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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Luke 7

 

 

Verse 1

Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.

The time of this scene seems to have been just after the preceding discourse; the healing of the Leper (Matthew 8:1-4, and Mark 1:40-45) only intervening-on the way, probably, from the Mount to Capernaum.

Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.


Verse 2

And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.

And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. These centurions were Roman officers, so called from being captains over 100 soldiers. Though a pagan by birth and early training, he had become acquainted with the Jewish religion probably either while quartered at Capernaum or in some other Galilee town; although there were so many proselytes to the Jewish religion in all the principal Greek and Roman cities that he might have embraced the true Faith even before his arrival in the Holy Land. The same may be said of Cornelius (Acts 10:1). His character appears here in the most beautiful light. The value which he set upon this dying servant and his anxiety for his recovery-as if he had been his own son-is the first feature in it; because, as Dr. Hall observes, he is unworthy to be well served who will not sometimes wait upon his followers. This servant was "sick of the palsy, grievously tormented" (Matthew 8:6).


Verse 3

And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.

And when he heard of Jesus - like the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:27), and the Syrophenician woman (Mark 7:25).

He sent unto him the elders, [ presbuterous (G4245), rather 'elders'] of the Jews. His reason for this is best given in his own words of profound humility: "wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto Thee" (Luke 7:7). Matthew represents him as coming himself (Matthew 8:5-6): but this is only as James and John are said to have petitioned their Lord (Mark 10:35), when they got their mother to do it for them (Matthew 20:20); and as Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples (John 4:1-2); and as "Pilate scourged Jesus (John 19:1), when he ordered it to be done.

Beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.


Verse 4

And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:

And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly , [ spoudaioos (Greek #4709)] - or 'in haste,' "saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:"


Verse 5

For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.

For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. These elders content not themselves with delivering the humble petition of the centurion himself, but urge their own arguments in support of it. And how precious is the testimony they bear to this devout soldier; all the more so as coming from persons who were themselves probably strangers to the principle from which he acted. "He loveth our nation," they say; because he had found, in his happy experience, as our Lord said to the woman of Samaria, that "Salvation is of the Jews: (John 4:22); "and (they add) he hath built us a synagogue" [ kai (Greek #2532) teen (Greek #3588) sunagoogeen (Greek #4864) autos (Greek #846) ookodomeesen (Greek #3618)] - 'and himself built us the synagogue;' rebuilding the synagogue of the place at his own sole expense. his love to the Jews took this appropriate and somewhat costly form. He would leave a monument in Capernaum of the debt he owed to the God of Israel by providing for His worship and the comfort of His worshippers. If "a good name is better than precious ointment" (Ecclesiastes 7:1), this military proselyte certainly had it.


Verse 6

Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Then Jesus went with them.

And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him. This was a second message; and here again, what Matthew represents as said to our Lord by the centurion himself is by Luke, who is more specific and full, put into the mouth of the centurion's friends.

Saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof. What deep humility!


Verse 7

Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word. In Matthew it is "but speak the word only" [ alla (Greek #235) monon (Greek #3440) eipe (Greek #2036) logon (Greek #3056)] - or more expressively, 'but speak only a word.'

And my servant shall be healed. No such faith as this had been before displayed.


Verse 8

For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers; and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it - q.d., 'I know both to obey and command: though but a subaltern, my orders are implicitly obeyed: Shall not diseases, then, obey their Lord, and at His word be gone?'


Verse 9

When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him. As Bengel hints, Jesus marveled at only two things-faith (as here) and unbelief (Mark 6:6): at the one, considering the general blindness in spiritual things; at the other, considering the light that shone around all who were privileged to hear Him and behold His works. But the unprecedented faith of this pagan convert could not fail to fill His soul with special admiration.

And turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him (Jews, no doubt), I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel - among the chosen people; this Gentile outstripping all the children of the covenant. A most important addition to this statement is given by Matthew (Matthew 8:11-12), who wrote specially for the Jews: "And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west" - from all parts of the pagan world - "and shall sit down" [ anaklitheesontai (Greek #347)] - 'shall recline,' as at a feast, "with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob" - the fathers of the ancient covenant: Luke, reporting a solemn repetition of these words on a later occasion (Luke 13:28-30), adds, "and all the prophets;" "in the kingdom of heaven:" "but the children of the kingdom" - born to its privileges, but void of faith, "shall be cast out into outer darkness," the darkness outside the banqueting-house; "there (or in this outside-region) shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" - the one expressive of anguish, the other of despair.


Verse 10

And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick. In Matthew we read, "And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way: and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed the self-same hour" (Matthew 8:13), teaching, that as in these bodily diseases, so in the salvation of the soul, all hinges on faith. No doubt this was conveyed to him in the form of a message through the "friends" that brought the second message. Whether Jesus now visited this centurion we are not informed.

Remarks:

(1) How devoutly would this centurion, as he thought of the Providence that brought him into contact with the chosen people, and thus turned his pagan darkness into light, exclaim with the sweet Psalmist of Israel, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage"! (Psalms 16:6). And Cornelius also (Acts 10:1, etc.); and Lydia (Acts 16:14). And by what wonderful providences have hundreds and thousands since then been brought, as by accident and through circumstances the most trivial, into contact with the truth which has set them free! But, perhaps, if we knew all, it would be found that in every case it is in a way perfectly casual and all unexpected that the ear first hears effectually the loving Voice which says, "Look unto me, and be saved." And if so, what materials will this afford for wonder in heaven, when the whole story of each one's life will stand up before his view distinct and vivid; and what a fund of blissful conversation will be thus provided, when the redeemed will, as we may reasonably believe, exchange with each other their past experience, as each says to the other, "Come, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul!"

`When this passing world is done, When has sunk yon glaring sun, When we stand with Christ in glory, Looking o'er life's finished story,

Then, Lord, shall I fully know - Not till then, how much I owe.' (-McCHEYNE)

(2) Bright as was the radiance which shone from the Old Testament upon this mind that had been reared in Pagan darkness, it rested not there, but was only guided by it to Him of whom Moses, in the law, and the Prophets did write. Nor was his a hesitating or superficial faith. Capernaum being the place of Christ's stated residence while in Galilee, this devout officer seems to have not only heard His public addresses, but made himself sufficiently acquainted with the wonders of His gracious hand to have every doubt as to His claims removed, and a profound conviction implanted in his mind of His divine dignity. When, therefore, he has need of His interposition, he applies for it with undoubting confidence, "beseeching Him to come and heal His servant." But he shrinks from a personal application as "unworthy to come to Him;" and though he had petitioned Jesus to come and heal his servant, he sends again to say that it was too much honour to him that He should come under his roof, but that since one word of command from Him would suffice, he would be content with that. What wonderful faith is this for a convert from paganism to reach! The arguments by which he illustrates the power of Jesus to order diseases to be gone-as servants in entire subjection to their Master and Lord-are singularly expressive of a faith in the sovereignty of Christ over the elements of nature and the forces of life to which nothing was impossible. And when we "see how faith wrought with his works (in loving God's nation and building them a synagogue), and by works his faith was made perfect;" and when we observe how all this anxiety of his was not like that of Jairus for the life of an only daughter (Luke 8:42), nor like that of the nobleman for his son (John 4:47), but for a servant that was dear to him, can we wonder that Jesus should say, "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel"?

(3) If the Lord Jesus had been a mere creature, could He have suffered such views of Him to pass uncorrected? But instead of this-as on every other occasion-the more exalted were men's views of Him, ever the more grateful it was to His spirit. See the notes at Luke 5:1-11, Remark 2. 4. There is too good reason to fear that those very elders of the Jews who besought Jesus to come and heal the Centurion's servant, and enforced their petition so well, had themselves none of the centurion's faith in the Lord Jesus. Our Lord's words seem to imply as much. And when He says that this centurion was, after all, but one of a class which, from the most distant and unpromising spots, would occupy the highest places and be in the most favoured company in the kingdom of heaven-while those that had been nursed in the arms and dandled upon the knees and had sucked the breasts of God's lawgivers and prophets, and basked in the sunshine of supernatural truth and divine ordinances, without any inward transformation, would be thrust out, and found weltering in anguish and despair-what a warning does it utter to the religiously favoured, and what encouragement does it hold out to work hopefully among the pagan abroad and the outcasts at home, that "there are first which shall be last, and there are last which shall be first!"

This incident is special to our Evangelist, and its occurrence in Luke's Gospel alone illustrates that charming characteristic of it-its liking for those scenes, circumstances, and sayings of Jesus which manifest His human tenderness, compassion, and grace. The time is expressly stated in the opening words.


Verse 11

And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.

And it came to pass the day after (that is, the day after He had healed the centurion's servant), that he went into a city called Nain - a small village not elsewhere mentioned in Scripture, and only this once probably visited by our Lord: it lay a little to the south of mount Tabor, about twelve miles from Capernaum.

And many of his disciples went with him, and much people , [ ochlos (Greek #3793) polus (Greek #4183)] - 'a great multitude.'


Verse 12

Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.

Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out , [ exekomizeto (Greek #1580)] - in the act of being so. Dead bodies, being ceremonially unclean, were not allowed to be buried within the cities-though the kings of David's house were buried in the city of David-and the funeral was usually on the same day as the death.

The only son of his mother, and she was a widow - affecting particulars, and told with delightful simplicity.


Verse 13

And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.

And when the Lord saw her. This sublime appellation of Jesus - "the Lord" - is more usual, as Bengel notes, with Luke and John than Matthew, while Mark holds the mean.

He had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. What consolation to thousands of the bereaved has this single verse carried from age to age!


Verse 14

And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.

And he came and touched the bier - no doubt with a look and manner which said, Stand still.

And they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.


Verse 15

And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.

And he that was dead sat up [the coffin, soros (G4673), was an open one], and began to speak - evidencing that he was both alive and well.

And he delivered him to his mother. What mingled majesty and grace shines here! Behold, the Resurrection and the Life in human flesh, with a word of command, bringing back life to the dead body, and Incarnate Compassion putting forth its absolute power to dry a widow's tears.


Verse 16

And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.

And there came a fear on all - a religious awe, and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people - after long absence more than bringing back the days of Elijah and Elisha. For they, though they raised the dead, did so laboriously; Jesus immediately, and with a word: they confessedly as servants and creatures, by a power not their own; Jesus by that inherent "virtue," which "went out of Him," in every cure which He performed. Compare 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:32-37; and see the note at Mark 5:30.


Verse 17

And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.

And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judea, and throughout all the region round about.

For Remark on this section, see the notes at Mark 5:21-43, Remark 5. For Remark on this section, see the notes at Mark 5:21-43, Remark 5.


Verses 18-35

And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.

For the circumstances of the Baptist's imprisonment, see the notes at Mark 6:17-20.

He had now lain in prison probably a full year, far away from the scene of his Master's labours. But his faithful disciples appear from time to time to have kept him informed of them. At length the tidings they brought him, including no doubt those of the resurrection of the widow of Nain's son from the dead, appear to have determined the lonely prisoner to take a step which probably he had often thought of, but until now shrunk from.

Verse 18. And the disciples of John showed him of all these things.

Verse 19. And John calling unto him two of his disciples , [ duo (Greek #1417) tinas (Greek #5100)] - 'two certain disciples;' that is, two picked, trusty ones. [In Matthew 11:1-30, instead of duo (Greek #1417), Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles, on certainly powerful evidence, print dia (Greek #1223) - 'sent by his disciples.' Fritzsche and Alford follow them in their text; and Meyer and de Wette approve of the change. But as the external evidence is not overpowering, so there is, in our judgment, the strongest internal evidence against it, and in favour of the received reading, which differs only by a letter and a half from the other reading.]

Sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

Verse 20. When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? Was this a question of doubt as to the Messiahship of his Lord, as Rationalists are fain to represent it? Impossible, from all we know of him. Was it then purely for the satisfaction of his disciples, as some expositors, more concerned for the Baptist's reputation than for simple and natural interpretation, take it? Obviously not. The whole strain of our Lord's reply shows that it was designed for John himself. Clearly it was a message of impatience, and almost of desperation. It seemed, no doubt, hard to him that his Master should let him lie so long in prison for his fidelity-useless to his Master's cause and a comparative stranger to His proceedings-after having been honoured to announce and introduce Him to His work and to the people. And since the wonders of His hand seemed only to increase in glory as He advanced, and it could not but be easy for Him who preached deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound, to put it into the heart of Herod to set him at liberty, or to effect his liberation in spite of him, he at length determines to see if, through a message from the prison by his disciples, he cannot get Him to speak out His mind, and at least set his own at rest. This, we take it, was the real object of his message. The message itself, indeed, was far from a proper one. It was peevish; it was presumptuous; it was all but desperate. He had gotten depressed; he was losing heart; his spirit was clouded; Heaven's sweet light had, to some extent, departed from him; and this message was the consequence. As it was announced that he should come in the spirit and power of Elijah, so we find him treading in that prophet's steps rather more than was desirable (see 1 Kings 19:1-4).

Verse 21. And in the same hour (no doubt expressly with a view to its being reported to John), he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight , [ echarisato (Greek #5483) to (Greek #3588) blepein (Greek #991)] - 'granted [the gift of] sight.'

Verse 22. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard. No doubt along with the miracles which they "saw," they would "hear" those magic words with which He rolled away the maladies that came before Him. Nor would He fail to drop some other words of grace, fitted to impress the minds of the messengers, and, when reported, to cheer the spirit of their lonely master.

How that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised. Since the article is missing in each of these clauses, the sense would be better perceived by the English reader thus, though scarcely tunable enough: 'Blind persons are seeing, lame people are walking, leprous persons are getting cleansed, deaf people are hearing, dead persons are being raised.'

To the poor the Gospel is preached , [ euangelizontai (Greek #2097)] - or 'is [in course of] being preached;' alluding to the great Messianic prediction, as it was uttered and appropriated by Himself at Nazareth, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor."

Verse 23. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. 'Let these things convince him that My hand is not shortened that it cannot save; but blessed is he who can take Me with just as much light as to his future lot as is vouchsafed to him.' This was all the reply that the messengers received. Not a ray of light is cast on his prospects, nor a word of commendation uttered while his disciples are present; he must die in simple faith, and as a martyr to his fidelity. But no sooner are they gone, than Jesus breaks forth into a glorious commendation of him.

Verse 24. And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? - `a man driven about by every gust of popular opinion, and uttering an uncertain sound? Such is not John.'

Verse 25. But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? - `a self-indulgent, courtly preacher? Such was not John.'

Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings' courts. 'If that be the man ye wanted, ye must go in quest of him to royal palaces.'

Verse 26. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? - a faithful straightforward utterer of the testimony given him to bear?

Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. 'If that was what ye flocked to the wilderness to see in John, then ye have not been disappointed; for he is that, and much more than that.'

Verse 27. This is he of whom it is written (Malachi 3:1), Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. See the note at Mark 1:3; and at Luke 1:17. 'There were many prophets, but only one Forerunner of the Lord's Christ; and this is he.'

Verse 28. For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not ("there hath not risen", Matthew 11:11), a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. The point of comparison is manifestly not personal character; for as it could hardly be said that in this respect he excelled every human being that preceded him, so it would be absurd to say that he was outstripped by the least advanced of the disciples of Christ. It is of his official standing or position in the economy of grace that our Lord is speaking. In that respect he was above all that ever went before him, inasmuch as he was the last and most honoured of the Old Testament prophets, and stood on the very edge of the new economy, though belonging to the old: but for this very reason, the humblest member of the new economy was in advance of him. In Matthew 11:12-15, we have the following important additions: "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force" [ biazetai (Greek #971), kai (Greek #2532) biastai (Greek #973) harpazousin (Greek #726) auteen (Greek #846)]; 'is being forced, and violent persons are seizing it.' The sense of these remarkable words is best seen in the form in which they were afterward repeated, as preserved by our Evangelist alone (Luke 16:16): "The law and the prophets were until John" - who stood midway between the old economy of the law and the prophets and the new; above the one, but below the other - "since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" [ eis (Greek #1519) auteen (Greek #846) biazetai (Greek #971)], or 'is forcing his way into it.' The idea is that of a rush for something unexpectedly and transportingly brought within their reach.

In the one passage the struggle to obtain entrance is the prominent idea; in the other and later one it is the multitude that were thus pressing or forcing their way in. And what our Lord says of John in both places is that his ministry constituted the honourable point of transition from the one state of things to the other. "For," to continue Matthew's additions to this discourse, "all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." They expected the literal Elijah the Tishbite to reappear before the coming of Messiah; misinterpreting the closing words of the prophet Malachi ( ), and misled by the Septuagint, which rendered it, "Behold, I send you Elijah the Tishbite." But our Lord here tells them plainly that this promised messenger was no other than John the Baptist of whom he had been speaking; although, knowing that this would be a startling and not very welcome announcement to those who confidently looked for the reappearance of the ancient prophet himself from heaven, He first says it was intended for those who could take it in, and then calls the attention of all who had ears to hear it to what he had said. Coming back now to our own Evangelist-

Verse 29. And all the people that heard [him] , [ akousas (Greek #191)] - rather, 'on hearing [this],'

And the publicans, justified God, being baptized , [ baptisthentes (Greek #907)] - rather, 'having been baptized' "with the baptism of John."

Verse 30. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not (or rather, 'not having been') baptized of him - a striking remark of the Evangelist himself on the different effects produced by our Lord's testimony to John. The spirit of it is, that all those of the audience who had surrendered themselves to the great preparatory ministry of John, and submitted themselves to his Baptism-including the publicans, among whom there had been a considerable awakening-were grateful for this encomium on one to whom they owed so much, and gave glory to God for such a gift, through whom they had been led to Him who now spake to them (Luke 1:16-17); whereas the Pharisees and lawyers, true to themselves in having refused the Baptism of John, now set at nought the merciful design of God in the Saviour Himself, to their own undoing.

Verse 31. [And the Lord said], Whereunto then shall liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? [The introductory words of this verse - Eipen (Greek #2036) de (Greek #1161) ho (Greek #3588) Kurios (Greek #2962) - have scarcely any authority at all, and were evidently no part of the original text. They were added probably at first to some Church Lesson, to introduce what follows, and thence found their way into the text.]

Verse 32-35. They are like unto children ... saying, We have piped ... and ye have not danced ... mourned ... and ye have not wept. For John ... came neither eating ... nor drinking ... and ye say, He hath a devil. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man ... a friend of publicans and sinners! But Wisdom is justified of all her children. As cross, capricious children, invited by their playmates to join them in their amusements, will play with them neither at weddings nor at funerals (juvenile imitations of the joyous and mournful scenes of life), so that generation rejected both John and his Master: the one because he was too unsocial-as if under some dark demoniacal influence; the other, because he was too much the reverse, lax in his habits, and consorting with the lowest classes of society. But the children of Wisdom recognize and honour her whether in the austere garb of the Baptist or in the more attractive style of his Master, whether in the Law or in the Gospel, whether in rags or in royalty; as it is written, "The full soul loatheth an honey-comb: but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet" (Proverbs 27:7).

Remarks:

(1) Among the internal evidences of the truth of the Gospel History, none is more striking, and to an unsophisticated mind more resistless, than the view which it gives of John the Baptist. Who, in the first place, would not have expected that the ministry of the Forerunner should cease as soon as that of his Master commenced; and yet it did not, but both continued for some time the same work of preaching and baptizing. Next, who would not have expected that the disciples of John would all attach themselves to his Master, especially after what he said when questioned on that subject? (John 3:25-36). And yet, to the very last, there was a company known by the name of "John's disciples," who not only remained with him, but followed a more austere rule of life than the disciples of Jesus Himself, a mode of life suited to the man who seems never to have mixed in general society but kept himself, in a great measure, secluded; and only when John was beheaded, and by his affectionate and faithful disciples decently interred, do this class seem to have joined themselves to Jesus in a body.

Then, Christ's not only letting John be imprisoned, but lie in prison so long without even a message of sympathy being sent him; and, after the patience of the lonely prisoner was almost worn out, and all the more tried by the tidings that reached him of Christ's triumphant career, when he sent a message to his Master, couched in terms almost of desperation, that he should receive no other answer than that the tidings that had reached him of his Master's glory were true to the full, and that blessed was he who did not allow himself to be staggered and stumbled at Him-all this is the very reverse of anything one would expect. But further still, that while uttering not one word in commendation of John in the hearing of his disciples, the reporting of which might have lifted up his depressed spirit, our Lord should, as soon as they were gone, break forth into a lofty encomium on his character and office-who would have expected Him to act so? Finally, that He should allow him to be beheaded, to gratify a base woman, and when tidings of this were brought to Jesus by his sorrowing disciples, that not a word should be uttered by Him on the subject: these things, which surprise and almost perplex us as facts, it is impossible to conceive of as pure inventions; being the very opposite of all that the history of such inventions would lead us to expect. But,

(2) When we come to deal with them as facts, we see in them but vivid illustrations of certain features of the divine procedure for which we ought to be prepared. When the three Hebrew youths were threatened with the burning fiery furnace if they would not worship Nebuchadnezzar's golden idol, they expressed their full conviction that the God they served both could and would deliver them; but even should they be mistaken in this expectation, they were still resolved rather to suffer than to sin. And they suffered not. But John did. He had indeed counted the cost, but he had it to pay. 'Wilt thou be faithful even unto death?' was the question, and his spirit answered, Yes. 'Canst thou lie in prison unrescued, and even uncheered, except by the light thou already hast, and at length in a moment be despatched by those whom thy fidelity hath stung to the quick?' To this also his true heart doubtless bowed, though the trying question was never explicitly submitted to him. And such is what thousands of the martyrs of Jesus have undergone for His name. Nor can we doubt that this very record of the Lord's procedure toward the Baptist has soothed many a one when called to pass through a like dreary period of comfortless suffering, ending in death, for Jesus' sake. And may we not please ourselves with the thought that, like as the words wrung from the Saviour Himself in Gethsemane - "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me" - were followed by the placid words, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit;" so the deep depression which prompted the question, "Art Thou He that should come, or look we for another?" was followed by a serene contentment and placid hope which might thus sing its pensive song, and only be interrupted by the murderer with his bloody axe? --

`God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform: He plants His footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm. `Deep in unfathomable mines Of never-failing skill, He treasures up His bright designs,

And works His sovereign will. `His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour; The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower.'

(-COWPER)

(3) As when John the Baptist ushered in an era of new light and liberty in the kingdom of God, "every man pressed into it;" so there have been periods in the history of the Church ever since, in which a light and a freedom altogether unwonted have been infused into the Christian ministry, or men have been raised up outside the regular ministry, but gifted specially for special work, and particularly for rousing the impenitent to flee from the coming wrath and lay hold on eternal life, whose labours God designs to bless to the shaking of the dry bones and the turning of many to righteousness. Publicans and sinners-the most unlikely classes-are then to be seen flocking to Christ; while scribes and Pharisees-the respectably religious and the formal among the ministers of the Gospel-stand aloof, and cannot easily conceal their dislike at what they deem irregularities, and fanaticism, and dangers. At such a time it will be the part of the simple-hearted and the wise to hail, on the one hand, the ingathering of souls to Christ, however it be effected, and, on the other hand, by prudent and kindly guidance of it, to keep so glorious a work from being marred by human folly.

(4) Is it not extraordinary that, after our Lord's most explicit declaration here, that John the Baptist was the Elias (Elijah) that prophecy taught the Church to look for before the coming of Messiah, there are Christian students of prophecy who affirm that the Jews were quite right in expecting the literal Elijah from heaven; and who, while admitting that John was an Elias, sent to announce the first coming of Christ, maintain that the prophecy will only be properly fulfilled in the coming of the Tishbite himself to prepare men for His second coming? The thing to be condemned here is not so much the extravagance of the expectation itself, which, the more one thinks of it, will appear the more extravagant, but the manifest distortion which it puts upon our Lord's words, and the violence which it does to the prophecy. But all this comes of an out-and-out literalism in the interpretation of prophecy, which in some cases brings out conclusions, not only very harsh, but scarcely consistent with the principle itself.

(5) When men want an excuse for rejecting or disregarding the grace of the Gospel, they easily find it. And there are none more ready and common than those arising out of something objectionable in the mode of presenting the truth. One preacher is too austere; another too free: one is too long; another too short: one is too sentimental; another too hard. Nothing pleases; nobody quite suits them. But O, when the soul is hungry, how welcome is God's solid truth, Christ's precious Gospel, however it comes! And so "Wisdom is justified of her children," who know her, hail her, clasp her to their bosom, however humbly clad; while those who do otherwise only show themselves to be "full souls," to whom even an honey-comb is distasteful - "the whole, who need not the Physician" and prize Him not.

This exquisite scene is special to Luke. The time is quite uncertain. Perhaps it is introduced here as being suggested by "the publicans" and others of similar character, whom the preceding section brought before us as welcoming Christ, while "the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves" (Luke 7:29-30).


Verse 36

And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat.

And one of the Pharisees desired - or 'requested' him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. This Pharisee seems to have been in a state of mind regarding Jesus intermediate between that of the few who, like Nicodemus, were led to believe on Him, and of the overwhelming majority who regarded Him with suspicion from the first, which soon grew into deadly dislike, We shall see that, though not free from cold suspicion, He was desirous of a closer acquaintance with our Lord, under the impression that He might perhaps at least be a prophet. And our Lord, knowing the opportunity it would afford Him of receiving the love of a remarkable convert from the worst class of society, and expounding the great principles of saving truth, accepts His invitation.


Verse 37

And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,

And, behold, a woman in the city (what city is not known: it may have been Capernaum), which was a sinner - who had led a profligate life. But there is no ground whatever for the prevalent notion that this woman was Mary Magdalene (see the note at Luke 8:2); nor do we know what her name was. It may have been concealed from motives of delicacy; but indeed the names of very few women are given in the Gospels.

When she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment - a perfume-vessel, in some cases very costly, as we know from John 12:5. If the ointment, as Alford suggests, had been an accessory to her unhallowed work of sin, the offering of it as here described has a tender interest; but there is no certainty of that.


Verse 38

And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

And stood at his feet behind him weeping - the posture at meals being a reclining one, with the feet out behind,

And began-or proceeded to wash his feet with tears. The word here translated "wash" [ brechein (Greek #1026)] signifies to 'bathe' or 'bedew.'

And did wipe them with the hairs of her head - the long tresses of that hair on which before she had bestowed too much attention. Had she come for such a purpose, she had not been at a loss for a towel. But tears do not come at will, especially in such plenty. No they were quite involuntary, pouring 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, with which, as Stier observes, slaves were wont to wash their master's feet.

And kissed his feet , [ katefilei (Greek #2705)]. The word signifies to 'caress,' or 'kiss tenderly and repeatedly'-which Luke 7:45 shows to be the mashing here. What prompted all this? He who knew her heart tells us it was much love, springing from a sense of much forgiveness. Where she had met with Christ before, or what words of His had brought life to her dead heart and a sense of divine pardon to her guilty soul, we know not. But probably she was of the crowd of "publicans and sinners" whom incarnate Compassion drew so often around Him, and heard from His lips some of those words such as never man spake, "Come unto me, all ye that labour," etc. No personal interview had up to this time taken place between them; but she could keep her feelings no longer to herself, and having found her way to Him (and entered along with him, Luke 7:45), they burst forth in this surpassing, yet most artless style, as if her whole soul would go out to Him.


Verse 39

Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it. Up to this time He seems to have formed no definite opinion of our Lord, and invited him apparently to obtain materials for a judgment.

He spake within himself, saying This man, if he were a prophet - one possessed of supernatural knowledge. The form of expression here employed is to this effect.-`If he were a prophet-but that he cannot be,' [ ei (Greek #1487) een (Greek #2258) profeetees (Greek #4396)].

Would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him; for she is a sinner. 'I have now discovered this man: If he were what he gives himself forth to be, he would not have suffered a wretch like this to come near him; but plainly he knows nothing about her, and therefore he can be no prophet.' Not so fast, Simon; thou hast not seen through thy Guest yet, but He hath seen through thee. Too courteous to expose him nakedly at his own table, He couches His home-thrusts, like Nathan with David, in the first instance under the veil of a parable, and makes him pronounce both the woman's vindication and his own condemnation; and then he lifts the veil.


Verse 40-41

And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.

And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon ... There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, the other fifty.


Verse 42

And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?

And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?


Verse 43

Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

Simon answered and said, I suppose he to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. Now for the unexpected and pungent application. The two debtors are the woman and Simon; the criminality of the one was ten times that of the other-or in the proportion of five hundred to fifty; but both being equally insolvent, both are with equal frankness forgiven; and Simon is made to own that the greatest debtor to forgiving mercy will cling to her Divine Benefactor with the deepest gratitude. Does our Lord then admit that Simon and the woman were both truly forgiven persons? Let us see.


Verse 44

And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.

And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet - `a compliment from a host to his guest which love surely would have prompted; but I got it, not: Was there much love in that? Was there any?'

But she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Dear penitent one! Thy tears fell faster and fuller than thou thoughtest endurable on those blessed feet, and thou didst hasten to wipe them off, as if they had been a stain: but to Him who forgave thee all that debt, the water from those weeping eyes of thine is more precious than would crystal streams from fountains in the Pharisee's house have been; because they welled forth from a bursting heart. That, indeed, was 'much love.' Again,


Verse 45

Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

Thou gavest me no kiss - of salutation. 'How much love was there here? Any at all?'

But this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. She would, in so doing, both hide her head, and get her womanly feelings in a womanly way all expressed. That indeed was 'much love.' But once more,


Verse 46

My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. The double contrast is here to be observed-between his not anointing the head and her anointing the feet; and between his withholding even common olive oil for the higher purpose, and her expending that precious aromatic balsam for the humbler. What evidence did the one afford of any feeling which forgiveness prompts? But what beautiful evidence of this did the other furnish! Our Lord speaks this with delicate politeness, as if hurt at these inattentions of His host, which though not invariably shown to guests, were the customary marks of studied respect and regard. The inference is plain-Only one of the debtors was really forgiven, though in the first instance, to give room for the play of withheld feeling, the forgiveness of both is supposed in the parable. Our Lord now confines Himself to the woman's case.


Verse 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.

Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven , [ afeoontai (Greek #863) hai (Greek #3588) hamartiai (Greek #266) autees (Greek #846) hai (Greek #3588) pollai (Greek #4183)] - 'those many sins of hers are forgiven.' As He had acknowledged before how deep was her debt, so now He reiterates it: her sins were indeed many; her guilt was of a deep dye; but in terms the most solemn He proclaims it all cancelled.

For she loved much. The "for" here [ hoti (Greek #3754)] is plainly evidential, and means, 'inasmuch as' or 'seeing that.' Her love was not the cause, but the proof of her forgiveness; as is evident from the whole structure of the parable.

But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little - a delicately ironical intimation of there being no love in the present case, and so no forgiveness.


Verse 48

And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven - an unsought assurance of what she had felt, indeed, in the simple appropriation to herself of the first words of grace which she had heard-we know not where-but how precious, now that those blessed Lips addressed it to herself!


Verse 49

And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?

And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves [ en (Greek #1722) heautois (Greek #1438)] - or, 'among themselves,' "Who is this that forgiveth sins also?"


Verse 50

And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace. No wonder they were startled to hear One who was reclining at the same couch, and partaking of the same hospitalities with themselves, assume the awful prerogative of 'even forgiving sins.' But so far from receding from this claim, or softening it down, our Lord only repeats it, with two precious additions: one, announcing what was the secret of the "forgiveness" she had experienced, and which carried "salvation" in its bosom-her "faith;" the other, a glorious dismissal of her in that "peace" which she had already felt, but is now assured she has His full warrant to enjoy! The expression, "in peace," is literally "into peace" [ eis (Greek #1519) eireeneen (Greek #1515)] - 'into the assured and abiding enjoyment of the peace of a pardoned state.'

Remarks:

(1) What a glorious exhibition of the grace of the Gospel have we in this section? A woman of the class of profligates casually hears the Lord Jesus pour forth some of those wonderful words of majesty and grace, which dropped as an honey-comb. They pierce her heart; but, as they wound, they heal. Abandoned of men, she is not forsaken of God. Hers, she had thought, was a lost case; but the prodigal, she finds, has a Father still. She will arise and go to Him; and as she goes He meets her, and falls on her neck and kisses her. Light breaks into her soul, as she revolves what she heard from those Lips that spake as never man spake, and draws from them the joyful assurance of divine reconciliation for the chief of sinners, and the peace of a pardoned state. She cannot rest; she must see that wonderful One again, and testify to Him what He hath done for her soul. She inquires after His movements, as if she would say with the Spouse, "Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest, for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of Thy companions?" She learns where He is, and follows in His train fill she finds herself at His feet behind Him at the Pharisee's table.

At the sight of Him, her head is waters and her eyes a fountain of tears, which drop copiously on those beautiful feet. What a spectacle, which even angels might desire-end doubtless did-to look into! But, how differently is it regarded by one at least at that table! Simon the Pharisee thinks it conclusive evidence against the claims of his Guest, that He should permit such a thing to be done to Him by such a person. So the matter shall be expounded, the woman vindicated, and the Pharisee's suspicious courteously yet pointedly rebuked. And what a rich statement of Gospel truth is here conveyed in a few words. Though there be degrees of guilt, yet insolvency-or inability to wipe out the dishonour done to God by sin-is common to all sinners alike. The debtors are sinners, and sin is a debt incurred to Heaven. The debtor of "five hundred" represents the one extreme of them; the debtor of "fifty" the other-those at the bottom and those at the top of the scale of sinners, the greatest and the least sinners, the profligate and the respectable, the tax-collectors and the Pharisees.

A great difference there is between these. But it is a difference only of degree; for of both debtors alike it is said that they had nothing to pay. They were, both alike insolvent. The debtor of "fifty" could no more pay his 50 than the debtor of 500 her's. The least sinner is insolvent; the greatest is no more. "There is no difference, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." But when they had nothing to pay, the Creditor frankly forgave them both. The least sinner to have peace with God and get to heaven, needs a frank forgiveness, and the greatest needs only that. Reputable Simon must be saved on the same terms with this once profligate and still despised woman; and she, now that she has tasted that the Lord is gracious, is on a level with every other pardoned believer. "Such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). But the working of this doctrine of Grace comes out here as beautifully as the doctrine itself. Love to its Divine Benefactor, reigning in the heart of the pardoned believer, is seen seeking Him, finding Him, broken down at the sight of Him, embracing His very feet, and pouring out its intensest emotions in the most expressive form. Even so, "the love of Christ constraineth us ... to live not unto ourselves, but unto Him that died for us and rose again." It casts its crown at His feet. It lives for Him; and, if required, it lays down its life for Him. Thus, what law could not do love does, writing the law in the heart. But, now turning from the sinner to the Saviour,

(2) In what light does this section exhibit Christ? He plainly represents Himself here as the great Creditor to Whom is owing that debt, and Whose it is to cancel it. For, observe His argument 'The more forgiveness, the greater the debtor's love to his generous Creditor.' Such is the general principle laid down by Simon and approved by Christ. Well, then, says our Lord, let the conduct of these two be tried by this test. So He proceeds, by the woman's treatment of Himself, to show how much she loved Him and consequently how much forgiveness she felt that she had received from Him; and by the Pharisee's treatment of Him, to show what an absence of the feeling of love to Him there was, and consequently of the sense of forgiveness. The more that the structure and application of the parable of this section is studied, the more will the intelligent reader be struck with the high claim which our Lord here puts forth-a claim which would never have entered into the mind of a mere creature, with reference to the Person to whom sin lays us under obligation, and whose prerogative accordingly it is with royal "frankness" to remit the debt.

Should any hesitate about the force of this indirect-but just on that account the more striking-argument for the proper Divinity of Christ, let him look on to the close of this section, where he will find the Lord Jesus putting forth His royal prerogative of publicly pronouncing that forgiveness which had been already experienced; and when it was manifest to His fellow-guests that He was assuming a divine prerogative, and it seemed nothing short of blasphemy that one who reclined at the same table and partook of the same hospitalities with themselves, should speak and act as God, He not only did not correct them by retreating out of the supposed claim, but reiterated the august language and with even increased majesty and grace: "Thy faith hath saved thee Go in peace!" Let the Person of Christ be studied in the light of these facts.

(3) How cheering is it to be assured that love gives beauty and value, in the eye of Christ, to every the least act of His genuine people! But on this subject, see the notes at Mark 14:1-11, Remark 2.

(4) As this woman came not for the purpose of shedding tears, so neither did she come to get an assurance from Jesus of her pardon and reconciliation. But as the evidences of the change that had passed upon her flowed forth, the balm of a pronounced acceptance was poured in. And thus do the most delightful assurances of our forgiveness usually spring up unsought, in the midst of active duty and warm affections; while they fly from those who hunt for them in the interior of an anxious heart, and not finding them there go mourning and weak for want of them.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 7:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/luke-7.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, September 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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