down the harshness of the passage by punctuating it differently: “Shall not be able when once the master,” etc. The result is a faulty, clumsy construction of sentences in both the Greek and the English. Open to us.—Entrance claimed as a right based on former acquaintanceship, or, in other words, upon external privileges rather than worthiness of character.
Luke 13:26. In thy presence.—A very different thing from “eating and drinking with Him” (cf. Matthew 26:29; Revelation 3:20). The Christian can scarcely fail to think of the Lord’s Supper as an illustration of eating and drinking in Christ’s presence.
Luke 13:27. Workers of iniquity.—This is a peculiar phrase; it means “persons engaged in the hire and receiving the wages of unrighteousness.” In the corresponding passage in St. Matthew the word translated “iniquity” means “lawlessness”; the word here used means “unrighteousness”—“disregard of the fundamental principles of God’s kingdom.” This is an indication of the independence of the two accounts of the discourse.
Luke 13:28. Weeping and gnashing of teeth.—The signs respectively of grief and rage. Thrust out.—Rather, “cast forth without” (R.V.), “cast forth” because as Jews they had been born in the covenant.
Luke 13:29. And they shall come.—“In this and the preceding verse is the real answer to the question of Luke 13:23 given: ‘They shall be many; but what is that to you if you be not among them?’ ” (Alford).
Luke 13:30. There are last, etc.—I.e., some who are first to believe will fall from their high place, and vice versâ. This has been strikingly fulfilled in the ruin of the Oriental Churches, which were the first to be founded and were once in a flourishing condition. The Mother Church of Jerusalem, too, has declined, while Gentile offshoots have flourished.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 13:22-30
The question, “Lord, are there few that be saved?” might in itself be the anxious inquiry of a devout mind, animated by a true love for others. But the tone of Christ’s reply inclines one to conclude that the question had been inspired by frivolous curiosity. Our Lord does not say anything as to the number of the saved, but He speaks of “many who will seek to enter into the kingdom of heaven and not be able.” The reasons for this state of matters are that the door of entrance is narrow, and exertion is needed for pressing in at it, and that one day the door will be shut. From the nature of the reply which Christ makes we are justified in concluding that the man who put the question had no doubt about his own salvation, and trusted in his privileges, as a son of Abraham, as raising him above all danger of losing the inheritance of eternal life. Our Lord, however, warns him and all who were present of the conditions on which entrance into the kingdom of heaven is based, and of the danger of being excluded from it. He uses the familiar figure of a feast to which guests are invited, and describes the attitude taken up by the Master of the house towards guests and towards would-be guests.
I. The Master of the house.—This can be no other than Himself, for in Luke 13:26 He speaks of eating and drinking at the tables of men, and of teaching in the streets of their cities. We note, therefore, the contrast which He implies as existing between the relations which He then held with men and those which one day He would assume. Now He is an ambassador from God, persuading men to be reconciled to Him, and laying the foundation of a lasting peace between heaven and earth. But a time will come when He will sternly banish from His presence those who have refused to accept Him as their Lord, and to obey His commands. The supreme authority to open and shut the door of the kingdom of heaven, which He here claims, is in striking contrast to His present circumstances. There is at first something repellent in the sternness of attitude which He represents Himself as assuming towards some who will seek to enter in. But a moment’s consideration convinces us that there is nothing unjust or unduly harsh in His procedure. Those whom He excludes are the self-righteous and hypocritical—those who, under a guise of discipleship, have been “workers of iniquity” (Luke 13:27). The very idea of such persons being admitted, without undergoing a change of character—for in their supposed dialogue with Him they do not seem to recognise the necessity for any such change—is utterly absurd. Heaven would cease to be heaven if the ungodly were received indiscriminately into it. However sad, therefore, it is to think of any of us excluded from it, we cannot accuse the Master of the house as manifesting injustice in the course which He takes. On the contrary, we see His broad and generous love displayed in the invitation given to all who dwell in the earth to press into the kingdom. Not alone from the favoured nation of Israel, but from east and west, north and south, does He anticipate receiving guests at the heavenly banquet.
II. The guests who obtain admittance.—They are those who “strive”—those who are really in earnest in religion and put forth their whole strength to secure entrance into the kingdom of heaven. They realise the greatness of the blessings which it implies, and are determined to make them their own; they discern the obstacles that lie in the way of the fulfilment of their desire, and resolutely overcome them. Such obstacles consist in the weakness of the carnal nature, which cannot for long continue in any holy enterprise; in the temptations which beset the life; and in the severe requirements of the law of God. But those who are found worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven recognise their own weakness, and in humility rely upon Divine strength; they trust, not in themselves, but in their Saviour and God. Hence, though the door into the kingdom is too narrow to admit the self-righteous and unbelieving, it allows those who draw near in humility and faith to enter in. “To strive” implies not only great, but also sustained effort—an attitude and endeavour steadily maintained from day to day. Religion, therefore, is not merely a mood belonging to special times and occupations, but it is an influence that should tell upon every department of the life. While doing many things, the Christian can still be bent upon doing the one thing; in all that engages his attention and employs his powers he can find opportunity for honouring and serving God. Genuine holiness is a distinguishing mark of those who are guests in the heavenly kingdom. It is the result of their humility and faith and endeavour, and qualifies them to partake in those spiritual blessings which God has reserved for them that love Him.
III. The would be guests who are excluded.—They seem to be excluded by the will of the Master of the house, but they are really self-excluded. They have not striven, and therefore have failed to find entrance. In other words, they have not been in earnest in religion—they have been content with merely professing devotion to Christ, and have all through been “workers of iniquity.” They claim to know Christ, but He does not know them as belonging to Him. Another master has had them in his service, and from him they must receive their recompense. The knowledge of Christ upon which they lay such stress is merely external. They have been in His presence, but have not been in communion with Him; they have heard His voice, but have not obeyed His word. The privileges they have enjoyed, but by which they have not profited, turn to their condemnation. Those who thought highly of themselves, and stood prominently forward as professed disciples, find themselves on their true level at the last—and in a low place. Others, upon whom they may have looked with contempt, come to the front, and are welcomed to the feast, from which they are excluded. And how great will be the misery of those who are thus “thrust out” Christ hints in the significant phrase, “there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth”—sorrow and pain, in comparison with which all other emotions and sensations of that type are as nothing. It is in mercy that Christ reveals the suffering to which those who reject God and goodness doom themselves; He draws aside the veil that we may be warned, and may take advantage of the day of grace and of the offer of salvation.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 13:22-30
Luke 13:22-30. Who may Enter the Kingdom?
I. Few or many? An idle and useless question.
II. None enter without personal effort.
III. Some will never enter.
IV. Some will be too late in seeking to enter.
V. Some will enter from unexpected quarters.—Taylor.
Luke 13:23. “Are there few that be saved?”—The inquirer was evidently doubtful as to whether many would be saved, but had no doubt that he himself would be saved. Many, like him, are very much interested in questions of religion which have no direct bearing upon conduct, but are merely speculative. Christ here refuses to gratify a prurient curiosity, and advises arduous endeavours to enter into the kingdom of God.
How the Question may be Asked.—This question may
(1) be asked haughtily by one who has his mind made up on the point, and is prepared to contradict a reply which does not meet with his approval.
(2) It may be uttered good-naturedly, with vague good wishes and hopes on behalf of self and others.
(3) It may be proposed with a measure of anxiety and godly fear.
What Sort rather than How Many.—It rather concerns us to know what sort of persons will be saved, than how many or how few.
Luke 13:24-30. The Necessity for Striving.
I. The duty of earnest and strenuous diligence in religious life.
II. The reason for this duty.—Every one may be saved, but many will not, through their own fault. Many who think they are secure of a place in the kingdom will find themselves shut out (Luke 13:24-28). While others, who might be supposed, from their meagre advantages, to be unprepared for it, will find an entrance into it.
Luke 13:24-25. Two great dangers.
I. The door is a narrow one.—Too narrow to admit those who are burdened with sinful habits, and those who are puffed up with a trust in their self-righteousness.
II. The door will one day be shut.—The time of probation will draw to an end; the offer of mercy which has been slighted will be withdrawn.
Luke 13:24. “Strive.”—
1. By earnest prayer.
2. By strenuous resistance to temptation.
3. By avoiding all occasions of sin.
4. By attending diligently on every means of grace.
“Strive to enter.”—Difficulties in our way.
I. From our own natural state.
3. Aversion to good, and proneness to evil.
II. From the nature of a religious life, it requires—
3. Mortification of sinful desires.
III. From the opposition of enemies.
“The strait gate.”
I. Where does it stand?—Not above the sky; it is here on earth, at the entrance of the path to the mansion.
II. The difference between striving and seeking.—It is a real distinction. There may be seeking without striving, inquiry without eagerness.
III. The inability of many to enter. This has nothing to do with the purposes of the Most High, but only with the strength of man. The strength of nature is perfect weakness in the mortal struggle; but how fully, how sufficiently, has help been provided!—Smith.
“Will seek to enter in,” etc.—Where striving is necessary, mere seeking or desiring will not avail. Entrance is refused
(1) to those also who seek too late (Proverbs 1:28-29; Isaiah 1-15; John 7:34; Hebrews 12:17), and
(2) to those seek to come in by other ways than by the one Door (John 10:9; John 14:6).
“Not be able.”—
1. Because they seek half-heartedly.
2. Or seek in the wrong way.
3. Or seek too late.
An Exhortation and a Warning.
I. Strive.—Lit. “agonise,” obey and fulfil the holy will of God, whatever struggles or sacrifices may be involved in so doing—put forth the intensest effort of which you are capable.
II. Many will seek and not be able.—Many, indeed all, have a desire to be admitted into heaven, but only some are willing to undertake the arduous labour which is needed to secure entrance into that kingdom.
“Seek … and not be able.”—Some seek admission into the favour of God and eternal happiness without conversion, or faith in the Divine Saviour; others seek the blessing in a slothful manner, or in the use of such means as God has never appointed; others, with reserves for their worldly interest, reputation, or sinful pleasures, or for avoiding reproach or persecution. In these and similar ways, many come short of salvation, notwithstanding convictions, temporary seriousness and earnestness, and partial reformation. But it is by procrastination especially that men “will seek to enter in and not be able.”—Scott.
“Hath shut to the door.”—He who will not open the door of his heart in this life to the Saviour when He knocks, will knock in vain there for the Saviour to open His door to him.
Ground for Suspecting that we are not Striving.—If my religion is only a formal compliance with those modes of worship which are in fashion where I live; if it cost me no pain or trouble; if it lays me under no rules or restraint; if I have no careful thoughts and sober reflections about it;—is it not great weakness to think that I am striving to enter in at the strait gate?—Law.
Unseasonable Seeking.—It is not the weakness of the endeavour which is blamed, but its being out of season, the right time having been squandered away. This is represented as not less culpable, nor less extreme in the dangerous nature of its consequences, than the want of all effort. He who has not sowed in spring must expect no success, how earnestly soever he labours in harvest.—Olshausen.
Luke 13:25-27. A Note of Warning—
I. No nearness of external communion with Christ will avail at the Great Day, in place of that “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.”
II. The style which Christ announces that He will then assume—that of absolute Disposer of men’s eternal destinies—and contrast this with His “despised and rejected” condition when He uttered these words.—Brown.
Fruitless Seeking.—These verses contain two examples of fruitless and vain seeking to enter—
I. They knock and call, but too late.
II. They appeal, but in vain, to their acquaintance with the master of the house. Observe the striking climax: first, standing some time without, then knocking, then calling, finally reminding of former acquaintance; but all in vain.
Luke 13:25. “When once the Master,” etc.—Awfully sublime and vivid picture. At present He is represented as in a sitting posture, as if calmly looking on to see who will “strive” while entrance is practicable. But this is to have an end, by the great Master of the house Himself rising and shutting the door, after which there will be no admittance.—Brown.
The Closed Door.—A reason why this striving is so important: because there will be a day when the gate will be shut. The figure is the usual one, of a feast, at which the householder entertains (in this case) the members of his family. These being assembled, he rises and shuts the door, and none are afterwards admitted.—Alford.
Luke 13:26. Eaten and Drunk in Thy Presence.—
1. External acts of communion with Christ.
2. Outward privileges enjoyed. Neither of these will avail us if in the meantime we have been workers of iniquity.
“In thy presence.”—Very different from the drinking “with you” of which He speaks in Matthew 26:29, and from the “I will sup with him and he with Me” in Revelation 3:20.
“Taught in our streets.”—
1. Salvation brought very near.
2. The absence of the disposition of heart which would lead to receiving His words and doing them.
Claiming a Right.—The earnestness is not that of those seeking for mercy, but of those claiming a right, and basing their claim on something merely external.
Luke 13:27. “Workers of iniquity.”—Those in the employ of, and receiving the wages of, unrighteousness.
Luke 13:28-29. Many in the Kingdom of God.—In these verses the real answer to the question of Luke 13:23 is given: “They shall be many, but what is that to you, if you be not among them?”
Luke 13:28. “Weeping and gnashing of teeth.”—
1. Sorrow at the loss of privileges and blessings.
2. Rage at seeing others enter on the possession of them.
Luke 13:30. “Last which shall be first,” etc.—
1. Those disadvantageously placed, who overcome obstacles in their way.
2. Those highly privileged, who do not avail themselves of the opportunities within their reach. The Church at Jerusalem, and the Oriental Churches, furnish illustrations of the latter.
“First which shall be last.”—Prodigals often repent, and get before decent moralists; the Gentile converts obtained the priority to the Jewish nation; splendid hypocrites apostatise, and open persecutors become preachers of the gospel, and those who have been the grief and reproach of families and neighbourhoods, sometimes become their chief credit and blessing; whilst plausible characters are by this very circumstance rendered more inveterate against the truth.—Scott.
An Encouragement and a Warning.—
1. An encouragement to those called late in life.
2. A solemn warning to those called early, urging them to be humble and ever mindful of their unworthiness before God, lest they be overtaken by others, or forfeit their reward altogether.
They must be on their guard against trusting to appearances or to the permanence of present circumstances and conditions: priority in time is not necessarily priority in position.
“This word should strike terror into the heart of the greatest saints” (Luther).
Luke 13:31. The same day.—A better reading is, “In that very hour” (R.V.). Pharisees, saying, etc.—We are certainly led to understand that these Pharisees had been sent by Herod to induce Jesus to leave his territory. If the intimation of Herod’s desire were a mere invention of the Pharisees it would be difficult to understand the epithet Christ applied to him. Probably Herod had no real desire of the kind; he had become sufficiently unpopular by the murder of the Baptist, and had no inducement to add to his guilt by further violence against Jesus. Besides, when Jesus was afterwards in his power be abstained from injuring him. But the excitement connected with Christ, and Herod’s own superstitious fears, would doubtless make him anxious for the Saviour to leave the country. His cunning is shown by his endeavouring to secure this end in an underhand way, and by his using his enemies, the Pharisees, as his tools in the matter. Will kill thee.—Rather, “would fain kill thee” (R.V.); i.e., “will” is not a mark of the future tense, but the verb “to desire.”
Luke 13:32. That fox.—An emblem of cunning and mischief. This is the only recorded example of Christ’s speaking of any one in terms of sheer contempt. The rest of the verse has been the subject of great discussion. What are the three days specified? and what is meant by “being perfected”? Some have taken the time specified as referring to present labours (“to-day”), to future labours (“to-morrow”), and to His final sufferings at Jerusalem (“the third day I shall be perfected”). It is difficult, however, to understand the days in any other than a literal sense. The meaning would, therefore, be that Jesus would still remain for three days in Herod’s terrritories, and would still engage in those mighty works that had excited his apprehensions, and carry through His plan to the very end. The only serious objection to this interpretation is that the words “I shall be perfected” would seem to suggest more than merely bringing to an end the miracles of healing in the district of Peræa; but no other meaning is possible if the days specified are to be taken as literal days.
Luke 13:33. I must walk.—Rather, “I must go on My way” (R.V.), the word used by the Pharisees in Luke 13:31 (“depart”). Christ is on His way out of the territory of Herod, but He is not urged by the fear of that king’s malignity; He is not afraid of death, for He is going to meet death in Jerusalem. It cannot be, etc.—There is terrible irony in these words. Christ speaks of His life as being safe until He arrives in Jerusalem. It is almost a moral impossibility, His words imply, for a prophet to perish except in that city, which had monopolised the slaughter of the prophets. The death of John the Baptist was an exception to the rule.
Luke 13:34. O Jerusalem! etc.—Rather, “which killeth … stoneth … sent unto her” (R.V.). How often.—Reference is here made to visits of Jesus to Jerusalem and of labours there which St. Luke and the other Synoptists do not record. As a hen.—It has been said that the figure of the eagle in Deuteronomy 32:11-12 is emblematical of the spirit of the Old Testament, and this in the present passage of the spirit of the New Testament. The contrast between “I would” and “ye would not” is very startling: the power of man to resist and defeat the merciful purposes of God.
Luke 13:35. Desolate.—The best MSS. omit the word, but it or some such term is needed to complete the sense. In the R.V. it is inserted in italics. The Divine Glory had departed from the house (cf. Ezekiel 10:18; Ezekiel 11:23). Ye shall not see Me.—Judicial blindness, the veil remaining still upon the heart of the Jewish people. Until the time, etc.—The words quoted were actually used on Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem a short time after this, but we cannot think that the prophecy was in any sense then fulfilled. It is more probable that a mistaken understanding of these words led to their being employed on that occasion. Christ here speaks of a second coming in the far-distant future and associates it with the penitence and faith of the Jewish nation, which will then receive Him as the Blessed One.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 13:31-35
Courage and Compassion.—There could be no doubt of the hypocritical character of the concern which these Pharisees manifested for the safety of Jesus, or of the enmity of the prince whose designs were now disclosed to our Lord. Yet he was not intimidated by the news conveyed to Him, nor did He break off His beneficent labours to save Himself by flight. His reply was animated by a calm dignity and an heroic courage. “So far from being interrupted in My ministry by any tidings you bring, be they false or true, by your wish or by Herod’s wish, to be rid of My presence at once, I shall proceed on My way. I shall do as before I have done. I shall put forth My powers, casting out devils, healing sick for the present, for the future; and only at a remoter period will My life and course reach their appointed end.” Nor was it that He refused to believe that a violent end was in store for Him. He knew that He should die in that city to which He was now journeying, and His heart was filled with grief—not at the thought of His own sufferings and death, but at the thought of all the miseries which rejection of Him would draw down upon her—miseries against which He would fain have protected her. This union of unshaken courage with infinite tenderness is very wonderful and affecting, and make the lamentation which He uttered over Jerusalem one of the most pathetic passages which history contains. These words of Christ are full of instruction and warning.
I. We, too, need to be on our guard against the craft and malice of enemies.—We are exposed to the wiles of one who but seeks to allure and to drive us from following the path of duty, and whose subtilty and malice we cannot by our own strength overcome. Our own hearts are only too apt to betray us, by becoming allies of our enemies, and by trying to persuade us to avoid the risks which fidelity to God seems to involve. Our true safety lies in our having that wisdom which will enable us to discern the snare of the enemy, under whatever guise it may be concealed, and in our committing our souls to God in well-doing as unto a faithful Creator.
II. The serenity and courage of Christ should be an example to us.—He was not to be deterred from the path of duty by the menaces of enemies or by the solicitations of weak friends. He continued to prosecute His work faithfully and boldly, notwithstanding every threat and danger. Let us, then, persevere in the path of duty, and believe that God will restrain the wrath of men, and bring us safely through every danger, until our appointed time arrives. The place, time, and manner of our death are in God’s hand, and, like those of Christ, are determined. It is good, too, that, like Him, we should regard the period of our life here as short, that we may be diligent in doing the work that lies before us; and that we should regard death, not as interrupting, but as completing, our course.
III. The expostulation with those who had resisted His invitations is full of significance for us.—It implies very real and great dangers to which we are exposed. He would not have spoken in such solemn tones of the protection He would have afforded to those who now rejected Him, if dangers of the most terrible kind did not threaten them. The judgments of God upon the doomed city, the penalties of a broken law, the punishment due to those who have wilfully rejected the salvation brought near to them—are all in His mind’s eye as He speaks these words. And the same dangers of being cut off in sin and being overwhelmed in sudden and hopeless ruin still hang over those who are impenitent. His words distinctly imply, also, that all who betake themselves to His protection are safe, and that He is ready to receive even the worst of those who have despised and rejected Him, if only they will betake themselves to Him in humility and penitence. In many ways He warns us of our danger—in the expostulations of conscience, in the invitations of the gospel, and in the events of life, which are all governed by His providence, and which daily illustrate the wrath of God against sin, and the blessedness of obedience to Him. He points out, too, in this utterance, the true reason of rejection of salvation: “Ye would not.” However we may deceive ourselves, aversion of heart is the secret of refusal to accept Christ as a Saviour. “Ye will not come unto Me, that ye might have life.” And, finally, He warns His hearers of a time when He will return, clothed with Divine power and authority, to judge the world, and when all must meet Him face to face. Only those who receive Him will then welcome Him, and say, “Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 13:31-35
Luke 13:31-35. The Saviour and His Adversaries.
I. We may learn from this passage the craft and malice of the enemies of the gospel and of our salvation.
II. The example of Christ should teach and encourage us not to be deterred from the path of duty by any threatenings of enemies or misgivings of weak friends.
III. It teaches that Christ was, indeed, perfected by His sufferings—perfected as a Saviour for us.
IV. He here appears as expostulating with those who have hitherto resisted His invitations.
Luke 13:31-32. “Herod will kill thee.”—Our Lord not merely gave an answer to the Pharisees, which would have been enough if their word of alarm had been a mere audacious lie, devised by themselves, but charged them to take back His reply to Herod—“that fox,” that creature of cunning and deceit. As for the menace to His life, Jesus despised it. He was going up to Jerusalem, knowing that He would be killed. But Herod could not kill Him. The Prophet could not die but at Jerusalem. The metaphor here was meant to express that the Lord Jesus saw through and despised the cunning wiles of the Tetrarch. The man was a selfish intriguer, neither good nor strong, but cunning, subservient—a jackal to the imperial lion at Rome. The epithet is certainly a startling one. It must have sounded to the Pharisees like the crack of a whip. But there is no need to apologise for it, as though it were unworthy of Him who was meek and lowly in heart, and as if it had fallen from His lips incautiously. It was calmly spoken. It expressed a just feeling of scorn for a tricky and crafty character. There is a contempt that is noble, as well as a contempt that is ignoble. Noble scorn may dwell in the heart along with tender compassion and fervent love. That man cannot be the disciple of Christ who breathes intrigue and practises deceit. Those who please Him are men of simple faith and honest purpose. Without these a man is liable to be described by the Lord’s withering epithet, “that fox.”—Fraser.
“Depart hence.”—It was in the interest of the Pharisees to see Jesus depart into Judæa, where he would fall under the power of the Sanhedrim. And it also suited Herod best for Jesus to quit his territories; for, on the one hand, the excitement which His presence caused among the people was bound to disturb him; and, on the other hand, he was certainly unwilling to burden his conscience by adding another murder to that of the Baptist. Jesus, however, knew the Pharisees too well to believe that they were interested in His welfare, and recognised in the message they brought a plot in which Herod was chief conspirator. His reply contains a severe but merited rebuke: “Not daring to show the teeth of the lion, thou hast recourse to the tricks of the fox.”—Godet.
Luke 13:32-35. “I do cures to-day and to-morrow.”—The words may be paraphrased as follows: “I have to exercise My blessed office for a certain time. For this time, however, I must walk and work, and no power can touch Me (Mine hour is not yet come); but in Jerusalem it will come, and then will ye gain power over Me. Your victory, however, will be your ruin, and Him whom ye shall have rejected, ye shall never more behold till the day of His final return.”
A Revelation of the Saviour’s Heart.
I. Jesus displays His perfect knowledge of what is in man as He unveils the cunning and hypocrisy of His enemies.
II. He manifests a holy serenity in carrying on His beneficent labours, though he is conscious that a cruel death awaits Him in the near future.
He laments over the miseries which His enemies are preparing for themselves by their rejection of Him.
He anticipates with joy the last and most glorious scene of all, when Israel will repent of her unbelief, and receive Him as her Saviour and Lord.
Luke 13:32-33. “Go ye, and tell.”—Christ’s reply is addressed—
1. To Herod. Be reassured: My activity, which consists in ministering to the suffering, is drawing to an end: three days only remain—but those three days, no one, not even thou, mayest cut short.
2. To the Pharisees. They, too, may reassure themselves: their victim will not escape them; He is on the way to the city which has ever been the murderess of the prophets.
Luke 13:32. “That fox.”—Distinguished by craftiness, and malice, and cowardice. Herod probably did not wish to kill Jesus, but to get Him out of His territory. To threaten thus without really purposing to carry out the threat, and to use Pharisees, his opponents, to report the threat, is the cunning of “that fox.”
The Message to Herod.—“Tell him from Me that My times are set in the eternal counsel of God, and when My prefixed time is accomplished for My labours and sufferings I shall, in spite of all the opposition of earth and hell, be perfected and enjoy My full glory.”—Hall.
Respect for Rulers.—There is no need to seek to clear our Saviour from the appearance of having violated the law which forbade speaking evil of the ruler of the people (Exodus 22:11-28). The prophets all along had no hesitation in severely reproving kings and princes. Thus Elijah tells Ahab that it was he that troubled Israel, and Isaiah calls the rulers of the Jews “rulers of Sodom and princes of Gomorrah.” Much more might He who had sent the prophets use like freedom in rebuking sin.
Lamb-like Patience, Lion-like Courage.—Over against the fox, the Saviour appears in lamb-like patience, but also in lion-like courage.—Van Oosterzee.
Luke 13:33. “The third day I shall be perfected.”
I. Christ’s clear vision of the successive steps of His work yet remaining.
II. His calm and deliberate purpose to go through with His work, unmoved by the menaces of His enemies.
III. His consciousness of the rapid march of events—of His death now not far off.
“I must walk,” i.e., “depart” (as in Luke 13:31), or “go on my journey.” Christ was, indeed, journeying out of Herod’s territory, but not because of Herod’s threat. So far from being scared away by fear of death, He knew that in the city to which He journeyed He would meet certain death.
“It cannot be.”—There would be a certain moral unfitness, a violation of custom, in the murder of a prophet anywhere but in Jerusalem. The words are instinct with a terrible irony.
John the Baptist had indeed been an exception to the rule; he had not been slain in Jerusalem. But that city could scarcely allow its monopoly to be again infringed upon, and that within so short a space of time.
Luke 13:34-35. The Lamentation of Love.—We have here a typical exhibition of grace:
1. Indiscriminate grace.
2. Inviting grace.
3. Ineffectual grace.
Luke 13:34. “Them that are sent.”—Not treating the ambassadors of God as clothed with that inviolable sanctity which protects from injury the ambassadors of an earthly sovereign.
“As a hen.”—The similitude condescendingly employed by our Saviour is one of the homeliest possible, but inexpressibly felicitous and significant. It graphically represents the Saviour’s intense and tender solicitude and desire. How lofty, too, the self-consciousness which it bespeaks! The whole of the Jews belonged to Him as His brood. He could cover and protect them all. He could do, too, without them, although He longed after them; but they could not do without Him.—Morison.
Protection Withdrawn.—Like a bird of prey which hovers in the air above its victim, the enemy threatens the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Jesus, who had, up to this, been sheltering them under His wings, as a hen her chickens, withdraws; they remain exposed and are reduced to defend themselves. Such is the representation of matters given here.—Godet.
The Hen and Chickens.—Christ’s word carries such intrinsic dignity that we do not need to fear the familiarity of the metaphor. The words express Christ’s feeling for the people of Jerusalem in view of their city’s hastening doom. Coming after words of stern warning, this saying reveals a most pathetic sorrow. Remember how complete was His knowledge of the sin of Jerusalem. He recalled its past blood-guiltiness. He foresaw its coming treatment of Himself and His apostles. Yet He lamented over it, and His compassion yearned to rescue its people from destruction. His repeated visits, at personal risk, had been fruitless. They would not come to Him that they might have life. To this day the relations subsisting between Jesus Christ and the Jewish nation at large throughout the world may be expressed in His own words, “I would, but ye would not.”
I. The illustration employed implies that the danger was at hand.—Perdition is imminent. Christ is a present Helper to those who come to Him.
II. How simple the way of salvation!—How sure and perfect the defence! Those who trust in the Saviour are completely covered by His righteousness and strength.
III. It is a grief to Christ to have His offer of salvation slighted.—No one knows as He does the awfulness of the doom from which He rescues His people, or their weakness and helplessness before the impending judgment.
IV. What joy of faith and restfulness of love are under the covert of Christ’s wings!—There His people dwell together in unity. Loved of the Saviour, they learn to love one another.—Fraser.
“And ye would not.”—The teaching of Scripture regarding the will includes the following points:—
I. Whether men are to be saved or lost hinges entirely upon their own will: “ye would not.”
II. The will of man is utterly indisposed and disabled from yielding to Christ (John 6:44).
III. When the will is effectually gained, and salvation thus obtained, it is in consequence of a Divine operation upon it (Philippians 2:13). How the fact of the Divine action is to be reconciled with our freedom is left unsolved, and perhaps will always remain so.
Eternal Blessings Lost only with Our Consent.—A man may lose the things of this life against his will; but, if he loses eternal blessings, he does so with his own consent.—Augustine.
Luke 13:35. “Your house”—i.e., the Temple: but their house now, not the Lord’s.
“Desolate.”—Deserted of its Divine Inhabitant—a spiritual ruin to be followed by material ruin.
“Your house is left.”—By these words Jesus frees Himself from the charge laid upon Him by His Father—viz., the salvation of His people. He is in exactly the same circumstances as the Divine Shepherd represented in the picture which Zechariah draws of the last attempt which Jehovah makes to save the flock appointed to the slaughter (Zechariah 11:10-14).
“Until the time.”—Until that day, the subject of all prophecy, when the repentant people shall turn with true and loyal hosannas and blessings to greet “Him whom they have pierced” (Deuteronomy 4:30-31; Hosea 3:4-5; Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 14:8-11).
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Luke 13". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29