Christ exhorts to repentance from the case of the Galileans and others. (1-5) Parable of the barren fig-tree. (6-9) The infirm woman strengthened. (10-17) The parables of the mustard seed, and leaven. (18-22) Exhortation to enter at the strait gate. (23-30) Christ's reproof to Herod, and to the people of Jerusalem. (31-35)
Verses 1-5 Mention was made to Christ of the death of some Galileans. This tragical story is briefly related here, and is not met with in any historians. In Christ's reply he spoke of another event, which, like it, gave an instance of people taken away by sudden death. Towers, that are built for safety, often prove to be men's destruction. He cautioned his hearers not to blame great sufferers, as if they were therefore to be accounted great sinners. As no place or employment can secure from the stroke of death, we should consider the sudden removals of others as warnings to ourselves. On these accounts Christ founded a call to repentance. The same Jesus that bids us repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, bids us repent, for otherwise we shall perish.
Verses 6-9 This parable of the barren fig-tree is intended to enforce the warning given just before: the barren tree, except it brings forth fruit, will be cut down. This parable in the first place refers to the nation and people of the Jews. Yet it is, without doubt, for awakening all that enjoy the means of grace, and the privileges of the visible church. When God has borne long, we may hope that he will bear with us yet a little longer, but we cannot expect that he will bear always.
Verses 10-17 Our Lord Jesus attended upon public worship on the sabbaths. Even bodily infirmities, unless very grievous, should not keep us from public worship on sabbath days. This woman came to Christ to be taught, and to get good to her soul, and then he relieved her bodily infirmity. This cure represents the work of Christ's grace upon the soul. And when crooked souls are made straight, they will show it by glorifying God. Christ knew that this ruler had a real enmity to him and to his gospel, and that he did but cloak it with a pretended zeal for the sabbath day; he really would not have them be healed any day; but if Jesus speaks the word, and puts forth his healing power, sinners are set free. This deliverance is often wrought on the Lord's day; and whatever labour tends to put men in the way of receiving the blessing, agrees with the design of that day.
Verses 18-22 Here is the progress of the gospel foretold in two parables, as in ( Matthew 13 ) . The kingdom of the Messiah is the kingdom of God. May grace grow in our hearts; may our faith and love grow exceedingly, so as to give undoubted evidence of their reality. May the example of God's saints be blessed to those among whom they live; and may his grace flow from heart to heart, until the little one becomes a thousand.
Verses 23-30 Our Saviour came to guide men's consciences, not to gratify their curiosity. Ask not, How many shall be saved? But, Shall I be one of them? Not, What shall become of such and such? But, What shall I do, and what will become of me? Strive to enter in at the strait gate. This is directed to each of us; it is, Strive ye. All that will be saved, must enter in at the strait gate, must undergo a change of the whole man. Those that would enter in, must strive to enter. Here are awakening considerations, to enforce this exhortation. Oh that we may be all awakened by them! They answer the question, Are there few that shall be saved? But let none despond either as to themselves or others, for there are last who shall be first, and first who shall be last. If we reach heaven, we shall meet many there whom we little thought to meet, and miss many whom we expected to find.
Verses 31-35 Christ, in calling Herod a fox, gave him his true character. The greatest of men were accountable to God, therefore it became him to call this proud king by his own name; but it is not an example for us. I know, said our Lord, that I must die very shortly; when I die, I shall be perfected, I shall have completed my undertaking. It is good for us to look upon the time we have before us as but little, that we may thereby be quickened to do the work of the day in its day. The wickedness of persons and places which more than others profess religion and relation to God, especially displeases and grieves the Lord Jesus. The judgment of the great day will convince unbelievers; but let us learn thankfully to welcome, and to profit by all who come in the name of the Lord, to call us to partake of his great salvation.
Luke 13:1-9 . THE LESSON, "REPENT OR PERISH," SUGGESTED BY TWO RECENT INCIDENTS, AND ILLUSTRATED BY THE PARABLE OF THE BARREN FIG TREE.
1-3. Galileans--possibly the followers of Judas of Galilee, who, some twenty years before this, taught that Jews should not pay tribute to the Romans, and of whom we learn, from Acts 5:37 , that he drew after him a multitude of followers, who on his being slain were all dispersed. About this time that party would be at its height, and if Pilate caused this detachment of them to be waylaid and put to death as they were offering their sacrifices at one of the festivals, that would be "mingling their blood with their sacrifices" [GROTIUS, WEBSTER and WILKINSON, but doubted by DE WETTE, MEYER, ALFORD, &c.]. News of this being brought to our Lord, to draw out His views of such, and whether it was not a judgment of Heaven, He simply points them to the practical view of the matter: "These men are not signal examples of divine vengeance, as ye suppose; but every impenitent sinner--ye yourselves, except ye repent--shall be like monuments of the judgment of Heaven, and in a more awful sense." The reference here to the impending destruction of Jerusalem is far from exhausting our Lord's weighty words; they manifestly point to a "perdition" of a more awful kind--future, personal, remediless.
4, 5. tower in Siloam--probably one of the towers of the city wall, near the pool of Siloam. Of its fall nothing is known.
6-9. fig tree--Israel, as the visible witness of God in the world, but generally all within the pale of the visible Church of God; a familiar figure (compare Isaiah 5:1-7 John 15:1-8 , &c.).
vineyard--a spot selected for its fertility, separated from the surrounding fields, and cultivated with special care, with a view solely to fruit.
came and sought fruit--a heart turned to God; the fruits of righteousness; compare Matthew 21:33 Matthew 21:34 , and Isaiah 5:2 , "He looked that it should bring forth fruit"; He has a right to it, and will require it.
7. three years--a long enough trial for a fig tree, and so denoting probably just a sufficient period of culture for spiritual fruit. The supposed allusion to the duration of our Lord's ministry is precarious.
cut it down--indignant language.
cumbereth--not only doing no good, but wasting ground.
8. he answering, &c.--Christ, as Intercessor, loath to see it cut down so long as there was any hope (see Luke 13:34 ).
dig, &c.--loosen the earth about it and enrich it with manure; pointing to changes of method in the divine treatment of the impenitent, in order to freshen spiritual culture.
9. if . . . fruit, well--Genuine repentance, however late, avails to save ( Luke 23:42 Luke 23:43 ).
after that, &c.--The final perdition of such as, after the utmost limits of reasonable forbearance, are found fruitless, will be pre-eminently and confessedly just ( Proverbs 1:24-31 , Ezekiel 24:13 ).
Luke 13:10-17 . WOMAN OF EIGHTEEN YEAR'S INFIRMITY HEALED ON THE SABBATH.
11. spirit of infirmity--Compare Luke 13:17 , "whom Satan hath bound." From this it is probable, though not certain, that her protracted infirmity was the effect of some milder form of possession; yet she was "a daughter of Abraham," in the same gracious sense, no doubt, as Zaccheus, after his conversion, was "a son of Abraham" ( Luke 19:9 ).
12, 13. said . . . Woman . . . and laid--both at once.
14. with indignation--not so much at the sabbath violation as at the glorification of Christ. (Compare Matthew 21:15 ) [TRENCH]. hypocrite!
said to the people--"Not daring directly to find fault with the Lord, he seeks circuitously to reach Him through the people, who were more under his influence, and whom he feared less" [TRENCH].
--How "the faithful and true Witness" tears off the masks which men wear! his ox, Luke 6:9
16. ought not, &c.--How gloriously the Lord vindicates the superior claims of this woman, in consideration of the sadness and long duration of her suffering, and of her dignity notwithstanding, as an heir of the promise!
Luke 13:18-30 . MISCELLANEOUS TEACHINGS.
18-21. mustard seed . . . parable of "the Leaven" sets forth, perhaps, rather the inward growth of the kingdom, while "the Mustard Seed" seems to point chiefly to the outward. It being a woman's work to knead, it seems a refinement to say that "the woman" here represents the Church, as the instrument of depositing the leaven. Nor does it yield much satisfaction to understand the "three measures of meal" of that threefold division of our nature into "spirit, soul, and body," (alluded to in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ) or of the threefold partition of the world among the three sons of Noah ( Genesis 10:32 ), as some do. It yields more real satisfaction to see in this brief parable just the all-penetrating and assimilating quality of the Gospel, by virtue of which it will yet mould all institutions and tribes of men, and exhibit over the whole earth one "Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ."
23. Lord, &c.--one of those curious questions by talking of which some flatter themselves they are religious.
said unto them--the multitude; taking no notice of the man or his question, save as furnishing the occasion of a solemn warning not to trifle with so momentous a matter as "salvation."
24. Strive--The word signifies to "contend" as for the mastery, to "struggle," expressive of the difficulty of being saved, as if one would have to force his way in.
strait gate--another figure of the same.
for many . . . will seek--"desire," that is, with a mere wish or slothful endeavor.
and shall not be able--because it must be made a life-and-death struggle.
25. master of the house is risen up and hath shut to the door--awfully sublime and vivid picture! At present he is represented as in a sitting posture, as if calmly looking on to see who will "strive," while entrance is practicable, and who will merely "seek" to enter in. But this is to have an end, by the great Master of the house Himself rising and shutting the door, after which there will be no admittance.
Lord, Lord--emphatic reduplication, expressive of the earnestness now felt, but too late.
26, 27. See on the similar passage ( Matthew 7:22 Matthew 7:23 ).
eaten and drunk, &c.--We have sat with Thee at the same table.
taught in our streets--Do we not remember listening in our own streets to Thy teaching? Surely we are not to be denied admittance?
27. But he shall say, No nearness of external communion with Christ will avail at the great day, in place of that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. Observe the style which Christ intimates that He will then assume, that of absolute Disposer of men's eternal destinies, and contrast it with His "despised and rejected" condition at that time.
28, 29. (See Matthew 8:11 Matthew 8:12 ). Also
Luke 13:31-35 . MESSAGE TO HEROD.
31. and depart hence--and "go forward," push on. He was on His way out of Perea, east of Jordan, and in Herod's dominions, "journeying towards Jerusalem" ( Luke 13:22 ). Haunted by guilty fears, probably, Herod wanted to get rid of Him from our Lord's answer, to have sent these Pharisees, under pretense of a friendly hint, to persuade Him that the sooner He got beyond Herod's jurisdiction the better it would be for His own safety. Our Lord saw through both of them, and sends the cunning ruler a message couched in dignified and befitting irony.
32. that fox--that crafty, cruel enemy of God's innocent servants.
Behold, I cast out devils and I do cures--that is, "Plot on and ply thy wiles; I also have My plans; My works of mercy are nearing completion, but some yet remain; I have work for to-day and to-morrow too, and the third day; by that time I shall be where his jurisdiction reaches not; the guilt of My blood shall not lie at his door; that dark deed is reserved for others." He does not say, I preach the Gospel--that would have made little impression upon Herod--in the light of the merciful character of Christ's actions the malice of Herod's snares is laid bare [BENGEL].
to-day, to-morrow, the third day--remarkable language expressive of successive steps of His work yet remaining, the calm deliberateness with which He meant to go through with them, one after another, to the last, unmoved by Herod's threat, yet the rapid march with which they were now hastening to completion. (Compare Luke 22:37 ).
I shall be perfected--I finish my course, I attain completion.
33. it cannot be that a prophet, &c.--"It would never do that," &c.--awful severity of satire this upon "the bloody city!" "He seeks to kill me, does he? Ah! I must be out of Herod's jurisdiction for that. Go tell him I neither fly from him nor fear him, but Jerusalem is the prophets' slaughter-house."
34, 35. O Jerusalem,