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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Luke 18

 

 

Verse 51

THIS division of the Gospel of Luke, embracing nearly one third of the whole, contains for the most part matter peculiar to this Evangelist. A number of the incidents probably belong to an earlier period of the history. A few of these are mentioned by Matthew and Mark, though the greater number even of these are peculiar to this account. But the larger portion of this division belongs to that part of our Lord’s life passed aver in silence by Matthew and Mark. John indeed tells us of much that occurred during this period, but he does not give a parallel account. Many theories have been suggested; our view is as follows: This division treats in the main of that part of the life of our Lord on earth, between the close of His ministry in Galilee and the last journey from Perea (beyond Jordan) to Jerusalem; covering a period of nearly six months. The reasons for this opinion are: that chap. Luke 9:51 can only refer to the final departure from Galilee (Matthew 19:1; Mark 10:1), and this departure seems to have been shortly before the sudden appearance of our Lord in Jerusalem at the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:14); it is indeed possible that our Lord returned to Galilee after this visit, but of this there is no positive evidence. On the other hand, the blessing of the little children (chap. Luke 18:15), where the parallel with Matthew and Mark is renewed, undoubtedly took place just before the last solemn journey from Perea to Jerusalem and to death. From John’s account we learn that during this period our Lord appeared again in Jerusalem. In fact, that Gospel alone tells us of His journeyings to avoid the hostility of the Jews. Neither Matthew nor Mark implies that the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, alluded to in chap. Luke 9:51, was a direct one, while both state that such a journey was undertaken about this time.

All who love the lessons of our Lord should rejoice that we have in this Gospel so much that is not only peculiar but important. The parables of this division are especially interesting, because uttered at a time when both the hostility of the Jews and the training of the disciples called for Truth more distinctively Christian. As in one sense the journey to death begins with this division, so do we here approach more closely the central truths of the gospel which centres in that death. The special questions of chronology will be discussed under the separate sections; but certainty on these points is impossible.

THE journey to Jerusalem spoken of in Luke 9:51 was probably that to the feast of Tabernacles; but in a wider sense, it was the final departure from Galilee to death at Jerusalem, since from this time on our Lord was rejected and persecuted openly by the Jews. The direct route was through Samaria, and on the way the incident of Luke 9:52-56 occurred. Some indeed suppose that our Lord, after this rebuff, did not pass through Samaria but skirted the borders between it and Perea (see Matthew 19:1-12); of this, however, there is no positive evidence. The main question is regarding the exact chronological position of the incident of Luke 9:57-62; which Matthew (Matthew 8:18-22) places just before the departure to Gadara. In favor of the order of Luke is the greater fulness of his account; in favor of that of Matthew, his mention of one who was a ‘scribe.’ Such language from a ‘scribe’ was more probable at the earlier point. The theory that such an incident occurred twice is highly improbable. There was no reason why Matthew should insert it out of its place; but it is so appropriate here, where our Lord’s final departure from Galilee is spoken of, that Luke probably placed it here for that reason.—The whole section brings before us the four leading human temperaments: the choleric, sanguine, melancholic, and phlegmatic. Our Lord Himself had no temperament, but was the perfect man. On the question whether the sending out of the Seventy preceded this departure from Galilee, see next section.


Verse 1

Luke 18:1. Unto them, i.e., the disciples.

To this end, not in order that, but to show, that they (the disciples) ought always to pray. Comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 : ‘Pray without ceasing.’ The latter refers to the believer’s prevailing frame of mind; this, to unwearied petition for the same object believed to be in accordance with God’s will. It shows the conflict of prayer in the distressed and suffering disciple.

Not to faint, not to be discouraged. The danger of discouragement arises from the delay in receiving an answer, while the ‘adversary’ continues to harass.’


Verses 1-14

CONNECTION. This section belongs to the same period as the preceding one; the first parable has a close connection of thought with the predictions concerning the coming of the Son of man, while the second seems to have immediately followed. The two constitute, as it were, a complete whole. ‘In order to end like the widow, one must have begun like the publican; and in order to act as recklessly of conscience as the Judge, one must have the heart of a Pharisee in his bosom’ (Van Oosterzee). The first parable bears a resemblance to that of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-13), and like it was addressed to the disciples; the second to that of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), being also addressed to a wider circle.


Verse 2

Luke 18:2. In a city a judge. The ordinary municipal judge, appointed in accordance with Deuteronomy 16:18.

Who feared not God, and regarded not man. The expression is not an uncommon designation of an unprincipled and reckless person. Religious motives and even social influences set no check to his selfish recklessness.


Verse 3

Luke 18:3. A widow in that city. The Old Testament specially demanded judicial protection for widows. The suitor may represent the church.

Avenge me of my adversary. The justice of her cause is implied throughout. She does more than ask for a decision in her favor, she demands protection and requital. The Church of Christ, persecuted for ages, should proffer this request to God alone.


Verse 4

Luke 18:4. For a while. Not necessarily, for a long time.

He laid within himself, etc. This soliloquy reveals the utterly abandoned character of the man: he was not ashamed of his own recklessness.


Verse 5

Luke 18:5. Because this widow troubleth me. He is willing to give justice, though for a very unjust reason. Even from such a man importunity can gain its end; from her conduct hitherto he infers that she will persist and trouble him yet more.

She... wear me out. The literal meaning is: ‘lest she smite me in the face,’ beat my face black and blue. This is to be taken, not literally, but figuratively, as setting forth the troublesome effects of a woman’s incessant demands, worrying into compliance one who feared not God and regarded not man. Our Lord drew His illustrations, not from ideal characters, but from people whom He saw about Him. Comp. the conduct of the disciples, Matthew 15:23.


Verse 6

Luke 18:6. The unjust judge, lit, ‘the judge of unrighteousness.’ This is emphatic to lead to the conclusion in Luke 18:7.


Verse 7

Luke 18:7. And shall not God, etc. Much more then, since God is not an unjust judge, since the widow is not a forsaken one, but his elect, will He hear importunate prayer. While this is applicable in a certain measure to every individual Christian, and to all bodies of Christians in every age, the main application is to the elect as a collective body, to the final release from her days of sorrow at the return of the Lord.

Who cry to him day and night. An exhortation to importunate prayer, as well as a prediction that God’s elect will not fail to offer it.

Though he is long-suffering in their behalf. God is in general long-suffering, but this is inappropriate here. ‘That He is long-suffering to His people is implied in the first part of the verse. The best sense seems to be: ‘though He is long-suffering,’ i.e., delays the vengeance just spoken of, ‘on their behalf,’ or ‘over them,’ either ‘on their case,’ or ‘on their account.’ The view that this is a separate question: Is He wont to delay with respect to them and their requests? seems to be opposed to the whole course of the parable. Delay may be ‘on their behalf,’ and the proper answer.


Verse 8

Luke 18:8. I say unto you. Our Lord answers His own question.

He will avenge them speedily. Not suddenly, but quickly. If Luke 18:7 be explained: Is it His way to delay in their case? then this is the expected negative reply. But the avenging belongs to the coming of the Son of man, which is still future after eighteen centuries. However long delayed in man’s estimation, the day of the Lord will ‘quickly’ come, as God regards it. Both ideas are ever conjoined in the New Testament to combine the lessons of patience and hope.

When the Son of man Cometh. The second coming of Christ is evidently meant

Will he find faith on the earth? It is not implied that there will be no faith at that time, but only that it is doubtful whether the faith spoken of will continue until that time. What faith does our Lord mean? If He means saving faith in Himself, then the question points not only to the speedy falling away of many who heard Him then, out also to the great apostasy which will precede His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:3). But it is more probable that He refers to the kind of faith set forth in the parable: faith which endures in importunate prayer. The question then implies that the trials of the faith and patience of the church during the Lord’s delay will be so great as to make it doubtful whether such importunity for the Lord’s return will be the rule in the day of His appearing. This view does not encourage the over-gloomy view that the day of Christ’s triumph will be when His people have become very few in number. On the other hand, it agrees with the representations repeatedly made, that the coming will be an unexpected one even to real believers. The special form of faith which will be lacking is faith in the return of the Lord as evidenced by importunate prayer for the hastening of that event.

Luke 18:9. This parable. The parable consists in this, that the two persons represent two classes.

To certain. To them, not concerning them, hence they were probably not Pharisees.

Who trusted in themselves and set the rest at nought. They were Pharisaical at heart, though not be longing to that party. They represent a numerous class. The setting the rest at nought is a consequence of self-righteousness.


Verse 10

Luke 18:10. Two men went up into the temple to pray. The temple was on an elevation. Since the Passover was approaching, and some of his hearers were probably on their way to Jerusalem to worship in the temple, the reference is very apt.


Verse 11

Luke 18:11. The Pharisee stood. The publican also stood, but the word here used implies that the Pharisee took a position of confidence, a conspicuous one at all events (comp. Matthew 6:5).

Prayed thus with himself, i.e., to himself, not orally, since he would hardly venture to speak thus. But the phrase doubtless alludes to the fact that his prayer was not really a communing with God, but a communing with himself.

God, I thank thee. He did not thank God, but boasted. It is possible to thank God for what we do and become more than others (1 Corinthians 15:9-10), but such a thanksgiving springs out of the most profound humility.

Not as the rest of men. Self-righteousness sets at nought, not ‘others,’ but ‘the rest of men;’ as if no one else could be so acceptable to God. The Pharisee then subdivides the rest of men into classes: extortioners, unjust (in the restricted sense of those who act unjustly, illegally), adulterers (to be taken literally), or even as this publican. ‘Even’ is contemptuous; it does not imply that he considered the publican as less unworthy than the other classes. The thanksgiving was not for freedom from these sins, but for his superiority to sinners; and he introduces the concrete and actual sinner (the publican).


Verse 12

Luke 18:12. I fast twice in the week. His acts, he affirms, surpass the requirements of God’s law. But one fast was commanded in the law, namely, on the great day of atonement (Leviticus 16:29; Numbers 29:7). These were therefore private fasts. Mondays and Thursdays were the usual fast days. Comp. Matthew 6:16-18.

I give tithes of all that I get, not of what he possessed, but of what he gained. The law required tithes only of the fruits of the field, flocks, and herds (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:21; Deuteronomy 14:22; comp., however, Genesis 14:20; Genesis 28:22). This gain, he felt, was due to his own prudence, and yet, he says, I give God more than He claims in the law. It is easier to see the folly of the Pharisee’s prayer than to cease offering it ourselves.


Verse 13

Luke 18:13. Standing. Simply standing, not putting himself into an attitude or position.

Afar off. Probably, from the sanctuary, thus indicating his humility before God. Possibly, too, from the Pharisees thus indicating that he did not deem himself as other men, out morally below them. Still he was not thinking much of others; the matter was between him and God alone.

Would not lift up, etc. This hints that the Pharisee had done so, doubtless lifting up his hands also, as was the custom.

Smote upon his breast. The usual gesture of sorrow.

God be merciful, or, ‘be propitiated,’ addressed to God, not an ejaculation.

To me a sinner. There is no comparison with others. He thinks of himself as though he were the great and only sinner. As the Pharisee proudly gave thanks, the publican humbly petitions, and for the one thing he most needs. How God can be merciful to sinners is not declared here, since Christ had not yet died for sinners. This petition is the only one a sinner can offer or may offer, but it may and can be answered only for Christ’s sake.


Verse 14

Luke 18:14. I say unto you. Solemn application.

This man, the publican, went down to his house, returned home, justified, i.e., accepted by God as righteous, in the very sense in which Paul uses the word in his Epistles, that to the Romans being an extended commentary on this statement. Our Lord implies that the publican’s prayer was answered, that God was merciful to this sinner, and this is precisely what is meant by justification, namely, God’s forgiving our sins and accepting us as righteous.

Bather than the other. Our Lord is very forbearing in His judgment on the Pharisee. But He certainly means that the latter was not justified, for he had not asked for this.

For. A general statement, often repeated by our Lord (chap. Luke 14:11; Matthew 23:12), gives the reason for what had been said of the two men.

Every one that exalteth himself, as this Pharisee did in his self-righteousness, shall be humbled, by God, who does not justify such; but he that humbleth himself, as the publican did, shall be exalted, by God, who hears and answers the prayer.. That answer was justification, hence on the great principle so often set forth, the publican went down to his house justified rather than the other. The Pharisee, though previously a more moral man than the other, failed to be justified, not because he was more moral, but because he was self-righteous; the publican, the worse man of the two, was justified, not because he was worse, but because he was a humble penitent. Of the future course of the two men our Lord has no occasion to speak; but Christ came to make men really holy, as well as to provide for their justification; the one being indissolubly connected with the other. We can distinguish them but not divide them. Hence the future of the publican is not uncertain.


Verses 15-17

Luke 18:15-17. CHILDREN BROUGHT TO CHRIST. See on Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16.

Their infants (Luke 18:15). Luke is more exact here.

Called them (Luke 18:16), i.e., the infants. Peculiar to Luke. The call to the infants could be obeyed only by the parents. Luke omits all mention of the act of blessing.

Luke 18:18-30. THE QUESTION OF A RICH RULER, and subsequent conversations. See on Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31. The narrative of Luke closely resembles that of Mark, but is briefer. One new detail is presented, that this man was a ruler (Luke 18:18).

Luke 18:31-34. THE FULLER PROPHECY OF OUR LORD’S PASSION. See on Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34. In all three accounts this conversation marks the final journeying to Jerusalem. The reference to the prophets in Luke 18:31 and the whole of Luke 18:34 are peculiar to Luke. He omits any mention of the betrayal, which is distinctly announced by Matthew and implied in Mark’s account.


Verses 15-43

FROM this point on, Luke’s account is strictly parallel with those of Matthew and Mark. He does not, however, mention the locality (Perea). We group the rest of the chapter together, as the events succeeded each other in chronological order. Luke introduces few new details. See the parallel passages. There is often a remarkable verbal agreement with the account of Mark. The conversation about divorce, with which Matthew (Matthew 19:1-12) and Mark (Mark 10:2-12) begin their account of the Perean discourses, is omitted here.


Verse 34

Luke 18:34. And they understood none of these things. Peculiar to Luke; Matthew and Mark, however, give a proof of the same fact in their account of the request of the sons of Zebedee immediately after (Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45). They understood the words, but what was predicted they did not understand.

Hid from them. The cause of their not understanding was this hiding, which was due to their own dullness of spiritual perception, though in another view God’s agency is implied. Their spiritual blindness is emphasized by the connection with the healing of blind Bartimeus.


Verses 35-43

Luke 18:35-43. THE HEALING OF THE BLIND BEGGAR NEAR JERICHO. See on Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; especially the latter passage, with which this account closely agrees. The main difference is found in Luke 18:35 : As he drew near to Jericho. Mark: ‘as He went out of Jericho.’ This miracle can scarcely have occurred after the events recorded in chap. Luke 9:1-27, especially as Luke 18:28 is so definite as regards time. We accept the explanation, that the miracle took place during an excursion from Jericho to some place in the neighborhood (probably as they went out); that on the return to Jericho the events of the next chapter occurred. At Jericho our Lord would meet many of His Galilean followers on the way to the Passover. Hence a brief stay in that city is the more probable.

They that went before (Luke 18:39). Matthew: ‘the multitude;’ Mark: ‘many.’ Luke’s expression conveys more distinctly the impression that our Lord’s followers were gathering about Him in a manner almost festal.


Verse 43

Luke 18:43. Glorifying God. Peculiar to Luke, and a phrase frequently used by him. This miracle would make the prediction of Luke 18:31-33 the more incomprehensible to the disciples.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Luke 18:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/luke-18.html. 1879-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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