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Bible Commentaries
Luke 13

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

Luke 13:1. At that very season. Probably, but not necessarily, at that very time.

Some that told him. Apparently they spoke, because exasperated by the intelligence, not in consequence of the preceding discourse.

The Galileans. Luke speaks of the matter as well-known, but we have no other information about it. Such slaughters were too frequent to call for particular notice from historians. The Galileans were riotous, and the occasion was undoubtedly some feast at Jerusalem.

Whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices. His soldiers probably fell on them and slew them while engaged in the temple-sacrifices. The victims were subjects of Herod, and it has been conjectured that this was the occasion of the enmity which existed between Pilate and Herod (chap. Luke 23:12). Those who told of the massacre thought that death under such circumstances was peculiarly terrible; and from this they inferred that these Galileans had been great sinners.

Verses 1-9

TIME. We have no further information as to the time of the massacre mentioned in Luke 13:1, tidings of which seem to have just arrived. Views: 1. The time was immediately after the discourse of chap. 12, and the place, Galilee, since Luke 13:3 seems to point out those addressed as Galileans. (So Robinson and others.) 2. It occurred during the last visit to Perea, and should be joined with what follows. In that case we have an unbroken chronological order in this Gospel from this point (chap. Luke 17:11-19 excepted). In favor of (2.) it is urged that the phrase ‘these three years’ (Luke 13:7) points to a time near the close of our Lord’s ministry. It is impossible to decide the question with much confidence.

Verses 1-35

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 13:2. Suppose ye? Our Lord perceives their reasoning, and first corrects the mistake they made, adding an appropriate warning.

Were sinners. Our Lord does not deny that they were sinners; but only that their fate proved them to be especially great sinners. Job’s friends made the same mistake. The verse directly opposes the very common habit of calling every calamity that befalls another a ‘judgment.’ Such a verdict has the air of piety, but it is generally the result of uncharitableness. The next verse shows that our Lord so regarded it.

Verse 3

Luke 13:3. Unless ye repent. It does not follow that those addressed were Galileans. If John 11:47-54 refers to a time preceding this incident, then this intelligence may have been brought to our Lord to warn Him against the danger awaiting Him and His disciples at Jerusalem. He warns His hearers of their danger. He corrects their mistake in Luke 13:2, but here bases His warning upon the truth which lay back of it, namely, that sin is often punished in this world. Hence each should repent of his own sins, rather than be over-anxious to interpret calamities, as judgments upon others for their sins.

Ye shall all in like manner perish, i.e., by the Roman sword. At the destruction of Jerusalem, it was the temple especially that ran with blood.

Verse 4

Luke 13:4. Those eighteen. An allusion to an occurrence then well known, but about which we have no further information.

The tower in Siloam. Probably a tower of the city wall near the pool of Siloam, or in that district, which may have been called by the name of the pool (see on John 9:7). The village named ‘Silwan’ occupies the site of the ancient suburb where the valley of Tyropoeon opens into that of the Kidron.

Offenders, literally ‘debtors’ (not the same word as in Luke 13:2) as in the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:12); there is no reason for supposing that they were actual debtors imprisoned in the tower. This accident (as it is supposed to have been) is classed by our Lord with the slaughter by Pilate. All such events are under God’s control. He is just in permitting them, but we are unjust in drawing uncharitable inferences from them.

Verse 5

Luke 13:5. All likewise perish. The threatened destruction came upon ‘all,’ since during the siege the city was full of people from the provinces; multitudes perished in the ruin and rubbish of the city and its falling walls.

Verse 6

Luke 13:6. A fig tree planted in his vineyard. This was not unusual, nor contrary to Deuteronomy 22:9.

Verses 6-9

Luke 13:6-9. THE PARABLE OF THE BARREN FIG TREE. Peculiar to Luke. Two interpretations are given below. The connection is obvious: This judgment will speedily come, for God has been long patient, is still patient, but the last respite has come.

Verse 7

Luke 13:7. Vine-dresser. The cultivator of the vineyard.

These three years. The planted tree would ordinarily bear within three years. Whatever be the special interpretation, this period indicates that fruit is not demanded too soon. ‘Three years are the time of a full trial, at the end of which the inference of incurable sterility may be drawn.’ (Godet) Some refer this to the three years of our Lord’s ministry, now so nearly ended. But the time is uncertain (see above).

Why also, besides bearing no fruit, cumbereth it the ground? Why is it allowed to impoverish the soil, and interfere with the other products of the vineyard. Barrenness curses others also.

Verse 8

Luke 13:8. This year also. A brief respite is asked for, and whatever intercessor may be here represented, there is never any certainty of more than a brief one.

Dig about it, and dung it. The digging was for the purpose of casting in the manure near the roots. Take additional pains with it, using the means adapted to further fruitfulness. A more special interpretation is not necessary. It is always true that the intercessor is also the laborer.

Verse 9

Luke 13:9. And if it bear fruit after that, well. ‘After that,’ or ‘hereafter,’ belongs to this part of the verse. This indefinite phrase in the request hints at still further patience. ‘Well’ is properly supplied. ‘If,’ here suggests that the vine dresser expected this supposition to prove correct.

If not, thou shalt out it down. ‘Then’ is not to be supplied: the vine dresser does not set the time when the tree shall be removed, but leaves it to the owner of the vineyard. Even here there is a tone of hope and affection, which is often overlooked. The usual interpretation of the parable is as follows: The owner of the vineyard is God the Father; the vine dresser, our Lord, who labors and intercedes; the fig tree, the Jewish nation drawing near to destruction through its unfruitfulness, and the vineyard, the world. God had been seeking results during the years of our Lord’s labor, and none are found; He, the great Intercessor, pleads for a brief delay. The additional means used suggest the Atoning death and the gift of the Holy Spirit. But He leaves it to His Father’s will to execute the sentence, should all prove in vain. Another interpretation, starting with the thought that individual repentance had just been enjoined (Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5), finds in the fig tree a reference to the individual man. The vineyard then represents the Gospel dispensation, and the owner is Christ, who during His three years ministry has been seeking fruit. (Notice those addressed were still impenitent.) The vine dresser is the Holy Spirit, who wrought through the prophets and afterwards more powerfully through the Apostles. The additional care is then mainly the Pentecostal blessing. The Holy Spirit is Doth Laborer and Intercessor as respects the individual heart. This view is thought by many to accord better with the delicate shading of thought in Luke 13:9, and to afford the best basis for a continued application of the parable.

Verse 10

Luke 13:10. In one of the synagogues. In Perea, as we suppose.

On the sabbath day. This is the main point, whenever and wherever the incident occurred.

Verses 10-21

TIME. It is generally agreed that this incident belongs to the later period of our Lord’s ministry, about the time of His visit to Perea (Matthew 19:1-2; Mark 10:1). The reasons for this are (1.) that Luke 13:22 tells of a journey to Jerusalem, which must be identified with the last one; (2.) that the language of the ruler of the synagogue points to a time when the opposition to our Lord was open and pronounced; (3.) that the incident cannot be appropriately placed anywhere else. The parables (Luke 13:18-21), which are found in the great parabolic discourse (Matthew 13:0), were repeated on this occasion. Any other view involves great difficulties. Such repetitions might be expected from the wisest of teachers.

Verse 11

Luke 13:11. A spirit of infirmity eighteen years. This suggests a form of demoniacal possession; and Luke 13:16 shows that Satanic influence was present in her case. Our Lord, however, did not heal demoniacs by laying on of hands, but by a word of command. Yet in this case He both speaks (Luke 13:12) and lays hands upon her (Luke 13:13). The effect of her disease was that she was bowed together; her muscular power was so deficient, that she could in no wise lift herself up. She had some power, but it was insufficient to allow her to straighten herself up. This view represents the woman, not as remaining passively bowed, but ever attempting and failing to stand straight.

Verse 12

Luke 13:12. Saw her. There is no evidence, that she asked for a cure. The action of our Lord and the language of the ruler of the synagogue, indicate that she hoped for one.

Thou art loosed from thine infirmity. Her muscles were released from the influence which bound them. This suggests (as also Luke 13:16) Satanic power, which our Lord always drove away with a word.

Verse 13

Luke 13:13. Was made straight. The laying on of hands completed the cure, by giving the needed strength, after the word had set free from Satanic influence.

Verse 14

Luke 13:14. Being filled with indignation. The attitude of mind was hostile; but had been manifested hitherto on such occasions. The answer was not ‘with indignation.’ The ruler was afraid to speak out so boldly, and he ‘covertly and cowardly’ addresses himself, not to the Healer or to the healed, but to the multitude. His false premise was, that works of mercy are forbidden on the Sabbath.

Verse 15

Luke 13:15. The Lord. Perhaps with emphasis; as He had previously proclaimed Himself, ‘Lord even of the Sabbath’ (chap. Luke 6:5).

Ye hypocrites. Luke 13:17 shows that other antagonists were present. The plural agrees better with what follows. The hypocrisy is evident from the example our Lord quotes.

Doth not each one of you, etc. This was confessedly permitted. In an important sense works of mercy are works of necessity. The beast tied to the manger aptly represents the case of this poor woman.

Verse 16

Luke 13:16. And ought not. They were ‘hypocrites,’ because they perceived the necessity in the case of the beast, but heartlessly denied it in the case of the poor woman. The contrast is marked. In the one case a dumb animal, in the other a woman, who was moreover a daughter of Abraham, one of the covenant people of God, the God of the Sabbath. The reference to her being a spiritual daughter of Abraham is not at all certain. The animal is represented as bound by a master aware of its necessities, this woman was bound by Satan. Ordinary infirmity would scarcely be thus described; some kind of possession is asserted by our Lord. In the case of the animal but a few hours would have passed since the last watering the woman had been bound for eighteen years.

Verse 17

Luke 13:17. All his adversaries. A number must have been present.

All the multitude rejoiced. This does not oppose the view that the miracle occurred in Perea, late in the ministry. Although Galilee had been abandoned by Him, and Jerusalem had been repeatedly hostile, we infer from Matthew 18:2, that He was still heard with gladness in Perea; in fact some such wave of popularity must have preceded the entry into Jerusalem.

Were done by him. The original indicates continued working, which agrees with Matthew 18:2.

Verses 18-21

Luke 13:18-21. PARABLES OF THE MUSTARD SEED AND THE LEAVEN. See notes on Matthew 13:31-33. On the repetition of these parables, see note at the beginning of the section. There is an appropriate connection with what precedes. The miracle had shown Christ’s power over Satan, the people were rejoicing in this power; our Lord thus teaches them that His kingdom, ‘the kingdom of God,’ should ultimately triumph over all opposition, should grow externally and internally. Such instruction was peculiarly apt just before He began His actual journey to death at Jerusalem.

Verse 22

Luke 13:22. Through cities and villages. The journey was not direct.

Teaching and journeying into Jerusalem. In this and the succeeding chapters (14-18). Specimens of His teaching are given.

Verses 22-35

TIME. We identify the journey here spoken of (Luke 13:22), with the last journey from Perea to Jerusalem, and accept the order of Luke in the following chapters as accurate. Some think that it is the journey from beyond Jordan (John 10:40) in order to raise Lazarus at Bethany (John 11:0), but we place that miracle and the retirement to Ephraim (John 11:54) before all the events of this chapter. The thoughts here recorded and found elsewhere in different connections, were no doubt repeated as Luke records them.

Verse 23

Luke 13:23. And one said. This may have been a professed disciple, but scarcely an earnest follower, since the tone of our Lord’s reply forbids this. It is still more probable that he was a Jew in the multitude.

Lord are they few that be saved. Final salvation is implied. The form of the question implies doubt in the mind of the inquirer; but both question and answer indicate that he had little doubt of his own salvation. He seems to have known of the high requirements set forth by our Lord, and possibly put the question in view of the few who heeded them.

Unto them. The multitude; since the question was put in public, and the answer appropriate for all.

Verse 24

Luke 13:24. Strive. ‘Instead of such a question, remember that many will not obtain salvation, strive therefore to obtain it yourselves in the right way,’ i.e., to enter by the (narrow) door. To do this the greatest earnestness is required. See on Matthew 7:13, from which passage ‘gate’ has been substituted here.

Shall seek to enter In. ‘Seek’ is not so strong as ‘strive.’ Earnest to some extent, these seek to enter in some other way. It is probably implied that more earnestness would lead to the narrow door of repentance and faith.

And shall not be able. It is a moral impossibility to enter in any other way.

Verse 25

Luke 13:25. When once. The motive urged is, a time will come when it will be altogether impossible to enter.

The master of the house. The figure is that of an entertainment made by a householder for his family.

Shut the door. The feast is to begin, and the expected guests, the members of the family, are all there. Comp. Matthew 25:10, where a similar thought occurs with the figure of a marriage feast.

Ye begin to stand without, and knock, etc. Knowing that the door is shut, they still cling to the false hope that they have a right within. Even in this hour the earnestness is not such as it ought to be; still there is a climax in the description of their conduct: standing, knocking, calling, and finally arguing (Luke 13:26).

I know you not whence ye are, i.e., ye are strangers to me, not members of my family, not expected at my feast.

Verse 26

Luke 13:26. We did eat and drink in thy presence. The plea is previous acquaintanceship. As applied to those then addressed, it refers to actual participation in ordinary meals with our Lord. More generally it refers to external connection with Christ, without actual communion with Him. Undoubtedly we may accept here an allusion to the Lord’s supper.

Didst teach in our streets. The figure is dropped for a moment here: the householder represents our Lord. The clause had a literal application then, but it also refers to all among whom the gospel is preached. Notice the earnestness is not that of those seeking for mercy, but of those claiming a right, and basing their claim on something merely external. It is the mistake of Phariseeism to the very last.

Verse 27

Luke 13:27. All ye workers of iniquity. ‘Workers’ means those in the employ of, and receiving the wages of unrighteousness. The terrible reality set forth is, that many ‘workers of iniquity’ think they will be saved, and will find out their mistake too late. This is a motive to ‘strive’ (Luke 13:24), for now such striving is possible; but a time will come when the striving as well as the entrance will be impossible. The conduct of those ‘seeking’ admittance, as here described, is not striving. Many, in their thoughts of the future world, make the great mistake of supposing that those unsaved here can really desire salvation there, but no word of our Lord hints at such a desire, involving a desire for holiness.

Verses 28-29

Luke 13:28-29. See on Matthew 8:11-12. The connection here is different: the Jews are directly addressed, as those who shall be cast out, while their ancestors and the Gentiles shall enter in.

There, i.e., in that place. The reference to a future state throughout seems obvious enough.

Cast forth without. Those not admitted are thus spoken of, because as Jews they were born in the covenant. Luke 13:29 represents the ingathering of the Gentiles. It is fanciful to discover a reference to the progress of successful missionary effort from east to south is referred to. Our Lord does not say ‘many’ here, as in Matthew 8:11, since this would have been too direct an answer to the question (Luke 13:23). He would make prominent, not the number, but that those addressed, confident in their Jewish position, were in the greatest danger of not being saved.

Verse 30

Luke 13:30. See on Matthew 19:30; Matthew 20:16. Here the saying seems to be applied to the ingathering of the guests, just spoken of; not simply to the Jews and Gentiles as such, but to individuals and churches and nations all through the ingathering. For example: the church at Jerusalem and her Gentile off-shoots, the Oriental churches. Modern history furnishes many instances.

Verse 31

Luke 13:31. In that very hour. This is the correct translation.

Certain Pharisees. They may have been sent by Herod, and were the agents best adapted for his purpose, because their party was in opposition to him. Our Lord’s reply intimates this. Herod may not have wished to kill Jesus, but the desire, now to see Him and now to get Him out of his territory, agrees entirely with the character of that ruler. To threaten thus without really purposing to carry out the threat, to use Pharisees, his opponents, to report the threat, is the cunning of ‘that fox.’

Depart hence. Our Lord was probably in Perea, part of Herod’s territory, and that part too in which John the Baptist had been put to death. Others infer from chap. Luke 17:11, that He was still in Galilee, but this we consider highly improbable.

Verse 32

Luke 13:32. That fox. A figure of cunning and mischief. Herod deserved the name. As the Greek word for ‘fox’ is feminine, it is possible that the term points to Herod’s loss of manliness through the influence of Herodias. But it is not certain that this was spoken in Greek.

Do, or, ‘perform,’ cures. Our Lord mentions His works, because it was these, rather than His words, which had excited Herod’s anxiety (chap. Luke 9:7).

Today and tomorrow, and the third day come to the end, i.e., of these works in your country (Perea). This is the simplest sense of this much disputed passage; meaning: I shall remain in your territory three days longer. The days must then be understood in the literal sense. Some, however, refer them to His present work (‘today’), His future labors (‘tomorrow’), and His sufferings at Jerusalem (‘the third day’). Such a sense would not only be unusual, but it is opposed by the next verse, where the third day is a day of journeying, not of death. The word used is in the present tense, because our Lord would tell Herod that the future to Him is certain.

Verse 33

Luke 13:33. N evertheless I must go on my journey. Although I will remain working in your territory for three days, I must still be journeying. The word here used is the same as that in the threat ‘depart,’ (Luke 13:31). During these days of labor our Lord will be journeying, and He must do so. This journey will be out of Herod’s territory, it is true, but not because of Herod’s threat. He did not fear death, for He was going to meet death. The necessity of the journey lay in this: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. ‘It cannot be’ (peculiar to this passage) indicates moral impossibility. Jerusalem had monopolized the slaughter of the prophets. John the Baptist was an apparent exception.

Verses 34-35

Luke 13:34-35. See on Matthew 23:37-39, where a similar lamentation is found. But there is no reason for supposing that it was not repeated. There are variations in form, and the connection with what precedes is close.

How often. Luke has not said a word of our Lord’s being at Jerusalem, but this implies a ministry there.

Verse 35

Luke 13:35. The word translated ‘desolate’ is omitted by the best authorities, but ‘forsaken’ may be supplied to bring out the entire sense of the rest of the clause.

And I say, etc. Matthew: ‘for.’ There the reason is given, since the Lord was then finally leaving the temple ; here the reference is more prophetic. ‘Henceforth,’ which in Matthew marks the beginning of the desolation at that moment, is not found here. These little things show that this was spoken at an earlier time. Some belittle the prediction by referring it to our Lord’s triumphal entry just before the Passover, when the people cried, Blessed, etc. The disciples may have misunderstood this prediction, and thought it fulfilled on that occasion, but in fact Jerusalem did not say this, but said ‘Who is this?’ (Matthew 21:10), and objected (chap. Luke 19:34). It is far more natural to suppose that already our Lord mourned over the impending fate of the holy city.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Luke 13". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/luke-13.html. 1879-90.
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