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Bible Commentaries

The Fourfold Gospel

Luke 7

Verses 1-10


XLIII.
HEALING THE CENTURION’S SERVANT.
(At Capernaum.)
aMATT. VIII. 1, 5-13; cLUKE VII. 1-10.

c1 After he had ended all his sayings in the ears of the people, a1 And when he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. che entered into Capernaum. [Jesus proceeded from the mountain to Capernaum, which was now his home, or headquarters. The multitudes which are now mentioned for the third time were not wearied by his sermon, and so continued to follow him. Their presence showed the popularity of Jesus, and also emphasized the fact that the miracles which followed the sermon were wrought in the presence of the vast throngs of people.] a5 And when he was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion [The context shows that this centurion or captain of a hundred men was a Gentile, but whether he was in the employ of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, or an officer in the Roman army, is [270] not clear, neither is very important. The army of Antipas, like that of other petty kings, was modeled after that of Rome], c2 And a certain centurion’s servant [slave boy], who was dear unto him, was sick, and at the point of death. 3 And when he heard concerning Jesus [The sequel shows that the centurion had probably heard how Jesus had healed the son of his fellow-townsman-- John 4:46-54], he sent unto him elders of the Jews [To reconcile Matthew and Luke, we have only to conceive of the centurion as coming to the edge of the crowd about Jesus, but modestly refraining from coming into the Lord’s immediate presence.] asking him that he would come and save his servant. abeseeching him, 6 and saying, Lord, my servant lieth in the house sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. [Because palsy is not usually accompanied with suffering, some think that in this case it was combined with tetanus or lockjaw, a combination not infrequent in hot climates. But Sir R. Bennet, M.D., speaks thus: "In this instance we have probably a case of progressive paralysis, attended by muscular spasms, and involving the respiratory movements, where death is manifestly imminent and inevitable. In such a case there would be symptoms indicative of great distress, as well as immediate danger to life." As to palsy generally, see Luke 18:8). The elders, little knowing the wideness of our Lord’s vision and sympathy, supposed that Jesus would look upon the splendid synagogue erected for the Jewish people as a sufficient motive for granting their request. Even the apostles were slow to learn that at heart Jesus knew neither Jew nor Gentile.] c8 For I also am a man set under authority, having under myself soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant [not a soldier, but a household slave], Do this, and he doeth it. [Having those over him, he knew how to obey, and [272] having those under him, he knew how to be obeyed. He was familiar, therefore, with all the principles of obedience. Knowing from the healing of the nobleman’s son, or from other reports concerning Jesus, that the realm of nature obeyed Jesus, he judged from his knowledge of earthly obedience that Jesus had those who could come and go for him, and who could carry his messages and enforce obedience to them. He felt that the presence of Jesus was not at all necessary to the healing.] a10 And when Jesus heard it, {cthese things,} he marvelled at him, and turned and said unto athem cthe multitude that followed him, aVerily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. [To some it seems strange that Jesus could marvel, but he had all the actual feelings of a man. However, we should note that Jesus is never said to have marveled but twice. In this case it was because of belief, and in the other ( Mark 6:6), it was because of unbelief. Those who think that Jesus gave or gives faith should note this fact. If Jesus had given the centurion faith, he could not have been surprised to find that he had it; and, if he failed to bestow it upon the people of Nazareth, it would have been inconsistent in him to express surprise at their lack of it. It would seem, however, irreconcilable with the character and affectionate nature of Christ, to bestow faith in such profusion upon this Gentile stranger, and withhold every spark of it from his near kinsmen and fellow-townsmen. Faith is no miraculous gift. Faith means no more nor less than belief; and a man believes the Scripture facts in the same manner and by the same processes that he believes any other facts.] 11 And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven [Jesus here predicts the conversion of the Gentiles, since that fact is suggested to him by the faith of this centurion. The east and the west represent the extreme points of the compass in the directions in which the world was most thickly inhabited. But Jesus refers rather to spiritual separation than to [273] geographical distances-- Malachi 1:11, Isaiah 49:19, Jeremiah 16:19, Zechariah 8:22.] 12 but the sons of the kingdom [The child of anything in Hebrew phraseology expressed the idea of special property which one has in the thing specified, as, for instance, children of disobedience ( Ephesians 2:2). Jesus here means, then, the Jews, to whom the kingdom belonged by hereditary descent-- Romans 9:4] shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. [In this paragraph Christ’s kingdom is set forth under the simile of a great feast, a familiar simile with Jesus ( Matthew 26:29, Luke 22:30). The Jews were accustomed to speak of the delights of the Messianic kingdom as a feast with the patriarchs ( Luke 14:15), but lost sight of the fact that Gentiles should share in its cheer and fellowship ( Isaiah 25:6). Marriage feasts and other great feasts of the Jews were usually held in the evening. Inside, therefore, there would be joy and light and gladness, but outside there would be darkness and disappointment, tears and bitter self-reproach ( Matthew 25:10-13). The despised outcasts should be brought in and placed at the festal board, while the long-invited guests--the natural and fleshly heirs of Abraham’s invitation--would be excluded ( Matthew 21:43). Hell is absence from spiritual light, separation from the company of the saved, lamentation and impotent rage.] 13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And the servant was healed in that hour. [In the moment when Jesus spoke, the servant was healed--not relieved, but healed.] c10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole. [The centurion, long before this when he was building the synagogue, had doubtless heard with delight concerning the wonderful works wrought by the mighty prophets in the olden time; he little dreamed that his own eyes should see them all surpassed.] [274]

[FFG 270-274]

Verses 11-17


XLIV.
JESUS RAISES THE WIDOW’S SON.
(At Nain in Galilee.)
cLUKE VII. 11-17.

c11 And it came to pass soon afterwards [many ancient authorities read on the next day], that he went into a city called Nain; and his disciples went with him, and a great multitude. [We find that Jesus had been thronged with multitudes pretty continuously since the choosing of his twelve apostles. Nain lies on the northern slope of the mountain, which the Crusaders called Little Hermon, between twenty and twenty-five miles south of Capernaum, and about two miles west of Endor. At present it is a small place with about a dozen mud hovels, but still bears its old name, which the Arabs have modified into Nein. It is situated on a bench in the mountain about sixty feet above the plain.] 12 Now when he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, there was carried out one that was dead, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. [Places of sepulture were outside the towns, that ceremonial pollution must be avoided. To this rule there was an exception. The kings of Judah were buried in the city of David ( 2 Kings 16:20, 2 Kings 21:18, 2 Kings 21:26). The Jews were careful to give public expression to their sympathy for those who were bereaved ( John 11:19). The death of an only child represented to them as to us the extreme of sorrow ( Jeremiah 6:26, Zechariah 12:10, Amos 8:10). But in this case the sorrow was heightened by the fact that the mother was a widow, and hence evidently dependent upon her son for support. Her son had comforted her in her first loss of a husband, but now that her son was dead, there was none left to comfort.] 13 And when the Lord saw her [Some take this use of the phrase "the [275] Lord," as an evidence of the late date at which Luke wrote his Gospel; but the point is not well taken, for John used it even before Jesus ascension-- John 21:7], he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. [As the funeral procession came out of the gate, they met Jesus with his company coming in. Hence there were many witnesses to what followed. But the miracle in this instance was not wrought so much attest our Lord’s commission, or to show his power, as to do good. As Jesus had no other business in Nain but to do good, we may well believe that he went there for the express purpose of comforting this forlorn mother. Compare John 11:1-15. Good blessings may come to us when reason speaks and God’s wise judgment answers; but we get our best blessings when our afflictions cry unto him and his compassion replies.] 14 And he came nigh and touched the bier: and the bearers stood still. [The word here translated "bier" may mean a bier or coffin, and the authorities are about equally divided as to which it was. It was more likely a stretcher of boards, with the pallet or bed upon it, and the body of the young man wrapped in linen lying upon the bed. Coffins, which were common in Babylon and Egypt, were rarely used by the Jews, save in the burial of people of distinction; and, if we may trust the writing of the later rabbis, the burial of children. When they were used, the body was placed in them, and borne without any lid to the place of sepulture. We find no coffin in the burial of either Lazarus or Jesus. Jesus was, no doubt, known to many in Nain, and it is no wonder that those who bore the bier stood still when he touched it. Though we can not say that he had raised the dead prior to this, we can say that he had healed every kind of disease known among the people, and therefore his act would beget a reasonable expectancy that he might do something even here.] And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. [Here, as in the other instances where Jesus revived the dead, we find that he issues a personal call to the party whose remains are before him. It suggests the sublime thought that he has as full dominion and [276] authority over the unseen as over the seen; and that should he issue a general call, all the dead would revive again as obediently and immediately as did the single one to whom he now spoke ( John 5:28, John 5:29). The command of Jesus, moreover, is spoken with the ease and consciousness of authority known only to Divinity. Compare the dependent tone of Simon Peter-- Acts 3:6.] 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. [Thus showing that not only life, but also health and strength, were restored.] And he gave him to his mother. [As the full fruitage of his compassion. The scene suggests that Christ will, with his own hands, restore kindred to kindred in the glorious morning of resurrection.] 16 And fear took hold on all [Because the power of God had been so signally manifested among them. They recognized the presence of God’s power and mercy, yet by no means apprehended the nearness of his very person]: and they glorified God, saying, A great prophet is arisen among us: and, God hath visited his people. [Expectation of the return of one of the prophets was at that time widely spread. See Luke 9:8, Luke 9:19. That they should esteem Jesus as no more than a prophet was no wonder, for as yet even his apostles had not confessed him as the Christ. In state and conduct Jesus appeared to them too humble to fulfill the popular ideas of Messiahship. But in wisdom and miracle he outshone all God’s former messengers. The "visiting" of God refers to the long absence of the more strikingly miraculous powers of God as exercised through the prophets. None had raised the dead since the days of Elisha.] 17 And this report went forth concerning him in the whole of Judaea, and all the region round about. [This great miracle caused the fame of Jesus to fill all Judæa as well as Galilee. It seems, from what next follows, to have reached John the Baptist in his prison on the east of the Dead Sea.] [277]

[FFG 275-277]

Verses 18-30


XLV.
THE BAPTIST’S INQUIRY AND JESUS’ DISCOURSE
SUGGESTED THEREBY.
(Galilee.)
aMATT. XI. 2-30; cLUKE VII. 18-35.

c18 And the disciples of John told him of all these things. a2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent by his disciples c19 And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them unto the Lord [John had been cast into prison about December, A. D. 27, and it was now after the Passover, possibly in May or June, A. D. 28. Herod Antipas had cast John into prison because John had reproved him for taking his brother’s wife. According to Josephus, the place of John’s imprisonment and death was the castle of Machærus (or Makor), east of the Dead Sea (Ant. xviii.; v. 1, 2). It was built by Herod the Great, and was not very far from that part of the Jordan in which John had baptized, so that it is probable that Herod resided in this castle when he went to hear John preach. We learn elsewhere that Herod felt kindly towards John, and this fact, coupled with the statement that John called two of his disciples to him, suggests that John must have been held as an honored prisoner with liberties like those accorded Paul at Cæsarea-- Acts 24:23], a3 and said unto him, {csaying,} Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? [The prophets spoke of the Messiah as the coming one, and John himself had done likewise-- Matthew 3:11.] 20 And when the men were come unto him, they said, John the Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? [This passage has been a puzzle to expositors from the very earliest times. Being unable to understand how the Baptist, being an inspired prophet and favored with visions of the supernatural, [278] could give way to skeptical doubts, they have exhausted their inventive genius to explain what John meant by his question. Among these many explanations the best is that given by Alford, viz.: that John wished to get Jesus to publicly declare himself for the sake of quieting all rumors concerning him, his fault being kindred to that of Jesus’ mother when she tried to hasten Jesus’ hour at the wedding of Cana ( John 2:4). But the plain, unmistakable inference of the text is that John’s faith wavered. The Bible does not represent the saints as free from imperfection. It does not say that inspiration is omniscience, or that visions and miracles remove doubts. It took two miracles to persuade Gideon; Moses harbored distrust ( Exodus 3:11-13, Exodus 4:1-17.), and was guilty of unbelief ( Numbers 20:12); Elijah despaired of God’s power ( 1 Kings 19:4-10); Jeremiah was slow of belief, and in his despondency cursed the day of his birth ( Jeremiah 20:7, Jeremiah 20:14-18). But the most instructive parallel is that of Simon Peter. He witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, beheld the glory of God, and heard the voice of the Father ( Matthew 17:1-6); yet he sank below the Baptist, and denied the Lord with cursing; and no man has ever thought it at all incredible that he should do so. The trial of John’s faith, though not so clearly depicted as that of Peter, was perhaps equally searching. His wild, free life was now curbed by the irksome tedium of confinement. His expectations were not fulfilled. The unfruitful trees had not been cut down, the grain had not been winnowed, nor the chaff burned, nor should he see any visible tendency toward these results. Moreover, he held no communion with the private life of Jesus, and entered not into the sanctuary of his Lord’s thought. We must remember also that his inspiration passed away with the ministry, on account of which it was bestowed, and it was only the man John, and not the prophet, who made the inquiry. The inquiry itself, too, should be noted. It is not, Are you what I declared you to be? but, Being all of that, are you the one who should come, or must we look for another? John no doubt shared with all Jews the idea that Messiah was to set up an earthly kingdom, and seeing in Jesus [279] none of the spirit of such a king, he seems to have questioned whether Jesus was to be the finality, or whether he was to be, like himself, a forerunner, preparing the way for the ultimate Messiah. He did not grasp the thought that Jesus was both Alpha and Omega; that Jesus, the lowly servant of humanity, by service and sacrifice is evermore preparing the way for Jesus the King.] 21 In that hour he cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many that were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he aJesus answered and said unto them, Go and tell John the things which ye hear and see: {chave seen and heard;} a5 the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings to them. [John himself, when thus questioned, had answered plainly, saying, "No" ( John 1:20, John 1:21), and he probably expected a like categorical answer from Jesus. The indirect answer of Jesus, ending with a beatitude, was well calculated to waken in John beneficial thoughtfulness, for it threw his mind back upon the prophecies of God, such as Isaiah 30:5, Isaiah 30:6, Isaiah 42:7, Isaiah 41:1-3, etc. It may be inferred that Jesus withheld answering the messengers and went on with his works of grace, that these might testify to John more potently than mere words of assertion. Jesus did not work miracles to gratify skeptical curiosity, but he did use them, as here, to strengthen wavering faith ( Mark 9:24, John 11:15, John 14:11); Jesus sums up his work in the form of a climax, wherein preaching the gospel to the poor stands superior even to the raising of the dead. Attention to the poor has always been a distinctive feature of Christianity. To care for the poor is above miracles. Modern Orientals are not impressed by the miracles of the New Testament as such. The sacred literature of India and China abounds in wonders, and with the people of these lands a miracle is little more than a commonplace. With them Christ’s love for the lowly is above the miracles. "Wonders and miracles might be counterfeited, but a sympathy with the suffering and helpless, so tender, so [280] laborious, so long continued, was not likely to be simulated. Such humanity was unworldly and divine"--Beecher.] 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me. [The scribes had stumbled and failed to believe in Jesus because he did not fulfill their ideal, or come up to their expectations. Jesus seeks to woo John from a like fate by the sweet persuasion of a beatitude. John must realize that it is better for the subject to fall in with the plans of the all-wise King, as he fulfills the predictions of God the Father, than for the King to turn aside and frustrate the plan of the ages to humor the passing whim of a despondent and finite mind.] c24 And when the messengers of John were departed, {a7 And as these went their way,} che aJesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John [The commendation of Jesus which follows was not spoken in the presence of John’s messengers. It was best that John should not hear it. We also do our work under the silent heavens and wait for the future plaudit, "Well done, good and faithful servant"], What went ye out into the wilderness to behold? a reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out to see? ca man clothed in soft raiment? aBehold, they that wear soft raiment cthey that are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts. {ahouses.} [After the departure of John’s messengers Jesus immediately clears the character of John of unjust suspicion. John, who had testified with such confidence as to the office and character of Jesus, now comes with a question betraying a doubtful mind and wavering faith. Was John then a vacillating man? Was he guilty of that lack of steadfastness which the world looks upon as intolerable in all who it esteems great? Was he blown about by every wind of public opinion like the tall reed (the Arunda donax) which skirts the Jordan, and which stands, bearing its beautiful blossoming top twelve feet high one moment, only to bow it to earth the next, the slender stem yielding submissively to the passing breeze? Was he a voluptuary about to condescend to flatter Herod and retract [281] his reproof, that he might exchange his prison for a palace? Those who had gone to the wilderness to see John had found no such man, and John was still the John of old. One act does not make a character, one doubt does not unmake it. John was no reed, but was rather, as Lange says, "a cedar half uprooted by the storm."] 9 But wherefore went ye out? {c26 But what went ye out to see?} ato see a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. [The Matthew 11:10 shows us that John was a messenger as well as a prophet. Prophets foretold the Messiah, but John was the herald who announce him. John was miraculously born, and was himself the subject of prophecy. Great as was John in popular estimation, that estimation was insufficient.] 10 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, Who shall prepare thy way before thee. [This quotation is taken from Malachi 3:1, where it reads "my messenger . . . before me." But Mark ( Mark 1:2) concurs with Matthew and Luke in the reading given here. From the change in the words it appears "that Christ is one with God the Father, and that the coming of Christ is the coming of God"--Hammond.] 11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater {cthere is none greater} athan John the Baptist: yet he that is but little in the kingdom of heaven {cof God} is greater than he. [We find from this passage that all true greatness arises from association, relation and contact with Jesus Christ. To be Christ’s forerunner is to be above teacher and prophet, Levite and priest, lawgiver and king, and all else that the world estimates as great. If all greatness be thus measured by contact of Christ, how great must Christ be! But the least in the kingdom is greater then John. "This shows: 1. That John was not in the kingdom of God. 2. That, as none greater than John has been born of women, no one had yet entered the kingdom. 3. That, therefore, it had not yet been set up; but as John himself, Jesus, and the Twelve under the first commission, preached, was ’at hand’. [282] 4. All in the kingdom, even the humble, have a station superior to John’s" (Johnson). Farrar reminds us of the old legal maxim which says, "The least of the greatest is greater than the greatest of the least," which is as much as to say that the smallest diamond is of more precious substance than the largest flint. The least born of the Holy Spirit ( John 1:12, John 1:13, John 3:5) is greater than the greatest born of women. They are greater in station, privilege and knowledge. The dispensations rise like lofty steps, and the lowest that stand upon the New Testament dispensation are lifted above the tallest who rest upon the dispensation of Moses. This is perhaps prophetically suggested by Zechariah-- Zechariah 12:8.] c29 And all the people [the common peopple, and not the rulers] when they heard, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. [They justified or approved the wisdom of God in sending such a prophet as John and establishing such an ordinance as baptism.] 30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God, being not baptized of him. [The counsel of God was that the nation should be brought to repentance by John, that it might be saved by Jesus; but the Pharisees frustrated this plan so far as they were concerned, by their proud refusal to repent. All who followed their example shared their unhappy success. It is noteworthy that Jesus emphasizes baptism as the test as to whether men justify or reject God’s counsel.] a12 From the days of John the Baptist until now [a period of about three years] the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and men of violence take it by force. [Jesus here pictures the kingdom of heaven as a besieged city. The city is shut up, but the enemies which surround it storm its walls and try to force an entrance--an apt illustration which many fail to comprehend. The gates of Christ’s kingdom were not opened until the day of Pentecost ( Acts 2:22-36.), but men hearing it was about to be opened sought to enter prematurely, not by the gates which God would open when Simon Peter used the keys ( Matthew 16:19), but by such breaches as they themselves sought to make [283] in the walls. Examples of this violence will be seen in the following instances ( John 6:15, Matthew 20:21, Luke 19:11, Luke 19:36-38, Luke 22:24-30, Acts 1:6.) The people were full of preconceived ideas with regard to the kingdom, and each one sought to hasten and enjoy its pleasures as one who impatiently seizes upon a bud and seeks with his fingers to force it to bloom. The context shows that John the Baptist was even then seeking to force the kingdom.] 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye are willing receive it, this is Elijah, that is to come. 15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. [The Old Testament was the work of a long series of prophets, and this series was closed by John the Baptist. But John differed from all the others in the series; for they prophesied concerning the kingdom, while John turned from their course to preach that the kingdom was at hand, and thereby incidentally brought upon it the assaults of violence. As to John the Baptist being the prophetic Elijah, see Matthew 13:24-43. In the Matthew 13:24 Jesus says, "The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man who sowed good seed," but in the Matthew 13:37 he says "He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man," thus making the kingdom of heaven like the entire parabolic picture, and not the mere subject of its leading verb. Others say that John came mourning and Jesus came piping, and that the Jews were satisfied with neither. This was the older view, and had not expositors been confused by the grammatical difficulties above mentioned, it would never have been questioned. For the context favors it, and the whole trend of Scripture demands it. It was God in his messengers--his prophets and his Son--who came to set the world right. It was these messengers who took the initiative and who demanded the changes. It was the people who sulked and refused to comply with the divine overtures. The whole tenor of Christ’s teaching--the parables of the supper, etc.--represents the Jews as being invited and refusing the invitation. It was John and Jesus who preached repentance, but there was no instance where any called on them to repent. Jerusalem never wept over an intractable Jesus, but Jesus wept over the people of Jerusalem because they "would not." Jesus and John each besought the people to prepare for the kingdom of God, but the people sneered at one [285] as too strict and at the other as too lenient, and would be won by neither. To justify them in rejecting God’s counsel, they asserted that John’s conduct was demoniacal and that of Jesus was criminal, thus slandering each. But the lives or works of Jesus and John were both directed by the wisdom of God, and all those who were truly wise towards God--children of wisdom (see Acts 21:3, Acts 27:3), and Tyre became a Christian city, while Tiberias, just south of Capernaum, became the seat of Jewish Talmudism. Sackcloth was a coarse fabric woven of goat’s or camel’s hair, and was worn by those who mourned. It was called sackcloth because, being strong and durable, it was used for making the large sacks in which rough articles were carried on the backs of camels. Such sacks are still so used. Ashes were put upon the head and face as additional symbols of grief. Jesus here uses these symbolic words to indicate that these cities would have repented thoroughly.] 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And thou, Capernaum, shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? thou shalt go down unto Hades: for if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in thee, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say unto you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. [Several great truths are taught in this paragraph. We note the following: 1. Every hearer of the gospel is left either much more blessed or much more wretched. 2. That the miracles which Jesus wrought were calculated to lead men to repentance, for they demonstrated his authority to demand that man should repent. 3. That even among those who stand condemned at the judgment there is a difference, and that it shall be more tolerable for some than for others. 4. That God takes account of our opportunities when he comes to measure our guiltiness ( Matthew 5:21, Matthew 5:22, Matthew 10:15, Luke 11:47, Luke 11:48, John 9:41, John 15:22-24, Romans 2:12). Capernaum was the most favored spot on earth, for Jesus made it his home. He therefore speaks of it figuratively as being exalted to heaven. Hades means the abode of the dead. It stands in figurative contrast to heaven and indicates that Capernaum shall be brought to utter ruin. Though Jesus was not displeased with the walls and houses, but with those who dwelt in them, yet the uncertain sites of these cities are marked only by ruins, and present to the traveler who searches among [287] rank weeds for their weather-worn stones the tokens of God’s displeasure against the people who once dwelt there. In less than thirty years these three cities were destroyed. Sin destroys cities and nations, and permanent temporal prosperity depends upon righteousness. The history of the destruction of Sodom in the time of Abraham is well known. As it was one of ( Numbers 13:22) the oldest cities of any great importance in Palestine, this reference to its remaining is the more striking, showing that its destruction did not come from the mere operation of natural law, but as a divine punishment meted upon it for its sins--a punishment which might have been avoided by repentance ( Jonah 3:10). There is hope for the greatest sinner if Sodom might thus escape.] 25 At that season [while these thoughts of judgment were in his mind] Jesus answered [replying to the thoughts raised by this discouraging situation--this rejection] and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding [the selfish and shrewd; the scribes and Pharisees, wise in their own conceit-- John 9:40, John 9:41], and didst reveal them unto babes [the pure and childlike; the apostles and their fellows who were free from prejudice and bigoted prepossession. God hid and revealed solely by his method of presenting the truth in Christ Jesus. The proud despised him, but the humble received him]: 26 yea, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in thy sight. [This is a reiteration of the sentiment just uttered. It means "I thank thee that it pleases thee to do thus." The Son expresses holy acquiescence and adoring satisfaction in the doings of Him who, as Lord of heaven and earth, had right to dispose of all things as it pleased him.] 27 All things have been delivered unto me of my Father [ John 3:35. All things necessary to the full execution of his office as Lord of the kingdom were entrusted to Jesus, but for the present only potentially. The actual investiture of authority did not take place until the glorification of Jesus ( Matthew 28:18, Colossians 1:16-19, Hebrews 1:8). The authority thus delivered shall be eventually returned [288] again-- 1 Corinthians 15:28]: and no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him. [Here again are many important truths taught: 1. While we may have personal knowledge of Jesus, we can not know him completely. His nature is inscrutable. And yet, in direct opposition to our Lord’s explicit assertion, creeds have been formed, defining the metaphysical nature of Christ, and enforcing their distinctions on the subject which Jesus expressly declares that no man understands, as necessary conditions of church membership in this world, and of salvation in the world to come. "It would be difficult to find a more audacious and presumptuous violation of the words of Jesus than the Athanasian Creed, with its thrice repeated curses against those who did not receive its doctrines" (Morison). 2. We can have no correct knowledge of God except through revelation. 3. Jesus begins the revelation of the Father in this world, and completes it in the world to come. 4. By this exclusive claim as to the knowledge of the Father, Jesus asserts his own divinity. 5. Christ’s exalted power comes by reason of his exalted being.] 28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. [The preceding remarks are prefatory to this invitation. The dominion which Jesus exercises, the nature which he possess, and the knowledge which he can impart justify him in inviting men to come to him. The labor and the rest here spoken of are primarily those which affect souls. That is, the labor and the heavy burden which sin imposes, and the rest which follows the forgiveness of that sin. Incidentally, however, physical burdens are also made lighter by coming to Jesus, because the soul is made stronger to bear them. The meekness and lowliness of Jesus lend confidence to those whom he invites that no grievous exactions will be made of them. "Taking the yoke" is a symbolic expression. [289] It means, "Submit to me and become my disciple," for the yoke is symbolic of the condition of servitude--see Jeremiah 27:11, Jeremiah 27:12, Isaiah 9:4, Acts 15:10, Galatians 5:1, 1 Timothy 6:1.]

[FFG 278-290]

Verses 36-50


XLVI.
JESUS’ FEET ANOINTED IN THE HOUSE
OF A PHARISEE.
(Galilee.)
cLUKE VII. 36-50.

c36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. [We learn from Luke 7:40 that the Pharisee’s name was Simon. Because the feast at Bethany was given in the house of Simon the leper, and because Jesus was anointed there also, some have been led to think that Luke is here describing this supper. See Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-8. But Simon the leper was not Simon the Pharisee. The name Simon was one of the most common among the Jewish people. It was the Greek form of the Hebrew Simeon. The New Testament mentions nine and Josephus twenty Simons, and there must have been thousands of them in Palestine at that time. The anointing at Bethany was therefore a different occasion from this.] And he entered into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. [Literally, reclined at meat. The old Jewish method of eating was to sit cross-legged on the floor or on a divan, but the Persians, Greeks and Romans reclined on couches, and the Jews, after the exile, borrowed this custom. We are not told in plain terms why the Pharisee invited Jesus to eat with him. The envy and cunning which characterized his sect leads us to be, perhaps, unduly suspicious that his motives were evil. The narrative, however, shows that his motives were somewhat akin to those of Nicodemus. He wished to investigate the character and claims of Jesus, and was influenced more by curiosity than by hostility--for [290] all Pharisees were not equally bitter ( John 7:45-52). But he desired to avoid in any way compromising himself, so he invited Jesus to his house, but carefully omitted all the ordinary courtesies and attentions which would have been paid to an honored guest. Jesus accepted the invitation, for it was his custom to dine both with Pharisees and publicans, that he might reach all classes.] 37 And behold, a woman who was in the city, a sinner; and when she knew that he was sitting at meat in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster cruse of ointment. [Because the definite article "the" is used before the word "city," Meyer says it was Capernaum, and because Nain is the last city mentioned, Wiesler says it was Nain, but it is not certain what city it was. Older commentators say it was Magdala, because they hold the unwarranted medieval tradition that the sinner was Mary Magdalene, i. e., Mary of Magdala. No trustworthy source has ever been found for this tradition, and there are two good reasons for saying that this was not Mary Magdalene: 1. She is introduced soon after ( Luke 8:2) as a new character and also as a woman of wealth and consequence. See also Matthew 27:55. 2. Jesus had delivered her from the possession of seven demons. But there is no connection between sin and demon-possession. The former implies a disregard for the accepted rules of religious conduct, while the latter implies no sinfulness at all. This affliction was never spoken of as a reproach, but only as a misfortune. The cruse which she brought with her was called "an alabaster." Orientals are very fond of ointments and use them upon the face and hair with profusion. They were scented with sweet-smelling vegetable essence, especially that extracted from the myrtle. Originally the small vases, jars or broad-mouthed bottles, in which the ointment was stored, were carved from alabaster, a variety of gypsum, white, semi-transparent and costly. Afterwards other material was used, but the name "alabaster" was still applied to such cruses. That used by Mary of Bethany was probably the highest grade ointment in the highest priced cruse ( John 12:3). The context here [291] leaves us free to suppose that both the cruse and the unguent were of a cheaper kind], 38 and standing behind at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. [To see this scene we must picture Jesus stretched upon the couch and reclining on his left elbow. The woman stood at the foot of the couch behind his feet. His feet were bare; for every guest on entering left his sandals outside the door. The woman, feeling strongly the contrast between the sinlessness of Jesus and her own stained life, could not control her emotions. "The tears," says Brom, "poured down in a flood upon his naked feet, as she bent down to kiss them; and deeming them rather fouled than washed by this, she hastened to wipe them off with the only towel she had, the long tresses of her own hair. She thus placed her glory at his feet ( 1 Corinthians 11:15), after which she put the ointment upon them."] 39 Now when the Pharisee that had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have perceived who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him, that she is a sinner. [Public opinion said that Jesus was a prophet ( Luke 7:16), and Simon, from the Pharisee’s standpoint, feared that it might be so; and therefore no doubt felt great satisfaction in obtaining this evidence which he accepted as disproving the claims of Jesus. He judged that if Jesus had been a prophet he would have both known and repelled this woman. He would have known her because discerning of spirits was part of the prophetic office--especially the Messianic office ( Isaiah 11:2-4, 1 Kings 14:6, 2 Kings 1:1-3, 2 Kings 5:26, 2Ki_5:). Comp. John 2:25. He would have repelled her because, according to the Pharisaic tradition, her very touch would have rendered him unclean. The Pharisees, according to later Jewish writings, forbade women to stand nearer to them than four cubits, despite the warning of God ( Isaiah 65:5). Thus reasoning, Simon concluded that Jesus had neither the knowledge nor the holiness which are essential to a prophet. His narrow mind did not [292] grasp the truth that it was as wonderful condescension for Christ to sit at his board as it was to permit this sinner to touch him.] 40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Teacher, say on. [Jesus heard Simon’s thoughts and answered them. Simon called Jesus "Teacher," little thinking how fully Jesus was about to vindicate the justice of the title, thus given him in compliment.] 41 A certain lender had two debtors: the one owed five hundred shillings, and the other fifty. [The denarius or shilling was a silver coin issued by Rome which contained nearly seventeen cents’ worth of that precious metal. The two debts, therefore, represented respectively about seventy-five dollars, and seven dollars and fifty cents. But at that time a denarius was a day’s wages for a laboring man ( Matthew 20:2, Matthew 20:4, Matthew 20:12, Matthew 20:13), so that the debt is properly translated into our language as if one owed five hundred and the other fifty days of labor.] 42 When they had not wherewith to pay, he forgave them both. [In this brief parable God represents the lender, and the woman the big and Simon the little debtor. Simon was (in his own estimation) ten times better off than the woman; yet they were each in an equally hopeless case--having nothing with which to pay; and each in an equally favored case--being offered God’s free forgiveness. Forgiveness is expressed in the past tense in the parable, but merely as part of the drapery and not for the purpose of declaring Simon’s forgiveness. It indicates no more than that Jesus was equally willing to forgive both. But the Pharisee did not seek his forgiveness, and the absence of all love in him proved that he did not have it.] Which of them therefore will love him most? [It was Jesus’ custom to thus often draw his verdicts from the very lips of the parties concerned-- Luke 10:36, Luke 10:37, Matthew 21:40, Matthew 21:41.] 43 Simon answered and said, He, I suppose, to whom he forgave the most. [The "suppose" of Simon betrays a touch of supercilious irony, showing that the Pharisee thought the question very trivial. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. [Simon’s words were more [293] than an answer. They were a judgment as well. Like Nathan with David ( 2 Samuel 12:1-7), Jesus had concealed Simon’s conduct under the vestments of a parable, and had thus led him to unwittingly pronounce sentence against himself. Simon, the little debtor, was a debtor still; having no acts of gratitude to plead in evidence of his acquittal. From this point the words of Jesus take up the conduct of Simon which we should here picture to ourselves. "We must imagine the guests arriving; Simon receiving them with all courtesy, and embracing each in turn; slaves ready to was the dust of the road from their sandaled feet, and to pour sweet olive oil over their heads to soften the parched skin. See Genesis 18:4, Genesis 19:2, Genesis 24:32, Ruth 3:3, 1 Samuel 25:41; Psalms 23:5, Psalms 141:5, Ecclesiastes 9:8, Daniel 10:3, Amos 6:6, Matthew 6:17. But there is one of the guests not thus treated. He is but a poor man, invited as an act of condescending patronage. No kiss is offered him; no slave waits upon him; of course a mechanic can not need the luxuries others are accustomed to!"] 44 And turning to the woman, he said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? [Simon is to look upon the woman as one whose actions stood in contrast to his own.] I entered into thy house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath wetted my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. [Jesus here draws the first contrast. In the East, where the feet without stockings are placed in sandals instead of shoes, water becomes essential to one who would enter a house. The guest should be afforded an opportunity to wash the dust from his feet, not only for comfort’s sake, but also that he might not be humiliated by soiling the carpets on which he walked, and the cushions on which he reclined. The trifling courtesy Simon had omitted; but the woman had amply supplied his omission, bathing the Lord’s feet in what Bengel well calls "the most priceless of waters."] 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but she, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. [We have here the second contrast. A kiss was the ordinary salutation of respect in the East. Sometimes the hand was [294] kissed, and sometimes the cheek ( 2 Samuel 15:5, 2 Samuel 19:39, Matthew 26:49, Acts 20:37, Romans 16:16). We may note incidentally that we have no record of a kiss upon the cheek of Jesus save that given by Judas. The woman had graced the feet of Jesus with those honors which Simon had withheld from his cheek.] 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but she hath anointed my feet with ointment. [Anointing was a mark of honor which was usually bestowed upon distinguished guests ( Amos 6:6, Psalms 23:5, Psalms 141:5). To anoint the feet was regarded as extreme luxury (Pliny H.N. xiii. 4). In this third case Jesus makes a double comparison. To anoint the feet was more honored than to anoint the head, and the ointment was a more valuable and worthy offering than the mere oil which ordinary courtesy would have proffered.] 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. [Her love was the result, and not the cause, of her forgiveness. Our sins are not forgiven because we love God, but we love God because they are forgiven ( 1 John 4:19). Such is the inference of the parable, and such the teaching of the entire New Testament. We search the story in vain for any token of love on the part of Simon.] 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that even forgiveth sins? [They were naturally surprised at this marvelous assumption of authority, but in the light of what had just been said they did not dare to express themselves. Ignorance of Christ’s person and office caused them to thus question him. It is easy to stumble in the dark. We are not told that Simon joined in asking this question.] 50 And he said unto the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace. [Jesus did not rebuke his questioners, because the process of forgiveness was something which could not be demonstrated to their comprehension, and hence their error could not be made clear. Jesus attributed her forgiveness to her faith. "Peace" was the Hebrew and "grace" [295] was the Greek salutation. It is here used as a farewell, and means "Go in the abiding enjoyment of peace." Several valuable lessons are taught by this incident. 1. That the sense of guiltiness may differ in degree, but nevertheless the absolute inability of man to atone for sin is common to all. 2. As sin is against Christ, to Christ belongs the right and power to forgive it. 3. That conventional respectability, having no such flagrant and open sins as are condemned by the public, is not conscious of its awful need. 4. That those who have wandered far enough to have felt the world’s censure realize most fully the goodness of God in pardoning them, and hence are moved to greater expressions of gratitude than are given by the self-righteous. But we must not draw the conclusion that sin produces love, or that much sin produces much love, and that therefore much sin is a good thing. The blessing which we seek is not proportioned to the quantity of the sins; but is proportioned to the quantity of sinful sense which we feel. We all have sin enough to destroy our souls, but many of us fail to love God as we should, through an insufficient sense of sinfulness.]

[FFG 290-296]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Luke 7". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tfg/luke-7.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.