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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Luke 7

 

 

Verses 1-10

HEALING OF THE CENTURION’S SERVANT

Matthew 8:5-13, and Luke 7:1-10. We see here a clear confirmation that the Mount of Beatitudes, on which the sermon was preached, is not Mt. Hattin, west of Tiberias, as many believe, but that great mountain hanging over the city of Capernaum from the north; as He is at Capernaum immediately after descending from the mountain, whereas Mt. Hattin is twenty miles distant by land and ten by sea. “But when He finished all His words in the ears of the people, He came into Capernaum. The servant of a certain centurion, who was valuable to him, being sick, was about to die. And hearing concerning Jesus, he sent to Him the elders of the Jews to ask him that, having come, He may heal his servant. And they, coming to Jesus, continued to entreat Him, earnestly saying, That he is worthy to whom He will do this; for he loveth our race, and he hath built for us a synagogue.” We are quoting Luke. Matthew says that the centurion himself came to Jesus. You see here, Luke says that he sent the elders of the Jews. In this there is no discrepancy, as we must remember that old Roman law, adopted by the English and the Americans, Qui facit per alium, facit per se, “What a man does by another, he does by himself.” This principle is recognized in all Biblical interpretation, and here harmonizes Matthew and Luke. From the fact that both incidents transpired in Capernaum, some have confounded this miracle with that of healing the nobleman's son (John 4). They are entirely different. In the latter case, Jesus was at Cana, and actually healed him while a day's journey distant. In the case of the centurion, Jesus is in the city. The nobleman was a Jew, a member of the Herodian family; the centurion a Gentile, an officer in the Roman army. The nobleman is an example of weak faith, increasing and triumphing in the end; while the centurion exhibits very strong faith throughout. When I was in Capernaum they pointed me out the ruin of the synagogue which this centurion built for the Jews. “And Jesus was going along with them. And He being far from the house, the centurion sent his friends to Him, saying, Lord, be not troubled, for I am not worthy that You may come beneath my roof; therefore I did not consider myself worthy to come unto You. But speak in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me, and I say to this one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. And Jesus hearing these things was astonished at him, and turning, said to the multitude following Him, I say unto you, That I have not found so great faith in Israel. And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the sick servant well.” The faith of the centurion, as you see, received the Savior's highest commendation, assuring them that He had not found so great faith in Israel, this heathen Roman officer eclipsing the brightest examples in all the Hebrew nation. His faith is beautifully illustrated in the reasons which he gives for not troubling Jesus to come to his house, though He was then on His way, “I am a man under authority,” etc. What is the meaning of the centurion? “Just as I command Roman soldiers, and they are forced by the rigors of military law to obey me or lose their heads, so You command diseases to evacuate the body and devils to come out of the soul, and they are bound by the laws of the universe to obey You. Therefore there is no need of Your coming to my house, as You have nothing to do but command the disease to leave my servant, and it is bound to get away; it can not help itself.” Matthew 8:2 : “But I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens, but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; and there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Thus our Lord indulges in these mournful reflections upon the awful doom of the unbelieving Jews, the children of the kingdom, who had waited four thousand years for the coming King, and then, unfortunately, rejecting Him, will make their bed in hell. “Children of the kingdom” does not mean that they are already members of it, but simply that they are subjects for admission into it, this being a peculiar Oriental expression. The wonderful faith of this Gentile seems to remind our Savior of the coming millions from the whole heathen world, destined so speedily, responsive to the gospel call, to hasten into the kingdom, thus filling the vacancy created by the fall of the Jews. “And Jesus said to the centurion, Go, and as you have believed, so be it unto you. And his servant was healed in that hour.” This declaration of the Master is a glorious climax, setting forth the great gospel law of pardon and sanctification, thus recognizing our faith as the measuring line of our experiences, commensurate with what we get from God. While repentance must put you on believing ground, and loyal obedience demonstrate your faith to the world, yet faith is the only receptive and appropriative grace in the Divine economy. Prayer shovels in the coal, but faith generates the steam.


Verses 11-17

RAISING THE WIDOW’S SON

Luke 7:11-17. “And it came to pass consecutively, He was going into a city called Nain, and many disciples of His, and a great multitude, were accompanying Him. And when He drew near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son to his mother, and she a widow; and a great multitude of the city were along with her. And the Lord seeing her, was moved with compassion toward her, and said to her, Weep not. And having come to them, He touched the bier; and those carrying it stood still. And He said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise; and the dead sat up, and began to speak; and He gave him to his mother. And fear took hold of all, and they glorified God, saying, A great Prophet has risen among us, and God has looked in mercy on His people. And that word concerning Him went out in all Judea and all the surrounding country.” I visited the city of Nain during my recent tour. It stands on the northwestern slope of Mt. Ramoth-Gilead. Like other cities during the desolation of the country, its magnificence has long ago evanesced, leaving it nothing now but a filthy Arabic village amid the old ruins. A Latin church stands on the spot where it is certified that Jesus performed this stupendous miracle — a suitable commemoration of this mighty work. We find that our Savior traveled all the way from Capernaum to Nain, about forty miles, on foot, returning immediately; thus giving Him a journey of eighty miles for this one benefaction, as the record shows that He made the round trip from Capernaum, and specifies this only item in His ministry meanwhile. Doubtless He preached to the multitudes by the way. How wonderful was the sympathy for that poor widow who was burying her only son, and with him all her support, hope, and happiness, so far as this world is concerned! I trow she was a godly woman, and Jesus heard her prayers and saw her tears, despite forty miles intervening. When He stops the corpse on its way to the tomb, momentous was the sensation, all hearts leaping with inquiry, “What does this mean, stopping a corpse on its way to the tomb?” Such a thing was never heard of. The people in the city are astonished to see the halt of the procession. Now that the panic- stricken pall-bearers have set down the bier in the middle of the road, all eyes centered on the Prophet of Galilee. He walks round, lifts the pall from the face of the dead, takes him by the hand, and speaks with the voice that makes the mountain tremble, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.” All eyes are centered on the corpse, which, sure enough, rises up, sitting on the bier, sees his mother, throws his arms around her, standing in loving embrace. Now the multitudes see that there is no mistake about it, Samuel is actually alive again. O what a shout they raise, “Glory to God in the highest! He has had mercy on Israel, and raised up a Prophet in her midst who has power to speak the dead to life!” What an inexplicable surprise falls on the people of the city! Who ever heard a shout at a funeral? What, in all the world, is the matter? They see the procession all broken up, and the people running hither and thither, as if they were wild, leaping and throwing their hats into the air, and shouting uproariously. They climb to the flat roofs of their houses, and stretch their eyes to see what is the matter. Behold! by this time the whole crowd are moving hack toward the city, their stentorian voices reverberating against old Mt. Gilead, and rolling back like thunder peals across the Plain of Megiddo, arousing all the community. Behold! they see the young man dressed in his grave-clothes, by the side of his mother, heading the procession.


Verses 18-23

DID JOHN THE BAPTIST OR HIS DISCIPLES DOUBT THE CHRISTHOOD OF JESUS?

Matthew 11:2-6; Luke 7:18-23. We answer the above question unhesitatingly in the negative. Neither John nor his disciples had any doubt about the Christhood of Jesus. Already twenty months have rolled away since he had introduced Him to the people and inaugurated Him into His official Messiahship by baptizing Him at the Jordan, and he had seen the Holy Ghost descend on Him, not only indubitably demonstrating His Christhood, but gloriously qualifying Him to preach the gospel of the kingdom. As the disciples of Jesus had begun with John, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, the steward of King Herod, lived at Machaerus, where John was in prison, and coming home kept the faithful Baptist well posted in reference to the mighty works of Jesus, the fact of the matter was, that Jesus had not yet openly to the Jews proclaimed His Messiahship, as this was brought out at a later date, up at Caesarea-Philippi, through the confession of Peter; John wanted to draw Him out into an open confession of His Christhood to the multitude, feeling that this would expedite the work.

Luke: “His disciples proclaimed to John concerning all these things. And calling certain two of his disciples, John sent them to Jesus, saying, Art Thou He who is to come, or look we for another? And the men, coming to Him, said, John the Baptist sent us to you, saying, Art Thou He who is to come or do we look for another? And at that hour He was healing many of diseases, chronic ailments, and unclean spirits, and was conferring on many blind people the power to see. Jesus responding, said to them, Going, tell John those things which you have seen and heard; that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them, and blessed is he whosoever may not he offended in Me.” So you see that Jesus just sent them back to John to tell him what they had seen, aiming this to be the answer to his question. During all these twenty months He has been performing all these mighty works, and at the same time constantly preaching the gospel of the kingdom. You see the solution of the whole problem: He desires the people to be convinced of His Christhood by His mighty works, which none but God can do, preferring that their faith may supervene as a normal result of witnessing His miracles and hearing His profound and glorious truth, rather than it should be founded on His simple affirmations. The time had not yet arrived for the open and public declaration of His Christhood. Another reason consisted in the fact that the Jews all believed that Christ was to be their King, ascending the throne of David; would break the yoke of oppression, and reign over them; thirty years of military despotism, since the Roman proconsulate had superseded the Jewish kingdom, had galled their necks with the yoke of military despotism till they longed to throw it off and again be free. This was evidently a great reason why He did not openly declare His Messiahship; but at the same time filled the whole country with His mighty works, which none but God could do. You must remember that He did, in the beginning, declare His Christhood while preaching in Samaria, as there was no probability of their crowning Him King.


Verses 24-30

CHAPTER 22.

JOHN THE BAPTIST THE GREATEST PROPHET

Matthew 11:7-15, & Luke 7:24-30. “And the messengers of John having gone away, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” Well did the multitude remember the thrilling scenes two years ago, when they all left their employments and went away to hear the wonderful prophet of the wilderness; and the waving of the tall reeds growing in the rich alluvial soil on Jordan’s bank, moved by the sighing zephyrs, hither and thither, were vivid in their memories. Those reeds are there now, fifteen feet high. My comrades, a few days ago, brought away some of them as souvenirs. “But what went ye out to see? A man clothed in soft raiments? Behold, those who are in gaudy and soft apparel are in king’s houses.” No, they never went to see a royal dude or a leader of the hon tons. A great man of the world could never have attracted that multitude, away into the wilderness, to run a camp-meeting six solid months. He was the very opposite, dressed like a tramp, and living like a soldier who proposed to conquer or die. “But what went ye out to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it has been written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thee, who will prepare Thy way before Thee. <390301>Malachi 3:1 For I say unto you, That among those who have been born of women, no prophet is greater than John; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” That John the Baptist was a transcendent intellectualist and climacterically spiritual, actually filled with the Holy Ghost from his infancy, the greatest of the prophets and peerless in his dispensation, no one can call in question; yet the smallest saint in the Pentecostal age is dispensationally greater than John, the prince of prophets, and even more than a prophet, as he was the precursor of our Lord. While the Bible is preeminently spiritual, yet it is the most intellectual Book in the world, exhibiting many specimens of the highest mental culture the ages have produced, among those who have given themselves world-wide notoriety as hornines unhts libri, “men of one book.” Our Savior frequently indulges in terse, enigmatical statements of truth, in order to sharpen our wits, develop our intellects, and superinduce profound and exhaustive research. If John the Baptist were living now, he would be the sensation of the world, as he was in his day; yet, dispensationally, he lived and died under the Law. Hence all the sons of gospel grace stand on a plane superior and more luminous, and richer in privileges and opportunities, than the brightest and the best enjoyed under the old covenant. “And all the people hearing, and the publicans justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John; but the Pharisees and theologians rejected the counsel of God against themselves, not having been baptized by him.” While the rank and the of the Jewish nation, and especially the poor, were melted and convicted by the preaching of John, gladly receiving baptism at his hands, the Pharisees (i.e., the influential and official members of the Church) and the lawyers — Greek, nomikoi, from nomos, “law;” i.e., the law of Moses — who were the learned exponents of the Old Testament Scriptures, and not lawyers in the modern sense, but theologians (i.e., the learned preachers), took gross offense at the stern rebuke of John, calling them “generation of vipers,” and demanding of them satisfactory evidence of repentance, and consequently they were not baptized by him. (Matthew 3:7.)


Verses 36-50

CHAPTER 23.

GRATITUDE OF THE FALLEN WOMAN WHOM JESUS HAD SAVED

Luke 7:36-50. “A certain one of the Pharisees asked Him that He may eat with him; and coming into the house of the Pharisee, He sat down at the table. And, behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, learning that He is dining in the house of the Pharisee, breaking an alabaster box of myrrh, and standing behind by His feet, weeping, began to wash His feet with her tears; and she continued to wipe them with the hairs of her head, and to kiss His feet copiously, and anoint them with the myrrh.” As Jesus lived in Capernaum, where this incident transpired, this poor fallen woman had heard Him preaching, and been gloriously converted. How do you know she was fallen? Amartolos, translated “sinner,” so indicates, and the narrative corroborates. This tender-hearted young convert, keeping close on the track of Jesus, learns that He is to dine with this Pharisee, and, I trow, slips in, with the crowd of His disciples, unobserved by the host, who would evidently have rejected her if she had come alone and thus been recognized. The dining couches in those days were so arranged that the left side was next to the table, and the feet turned away. Hence she had access to His feet while He was eating; her grateful heart, so inundated with the gushing impetuosity of heaven-born love, that when she kisses His feet, her grateful tears spontaneously pour down on them to such an extent that, feeling that they somewhat pollute them, she proceeds to purify them by wiping away the tears with her long, flowing hair, and at the same time the gushing impetuosity of first love constrains her to repeatedly and copiously kiss His feet, and anoint them with the myrrh, which doubtless she had used in her evil life, and was very valuable, as it is not indigenous in Palestine, but transported from Arabia Felix. “And the Pharisee, who had called Him, spoke within himself, saying, If this man were a prophet, He would know who and what sort the woman is who touches Him, because she is a sinner. Jesus responding, said to him, Simon, I have something to say to thee; and he says, Master, speak. There were two debtors to a certain creditor; the one owed him five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And they, not having wherewith to pay, he forgave them both. Therefore, which one of them, tell me, will love him the more? Simon responding, said, I apprehend, the one to whom he forgave the more. And He said to him, You judged correctly. And turning to the woman, He said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I came into thy house, and thou gavest Me no water for my feet; but she washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest Me no kiss; but she, from the time I came in, did not cease copiously kissing My feet. Thou didst not anoint My head with oil; but she has anointed My feet with myrrh. Therefore, I say unto thee, That her sins, which are many, are forgiven, because she loved much; but the one to whom little is forgiven, loveth little. And He said to her, Thy sins are forgiven.” In that summerland the most of the people go barefoot. Shoes are not now used by the natives, but sandals, which are dropped off at the door, the host meeting the guests with water to wash their feet before entering the house. The olive oil, in that country so abundant, is a substitute for butter, lard, light, and lubrication generally, and used on the hair of the head. The Oriental kiss is still common. These courtesies had been neglected on that occasion, and our Lord reminds His host that this woman has supplied them all. He now brings up a very clear illustration, explaining her incorrigible, gushing gratitude, which she had so copiously demonstrated regardless of all criticism. Does it not follow from this illustration that great sinners will have greater love when they get saved? It certainly does, considering love in the sense of gratitude. But we must remember that there are other phases of spiritual interest besides gratitude, which is certainly the salient point in this illustration. It is doubtful whether the losses sustained in intellectual obscuration and obtundification, and the deep degradation of the moral faculties, are ever entirely regained. As finite beings are all progressive, and the time occupied in recovering lost ground might otherwise be devoted to unimpeded progress, it certainly follows as a logical sequence that there is, in the ultimatum, greater availability and grander possibilities awaiting the person who has never debased the affections in low debaucheries and gross sensualities, nor dwarfed his intellect by dragging it down to the depths of brutality, and blackened it with the hellish horrors of demoniacal passions. Besides, there is an awful risk to run on the other side. While one prodigal gets home, a hundred die at the hog-pen; and while one fallen woman is gloriously saved, as in this case, many never escape from the lasso of Satan. “And those sitting along with him began to say among themselves, Who is this who even forgives sins? And He said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” Even at this date, as our Savior had not openly declared His Messiahship among the Jews, His disciples probably in the main looked upon Him as the greatest prophet God had ever sent to Israel, remembering that Elijah and Elisha had wrought many miracles, and even raised quite a number of people from the dead. The Jews were orthodox on the sin question, and always ready to certify that the forgiveness of sins was the province of God alone. Our Savior’s affirmation, setting forth the human conditions of salvation, is exceedingly clear in the unmistakable declaration, “Thy faith hath saved thee.” No Bible reader can deny the great, fundamental doctrine of salvation through faith alone without flatly contradicting the Savior. If anything else had been the condition of that woman’s salvation, rest assured, Jesus would have specified it. Justifying faith involves repentance as a necessary and preparatory antecedent, requisite to put the sinner on believing ground for pardon, just as faith for sanctification involves a thorough and complete consecration, an indispensable prerequisite to put you on believing ground for sanctification.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Luke 7:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/luke-7.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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