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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Luke 10

Verse 1

Luke 10:1. These things. The events related in the last chapter. This opposes the view that the mission of the Seventy preceded the rejection in the Samaritan village.

Other seventy, or, ‘seventy others,’ either in addition to the Twelve, or to the messengers spoken of in chap. Luke 9:52. The former is more probable from the similarity of the instruction given to both. The number seventy may have had reference to the elders of Israel (Exodus 24:1; Numbers 11:16), as the number twelve to the tribes. Some ancient authorities read ‘seventy-two’ both here and in Luke 10:17. Probably from a desire to conform the number to that of the Jewish Sanhedrin.

Two and two before his face, etc. The chief purpose was not to train them, as in the case of the Twelve, but actually to prepare the people in these places for His coming. The whole was a final appeal, and also a preparation for the final entry into Jerusalem. That our Lord should follow and actually visit thirty-five places is not remarkable, in view of His great and constant activity.

Verses 1-24

THE MISSION OF THE SEVENTY. Peculiar to Luke. The labors of this large body of disciples were brief, their mission temporary. The incident has no bearing upon questions of ecclesiastical position. Our Lord certainly had enough followers to admit of this appointment Luke mentions both the sending out of the twelve and of the Seventy; the fact that the instructions are much the same grows out of the similarity of the errand. But the discourse here recorded relates to present duties alone, while that (in Matthew 10:0) addressed to the Twelve has in view a permanent office, etc. This temporary character of their duty will account for our not hearing of them again. Tradition and conjecture have been busy in suggesting different persons included in their number (such as Luke himself, Mark, Matthias, etc.).

THE TIME AND PLACE of this mission. ( 1 .) Robinson places it before the journey to Jerusalem (chap. Luke 9:5) and in Galilee. But Luke 10:1 naturally points to a period after starting to Jerusalem, and intimates that our Lord was making an extended journey at this time. Now the accounts of Matthew and Mark indicate that He had encountered such opposition in Galilee as to hinder such extended preaching (Matthew 16:1; Mark 9:30) This view places the return of the Seventy after the Feast of Tabernacles near Jerusalem, admitting that their journey, which began in Galilee, ended in Judea. But they were scarcely absent so long a time. The woes on the Galilean cities (Luke 10:15) do not prove that the discourse was uttered near them, but rather that our Lord had already taken His final departure from them. ( 2 ) Lange thinks, that the mission took place after the rejection in Samaria, but was directed to Samaria alone; that our Lord Himself did not enter further into that country. But the Seventy were sent before Him. Besides had the mission been exclusively to Samaria, Luke, the friend and companion of the Apostle to the Gentiles, would probably have mentioned it. ( 3 ) Others (Van Oosterzee, etc.) think, our Lord returned again to Galilee after the Feast of Tabernacles, and that this mission occurred then and there. But of such return we have no evidence, and chap. Luke 9:51 looks like a final departure; besides, as remarked above, Galilee was not now a promising field for such labor. ( 4 ) We therefore conclude: that this sending out occurred on the journey toward Jerusalem; that this journey was not direct, but led through part of Samaria, possibly through part of Perea, and certainly through part of Judea; that the Seventy went in advance along this route, returning after a short interval. It is indeed doubtful whether this occurred before or after the visit to Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:1-14), but in all probability before: our Lord leaving His followers to make that sudden visit.

Verses 1-42

THIS division of the Gospel of Luke, embracing nearly one third of the whole, contains for the most part matter peculiar to this Evangelist. A number of the incidents probably belong to an earlier period of the history. A few of these are mentioned by Matthew and Mark, though the greater number even of these are peculiar to this account. But the larger portion of this division belongs to that part of our Lord’s life passed aver in silence by Matthew and Mark. John indeed tells us of much that occurred during this period, but he does not give a parallel account. Many theories have been suggested; our view is as follows: This division treats in the main of that part of the life of our Lord on earth, between the close of His ministry in Galilee and the last journey from Perea (beyond Jordan) to Jerusalem; covering a period of nearly six months. The reasons for this opinion are: that chap. Luke 9:51 can only refer to the final departure from Galilee (Matthew 19:1; Mark 10:1), and this departure seems to have been shortly before the sudden appearance of our Lord in Jerusalem at the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:14); it is indeed possible that our Lord returned to Galilee after this visit, but of this there is no positive evidence. On the other hand, the blessing of the little children (chap. Luke 18:15), where the parallel with Matthew and Mark is renewed, undoubtedly took place just before the last solemn journey from Perea to Jerusalem and to death. From John’s account we learn that during this period our Lord appeared again in Jerusalem. In fact, that Gospel alone tells us of His journeyings to avoid the hostility of the Jews. Neither Matthew nor Mark implies that the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, alluded to in chap. Luke 9:51, was a direct one, while both state that such a journey was undertaken about this time.

All who love the lessons of our Lord should rejoice that we have in this Gospel so much that is not only peculiar but important. The parables of this division are especially interesting, because uttered at a time when both the hostility of the Jews and the training of the disciples called for Truth more distinctively Christian. As in one sense the journey to death begins with this division, so do we here approach more closely the central truths of the gospel which centres in that death. The special questions of chronology will be discussed under the separate sections; but certainty on these points is impossible.

THE journey to Jerusalem spoken of in Luke 9:51 was probably that to the feast of Tabernacles; but in a wider sense, it was the final departure from Galilee to death at Jerusalem, since from this time on our Lord was rejected and persecuted openly by the Jews. The direct route was through Samaria, and on the way the incident of Luke 9:52-56 occurred. Some indeed suppose that our Lord, after this rebuff, did not pass through Samaria but skirted the borders between it and Perea (see Matthew 19:1-12); of this, however, there is no positive evidence. The main question is regarding the exact chronological position of the incident of Luke 9:57-62; which Matthew (Matthew 8:18-22) places just before the departure to Gadara. In favor of the order of Luke is the greater fulness of his account; in favor of that of Matthew, his mention of one who was a ‘scribe.’ Such language from a ‘scribe’ was more probable at the earlier point. The theory that such an incident occurred twice is highly improbable. There was no reason why Matthew should insert it out of its place; but it is so appropriate here, where our Lord’s final departure from Galilee is spoken of, that Luke probably placed it here for that reason. The whole section brings before us the four leading human temperaments: the choleric, sanguine, melancholic, and phlegmatic. Our Lord Himself had no temperament, but was the perfect man. On the question whether the sending out of the Seventy preceded this departure from Galilee, see next section.

Verse 2

Luke 10:2. See on Matthew 9:37, where the same thought precedes the sending out of the Twelve.

Send forth. Literally ‘cast forth,’ implying urgency.

Verse 3

Luke 10:3. Go your ways. This, too, implies urgency. The Seventy are not forbidden to go to the Gentiles and Samaritans (Matthew 10:5). Possibly they did visit the latter; and besides their route was made known to them in advance, which was not the case when the Twelve were sent out.

Verse 4

Luke 10:4. Salute no man by the way. Peculiar to this discourse. It simply expresses the urgency of their errand, since such salutations in the East would involve great loss of time.

Verse 5

Luke 10:5. The previous inquiry (Matthew 10:11), is not mentioned here.

Verse 6

Luke 10:6. A son of peace, i.e., one ‘worthy,’ one whose heart was ready to receive the message of peace they brought.

Upon him, or, ‘it,’ as in E. V. The original may refer either to the man or the house, the former is the more natural sense.

Verse 7

Luke 10:7. In that house, i.e., in the house where they had been received.

Such things as they give. Lit. ‘the things from them,’ sharing what they have. There is not the slightest reference to eating heathen dishes (as in 1 Corinthians 10:27), for they were not sent among the heathen.

Go not from house to house, i.e., in search of ease and better entertainment, or for gossip’s sake.

Verse 9

Luke 10:9. Heal the sick. A less extended commission than that of Matthew 10:8.

The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. This indicates a later message than Matthew 10:7.

Verses 10-11

Luke 10:10-11. In case of rejection, the Seventy were bidden, even more distinctly than the Twelve (Matthew 10:14), to renounce by symbolical act, all intercourse and responsibility.

But know this, despite your rejection, the kingdom of God is come nigh. This word of love (Luke 10:9) becomes now a word of warning and of future judgment. How often men thus transform God’s blessings into a curse for themselves!

Luke 10:12. See on Matthew 10:15.

Verses 13-15

Luke 10:13-15. See Matthew 11:21-23. The connection here is different. It is highly probable that our Lord uttered such words twice. In this case these towns furnished an example of the rejection spoken of in Luke 10:10-11. This was His solemn farewell of these favored places, and the connection implies that they had already rejected Him and been forsaken by Him. The accompanying cut shows the utter desolation at the probable site of Capernaum. Even the locality is disputed. The view that these awful woes were uttered at a distance from the places themselves, furnishes new proof how heavily this judgment lay on the heart of Jesus.

Verse 16

Luke 10:16. See on Matthew 10:40. Here the connection of thought is: woes on the Galilean cities which had rejected our Lord, would fall on those also that would reject the Seventy. The verse states a principle of general validity, and forms a solemn conclusion.

Verse 17

Luke 10:17. THE RETURN OF THE SEVENTY. Returned with joy. They were probably not absent long. It is unlikely, though not impossible, that they all returned at the same time and place, unless a time and place of rendezvous had been previously appointed. The Evangelist gives a summary account. How much of permanent good they accomplished we are not told, but in labors of healing they must have had great success; hence their ‘joy,’ and their language: Even the demons are subject to us in thy name. This power had not been expressly given to them, as to the Twelve (chap. Luke 9:1), and they rejoice that their success exceeded the promise. Other successes are only implied; this point is brought prominently forward by the Evangelist.

Verse 18

Luke 10:18. I was beholding, i.e. , while you were thus exercising power over demons. Of course the vision was a spiritual one.

Satan, the personal prince of darkness.

Fall as lightning, i.e., suddenly.

From heaven. This seems to be figurative, implying the pride and height of Satan’s power. The thought is, I saw your triumph over Satan’s servants, and in this a token of his fall, of complete victory to be finally achieved through such works of faith and courage in my name. If the verse did not stand in this connection we might perhaps refer it to some remote point of time, such as the victory over Satan in the wilderness, or the original fall of Satan. The tense used in the Greek does not, however, indicate any such point of time, but a period. Every explanation must accept much that is figurative and poetic in the verse, but the one we adopt is open to the fewest difficulties. The objection that the success of the Seventy was an insufficient ground for such declaration depreciates their success. They had surpassed, through their courage and faith, the promised power. He, to whom the secrets of the world of spirits lie open, saw in this more than a temporary success; it was to Him the token of final triumph. The human agents in bringing in that triumph, have a conflict which is not with flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).

Verse 19

Luke 10:19. I have given. The correct reading expresses an abiding fact. The Lord augments by a new promise the joy He has just confirmed.

Authority, delegated power here.

To tread on serpents and scorpions. The promise is doubtless literal, so far as necessary to manifest higher spiritual power. In view of the connection we must accept an allusion to Genesis 3:15: ‘bruise the head of the serpent,’ and perhaps to Psalms 91:13 also.

Over all the power of the enemy, i.e., Satan. What precedes also, as the original indicates, belongs to ‘the power of the enemy.’

In any wise injure you, though apparent hurt may come.

Verse 20

Luke 10:20. Rejoice not in this. This is an absolute prohibition of rejoicing solely in the power spoken of. The power is great, and joy in such delegated power is dangerous, may be joined with pride and self-seeking. Besides the power over evil is a negative blessing, and does not furnish so proper a ground of joy as the positive blessings of God’s infinite mercy and goodness.

But rejoice. Here there is no such danger.

That your names are written in heaven. The figure is not uncommon in the Scriptures (Exodus 32:32-33; Malachi 3:16; Revelation 3:5, etc.). The common reading points to a single past act: ‘were written;’ but the better established one refers to the continued place which these names have in the book of life: ‘have been and are written.’ God’s spiritual blessing is personal and permanent. The ground of the commanded joy is not our power, delegated as it is, but God’s mercy and love in Christ He will rejoice most, and most properly, who finds the sole ground there.

Verse 21

Luke 10:21. In that hour. This definite mark of time joins this utterance of our Lord (Luke 10:21-22) with the return of the Seventy.

Joyed. A strong word, applied to our Lord only here. The one hour of joy was in sympathy with His faithful preachers.

In the Holy Spirit. This is the sense, according to the best authorities. The expression is indeed unusual. We have here a remarkable grouping of the Three Persons of the Trinity.

I thank thee, etc. See on Matthew 11:25-27, where the same expressions occur in a different connection. Our Lord probably uttered these weighty words on both occasions. In Matthew, moreover, they form a confession, here a ground of rejoicing in connection with the triumph of the ‘babes.’ The language reminds us of the profound passages in the Gospel of John. The important truth respecting our Lord’s relation to the Father, here set forth, underlies all the Gospels.

These things. In this connection all that is implied in the phrase: ‘that your names are written in heaven.’

Verse 22

Luke 10:22. Some older manuscripts and versions insert: ‘And turning to the disciples He said’ This would give what follows the character of a direct address. In Luke 10:23 the same form occurs, but ‘privately’ is added. The statements of Luke 10:21-22, very appropriate in their connection with the successful preaching of the Seventy. In this success our Lord rejoiced, for in it He saw the future glory of God to be manifested in the revelation of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven to those of childlike spirit. ‘The future conquest of the world by Jesus and His disciples rests on the relation which He sustains to God, and with which He identifies His people. The perfect knowledge of God is, in the end, the sceptre of the universe.’ (Godet.)

Verse 23

Luke 10:23. Privately. Observe ‘here the gradual narrowing of the circle to which our Lord addresses Himself’ (Alford). See notes on the similar saying in Matthew 13:16-17. The occasion and connection are different there, but just such a beatitude would be likely to be repeated at important points in the training of the disciples.

Luke 10:24. And kings. Peculiar to Luke. Such persons as David, Solomon, and Hezekiah, some of whom were both prophets and kings. Comp. Genesis 49:18, and the last words of David, a royal prophecy of Christ, 2 Samuel 23:1-5, especially the close: ‘For this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although He make it not to grow.’ The blessing was not in what the disciples obtained, but in what they saw. The true knowledge of God the Father, and of Jesus Christ His Son, was the pledge of all other blessings.

Verse 25

Luke 10:25. A certain lawyer. A kind of scribe whose business it was to teach the law.

And tempted, or, ‘trying,’ him. This implies a cold, self-righteous spirit, rather than a hostile one. He probably wished to see whether our Lord would teach anything in conflict with the law of Moses, or simply whether He could teach him anything new. The two states of mind are not very far removed from each other: Pharisaism, in its self-righteousness, may present either a conceit of orthodoxy or self-conceit.

Matter, what shall I do? He doubtless expected in reply the mention of some new thing, or at least some great thing.

Verses 25-37

THIS incident, peculiar to Luke, must be distinguished from a later one, mentioned by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, namely, that of the rich young ruler whom Jesus loved. A similar question was put in that case, receiving at first a similar answer. But otherwise the occurrences differ, especially in the second question put to our Lord and in His reply. It is impossible to suppose that Luke gives two different accounts of the same occurrence (comp. chap. Luke 18:18-23). The fact that the same question was put on two different occasions by two different persons, eliciting in each case the same reply, shows that in cases where two Evangelists narrate similar occurrences or sayings in different connections, both may be strictly accurate (see instances in the last section). The time and place of this incident are uncertain; but it probably occurred not long after the mission of the Seventy, between the Feast of Tabernacles and that of the Dedication, somewhere between Jerusalem and Perea.

Verse 26

Luke 10:26. In the law. These words are emphatic; as if our Lord would say, the answer to your question is in the law you teach.

How readest thou? This form was used by the Rabbins to call out a quotation from Scripture. ‘How’ means ‘to what purport.’

Verse 27

Luke 10:27. This answer of the lawyer showed intelligence; he gives the sum of the whole law. But his knowledge of the-law exceeded his self-knowledge. In fact he shows, by adding from Leviticus 19:18: and thy neighbor as thyself, that he had some conception of our Lord’s teachings. For in addition to Deuteronomy 6:5, which he quotes first, the Jews had written upon the phylacteries and recited night and morning, not this passage, but Deuteronomy 11:13, etc. Hence it is incorrect to suppose that our Lord pointed to the man’s phylactery, when He said: ‘How readest thou.’

Verse 28

Luke 10:28. This do and thou shalt live. True in all cases: any one who can and does love God and his neighbor thus, has already begun to live, has an earnest of eternal life. The parable which follows is but an explanation of how much is meant by ‘this.’ But the next verse shows that the lawyer understood our Lord to imply that he had not thus done. As the failure is universal, the all-important question is, Who will enable us to do this? This question is not answered by the parable which follows. Like the Sermon on the Mount, it is an exposition of the law and a preparation for the gospel, but not the gospel itself. In John 6:29, our Lord answers a similar question by speaking of faith, but this lawyer was not prepared for that. He must be first taught his failure by an explanation of the requirements of the law.

Verse 29

Luke 10:29. But he, wishing to justify himself, to declare himself righteous, over against the implied charge. He would defend himself by claiming that he had fulfilled the command in the sense which the Jews attached to the term ‘neighbor’ a very narrow one, excluding Samaritans and Gentiles.

Who is my neighbor? This implies: ‘I have fulfilled the requirement according to our view of the meaning, do you interpret it differently?’ The question did not involve direct hostility, but a half-awakened conscience and some willingness to be instructed, though a self-righteous desire ‘to get out of the difficulty’ was the leading motive. Some think that he intended to ask this question from the first, and that ‘wishing to justify himself’ means to justify his putting a question which had received so simple an answer: as if he would say: my question is not yet answered, the main point is, ‘who is my neighbor.’ But this supposes too much.

Verse 30

Luke 10:30. Making reply. Lit, ‘taking up,’ i.e., making his question the basis of an extended reply.

A certain man. A Jew is meant; but this is not made prominent, since the main lesson of the parable is not love to enemies, but love to man as such, humanity, philanthropy.

Was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. The journey was literally ‘down,’ but it was usual to speak of ‘going up’ to Jerusalem, the capital city. The distance was about one hundred and fifty Roman stadia, or seventeen English miles. The incidents of the story are all probable, as is usual in our Lord’s parables. The place where the parable was uttered may have been quite near the region between Jerusalem and Jericho. Certainly it was not in Galilee or Samaria, but in Judea or Perea and the latter bordered on Jericho.

Fell among robbers, not ‘thieves,’ but highway robbers, who were numerous in that vicinity. The road lay through a wilderness. According to Jerome, it was called the red or bloody way, and in his time a Roman fort and garrison were needed there, for the protection of travellers. This man is represented as being literally surrounded by such robbers, who both stripped him, i.e., of everything he had, and beat him, probably in consequence of his resistance.

Leaving him half dead. Without concern as to his condition, which is placed last to show his need of speedy help.

Verse 31

Luke 10:31. By chance. In the language of common life. As a fact, most opportunities of doing good come as it were ‘by chance,’ though providentially ordered of God.

A certain priest was going, etc. The naturalness of the parable is remarkable. Jericho was a priestly city, and the priests would go to and from Jerusalem to perform their duties in the order of their courses. The case is more pointed, if this one is regarded as coming from priestly duty in the house of God.

He passed by on the other side. Did not even stop to examine the man’s condition. In the priest’s case, pride seems prominent. In thus acting he disobeyed the spirit, though not the letter of the Mosaic law (Exodus 23:4-5; Deuteronomy 22:1-4; Isaiah 58:7).

Verse 32

Luke 10:32. In like manner a Levite also. An inferior minister of the law, engaged in the service of the temple.

Came to the place, etc. The nearest English equivalent for both the Levite’s office and conduct would probably be found in the word ‘beadle.’

Verse 33

Luke 10:33. A certain Samaritan. The choice of a Samaritan to represent this character shows that the wounded man was a Jew, but this is a secondary thought. The Samaritans were Gentiles by extraction, but with the Pentateuch in their possession.

He was moved with compassion. From this feeling all the subsequent actions flow. The first step in becoming ‘good Samaritans,’ is to obtain this feeling. But law, good resolutions, beautiful moral examples, and the whole array of human contrivances fail to create it. It is learned from Christ. ‘Mark the beautiful climax. First the compassionate heart, then the helping hand, next the ready foot, finally the true-hearted charge.’ Van Oosterzee.

Verse 34

Luke 10:34. Pouring on them oil and wine. The usual remedies for wounds in the East.

On his own beast. So that he walked himself. True philanthropy involves self-sacrifice.

An inn. Evidently an inn, in our sense of the word, and not a caravanserai.

Verse 35

Luke 10:35. He took out. Vivid narration.

Two pence. Roman denarii. The value of the ‘denarius’ has been variously estimated, from seven and a half to eight and a half pence English (fifteen to seventeen cents). The sum was sufficient to meet the man’s necessities for some days at least

I. This is emphatic.

When I come back again. It has been inferred from this that the Samaritan was a travelling merchant, who would soon return.

Verse 36

Luke 10:36. Which became neighbor to him that fell among the robbers? The original implies a permanent condition; the result of what had been done. Our Lord takes the matter out of the reach of previous circumstances of nationality and religion, and compels a reply on the ground of what had been done. Further, the lawyer had asked ‘Who is my neighbor,’ i.e., whom I should love. A direct counter-question would have been: Whom did the Samaritan regard as his neighbor? But our Lord inverts the question, because the relation of ‘neighbor’ is a mutual one, and also, because He wished to hold up the active duty of the despised Samaritan.

Verse 37

Luke 10:37. He that shewed mercy on him. The conclusion is irresistible, but the lawyer does not call him ‘the Samaritan.’

Go, and do thou likewise. The lawyer was taught how one really becomes the neighbor of another, namely, by active love, irrespective of nationality or religion. His question, ‘who is my neighbor,’ was answered: He to whom you ought thus to show mercy in order to become his neighbor, is your neighbor. The question is answered once for all. All are our neighbors, when we have thus learned what we owe to man as men.

The main lesson of the parable is one of philanthropy manifesting itself in humane, self-sacrificing acts, to all in need, irrespective of all other human distinctions. All through the Christian centuries, this lesson has been becoming more and more prominent; but has never of itself made men philanthropic. He who taught the lesson can and does give strength to put it into practice. In the highest sense our Lord alone has perfectly set forth the character of the Good Samaritan. The best example of what we call ‘humanity’ must necessarily be found in ‘the Son of man.’ The love of Christ is both the type and the source of this love to our neighbor. This truth has led to an allegorical interpretation of the parable. This interpretation, which has been a favorite from the early centuries, is suggestive and in accordance with revealed truth, though probably not the truth our Lord reveals here. According to this view, the traveller represents the race of Adam going from the heavenly city (Jerusalem) to the accursed one (Jericho; Joshua 6:26); the robbers, Satan and his agents; the state of the traveller, our lost and helpless condition by nature, ‘half-dead’ (being sometimes urged against the doctrine of human inability); the priest and Levite, the in efficacy of the law and sacrifice to help us; the Good Samaritan, our Lord, to whom the Jews had just said (John 8:48): ‘Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil;’ the charge to the inn-keeper, the charge to His ministers, the promised return, the Second Advent. Some go further and make the inn represent the Church; the two denarii, the two sacraments, etc. Such analogies are not interpretations. Finally, this parable refers to love of man as man, not Christian love of the brethren. A zeal for the latter, which overlooks the former, becomes Pharisaical. The parable, moreover, represents the humanity as exercised by one in actual doctrinal error, and the inhumanity by those who were nearer the truth, orthodox Jews. Our Lord could not mean to show how good deeds resulted from holding error and bad deeds from holding the truth; though such an inference is frequently forced on the passage. The Samaritan is brought in, not because of his theological views, but because he belonged to a race despised and hated by the Jews, so as to give point to a lesson meant for a Jew. At the same time our Lord does show us that one in speculative error may be practically philanthropic, and those holding proper religious theories may be really inhuman. The former is certainly the better man.

Verse 38

Luke 10:38. As they journeyed. During the great journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, spoken of in this part of the Gospel.

A certain village. Luke does not say Bethany. The name is Tar more familiar to us than it would have been to Theophilus.

Martha. The name means ‘lady,’ answering to the Greek word used in 2 John 1:5.

Into her house. She was probably the elder sister, and hence the hostess. There is no proof that she was a widow, or the wife of Simon the leper (see Matthew 26:6). In this first mention of her, as receiving our Lord, doubtless with great joy, we have an intimation of her character.

Verses 38-42

CIRCUMSTANCES. There can be little doubt that the persons here spoken of were the sisters of Lazarus, that the place was Bethany, and the time near the feast of Dedication. The two persons have not only the same names but the same characters, as the two sisters described in John 11:12. It is no objection that so well known a person as Lazarus is not mentioned. Against placing the incident at Bethany, it has been urged that Luke represents it as taking place on a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, and before Jericho was reached (chap, Luke 18:35). But from John’s Gospel, which tells us that these sisters lived in Bethany (John 11:1), we also learn that about this time our Lord visited Jerusalem (at the feast of Dedication). Bethany was near to Jerusalem (about an hour’s walk), and a frequent place of resort far our Lord; doubtless this family often received Him there.

Verse 39

Luke 10:39. Mary. The woman, whose subsequent act of love was promised a memory as wide as the spread of the gospel (Matthew 26:13).

Sat down at the Lord’s feet. Not as He reclined at table, for the meal was not yet ready, but as a willing disciple.

Verse 40

Luke 10:40. But Martha was harassed about ranch serving. This was an honored guest, and Martha did what most women of her character do in such circumstances, bustled to prepare an entertainment, overdoing the matter, no doubt. The application of this incident to spiritual things, made afterwards by our Lord, involves no figure. Bustling people are bustling in religion just as they are in the kitchen or work-shop.

Came to him. Probably from another room, since Luke uses a word which implies sudden appearance.

Lord, dost thou not care. She takes it for granted that as soon as the case is stated, the Lord will send Mary to help her. Busy, restless Christians are constantly thinking that the Lord approves their conduct more than that of the quieter class: they are perfectly conscientious in disturbing those who sit as pupils at the Lord’s feet

Left me to serve alone. This suggests that Mary had been helping her sister, out felt that she could use the time more profitably.

Verse 41

Luke 10:41. Martha, Martha. The repetition indicates reproof, but the tone is still one of affection.

Thou art anxious and troubled. The first word refers more to internal anxiety, the second to the external bustle; both together describe the habit of such a character.

About many things. This may have been suggested by Martha’s wish to present a variety on her table; our Lord hinting that a simpler preparation was all that was needful. But this is not the meaning of the passage, which, as the next verse shows, refers to spiritual things. Yet the bustling about the many things in the kitchen was but a sign of the bustling about many things in her religious life.

Verse 42

Luke 10:42. But there is need of one thing. A few authorities omit: ‘and troubled about many things’ and this clause also; a number of others read here: ‘of few things, or of one.’ We vary the order from that of the E. V., since ‘but one thing,’ etc., is usually wrongly taken to mean: ‘ only one thing.’ The contrast with the preceding verse shows that this clause means: one thing is needful as the proper object of the anxiety and carefulness which we may manifest in receiving the Lord. A reference to one dish is trivial.

For Mary hath chosen the good part, etc. Mary’s choice proved what the ‘one thing’ was, and that anxiety about the ‘many’ others was unnecessary. ‘The good part’ chosen by her, in receiving the Saviour, was: undivided devotion to His word, the feeding on the bread of life by faith, which cometh by hearing. In the highest sense, the good part is the spiritual reception of Christ Himself, in contrast with all bustling works, excited defences of the truth, and over zealousness for what is external in any and every form.

Which, ‘of such a kind as.’

Shall not be taken away. The possession of this ‘part’ is eternal. Both of these women loved the Saviour; Martha is not the type of a worldly woman, nor is the ‘one thing’ conversion. They represent two classes of Christians, which have always been found in the Church. But our Lord’s judgment in regard to the two classes is often reversed. The two mistakes are: (1) Slighting proper Christian work, under the thought of sitting at Jesus’ feet. But doing good is sitting at His feet. He rebukes only the overdoing of what is good at the expense of what is better. Mary, in her love, made no such mistake. For when the crisis drew near, it was of her that the Lord said: ‘She hath wrought a good work upon me’ (Matthew 26:10). (2) A more common mistake is that of supposing that those of quieter, more contemplative temper, are not doing their duty, are casting reproach on their Christian character, because they do not bustle through the many prevalent methods of church activity. This is Martha’s mistake (Luke 10:40). Bustling philanthropy should note that this story follows the parable of the good Samaritan.

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Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Luke 10". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.