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Bible Commentaries
Luke 13

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Verses 1-3

Luke 13:1-3

The Judgments of God.

I. Our Lord does not say, Those Galileans were not sinners at all. Their sins had nothing to do with their death. Those on whom the tower fell were innocent men. He rather implies the very opposite. We know nothing of the circumstances of either calamity; but this we know that our Lord warned the rest of the Jews that unless they repented, that is, changed their minds, and therefore their conduct, they would all perish in the same way. And we know that that warning was fulfilled within forty years, so hideously and so awfully that the destruction of Jerusalem remains as one of the most terrible cases of wholesale ruin and horror recorded in history, and as, I believe, a key to many a calamity before and since.

II. But we may learn another lesson from the text. These Galileans, it seems, were no worse than the other Galileans; yet they were singled out as examples, as warnings, to the rest. Pestilences, conflagrations, accidents of any kind which destroy life wholesale, even earthquakes and storms, are instances of this law; warnings from God, judgments of God, in the very strictest sense; by which He tells men, in a voice awful enough to the few, but merciful and beneficent to the many, to be prudent and wise; to learn henceforth either not to interfere with the physical laws of His universe, or to master and wield them by reason and science.

III. The more we read, in histories, of the fall of great dynasties, or of the ruin of whole classes or whole nations, the more we feel however much we may acquiesce with the judgment as a whole sympathy with the fallen. It is not the worst, but often the best specimens of a class or of a system who are swallowed up by the moral earthquake which has been accumulating its force, perhaps, for centuries. May not the reason be that God has wished to condemn, not the persons, but their systems? that He has punished them, not for their private, but for their public faults? It is not the men who are judged it is the state of things which they represent; and for that very reason may not God have made an example, a warning, not of the worst, but of the very best specimens of a class or system which has been weighed in His balance and found wanting?

C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 252.

References: Luke 13:1-5 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 254; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 408; Homilist, new series, vol. iii., P. 150.

Verses 2-3

Luke 13:2-3

I. The folly and uncharitableness of mankind are in nothing more clearly seen than in their disposition to blame everyone who is unfortunate, and to think themselves surely in the right as long as they are prosperous. "While he lived," said the Psalmist of the worldly-minded, "he counted himself a happy man; and so long as thou doest well unto thyself men will speak good of thee." On the other hand, let one be smitten with disease or poverty, he shall never want some to ascribe his sufferings to the intemperance of his youth, to his extravagance, carelessness, or vicious indulgences while he had money, or to the judgments of God on his covetousness and want of generosity. And yet every day's experience proves, both in public and private life, that the wisest of us is deceived, and the best man disappointed in three out of four of his worldly hopes and expectations. The reason of this is, that the present life is a state of trial, and not of reward and punishment; and the use to be made of it is, that the afflicted learn patience, the prosperous godly fear, and all men charity and candour in judging of others.

II. Our Lord's words in the text are a warning addressed to the Jews as a nation, and awful beyond any human lesson, from the consideration that it was so soon and so terribly accomplished. Jerusalem would not know the things that belonged to her peace; she would not be gathered under the wings of her mighty and gracious Redeemer; therefore, not one only of her towers fell, but all her walls and towers, yea, even the Temple of the Lord was laid even with the ground, so that not one stone was left upon another; not a few Galileans only defiled her altars with their blood, but the whole multitude of her children were slain with the edge of the sword, or led captive into all nations an everlasting monument of God's anger against obstinacy and hardness of heart, and a sad lesson to such as judge their neighbours guilty because they suffer, that they also repent if they hope not to perish in like manner.

J. Keble, Sermons Occasional and Parochial, p. 75.

References: Luke 13:2-4 . S. A. Brooke, Sermons, p. 42.Luke 13:3 . R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 1st series, p. 79. Luke 13:5-10 . Homilist, new series, vol. ii., p. 146.

Verses 6-9

Luke 13:6-9

The Barren Fig Tree.

I. God has placed us in the most favourable circumstances for the bringing forth of fruit. The privileges of the Jews were small in comparison with those which we enjoy. The light which they enjoyed was that of the early dawn; ours is that of the noonday sun. They had the prophets; we have the Son of God.

II. God expects exceptional fruit from a tree on which He has bestowed such exceptional advantages. If we have so much more than other nations, we ought to be just so much better than they, for the fruit in this case is that of character. Righteousness, meekness, fidelity, in a word, moral excellence springing from our faith in Christ, and our devotion to Him, that is the fruit which God expects to find in us as the occupants of His vineyard.

III. God pronounces sentence of destruction on all who, having had such privileges, bring forth no fruit. The Church's life depends on the present members of the Church, and only through their fruitfulness can its permanence be insured. The same is true of individuals. When they cease to grow, they cease to live; and barrenness is at once the symptom of death and the reason why they die.

IV. This sentence pronounced on the barren fig tree is not at once carried into execution. The stroke of Divine justice is arrested for a season, and its arrest is due to the mediation of the great High Priest. But there is no indifference; and if the fruitless man repent not, the day of the Lord will come to him as a thief in the night, and he will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

W. M. Taylor, The Parables of Our Saviour, p. 276.

References: Luke 13:6 . R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 1st series, p. 52.Luke 13:6-9 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. vi., p. 289; Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 358; E. Blencowe, Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. i., p. 386; A. B. Bruce, The Parabolic Teaching of Christ, p. 927.

Verse 7

Luke 13:7

Fit to Live.

Men ask, "Are you fit to die?" and men hold up death before the sinner's eyes, and men dwell in solemn warning on the world to come, and on far-off images of death. But God asks, "Are you fit to live?" What, then, is life, if we have to answer the question, "Are we fit to live?" We must seek for the answer where we find the question. The Lord of life has taken a fruit tree in a garden as the best example of the nature of life, both here and in the one great judgment type, when He cursed the barren fig tree, and withered it root and branch, to be for ever the emblem of the lost nation.

I. Life is an internal growth; this is the first great truth. The outer world comes to it in forces of all kinds, and it receives them all, draws them into its being, subdues them to itself, lives by and through them, but makes no stir itself; neither moves nor utters sound, nor is violent, nor fills the world with the rush of impetuous strength. But planted by a Master's hand it stays there, drawing from common earth and common air a growth and a beauty new and unknown to them by its own transforming power; and so it goes on, never losing a moment, making all things serve it in turn, be it rain or frost or wind or sun. Rain and frost and wind and sun touch it each with a power of their own, be it in hate or love; but no sooner do they touch it than the life within seizes on the power, masters it, changes it, gives it a new nature, makes it part of a new life, and to take strange new forms of bud and leaf and flower and fruit. The moment the life does not master the forces which come, that moment it begins to lose its own vitality, and therefore silent mastery of an outward world is life.

II. The great question, "Are you fit to live?" takes this form: first, has all the digging and culture and money spent and time been honestly used? Has it ornamented you, and budded into a growth of leaves fair to look on? And, secondly, is there a ripeness of life coming of such a nature as to be food for the living, and a seed of life for fresh planting? Where is the ceaseless inward power that transmutes all that reaches it into luxuriant growths of new and pleasant services, the silent sustained mastery that, come good, come evil, takes it all, and changes it into crop after crop in due season of help for others, life by which others may live? Tried by this test, are you fit to live?

E. Thring, Church of England Pulpit, April 3rd, 1880.

References: Luke 13:7 , Luke 13:8 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 650; Ibid., vol. xxv., No. 1451.Luke 13:8 . J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 384; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 48.

Verse 9

Luke 13:9

The first thing which strikes us, perhaps, in this transaction is its individuality. There must have been many vines and many fig trees in the vineyard; but the story is told as if the whole vineyard were for that one tree alone, and as if the great Proprietor concerned Himself only with it. The inference is evident the whole Church spreads its provisions for you. As much as if you were the only member in that Church, the whole circuit of its ordinances is for you. Personally, distinctly, separately, God deals with you; He visits you; He examines you; He expects from you; He is grieved or He is pleased with you. It is all in the closest individuality. It is not, "Is this a fruitful Church?" but, "Are you a fruit-bearer in this Church?"

I. It is a very humbling recollection, those years of love and care, those years of unfaithfulness and emptiness which God all along has been counting. The true measure of the emptiness is the extent of the culture. Had the dressing not been what it is, the wonder would have been less. But when we think of all that hand has done all the cherishing and the watching and the pruning and the training, then we can estimate that dismal word, "None, none." "He sought fruit, and found none."

II. But here the question forces itself upon us, "What is fruit?" For I can hear some one saying, "I know that I have borne very little fruit, but I hope it is not none." What is fruit? What is it which is to a man what the figs are to the fig tree? I answer: (1) It would be something appropriate to his nature, accordant with his being "For men do not gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles." And what is the nature of the being of a man? Physical, intellectual, impassioned, spiritual. Such, then, must fruit be, real and tangible, visible and felt, reasonable, thoughtful, balanced, affectionate, earnest, spirit going forth to spirit, assimilating itself to God. (2) It must be fruit in its season. We do not expect man's fruit at child's age. (3) It is not fruit until it is for the Owner's sake. It is not fruit-growing in thought, word, or deed, for itself or for you; it is something for God, something thought, said, done, for the sake of God. (4) It must be in its nature sanctified, drawn from the Father, received through the Son, matured and mellowed by providences, full of love.

J. Vaughan, Sermons, 1868, p. 133.

Verses 10-17

Luke 13:10-17

The Impotent Woman.

I. This impotent woman may fairly be taken as a type of character to which we, or many of us, answer; and answer much more closely than, for example, to that of the prodigal son. For if we have inherited a soul naturally Christian, or have had a pious nurture and training, or if, under the mask of our insensibility or our indifference to religion, the grace of God has wrought on our hearts in secret and inscrutable ways, we probably have not broken into open rebellion or flagrant vice, and wasted our patrimony in riotous living. We much more nearly resemble this faithful daughter of faithful Abraham. For her misfortune was, not that she was a contented slave in willing submission to an evil power, but that she was held in a grievous bondage, insomuch that, try how she would, she could in nowise lift herself into straightness and health. Like her, despite all our efforts after truth and goodness, there is a spirit of infirmity in us, an incompetency to do the good we would; a subtle, mysterious malady whose origin is in the will a malady inscrutable to human eyes, immedicable by human art. There is but One who can make us straight. The Healer of the impotent woman can heal us. Only Christ, the strong Son of God, can redeem us from the weakness which mars our service; but He will do it if we let Him.

II. We may also learn why He often delays His help. God often delays to grant us the help we ask and need, that He may develop faith in us by trial, that He may let patience have her perfect work, that out of weakness we may be made strong by conflict and prayer and endeavour; and last and best of all, that, when we are thus prepared for His coming, He may bring us a good beyond our hopes, and bestow on us a blessing greater than we could once ask or receive.

III. Finally, we may learn, when we are exercised by these kind delays, where and when to look for the Divine appearing. We shall find Christ, as the impotent woman found Him, in the synagogue on the Sabbath; or, to translate the phrase into modern terms of speech, we shall find Him amid the sanctities of worship, when the soul has learned to rest in Him.

S. Cox, Sunday Magazine, 1886, p. 306.

References: Luke 13:10 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 111.Luke 13:10-13 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv., No. 1426. Luke 13:10-17 . A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 88; W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 144.Luke 13:11-13 . G. Macdonald, Miracles of Our Lord, p. 43; W. Walters, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 326. Luke 13:11-14 . T. Birkett Dover, The Ministry of Mercy, p. 136. Luke 13:18 , Luke 13:19 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., pp. 471, 472.Luke 13:20 , Luke 13:21 . Ibid., vol. ii., pp. 471, 479. Luke 13:23 . D. McLeod, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxi., p. 275; J. Burton, Sermons on Christian Life and Truth, p. 22; R. W. Church, Human Life and its Conditions, p. 97. Luke 13:23 , Luke 13:24 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 309; Ibid., vol. xxvi., p. 187; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 256; F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 369.

Verse 24

Luke 13:24

Eternal Life not to be Won without Toil.

I. Our Lord says, "Strive;" and He vouchsafes to add one reason why we should strive. A gate is appointed for us to enter into the gate which leads to our true home, the only place where we can be happy, and this gate is strait, i.e., very narrow. So strait, so narrow, is this gate and way, that it cannot be found for mere seeking. Many, many there are who know more or less of it, have a true notion where it is to be found, and really wish they had entered in and were moving along that way; but they have not the courage to take the true and only method of entering; they will not make themselves low, little, and humble; they will not stoop, so the lowly door keeps them out; they load themselves with earthly riches, cares, and pleasures, so that they and their burdens take up too much room to crowd in through the narrow gate; they will not be converted and become as little children, so they cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.

II. Men hold easily on, hardly seeking, not at all striving, until their path in life is run out, and they find themselves all on a sudden close to the other narrow gate, the very doorway of heaven itself, which is also called strait and narrow, because none may go through it who has not the mind of Christ, the lowly, meek, humble, self-denying mind, which He so earnestly invited, and charged all who would come to Him to learn of Him. But these have not learned it; and what is the consequence? When once the Master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, i.e., when the day of trial is over, and the night of judgment is come, and when the work of this world, according to the counsel of God, is ended, it will be as in orderly and strict households, when darkness and the hour of rest is come, and the family has retired, and the doors are made fast for the night; at such a time, if strangers, who have no claim to such a favour, much more of incorrigible servants who have forfeited their claim, come knocking and demanding admittance, the Master will say, "I know you not whence ye are." Who can describe the horror and despair which will come upon them in that moment, when they shall hear Him who is love saying to them, "Depart from Me"?

J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, part i., p. 128.

References: Luke 13:24 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 161; A. Scott, Ibid., vol. xiv., p. 97; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii., No. 475; J. H. Wilson, The Gospel and its Truths, p. 51; H. W. Beecher, Sermons. vol. i., p. 119. Luke 13:24-27 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 281, Luke 13:30 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 193.Luke 13:31-33 . Ibid., vol. xi., p. 213.Luke 13:31 , Luke 13:32 . D. Fraser, Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 202.Luke 13:32 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 97. Luke 13:34 . Ibid., p. 246; D. Fraser, Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 209. Luke 13:0 F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 204; Parker, Christian Commonwealth, vol. vi., p. 563.Luke 14:1 . Ibid., Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 241.Luke 14:1-4 . G. Macdonald, Miracles of Our Lord, p. 69. Luke 14:1-6 . W. Hanna, Our Lord's Life on Earth, p. 144; A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 68. Luke 14:1-11 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 351; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 155.Luke 14:1-35 . E. Johnson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 141.Luke 14:3 . R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 2nd series, p. 217. Luke 14:3-5 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 32.Luke 14:3-6 . Ibid., vol. xii., p. 183.Luke 14:7 . C. C. Bartholomew, Sermons Chiefly Practical, p. 195.Luke 14:7 , Luke 14:8 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 251.Luke 14:7-11 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 477; A. B. Bruce, The Parabolic Teaching of Christ, p. 309; C. Kingsley, National Sermons, p. 322; H. Goodwin, Church of England Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 13.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Luke 13". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/luke-13.html.
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