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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Luke 6

 

 

Verse 1

‘Now it came about on a sabbath, that he was going through the grainfields, and his disciples plucked the ears, and ate, rubbing them in their hands.’

On this particular Sabbath Jesus was walking through a grainfield with His disciples. The Law of Moses allowed anyone walking through a grainfield to partake of the grain for his own needs, but not to put in a sickle (Deuteronomy 23:25). This was to be of especial benefit to the poor. Thus the disciples were within their rights in what they were doing. They were plucking the grain, rubbing it between their hands in order to rid it of the husk, and then eating it. But as they were not used to being too strict about Sabbath Day observance they had failed to recognise that this might cause offence.

For the ‘Elders’ had laid down the principle that reaping and threshing were not allowed on the Sabbath for they were to be seen as work. Jesus would not have disagreed with that. Where the controversy came in was in interpreting what the disciples had been doing as ‘reaping and threshing’. He would have been able to point out that reaping and threshing someone else’s field would have been frowned on as breaking the Law (they must not put in the sickle), so that as the Law allowed what His disciples were doing it was not seen as reaping and threshing. But the Pharisees saw it otherwise, and the synagogue elders would probably have backed them. )Under later interpretation they would have been able to do what they did to amounts less than the size of a dried fig, so pedantic had things become). So Jesus will advance another argument which will also emphasise His own authority.


Verse 2

‘But certain of the Pharisees said, “Why do you do what is not lawful to do on the sabbath day?”

Some of the Pharisees became aware of what His disciples were doing. It may be that they had been walking with the disciples, professing interest in Jesus’ message, while carefully watching for any failures in the behaviour of Jesus and His disciples, or it may be that it had simply been reported to them by people who saw it, bringing them hurriedly to the scene. Either way they pointed out that He and His disciples (as their Master He was responsible) were doing what was not lawful on the Sabbath Day.

‘What is not lawful to do.’ We should note that this is probably not just a comment. It is an official warning. Proceedings could not be taken under the Law at the first offence. The culprits had first to be warned so as to ensure that they did know what the Law was. If the warning was then ignored, proceedings could be taken. (compare Acts 4:18 with Luke 5:17). Thus Jesus and His disciples were being warned that if it happened again proceedings would be taken. The opposition was hardening.


Verse 3-4

‘And Jesus answering them said, “Have you not read even this, what David did, when he was hungry, he, and those who were with him? How he entered into the house of God, and took and ate the showbread, and gave also to those who were with him, that which it is not lawful to eat save for the priests alone?” ’

Jesus replied from a well known passage concerning David. There David and his companions had persuaded the High Priest of the day to let him and his men have the old showbread which had been taken from the Table of Showbread in the Tabernacle when, as was the custom, it was replaced. This was holy and could only be eaten by the priests. But David had pleaded special circumstances and that his men were in a state of consecration, and it had been allowed. No one now criticised David for this because he was seen as having been God’s anointed. Jesus’ point was that as the Greater than David as ‘the Son of Man’, He had the same right. What David could lawfully do for himself and his men, He could lawfully do for Himself and His men. He could interpret the Law in their favour.


Verse 5

‘And he said to them, “The Son of man is lord of the sabbath.” ’

And this was because as the Son of Man He was Lord of the Sabbath, that is, He was the overall authority who could make declarations of what was lawful to be done on the Sabbath Day. It was basically a claim to be the heaven appointed and heaven enthroned Messiah, thus setting Him up before God as having a higher authority than the Scribes, the Jewish teachers and arbiters of the Law.


Verse 6-7

‘And it came about on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there, and his right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath, so that they might find how to accuse him.’

Another Sabbath arrived and Jesus once more entered a synagogue in order to teach. His heart was set on communion and fellowship with His Father. And there in the synagogue He saw a man with a withered hand, probably suffering from some form of muscular atrophy. We are not told who brought the man there, or where he came from. He may well have been well known there, and regular in attendance. Nor do we know how his hand had withered. It was enough that it was so. And with his right hand withered, his strength was withered. It was a symbol of the state of the hearts and consciences of men (see above). They too are atrophied. But that he was seen by the Pharisees as a test case is apparent from the fact that they watched Jesus in order to see what He would do. The word means to watch with intent, often sinister. Their minds were not on communion and fellowship with God. Their thoughts were fixed on trying to trap this Man, Whom they hated, into performing a work of compassion which they could then condemn. And this on God’s day in God’s synagogue.

The Rabbis had strict rules about healing on the Sabbath. Where there was an emergency case and life was threatened the minimum healing activity necessary to preserve life was allowed, but where that was not the case, it could well await another day. Healing was not allowed. Thus a woman in childbirth could be helped on the Sabbath. She or the baby might die. An affection of the throat could be treated for that was seen as possibly life threatening. But a fracture or a sprain could not. A cut could be bandaged (it could lead to death if uncovered) but it must not have further treatment until after the Sabbath. These interpretations of the Rabbis were strictly enforced.

On this day any Rabbis and other Pharisees who were in the Synagogue would be sitting in the ‘chief seats’ (Matthew 23:6; James 2:2-3), which were those nearest to the reading desk where the scrolls of the Scriptures were placed to be read. There was also a special seat for the most distinguished present called ‘Moses’ Seat’ (Matthew 23:2). They thus had a good view of what was happening. So as they sat there enjoying their status they awaited further events.

They were pretty confident in their man. We note here two things. Firstly that they were absolutely confident in the fact that Jesus would heal the man. That is quite remarkable. They had a kind of perverted faith. They had seen what He could do and were not in doubt about it. And secondly that they knew that He was so compassionate that He would do it even with them there waiting to accuse Him of it. What better testimony could Jesus have, both of His ability to work miracles, and of His compassion, and of His courage? And yet they were trying to convince themselves, and others, that Jesus was working for the Devil. All this gains the greater force because it is not the purpose of the recording of the incident. But consider what it tells us about these men.

‘Hisrighthand was withered.’ Neither of the other Gospels tell us that it was his right hand that was withered, but as a doctor this would have been a question he would ask. It is a sign that he not only had Mark’s record before him, but had also spoken to an eyewitness. He may even have asked Peter when he met him, ‘can you tell me which hand was withered?’

And his withered right hand was like the withered lives of people. They who should have been fruitful trees were withered trees. They who should have been full of life (living bones) were walking in death (dry bones). He who could heal this withered arm had also come to heal withered lives.


Verses 6-11

The Man With The Withered Hand (6:6-11).

This final incident in this cycle of stories contrasts the rigidity of the Pharisees with the compassion of Jesus. The one were concerned with the minutiae of the Law, the Other with the heart of God. In it He again reveals that He is Lord of the Sabbath.

But it also reveals a deeper message, and that is that He has come to restore what is withered. The word used for ‘withered’ (Greek ‘xeros’ - Hebrew equivalent ‘yabash’) is the same as that used in LXX of the ‘dry’ bones in Ezekiel 37:2; Ezekiel 37:4. There the Spirit of the Lord would blow on them to give them life. God’s question was, will these dry bones live, and the answer was that they would in response to the proclamation of the word (‘prophesy’) when the Spirit came upon them. The same word is also used of the eunuch who says, ‘I am a dry tree’ (Isaiah 56:3), and in Ezekiel 17:24 God says, ‘I the Lord make the dry tree to flourish’. It is regularly used in the Old Testament of ‘dry trees’ (compare also Luke 23:31).

Thus in view of the context of the previous incidents which have all contained Old Testament motifs we are justified in seeing this man’s withered hand which will be made whole as a picture of the dry (withered) trees which will flourish and become fruitful (compare Luke 3:8; Luke 6:43-44; Luke 13:6-9) and the dry (withered) bones of Israel which will be given life through the Spirit by the word of the prophet. As Jesus says here, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath day to do good (be like a fruitful tree which is no longer withered but produces fruit) or to do harm (be as a withered tree which produces no fruit), to save life (to make a restored bone that is no longer withered) or to kill (to make like a dry bone that is withered). It thus finalises this section with a picture of Jesus as at work in the restoration of what is dried out and withered (He prophesies to the dried arm and it lives), and leads on into the picture of the establishing of the new Israel. In contrast are the Pharisees who prove indeed to be dry trees.

Also in this narrative the Pharisees are seen as out to trap Jesus. Their opposition to Him has been growing and it has now reached a climax. There is a man there with a withered hand and they are deliberately watching to see what Jesus will do on the Sabbath day. By this they are laid bare. Here is a man in real need, and they know what Jesus will do. He will have compassion on the man and will heal him. Their very watching Him is a testimony to His goodness, and to the fact that they realise that He is good. And once He has revealed His goodness they will jump on Him and accuse Him of breaking God’s Law. And yet they claim to serve the One Who declared, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. Consider what this tells us about them and their religion. But Jesus confuted them, not by diminishing the Sabbath, but by exalting it as of great benefit to mankind.

The incident may be analysed as follows:

a On another sabbath, He entered into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there, and his right hand was withered (Luke 6:6).

b The scribes and the Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath, so that they might find how to accuse him (Luke 6:7).

c He knew their thoughts, and he said to the man who had his hand withered, “Rise up, and stand forth among us.” And he arose and stood forth (Luke 6:8).

d Jesus said to them, “I ask you, Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good, or to do harm? To save a life, or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9).

c He looked round about on them all, and said to him, “Stretch forth your hand” (Luke 6:10 a)

b And he did so, and his hand was restored (Luke 6:10 b).

a They were filled with mad fury, and discussed together one with another what they might do to Jesus (Luke 6:11).

Note that in ‘a’ we see the man whose arm is withered, and in the parallel we see the men whose minds are withered. In ‘b’ Jesus is watched to see if He will heal on the Sabbath and in the parallel the healing takes place. In ‘c’ Jesus tells the man to stand forth, and in the parallel He tells him to put forth his hand. Central in ‘d’ comes the crunch question as to what is lawful to do when faced with a choice of doing good or harm, saving life or destroying it.


Verse 8

‘But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man who had his hand withered, “Rise up, and stand forth among us.” And he arose and stood forth.’

Jesus was fully aware of the situation. ‘He knew their thoughts.’ This fact is stressed regularly (compare Luke 5:22). However, they were not hard to assess. We can imagine the long hall, and the Pharisees sitting there in the chief seats, and the pointed silence when Jesus came in, and the eyes turning to look at the paralysed man. Jesus was left in no doubt of what the situation was.

He could have avoided confrontation. He could have told the man to come and see Him after sunset, when the Sabbath was over, but that would have been to concede that the Rabbis were right. And He did not believe that they were. In His eyes they had gone too far in their desire to preserve the Sabbath. And He further knew that they were directly challenging His authority, and that the crowds were aware of it as well. So He called the man to come and stand where everyone could see.

‘Rise up and stand forth among us.’ This is literally, ‘Rise into the midst’.


Verse 9

‘And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good, or to do harm? To save a life, or to destroy it?” ’

Jesus could see the workings of their hearts. He knew exactly what they were thinking. And He knew that they had it in their minds to have Him killed. So while to the ordinary people His words were about the man and his condition, and He was asking whether he should heal (do good) or refrain from healing (do harm and fail to help the man in his distress), the Pharisees knew that He knew their hearts and was speaking of them. It was they who were there to do harm to Jesus, and even to kill Him, and they were using the Sabbath day in order to attain their end. The words, ‘to save life or to destroy it’ refers pointedly to them.

His words contrasted what He was about to do, with what they were about to do. He was going to do good, they were aiming to do harm, He was going to help a man live again, they were planning to have Him put to death. But He longed to help them too and He was pleading with them to consider and to ask themselves who was really in the right.

But His words also emphasised why He was here, it was so that through His word others too would begin to ‘do good’ and to ‘save life. So that others would cease to be withered. This was central to His message. As He would heal this withered hand, so did He long to restore the withered trees (Ezekiel 17:24) and withered bones (Ezekiel 37:2) of Israel (and none more withered than those He saw before Him). He longed that He might prophesy to them that they might live (Ezekiel 37:4).

‘Is it lawful.’ The Pharisees were very keen on describing something as ‘lawful’ or ‘unlawful’. They had only recently asked His disciples the same question in the grainfields. So Jesus gently hits back. They were concerned about what was lawful so He wanted them to consider whether they thought that what they were planning to do was lawful. As a technical phrase which they used for their final warning they should have taken especial note of it.

‘On the Sabbath.’ That day which God had set aside as life-giving and blessed. Surely if any day was a day for doing good, that one was.

‘To do good or to do harm.’ This was the crux. What should the right thinking person do when these alternatives were offered? Standing in the sight of God should he do good, or should he do harm? There were no doubt many common people there. They would be with Him. They would instinctively know the answer and may well not have realised what a fix the Rabbis were in. (And the Rabbis knew it).

The way the question is put is also illuminating. The Pharisees would have stated that they did not do harm by not healing on the Sabbath, they simply did nothing. Jesus reply is that not to do good when it can be done is actually to do harm. Doing nothing is doing harm. The tree that bears no fruit is no more use than the tree that produces bad fruit (Luke 13:6-9). It is cast into the fire (Luke 3:9; Matthew 7:19). ‘To him who knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin’ (James 4:17).

‘To save life or to kill.’ That was not a question about the man with his withered arm, as though he were in danger of death. Rather He had the aims of the Pharisees in mind, otherwise He could have stopped after ‘to do harm’. The crowds simply saw it as an added example to justify doing good on the Sabbath, but the guilty men present could hardly have avoided seeing the further implication.


Verse 10

‘And he looked round about on them all, and said to him, “Stretch forth your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored.’

Then He looked round at them all, one by one, giving each an opportunity to reply. But all they did was glare back. Then He turned to the man, saying, “Stretch forth your hand.” He knew what He was doing. He knew what the reaction would be. But He knew that He had to do it. They were challenging His very authority to act as He was doing. They were seeking to make Him bend to the will of the Rabbis and admit that His claims at the previous incident had been excessive. But this He could not do, for He did have God’s authority to question the interpretations of the Rabbis. (Had He been a fellow Rabbi they might have accepted this once he had established a great reputation. But to them He was an outsider making great and dangerous claims. He was challenging their authority just as they were challenging His). So He recognised that He had no alternative to what He intended to do.

But in fact He ‘did’ nothing. As the man stretched forth his hand it was restored. So the question now was, Who had done it? Was it God, or Jesus, or both. The simple common folk knew that answer. It was both. The Pharisees and scribes too realised that they were trapped. What do you do in such a case? Jesus had not touched the man. All He had done was tell Him to stretch out his poor withered arm. As far as the evidence went God had done the work. But not a single person there doubted that Jesus had done it too.


Verse 11

‘But they were filled with mad fury, and discussed together one with another what they might do to Jesus.’

So they were mad with blind fury. All they could think of was how they could get rid of this man who was such a bain on their lives. Neither His compassion, nor His power to work miracles, moved them. For here was a man who was guilty of the greatest crime that a man of that day could commit. He did not agree with them, and said so.

In view of the parallel in the chiasmus it is clear that Luke intends us to see that these men were withered inside. Their inner hearts were not working properly. Their consciences were atrophied.

How could these men be so blind as not to see the truth? I remember as a schoolboy arriving home with a typical piece of schoolboy knowledge. My mother, eager that I should know the truth, fetched a book to show me that I was wrong. But I refused to look at it. She did not know what a blow it was to me to discover that all the books and encyclopaedias in the world were wrong on such an important matter. That is human nature. These men were simply like me. They wanted the truth to bend to fit into their pattern, and if it would not, they did not want to know.

This last incident has finalised this series of incidents from Luke 5:1 onwards, which has revealed how Jesus fulfils in Himself many of the Old Testament figures and promises. It has done it by manifesting two vital things about Jesus, firstly that He has come supremely as the Doer of good and Saver of life, acting as a positive figure in a negative world, and secondly that He has come as the One Who can restore those of the withered Creation Who respond to Him, making them into fruitful trees and living bones, while those whose hearts are atrophied will oppose Him and seek to do away with Him. In the subsection that follows Luke will now move on in order to show how He is establishing the new Israel. But before that the foundation is laid in the calling of the Twelve Apostles.


Verse 12

‘And it came about in these days, that he went out into the mountain to pray; and he continued all night in prayer to God.’

We should note that prior to choosing the twelve Jesus went into the mountain to pray and continued all night with God. This is the only place where we are informed that He prayed all night. How far He had already made His selection in His mind we do not know, but He would not move without God’s confirmation. That He should spend the whole night brings out how important He considered the choices to be. Each candidate would be sifted before God before acceptance.


Verses 12-19

The Laying Of The Foundation For The New Israel (6:12-19).

After revealing what He has come to be, Jesus now goes about establishing the new Israel. He appoints leaders for the twelve tribes (Luke 6:12-16). He proclaims a new Law (Luke 6:17-49). He provides a foretaste of the sending out of His power to the Gentiles (Luke 7:1-10). He raises the dead, a foretaste of the resurrection (Luke 7:11-17). He points to His signs and wonders in order to encourage John and as evidence that He is the promised One (Luke 7:18-33). And He is greeted by the prostitute who has been transformed, a vivid picture of the future restoration of Israel as described in Ezekiel 16:59-63.

Jesus Appoints the New Leaders of The Twelve Tribes (6:12-16 compare 22:30).

Jesus now chooses out twelve Apostles as the foundation of the new Israel, His new ‘ekklesia’ (Matthew 16:18; Matthew 18:17). The word means a gathering, church, congregation, and is a word regularly used in LXX of ‘the congregation of Israel’. That this is the significance here comes out in Luke 22:30. The Apostles have been chosen in order to watch over the true Israel. In the same way in John 15:1 Jesus reveals Himself as ‘the true vine’ in contrast to the false vine. The same idea is in mind there. Israel is a false vine, as it is often portrayed to be in the Old Testament (Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21). Jesus, and those who will become one with Him are the true vine, the true Israel.

This stress on the church as being the new Israel is confirmed in Romans 11:17-27 where unbelieving Israel are cut out of the olive tree and new believers are grafted in; Galatians 6:16 where the church, God’s new creation, are called ‘the Israel of God’; Ephesians 2:11-22 where believing Gentiles, having been previously alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, have been brought near through the blood of Christ, and have become fellow-citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, and, on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, become the Temple of God.

The passage may be analysed as follows:

a Jesus went out into the mountain to pray, and He continued all night in prayer to God (Luke 6:12).

b When it was day, He called his disciples, and He chose from them twelve, whom also He named Apostles (Luke 6:13).

c Simon, whom he also named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor (Luke 6:14-16).

b He came downwith them, and stood on a level place, and a great multitude of his disciples, and a great number of the people from all Judaea and Jerusalem, and the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases (Luke 6:17).

a Those who were troubled with unclean spirits were healed, and all the multitude sought to touch Him, for power came forth from Him, and healed them all (Luke 6:18-19).

Note that in ‘a’ Jesus prays all night to God, and in the parallel unclean spirits were cast out and power came out from Him to heal all who touched Him. In ‘b’ He appoints twelve Apostles and in the parallel He identifies Himself with them as He joins the crowds along with them in order to continue what is now their joint preaching and healing ministry. Central in ‘c’ are the names of the twelve, the first is ‘the Rock’, the last is ‘the Traitor’.


Verse 13

‘And when it was day, he called his disciples; and he chose from them twelve, whom also he named apostles.’

Having spent the night in prayer He now called all His disciples together, of whom there were a goodly number (He will shortly be able to send out seventy to preach), and out of them He chose twelve whom He called ‘Apostles. A ‘disciple’ was someone who attached himself to a Teacher in order to learn from him. It was a closer association than just that of a student.

‘Twelve whom also He named Apostles.’ ‘Apostolos’, an apostle, is derived from apostellein, (to send forth,) and originally signified literally a messenger. The term was employed by earlier classical writers to denote the commander of an expedition, or a delegate, or an ambassador (see Herodotus, 5. 38), but its use in this way was later rare as it came to have a technical meaning referring to ‘the fleet’, and possibly also the fleet’s admiral. It may be that Jesus spoke with a sense of humour when he used this term and named the fishermen ‘Apostles’, seeing them as the future ‘catchers of men’. It would require that He gave the title in Greek, but He may well have done so because it tickled His sense of humour.

It may, however, be that He called each of them a shaliach, which was then translated as apostolos. A shaliach was a personal representative acting on behalf of another.

In the New Testament, apart from the Apostles, the term apostolos is also employed in a more general sense to denote important messengers sent out on God’s service (see Luke 11:49; 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25; 1 Thessalonians 2:6), and in one instance is applied to Christ Himself, as the One sent forth from God (Hebrews 3:1). But in the main it is reserved for the twelve, James, the Lord’s brother, and Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14). Paul certainly saw it as giving him a recognised authority direct from Jesus Christ. He saw himself, along with the twelve, as being specifically commissioned by Jesus.


Verse 14

‘Simon, whom he also named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip and Bartholomew,’

The list of the twelve is also found in Acts 1:13; Matthew 10-2-4; Mark 3:16-19, with slight variations. Many people in those days had two names, and Jesus may have given each a new name as He did Peter. Peter always comes first in every list and Judas last. Thus there may be a deliberate contrast in Luke, ‘Simon who is called a Rock, -- and Judas who became a traitor.’ But ‘became’ makes clear that at first he was genuinely committed to following Jesus, even if it might have been for the wrong reasons.

Simon’s new name of ‘Peter’ was first given to him when he met Jesus after being introduced to Him by Andrew in John 1:42. We must thus read it here as indicating ‘Simon, to whom He had given the new name Peter’. The name given was actually the Aramaic Cephas (kepha) which meant a rock (John 1:42), but when translated into Greek it became petros (masculine - which means small rock) and not petra (feminine - a large foundation rock, rocky ground). This was, of course, because Simon was male. However the distinction was maintained in Matthew 16:18, where petros could have been used both times as a translation of kepha if Jesus had there been speaking in Aramaic. But there the switch is not to petros but to petra. This was in order to signify that the rock in mind there was either Peter’s statement. Out of 76 of the early church fathers only 18 thought that the reference was to Peter, and that at a time when Peter was seen as prominent. Over forty applied it to the statement that he made.

Jesus chose Peter not only to be one of the twelve, but also to be one of the inner three, Peter, James and John (Luke 5:37; Luke 9:2; Luke 14:33). He clearly saw in him one who, once he had conquered his impetuosity and occasional unreliability (Mark 8:32-33; Mark 14:37; Mark 14:68; Mark 14:70-71; Galatians 2:11 following), would in the end prove to be a rock. Perhaps the giving of the name was intended to make him consider his need to do exactly this. He is always named first and became a natural leading figure among the twelve (Luke 8:40; Luke 9:20; Luke 9:32-33; Luke 12:41; Luke 18:28; Matthew 17:24; John 21:3; Acts 1:15; Acts 2:14; Acts 8:14 (with John)), but not officially so, or in such a way that he could not be challenged. See Acts 11:2-3 - where he had to back up his position with reason, not by claiming special personal God-given authority - see also Galatians 2:11.

With Peter He chose Andrew his brother and James and John. Along with James and John, Peter formed the inner three (see above). They have already been introduced to us previously in 5/1-11. It is likely that Jesus gave new names to all His disciples but the others tend to be ignored here, probably because they were not so prominent later on.

Philip was the first that we know of who was called to ‘follow Me’ (John 1:43). Bartholomew may be ‘son of Ptolemy’ or ‘Talmai’ and by his association here with Philip may quite likely be Nathanael (Bartholomew is not a first name). Nathanael may in fact not have been one of the Twelve, although John 21:2 may suggest that he was. It partly depends on what John meant there by ‘disciple’. .


Verse 15

‘And Matthew and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called Zelotes, (or ‘the zealous one’),’

Matthew is Levi, the son of Alphaeus, who was the toll collector mentioned in Luke 5:27-32 (see Matthew 10:3). Thomas occasionally came into prominence (John 11:16; John 14:5) but is best known for not having been present when the other equally doubting Apostles met the risen Lord in Jerusalem (John 20:24-27) and was therefore rather unfairly dubbed ‘Doubting Thomas’. James the son of Alphaeus (who may be the James the Little of Mark 15:40) may have been brother to Levi the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14), although the name Alphaeus was fairly common. Simon is also called Zelotes, which means ‘the zealous one’. It may be that he established a reputation for over-eagerness. The term Zealot, signifying insurrectionists against Rome, did not arise until later, although it is possible that the term was affectionately applied to him later by the Apostles because of his hotheadedness.


Verse 16

‘And Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.’

Judas, the son of James (‘Judas, not Iscariot’ - John 14:22), is probably Thaddaeus, (which Matthew possibly has as Lebbaeus. This is, however, by no means certain as many manuscripts have Thaddaeus. One may have been a new name and one a nickname). Judas Iscariot is always mentioned last because he betrayed Jesus. Luke specifically designates him as the one who became a traitor. If his name means man (ish) of Kerioth (which is by no means certain), he was the only Judean among the Apostles. It may, however, be that his name is derived from the Aramaic word seqar, ‘falsehood’, with a prosthetic aleph added.


Verse 17

‘And he came down with them, and stood on a level place, and a great multitude of his disciples, and a great number of the people from all Judaea and Jerusalem, and the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases.’

Having chosen the twelve He then came down with all His disciples to a level place, quite probably still on the mountain. There He found a great crowd of disciples, people who came regularly to hear Him, and along with them hosts of people from all around, from Judaea and Jerusalem in the south, to Tyre and Sidon in the north. While there were many Jews in Tyre and Sidon there were also many Gentiles, and it is quite likely that Luke wants us to realise that Gentiles came too, and were welcome. Many had come in order to be healed.


Verse 18-19

‘And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were healed. And all the multitude sought to touch him, for power came forth from him, and healed them all.’

Unclean spirits could not stand His presence. We are probably to see that those who were possessed were healed at His word. Uncleanness was being banished, and Satan’s kingdom overthrown (compare Luke 11:17-22). And the crowd pressed in to touch Him for the power came forth from Him, and it healed them all.


Verse 20

2). THE FOUNDING OF THE NEW ISRAEL UNDER THE KINGLY RULE OF GOD (6:20-8:18)

In this second part of the section Luke 5:1 to Luke 9:50, Jesus now reveals Himself as the founder of the new Israel under the Kingly Rule of God:

a He proclaims the new Law of the Kingly Rule of God (Luke 6:20-49).

b He sends out His power to the Gentiles, to those who are seen as unclean, but who have believed. They too are to benefit from His Kingly Rule (Luke 7:1-10).

c He raises the dead, a foretaste of the resurrection, revealing Him as ‘the Lord’. The Kingly Rule of God is here (Luke 7:11-17).

d John’s disciples come to ‘the Lord’ enquiring on behalf of John, and He points to His signs and wonders as evidence that He is the promised One. The King is present to heal and proclaim the Good News of the Kingly Rule of God (Luke 7:18-23).

c He exalts, yet also sets in his rightful place, John the Baptiser as the greatest of the prophets and points beyond him to the new Kingly Rule of God, emphasising again that the Kingly Rule of God is here (Luke 7:24-35).

b He is greeted by the transformed prostitute, who has believed, a picture of restored Israel (Ezekiel 16:59-63) and of the fact that the Kingly Rule of God is available to all Who seek Him and hear Him.

a He proclaims the parables of the Kingly Rule of God (Luke 8:1-18).


Verses 20-22

‘And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said,

“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingly Rule of God.

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

Blessed are you, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.”

While at first sight, if taken out of context, it might seem that Jesus is saying here that poverty, hunger and misery are to be welcomed as such, that is not what He means at all. It is to take it out of context. Rather He is indicating that He sees Himself as talking to those before Him who are actually experiencing the things He mentions. He sees before Him men and women who are poor, who know what hunger means, and many who are weeping as they listen to His message of hope. And He is assuring them that there is a blessing available for them because in their condition they have come to seek Him. For such things can be a blessing when in reasonable proportions they encourage people to seek God, and are so now in their case, because those who are now before Him are here precisely because of these things. Thus these things are proving a blessing to them. If we allow God to fashion us by such things, He says, we will be truly blessed, and we will then find greater reward in Him.

Furthermore those who do follow Him will find that such a situation continues, and should be glad of it. They will continue to be ‘poor’ because they will be using their possessions as He commands (see what follows), being rich towards God (Luke 12:21) and laying up treasure in Heaven (Luke 12:33-34; Matthew 6:19-20). But along with it they will have the joy of already enjoying their consolation (contrast Luke 6:24), by having their present part in the Kingly Rule of God. They will both enjoy Heaven now, and Heaven later. They will continue to be hungry because in following Him they will face shortages and privation (Luke 9:58), but they will receive full provision in return (Mark 10:30), and finally a heavenly inheritance. They will continue to weep because life has its share of sorrows, and they will continue to be aware of their sins, and they may even weep because of persecution, but they will find comfort in their sorrow because their eyes are on Him, and they will in the end have everlasting joy and laughter. By not becoming part of the rat race of those who are always on the lookout to benefit themselves at others expense, they will enjoy greater benefits than such people can ever know. They will experience being under His Kingly Rule. Their hearts will be overflowing with good things. They will have a deeper peace and joy than the world can ever appreciate (Philippians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:8), and then in the end they will enjoy blessing, and fullness and laughter to the full when they are with God for ever. That future compensation is also in mind very much comes out in comparison with the woes, for with the woes all the resultants are seen as in the future apart from the first. The point in it all is that the godly will enjoy in the future, what the ungodly will lose.

He is here thus very much describing the situation in which the godly people who have come to hear Him find themselves because they are not rapacious and greedy. In the Old Testament ‘the poor’ regularly means those who are humble and godly (Psalm 40:18; Psalms 72:2-4). And it is to them that the Good News is being proclaimed (Luke 4:18; Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 61:1-2; Isaiah 66:2). They are in contrast to the wealthy who manipulate, and cheat, and use violence in order to ‘better themselves’. For His disciples are not self-seeking but dependent on God and on what He gives them (compare Luke 12:31; Matthew 6:31-32), and are satisfied with that, and humbly worship God. Such are blessed, says Jesus, for theirs even now is the Kingly Rule of God. They are in submission to Him and walk in His ways. They accept His Kingly Rule now. They seek first the Kingly Rule of God and His righteousness (Luke 12:31; Matthew 6:33). They look on their possessions as His (Luke 16:11). They partake at His table. They eat the Bread of Life (John 6:35). They drink the water of life (John 4:10-14; John 7:37). They find their solace in Him (Matthew 5:4). Thus they will continue to enjoy His Kingly Rule now, and will also finally enjoy His everlasting Kingdom. Theirs are the true riches both now and in the future (Luke 16:11). They are truly blessed.

They are blessed (makarioi - enjoy true wellbeing from God) even though, as a result of their godly lives, they sometimes go hungry as they are now, and that because they accept what comes from the hand of God, and do not seek food at any price. They strive to make a living and to wrest from their lands what they can, sharing the burden of life with others, but refusing to follow the paths of greed and violence and dishonesty as ways of accumulating wealth. They are genuine and honest. So one day they will be filled, for in that day the Messiah will have brought in His rule and will bless such people and satisfy them with good things. Above all their hunger of soul will be satisfied.

His hearers might at present weep because of their sins, and because life is hard, food is scarce, and times are difficult, or because of the opposition and persecution that they will face because they follow Him, but the fact that they have come to hear Him indicates their hunger after God. Thus they can be sure that one day, when the Messiah has finished His work, they will laugh and rejoice, and will even now find comfort in Him.

But while Jesus was undoubtedly using the descriptions literally (poor, hungry, weeping), there was also underlying them the thought of their spiritual significance, (a fact which Matthew brings out more emphatically). God’s people will often be physically poor, may go physically hungry, will experience physical distress, but they will also be spiritually humble and lowly, they will be spiritually hungry after God and His word His words here are based on Psalms 107:9, compare Luke 1:53), they will spiritually weep over their sins. And that too is what they have demonstrated by being here. Thus the descriptions cover all aspects of their lives.

“Blessed are you, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.” And above all they will be blessed when they suffer for His name’s sake (compare Isaiah 66:5), when men hate them and keep apart from them, and reproach them, and cast them out as evil (Isaiah 66:5), because they are followers of Jesus as the Son of Man (even possibly excluding them from the synagogue). For He is here as God’s representative, and because the world will not like His message, He and those who respond to Him will suffer. But when they do suffer they will be suffering both for His sake and for God’s sake. Note the implication of the close relationship between Himself and God in these words. No Rabbi would have spoken of men’s relationships to himself like this. He would rightly have considered it to be blasphemy. By it Jesus is claiming and demonstrating His uniqueness.

‘For the sake of the Son of Man.’ In Daniel 7 the Son of Man as representing the people of God is a persecuted figure (Luke 6:25 with 14, 18) and it is only the intervention of the One Who represents them (Luke 7:13), coming from the midst of that persecution, which finally delivers them from it. And while the persecution was there shown to be by external forces, such enemies were always supported by an enemy within who hoped to profit from the situation. It was a similar situation to that in which they found themselves. Thus reference to the Son of man includes the thought of persecution from without and within (compare Luke 9:44; Luke 9:58; Luke 17:25). Let them recognise that He has come as the persecuted Son of Man in order to take up His Kingly Rule. And if they will persecute Him they will persecute them (John 15:20). Those who become one with the Son of Man must expect persecution, for so the Scriptures have made clear.

Jesus was aware from the beginning that persecution awaited both Him and them. His mother had been warned of the sword that would pierce her heart (Luke 2:35). John the Baptiser was in prison, unlikely ever to come out (Luke 3:20). He had nearly been put to death by His own townsfolk (Luke 4:28-29). He knew that as the Bridegroom He would one day be ‘taken away’ (Luke 5:35). The belligerence of the Pharisees was on the increase, and they were already plotting Him harm (Luke 6:11). Their continued dogging of His movements were a constant warning (Luke 5:17-21; Luke 5:30; Luke 5:33; Luke 6:2; Luke 6:7). And He only had to consider what had happened to the prophets and had been warned about in Isaiah 66:5, which speaks of ‘your brethren who hate you and cast you out for My name’s sake’, in order to realise what He must expect. And He was fully aware of the severity of the punishments of the synagogues who would beat those whom they saw as obstinate, and even exclude them. So He emphasises it also here. He wants them to be aware of what they are facing. Let them not doubt that as they ‘build their houses’ on the foundation of His words the storms will come. But if they hear His words and do them they need have no fear. Their houses will stand firm. Thus it is no surprise that He later warned His disciples of what their fate might be (Luke 12:11-12).


Verses 20-26

Opening Blessings and Woes (6:20-26).

Perhaps before we look at the detail of the narrative we should set the scene, for here interpretation, at least to begin with, depends on context. We need to ask why He spoke as He did. The answer is probably not hard to find.

Jesus had been on the mountain top with his disciples and had chosen His Apostles. Now He has come down with them to a level plain half way down the mountain where large crowds have gathered. As we have seen in Luke 6:17 the crowds had gathered from many places. There before Him He saw large numbers of ordinary people, people whom, as He had reason to know, were struggling to feed their households, and faced many problems in their lives. They were poor, they knew what it meant at times to go hungry, they knew what it meant to weep at the vicissitudes of life. And many He had healed, and many wept for that reason too, some with joy and some with a deep sense of sin in His presence. They had come to see and hear the great Prophet because they were seeking God.

But gathered there also would be the sightseers and the curious. News of His activities would unquestionably draw such people, especially from among the wealthy. There would thus almost certainly be a group of such, standing apart from the main crowds, and watching with sceptical interest or unseemly hilarity. Some had come to see this new phenomenon for themselves. Others had come because their wives had pressed them into it. and still others had come to criticise and to try to counter His teaching. But they did not want anyone to think that they were part of the rabble. So as they stood there they would be quite obvious to Jesus.

Thus as we consider this beautifully balanced opening passage from Luke 6:20-26 comparison with Matthew 5:3-11 clearly reveals that while in the Beatitudes in Matthew Jesus is describing the inner heart of individuals and their attitude towards life, here in Luke His emphasis is on the people to whom He is speaking, and the outward daily circumstances of their lives about which, externally, little could be done. But it was their very need which partly resulted from those that had brought them here, together with the consciousness that it gave them of their dependence on God. This together with their desire to have the thirst of their souls satisfied.

What Jesus has in mind here therefore in His words is how these ‘poor’ who are before Him (‘you’) are reacting to their poverty by seeking spiritual blessing from Him, how these who are hungry in front of His very eyes (‘you’) are responding to their hunger by looking to the living bread for sustenance, how these who are weeping (‘you’) even in front of Him are leaving behind their sorrow by coming to the Consoler and finding comfort and strength. And He makes clear, very clear, to them that God has a purpose to bless them. And that they are truly blessed because they are listening to Him in order to do what He says. They are building on a sound foundation (see Luke 6:47-48).

On the other hand He also wants them to recognise that in hearing Him and responding to Him they are putting themselves in danger of being ‘persecuted for the Son of Man’s sake’. He wants them to know that the storms will necessarily come, for he knows that we must ‘through much tribulation enter under the Kingly Rule of God’ (Acts 14:22).

In contrast are those who stand off from Jesus because they are wealthy, materially well satisfied, and kept amused by the pleasures of the world, and somewhat supercilious or filled with levity. They do not seek Him for what He is, but out of curiosity and amusement, a position which in the end can only confirm their spiritual bankruptcy. He can see who they are, even as they sit or stand before Him. They follow certain of the Scribes, many of whom are ‘false prophets’, and will therefore suffer their just end, for they are building on no foundation.

Thus the whole impact of Luke is different from Matthew’s. To make them extracts from the same sermon is to miss their genius. Luke’s message is complete in itself, and so is Matthew’s. And both have different emphases.

It will be noted that the four blessings parallel the four woes, with a central comment separating them. The words are addressed to ‘His disciples’ in the widest sense. The term ‘disciple’ signifies any who have come genuinely seeking to learn. That should be noted. What is said, is said to them as disciples. It thus applies to them as such, and indicates that the intention was not specifically evangelistic. He is building up those who have already to some extent responded, while keeping in mind that not all there have responded.


Verses 20-49

Jesus Proclaims The New Law of the Kingly Rule of God (6:20-49).

Like Matthew 5-7 this ‘sermon’ or ‘address’ is carefully put together and patterned, but, in spite of similarities, we would be mistaken if we thought that it was simply made up of extracts from the same address (even though that is the view of many). The emphasis in both addresses is very different. Jesus preached over a number of years and we can be quite sure that we have been given the substance of most of His teaching in the addresses recorded, for it is very unlikely that huge amounts of what He said would have been forgotten or thought of as not worth recording. Thus in view of the material that we have we must assume that He taught the same thing to the crowds many times, varying His approach and possibly using different patterns, but regularly with similar material, until it had burned its way into their hearts. Unlike us they loved repetition. Moreover it was necessary in order that it might be remembered. We have one example in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. We have another different one here (the difference lies in the emphasis and the make up).

These people did not have Gospels or a New Testament and as He wanted to ensure that they remembered His words, it is clear that He regularly put them in memorable forms, and constantly repeated much of His material word for word, although in different contexts, patterning it in order to aid the memory. We would therefore expect to find that there were a number of addresses which were similar but not the same, and should recognise that they represented the basic teaching of His Law.

It is apparent from the different and failing attempts to connect this with a Q document, once we take into account the similarities and differences between Matthew and Luke, that the situation is far more complicated than many suggest. It is equally possible that those similarities and differences arose from the fact that Jesus preached similar things word for word for memory purposes in many different addresses, while at others He varied His approach, and that some of these were written down in Greek (some of which would also be available to Matthew) and were consulted by Luke (as he mentions in Luke 1:1) in order to assist in clarifying finer points of Aramaic when he himself was translating Jesus’ address contained here from Aramaic into Greek. This would explain both similarities and differences between Matthew and Luke, and also the introduction of Lucan terminology, without the necessity of assuming that Luke, or anyone else, actually changed Jesus’ words.

The usual theory suggests that Luke simply dropped large amounts of what he found, or had no access to it. Now while that is explicable for some of what Matthew contained, which was especially applicable to Jews, it does not explain other parts which would have been very relevant to Luke’s readers, and which on the usual theories would have been available to him (on this theory, for example, he completely and deliberately changes the emphasis of the beatitudes). Luke was concerned to give us more of Jesus’ teaching, not less, and it is difficult to believe that the early church were so lacking in interest in Jesus’ teaching that they only kept a record of one sermon, and would have mildly put up with it being changed.

Besides a glance at the ‘sermon’ below reveals that it is compact and unified. The pattern reveals the genius of Jesus, not that of Luke. And Luke wisely chose not to play around with it but to present it as it was.

The idea that Jesus’ words were played around with in the way that some scholars suggest is obviously (to put it politely) untrue. Had they been so they would not have retained their uniqueness. A message which is a conglomeration of different people’s ideas would not have become the kind of message that has impressed men of all ages. We only have to look at later Christian writings to appreciate that. Give the early church twenty years to play around with Jesus’ words and they would have been totally unrecognisable as being anything out of the ordinary. Yet we are asked to believe that the early church produced any number of sayings of Jesus which revealed the same genius as that of the Master. Such a suggestion can only be seen as fantastic. For anyone who considers His words as given below will recognise that they are far from being ordinary. They reveal the mind of genius. Furthermore we also have to take into account that we have here every indication of a complete, if abbreviated, address.

His words here begin with four blessings and four comparative woes, and end with a story of who would be blessed (those who built on rock) and who would receive woe (those who built on earth). In between are varied patterns of four, and six divided into two sections, the first of which is to do with loving and giving, and the second is to do with contrasting those who are genuine those who are fakes.

Luke has further divided the message into three subsections by the use of dividers, the second of which is part of the message. These are as follows:

1). ‘And He lifted up His eyes on His disciples and said’ (Luke 6:20-26). This is then followed by a prophetic declaration of blessings and woes.

2). ‘But I say to you who hear’ (Luke 6:27-38). This is then followed by a dissertation on loving the unlovely, and revealing that love in practical and genuine ways.

3). ‘And He spoke also a proverb to them’ (Luke 6:39-49). This is then followed by a passage distinguishing between what is genuine and what is not, and ends with the contrast between the one who builds with a sound foundation, and the one who builds on shaky foundations, both of whom will be tested, both by the events of life and finally by God’s judgment.

The whole can be analysed as follows:


Verse 23

“Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy,

For behold, your reward is great in heaven,

For in the same manner did their fathers to the prophets.”

Yes, if they are persecuted for His sake they can rejoice and jump for joy, for they will receive great reward in Heaven, for that is how God’s prophets were treated when they too came on earth (including John the Baptiser). By their response as described above they will be aligning themselves with the true prophets, who also sought only to please God, and they will therefore enjoy a prophet’s reward.

The reference to the prophets may have in mind:

1) That as the prophets were persecuted they too must expect to be persecuted (Luke 11:47; Luke 11:49-50; Luke 13:34; Matthew 23:29-31; Matthew 23:34).

2) That as the prophets have gone to their reward (Luke 13:28), so will they too go to their reward.

3) The fact that they will be persecuted is positive proof that they are equal with the prophets and will therefore enjoy both what they suffered and what they will receive (compare 1 Peter 4:12-14).

The mention of the reward is not as a kind of bribe. Those whose eyes were only on a reward would not be welcome, or genuine. The point was that having chosen to walk in God’s way, it was something that they could look forward to. It was an incentive while they were in the way.

Note the reference totheirfathers. Jesus has already divided Israel into two parts, those who are for Him and those who are against Him, the old Israel and the new.


Verses 24-26

“But woe to you who are rich! for you have received your consolation.

Woe to you, you who are full now! for you shall hunger.

Woe to you, you who laugh now! for you shall mourn and weep.

Woe to you, when all men shall speak well of you! for in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets.”

Jesus then turned His attention to the group of wealthy onlookers. Any who are sitting there who are rich and complacent should note that they have already received their reward in this life. They may be simply supercilious, or they may be sneering, but they should recognise that they have nothing to look forward to. Those who are rich have already had their consolation (contrast Luke 2:25 which describes the consolation that they have lost). Those who are full and satisfied with themselves now, will one day be hungry as they see the good things that they will miss out on (compare Isaiah 65:13). Those who are laughing and having an easy time now, with little regard for others, should ask themselves why times are so easy for them. It is because they have little regard for God. Thus when they are called to account they will mourn and weep (compare Isaiah 65:14). And if all speak well of them it reveals that they are satisfied with the falsity and dishonesty of the religion around them, and are conforming with it, following the false prophets because it suits them. They have nothing to rejoice in or for which to jump for joy. For a commentary on this passage we only have to turn to Revelation 3:15-20). ‘You say, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing”, and do not realise that you are the one who is wretched; miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.’

‘The false prophets.’ These are those who are popular because their message suits people’s tastes. They soothe people’s consciences by saying, ‘peace, peace, where there is no peace’ (Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11). They are loved by all for they say nothing disturbing (see Jeremiah 5:31).

It may well be that there were few such people as he has described here in his audience, and that these words were on the whole spoken mainly of those not present, as an encouragement to the godly that God does see how men behave towards them, and that He also had in mind future generations. He knew well enough that His words would be recorded and passed on into the future. But our knowledge of human beings tells us that His wonder-working must have drawn a number of such people, while such was the work of the Spirit that we would expect that a good number of such people, hungry of soul and seeking something more than they had, would have come to hear Him in order to try to find what all their wealth had not given them. For them the message would be very significant, as they recognised the change of direction that their lives must take if they were to be His disciples, and it would provide them with a warning of how seriously they must take the matter.

In the end the whole point here is that He is assessing the response of all who are present with Him and listening to His teaching. Those who walk humbly with God and acknowledge Him, will be blessed, those who allow the pleasures of the world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for other things to take their minds off responding to Him will in the end face woe. A stark choice lies before them. The Question is, will they respond to the new teaching that He has brought and recognise Him for what He is, or will they remain in the old ways, and perish?

‘Woe.’ This could be translated ‘alas’, but that would not be a good contrast with ‘Blessed’. The comparison of blessings and woes ties in with Isaiah 3:10-11. ‘Tell the righteous that it will be well with them, for they will eat the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked it shall be ill with him, for what his hands have done will be done to him.’ This could well have been a summary of these words of Jesus. ‘Woes’ already occur fairly regularly in the Old Testament (Isaiah 3:9-11; Isaiah 5:8-23; Isaiah 10:1; Isaiah 33:1; Amos 5:18 to Amos 6:7; Habakkuk 2:6-19), and even blessings in comparison with woes, and their equivalent (Ecclesiastes 10:16-17; Isaiah 3:9-11; compare Deuteronomy 28:3-19). Thus Jesus is speaking as the prophets of old of the fact that a man must choose between blessing and woe (see Matthew 7:13-14). But the point is that they each choose the way for themselves.

So He will now lay out His new ways, and He calls on them to consider them and respond to them. For they are dynamic and demanding and call for a totally new approach to life, and a new attitude towards God and towards others. They speak of total self-giving, as against self-receiving.

They must, however, be seen in the light of the environment of His hearers. They are not speaking of how to deal with scoundrels and rogues who try to fleece them, and of outsiders who come with violence to attack them, but of how to respond to the people who live within their environment, who they rub shoulders with every day. Nor are they describing how the country must be run. A Christian will support his country’s laws and its police force, where these are behaving justly. He supports the punishment of evildoers (even though he may sometimes recommend mercy). The instructions here are personal not judicial. A country could not be run in this way, for there justice and punishment are necessary. He is rather speaking of how individual Christians should respond to others in their daily lives, of how we should treat all men, and especially our ‘neighbours’.


Verse 27-28

“Love your enemies,

Do good to those who hate you,

Bless those who curse you,

Pray for those who use you badly.”

So He now concentrates on those for whom His blessings are promised, although those who wished to avoid the woes would do well to take note. His message will not be palatable to the rich, but if they wish to avoid their fate they will do well to listen. Notice the ‘I say to you’ (compare Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:27; Matthew 5:32; Matthew 5:34; Matthew 5:39), which is the connecting up phrase with what has gone before. He wants them to know that He is speaking with Messianic authority. He is here making clear the new divine initiative, making new demands in the light of the times. And it is spoken to ‘those who hear’, that is, those who hear with the intention of response, those who are committed to discipleship.

For in the light of His presence among them it is now necessary for men and women to behave differently, and His demands in this direction commence with four requirements, the first being partly defined by the other three. Thus in this foursome the first line indicates the demand, and the other three explain how it should be revealed. Love must be active if it is genuine.

They are to ‘Love your enemies.’ This love (agape), as is clear from the words, is a love which behaves in the same way towards all. It is Christian love. It does not refer to feeling affection for someone (phileo), and it certainly does not speak of sexual love (erao). The latter is simply a human craving and is not really love at all. It arises out of physical effects on the body which are looking for reciprocation in a sexual way (although we often deceive ourselves about them). It would be better described as ‘passion’. Many today seek to justify wrong relationships because ‘they love each other’. What they mean is that they want sexual gratification, and will do any wrong to get it. But Jesus condemned such attitudes out of hand. That was not what He spoke of when He spoke of love. The Greeks had a separate word for sexual love. It was erao (from which comes Eros, the goddess of lust). They too recognised that that was not genuine social love. Indeed it is often antisocial.

Of course sexual love may be combined with true love, but then it will be thoughtful and considerate, and obedient to God instruction on the matter, keeping within God’s laid down standards. For the true love will override the sexual love. But having strong feelings for someone is not what Jesus was describing when He spoke of love. Such feelings lead often to evil and not to right behaviour.

Furthermore affection and liking arise out of compatibility between people and from having known someone for some time, and ‘getting on with them’. But if that was in mind we would pick and choose. However, for true love there is no picking and choosing. The love that Jesus is speaking of here is a higher love, a spiritual love, a love which is the same towards all, a love which produces right response and right action, even towards those whom it is difficult to love. It is a love which wills and purposes good towards its recipients from a benevolent heart. This comes out in the way in which it is defined in the following three lines. It is a love which responds to hate, by the person doing good towards those who hate them. It is a love which blesses even as it is cursed. It is a love which means that when those who have such love are used badly, they respond by praying for the good of those who treat them in that way. It is unselfish love that seeks no benefit from loving. It is like the love of God which continues, even when it is dealing with a world that insults Him to His face (see Luke 6:35; Matthew 5:45). It has nothing to do with the love between a man or a woman, or its perversions.

We can contrast this whole attitude with the position held by the cults of the day. The teaching of the Essenes, for example, was that their followers should ‘hate the children of darkness’, and they meant it. The emphasis with many was on loving those who are ‘with us’ and hating those who are not.

‘Bless those who curse you, pray for those who use you badly.’ True Christian love will not be affected by any counter response, for God remains unmoved by man’s antagonism against Him. He could destroy mankind at a blow, but He does not. Thus those who follow Him must bless men even when all they receive are curses. They may be cursed by those whose views they run counter to, or by those whose business profits they affect, but in return they are to offer blessing. And when those curses turn to misuse and persecution, they are to pray for those who use them badly. Indeed they are to pray for all who use them badly. For they should be filled with God’s love shed abroad in their hearts towards all.

Illustrations of This Love.

The demand that they love their enemies is now illustrated by a number of practical examples. It was never intended to be just a good idea. So practical illustrations are now given of what this might involve. They include reaction to personal violence, reaction to those who take advantage of their generosity through greed and theft, and then a general reference to all aspects of life, a saying which sums up the whole.


Verses 27-38

True Love Is All Important And Must Be Practically Expressed (6:27-38).

(This section is all about loving and giving and proceeds in a 4 4 6 6 4 4 pattern).

‘But I say to you who hear (Luke 6:27 a).’


Verses 29-31

“To him who smites you on the one cheek offer also the other,

And from him who takes away your cloak withhold not your coat also.

Give to every one who asks you, and of him who takes away your goods ask them not again.

And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them in the same way.”

We have here four examples of how love behaves. When struck it does not strike back. This is talking about response to a blow struck in anger or in contempt. It is not talking about how to deal with someone who intends severe physical harm. To a blow struck suddenly in anger or contempt the Christian is to turn the other cheek, not literally, but in how he responds. He does not respond blow for blow. Instead he seeks to be conciliatory and to show love to the one who has hit or smitten him (compare John 18:23).

To the one who takes his outer coat the Christian hands over his undergarment also. If this were taken literally all Christians would walk around naked. But that is not the intention. The point is that the person has taken his outer garment, which most Jews would look on as sacrosanct. This would be looked on by most as an unforgivable injury. But for the Christian the point is that if a man is in such need that he will do such a dreadful thing then the Christian should not just be satisfied with letting him have the coat, but should follow him up to see if he can do anything further for him as well.

In Matthew 5:40 Jesus had spoken of the inner clothing being taken by court action. Thus here He has strengthened the picture of the affront that has been given in order to make the illustration more forceful.

‘Give to him who asks of you’ refers to someone known to be in need who seeks financial help. The assumption is that the circumstances will be known, although that must not take away from the general idea. Help should be given to those in need. But in many cases today, with people who we do not know, simple giving to assuage the conscience would not necessarily be an act of love. If a man says to us that he is hungry he may well mean hungry for drugs. It would not be love to give him money. Love will rather take him to the bakery or food stall in order to buy him food. In such cases giving money might be the easy way out and might even be seen as doing him harm and therefore as sinful. The basic idea is, ‘make sure that the needs of anyone who comes to you for help are being met’.

‘Of him who takes away your goods ask them not again.’ This does not refer to someone who has borrowed a book or a lawnmower. It refers to someone who in dire need has taken what belongs to someone else. If the person is in such need then love will allow him to keep it, and will see what more it can do.

‘And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them in the same way.’ Finally Jesus adds on a catch-all saying. This principle is a simple test of what is right. It means behaving towards others in their best interests, in the same way as we would want them to behave towards us. By taking this approach we can fairly quickly define what is good and what is not.

In its negative form this statement was a well known, if not well practised, saying. In its negative form it was spoken by Isocrates and the Stoics among others, by Confucius, and by Rabbi Hillel who came before the time of Jesus, and it has often been pointed out that essentially, when analysed in depth, the negative form is saying the same thing as the positive form. But while philosophically that might be true, there is no question but that the positive form gives a more positive angle to the saying, for people on the whole do not analyse. They gather impressions. The positive form is much rarer, and probably did not occur before Jesus’ use of it. It stresses the positive approach, rather than just that of abstaining from doing harmful things. Jesus was concerned with positive living.

So in a well rounded way Jesus completed the list of positive actions with the most positive of all. It is another way of saying, ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18; Leviticus 19:34), as long as by our neighbour we understand those that we share the earth with. But the problem with the latter was that many of the Jews had hedged it round. Firstly they limited it to Jews. Then they limited it to Jews that they approved of. Thus in the end it came to mean for them ‘love those who are in your particular circle’. Jesus here makes sure that His command applies to all men and women.

Such Love Is To Be Towards The Undeserving.

Luke 6:31 is now taken up and explained, in the context of what has gone before. To treat friends in a loving way is normal, but to treat all others in such a way is unusual. However that is the very purpose of the Messianic requirement.


Verses 32-34

“And if you love those who love you, what grace is there to you?

For even sinners love those who love them.

And if you do good to those who do good to you, what grace (charis) is there to you?

For even sinners do the same.

And if you lend to those of whom you hope to receive, what grace is there to you?

Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive again as much.”

‘Charis’ (grace, approbation) can be used of the gracious approbation of a superior, thus here ‘why should you expect thanks from God’. But it is also regularly used in the greeting ‘grace to you’. It may therefore here point to the grace of God which by its action enables the Christian to do what is unnatural, love his enemy. Or it may refer to a gift coming from God’s grace. Matthew 5:46 on a similar question has ‘if you love those who love you, what reward have you?’ This would suggest the third is in mind, or possibly the first, if God’s gracious thanks can be seen as a reward.

On the other hand in the sermon preached in Luke Jesus may have altered the emphasis as against Matthew, for the passages are not strict parallels.

Whichever way that is, Jesus now emphasised His teaching by pointing out that simply loving, and doing good, and lending to those who love us and do us good and lend to us, is not what He is talking about, for then we are simply behaving naturally, and benefiting by it. It is only when we do it for those who do not do it for us that we manifest the grace of God at work within us and can expect to receive God’s approval, and/or His reward.

Loving those who love us is not difficult, says Jesus, it is loving those who do not love us which is often difficult. Doing good to those who do good to us is normal courtesy, and would be expected of most normal human beings. It is doing good to those who hate us, in the same way as God does good to those who hate Him, which reveals the grace of God at work. Lending to those from whom we hope to benefit in one way or another is not unusual. What is unusual is lending not expecting to receive it back, or gain benefit from it. And that is the test of Christian love.

‘Of whom you hope to receive.’ This could either refer to the return of the capital, the receipt of interest, or having built up a stock of credit so that a reciprocal loan might be forthcoming in the future if needed. Whichever way it was the person who had made the loan would benefit by it. So the point is that the special nature of Christian love is revealed by lending, expecting nothing back.

Lending not expecting to receive back the loan might appear an unlikely scenario. But it is precisely the scenario in Deuteronomy 15:7-11 where God’s people were to lend to the poor even though the year of release was coming and they therefore knew that the debt would be forfeit. They were to lend anyway, not expecting to receive the full amount back. Thus the idea here was not totally new, or so revolutionary as it sounds. The revolution lies in the fact that the idea has expanded to all loans at any time. The promise in Deuteronomy 15 was that if they did lend, not hoping to receive it back, God would bless them more abundantly.

Note on Deuteronomy 14:28 to Deuteronomy 15:10.

In this passage we find God’s provision so as to ensure that in Israel none went hungry or bankrupt. Every third year (the third and sixth in the seven year cycle) the tithe was to be set aside for the poor and needy, especially those who had no land of their own. Then every seventh year all loans made had to be cancelled. This ensured food available for the poor and the survival of the insolvent. But the danger then was that people would be unwilling to lend as the seventh year grew near. God thus firmly warned that they were not to behave so. They were to lend even if they suspected that they would not even have their loan repaid. And the promise was then that God would Himself pay them back and reward them with prosperity in their fields and in their lives. Jesus is taking these charitable provisions and expanding on them

End of note.

The Reason Why Christians Should Love the Undeserving (Luke 6:35)

Having defined Christian love, given practical examples of it, and demonstrated that in order for it to be thankworthy before God it must be shown to the undeserving, He now summarises it again in order to demonstrate its source.


Verse 35

“But love your enemies,

And do them good,

And lend, never despairing,

And your reward shall be great,

And you shall be sons of the Most High,

For he is kind toward the unthankful and evil.”

So in view of what He has just said about loving the undeserving, let them do it. Let them love their enemies, and do them good, and lend to them when they are in need, never despairing, because it will mean being like God Himself. It will mean revealing themselves as sons of the Most High, Who is kind towards the unthankful and the evil. It will be walking with Him on the higher plane and revealing that they are like Him, that they are His sons. And then they will receive great reward. This may be because of the response that comes from the act themselves, or from the joy that results, or from God’s blessing to those who obey Him, or indeed all three. But it will also include God’s reward on that final day when all of us have to give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

‘Never despairing (apelpizo).’ This is a word often used as a medical term. It strictly means ‘despairing’. Thus it may signify that they are not to despair of the fact that God will reward them as He promised in Deuteronomy 15:10. Or it possibly here means ‘not despairing of anyone.’ The idea may then be that we must not say something like, ‘Oh, if I lend to them they will only waste it’, but must give them the benefit of the doubt. Or it may signify that we must not despair of winning over our enemies in this way.

But comparison with ‘of whom you hope to receive’ in Luke 6:34, may be seen as supporting the meaning ‘not hoping (elpizo) to receive anything in return’, which is found later in the early fathers. But it is never used in that way in classical literature, or before that time.

‘You shall be sons of the Most High.’ This firstly gains meaning from Luke 1:32, in that we will then be like our Master (compare 1 John 3:2). We will be revealing ourselves as the sons of the Most High like He is. And secondly it will be genuine evidence that we are truly ‘sons of God’ (Romans 8:14-15; Galatians 4:5-6), which we will be demonstrating by our behaviour. We will be revealing God-likeness.

Note that here the Most High is gracious towards those from whom He expects no return. This parallels much better than Matthew’s statement would the previous instructions concerning lending not hoping to receive again. It fits this message much better.

General Attitudes Which Should Result From This Kind of Love (Luke 6:36-37).


Verse 36-37

“Be you merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

And judge not, and you shall not be judged,

And condemn not, and you shall not be condemned,

Release, and you shall be released.”

Having described acts of mercy Jesus now applies the idea generally. The first command here is ‘be you merciful’, and it relates back to ‘lending never despairing’. To make unrequited loans is a big thing to ask, but it should be possible for one who has received mercy and therefore loves God enough (compare Luke 7:43). Such people should be willing to show mercy, even to a lender who cannot repay his debt. And in return they will receive mercy, for God will abundantly bless their crops (Deuteronomy 15:10).

Note the reference to ‘your Father’. Now they are revealing themselves as His sons by their merciful behaviour they can expect Him to bless them, not just as a reward, but because He is their Father.

But the thought of showing mercy in this way leads on to being merciful to all. Being merciful refers to more than just forgiving a monetary debt. It refers to not holding people to account, out of compassion. Then their Father will not hold them to account (Matthew 6:14-15). They are therefore not to judge unmercifully, and the result will be that they themselves will not be judged unmercifully. (They may judge righteous judgment in order to help others - John 7:24; as in Luke 6:42). The thought is to prevent censoriousness. They are not to condemnatory, but to be forgiving, so that they too may not be condemned (compare Matthew 6:14-15). They must remember that they too are sinners. They must leave the condemning to God. (That is not, of course, to prevent them from pointing out that God will condemn in the end). They are ‘to release’, and thus ‘be released’. This may have in mind the ‘year of release’ whose regulations caused the kind of lending which hoped for nothing in return (Deuteronomy 15). They are to carry out the ideas contained in the provisions for the year of release and then they can be sure that God will release them from their debts too.

If this last is the meaning, either Luke read Deuteronomy 15 in a Greek version other than LXX (a good possibility) where ‘release’ was connected with apoluo and not with aphesis, or he changes the term here because aphesis would have been too general to get over the specific point. (In Deuteronomy 15 LXX ‘release’ is aphesis). Otherwise we may translate apoluo here as signifying forgive, which of course is what aphesis also means. Whichever way it is the point is certainly that as we release and forgive others, so will we be forgiven and released. As we forgive others the little that they owe us so will God be able to forgive us the huge amounts that we owe Him.

The Generosity That Should Result From This Kind of Love (Luke 6:38-40).

The ‘release’ just mentioned is the same thing as giving. Indeed it is a kind of giving, for it turns the loan into a gift. Thus Jesus now moves from the particular to the general. Not only are they to release debts but they are to give generously in all things. They are to be open handed like their Father. Then they too will receive bountifully. Elsewhere He puts it simply as, ‘freely you have received, freely give’ (Matthew 10:8). On the basis of Luke 6:32-34 this includes giving to those from whom we can expect to receive no return.


Verse 38

“Give, and it shall be given to you,

Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom.

For with what measure you mete,

It shall be measured to you again.”

So those who are His are now called on to give freely and abundantly. The idea here, as earlier, is that as we give God, will give to us. Indeed we are promised that He will not only give in accordance with how we give, but even much more munificently. As we reveal ourselves to be His children by our generosity, so will He pour on us His gifts. He will not be stinting. He will give us good measure. And then He will press it down and shake the container so that there is more room in it so that He can give more. Then He will pour in His gifts until they run over. ‘They shall give into your bosom.’ The ‘they’ is probably a Hebraism referring to God as being expressed in the plural (as with the ‘us’ in Genesis 1:26). ‘Into your bosom’ refers to the fold in the garment where it hung over the girdle, which could be used like a pocket. It is saying that God will fill our pockets to overflowing! (It should be noted that the illustration is totally Palestinian).

Or the ‘they’ may mean that by moving the hearts of others to give to us (‘they’), God will ensure that we receive more abundantly than we give, not necessarily monetarily. We will receive our gifts in terms of abundant fellowship with God’s people, in terms of gratitude and our own warmness of heart. But the overall idea is that the way we measure our giving (whether stingily or generously) will be the measure according to which God gives to us.

Distinguishing The Genuine From The Fake (Luke 6:39-49).

Luke now draws attention to a break in the sermon. It may be that this indicates that what follows was spoken at another time, or it may have been simply in order to draw attention to the fact that, after the seriousness of what He has been saying in very practical terms, his following words are not to be taken literally but as parabolic. The connection between what follows and what has gone before is simple. Having given His teaching concerning the life of love Jesus now warns them not to be diverted from it, either by blind guides or by disobedience. The blind guides emphasise religious ritual. They prefer ‘sacrifice’ to ‘mercy’ (compare Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7). Those who follow them will fail in their walk and stumble. Others simply do not carry out what they have heard. But they will if their hearts are true. We could have headed this next section, “Don’t just talk about it, do it!”


Verses 38-40

The Generosity That Should Result From This Kind of Love And The Assurance of God’s Reciprocal Generosity (6:38-40).

q Give, and it shall be given to you (Luke 6:38 a),

r Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom (Luke 6:38 b).

r For with what measure you mete (Luke 6:38 c),

q It shall be measured to you again (38d).


Verse 39

‘And he spoke also a proverb (or ‘a parable’ - that is, ‘parabolically’) to them,’

From this point on Jesus introduces His ideas in parabolic language.

The Importance Of Finding The Right Teacher And Responding To Him (Luke 6:39-40).

Jesus now stresses that in order to walk aright we need to ensure that we have the right teacher so that we will gradually be led on towards perfection. Anyone who teaches anything other than Jesus has said is a blind leader of the blind. They must not ‘get above’ their Teacher. Rather they must follow Him and listen to Him and then in time they will be made perfect like He is (1 John 3:1-2).


Verse 39-40

“Can the blind guide the blind?

Shall they not both fall into a pit?

The disciple is not above his teacher,

But every one when he is perfected shall be as his teacher.”

The first need is to ensure that we do not follow a spiritually blind teacher, for if we are led by someone spiritually blind, we too will be spiritually blind, (we will be what they are), and both will therefore fall into a ditch. There was a warning here against the Jewish leadership and the belligerent Rabbis and Pharisees that followed Jesus around, checking on Him and constantly criticising, and indeed anyone who taught contrary to what Jesus taught (compare Matthew 15:14; Matthew 23:24; Matthew 23:26). He is warning that the teaching and example of such teachers was not to be heeded. It included any who taught falsely. We must beware whom we have teaching us, for we must remember that we will become like our teachers.

Having the right teacher is important because it is the teacher who is in charge and is in control of what we learn (more so when no libraries were available). The consequence is that when we reach maturity we will have become like our teachers, and if our teachers are faulty, we shall be so as well. He could have said, ‘Beware who you hear’ (compare Luke 8:18; Luke 12:1; Mark 4:24; Matthew 7:15).

Underlying this is the thought of being obedient to the Teacher. The disciple is no more above his teacher than a servant is above his master (Matthew 10:24; John 13:16; John 15:20). Thus the importance of submitting to the right teacher.

The implication here , of course, was that He was their Teacher, and that they should listen to His teaching and that of the newly appointed Apostles and continue on as His disciples. Then they would be led through to mature truth.A Reminder That Love Must Result In Honesty When Judging (Luke 6:41-42).

He has previously warned against judging censoriously, or without proper regard for the facts. Now He relaxes that a little in cases where the intention is genuinely to do others good. But warns firstly against doing it hypocritically.


Verses 39-49

Distinguishing The Genuine From The Fake (6:39-49).


Verse 41-42

“And why do you behold the splinter that is in your brother’s eye,

But do not consider the beam that is in your own eye?

Or how can you say to your brother, Brother, let me cast out the splinter that is in your eye,

When you yourself do not behold the beam which is in your own eye?

You hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of your own eye,

And then you will see clearly to cast out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.”

The ‘splinter’ and the ‘beam’ in this illustration both connect with building. They will lead on to the parable about building. A ‘splinter’ (or ‘chip’) is a tiny piece of timber, a ‘beam is a huge piece of timber which is used, for example, to hold up roofs. (The same contrast is found later in the Rabbis). That is why some have translated as ‘splinter’ and ‘plank’. The point is that we must not try to remove our brother’s small imperfections while in our own lives there are huge imperfections. First we must ensure that the huge imperfections are removed from our own lives. We must come into God’s light and let Him deal with all our own sin. We must put aside from our lives all that we know to be wrong. We must examine out own thoughts and motives. And then, once we have genuinely and fully done that, and the huge beam which has been marring our lives has been removed, then and only then, we can approach our brother to help him (compare Galatians 6:1-2).

‘You hypocrite.’ The word means a play-actor, and thus someone who is putting on a show which is not genuine, or acting in a contradictory way.In The End What Men Are Is Revealed In What They Produce By Their Lives (Luke 6:43-46).

Yet it is important that we help each other with regards to imperfections in us, for a tree is known by its fruit, and therefore it is important for all of us that our imperfections are dealt with. We have already seen this illustration about trees bearing fruit in the teaching of John the Baptiser (Luke 3:8).


Verse 43-44

For there is no good tree which brings forth bad fruit,

Nor again a corrupt tree that brings forth good fruit.

For each tree is known by its own fruit.

For of thorns men do not gather figs,

Nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.

Jesus now emphasises that the test of what we are is the fruit that we bear. This applies to all who read these words. This is what salvation is all about. It is in order to produce fruit-bearing trees. Jesus is saying that a man will be revealed as what he is by what men behold in his life. If he is a genuine Christian, ‘a good tree’, he will bring forth good fruit and not bad fruit. Whereas those who are corrupt trees, and therefore not Christians, will not produce good fruit but bad fruit. Every tree will be known by its fruit. Jesus is saying, ‘Show me a Christian whose life has not changed for the good, slow though the process may be, and I will show you a man or woman who is not a Christian.’

Our lives, says Jesus, should be producing good fruit, the equivalent of figs and grapes which delight man’s heart. But if we are not producing such fruit then we are simply revealing ourselves to be brambles and thorns. And what fruit should we be producing? ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control’ (Galatians 5:22).

But we should note that the point here is not that men are what they are and cannot be changed. The good tree here is a good tree because the Holy Spirit has made it so. It was not naturally a good tree. Christ has not come simply to develop good trees which do not need changing, He has come to seek and to save the lost and turn them into good trees. That is why He goes on to speak of the treasure that God puts in men’s hearts.

Note the differences with Matthew 7:16. Both are clearly drawing from a different source in spite of similarities. There is absolutely no reason why one or the other should have arbitrarily altered the source of the fruit, whereas we can understand Jesus doing so at two different times depending on His surroundings.


Verse 45-46

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good,

And the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil,

For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

And why do you call me, Lord, Lord, and do not do the things which I say?”

Jesus then points out that our hearts are like a treasure store. If we are Christians God had filled us with His treasures. He has put His Holy Spirit within us. He has created within us a new heart (2 Corinthians 5:17). He has filled our hearts with His love (Romans 5:5). And the truly good man, the true Christian, whose heart is thus full of good treasure, will bring that forth to the world. He brings forth what is good. All that he brings forth is a blessing. But the non-good only have evil treasures in their hearts. When they reach into their hearts and lives they only bring forth what is harmful, and unhelpful, and evil. (There really is no argument from this to support the idea that a man can be a Christian but not change. Such a view is an insult to Christ and to God).

For in the end it is what is in the heart that will come from the mouth. We speak as we are, and reveal what we are by our words. Do we want to know what a man’s heart is like? Listen to what he says. He cannot keep it hidden for long. For out of the abundance that is in the heart (or otherwise) the mouth speaks.

Jesus then applies the lesson practically. Here are words that can so easily come from the mouth, ‘Lord, Lord.’ But the test of their genuineness is whether we do what He says. This is not, however, contradicting the previous line, for eventually the mouth will reveal whether Jesus is Lord or not. It is rather emphasising the same truth from a different viewpoint.

‘Lord, Lord.’ The repetition stresses the depth of the profession (compare Genesis 22:11; Genesis 46:2; Exodus 3:4; 1 Samuel 3:10). This person is making a great outward show of his submission. He is trying to make a huge impression, both in the eyes of Jesus and in the eyes of man. But Jesus is saying that such submission is worse than no submission if we do not do what He says. It is only obedience which really shows that He is our Lord. Otherwise we are simply emphasising our own hypocrisy.

The question here is not as to whether ‘we have made Jesus Lord of our lives’. God does not humble Himself to a position where He leaves such a choice to us. For the fact is that if we are Christians we profess Jesus as Lord, and God and Creator, to Whom we are responsible in all things. He is therefore our Lord. And the point here is that if we call Him ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what He says we are hypocrites and fools. We can only expect destruction, as the following illustration makes clear.

The Security Of The One Who Hears The Words Of Jesus And Does Them (Luke 6:47-48).

Jesus now ends His message with a forceful parable. He likens all who claim to be disciples to compare themselves with two men who set about building themselves a house. One built firmly on a rock. He was like the man who hears Jesus’ words and does them. The other built directly onto the earth with no foundations. He was like a man who hears Jesus’ words and does not do them.


Verse 47-48

Every one who comes to me, and hears my words, and does them,

I will show you to whom he is like,

He is like a man building a house, who dug and went deep,

And laid a foundation on the rock,

And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house,

And could not shake it, because it had been built well.

There is a difference between this parable here and the parallel one in Matthew 7:24-27. Sometimes in different messages Jesus emphasised His previous words by repetition. Sometimes He did it by alteration. Here the man is seen as putting in effort. He ‘digs deep’. He wants to be certain of the soundness of the foundation (it hints at nothing about a cellar). Then he lays a foundation on a rock. (This is done equally by both Jews and Gentiles). The result is that when the bad years come and floods arise his house is able to cope with the pounding of the water. In the same way the man who hears Jesus’ words and does them will be able to stand against all that life can throw at Him and against all the attacks of the Enemy. Nothing will hurt him (Luke 10:19). He is unshakeable.

When a person tells you that they are having difficulty believing, ask them about their lives. The problem in all probability lies in what they are doing, or planning to do, rather than with their faith or lack of it. The house is being shaken because it is no longer on the rock.

Disaster For Those Who Hear the Words of Jesus and Do Not Do Them (Luke 6:49).


Verse 49

But he who hears, and does not,

Is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation,

Against which the stream broke, and straightway it fell in,

And the ruin of that house was great.

But the one who hears Jesus’ words and does not do them is like the man who builds his house without a foundation. And when the floods come his house collapses. There is no reason for talking about wadi beds here. Where there are mountains, and valleys, and rain floods are common to life in most parts of the world in one form or another, and equally so in Palestine.

Chapter 7 The Centurion’s Servant, The Widow of Nain, The Concerns of John the Baptiser Are Met, The sinful Woman.

Following the proclamation of the law of the new Kingly Rule of God, Luke now presents us with a number of incidents which reveal the breadth and depth of that Kingly Rule. It reaches out to the believing Gentiles with a word of power, it reaches out to a weeping widow of Israel with the offer of life, it affects the dead and restores them to life, it encourages imprisoned John who is raised to his true status, an incident which, however, also bring out the greatness of that Kingly Rule. It reaches down to a ‘sinful woman’ and makes her whole. And it will be followed by a further address in which Jesus makes clear the provision for the advancement of His Kingly Rule.

The Centurion’s Servant (Luke 7:1-10). Jesus’ Kingly Rule over Disease

In this incident Jesus is true to His own teaching and ‘gives to him who asks of him’ (compare Matthew 10:8 where giving is related to healing). The incident gains in importance in that it reveals to Christians the might of Rome submitting itself as unworthy even to come to Jesus, with Jesus then sending there His word (which is how Acts ends). Jesus as the great Prophet and King is seen as superior to Rome. Yet it is a clear indication that the grace of God through Jesus is available to those Gentiles who humbly seek it. It also indicated to non-Christians that Rome approved of Jesus Christ.

The very way in which Jesus heals the servant is an indication of the Kingly Rule of God. All nature is under His control, and He has but to speak and it is done. Just as in the beginning He spoke and the worlds came into being, now He speaks and one part of that world, which has been corrupted, is restored.

The passage may be analysed as follows:

a After He had ended all His sayings in the ears of the people Jesus entered into Capernaum (Luke 6:1).

b A certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and at the point of death. And when he heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking Him that He would come and save his servant (Luke 6:2-3).

c They, when they came to Jesus, besought him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy that you should do this for him, for he loves our nation, and himself built us our synagogue’ (Luke 6:4-5)

d Jesus went with them. And when He was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy that you should come under my roof” (Luke 6:6)

c That is why I did not think myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant shall be healed, for I also am a man set under authority, having under myself soldiers. And I say to this one, “Go”, and he goes; and to another, “Come”, and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this”, and he does it’ (Luke 6:7-8)

b And when Jesus heard these things, He marvelled at him, and turned and said to the crowd who followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Luke 6:9).

a And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole (Luke 6:10).

Note how in ‘a’ Jesus enters into Capernaum, and in the parallel the people return to the centurion’s home with the servant healed. With the King comes healing. In ‘b’ the centurion exercises his faith and in the parallel Jesus marvels at his faith. In ‘c’ the elders say that the centurion is worthy, in the parallel the centurion says that he is not worthy. In ‘d’ the might of Rome confesses its unworthiness before Jesus.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Luke 6:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/luke-6.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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