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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Luke 7

 

 

Verses 1-10

Luke 7:1-10. THE HEALING OP THE CENTURION’S SERVANT. See on Matthew 8:5-13. Luke’s account is fuller and more accurate as regards the messengers of the centurion, but Matthew gives at length the language of our Lord occasioned by the centurion’s faith.


Verses 1-17

CHRONOLOGY. The healing of the centurion’s servant at Capernaum followed the discourse recorded in the last chapter, no event of which we have any account intervening. (See on Matthew 8:1 ff.) The raising of the widow’s son at Nain, narrated by Luke only, occurred shortly after (see Luke 7:11), also without any intervening event on record. We join the two, especially since Luke 7:17 is a formal conclusion, such as we often find in this Gospel.


Verse 2

Luke 7:2. Who was highly valued by him as his only and faithful servant. It is further suggested that he was ‘held in honor,’ the object of his master’s attachment, as was frequently the case in these days, between master and slave. The sickness was ‘palsy’ (Matthew).


Verse 3

Luke 7:3. Heard concerning Jesus, as he naturally would in Capernaum.

Elders of the Jews. Not elders of the synagogue, but of the people. Here Luke is more accurate than Matthew.


Verse 4

Luke 7:4. He is worthy. The correct reading makes this verse a quotation of their language. The intercession of the elders is true to nature: a rich man, a man of authority and position, a man of their party, though not ‘to the manner born,’ would enlist their good offices.


Verse 5

Luke 7:5. Himself built us our synagogue. This was not uncommon. They did not doubt that this would be a recommendation to our Lord. There had been no indication of the wider purpose of our Lord’s mission. A long training was necessary to teach even the Apostles that the Gospel was meant for the Gentiles. It was wisely ordered that such a case as this should be the entering wedge for breaking through their prejudice.


Verse 6

Luke 7:6. Went with them. There was no delay as in the case of the Syro-Phenician woman, because there was not the same necessity either for bringing out the faith of the person who asked the favor, or for thus giving a lesson to the disciples, to remove prejudice.

Friends. ‘A very delicate and thoroughly natural touch—no intercessors, for these he needed no longer, but intimate friends of his family, who can in some measure take his place in greeting the highly honored Guest.’ (Van Oosterzee.)—On the message itself, and the subsequent words of our Lord, see Matthew 8:8-13.


Verse 10

Luke 7:10. Found the servant whole, or, ‘well.’ Luke here carries out the detail of his narrative.


Verse 11

Luke 7:11. Soon afterwards. The change of a single letter alters the sense ‘the day after’ to ‘soon afterwards,’ which is probably the correct reading.

Nain, Na’-in. The name occurs nowhere else in Scripture. It was a town of Galilee, southeast of Nazareth, a few miles to the south of Mount Tabor, ‘on the northern slope of the rugged and barren ridge of little Hermon’ (Stanley). The name signifies ‘the lovely,’ but it is now a poor village, with the ruins of old buildings. The distance from Capernaum (supposing Tell-hûm to be the site) is about twenty five miles. The distance is not so great as to forbid their reaching it ‘the day after.’

His disciples, in the wider sense.

A great multitude. This shows His influence, as the distance was so considerable. Luke would not introduce this multitude as witnesses of such a miracle, unless he were sure of the fact.


Verses 11-17

Luke 7:11-17. THE RAISING OF THE WIDOW’S SON AT NAIN. Peculiar to Luke. Of course the silence of the other Evangelists is no argument against the truthfulness of Luke’s account. As compared with the other two similar miracles this takes a middle position. Jairus’ daughter was just dead, this young man on the way to burial, Lazarus had been buried for four days.


Verse 12

Luke 7:12. There was carried out. Graves were commonly outside the towns.

The only son of his mother, etc. The circumstances were peculiarly adapted to call forth compassion. He might have learned these circumstances from some of the crowd, much people accompanying the widow, but He doubtless knew them of Himself. Such knowledge befits One who wrought such a miracle. Indeed the meeting was not accidental but providential, and foreknown by our Lord Himself. There is no reason why He should have gone so far from Capernaum, and rapidly, as it would seem, unless it were to meet this funeral procession.


Verse 13

Luke 7:13. And when the Lord saw her. The title ‘Lord’ is peculiarly fitting here. Luke uses it more frequently than Matthew and Mark.

Weep not. The first sign of compassion; and a token of coming help. Doubtless His words awakened faith—the same words, though not now followed by such a miracle, are ever applicable, for our Lord, by His death and resurrection, has become ‘the Resurrection and the Life’ in the highest sense, always affording to His people a ground for the command, ‘weep not,’ of which this miracle was only a sign.


Verse 14

Luke 7:14. The bier. An open coffin was used among the Jews.

The bearers stood still. Stopped, not by miraculous influence, yet probably because of our Lord’s manner. That they had heard of Him is of course possible, but not certain.

Young man, I say onto thee, Arise. A command, as in all the similar cases. A simple word, uttered in the exalted composure of sufficient, all-sufficient might. The simplicity of the narrative attests its truthfulness; the simplicity of the command attests the power of the Prince of Life.


Verse 15

Luke 7:15. And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. The commanding word wrought its proper effect. Not only life, but health and strength had returned.

And he gave him to his mother. The compassion (Luke 7:13) completes its work. This act of love fulfils all that was implied in the consoling word: ‘Weep not.’

The sublime simplicity of Luke should guard against a too sentimental representation of the death of the young man, the sorrow of the widow, the joy of the reunion, and the like. All these, purely human, fanciful, and dramatic additions may call forth tears, without leading any nearer to the Giver of eternal Life. Doubtless the miracle itself had deeper reasons than the consolation of the widow and the quickening of the young man, even though no mention is made of them here. The effect upon others is however narrated in the verses that follow.


Verse 16

Luke 7:16. And fear took hold on all. ‘Fear’ was the natural result, but the word is used in the Old Testament sense. Not terror, but not yet the loving faith of the New Testament. Some superstition may have mingled with it, but it was mainly religious, for it is added: they glorified God.

A great prophet, etc. ‘That,’ in this clause and the next, is probably the usual sign of quotation, though it may mean ‘because.’ The two sayings express the same idea. Only the greatest prophets (Elijah and Elisha) had raised the dead, and the other saying indicates that they thought of the great prophet who was to come. Still it was not a decided avowal that Jesus was the Messiah. Notice how the effect of this miracle was an exaltation of Jesus as a Person in the minds of those who witnessed it

Hath visited. Comp. chap. Luke 1:68.


Verse 17

Luke 7:17. This report—concerning him. Literally, ‘this saying.’ It can scarcely refer to the saying of the last verse, but rather to the whole account of the miracle.

In the whole of Judea. Probably meaning all Palestine, and not Judea as opposed to Galilee.

Region round about, i.e., about Judea, not merely in the district about Nain.


Verse 18

Luke 7:18. The disciples of John showed him. More definite than Matthew.

All these things. Probably with special reference to the last and greatest miracle at Nain.


Verses 18-35

CHRONOLOGY. The order is correct. There is no record of anything which occurred during the interval between the raising of the young man at Nain and the message from John. See on Matthew 8:18; Matthew 9:2, etc. Luke’s account in the present section differs very slightly from that of Matthew (Matthew 11:2-19); which see.


Verse 19

Luke 7:19. Two of his disciples. This shows that the imprisonment did not shut him off from intercourse with His followers.

To the Lord. Eleven times is this title applied to Jesus in this Gospel (see marginal references).


Verse 21

Luke 7:21. In that hour, etc. This is implied in the answer given by Matthew (Luke 7:4-5).

Diseases and plagues (Greek, ‘scourges’), and of evil spirits. Luke, the physician, distinguishes the possessed from the diseased.

Luke 7:22-28 are almost word for word the same as Matthew 11:4-11. In Luke 7:28 the word ‘prophet’ is to be omitted.


Verse 29-30

Luke 7:29-30. These verses have been regarded as, either a part of our Lord’s discourse, or a comment of the Evangelist. Each view has able supporters. The latter seems more natural. But the words: ‘And the Lord said’ (Luke 7:31), are to be omitted. The early insertion of the phrase shows that the verses were very early regarded as an explanation of the Evangelist. If they belong to our Lord’s discourse, they were introduced to show the different reception accorded to John, and thus to furnish a historical ground for the reproach which follows (Luke 7:31-34). If an observation of the Evangelist, they explain for the benefit of distant readers the different reception given to John’s baptism, and the consequent difference in the effect produced by the Lord’s discourse at this time. The first view takes ‘him’ as referring to John, and ‘justified God,’ ‘rejected,’ as applying to what happened under John’s preaching; the latter refers ‘Him’ to Christ, and the actions to the result of His preaching.

Toward themselves, i.e., with respect to themselves.


Verses 31-35

Luke 7:31-35. See Matthew 11:16-19. The only variation is in Luke 7:35 : all her children. In Matthew: ‘by her works.’ Here the persons are contrasted. The children of Wisdom are childlike, not childish, like the men of this generation (Luke 7:31-32). Instead of petulant treatment of the different teachers, sent of God, they have seen the wisdom of God in sending both teachers, have learned the truth from each, and thus, by estimate and corresponding act, ‘justified’ that wisdom.


Verse 36

Luke 7:36. One of the Pharisees. ‘Simon’ (Luke 7:40).

That he would eat with him. There is no evidence of an improper motive. With all his scruples, the Pharisee shows no hostility. Pride may indeed have entered. Our Lord, who came ‘eating and drinking’ (Luke 7:34), accepted the invitation.

Sat down to meat. As always, ‘reclined at table,’ the head toward the table, the body supported by the left arm and the feet turned outward. The sandals were usually removed before eating.


Verses 36-50

A COMPARISON of the various accounts renders it highly probable that the Evangelist is here following the strict chronological order. (Some think the words of Luke 7:34 may have suggested the insertion of the event at this point.) The only intervening event on record seems to have been the discourse in Matthew 11:20-30. Luke does not give here another version of the anointing at Bethany. The two occurrences have little in common, but the name of the host (Simon) and the anointing. In this case the woman was ‘a sinner,’ showing her penitence, in the other a pious loving disciple, preparing Him for burial; here the feet are anointed, there the head; here the objection arose from the woman’s character, there from the waste; here the host objects, there Judas, while the lessons our Lord deduces are altogether different.

Tradition has identified this woman with Mary Magdalene; but of this there is no proof whatever. The mention of her name in chap. Luke 8:2, as an entirely new person, is against the tradition. Yet art and the usage of most modem languages (Magdalene = abandoned woman) have supported tradition in fixing this stigma upon an afflicted woman, out of whom our Lord cast seven demons, and who was one of the most affectionate and favored of the early disciples. On the further difficulties of this view, see Luke 7:37; chap. Luke 8:2.


Verse 37

Luke 7:37. A woman who was in the city, a sinner, i.e., an unchaste person. The words ‘in the city’ show that she led this life of sin in the place where the Pharisee lived. What place it was we do not know. Certainly not Jerusalem, but some place in Galilee. Those who identify the woman with Mary Magdalene must, to be consistent, think it was Magdala. It might have been Nain, but if Matthew 11:20-30 immediately precedes, then Capernaum is the more probable place.

And when she knew, etc. ‘Since I came in’ (Luke 7:45) suggests that she came in about the same time with our Lord. Our Lord was constantly followed by a crowd, and the crowd undoubtedly thronged the houses into which He entered. The woman must have heard our Lord, and the first penitent step was her coming thus. The previous discourse, probably the one which influenced her, was that touching one (Matthew 11:28-30): ‘Come unto me all ye,’ etc. Had this been Mary Magdalene, we must suppose either that she had been healed of her bodily disease, but not of her spiritual one,—or that ‘seven demons’ does not refer to a literal possession. Neither alternative is probable. See on chap. Luke 8:2.

An alabaster box of ointment. A vase or cruse; see on Matthew 26:7. Alford: ‘The ointment here has a peculiar interest, as being the offering by a penitent of that which had been an accessory in her unhallowed work of sin.’


Verse 38

Luke 7:38. Standing behind at his feet weeping, etc. She came to our Lord, as He reclined at table; standing by Him, leaning over His feet, her tears of penitence began to flow, and thus she began to wet his feet with her tears. Her tears dropped on his feet. That she intended to do this is unlikely. Genuine emotion is not intentional; only unbidden tears are precious. Her intention was to kiss and anoint His feet, but coming for that purpose the precious ointment of her penitent heart first flowed from her weeping eyes. Then carrying out her purpose, she wiped His feet with the hair of her head, and kissing them (repeatedly, as the original implies) as a token of honor and affection, she anointed them with the ointment. In Luke 7:44-46 our Lord enumerates her actions in this order. Her unbidden tears outran the prepared ointment; and were more precious in the sight of the Lord.


Verse 39

Luke 7:39. He spake within himself. Our Lord replies (Luke 7:40) to the thought of the Pharisee’s heart, as here given.

If he were a prophet, etc. Simon seems to have been inclined to regard Him as such. But he reasoned thus: a prophet would know what others must learn; this man cannot be a prophet, for He does not know who is touching Him since no one would knowingly allow himself to be touched by a woman of this character. The main error was in the last thought; for our Lord did allow Himself to be touched by such a person. Hence His reply sets forth why He allows this. Notice that the objection of the Pharisee was against the touch by an unclean person; a technical, ceremonial, and Pharisaical one. Really and morally such persons can defile by their presence: yet to this no objection was raised. Still less dared any one cast a reflection upon the morality of Jesus in such circumstances.


Verse 40

Luke 7:40. Answering, the thought of the Pharisee, not some outward manifestations of displeasure, though such may have been displayed.

I have somewhat to say unto thee. Direct personal address, implying a knowledge of Simon’s heart.

Master, or, ‘Teacher,’ say on. The tone is respectful, as if the evidence of our Lord’s insight had already checked the doubt in Simon’s mind.


Verse 41

Luke 7:41. A certain money lender had two debtors. The former represents our Lord, the two debtors the woman and Simon respectively. But in the parable the lender is in the background, the emphasis rests upon the comparison between the respective amounts: The one owed five hundred pence (denaries), and the other fifty. For the value, see Matthew 18:28. The debt is sin, or strictly speaking, here the sense of sin. Probably, but not certainly, the actual relative sinfulness of the woman and Simon might have been thus represented. That the sense of sin is meant appears from the application, since gratitude for forgiveness of sin must be based upon that, not upon actual guilt which we cannot measure. Hence the truth that many great sinners do not feel their guilt is here left out of view.—Some suppose that the respective debts represent, in the one case the casting out of seven demons, in the other a healing from leprosy, thus identifying the persons with Mary Magdalene and Simon the leper. Others substitute the honor of a visit from our Lord for the healing from leprosy. Both crow out of the assumption that the woman was Mary Magdalene, and neither affords a satisfactory interpretation.—The ratio here is very different from that in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35), since the things compared are very different.


Verse 42

Luke 7:42. And when they had not wherewith to pay. They found out and confessed that they could not pay the debt. It is true that sinners have ‘nothing,’ but the verse brings out rather the discovery than the fact itself. Grateful love does not pay any part of the debt, according to the parable.

He forgave both. ‘Frankly’ means ‘freely;’ but there is only one word in the original, for ‘frankly forgave.’ The forgiveness was real and personal. It does not represent an indiscriminate forgiveness of those unconscious of sin and of inability to atone for it, hence not seeking pardon in penitence and confession. The fact, not the ground, of forgiveness is here brought.


Verse 43

Luke 7:43. I suppose. We are to understand, ‘that is, if they feel as they ought.’

To whom he forgave the most. From this correct answer a false conclusion has often been drawn, oftener in thought and deed than in word. Men sometimes find in it an encouragement to sin, on the theory that the greater their present sin, the greater their future love. But the sense of sin is represented by the debt, and the question does not necessarily mean: which will be the better Christian? but rather, which will be the more affectionate, self-sacrificing in outward manifestations of gratitude?


Verse 44

Luke 7:44. Seest thou this woman? He thus brings face to face the two persons whose cases He had set forth in the parable. Possibly Simon had hitherto avoided looking at her, or in any case had looked down upon her; now according to his own verdict he must look up to her.

Thine house. The emphasis rests upon the word ‘thy,’ thus pointing the rebuke. It was thy duty, rather than hers, to show such attentions, for I became thy guest. While ordinary courtesy did not demand from the host all the acts here alluded to, they were bestowed on honored guests. Simon had not been rude and uncivil, but loving little, he had treated our Lord as an ordinary guest. With this treatment the conduct of the woman, who loved much, is contrasted. Simon did not give water, she gave tears, ‘and instead of a linen cloth the thousand hairs of her head.’


Verse 45

Luke 7:45. No kiss, of welcome, on the face, came from the host; but the unbidden woman coming in with the Guest (since the time I came in) at once kissed His feet, and continued to do so.


Verse 46

Luke 7:46. Mine head with oil.... my feet with ointment. The host failed to supply oil for the head, the woman not only gave the more precious ointment, but herself applied it to His feet.


Verse 47

Luke 7:47. Wherefore I say to thee. Because of these exhibitions of love, in recognition of them, I say to thee. Our Lord gives the reason for His saying that she is forgiven, not for the forgiveness itself. The latter sense is ungrammatical, as well as out of keeping with the parable.

Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, ‘have been and are forgiven.’

For she loved much. Not: because she loved much, as though her love were the cause of the forgiveness. This sense is directly opposed to the parable (Luke 7:42), which represents the debtors as unable to pay and the forgiveness free; to the next clause, which plainly makes the forgiveness the ground of the love, not the reverse; and also to Luke 7:50, which represents faith, not love, as the antecedent of forgiveness, on the side of the person forgiven. The clause is to be explained: ‘since she loved much,’ i.e., Her sins which are many are forgiven (as you may conclude according to your own judgment, that much forgiveness produces much love), since she loved much (as these manifestations indicate). The word ‘loved’ refers to the acts spoken of in Luke 7:44-46. The assumption that the woman was Mary Magdalene is used to support the false view mentioned above; the gratitude being regarded as called forth by the casting out of the demons, and the forgiveness of sins as first granted after this display of love. The aptness of the parable is destroyed by this interpretation.

Little is forgiven, etc. One who feels little need of forgiveness is meant. Our Lord does not apply this directly to Simon—but leaves that to his conscience.


Verse 48

Luke 7:48. Thy sins are forgiven. This does not forbid the view that a previous sense of pardon moved the woman to acts of love. It is rather a new assurance, a more formal personal declaration. Christians have a sense of pardon awakening gratitude, but ever need more assurance of it, ever hope for and desire more; that is our faith. As appears from Luke 7:50, it was precisely to this faith on the part of the woman, who has already felt enough to manifest her love in this way, that our Lord addressed the declaration of this verse. This is the constant and blessed action and reaction of Divine grace and Christian gratitude it awakens.


Verse 49

Luke 7:49. Who is this that even forgiveth sins? Comp. chap. Luke 5:21 and the parallel passages. Such a question was natural, and does not necessarily imply decided hostility.

Thy faith hath saved thee. Not love. Love is to convince others, faith lays hold of grace, and thus love is begotten. It was faith, the hope of a penitent based on the words and the character of Jesus, which brought her to the house of Simon. In this faith her love was born, and as its manifestations began, her faith was ever encouraged by the reception of her acts of love. Growing as she wept and washed His feet, it laid hold more and more fully of the pardon it expected,—and received at length the full absolution (Luke 7:48). The closing words were therefore of faith, and of its most blessed result: go in peace, literally, ‘into peace.’ This was the state of mind to which she might now look forward. Faith first, manifestations of grateful love next, then peace. If we consider well to whom these words were spoken, we will not forget that grace is free, or exalt our love into a ground of pardon. All her tokens of penitence and affection could not, even in the eyes of sinful men, wash away the stain of her life, but the grace of Christ led her to true peace, as her abiding condition.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Luke 7:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/luke-7.html. 1879-90.

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Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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