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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
Luke 13

 

 

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Verses 1-5

Last Admonitions to Repentance.

The lesson of the Galilean tragedy:

v. 1. There were present at that season some that told Him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

v. 2. And Jesus, answering, said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things?

v. 3. I tell you, Hay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

v. 4. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?

v. 5. I tell you, Nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

At the same time, upon the same occasion, when Jesus had spoken the words of solemn warning concerning the Judgment and how to avert it. The current opinion was that there was a direct connection between the greatness of the transgression and the severity of the punishment. Some of the people present, therefore, gave Jesus an interesting piece of news which they had received from Jerusalem through some pilgrims that had recently returned. Pilate, the procurator of Judea, had punished subjects of Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee. A heathen governor had polluted the Temple of God with human blood. The incident is not related by Josephus, but fits in well with the character of the Galileans and with the disposition of Pilate. The Galileans were very restive under the Roman yoke and strongly inclined to sedition. And Pilate had the vice of most weak natures: when his temper snapped the leash, unbridled passion held sway. There had probably been a demonstration in the Temple which threatened to assume the proportion of a riot, and Pilate had promptly dispatched some soldiers and executed speedy punishment. Some commentators think that this incident caused the enmity between Pilate and Herod, Luk_23:12. The questioners implied that so sudden a death in the midst of so sacred an employment must be regarded as a special proof of the wrath of God upon those so slain. But Jesus corrects this notion. The slain Galileans were no sinners in an extraordinary measure, above all other Galileans, since they had suffered these things. A similar case, from the standpoint of the present discussion, was that of the eighteen persons upon whom the tower of Siloam, probably one built over the porticoes of the pool, fell. It was wrong to suppose that these were guilty above all the people that lived at Jerusalem. Very emphatically Jesus says, in either case: Not at all, I tell you. All the Jews, and also His hearers, were equally guilty, and a like fate might befall them at any time; unless they repented, they all might perish and be destroyed in the same way. The Lord here gives a rule according to which we may judge and measure the misfortunes and sufferings of others. The suffering of the world is the result of sin. In the case of the unbelievers the suffering is nothing but punishment, with a view, however, of leading them to repentance. In the case of believers suffering of every kind is chastisement at the hands of the Father, who punishes in time that we may be spared in eternity. If a Christian is struck by misfortune, he will not use the word "trial" in order to justify himself. Rather will he say, in true humility, that his many sins have merited far greater and more severe punishment, and will never ask the question with regard to his own crosses or those of others, Wherewith have I earned this? But above all, one thing must never be done, and that is to argue from the severity of the suffering, drawing conclusions as to the greatness of the guilt, Job_42:7; Joh_9:2-3.


Verses 6-9

The parable of the fig-tree:

v. 6. He spake also this parable: A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.

v. 7. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none; cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?

v. 8. And he, answering, said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it;

v. 9. and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

A word-picture preaching an earnest lesson. A certain man, apparently one of means, had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, in good soil, from which he naturally expected fruit. He waited for some time, but finally he voiced a complaint to the vinedresser, to the gardener in charge of the vineyard. The fig-tree was supposed to bear fruit three times a year, and the owner had not yet found a single fig on it. It seemed useless to waste any more time and work on its cultivation; it ought to be chopped down, since it interfered with, and spoiled the ground for, more productive fruit-trees. The master no longer felt like coming and coming again, and always being disappointed. But the vinedresser interceded for the tree. He begged for only one more year of grace, in which he intended to try all his art and labor in loosening the soil about the roots, in putting fertilizer into the ground; there might be some chances of coaxing the tree to bear fruit the coming year. But if not, then the doom of the tree is sealed, and the master may carry out his intention. The unfruitful fig-tree is a type of the Jewish people. During the entire time of the Old Testament the Lord had vainly looked for fruit commensurate with the amount of labor and the cost which He had put into the vineyard of His Church. Israel had received a rich measure of grace, but had not reacted in kind. It was like the unfruitful vineyard of which the Lord complained Isa_5:1-7. The fourth year, for which the love of the vinedresser, Jesus, pleaded, was the time of mercy which had dawned with the ministry of John, had burst into full brightness with the preaching of Jesus, and would continue thus during the ministry of the apostles. Here the vinedresser wanted to dig about and dung the fig-tree with the evidences of His most searching love, of His holiest zeal, and finally, through His servants, by the preaching of His suffering and death, of His resurrection and sitting at the right hand of Power. But the extra time of grace went by, the people as a whole brought no fruits worthy of repentance; and so finally the judgment of God was carried out upon the disobedient people: Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jewish nation rejected. Note: There is a lesson here for all times, for God deals with all men in a similar way. His justice is tempered with patience; He waits long before He condemns. The mercy and love on the part of Jesus succeeds often in extending the time of grace for a people. But finally the most loving patience must come to an end and justice be carried out.


Verses 10-13

The Crippled Woman Healed.

The healing on the Sabbath:

v. 10. And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.

v. 11. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.

v. 12. And when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.

v. 13. And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

Jesus, in accordance with the purpose indicated in the parable, did not cease His efforts to win the Jews to the Word of salvation. He continued His custom of teaching in the synagogues on the Sabbath-days. And so it happened on one occasion that there was a woman present who was suffering with a sickness which contracted her whole body, bending the upper part forward upon the lower and thus altogether preventing her from straightening up. She was in bondage to a foreign spirit, the spirit of her sickness, whose chains kept her from raising her head. Jesus, ever sympathetic where the woes of others are concerned, called her to Him as soon as His eye lit upon her bent figure. And even while she was approaching Him, He spoke to her as though the cure were already an accomplished fact, stating that she was delivered from her infirmity. And no sooner had He laid His hands on her than she became erect and burst into words of praise. It was a manifestation of the glory of the Savior in full accord with His usual healing ministry.


Verses 14-17

Christ's defense against the ruler of the synagogue:

v. 14. And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation because that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath-day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work; in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath-day.

v. 15. The Lord then answered him and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?

v. 16. And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath-day?

v. 17. And when He had said these things, all His adversaries were ashamed; and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

How deeply ingrained was the idea of mechanical Sabbath observance in the mind of the average Jewish teacher is evident from this incident. The ruler of the synagogue became highly indignant, not because Jesus had healed the woman, but because He had done so on the Sabbath. He had too much respect for Christ's ability to defend Himself to attack Him directly, so he spoke to the audience, striking indirectly at Jesus, rebuking them sharply for bringing any sick people to be healed on the Sabbath; for there were six days on which they could attend to such work. It sounded as though the ruler of the synagogue wanted to prevent the people from tempting Jesus to break the Sabbath. But the Lord (called so with a purpose, as the Lord of the Sabbath) retorted to this condemnation with special force, calling the ruler of the synagogue and all those that felt as he did about the matter, hypocrites, cheap, dissembling actors. What about their own case? They loosed their dumb beasts from the manger on the Sabbath; they even led them forth to water; they gave them to drink, probably not by carrying the water to them, since the Jewish elders had forbidden that, but at least by drawing the water from the well. Mark the contrast: A daughter of Abraham on the one hand, an ox and an ass on the other; the one bound by Satan for eighteen years, the others suffering from thirst merely for a few hours. The argument of Jesus suffered no gainsaying. The elders of the Jews, though not convinced, were confounded and ashamed, brought to shame before the audience; and all the people present were delighted over all the admirable, wonderful things that were performed by the Lord. Note: To this day it is hypocrisy if sanctity is attached to mere external matters, as, that the so-called Sabbath is kept with Puritan strictness, by the enforcement of blue-laws, while many important, necessary things, as benevolence to the poor, miserable, and needy, are omitted. "Therefore learn here from Christ what the true understanding of the Sabbath is, and how we must maintain the distinction between the outward use of the Sabbath, so far as the time, hour, and place is concerned, and the necessary works of love which God demands of us at all times and in all places; that we should know that the Sabbath was ordained for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of the Sabbath, Mar_2:27, and thus man is the lord of the Sabbath, and is to use it for his own and his neighbor's necessity, thus being enabled to keep this and other commandments of God without hindrance. For the right understanding of the Third Commandment is really this, that we use the Sabbath to hear and learn the Word of God, how we may keep all other commandments both toward God and our neighbor and help others to this end through love."


Verses 18-21

Parables and Teachings.

The parables of the mustard-seed and the leaven:

v. 18. Then said He, Unto what is the kingdom of God like, and whereunto shall I resemble it?

v. 19. It is like a grain of mustard-seed, which a man took and cast into his garden; and it grew and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.

v. 20. And again He said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God?

v. 21. It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

In the effort to bring the great truths of the kingdom of God home to His hearers, to teach them in what way the Word takes hold of the hearts and exerts its wonderful power upon them, in what manner the Gospel is spread throughout the world and people are being added to the Church of Christ at all times, the Lord uses the simplest and homeliest examples. He points to incidents, to happenings of everyday life with which the people were familiar, allusions which they ought to be able to understand. See Mat_13:31-33; Mar_4:30-32. The seed of the mustard-tree is very small, and yet, if it sprouts in good soil and grows without hindrance, it grows to be a good-sized tree, whose branches are large enough to serve as a roosting-place for quite a number of birds. The Church of Jesus was at first so small as to appear insignificant, but in the course of time the power of the Gospel, which was proclaimed in the Church, proved its omnipotent quality by overcoming opposition of every nature, so that now people from every nation have been added to the number of believers. A pinch of leaven may seem small in comparison with three measures of flour, and yet its power is such as to leaven the entire mass. Even thus the power of the Word is exerted in the hearts of the individual believers as well as in the Church at large, influencing. people even beyond the organization of the so-called visible Church. The power of God unto salvation is a power also unto sanctification. And the high ideals of Christianity have inspired the conduct of entire nations.


Verses 22-30

Entering in at the strait gate:

v. 22. And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.

v. 23. Then said one unto Him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And He said unto them,

v. 24. Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

v. 25. When once the master of the house is risen up and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and He shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are,

v. 26. then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets.

v. 27. But He shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity.

v. 28. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

v. 29. And they shall come from the East, and from the West, and from the North, and from the South, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.

v. 30. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

The final goal of Jesus was Jerusalem; thither He was making His way by easy stages. But, according to His plan, He stopped in the cities and villages along the way, continuing the work of His ministry with unabated faithfulness to the last. Teaching was the main occupation of Jesus at this time, the outstanding feature of His work. And His teaching doubtless touched again and again upon the admonition to be prepared for the last great day with its judgment. This fact caused some person in one of the places visited by Jesus to ask Him the half-idle, half-serious question, whether there would be only a few to be saved. He that is concerned seriously about his salvation does not put the question that way, but rather sets his mind upon the way of attaining salvation for himself. Jesus therefore does not answer the question directly, but addresses the questioner and all that share his curiosity in a serious admonition. Every person should strive earnestly, struggle as seriously, and exert himself as assiduously as an athlete coveting victory, to enter into heaven through the narrow gate. Heaven is here pictured as a house from which certain people exclude themselves. They strive to enter, they seek a way, but of their own choosing, and therefore their efforts are idle, their attempts futile: they are not able to accomplish their purpose. There is only one Way, and that is Jesus Christ, the Savior. Faith in His salvation will open the door; every other method is bound to fail. "Why, for what reason, can they not enter? For that reason that they do not know what the narrow gate is; for that is faith, which makes a person small, yea, altogether nothing, that he must despair of his own works and cling only to God's grace, forgetting all other things because of that. But the saints of Cain's kind think that good works are the narrow gate; therefore they do not become humble, do not despair of their works, yea, they gather them with great sacks, hang them around themselves, and thus endeavor to get through; but they have as little chance to go through as the camel with its great hump has to pass through the eye of a needle. " The hour is coming when the master of the house, God Himself, will arise from His throne. Jesus, sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, through the Gospel is calling out to all men: Come, for all things are now ready. He is waiting for them to accept the invitation, He has set a certain time of grace. But when that time has elapsed, then He will close the door. He will return in heavenly glory before the whole world, and then the door to heaven will no longer be open. The time of the world and the time of grace will then be at an end. Then some will want to come to the closed door and rap and call to the Lord to open to them. But it will be too late. They have not heeded the invitation in time, and now the Lord gives them the terrible answer: I know you not. They do not belong to His own, they have not turned to Him in repentance and faith. Even if they insist upon it, as the Jews could do in the full sense of the word, that He had lived in their midst, had eaten and drunk before them, that He had taught them on their streets, they will receive the same answer, and they must stand back from Him and be condemned as workers of iniquity. Note: On the last day those that were Christians in name only will try to frame similar excuses, reminding the Lord of the fact that they heard the Word of God in a church where the pure doctrine was proclaimed, that they were baptized, that they were instructed in the Christian doctrine. And even those that merely lived in a Christian Community, and occasionally permitted Christian influence to graze them, will come and try to state this fact as an argument. But all arguing will be too late. The fact remains that all such people did not accept Jesus and His Word, but stubbornly remained in their sins, and therefore will die and be condemned in their sins. Then, when it is too late, remorse will come. Then there will be weeping in helpless fury and in delayed sorrow for sins; then there will be gnashing of teeth over a foolishness that has been recognized as such too late. And not the least part of damnation will consist in this, that these poor souls will see the blessedness of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in heaven, while they themselves will be rejected and condemned to the everlasting abyss of hell. And not only will the patriarchs and prophets enjoy the bliss of the kingdom of heaven, but there will be representatives from the East and from the West and from the North and from the South, all reclining at the feast of joy and happiness before the throne of God. And all this the unfortunate late-comers, that procrastinated once too often, will be able to see, Luk_16:23-24. The Lord here uses the same thoughts which He has employed also in other places where He has touched upon the necessity of being prepared. There are resemblances to the story of the ten virgins, to the rich man and poor Lazarus, to the Last Judgment, to the story of the centurion of Capernaum. And the gist of the warning is always the same, not to depend upon outward membership of the Church, not to delay real repentance until it is too late. For there are last that will be first, and there are first that will be last. Such as believe, by reason of the circumstances of their life, that they are members of God's kingdom, as the Jews did on account of their descent from Abraham, will find themselves last and excluded from the blessedness of heaven. But many that became members of the Church from conviction of their hearts, without having had the advantages which church members had from their youth, may become first, since they have repented truly and realized the things that pertain to their peace. All things being equal, the person that grows up in the midst of the Church, is baptized in infancy, learns the truth of Scriptures in a Christian school, and is always surrounded by the best conditions, should have the best knowledge and the soundest faith in Jesus, the Savior. But if such a person disregards these blessings and the greater responsibility resting upon him, his punishment will be all the greater, as one that despised the riches of the mercy and grace of God, not knowing that the goodness of God was calling him to repentance, Luk_12:47-48.


Verses 31-33

The warning against Herod:

v. 31. The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto Him, Get Thee out and depart hence; for Herod will kill Thee.

v. 32. And He said unto them, Go ye and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.

v. 33. Nevertheless I must walk today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.

Jesus was still in the territory of Herod Antipas, and this man was being driven by the furies of an evil conscience. Whether Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected or not, He was in the way. As one commentator states it: "In every work of Jesus he saw the hand of John the Baptist extended from the grave toward him; in every word concerning the Judgment that Jesus uttered he heard again the voice of John: Thou murderer of prophets!" It is hardly likely that the Pharisees had been commissioned by Herod to bring this message to Jesus. It was rather thus with these enemies of the Lord: They had exhausted every possible means that they could think of to make Him desist from the work of His ministry with the exception of touching His body, and they hoped to intimidate Jesus and cause Him to remove from the country. Upon Jesus the request: Go away from here, because Herod wants to kill Thee, made no impression. A threat of this kind could not make Him desist from the usual work of His ministry. Therefore He answers according to the character of the warning, bidding the warners go and take His return message to Herod. Jesus calls Herod a fox, both on account of his crafty, cruel disposition, and because of the fact that he had become a fox, a destroyer, in the vineyard of the Lord, Lam_5:18; Son_2:15. The threat had no effect whatever upon Jesus. The scorn of the Idumean tyrant could not force the Prophet of Galilee to yield. He had work to do in the near future, and that work would be done. He must continue to cast out demons and to cure sicknesses as He has done hitherto, for the time set in the counsel of God is near. Then, according to His own will, at the time appointed by Him, the end will come. That was the obligation resting upon Him, and that He would carry out. And He adds, with bitter sorrow, that He must die in Jerusalem, the murderess of prophets, Luk_11:51. It is in accordance with God's will that His career shall end in that city. In the same way the disciples of Christ of all times, the believers, fulfill their day's work, the portion decreed to them by God. And in this no power of earth and hell can hinder them or shorten the time which God has fixed for their work. But when the hour has come which God has intended as the last, then they will have completed their course, then they will have finished their labors and may enter into the rest of the saints.


Verse 34-35

A cry of sorrow over Jerusalem:

v. 34. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

v. 35. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate; and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.

See Mat_23:37-38. Luke adds this cry of Jesus at this point, and it is more than likely that Jesus spoke these words and similar ones more than once. The city of Jerusalem, the capital of the nation, which should have been leader in welcoming the prophets of the Lord and showing them every honor, had gotten a reputation sadly at variance with this ideal. To stone the prophets and kill the messengers of the Lord, that was the name which Jerusalem had gotten in the course of the centuries. Jesus Himself had tried, with all the wealth and fervor of His Savior's love, to gather the people of the city about Him, to bring them the joyful assurance of their redemption through His blood. His solicitude had been unwavering during all the years of His ministry, like that of a brooding hen anxiously concerned about the welfare of her chicks. He had wanted, but they had not wanted. "Thus and no other way it was to happen, and it always has gone thus, that the greatest harm and damage has been done to Christ, to His Word, and to His Church by those that have presumed to be the holiest and best. " And so they brought their punishment upon themselves: their dwelling, the city of Jerusalem, was destroyed and left desolate barely four decades later. They will not see Christ again until the day when He returns in His glory, and when even His enemies, who will then be completely confounded, will have to confess that Jesus is Lord. Then their lips, for the chattering of their teeth, will hardly be able to form the words, and their heart will utter curses and imprecations; but they will have to acknowledge Him whom they killed as the Lord of all.

Summary.Jesus utters some last warnings to lie prepared for the Judgment, heals the crippled woman on a Sabbath, teaches and admonishes in parables, repudiates the threat purporting to come from Herod, and. cries, out over Jerusalem.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Luke 13:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/luke-13.html. 1921-23.

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Friday, September 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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