LUKE

The Nativity
Gustave Doré

Author

Luke (Evangelist)

Date

55 – 70 A.D.


Introduction by Kretzmann

The Gospel according to Saint Luke

There is no reason to doubt the tradition transmitted by the church historian Eusebius that the third gospel was written by Luke. This evangelist, whom Paul calls the “beloved physician,” Colossians 4:14, was a heathen by birth, Colossians 4:11, who was born and grew up in Antioch, Acts 6:5; Acts 11:19-28. There are many evidences of his profession in the gospel as well as in the Acts, Luke 4:38; Luke 5:12; Luke 6:6; Luke 7:2; Luke 8:42; Luke 10:30-37; Luke 16:20–22; Acts 28:8. He had received a good education and wrote in an easy, flowing, elegant style, a fact which gives his books a high rank also as literature. Luke had not known Jesus personally, but seems to have been converted in Antioch, probably by Paul, with whom he was connected in a lifelong, intimate friendship. The great apostle esteemed him very highly as a companion and assistant, Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11. On Paul’s second journey, Luke joined him at Troas and accompanied him to Philippi, Acts 16:10-17. On the third journey, Luke was again among the companions of Paul, going with him from Philippi to Jerusalem, Acts 20:5-21:28. Afterwards, Luke made the voyage from Caesarea to Rome with Paul, the captive, and was with him in Rome, Acts 27:1-28:16. During the second captivity Luke was again with Paul, for which the apostle was duly thankful, 2 Timothy 4:11. Outside of these facts nothing is known concerning Luke, either of the circumstances of his life or of the time and manner of his death.

Purpose

Luke was a historian of the first order, to whom even unbelieving critics yield a high rank as regards trustworthiness. This is evident even in his gospel, Luke 1:1-4. According to the testimony of early writers, Luke was, in a way, the interpreter of Paul, as Mark was of Peter. His writings plainly show that influence, especially in the expressions concerning the justification of a sinner before God, Luke 18:14; Acts 13:38-39. The Gospel is dedicated to the “most excellent Theophilus,” who evidently was a man of high station, not a former Jew, but a Gentile who lived in Italy. There are indications throughout the gospel that Luke wrote for a public ignorant of Palestine, its customs, and its language, but familiar with the surroundings of Greek and Roman life in the great cities of the empire, Luke 5:17-20. He explains to his readers Semitic names and terms; he describes the situations of Nazareth and Capernaum as cities of Galilee, of Arimathea as a city of the Jews, of the country of the Gadarenes as over against Galilee, and he even tells the distance of the Mount of Olives and of Emmaus from Jerusalem. That Luke had Gentile Christians in mind is evident also from the fact that he does not emphasize the Messianic character of Jesus, as Matthew does, but that he emphasizes the fact that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world, the Redeemer also of the Gentiles, Luke 2:10; Luke 2:31-32, and that the Gospel should be preached to all nations. He pictures Jesus as the Friend of the poor and needy, both in a spiritual and in a physical sense, Luke 1:52-53; Luke 2:7-8; Luke 4:18-19; Luke 6:20; Luke 12:15-21; Luke 16:19-31. Luther says: “Luke goes back farther and purposes, as it were, to make Christ the common property of all nations. For that reason he carries His genealogy back to Adam. In this way he wishes to show that this Christ is not only for the Jews, but also for Adam and his posterity, that is, for all people in all the world.” [Luther, 7, 6].

Distinctives

In accordance with the purpose of the gospel, there are several distinguishing features which should be noted, especially the accuracy of the medical descriptions, the preservation of the inspired hymns (those of the angels at the birth of Jesus, that of Elizabeth, of Mary, of Zacharias), and the prominence given to women, Luke 8:2-3; Luke 10:38-42; Luke 23:27-28

Date

The gospel of Luke was surely written before the year 70 A. D., since there is no reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, concerning which the author gives the complete prophecy of Jesus, Luke 21. From the introduction of the book it has been inferred that Luke wrote after Matthew and Mark, that is, about 67 or 68. Some commentators have assumed that Luke returned to Antioch about this time and wrote his gospel there, but the common assumption is that it was written in Italy, and in Rome, Acts 28:16, Acts 28:30-31; Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:11.

Contents

The outline of Luke’s gospel is, in general, that of the other synoptic gospels. His introduction concerning the forerunner of Christ and the birth and childhood of Jesus is divided into three sections, marked off by starting-points in secular history. He next gives a full account of the prophetic ministry of Christ in Galilee. Then comes a full account of the parables and discourses which were called forth by the necessity of teaching Christ’s disciples and of reproving the Pharisaic enemies. Finally Luke narrates the story of Christ’s last journey to Jerusalem and of His sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension.

[Fuerbringer, Einleitung in das Neue Testament, 29-32]


Outline

Chapter 1

  • The preface to the Gospel (1-4)
  • The announcement of John the Baptist’s birth (5-25)
  • The annunciation to Mary (26-38)
  • Mary’s visit to Elisabeth (39-56)
  • The birth of John the Baptist (57-80)

After a short preface, Luke relates the stories of the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth, of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus, of the visit of Mary to Elisabeth, with the hymn of Mary, and of the birth, childhood, and youth of the Baptist, with the hymn of his father Zacharias.

Chapter 2

  • The birth of Jesus and the adoration of the shepherds (1-20)
  • The circumcision and presentation of Christ (21-40)
  • The Christ-child in the temple (41-52)

Jesus is born at Bethlehem, visited by the shepherds, given the name Jesus at His circumcision, presented to the Lord in the Temple, where Simeon sings his beautiful hymn, seconded by the prophetess Anna, and visits Jerusalem at the age of twelve years.

Chapter 3

  • The ministry of John the Baptist (1-20)
  • The baptism and genealogy of Christ (21-38)

John the Baptist begins his ministry of preaching and baptizing, also of bearing witness of Jesus, whom he baptized before he was imprisoned by Herod the tetrarch; the natural genealogical table of Jesus is given, extending His line back to Adam.

Chapter 4

  • The temptation of Christ (1-13)
  • The beginning of Christ’s ministry and His teaching in Nazareth (14-32)
  • Healing of a demoniac and other miracles (33-44)

Jesus, in the wilderness, is tempted of the devil, begins His Galilean ministry, teaches in Nazareth, where the people try to kill Him, and at Capernaum heals a demoniac and other sick people.

Chapter 5

  • The miraculous draught of fishes and the call of the first disciples (1-11)
  • The healing of a leper and of a paralytic (12-26)
  • The call of Levi and the discourse concerning Christ’s ministry (27-39)

Jesus causes the miraculous draught of fishes, calls Simon and his companions, heals a leper, cures a paralytic, calls Levi, and defends Himself and His disciples against Jewish attacks.

Chapter 6

  • Disputes concerning Sabbath observance (1-12)
  • The twelve apostles (13-16)
  • Miracles of healing and preaching (17-49)

Jesus has two disputes with scribes and Pharisees concerning the observance of Sabbath and the works permitted thereon, selects His twelve apostles, performs many miracles, and teaches the apostles and a great many people on the mountainside.

Chapter 7

  • The centurion of Capernaum (1-10)
  • Raising of the widow’s son (11-17)
  • The embassy of John the Baptist (18-35)
  • The first anointing of Jesus (35-50)

Jesus heals the servant of the centurion of Capernaum, raises the widow’s son of Nain, receives an embassy of John the Baptist, and is anointed in the house of a Pharisee, teaching a lesson in faith and forgiveness.

Chapter 8

  • Teaching in parables (1-21)
  • The storm on the sea (22-25)
  • In the country of the Gadarenes (26-39)
  • The woman with an issue and the daughter of Jairus (40-56)

Jesus, continuing His ministry in Galilee, teaches in parables, calms the storm on the sea, heals a demoniac in the country of the Gadarenes, cures the woman with an issue, and raises the daughter of Jairus.

Chapter 9

  • The mission of the twelve (1-9)
  • The feeding of the five thousand (10-17)
  • Peter’s confession and Christ’s answer (18-27)
  • The transfiguration (28-36)
  • The healing of the epileptic boy (37-45)
  • Lessons in humility (46-56)
  • True discipleship of Christ (57-62)

Jesus sends out the Twelve on a missionary journey, feeds five thousand, accepts Peter’s confession and predicts His Passion, is transfigured, heals a lunatic boy, gives several lessons in humility, and teaches a lesson in discipleship.

Chapter 10

  • The mission of the seventy (1-22)
  • The good Samaritan (23-37)
  • Mary and Martha (38-42)

Jesus commissions seventy disciples as His messengers, utters a woe upon three Galilean cities, praises the blessedness of His disciples, tells the story of the Good Samaritan, and is a guest in the house of Martha, whom He instructs concerning the one thing needful.

Chapter 11

  • A lesson in prayer (1-13)
  • Christ casts out a devil and rebukes the Pharisees (14-28)
  • A warning to the Jews (29-36)
  • Woes upon the Pharisees and lawyers (37-54)

Jesus gives His disciples a lesson in prayer, casts out a dumb devil, and rebukes the Pharisees, issues a warning to all the Jews, and utters a series of woes against the Pharisees and lawyers.

Chapter 12

  • Warning against hypocrisy and covetousness (1-21)
  • Of trust in God and preparation for Christ’s coming (22-59)

Jesus warns against hypocrisy and covetousness, teaches true trust in God and the proper preparation for His own coming to Judgment, and admonishes the people to cultivate placableness.

Chapter 13

  • Last admonitions to repentance (1-9)
  • The crippled woman healed (10-17)
  • Parables and teachings (18-35)

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

Chapter 14

  • Christ the guest of a Pharisee (1-14)
  • The great supper (15-24)
  • The obligations of Christ’s discipleship (25-35)

Jesus heals a dropsical man on the Sabbath, gives a lesson in humility and true altruism, tells the Parable of the Great Supper, and explains some of the obligations of Christian discipleship.

Chapter 15

  • Parables of the love of Christ to the lost (1-10)
  • The prodigal son (11-32)

Jesus teaches the Pharisees the meaning of God’s love for the lost by telling the parables of the lost sheep, the lost piece of silver, and the prodigal son.

Chapter 16

  • The parable of the unjust steward and its lessons (1-18)
  • The rich man and Lazarus, the beggar (19-31)

Jesus tells the parable of the unjust steward and adds several lessons for the disciples and for the Pharisees, and relates the story of the rich man and of Lazarus, the beggar.

Chapter 17

  • A lesson on offenses and forgiveness (1-10)
  • The ten lepers (11-19)
  • Concerning the kingdom of God and the coming of Christ (20-37)

Christ gives a lesson concerning offenses and forgiveness, heals the ten lepers, receiving the thanks of one, and gives a discourse concerning the kingdom of God and the coming to Judgment.

Chapter 18

  • The importunate widow (1-8)
  • The Pharisee and the publican (9-14)
  • Christ blesses little children (15-17)
  • Denying all for Christ’s sake (18-30)
  • The Lord’s third prediction of His passion (31-34)
  • The blind man of Jericho (35-43)

Jesus tells the parables of the importunate widow and of the Pharisee and the publican, blesses little children that are brought to Him, speaks to the rich young ruler concerning sacrifices for His sake, gives His disciples the third prediction of His Passion, and heals the blind man of Jericho.

Chapter 19

  • Zacchaeus the publican (1-10)
  • The parable of the talents (11-27)
  • Christ’s entry into Jerusalem (28-48)

Jesus visits Zacchaeus, the publican, in Jericho, tells the parable of the pounds, enters Jerusalem in triumph, but weeps in the knowledge of the future fate of the city, and purges the Temple.

Chapter 20

  • The authority of Jesus (1-18)
  • The Pharisees and Sadducees confused (19-47)

Jesus defends His authority, tells the parable of the wicked husbandmen with its application, eludes the craftiness of the Pharisees, rebukes the ignorance of the Sadducees, by a counter-question silences all opposition, and warns against the scribes.

Chapter 21

  • The widow’s gift (1-4)
  • The destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world (5-38)

Jesus commends the poor widow for her love in giving her last mite to the Lord, and gives a long discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, with warnings and admonitions that are in full force in our days.

Chapter 22

  • The preparation for, and the celebration of, the Passover (1-23)
  • A lesson on humility (24-30)
  • The walk to Gethsemane and the agony (31-53)
  • Christ before Caiaphas and the denial of Peter (54-71)

While Judas offers to betray his Master, Jesus has Peter and John prepare the Passover meal in a designated house, eats the supper with His disciples, institutes the Holy Eucharist, teaches a lesson in humility, warns Peter against overconfidence in self, suffers the agony of Gethsemane, is betrayed to the Jews by the kiss of Judas, and in the court of the Sanhedrin is condemned to death, while Peter denies Him three times.

Chapter 23

  • The trial before Pilate (1-25)
  • The crucifixion, death, and burial of Christ (26-56)

Jesus is arraigned before Pilate, sent by him to Herod, and returned to the court of Pilate, is rejected by the people, who prefer to have Barabbas released, is condemned to death by crucifixion, gently rebukes the weeping women of Jerusalem, is crucified, endures the mockery of all classes of people, accepts the penitent malefactor, dies on the cross, and is buried by Joseph of Arimathea.

Chapter 24

  • The resurrection of Christ (1-12)
  • The Emmaus disciples (13-35)
  • The last appearances of Christ (36-53)

The resurrection of Jesus, testified to by the open grave and by the word of angels, is not believed by the apostles, but Jesus appears to the Emmaus disciples and then to the eleven apostles, convincing them of His having risen from the dead, commissioning them to be His ministers for the preaching of the Gospel, and finally ascending before them from the Mount of Olives.


Chapter 1

Verses 1-4

The preface to the Gospel

Luke 1:1-4

1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the Word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.


Cross-references

Luke 24:13-53; John 20:30-31; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Acts 1:1-3; Acts 1:15-26; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Ephesians 2:19-20

Inasmuch as, since, seeing as is well known: the strong particle implies that the fact which the evangelist is about to state is well known, that it is important, and that it introduces the reason why Luke enters upon his great undertaking. Many persons had taken into their own hand to set forth in a connected narrative the great things that had been fulfilled, brought to their full consummation in their midst in the fulness of time. The Gospel-account had been transmitted in the form of episodes and individual stories, not in a long connected narrative. And there were many that wished a connected story concerning the events which now lay before the Christians as a complete whole. But many of these went ahead on their own initiative, and the word used by Luke implies a slight censure. They acted without authority of the great teachers of the Church, using their own judgment as to the authenticity of the stories that were circulating. Their efforts were on a par with those of the later apocryphal writers, a mixture of truth and falsehood. But the things that form the subject of Christian belief should not be left to scribes that wrote and edited without authority, without the certainty of full and divine truth. The disciples had been the witnesses of Christ’s ministry, they had seen and heard the miracles and the sermons from the beginning, they had been ministers with Christ, assisting Him in His great work. They had been servants of the Word. The Gospel-story and its application engrossed their attention, that word summed up and characterized their labors. What they had taught had been the divine truth, since the Holy Spirit had led them into all truth. Their actual report of the Gospel-story and of the Gospel-preaching should be the only one to have validity among Christians. That is the notion which Luke had concerning the matter. Therefore he had made careful inquiries, he had very diligently followed up the matter from the very beginning, he had informed himself in all things with the aid of the responsible, authoritative teachers. He was therefore ready, on the basis of such investigations and studies, to write a continuous story, a connected narrative, of the entire Gospel-history, not only from the beginning of Christ’s ministry, but from the beginning of His life. Luke then politely addresses the man for whom his summarized investigations were primarily intended, namely, one Theophilus, probably a Roman, whom he calls honorable, and who may therefore have occupied a high official position. This man had already received catechetical instruction (the first case in which such instruction is implied), but he had not made great advances in religious knowledge outside of the fundamentals, probably for lack of an authoritative text-book. But Luke wants him to know well, to understand exactly and fully, the certainty of the truth which he has learned up to the present time; he should be established in knowledge. It was for that reason that the writing or editing of a chronological and logical history of the life and ministry of Jesus was so desirable. Note: The explanation which Luke here gives does not in any way weaken verbal inspiration. “Though God gives His Holy Spirit to all them who ask Him, yet this gift was never designed to set aside the use of those faculties with which He has already endued the soul, and which are as truly His gifts as the Holy Spirit itself is. The nature of inspiration, in the case of St. Luke, we at once discover: he set himself, by impartial inquiry and diligent investigation, to find the whole truth, and to relate nothing but the truth; and the Spirit of God presided over and directed his inquiries, so that he discovered the whole truth, and was preserved from every particle of error.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 355]. Mark also: “This preface gives a lively picture of the intense, universal interest felt by the early Church in the story of the Lord Jesus: Apostles constantly telling what they had seen and heard; many of their hearers taking notes of what they said for the benefit of themselves and others; through these gospelets acquaintance with the evangelic history circulating among believers, creating a thirst for more and yet more; imposing on such a man as Luke the task of preparing a gospel as full, correct, and well arranged as possible through the use of all available means — previous writing or oral testimony of surviving eye-witnesses.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 460]. It may be remarked, finally, that this preface of Luke’s gospel is not only a splendid example of Greek writing, but also breathes the spirit of true meekness, such as should characterize not only the minister of the Gospel, but every Christian.


Verses 5-25

The announcement of John the Baptist’s birth

The parents of John:

Luke 1:5-7

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.


Cross-references

Matthew 2; 1 Chronicles 24:1-19; Nehemiah 12:1-7; Nehemiah 12:12–21; Genesis 17:1-2; Deuteronomy 18:13; Psalm 119:1; Romans 4:1-3; Romans 5:1

There was or lived in the days when Herod the Great was king of Judea. Luke is very careful and exact in all his references to secular history, and therefore his statements are so generally trustworthy, aside from the fact that they are inspired by God. It was then that a priest by the name of Zacharias (which Luther renders proclamation, remembrance of the Lord) was living in Judea, in one of the cities set aside for the use of the priests. He belonged to the order, class, or division of Abia. All the priests of the Jews, numbering about 20,000 at the time of Christ, were divided into certain sections, named according to their week’s service. These classes or orders followed each other in due rotation for the Temple-service in Jerusalem. There were twenty-four classes, of which that of Abia was the eighth, 1 Chronicles 24. The wife of Zacharias was also of the descendants of Aaron, the daughter of a priest. Her name was Elisabeth, which Luther explains as God’s rest, or ceasing from work, a rest given by God. John the Baptist was thus descended from priestly parents on both sides.

Zacharias and Elisabeth are given the highest praise by the evangelist. Righteous they both were before God, their manner of living was of a nature to stand the scrutiny of God, they were models of civic righteousness. They walked in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord without reproach. From the standpoint of human judgment their piety and goodness was blameless. But in spite of all this there was one great sorrow that burdened their lives. No child had been given them to brighten their home, and childlessness, from the Jewish and Biblical point of view, was a calamity. And this was not a matter of their own choice or wish, but it happened so, inasmuch as Elisabeth was barren. The Lord had denied her the privilege of motherhood. And at this time they were both far advanced in age, beyond the days when, according to the course of nature, they might expect the blessing of children. They felt this childlessness as a deep reproach, as a heavy cross. “For the barren were considered cursed people. For Genesis 1, when God created them male and female, He said: ‘Be fruitful and multiply!’ These words the Jews diligently urged. He that had no issue was not blessed. Therefore a man or woman without children must be cursed and unblessed. Thus Elisabeth might also have complained that she was rejected and mocked by the world, since she was barren. Now people consider it a blessing when they have no children,” [Luther, 5, 1506] — more’s the pity!

Zacharias in the Temple:

Luke 1:8-10

And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.


Cross-references

Exodus 28:1; Numbers 18:1-7; 1 Chronicles 23:13-14; Exodus 30:1-10; Hebrews 9; Psalm 141:2

It so happened, or rather it came about by God’s dispensation and government, that Zacharias was serving in his priestly office. In the course of time, as it happened twice a year in the Jewish calendar, his order or division was on duty in the Temple of the Lord. So he left his home and went to Jerusalem for the week’s duties with the other priests of his course. It was the custom of the Jews to designate the various labors which the priests had to perform in the Temple by casting lots, some of them being selected to take care of the altar of burnt offerings, others to the appointments of the Holy Place, others to the vessels in the priests’ court. In this way it fell to the lot of Zacharias on a certain day to perform the very special service of burning incense on the golden altar in the Holy Place. This was a memorable day in the life of any priest, since the chance might never come to him but once. This work was performed in the Temple proper, as Luke remarks for the sake of such as were not familiar with the Jewish form of worship and the various offerings in the services. The officiating priest, during this part of the ceremony, was in the Holy Place all alone, all the attendants and assistants having withdrawn. The congregation, during this ceremony, was assembled out in the courts, for this was the hour of prayer, about nine o’clock in the morning, and the offering of incense was a type and symbol of the prayers arising to the throne of God, Psalm 141:2.

The angel messenger:

Luke 1:11-17

11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17 And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.


Cross-references

Luke 1:19; Luke 1:26-38; Daniel 8:15-17; Daniel 9:20-23; Exodus 30:1-10; Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3; John 1:6-8; Luke 3:1-2; Matthew 3:1-6; Matthew 11:7-15; Matthew 17:9-13

While Zacharias was engaged in the work of his ministry, while the fumes of the incense in the censer were being wafted upward before the veil of the Most Holy Place, there suddenly appeared to him an angel of the Lord. It was not a revelation in a dream or in an unconscious state, but an actual appearance, about whose definiteness there could be no doubt. On the right side, that is, on the south side of the altar of incense, the heavenly visitor stood. Zacharias was not in an ecstatic state, his mind was perfectly clear, he noted every detail. But he was deeply moved at the sight, greatly perturbed, as might be expected under the circumstances. And this perturbation took the form of fear, which fell upon him. Well might a sinful man be filled with fear in the presence of a sinless messenger from the holy God. But the angel made haste to reassure him, to tell him there was no need of fear and disturbance. It is a message of joy that he is bringing. It was not only on this day that the thoughts of Zacharias in his prayer had dwelt upon the cross that he was bearing, but it seems that this calamity was a cause of constant supplication to God. Note: When God gives His children a cross to bear, He tests their fortitude and patience, their faith and trust in Him. Even if all experience of man is against a Christian in his prayer, he trusts in the merciful Father for help and, in childlike faith, brings his petition before the throne of God again and again. God will hear at His time and in His way. Thus the angel here announced to Zacharias the fulfilment of his prayer. His wife Elisabeth would bear him a son, and he should call the name of this son John, which Luther renders: the Lord’s favor or mercy. This happening, the angel says, will be the occasion for joy and exultation on the part of the father. But other people also would rejoice with the parents on account of this son. The angel does not merely mean the relatives, who, indeed, did not disappoint them at the time appointed, but there is here a hint also of the joy which the true Jews, the believers, would feel at this indication of the consummation of their hopes, for some surely would recognize in John the forerunner of the Lord, the Messiah. The cause for this joy in the highest degree will not merely be parenthood realized, but the fact that this son would be great before the Lord, in the sight of God. He shall be esteemed highly in the sight of God, but shall also receive such regard for service in the field of religion. One of his characteristics would be that of the Nazarites of old: he would drink neither wine nor strong drink, any intoxicating beverage made from fruit outside of grapes, Numbers 6:3. But his greatest distinction would be this, that he would be filled with the Holy Ghost, not only from the hour of his birth, but before he would have seen the light, from his earliest origin. And a great and wonderful work will be his: Many of the children of Israel will he turn, convert, to the Lord, their God. Repentance and conversion will be his great aim and watchword. Such a spiritual renewal or revival was badly needed in Palestine at this time, since there was too much dead orthodoxy and not enough living faith among the people. In performing this work, John would be fulfilling the prophecy spoken of him, Malachi 4:5-6. The spirit and power of Elijah would be living in him, to turn the heart of the parents to the children, to make them realize the responsibility that rests upon them in the bringing up of the little ones in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, to make them realize that a supplying of the physical needs of the children is not sufficient to meet the demands of the Lord, to make them understand that their duty is not fulfilled when they go through the perfunctory, prescribed formula for teaching their children the outward observances of religion. And incidentally, John’s work would consist in turning the disobedient, the faithless, in, or by means of, the sound common sense of the righteous. To wander away from the Lord and follow the bent and inclination of one’s own evil heart, is, in the last analysis, the height of foolishness. The only true common sense is that found in those that live their life, with God’s help, in accordance with the rules of God’s holy Word. By such means, and in this way, John would prepare for the Lord a ready, instructed, adapted people. That is the order in the kingdom of Christ: by the preaching of repentance the way is prepared for Christ and for the Gospel of the mercy of God in Christ. Only where the hearts are previously influenced properly by such preaching, can sound Christian character grow out of the love of Christ.

The doubts of Zacharias:

Luke 1:18-20

18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. 20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.


Cross-references

Daniel 8:15-17; Daniel 9:20-23; Genesis 17:15-17; Genesis 18:9-15; Luke 1:26-38; Proverbs 3:11-12

The announcement of the angel and the enthusiasm with which he delivered his message overwhelmed the aged priest. Hoping against hope, he had continued his importunate appeals for progeny even beyond the usual term of life. But now that his prayers were to be answered beyond his fondest expectations, the greatness of the miracle created doubt in his mind. It suddenly seemed too good to be true, the course of nature could not be set aside; and therefore he labored under a lack of faith. He asks: By what means shall I know this? He wanted some concrete evidence, some definite sign which would give him the immediate assurance of the realization of his hopes. For now that his faith had been shaken, he argues from the standpoint of human reason, that he himself was an old man and that his wife was far advanced in her days, that the predicted event could therefore not well take place. Zacharias received the sign he asked for more quickly than he had anticipated. With solemn impressiveness the angel explains to him the reason why his message should have been believed implicitly. For Gabriel was his name, which means the might of the strong God. Zacharias, being familiar with the books of the prophets, would understand the name and all it stood for, Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21. Gabriel belonged to the blessed angels that stand in the presence of God, that are confirmed in eternal bliss before the throne of God. He was present, not on his own initiative or in his own interest, but as the messenger of the strong God, who could accomplish every purpose and subdue all things to Himself. He had come to bring to Zacharias truly good, joyful tidings. Since, therefore, Zacharias, without considering this fact, had chosen to doubt the message, the sign that he required would be in the nature of a severe, though temporal and temporary punishment: total dumbness, until the time that all this would come to pass, for, as the angel once more emphasizes, the matter foretold would surely be fulfilled in its season, at the time appointed by God.

The anxiety of the people:

Luke 1:21-23

21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. 23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.


Cross-references

Luke 1:8-9; 2 Kings 11:5-8,17; 1 Chronicles 9:23-27; Luke 1:39-40; Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:9-11

The offering of incense was the culmination of the morning service, during which Zacharias was in the Holy Place all alone. The people were always apprehensive of some disaster that might befall the officiating priest, that God might slay him as unworthy and then visit His wrath upon the entire people; therefore they worried about him. The conversation with the angel had prolonged the priest’s stay far beyond the usual hour of closing, and their uneasy wonder about the delay was increasing. When he finally emerged from the Holy Place and stepped into the open space of the priests’ court, near the steps which led down to the other courts, he could not speak to the people, he could not pronounce the Aaronic blessing, which concluded the morning service. Zacharias had received proof positive that the credentials of Gabriel were beyond question; dumbness had at once fallen upon him. But by his gestures and signs the people sensed or perceived, understood that something unusual had occurred in the Temple, they inferred that he had seen a vision of some kind which had rendered him speechless. But though Zacharias had been deprived of the power of speech, he served the full course of his Temple ministry, he stayed for the full week, 2 Kings 11:17. There were other services that did not demand the use of the voice, and many ministrations in the Temple were given over to such as had minor physical defects. But at the end of the week he returned to his house, to the city of the priests where he had his home. The words of one commentator referring to the work of the pastors in this connection may well be extended to include all Christians, inasmuch as they all should be engaged in the work of the Master. He writes: “There is something very instructive in the conduct of this priest; had he not loved the service he was engaged in, he might have made the loss of his speech a pretext for immediately quitting it. But as he was not thereby disabled from fulfilling the sacerdotal function, so he saw he was bound to continue till his ministry was ended, or till God had given him a positive dismissal. Preachers who give up their labor in the vineyard because of some trifling bodily disorder by which they are afflicted, or through some inconvenience in outward circumstances which the follower of a cross-bearing, crucified Lord should not mention, show either that they never had a proper concern for the honor of their Master or for the salvation of men, or else that they have lost the spirit of their Master and the spirit of their work. Again, Zacharias did not hasten to his house to tell his wife the good news that he had received from heaven, in which she was certainly very much interested: the angel had promised that all his words should be fulfilled in their season, and for this season he patiently waited in the path of duty. He had engaged in the work of the Lord, and must pay no attention to anything that was likely to mar or interrupt his religious service. Preachers who profess to be called of God to labor in the Word and doctrine and who abandon their work for filthy lucre’s sake are the most contemptible of mortals and traitors to their God.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 359].

The beginning of the fulfillment:

Luke 1:24-25

24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein He looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.


Cross-references

Genesis 21:1-7; Genesis 30:22-23; 1 Samuel 1:1-20

In His season God remembered Elisabeth and her husband. The aged wife had evidence that her prayers at last seemed about to be heard. The result of this knowledge was that she hid herself entirely, she took no part in any social intercourse. God had taken care to remove her reproach from her. Since fruitfulness was one of the promises of God to His people, Genesis 17:6, and since children, on this account, were considered as a particular blessing from heaven, Exodus 23:26; Leviticus 26:9; Psalm 127:3, barrenness was among the Jews considered a reproach, a token of the disapprobation of the Lord, 1 Samuel 1:6. This stigma was now about to be removed. Though the fact was not yet known, even to her intimate friends and relatives, she was aware of it, and she wanted to escape the pitying glances to which she had never become accustomed, until such a time as her hope would be beyond doubt, when no more reproach could strike her.


Verses 26-38

The annunciation to Mary

Gabriel’s visit to Nazareth:

Luke 1:26-27

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.


Cross-references

Luke 1:19; Daniel 8:15-17; Daniel 9:20-23; Luke 2:1-7; Matthew 2:19-23

In the sixth month after the Lord had remembered Elisabeth to carry out a part of His design and prophecy for the sake of fallen mankind, He made preparations for a still more wonderful event, by commissioning the same messenger as in the previous case, Gabriel, to serve as the bearer of another message. Luke is very careful to make all statements which are necessary to make the situation clear. Though Mary and Joseph were both of the house of David, they did not live in the city of their fathers, but in Nazareth of Galilee, a small town in the mountains southwest of the Sea of Galilee. To a virgin by the name of Mary the angel was sent, not to a young married woman, as the critics of the virgin birth will have it. Mary was still a virgin, as she protests to the angel, Luke 1:34. But she was engaged, or espoused, according to Jewish custom, to a man by the name of Joseph, who was also of the royal blood. The betrothal among the Jews, according to the command of God, was as binding as the consummated marriage. It was attended with many ceremonies and took place about a year before the wedding. Simple words, but fraught with most momentous meaning! As one commentator expresses it: “At length the moment is come which is to give a Son to a virgin, a Savior to the world, a pattern to mankind, a sacrifice to sinners, a temple to the Divinity, and a new principle to the world.”

The message of the angel:

Luke 1:28-33

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: 33 And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.


Cross-references

Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:57,67-79; Genesis 3:15; 2 Samuel 7:8-17; Psalm 2; Isaiah 7:14; John 1:1-18; Luke 2:8-14; John 1:29-34; Luke 3:21-22; Luke 9:28-35; Hebrews 1:8-9; Revelation 11:15; Ephesians 1:2-14; 1 John 3:1-2

The first message of the New Testament was given in the secrecy of the Holy Place in the Temple, the second in the seclusion of a virgin’s home in Nazareth. The beautiful greeting of the angel on this occasion has been abused by the Catholic Church in being made a prayer of their idolatrous practise. It is known as the Angelus and begins with the words “Ave Maria.” But the words of the greeting and Mary’s behavior at this time prove that the Catholic claim is untenable, that praying to Mary is a custom which she would least of all have tolerated had she known about it. For the angel calls her one that has been much graced, graciously accepted, highly favored, endued with grace. Not as a mother or dispenser of grace, but as a daughter and recipient of grace she is addressed. She is given the assurance that the Lord is with her. She is fully and altogether dependent upon Him, her God and her Savior. The effect of the sudden apparition and the strange greeting was naturally a startling one. Mary was much disturbed, but not with doubting fear, but because she felt that it meant something altogether unusual, the exact nature of which did not as yet appear. Her humility made her shrink back from the fulness of such grace, for that is the natural effect of the assurance of God’s mercy upon poor, sinful mortals. She cast in her mind, she thought of possible reasons for such a manner of greeting. She was not in a state of hysterical excitement, but reasoned very calmly as to the “why” of the angel’s words. The angel quickly proceeds to enlighten her by bidding her not to fear, since she had found grace in the sight of God. Although she was the chosen mother of the Savior, yet she was in need of grace. “Though the Virgin Mary is blessed above all women, that such grace and honor was never given to any other woman, yet the angel with these words draws her down to the level of all other saints, since he clearly says: Whatever she may be she is by grace, and not by merit. Now the difference between Him that gives grace and him that receives grace must always be maintained. With Him that gives grace we should seek grace, and not with him that himself has enjoyed grace.” [Luther, 13a, 1116]. And now the angel explains the extraordinary distinction which would be conferred upon her. She would, as a virgin, conceive and give birth to a son. To try to weaken this announcement by saying that Mary might have assumed, as an espoused wife, that the message had reference to a child to be born as the fruit of marriage with the man to whom she was betrothed is an effort of unbelief to eliminate miracles from the Bible. Cp. Matthew 1:21. A true son, a true human being, though born of a virgin, He should be whose name should be called Jesus, Savior, Redeemer. Though the name was by no means unknown among the Jews, it would here be applied in its full significance for the first time. Of this miracle-child the angel says that He will be great, with a greatness of a singular nature, because His human nature was to be united with the divine nature, because He would therefore, in the most peculiar and restricted sense, be called the Son of the Highest, because the fulfilment of all the prophecies promising everlasting empire to the Son of David would be found in Him, because He would be the everlasting Head and Sovereign of the house of Jacob, of the Church of the New Testament, because His government and kingdom would be eternal. The gates and powers of death and hell shall never be able to injure or destroy the kingdom of Christ. The sum and substance of the entire Gospel-message is contained in these words of the angel; it was an inspired and inspiring announcement. “The angel asserts with powerful words that this son is at the same time true man and true God. For that He is a true man he proves with the words when he says first: ‘Thou shalt conceive,’ but, ‘in thy womb,’ that no one may understand a spiritual conception. … Secondly, because he says: ‘Thou shalt bring forth a son,’ since the conception which is done in the mind does not bear children out of the body. … But that He is true God is clear, first of all, from the words: ‘He shall be called the Son of God.’ … To none other is it said in particular, ‘Thou art My Son,’ but to this single One. Secondly, since to this person is given an eternal life. This cannot possibly be given to one that is a mere man, since it belongs to God only that He is a King without end. … This King is immortal and eternal, therefore He has a different kingdom than that of this world.” [Luther, 12, 1882].

The explanation of the miracle:

Luke 1:34-38

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.


Cross-references

Matthew 1:18-25; Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 28:16; Daniel 2:44-45; John 1:1-5,9-14; John 16:28; Hebrews 1

Mary had received wonderful, overwhelming news, such as she could hardly be expected to grasp and comprehend, that she, the unknown, poor maiden, should be the mother of the Messiah; for the words of the angel permitted no other interpretation. She was ready, in humble trust, to accept the message. But she feels constrained to ask for an explanation, not a sign. She knew only of the ordinary course of nature by which children are born into the world, and which presupposes two parents. She knew herself to be a pure virgin, no man having known her. The angel accepts the question, and, in answering, rises to an exulting chant. God would here make a wonderful exception, He would set aside the usual course of nature. The Holy Spirit, the Power of the Highest, the miraculous life-producing Power, would here exert an influence which would produce a child without fleshly defilement, out of the flesh and blood of the virgin only. No human father would be present, nor would there be any intercourse according to the blessing given to men at the creation. The creative power of God would come upon her, overshadow her, and so the child which would be born would be called holy, the Son of God. The faith of Mary under these trying circumstances is certainly remarkable. “That is a high, excellent faith to become a mother and yet remain a simple virgin; this truly transcends sense, thoughts, also all human reason and experience. Mary here has no example in all creatures on earth to which she could hold and thus strengthen herself; yea, they all are against faith; for she is there all alone, who contrary to all reason, sense, and thoughts of men, without the agency of man, should bear and become a mother. … Therefore she was obliged to abandon everything, even herself, and cling to the Word alone which the angel proclaimed to her from God. … As it happened to Mary with her faith, so it happens to all of us, that we must believe what is opposed to our understanding, thoughts, experience, and example. For that is the property and nature of faith, that it will not permit anything to stand outside of itself, on which a person might rely and rest but only the mere Word of God and the divine promise.” [Luther, 11, 2190. 2191].

But the angel, as if filled with compassion for Mary’s difficult position, gives her some more information which would tend to set her mind at ease and reassure her. He tells Mary that her kinswoman, Elisabeth, who was of an age in which the normal course of nature no longer permitted the procreation of children, and who for that reason had been commonly considered barren, had been relieved of her reproach by God, this being the sixth month since the Lord had remembered her to give her a son. For — and very impressively the angel brings out the fact — with God there is impossible not one thing; every word of promise which He has made He will carry into execution at His time. Upon this word she might rely without doubt; this would be a powerful support to her faith. And in this way Mary accepted the message in its entirety. There were still doubtless many points concerning which she knew no explanation, which were beyond her power of comprehension. But she simply believed. She put herself entirely into the Lord’s service, as His servant. His work might be carried out in her. Hers was not only obedient submission, but also patient, longing expectation. She was ready to be the mother of the God-man, just as the angel had said. She herself had been conceived and born in sin, after the manner of all ordinary human beings, and the doctrine of Mary’s immaculate conception is a piece of Catholic fiction, but her Son, born of a woman, yet without carnal intercourse, by which He would have been conceived in sin, is the holy Son of God, the Redeemer of the world.


Verses 39-56

Mary’s visit to Elisabeth

The salutation of Mary and Elisabeth’s answer:

Luke 1:39-45

39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.


Cross-references

Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:9-11; Psalm 71:5-6; Matthew 21:16; Luke 1:13-15; Psalm 135:19-21; Psalm 145; John 20:29

In those same days Mary got ready for a visit to her kinswoman, for the news of the angel had filled her with joy. She lost no time in journeying up into the mountainous country of Judea, where the city of priests was situated in which Zacharias lived with his wife Elisabeth. Note the expression “with haste.” “Quickly; as a chaste, fine, pure maid that did not let her foot rest. Such a maid or woman is one that takes hold of a thing and brings it about. Then again there are lazy, slothful women, busybodies, that neglect everything at home, sleep, and permit damage to be done, only think of eating, only do harm. But of Mary the evangelist says that she was vigorous and did not seek meddlesomeness to babble about this or that, as young and old women now commonly do: when they come together, they govern and reform with their talk the entire city, slander the people, want to run every house. If therefore a young or old woman nowadays is energetic, she is worthy of all honor. But she is seldom found and is a rare bird.” [Luther, 7, 1524]. When Mary thus, with characteristic energy and haste, had completed her journey and came to the house of Zacharias, she saluted Elisabeth, gave her the greeting of a dear relative and friend. But then a miracle happened. The mother’s joy and the urging of the Holy Ghost produced in the unborn son of Elisabeth a supernatural, joyful movement, for John, even at this time, was filled with the Holy Spirit. And upon Elisabeth the Spirit acted in a miraculous way, filling her with the gift of divination and prophecy. Her words, therefore, were an unrestrained utterance under the influence of irrepressible feeling. Her statement is a fine bit of exalted poetry. She calls Mary, the mother, blessed among all women, on account of the high distinction conferred upon her, and she calls the babe that was to be born of her blessed. The most wonderful mother of the most wonderful Son! The prophetic Spirit urges her to unfold the future. She considers herself unworthy of receiving, in her modest home, the mother of her Lord. She knew that Mary was to be the mother of the Messiah; she knew that her Lord would be born a true human being, and that her trust in Him would bring her salvation. She was one of the few in Israel that understood the prophecies concerning the Seed of the woman, the Child of the virgin, in their right sense. She tells Mary about the miraculous movements which she experienced when she heard the voice of her greeting. She declares her to be happy, to be in a state of the highest felicity, because Mary had believed the angel’s message, because the things she hopes for will surely come to pass. It was an outpouring of sublime enthusiasm which Elisabeth here gave utterance to, and it must have done much to strengthen still more the faith of Mary in the fulfilment of the prophecy concerning her Son.

The hymn of Mary:

Luke 1:46-50

46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48 For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49 For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name. 50 And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.


Cross-references

1 Samuel 2:1-10; Isaiah 57:14-21; Luke 2:8-14; Luke 2:25-32; Revelation 5:6-14

The salutation of Elisabeth had filled Mary with the highest joy, with the happiness of faith, it stimulated her to a song which breathes the spirit of humble faith, giving all glory to God alone. Note: So thoroughly familiar was Mary with the writings of the Old Testament that her hymn is cast, almost involuntarily, in the words of the Old Testament poets. All the psalms that had been sung in honor of the Messiah served to give her the thoughts and phrases for her great hymn of the New Testament. Elisabeth had praised her faith, but she gives all glory and honor to God alone. Her soul magnifies, makes great, exalts, praises the Lord; He is the theme of her song; and her spirit rejoices, is exceedingly happy in God, her Savior. She did not deem herself sinless or beyond the need of redemption. She knew that the Savior, though her own son, would have to earn her salvation as well as that of all the other people in the world. For He, God the Savior, has looked down, in mercy and kindness, upon the humble station of His servant, as she humbly calls herself. His purpose was to change the condition of this lowly maiden. Note that she says low estate, and not humility, to avoid the semblance of self-righteous assertion. For this act of God shown to her all generations would declare her to be happy; poetical for: all men that would learn of it. They would praise the Lord of heaven that He had revealed and magnified His grace upon this lowly maid, to make her the mother of His Son. For to me has done great things the Mighty One; and holy is His name. His power is unlimited to do His will. The adjectives mighty and holy express the essence of the majesty of God. But the other side of His nature is revealed still more wonderfully in the work of redemption. His mercy is new from generation to generation upon them that fear Him. God delights in the salvation and happiness of all His creatures, because His name is mercy, and His nature is love.

The conclusion of the hymn:

Luke 1:51-56

51 He hath shewed strength with His arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent empty away. 54 He hath helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; 55 As He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to His seed for ever. 56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.


Cross-references

Exodus 15:20-21; Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:7; Genesis 17:15-19; Galatians 3:16

Mary praises the strength of God’s arm, which He has made manifest. He has scattered into all the winds those that were proud and arrogant in the imagination of their own hearts. Those that rise up in haughty dependence upon their own ability in any field whatsoever, physical, mental, or moral, will find themselves without a hold. And God the Savior is especially impatient of those that depend upon their own righteousness and look down with contempt upon others whose lives may be marred with some transgression that is stigmatized before men. He deposes the mighty ones from their thrones, and elevates the meek and lowly. His rule over the world is unquestioned, absolute; when He comes forward in the majesty of His omnipotence, no one can withstand Him. The hungry He has filled with good things, giving them not only the necessities, but more than they need. Those that hunger and thirst after the gift of righteousness, because they realize the manifold shortcomings in their own life, these He fills with the wonderful gifts of His rich store. But the rich, those that deem themselves above every want, that are fully satisfied in self-sufficiency, that do not feel the need of a Savior, they are sent away in shame and disgrace, and with empty hands. They go back into their houses without the assurance of complete satisfaction made before God by the redemption of Christ Jesus. For God has at all times come to the aid of His child and servant Israel, of those that believe in Him; and the moral assistance of the Lord is worth more than all the actual attempts to help of the whole world. For God remembers His mercy, the covenant of grace which He made with Abraham and renewed with the patriarchs, according to the promise that in Abraham and his seed all nations of the earth should be called blessed. The Messiah was born from the descendants of Abraham and David, and thus all the people of the world have everlasting joy and blessing in this Son of Abraham and David. Thus Mary, in lofty and picturesque language, portrayed the condition which would obtain in the kingdom of her great Son, the Messiah, whose birth was so near at hand. The majesty of the strong God of Sabaoth would be made manifest in justice and righteousness upon those that exalt themselves in proud haughtiness. But the mercy and grace of the Lord would be revealed and appropriated to the poor, needy, and lowly, upon those that have cast aside all self-righteousness and place their hope and trust in the Messiah of prophecy. These are the true Israel, the true seed of Abraham, who will therefore also inherit all the blessings which should come upon all the people of the world by that one seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ.

Mary’s hymn recalls, not only the song of Hannah, but also many passages in the Psalms, as well as in the songs of Miriam and Deborah. We might compare Psalm 113 and Psalm 126, also Psalm 31:8; Psalm 34:2-3; Psalm 138:6; Psalm 71:19; Psalm 111:9; Psalm 33:10; Psalm 34:10, and others. The grace of God, His holiness, His justice, and especially His faithfulness are celebrated. The whole forms an animated doxology of singular beauty and power, a fitting hymn for the Church of the New Testament to sing the praises of the God of its salvation.

Mary remained with Elisabeth for about three months, showing her kinswoman all sympathy and kindness. After that time, tact and the regard for her own condition made her return home imperative.


Verses 57-80

The birth of John the Baptist

The birth and circumcision of John:

Luke 1:57-63

57 Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. 58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. 59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. 60 And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. 61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. 62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.


Cross-references

Luke 1:13; Genesis 21:1-7; Genesis 30:22-23; Genesis 17:9-14; Leviticus 12:3; 1 Corinthians 7:18-20; Colossians 2:8-15

For Elisabeth the time was now fulfilled, according to the promise of God and the course of nature. A son was born to the aged parents, as God had promised through the angel. Now Elisabeth no longer hid herself and shut herself away from the interest of friends and neighbors. Those that were living near as well as the relatives at a distance heard the news very soon. Note: The text expressly states that the Lord had made great His mercy upon Elisabeth; it was His favor and grace that was here made evident. And everywhere there was rejoicing with the happy parents. On the eighth day, those that were concerned in the festival came together, chiefly the relatives, for this was the day of circumcision according to God’s command, at which time the name was usually given to the child. Their unanimous opinion was that the name of the boy should be Zacharias (conative imperfect or imperfect of repeated action), not that this had been a binding custom among the Jews, but because the only boy would fitly bear the name of the father. But here Elisabeth objected. Zacharias had, in the mean time, communicated to her the story of the wonderful appearance in the Temple, and she knew the name which the Lord had selected. This name, John, she now mentioned. To this they promptly voiced the objection that such a name, prevalent as it was among the Jews, was not found in her family. So they turned to Zacharias, who had heard the whole altercation and was quick to grasp their meaning as they looked expectantly at him. He therefore intimated that he wanted a writing-table, probably a small wax tablet, such as were in general use at that time, upon which the writing was done with a stylus. And then he wrote, he said in writing and probably spoke at the same time: John is his name. His form of putting it left no alternative, the matter was fully and completely settled at this time. God’s command was carried out to the letter. The punishment for his lack of faith was now removed, and speech returned to him. Thus God has pity on His children when they have faltered or fallen, He helps them to conquer the evil with good and unbelief with belief. And thus faith is enabled to grow all the stronger, since all doubts have been conquered by the Word of God. But the assembled company wondered at this strange agreement of the parents in giving a name which was unusual in their family. It was their first intimation that this child was truly exceptional.

Further events:

Luke 1:64-66

64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. 65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. 66 And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.


Cross-references

Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3

Two strange things connected with the story of John have been noted: The fact that the child was the son of parents past the age of bearing children, and the giving of a name which had not been in use in the family of Zacharias. Here is added the recovery of speech on the part of the father. For the greater part of a year the neighbors had known him to be dumb, and now, with the same suddenness as the calamity had overtaken him, the ban is removed from his tongue, for which he at once gives praise to the Lord. The effect upon the assembled company and upon all the inhabitants of the hill country of Judea was a very deep one. Not superstitious fear, but reverent awe took hold upon them. Wherever the story of these events was told, the people were similarly impressed. They felt that such singular and peculiar circumstances surrounded the birth of this child that God Himself must be concerned in his welfare, that all things pointed to an uncommon future for the boy. The usual comment was: What, then, will this child come to? And the people made a mental note of the circumstances with a view of watching further developments. If they had only continued their watchful attitude until John began his ministry on the banks of the Jordan! And the comment of the evangelist justifies the questioning of the people in the hill country: For the hand of the Lord was with him. This sentence sums up the whole history of John’s childhood and anticipates some of the later developments.

A hymn of praise:

Luke 1:67-75

67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, 68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people, 69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David; 70 As He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant; 73 The oath which He sware to our father Abraham, 74 That He would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life.


Cross-references

Luke 1:13-15; Luke 1:41-45; Psalm 41:13; Exodus 3:16-17; Exodus 4:29-31; Luke 7:11-17; Luke 19:41-44; Psalm 111:9; Isaiah 59:20; Luke 2:25-32; Romans 3:22-24; Ephesians 1:3-14; Psalm 18:2; Luke 1:30-33; Matthew 1:1; John 7:42; Luke 1:31-32; Revelation 22:16; Genesis 22:9-18; Hebrews 1:1-3; Luke 24:44-49; Ephesians 4:17-24

We have here another wonderful hymn of praise and prophecy, couched, for the most part, in terms of the Old Testament songs of praise. The Holy Ghost Himself, speaking through the mouth of Zacharias, was its author. Luther has written comments on many sections of it in various parts of his books. From the start, all praise, honor, and glory is given to God. The entire plan and work of salvation is a monument of His grace, to the praise of His glory. He is the God of Israel, originally of the Israel of the flesh; but since these children have rejected Him, the term now applies to spiritual Israel only, to His Church. Upon these He has looked with a view of helping them, of giving them the assistance which they needed above all, the redemption from sins. For this His people He has prepared a salvation, brought it about in the Messiah, the Redeemer. It was the redemption from a burden whose heaviness and damnableness they had not realized. “To visit is nothing else than to come to us, to lay before us and proclaim to us the wholesome Word, whereby we are saved.” [Luther, 11, 2272]. In order to prepare this salvation for us, the Lord has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David, His servant. As in Psalm 18:2, the word horn signifies a strong, firm, unwavering help. Our Lord is a strong, powerful Defender, the Redeemer out of the race of David that brought us full salvation. “‘Horn’ in the Hebrew language means power, defiance, rule, whereon one may rely. … But He adds: A horn of saving or salvation. Other kingdoms have their names and goods from which they are called. Some kingdoms are large, have much goods, many people, great honor, but only temporal goods; but this Kingdom is called a kingdom of salvation, a kingdom of grace, a kingdom of life, a kingdom of righteousness, a kingdom of truth, and whatever serves unto salvation. … God has here established a principality and kingdom, in which there is nothing but welfare and salvation.” [Luther, 11, 2273. 2274; 13a, 1147]. These great blessings are the result of the promises which the Lord made through the mouths of His holy prophets, from the beginning of the world. The culmination of all the prophecies is always the same theme, salvation through the Messiah, liberation from the enemies and from the hands of all those that are filled with hatred toward us, the believers in Him. The spiritual enemies have been unceasing in their plans and attacks against the children of God, but God has carried out the plans of His mercy toward us, as to the fathers of old that trusted in Him. For He remembered His holy covenant and the oath which He swore to Abraham, that in him and his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. As a result of these promises God has given to the believers to serve Him without fear, since they are torn out of the hands of all their enemies. Such service may now be performed in holiness, in personal cleanness and sinlessness, and in righteousness, in the right relationship toward God, a perfect description of a New Testament Christian, Ephesians 4:24. “That he says He would deliver us from all our enemies must again be understood that this Kingdom is in battle and in the midst of the enemies; but they shall not win, but lose; and this deliverance and salvation shall serve that we serve Him eternally without fear. … The word ‘without fear’ includes that we are sure of the goods of this life and of that yonder. For a Christian is sure and certain that his sins are forgiven, though he still feels them; he is also sure that death cannot harm him, the devil cannot vanquish him, the world cannot prevail against him.” [Luther, 11, 2286].

A hymn of prophecy:

Luke 1:76-80

76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways; 77 To give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins, 78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. 80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.


Cross-references

Luke 1:30-33; Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3; John 1:6-8; Luke 3:1-2; Matthew 3:1-6; Matthew 11:7-15; Matthew 17:9-13

From a contemplation of the wonderful gifts of the redemption Zacharias turns to a prophecy concerning the future of the son that had been born to him according to the promise of the Lord. John would be a prophet in the highest and fullest sense of the word, Matthew 11:9. His life’s work would consist in going before the face of the Lord as a true herald to prepare His ways before Him, as the prophets had said, Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1. And when the proclamation of the Law would have prepared the hearts in removing all self-righteousness and supposed piety, then John would be able to dispense the knowledge of salvation, which consists in forgiveness of sins; redemption is transmitted through the remission of sins. “John is to come and give the people of God a knowledge, which is not to be a knowledge of sin, of wrath, of death, but a knowledge of salvation, that is, such preaching from which one learns how to be saved and delivered from death and sin. That is an art of which the world knows not one word.” [Luther, 13b, 2707]. And this preaching is made possible through the bowels, the heart of mercy, of our God. His whole heart yearns toward us with inexpressible love and tender mercy, and for the sake of that the Day-star from on high has visited us, the light, star, or sun is risen upon us in Jesus the Savior. This true morning star with the rays of God’s divine love illumined the darkness which had been caused by sin and enmity toward Him. And the result is that those that sat in such darkness and shadow of death have felt the light and the warmth of His glow, Isaiah 60:1-2. Those unable to find their way in the darkness of spiritual death, He will awaken to true life, illumine them with the light of the Gospel, and guide them to the way of peace, Romans 5:1. It is a beautiful and effective, as well as complete description of the work which God performs in us through the Gospel. “This certainly means, as I think, cutting off all merit and good works from the forgiveness of sins, in order that no one may say: I have earned it. … Remission of sins has only one reason, namely, because God is merciful, and out of such mercy has sent and given us His Son that He might pay for us and we should be saved through Him. Therefore it reads thus: Forgiveness of sins is not the result of our merit, nor of our good works, but of the sincere mercy of God, that He has loved us of His own free will. We had with our sins earned the fire of hell, but God looked upon His boundless mercy. That is the reason why He sent His Son and for the sake of His Son forgives us our sins.” [Luther, 13b, 2709]. Of the entire hymn, Augustine writes: “O blessed hymn of joy and praise! Divinely inspired by the Holy Ghost, and divinely pronounced by the venerable priest, and daily sung in the Church of God! Oh, may thy words be often in my mouth, and the sweetness of them always in my heart! The expressions thou usest are the comfort of my life; and the subject thou treatest of the hope of all the world!”

The evangelist concludes with a note concerning the youth of John the Baptist, saying that he grew in body and mind and spent his time out in the deserts until the Lord gave him an indication that the period of seclusion must be followed by that of public ministry.

Summary

After a short preface, Luke relates the stories of the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth, of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus, of the visit of Mary to Elisabeth, with the hymn of Mary, and of the birth, childhood, and youth of the Baptist, with the hymn of his father Zacharias.


Chapter 2

Verses 1-20

The birth of Jesus and the adoration of the shepherds

The reason for the journey to Bethlehem:

Luke 2:1-5

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.


Cross-references

Luke 1:26-33; Psalm 89:1-4; Micah 5:2; Matthew 1:1; John 7:42; Revelation 22:16

All the statements of the evangelist are made with such obvious care and accuracy that there is no reason to doubt his record, aside from the fact that the inspiration makes the text correct. It happened, came about, in those days, the days of Herod the Great, king of Judea. There went out an order from the Emperor Augustus, who reigned from 30 B. C. to 14 A. D., that the entire world, the whole Roman Empire under his jurisdiction, which practically comprised the entire known world, should be entered into lists, all the people that belonged to the empire were to be registered, probably for the purpose of taxation, or for general statistical objects. Censuses of this kind were often taken in those days, in individual countries and provinces as often as once a year. The census here referred to was an unusual one, since it extended over the entire empire, over kingdoms as well as provinces. The time is fixed still more exactly by the statement that this enrolment was made, was actually executed, as a first one of its kind, when Cyrenius or Quirinius was governor of Syria, a Roman province, to which Judea belonged after the death of Archelaus. When the order was posted or proclaimed in Palestine that all people should be registered in the manner prescribed in the decree of Caesar, the inhabitants prepared to carry out the command. They went, every one to his own city, to the city from which his forefathers hailed. Among those that made ready for the registration was also Joseph, of the city of Nazareth in Galilee. Since he was of the house and family of David, the great king of Israel, he made the journey over the hills up to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem. And he did not go alone. Some time before, he had celebrated his marriage with Mary, a virgin of the same city of Nazareth, to whom he had been betrothed. She is here, with great exactness, called his betrothed wife, for though the wedding has been celebrated, the consummation of marriage has not taken place, Matthew 1:24-25. Mary was about to become a mother, but the order of the emperor had to be carried out, and therefore they risked the journey to Bethlehem. Note: According to the prophecy of Haggai 2:6-7, all the nations were to be shaken when the Desire of the world was to be born. And the decree of Augustus had to be formulated so that both Joseph and Mary were present in Bethlehem at this time, since the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, Micah 5:2. A fitting name for the birthplace of the Redeemer, Bethlehem, the house of bread, since the Bread of Life came to earth in that little city, John 6:35.

The birth of the Savior:

Luke 2:6-7

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.


Cross-references

Matthew 1:18-25; John 1:1-18; Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4-5; Philippians 2:5-11

The infinite simplicity of Luke’s account of the great miracle of the incarnation is worthy of special notice, since it serves to sustain the fact of the inspiration of the story. If he had written as an ordinary human author would, he would probably have been carried away by the indescribable glory of the miracle and declaimed in exulting rhapsodies of the event which stands in the center of the history of the world. It happened, it came about, Luke merely states. And yet, the entire Old Testament stands behind these words; it represented the grand fulfilment of the wish and desire of thousands of believers of the ancient world, not only in Judea, but wherever the prophecies of old had become known. While they were there in Bethlehem, to which town God had directed their steps in such a singular way, it came about that the days of Mary, according to the course of nature, were fulfilled. The Son that had been promised by the angel was born. Mary herself took the Wonder-child and gave Him the first care. By reason of her poverty and on account of the absence from home she was not provided with the necessary clothing. So she wrapped Him in such scraps of clothing as were available and made a bed for Him in a manger, out in the stable, to which they had retired, since there was no room for them in the inn, in the great enclosure which was used as a place for lodging in Oriental towns. According to many commentators, the place where Christ was born was one of the caves or grottoes at Bethlehem, some of which are used for such purposes to the present time. “Some also dispute as to the manner of the birth, that Mary brought Him forth during a prayer, in great joy, before she was aware of it, without all pain. Whose devotion I do not reject, since it may have been invented for the sake of the simple Christians. But we should adhere to the gospel, which states that she bore Him, and to the article of our faith, where we confess: He was born of Mary, the virgin. There is no fraud here, but, as the words say, a true birth. … When they came to Bethlehem, the evangelist shows how they were the lowliest and the most despised; they were obliged to yield to every one, until they, shown into a stable, had a common inn, a common table, a common room, and a common bed with the beasts. In the mean time many an evil person occupied the place of honor in the inn, and permitted himself to be honored as a lord. There no one perceives or knows what God performs in the stable. … Oh, what a dark night was over Bethlehem then, that the city knew nothing of the Light! How strongly God indicates that He does not regard what the world is, has, and does; and again, the world proves how thoroughly she does not understand nor realize what God is, has, and does.” [Luther, 11, 123. 121]. Note also: The God-man, who here lies before us as the first-born Son of Mary, is at the same time the absolute miracle and the most inestimable benefit; God and man, the old and new covenants, heaven and earth, meet in a poor manger. He that, either secretly or openly, denies this truth can never understand the significance of the Christmas festival — perhaps never experience the true Christmas joy. Also: The lowly birth of the Savior of the world coincides exactly with the nature of His kingdom. The origin of the Kingdom was not of earth; one of its fundamental laws was to deny self and for love to serve others; its end, to become great through abasement, and to triumph by conflict: all this is here exhibited before our eyes.

The message to the shepherds:

Luke 2:8-12

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.


Cross-references

Zechariah 9:9,16; Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 89:1-4; Psalm 98; Psalm 117; Luke 2:25-32; Acts 2:36-39

In that same country, in the neighborhood of the town of Bethlehem, there were shepherds. They were out in the fields, whether under the open sky or in booths, is immaterial. They may have constructed a rude shelter against the chilliness of the night air. They were watching the watches of the night, taking turns about in caring for the flock lest some of them stray away or be carried off by wild beasts. These flocks may well have belonged to the herds that were being driven up to Jerusalem by easy stages, to be used as sacrifices in the Temple, as one commentator has remarked. There was nothing unusual about the situation, nor were the shepherds in a superstitious state of mind. Note: The fact that the flocks were out in the open at night and not in the corral or fold does not disprove the traditional date of the Savior’s birth, as it was definitely established in 354 by Bishop Liberius. It is by no means unusual for the meadows to be in the best condition at the end of December.

While the shepherds, who belonged to the poor and lowly of the land, were thus engaged in the pursuit of their calling, a miracle of the Lord took place in Bethlehem, of which they were to receive the first news. Note: Not the great and mighty of the nation were chosen as the recipients of the wonderful tidings of the nativity of Christ, just as not proud Jerusalem, but little Bethlehem became the Lord’s birthplace, but lowly shepherds of the plains. To these a supernatural revelation was suddenly given: an angel of the Lord came upon them, he stood over against or above them. It was an unexpected apparition out of the quietness of the solemn night, beneath the starry heavens. At the same time, the glory of the Lord lighted up the space about the shepherds, from the face and form of the angel himself, as a messenger from the splendor of the heavens. And they feared a great fear. They were thoroughly frightened. Sinful man cannot endure the light from the presence of the holy God. Besides, the suddenness of the angel’s appearance caught them unawares; there was no gradual preparation of their senses for the culmination that burst upon them. But the message of the angel was reassuring with all the beauty and love of the Christmas spirit. They should not give way or remain under the domination of fear, for his is a message which is, in substance, the entire Gospel. He announces to them a great joy, in order that their hearts may be filled with that joy. And these wonderful tidings will not be confined to them alone, but are intended, and will be proclaimed, to all people. The expression is so general that it should not be applied to the people of Israel only, but properly to all nations of the world. And now the voice of the angel rises, in joyful ecstasy, to the climax of his announcement: For unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. The angel used terms with which the shepherds were familiar from their youth, in which they were wont to express their hopes for the salvation of Israel. Savior denotes such a person as perfectly frees us from all evil and danger, and is the author of perpetual salvation. And Christ or Messiah is He for whose coming the Jews looked with anxious desire, in and through whom the real believers in Israel expected the Kingdom which should last throughout eternity. Note: The true humanity and the true divinity of the new-born Babe is here clearly stated, even as the angel summarizes the prophecies of old, in calling Bethlehem the city of David. Furthermore: Christ was born a true man, to purify and sanctify our sinful conception and birth. “To help our poor, miserable birth, God has sent another birth, which had to be pure and unsullied, if it should cleanse our impure, sinful birth. That then is the birth of Christ the Lord, His only-begotten Son. And for that reason He did not want to let Him be born from sinful flesh and blood; but He should be born of a virgin. … That is what the angel wishes to say with these words: ‘Unto you is born.’ Which implies: All that He is and has is yours, and He is your Savior; not only that you regard Him thus, but that He can deliver you from sin, death, devil, and all misfortune; yea, as great as He is, He is born for you, and is yours with all that He has.” [Luther, 11, 2022. 2023]. And, finally: Note the word “unto you.” “As though he would say: Until now you have been captives of the devil; he has plagued you with water, fire, pestilence, sword, and who can narrate all the misfortune? … And when he has tortured soul and body, eternal death threatens afterward. Unto you, the angel says, unto you that were held captive under this harmful, evil, poisonous spirit, who is the prince and God of the world, the Savior is born. The words ‘unto you’ should surely make us happy. For to whom does he speak? To wood or stone? No, to men, and not to one or two only, but to all the people. … We have need of Him, and for our sakes He has become man. Therefore it behooves us people that we accept Him with joy, as the angel here says: Unto you is born a Savior.” [Luther, 13a, 59. 60].

In order that the shepherds may not be misdirected or go astray in the overcrowded city, the angel gives them specific directions how they may find the Child and recognize Him at once. He would be found wrapped in swaddling-clothes and lying in the crib of a stable. Those directions were as explicit and exact as any that could be given, since there would be no other child in such poor and lowly circumstances as this one, the Savior of the world.

The angels’ hymn of praise:

Luke 2:13-14

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.


Cross-references

Psalm 103:17-22; Psalm 148-150; Luke 19:28-38; Revelation 4:8; Revelation 5:11-14; Revelation 19:6-8

The message of the first angel had culminated in a song of praise and exultation. But his hymn was a mere preamble to the chorus that was sung there on the fields of Bethlehem and has since rolled out in a triumphant wave of melody over the whole world. For hardly had the messenger finished his announcement, when, with the same suddenness that had characterized his own coming, a heavenly choir appeared, a multitude of the heavenly host. Their joy over the miraculous birth of the Savior of the world was so great that even the heaven of heavens could not contain it all. They must needs come down and celebrate the event which is absolutely unique in the history of the world and sing faith into the hearts of men by their hymn of praise to God. Their glorious hymn, which has since been sung and reechoed by millions of believing Christians that accepted the Babe of Bethlehem as their Savior, may be divided into two or three parts or strophes, according to a slight difference in the reading of the Greek text. Glory to God in the highest, to Him whose abode, according to His eternal majesty and glory, is above all, in the highest places, as supreme over all creatures in the universe. All the glory and praise for the work of redemption belongs to Him alone, who is the Author and Finisher of salvation, who was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing to them their sins, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19. “Such fruit, the angels sing, will follow, and is now possible that God be properly honored on high. Not with external works; they cannot ascend up into heaven, but with the heart that lifts itself up from the earth to the height, to such a merciful God and Father with thanksgiving and cordial trust.” [Luther, 13a, 71]. And on earth peace, brought by the coming of the Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:5. The transgression of Adam and all his descendants had brought upon them the wrath of God; there was a state of continual enmity and warfare between God and man on account of sin. But in and with the Savior there is an end of the battle. He has restored the right, the proper relation between God and man. “Just as the angels have sung that those who would know and receive this child Jesus, would give God the glory in all things, thus they sing here and wish, yea, they give us the comforting promise that the tyranny of the devil would now have an end, and the Christians among each other lead a fine, peaceable, quiet life, who also gladly help and counsel, anticipate strife and disunion, and live in all kindness with each other, that among them for the sake of this Child a peaceful government and pleasant manner would obtain, in which each one will do the best for the other.” [Luther, 13a, 74]. And this peace will be toward the men of good will, it will assure all men of the good will of the heavenly Father in and with the Babe in the manger. “That is the third strophe, that we may have a happy, joyful, defiant courage against all suffering which may happen to us, that we may say to the devil: Thou canst not make it so evil that thou spoil my joy, which I have through this child. That is what good will means, a happy, quiet, joyful, courageous heart, that is not much concerned, no matter how things go, and says to the devil and the world: I cannot leave my joy for your sake, and I shall not feel concerned on account of your wrath; do as you please, Christ gives me more joy than you do sorrow. Such a heart the angels grant and wish us with their hymn.” [Luther, 13a, 76]. Note: “This angelic song is the keynote of the famous Gloria in Excelsis, which was used as a morning hymn in the Greek Church as early as the second or third century, and thence passed into the Latin, Anglican, and other churches, as a truly catholic, classical, and undying form of devotion, sounding from age to age and from generation to generation. Sacred poetry was born with religion, and the poetry of the Church is the echo and response to the poetry and music of angels in heaven. But the worship of the Church Triumphant in heaven, like this song of the angels, will consist only of praise and thanksgiving, without any petitions and supplications, since all wants will then be supplied and all sin and misery swallowed up in perfect holiness and blessedness. Thus the glorious end of Christian poetry and worship is here anticipated in its beginning and first manifestation.” [Schaff, Commentary, Luke, 39].

The visit and adoration of the shepherds:

Luke 2:15-20

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.


Cross-references

Luke 2:48-51; Luke 1:1-4; Isaiah 9:2-7; Isaiah 29:18-19

Luke’s song of the nativity is not yet ended; he has a story of some Christmas Christians to tell, and its effect is enhanced by its great simplicity. Hardly had the angels left the field to return back to heaven, when the shepherds began to speak to one another, repeating the words over and over, as people are apt to do when under the influence of great excitement. Come, let us go! they cry. They want to take a short-cut, they want to go the nearest way to Bethlehem; there is no time to lose. They wanted to see this matter, they wanted to behold with their own eyes this miracle. Not to verify the message of the angel; no, they were sure of the truth of his message. The thing is settled by the angelic proclamation: the thing, the miracle, has come to pass; the Lord has made it known unto us. They believed the word that had been preached to them, they trusted in the Gospel-message, the content of the angel’s message was a fact to them. To trust, not in feelings nor in surmises, but in the sure Word of the Gospel, that is the essence of the faith required by God at all times. And they suited their actions to their words. They came hurrying and found everything just as the angel had told them. This was a confirmation of their faith which filled their hearts with joy. There was Mary, the mother, there was Joseph, the foster-father, and there was the Child, that miracle-Child, whose name is Wonderful, lying in the crib, the manger of the stable. And now the Christmas believers became Christmas missionaries. It is impossible for a Christian not to give evidence in words and deeds of the faith that lives in his heart when he has seen and found Jesus the Savior in the Gospel. They made the matter known concerning this fact that was told them, all that happened to them, the wonderful message they received, the confirmation of the angel’s words in a most accurate way. The story made a great stir in Bethlehem the next day, it aroused much interest. All the people that heard about it wondered, marveling being the common, the first result of the Gospel-message. Wherever the shepherds came and repeated their story, this was the effect. Only Mary is mentioned as an exception. Instead of wondering, she held fast the words, carefully guarding them as a sacred treasure and moving them back and forth in her heart. Mark well: All the people wondered, but Mary thought on all the wonderful things that happened to herself and to the shepherds. This distinction must be made to the present day. Many a person is struck by the beauty of the Gospel-story and expresses his views accordingly, but few there are that take the time to meditate upon the great facts of our salvation, to move them back and forth in their hearts, to examine them from all sides, to discover all the beauties of these priceless treasures. “It is His will that His Word not only hover on the tongue, like foam on the water and froth in the mouth which a person spits out; but that it be pressed into the heart and remain such a mark and spot as no one can wash off, just as though it had grown there and is a natural thing, which does not permit itself to be erased. Such a heart was that of the Virgin Mary, in which the words remained as though graven therein.” [Luther, 13a, 81]. Meanwhile the shepherds continued their work of spreading the news concerning the wonder-Babe, and when they had accomplished all that their heart bade them do, they returned to their daily labor. They had been God’s messengers, as all true Christians should be, they had been bearers of the glorious tidings of salvation. But they did not presume to be more than their station permitted. They praised and magnified God that they had been graciously permitted to hear the news concerning their salvation. What they had seen and heard in that night was engraven upon their hearts in letters of light from above. Thus it should be with all believers in Christ, the Savior, since they are blessed in the same measure as the shepherds. In their external behavior and bearing there does not seem to be much difference between them and the children of the world. They attend to the work of their calling and are not ashamed if the Lord has given them a lowly station in life. But in their heart there is glorious light and life. In the midst of the heat and toil of the day they rejoice in God, their Savior, who has delivered them from all the toil and trouble of this earthly life and opened the glories of heaven to them.


Verses 21-40

The circumcision and presentation of Christ

The circumcision:

Luke 2:21

21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, His name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb.


Cross-references

Luke 1:26-33; Galatians 4:4-5; Genesis 17:9-14; Leviticus 12:3; 1 Corinthians 7:18-20; Colossians 2:8-15

By His ancestry and birth, Jesus was a member of the Jewish race and of the Jewish Church. And Mary and Joseph observed all the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish law. On the eighth day of the Child’s life, therefore, the sacrament of circumcision was administered to Him, whereby He was formally declared to be a member of the Jewish Church. Incidentally, according to the custom of the Jews, He was given a name by which He should be distinguished in the congregation of God’s people. And in this instance there was no difference of opinion. As the angel had told Mary at the time of the annunciation, as he had told Joseph in a dream, Matthew 1:21, so it was now done. The child’s name was Jesus. In Him there is salvation for all men. Note: Jesus here, in submitting to the ordinance of circumcision, was made under the Law, Galatians 4:4-5. It was the beginning of His active obedience in behalf of all men. But it was the beginning also of His passive obedience, of His suffering. For here He paid the first drop of blood as the price of our souls, the full payment being completed when He committed His soul into the hands of His heavenly Father on the cross.

The presentation:

Luke 2:22-24

22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord; 23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.


Cross-references

Leviticus 12:1-8; Exodus 13:1-2

Luke finds it necessary to explain the rites connected with the purification for the sake of his readers that were not familiar with Jewish laws. The mother was unclean, according to the ordinances of Moses, for seven days after the birth of a son, and must then remain separate for a matter of another thirty-three days. These forty days altogether denoted the days of the Levitical cleansing, or purification, Leviticus 12. At the close of this period the parents went up to Jerusalem with the Child to present Him to the Lord, for the first-born of man and beast belonged to the Lord, Exodus 13:2, and had to be redeemed with a sacrifice. Since Mary and Joseph were poor, they could not afford to bring a lamb. Mary therefore brought the less expensive sacrifice, Leviticus 12:6-8. The manner in which Mary brought her sacrifice, the sin-offering and the offering of thanksgiving, is the following. She entered the Temple through the “gate of the first-born,” waited at the gate of Nicanor while the offering of incense was being made in the Holy Place. She then proceeded to the highest step of the stairway which led from the Court of the Women to the Court of Israel. Here a priest took the sacrifice from her hand and made the offering. She was then sprinkled with the blood to indicate the cleansing. Finally she paid five pieces of silver into the Temple treasury, placing the money (about 85 cents) [Luco note: About 15 dollars in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator] into one of the trumpet-shaped treasure-boxes which stood in the Court of the Women. Note: The law really concerned only such women as became mothers after the usual course of nature. The Virgin and her Child might fitly have claimed exemption. But Christ humbled Himself so completely for the sake of us sinners, so completely did He want to become flesh of our flesh, that He submitted even to this humiliating rite of purification in the Temple.

The coming of Simeon:

Luke 2:25-32

25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him after the custom of the law, 28 Then took he Him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, 31 Which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.


Cross-references

1 John 1:1-4; Romans 1:16-17; Genesis 15:12-15; Psalm 98:1-9; Isaiah 9:2-7; John 1:1-18; John 8:12

The incident here told by Luke is so important that he introduces it with “Behold!” It brought a further testimony for the Christ-child and strengthened Mary in her faith. A man by the name of Simeon was in Jerusalem at that time. Nothing more is known of him than what the evangelist here relates, and yet he is known throughout Christendom. This man is described as just or righteous, which refers to the condition of his heart and mind, and devout or pious, which refers to the outward manifestation of the condition of his heart. He was one of the true Israelites. He practised, as he professed, the religion of his forefathers. And he was well versed in the prophecies concerning the Messiah, he was expecting, eagerly waiting for, the solace, the comfort of Israel. He had the proper understanding of the work of the Redeemer, he looked for a spiritual kingdom to be revealed. And the Holy Ghost was upon him, resting upon him, influencing his whole life and conduct. He had received a revelation, a very strong and urging impulse from the Holy Spirit, amounting to a definite promise, that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. Note the parallelism and contrast presented: in either case he would see, but on the one hand death, the end of life, on the other the highest revelation of the eternal Life from above, the Messiah of the almighty and gracious God. Just at this hour the Spirit impelled him to go up to the Temple, and in the same way he recognized the Christ-child on the arms of His mother, when the parents came to perform the sacrifice according to the law of Moses. Now the venerable old man did a thing which must have astonished both Mary and Joseph very much. Stepping up to them, he took the Babe in his arms and proceeded to sing a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God. Its beauty is such that it has retained its position in the Church from the earliest times. Now at last the hope long cherished by him would be fulfilled, for he is altogether content to die. The words must sound strange in the ears of an unbeliever. For he speaks of a deliverance, of a departure, which would be made in full peace and satisfaction, in rich contentment, and which he knows will bring him lasting rest and quietness, the peace brought by the Christ-child. For his old eyes had seen the salvation of God, since the Child was the salvation of the world personified; in and through Him all the nations of the earth are blessed with full and complete redemption. This salvation in Jesus is prepared, is ready before the face of all nations; He brings a universal reconciliation, from which no one in the wide world is excluded. And the Gentiles are not only to be disinterested spectators of the miracle which shall be worked by this Child, but His salvation, He Himself, is the Light which is to illumine, to give the full brightness of the Gospel to the Gentiles, and which is to be the glory of His people Israel, Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 60:1-3. This beautiful hymn emphasizes, in the strongest possible terms, the fact of universal grace, that no one is excepted from the glorious working of that grace, that no one is excluded from the salvation earned by the merits of Christ. And, at the same time, Simeon, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, teaches some of the effects of this universal grace and salvation upon those that accept Jesus as their Savior. All such believers will receive the illumination of the Gospel in mind and heart, will become partakers of the glory which pertains to the Messiah and His work. And they will learn to look upon temporal death as a deliverance, as a departure for better and more precious scenes, since they fall asleep in Jesus. “Whosoever has this Savior, the Savior of God, may have a peaceful, quiet heart. For though death be as terrible, the sin as mighty, the devil as evil and poisonous as he ever will, yet we have the Savior of God, that is, an almighty, eternal Savior; He is strong enough to move us out of death into life, out of sin into righteousness.” [Luther, 13a, 227].

Simeon blesses Joseph and Mary:

Luke 2:33-35

33 And Joseph and His mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of Him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary His mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.


Cross-references

Psalm 118:22-24; Matthew 21:42-44; Acts 4:8-12; 1 Corinthians 1:22-24; 1 Peter 2:4-10; John 1:10-13

Whereas in the story of the shepherds only Mary is mentioned as having taken careful note of the words concerning her Son, both parents are here represented as marveling over the words of Simeon, which revealed the full significance of this Child for the world. Joseph, the foster-father, usually remains in the background. The words which Simeon here spoke filled them both with joyful wonder. They were gradually beginning to have an idea as to the meaning of all the prophecies concerning the Babe in their arms. Simeon now spoke a blessing upon them both and addressed himself to Mary in a significant prophecy. This Child is set up, is established, by the will of God, for a double purpose. In the first place, He serves for the fall and the rising again of many in Israel, the true Israel, the members of God’s kingdom. The natural pride and self-righteousness of every man, which is characteristic of man’s inherited depravity, must fall and be removed entirely, before the resurrection in the faith in Jesus the Savior can take place. In the second place, He serves for a sign which will be opposed, spoken against. Many people, in fact, the majority, refuse to be humbled on account of this Savior, even though the assurance of succeeding glory is held out to them in the faith in Him. They harden their hearts against Him and are thus condemned through their own fault, 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. But in spite of all that He is a sign before the whole world, just as the serpent in the wilderness was a sign to all the people, even to those that refused to look at it until it was too late. In this manner, the thoughts of men’s hearts are revealed. Many a leading Jew, whose reputation attested his perfect goodness, could not stand the test of this touchstone, Jesus the Christ, and rejected his own salvation. Incidentally, this state of affairs would prove a severe trial for Mary. Her mother’s heart would feel the hatred directed against her Son most keenly. It would often be like a double-edged sword penetrating her soul, as when she was witness of the crucifixion with its attendant tortures.

The prophetess Anna:

Luke 2:36-40

36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him.


Cross-references

Luke 1:67-70; Acts 21:8-9; 1 Timothy 5:5; Matthew 6:5-18

Simeon was not the only faithful soul in Jerusalem at that time. A prophetess, Anna, whose father and tribe are named, with Luke’s attention to detail wherever it is available, joined the group. She was very far advanced in years. She had been married early in life, but had lived in holy wedlock only seven years, remaining a widow after the death of her husband and spending her time in serving the Lord. Though she was now eighty-four years old, she was one of the first to enter the Temple in the morning after the opening of the gates, and all day long she was a devout worshiper, passing the hours in fasting and praying, and thus showing herself to be a true minister or servant of the Lord. She likewise gave thanks, she took up the strain which had been begun by the aged Simeon, praising God for having sent His Savior into the world, which was in such dire need of redemption. And she thus did not merely serve her own devotion and edification, but she spread the good news abroad. She made it a practise to mention the fact of the Messiah’s appearance to kindred spirits, as many as were still to be found in Jerusalem. For there were still some, if only a few, that were earnestly and prayerfully looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem, through the work of the Savior from sins.

But Joseph and Mary, after they had performed all that law and custom required of them, left the city. And Luke here omits all reference to the flight into Egypt and the sojourn in that country, continuing his narrative at the point where the parents of Jesus definitely settled in Nazareth. Here, in the little hill town of Galilee, the childhood and youth of Jesus was spent. Here He grew up and incidentally developed in physical strength. But what is far more important: He grew in knowledge, He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was with Him, obviously rested upon Him.


Verses 41-52

The Christ-child in the temple

The trip to Jerusalem:

Luke 2:41-45

41 Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother knew not of it. 44 But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 45 And when they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him.


Cross-references

Exodus 12:1-28; John 1:29-34; Matthew 26:1-2; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:6-14

We have here the one authentic story from the life of Christ in the interval between the flight into Egypt and the beginning of His ministry. In this narrative He is standing on the threshold between childhood and youth, He is just about to enter upon the critical age of life. Luke’s reference to the regular attendance of both the mother and the foster-father of Jesus at the festival of the Passover throws an interesting light upon their habits. The Law required that the men appear before the Lord three times in the year, Easter being one of the festivals when such attendance was demanded, Exodus 23:17; Deuteronomy 16:16. The women were not included in the command of the Lord, but Mary did not lack companions of her own sex, many of them taking advantage of the festival period to accompany their husbands and older sons to the capital city. Note: The regularity of the attendance is emphasized by the evangelist; a fine example for many parents in our days. When the boy Jesus was twelve years old, the parents followed the rule laid down by the elders that the sons must be trained in the observance of all religious duties and must take part in the festivals with their elders. It was the age at which the Jewish boys entered the secondary school, the Beth-ha-Midrash, the foremost of which was located at Jerusalem and usually conducted in one of the Temple-halls. This was known as ha gadol. The journey to Jerusalem upon the occasion of the great festivals was in itself a festival, especially for the younger members of the family. The people of the more remote parts of Palestine formed large parties for traveling together, most of them going afoot. From time to time some of the older members would begin to chant some of the Psalms of Degrees, Psalm 120-134, or some other hymns. As they came nearer to the city, and the festival spirit took hold of them, they would pluck flowers and branches from trees and wave them in unison with the cadence of their song. In this case, Jesus had been in the company of relatives and acquaintances from Nazareth and the surrounding country, and had spent the week of the festival as an interested participant. But when the festival closed and all the pilgrims returned home, the boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem without the knowledge of His parents. They believed Him to be with some of the members of their party and spent one whole day in leisurely inquiring for Him in the caravan. But when there was no trace of Him, the heart of the mother was filled with grave forebodings. They hurried back to Jerusalem. They searched the city for three days.

His Father’s business:

Luke 2:46-50

46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47 And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. 48 And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said unto Him, Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us? behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing. 49 And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought Me? wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business? 50 And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them.


Cross-references

Isaiah 11:1-2; John 2:13-17; John 10:22-39

The three days’ search with its attendant anxiety may well have aroused the thought in Mary’s heart that the prophecy of Simeon was even now being fulfilled. But at last Mary and Joseph found Jesus, after assiduously searching over the whole city, in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the learned teachers, in the hall where the school-classes of the children of the Law, the great high school, assembled for advanced instruction to learn to keep the commandments. There He was sitting, outwardly in the rôle of a pupil, but in reality in earnest conference, in which He assumed almost a teacher’s functions. He was giving due attention to the explanations of the doctors, but He was also putting searching questions, to the amazement of all those that were present to hear Him. His understanding, His ability to penetrate a given matter, and the answers which He gave, were of a kind to provoke astonishment. Here was something of the rare insight and the ease of presentation which in later years delighted His audiences. But Mary and Joseph were disturbed on account of the apparent audacity of the boy, which seemed to them like forwardness. And Mary, still full of the excitement of the search and with her mother’s heart yearning toward her Son, reproachfully asked why He had dealt with them thus, not realizing that the fault was not His, but theirs. Note: The tactful way in which Mary refers to Joseph is an indisputable proof of the wisdom with which she brought up her Child; a lesson for many modern parents. They had sought Him with anxious solicitude. But Jesus does not accept the reproof. Not reproachfully, but with all the sincerity and boldness of holy childhood, He asks her why they had sought in that manner. He gives them an inkling of the purpose of His life. They should know that He must be about His Father’s business. This is the obligation of His life: the things of His Father He must be engaged in, be concerned about. The Temple was the place where the service of His Father was supposed to be most perfect, where the Word of grace was supposed to be taught. “Wherefore the Temple was also called His sanctuary and sacred dwelling, since there He, through His Word, showed His presence and permitted Himself to be heard. Thus Christ is about His Father’s business when He speaks to us through His Word and through it brings us to the Father.” [Luther, 11, 453]. This answer of Jesus, with its implication of divine sonship, was beyond the understanding even of Mary, who had remembered all the sayings concerning her Son.

The return to Nazareth:

Luke 2:51-52

51 And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.


Cross-references

Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16; Galatians 4:4-5; Luke 2:8-20

A period of approximately eighteen years is covered in this simple statement of the evangelist. Although He had given His parents evidence of a greater and higher calling, He yet went with them as an obedient son. He was subject to them. In His complete fulfilment of the Law for our sakes He willingly subjected Himself to every commandment and rendered a perfect obedience, in order to atone, also in this respect, for the sins of the children. Note: Mary’s method of keeping the words she could not understand, of mulling over them continually, of preserving them fresh in her memory, deserves a wide imitation. Meanwhile it is recorded that the growth of Jesus was normal, both mentally and physically. His state of humiliation was so perfect that not only His body was subject to the general rule of nature, but also His mind. He continued His studies eagerly and gladly, He stored up a large fund of knowledge. Note: There was no sowing of wild oats in the sinless Christ. But the best and most excellent growth was that in spiritual matters. He grew in the favor, in the good will of both God and men. He lived His life in full accordance with the precepts which He learned, He put His full trust in His heavenly Father and gave evidence of this in a life of love, the most perfect example for the young men and women of all times.

Summary

Jesus is born at Bethlehem, visited by the shepherds, given the name Jesus at His circumcision, presented to the Lord in the Temple, where Simeon sings his beautiful hymn, seconded by the prophetess Anna, and visits Jerusalem at the age of twelve years.


Related Kretzmann Article


Chapter 3

Verses 1-20

The ministry of John the Baptist

The time of John’s ministry:

Luke 3:1-2

1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.


Cross-references

Luke 1:11-17; Luke 1:57-80; Luke 9:7-9; Luke 20:19-26; Luke 23:1-25; Acts 3:11-26; Acts 4:24-28; Acts 13:16-41

With the historian’s propensity for exact dating of events, Luke here fixes the time when John began his ministry in the wilderness. It was in the fifteenth year of the rule of Emperor Tiberius, who became regent with Augustus in the year 765 after the founding of Rome, and assumed the full functions of Caesar two years later. This would place the beginning of John’s ministry in the year 26 A. D., when Jesus was thirty years old, Luke 3:23. Pontius Pilate was the sixth or fifth governor, or procurator, of the Roman province of Judea, from 26 to 36 A. D. Other parts of Palestine were governed by members of the Herod family, by sons of Herod the Great. Herod Antipas became tetrarch of Galilee and Perea after the death of his father, ruling there until 38 A. D. His brother Philip became tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, also of Batanaea, Auranitis, Gaulanitis, and some parts about Jamnia. He died in 32 A. D. Finally, Lysanias, the tetrarch of Abilene, is mentioned. This was the second ruler of this name, the former having ruled sixty years before. This tetrarchy is mentioned by Luke, because the district afterwards formed part of the Jewish territory, “having been assigned by Caligula to his favorite, Herod Agrippa I, in A. D. 36.” Annas and Caiaphas are named as the incumbents of the high priest’s office. Annas had been deposed by the Romans, after having held the office from 7 to 14 A. D. Caiaphas, his son-in-law, became his successor, 14-35 A. D. But Hannas continued to hold high honor among the Jews and exercised great authority. Whenever the two names are mentioned together, that of the influential Hannas receives first place. It appears, then, that Luke’s careful chronology in this instance has again been substantiated by records of secular history. This was God’s appointed time. His word, His command, came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. He had the direct authority of God for his ministry; the content of his preaching was given him by the Lord, just as the content of the preaching and the manner of fulfilling all the works of the pastor’s office are definitely fixed by God, to this day, in Holy Scriptures. John, at this time, was in the wilderness, living chiefly in the mountainous wilderness southeast of Jerusalem, toward the Dead Sea, but also in the wilderness of Judea and in the valley of the Jordan.

John’s ministry:

Luke 3:3-6

And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.


Cross-references

Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3; Psalm 98; Matthew 3:1-4; Mark 1:1-4; John 1:6-7; Matthew 4:12-17; Matthew 11:20; John 1:11-13

John came down, at the appointed time, from the remote fastnesses of the hilly wilderness, for he had a message to the people of Israel, who very soon heard of his powerful preaching and flocked down to hear him. His chief place of sojourn during his ministry was in the valley along the Jordan, and he seems to have moved as far north as Galilee, on both sides of the river; it was under the jurisdiction of Herod of Galilee that he was imprisoned and murdered. His work was that of a herald, calling out, proclaiming; its summary was the baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins. Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand. “It does not say: Repent, in order that the Kingdom of heaven may come, but, because it has come. Grace goes before and is free, it is not earned through repentance; that we are able to repent, that in itself is a work of grace in us; by our means we should only attain to the despair of Cain and Judas. The complete change of heart and mind which is demanded in Scripture as an indispensable condition for the attainment of salvation, is no amelioration out of our own strength. … Therefore there is no repentance without faith, no rejecting of sin without the acceptance of the forgiveness of sin.” [Besser, Bibelstunden, 1, 112]. But where such true repentance obtains, there the Gospel gives the assurance of remission, and Baptism is the seal and surety of the completed redemption. In all this work of John, the prophecy of Isaiah was being fulfilled, in which the effect of his preaching was described in beautiful, figurative language, Isaiah 40:3. His was the voice of one calling aloud, attracting attention by his calling, causing men to give ear to his message. Prepare the way of the Lord, make everything ready for His coming, let no one be indifferent to His advent. Make the highways straight; do away with all indirect, roundabout ways, let all hypocrisy be removed far from you; as He deals straightforward and with all directness, so do you meet Him. Every ravine shall be filled up; all anxious minds and discouraged hearts shall take confident courage, for the King is coming to pay the penalty for, and forgive, all their sins, Every mountain and hill shall be made low; all self-righteous, proud spirits shall be broken and brought to the understanding that without Jesus they cannot escape the wrath to come. The tortuous and crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places shall be made smooth; all those that are lost in the error of their own lusts, all those that are seeking, by devious byways, to enter into life, should cast their foolish thoughts far from them and come to Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And no one is excepted from the grace of God in Christ Jesus: all flesh shall see the salvation of God; all that is flesh, even the most depraved sinners, if only they turn from their sin and repent with all their heart, belong to the redeemed of the Lord and become partakers of His salvation. The universality of the redemption in Christ is emphasized very strongly, according to Luke’s manner of bringing out this point. There is no mind so good, it must be changed; there is no mind so bad, it can be changed; there is no sin so small, it must be forgiven; there is no sin so great, it can be forgiven.

John’s preaching:

Luke 3:7-9

Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.


Cross-references

Matthew 3:7-10; Matthew 12:34; Matthew 23:33; Psalm 140:1-3; Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 Romans 8:1; Acts 26:20; Matthew 23:27; Galatians 5:22-25; Philippians 1:9-11; John 8:39-40; John 8:56-58; Romans 9:6-8; Romans 4:15-17; Romans 3:29; Matthew 7:19; Luke 13:6-7; John 15:6; Malachi 4:1; Revelation 20:14-15; Revelation 14:11; Mark 9:43

These words of John, although directed mainly to the Pharisees and Sadducees, found their application to most of the people that came to John’s baptism, inasmuch as they blindly followed their blind leaders in their hypocritical behavior. The great mass may ever be willing enough to come and hear an earnest preacher of repentance, but they have no intention of changing their heart. Therefore John fitly calls them generation of vipers, who have the nature and the attributes of serpents, Psalm 140:3. Their pitiful attempt to escape the wrath to come by feigning piety and giving themselves the resemblance of truth-seekers will not save them from the wrath to come. Fruits of repentance, deeds of love and kindness that flow out of a heart which, in repentant humility, has turned to Christ, they only will be accepted as proof of an entire change of mind, of the fact that the new birth has taken place. Not fictitious, but real, actual fruits are demanded, such as measure up to the thoroughness of the change of heart. “In order that they might not glory in their repentance and righteousness, He says to them furthermore: Bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. As though He would say: You want to be righteous before all other men and depend upon your own works; change this foolish notion, acknowledge yourselves to be poor sinners, and perform other and better fruits of repentance.” [Luther, 12, 1054]. And begin not to say within yourselves; the fact that Matthew 3:8 has: Think not to say within yourselves, need cause us no uneasiness, for the Aramaic word which John undoubtedly used in this sentence, with a very slight change in the vocalization, may mean either “think” or “begin.” And the Lord, by accepting both forms, has authorized both readings. That they had Abraham to their father, that they were direct, lineal descendants of the father of the Jewish race, that their genealogies supported them in this boast, upon this fact many Jews relied for their acceptance before God. But they are not all Abraham’s children that can trace their family back to him, according to the flesh, John 8:39; Romans 4:11. The real children of Abraham are those that, like him, place their trust for salvation in the Lord and His redemption. And besides, God can very well create children unto Abraham out of the stones of the desert. Of the entire Jewish nation the words were true that the ax was laid to the roots; if the national tree would not bring forth fruit when this last great chance was offered them and bring forth good fruit, then their judgment would be carried out upon them, as a warning also for all future generations, no matter where they might be living in the world. The last great visitation of grace for the children had dawned with the coming of the Baptist. Once more and for the last time the hand of sparing mercy stayed the hand of avenging justice which had even now lifted the ax; the people as a whole rejected the Savior, and the ax of God’s wrath cut down the unfruitful fig-tree in the vineyard. The final disposition of all those that continue to reject the salvation of Jesus the Christ is the fire of the punishment of hell. [Besser, Bibelstunden, 1, 117].

Individual counsel to the people:

Luke 3:10-14

10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. 12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. 14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.


Cross-references

Acts 2:36-39; Ephesians 2:1-10; Ephesians 4:1-6

The preaching of John did not remain without its effect upon the people. Some there were that were struck in their hearts, and who now became perplexed penitents. They accepted the rebuke of John in all meekness, they acknowledged their sins, but they were at a loss as to the manner in which they should now give evidence of their change of heart; they needed lessons in sanctification. And so John makes the application of the Law in their individual cases. The great fault of the people in general was their grasping meanness. If they had merely discouraged promiscuous begging due to laziness, they would have acted laudably. But they were mercenary and grasping, and therefore John teaches them that they should be willing to share with the needy, Isaiah 58:3-6; Daniel 4:24. To help the poor with clothing and food is not only well-pleasing to God, but under circumstances may become a matter of duty demanded by the worship of Him. Matthew 10:42. The publicans also felt the justice of John’s general rebuke and submitted the question as they came to be baptized: Teacher, what shall we do? Their sin was covetousness, greed, and therefore overreaching and fraud. To them he gave instructions not to exact payment in excess of the fixed duty. This was a comparatively easy matter for them, since the system permitted graft on a wholesale scale, and it was nothing unusual for a publican to amass a fortune. This they could not continue if their repentance was sincere; a hint to the grafters of our day, not to mention food profiteers and other pirates that ply their trade under the guise of legitimate business. The last class whom John gave special instructions were soldiers, probably such as mixed with the people out of curiosity or were sent down by the authorities in anticipation of trouble. Upon their question as to their proper behavior under the circumstances, John gives them instructions to extort neither by force nor by fraud, by misrepresentation, and to be satisfied with their wages. In the work of their calling, the temptation to bully the people, and to receive bribes and hush-money, was very great, Matthew 28:12. They extorted money by intimidation in the case of the poor, they obtained money by acting as informers against the rich. John’s words were a lesson for each one to consider his own station according to the Law of God.

John’s testimony concerning Christ:

Luke 3:15-20

15 And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; 16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: 17 Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and will gather the wheat into His garner; but the chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable. 18 And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, 20 Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.


Cross-references

Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7-8; John 1:26-27; Acts 1:4-5; John 14:26; Acts 2:1-4; Acts 2:38; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Galatians 3:26-27; Malachi 4:1; Mark 9:43,48; Revelation 20:14-15; Revelation 14:11

The fearless testimony of John made a powerful impression upon the people as a whole. The popular expectation and conjecture was that he might be the promised Christ. This opinion was gaining ground very rapidly, with the people debating the question with great vehemence. But when this movement was brought to the attention of John, he promptly opposed and did all he could to suppress its further spread. His statement seems to have been a formal, solemn, public declaration. His baptism was that of a servant carrying out orders: he baptized with water only. He, for whose coming he was preparing the way, would be so much mightier and stronger that John did not feel worthy to perform the lowest service of a slave for Him, that of unstrapping and bearing His sandals. Christ would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. In and through the Gospel He gives to the sinners His Holy Ghost for the renewing of their heart, for the sanctifying of their life. His power would have the purifying, cleansing properties of fire. It would give the sinners strength to do what John demanded, fruits of life worthy of repentance. But woe unto those that refused to accept this Savior with His Holy Ghost. As the husbandman separates the chaff from the wheat by a careful and repeated use of the fan, gathers the wheat into his granary, but burns the useless chaff, so Christ, as the Judge of the world, will deal with those that have been weighed and found wanting, that have the outward appearance and behavior of real believers, but lack true, sanctifying faith. Unquenchable fire in the abyss of hell will be their lot. But while John thus chiefly gave testimony concerning Christ, he spoke many other things to the people, both in the form of exhortation and in the form of pure Gospel-preaching; he did the work of a true evangelist. But he could not continue his work very long without interference. With the frankness of the preacher of truth, he did not hesitate about rebuking Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee, for his adulterous union with Herodias, his niece and the wife of his half-brother Philip (not the tetrarch of the region beyond the Sea of Tiberias). And John’s rebuke was not confined to Herod’s sin with Herodias, but rather included all his misdeeds, of injustice, cruelty, luxury, etc. And so Herod felt constrained to place John into prison, being content with that for the present. The later developments Luke does not relate. Though the treatment accorded to ministers and confessors of the Gospel may not often reach this climax in our days, the same enmity toward their open confession of the truth and their fearless testimony against falsehood and every form of sin is abroad in our land to-day. As Herod rejected the mercy of God and fulfilled the measure of his sins, so many an unbeliever and enemy of Christ is trying to stifle the voice of his conscience by deeds of violence against sincere Christians.


Verses 21-38

The baptism and genealogy of Christ

The baptism of Jesus:

Luke 3:21-22

21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, 22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased.


Cross-references

Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; John 1:29-34; Matthew 17:1-5; Psalm 2; Colossians 1:9-14; Ephesians 1:2-14; 1 John 3:1-2; Ephesians 5:1-2; Romans 8:12-17; John 1:1-18

When all the people were being baptized, when the ministry of John had reached its climax, Jesus Himself came to be the companion of sinners that were seeking forgiveness of sins through Baptism. Through His baptism, Jesus was formally inaugurated into His office. For after His baptism, while He was praying, as He was wont to do in all the important situations of His life, the heaven above Him was opened. And at the same time, the Holy Spirit, in the bodily form of a dove and as such externally visible, came down from heaven upon Jesus. The entire event was a miraculous witness of God the Father to the Sonship of Jesus, as He also called down in an audible voice: Thou art My Son the beloved, in Thee I am well pleased. It was a manifestation intended for the strengthening of Christ at the beginning of His ministry. In the days which were before Him, it would often seem as though the hand of God were entirely withdrawn from Him, that He no longer had a loving Father in heaven above. But the assurance which He received at His baptism gave Christ the necessary courage, according to His human nature, to meet all the trials which must needs fall to His lot as the great Vicar of mankind. Note that the Triune God is present at this great induction of the Son into His office. “With these words God makes the heart of all the world laughing and happy and transfuses all creatures with the full measure of divine sweetness and comfort. How so? Why, if I know that and am certain that the man Christ is the Son of God and well-pleasing to God, as I must be certain, since the divine Majesty itself speaks from heaven, which cannot lie, then I am also certain that all that this Man says and does is all the word and work of a beloved Son, which must please God in the highest measure. Well, then, that I note and grasp it well: How could God give me more convincing evidence and offer Himself with greater love and sweetness than by saying that it pleases Him from His heart that His Son Christ speaks so pleasantly with me, loves me so cordially, and out of great love for me suffers, dies, and does everything? Thinkest thou not, if a human heart should feel such pleasure of God in Christ when He serves us thus, that for joy it would burst into a hundred thousand pieces? For there it would see the abyss of the fatherly heart, yea, the bottomless and eternal goodness and love of God which He bears toward us and has borne from eternity.” [Luther, quoted in Besser, Bibelstunden, 1, 131. 132].

The genealogy of Jesus:

Luke 3:23-38

23 And Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, 24 Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph, 25 Which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge, 26 Which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda, 27 Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri, 28 Which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er, 29 Which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, 30 Which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim, 31 Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David, 32 Which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson, 33 Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda, 34 Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor, 35 Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala, 36 Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech, 37 Which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan, 38 Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.


Cross-references

Matthew 1:1-17; Genesis 5; Genesis 10; Genesis 11:11-32; Genesis 21:1-7; Genesis 25:19-26; Genesis 46:8-27; 1 Samuel 17:12; Matthew 1:18-25

The legal genealogical table of Christ is given by Matthew, Matthew 1:1-17, who takes care to establish an unbroken sequence back to David. We have here the natural genealogical table of Jesus, through His mother Mary. There are no special features in the list, although the names of such men appear as were born of women under a cloud according to Jewish understanding. There were some exceptionally great sinners among the forefathers of Jesus, and, as one commentator remarks, He was numbered with the transgressors even by virtue of His descent from such notorious transgressors. In comparing this list with the Old Testament accounts, it should be remembered that son and son-in-law are used indiscriminately. “The two sons-in-law who are to be noticed in this genealogy are Joseph, the son-in-law of Heli, whose own father was Jacob, Matthew 1:16; and Salathiel, the son-in-law of Neri, whose own father was Jechonias, 1 Chronicles 3:17; Matthew 1:12. This remark alone is sufficient to remove all difficulty. Thus it appears that Joseph, son of Jacob, according to St. Matthew, was son-in-law of Heli, according to St. Luke. And Salathiel, son of Jechonias, according to the former, was son-in-law of Neri, according to the latter. Mary therefore appears to have been the daughter of Heli, so called by abbreviation for Heliachim, which is the same in Hebrew with Joachim. Joseph, son of Jacob, and Mary, daughter of Heli, were of the same family: both came from Zerubbabel; Joseph from Abiud, his eldest son, Matthew 1:13, and Mary by Rhesa, the youngest, Luke 3:27.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 383. 384]. Of interest is the fact that Luke continues the genealogy of Jesus beyond David to Adam, and thus to God. He thereby emphasizes the universality of the Gospel of this Jesus, the Brother of all men, whose ministry is by no means confined to the Jews, but extends beyond the boundaries of Judea to the ends of the world. Scripture spares no trouble to testify to us that Jesus Christ is true man, descended with us from one blood, and that He is the Savior promised to the patriarchs of the Old Testament, the blessed seed of Abraham, the Shiloh out of the family of Judah, the son out of the house of David, in whom is our one sure trust of salvation.

Summary

John the Baptist begins his ministry of preaching and baptizing, also of bearing witness of Jesus, whom he baptized before he was imprisoned by Herod the tetrarch; the natural genealogical table of Jesus is given, extending His line back to Adam.


Chapter 4

Verses 1-13

The temptation of Christ

The first temptation:

Luke 4:1-4

1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days He did eat nothing: and when they were ended, He afterward hungered. 3 And the devil said unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. 4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.


Cross-references

Matthew 4:1-4; Mark 1:12-13; Ephesians 6:17; Deuteronomy 8:2-3; Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15; Luke 22:39-43

Jesus had received the gift of the Holy Ghost at His baptism in extraordinary measure, Hebrews 1:9. He was not merely enlightened by Him, but, like a vessel, He was full of the Spirit; also according to His human nature, all His thoughts and actions were directed by the Spirit’s wonderful power. Not that Christ lost His identity and became a mere puppet, but that He worked with the Spirit that filled Him in full harmony in the work of redemption. It was this Spirit who also led Him, with somewhat urgent insistence, into the wilderness, Mark 1:12. His human nature faltered often in the days of His flesh, He felt constrained at frequent intervals to seek the strength and comfort of His heavenly Father in prayer. And there is every reason for believing that the temptations of the wilderness were of the nature, if not of the severity, of the Passion in Gethsemane. Out there in the wilderness, without human companionship of any kind, Jesus was subjected to the temptations of Satan, for our sakes. He must meet the champion of the powers of darkness at the very outset of His ministry in order to overcome his cunning and powerful attacks. For forty days Christ was exposed to the onsets of the devil. The three temptations which are narrated here were therefore not the only ones which tended to hinder the work of redemption. What He endured during these forty days is beyond all human conception, for which reason He did not speak to His disciples about those days. Had the devil succeeded in his design, then the human race would have remained in his power in all eternity. But Christ did not suffer Himself to be led away from the path of duty and obedience which He had entered. During these forty days the Lord had had nothing to eat, and therefore He was hungry when they came to an end. He had a true human nature and was subject to the same affections as all men; He felt the need of food keenly. Of this fact the devil tried to take advantage. Putting his question in such a form that he implied doubt in the Lord’s ability to help Himself, he pointed to the stones (collective) and asked Him to change them into bread. The temptation is very subtle; Satan does not want to urge the Lord to doubt the providence of the heavenly Father, but desired Christ, without need or authority, to abuse the power which He possessed as the Son of God for the gratification of the desires of the body. But Satan’s cunning was lost upon Jesus, who immediately saw the challenge of the words and countered with a word of Scripture which effectually threw back the attack. He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 to him, thus reminding him of a fact which the devil should know very well, which had been demonstrated to him during these forty days, namely, that God is not bound by the ordinary means for establishing and maintaining life. Had His heavenly Father been able to keep Him alive during these forty days, He would also find ways and means to do so for a few more days without any directions from the devil. Note: This should be remembered whenever the care of this life rears its head in a Christian home; God’s providence and goodness has never failed yet, nor will it in the future, Psalm 37:25.

The second temptation:

Luke 4:5-8

5 And the devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, shewed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto Him, All this power will I give Thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be Thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind Me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.


Cross-references

Matthew 4:8-10; 1 John 5:19; John 8:44; John 1:1-5; Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 40:28; 1 Samuel 2:7; 1 Chronicles 21:1; Deuteronomy 6:13; Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7; Ephesians 6:16-17

This temptation, in the chronological sequence, is really the third. Luke narrates the three in a different order, because he has a different climax in mind, that of the incident on the Temple’s roof. The attempt to incite care and worry about the body and its needs in the heart of Jesus had failed. But the devil believed that temporal riches and power would exert an irresistible appeal, if offered at the right moment and with the proper effect. So he took Jesus up very high, to the very summit of a high mountain and, by means of the power which he possesses, he was able to give Jesus a picture of all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye. The suddenness of the view, coming without preparation or announcement, must have been a wonderful, overwhelming sight: All the riches of the world, the mined and the unmined precious metals, the gems and precious stones with and without their setting of the appropriate foils; all the power of the many rulers, kings, emperors, princes wherever governments had been established, among all races, peoples, and nations. And then came the devil’s offer: To Thee will I give all this power (Thee emphatic). He asserts that all of the riches and all of the power have been given over to him, and that he can dispense his favors as he sees fit. But the condition was that Christ should bow down before him, should worship him, should acknowledge Satan as His Lord. To accede to this impudent demand would have put the Son of God into the power of the arch-enemy of mankind. But the Savior was fully equal to the occasion, and once more routed the enemy with a powerful quotation from Scripture, Deuteronomy 6:13. God is the only object of worship and service. To substitute any creature in heaven or on earth or under the earth for the one God is to commit idolatry. And in the case of Christ it would have been the end of His redemptive ministry.

The third temptation:

Luke 4:9-13

And he brought Him to Jerusalem, and set Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down from hence: 10 For it is written, He shall give His angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee: 11 And in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone. 12 And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 13 And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from Him for a season.


Cross-references

Matthew 4:5-11; Psalm 91:11-12; Genesis 3:1; Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5; James 4:7

The attempt to excite care and worry for the body in the mind of Jesus having failed, and an effort to instill cupidity, greed, and ambition for power in His heart having met with equally poor success, Satan endeavors to arouse pride and foolish daring in the Lord. Having brought Him to Jerusalem, therefore, he placed Jesus on the pinnacle of the Temple, probably on the roof of one of the porticoes, from which one could cast a look that made him dizzy, into an incalculable depth, as Josephus relates. Now the cool demand of the devil was that the Lord cast Himself down from there, into the depths of the Kidron Valley, before the eyes of the assembled congregation, who would be sure to rush out of the nearest gates to see how the foolhardy jump had succeeded. The devil’s temptation has in reality two objects: Christ should demonstrate His divine Sonship; He should, in this manner, gain a great number of disciples, probably the entire populace, at one bold stroke. The devil even quoted Scripture to accomplish his purpose, Psalm 91:11-12, omitting, however, the very essential words “to keep thee in all thy ways,” which are practically a norm for the proper understanding of the entire passage. Cp. Matthew 4:5-7. But Jesus was fully equal to the occasion. Without going into the matter of falsifying Scripture in his own interest, He tells the devil that there is a passage which reads: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord, thy God, Deuteronomy 6:16. Any attempt to reach the ground below by any means outside of those suggested by a correct understanding of nature’s laws would be a challenging of God’s protective care, for which there is no promise in the Bible. Note: In a similar way, the devil is always attempting to make us presumptuous, daring, foolhardy, without the promise and command of God. It is the pride of our hearts which he intends to incite, together with the feeling that we are in no need of God’s protective care. But the one effective way of meeting all the attacks of the Evil One and vanquishing him quickly and surely is to use the words of Scripture as weapons of defense and offense. Before these powerful onslaughts the devil must give way and be routed completely.

The Lord had remained victorious in all three temptations. The devil had not so much as made a dent in His defense. And so, for the time being at least, Satan was obliged to depart. But this withdrawal was, as the evangelist expressly states, only temporary. There was too much at stake for the devil for him to give up all endeavors to foil the work of redemption. During the entire time of Christ’s public ministry, but especially during the days of His last great Passion, the devil used every means in his power to overcome the Son of God, who thus was obliged to be on the alert all the time, always ready to thrust and to parry, as occasion offered.


Verses 14-32

The beginning of Christ’s ministry and His teaching in Nazareth

The return to Galilee:

Luke 4:14-15

14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. 15 And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.


Cross-references

Matthew 4:12-25; Mark 1:14-15; John 4:1-3; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:3-14

The evangelist has here omitted a part of the gospel-story, probably that related John 2. For he writes that Jesus turned back into Galilee, where He had been before. In the power of the Spirit, who was with Him and took an active part in His ministry, He made this journey which meant the public beginning of the work in which He spent the last years of His life. He had been known before in the section of Galilee near Cana, where He had performed His first miracle, and therefore at this time the news concerning Him went out and spread throughout the neighborhood. It preceded Him wherever He went, it made the people eager to see and hear Him. And He took up His work of bringing the Gospel to His countrymen; He taught in their synagogs, He tried to impart the great lessons of the coming of the kingdom of God. And He was highly praised by all, for all felt the power of His preaching, of whom at least some acknowledged the divinity of His mission.

The visit to Nazareth:

Luke 4:16-19

16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.


Cross-references

Luke 2:39-40; Matthew 2:23; Isaiah 61:1-2; Isaiah 42:1 Isaiah 11:1-2; Matthew 3:13-17; Acts 10:37-38

In the course of the Galilean travels Jesus came to Nazareth. This little town in the hills of Galilee, situated on the brow of a hill, had been His home for almost thirty years. There He had been brought up; there He had received His education, at least in large part; there He had worked at His trade of carpenter, together with His foster-father Joseph. Now He came in a new capacity, as a teacher or rabbi. When the Sabbath came, He followed His usual custom of going to the synagog. Note: If Jesus felt the need of regular attendance at church services, it is much more necessary for us to make it a habit to be at church every Sunday and whenever His Word is taught. On the Sabbath of which our text speaks the Lord was present as usual. According to the order of services, the reading of the Law had been done. Next in order came the reading from the prophets. Now the Lord arose to read. It was a courtesy which was willingly granted any visiting rabbis that they could read one of the lessons and append to that reading a few remarks in explanation. This was the meamar, or talk, which served instead of the sermon. When Jesus arose, the servant of the synagog took out of the ark, or case, in which the sacred writings were kept the roll of parchment on which the prophecies of Isaiah were written. It was a long, narrow strip, fastened at either end to an ornamental rod. As the reading was continued, the parchment was rolled up at the one end and unrolled at the other, only a small space of the written text being visible between the two end rolls, from which space the reader slowly read the Hebrew, which was at once translated into the Aramaic. As Jesus now rolled the parchment apart after the manner just described, He came, either by deliberate choice, or according to the due course of the reading of the lesson of the day, to the text Isaiah 61:1-2. It was a text which was eminently fitting for an introductory sermon, for it described so exactly the work of the Messiah. The Spirit of the Lord rests upon Jesus, because He has been anointed with the Holy Ghost without measure. He is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, Acts 10:38. The preaching of the Gospel is His characteristic work, Isaiah 48:16. To the poor He preaches the Gospel, to those that feel the depth and hopelessness of their spiritual poverty; with Christ they will find the true riches that last throughout eternity. Jesus has been sent to heal those whose hearts were broken, that felt the wounds of sin with painful vividness, with the balm of Gilead, the Gospel of healing. To preach to the captives deliverance, to those that were held bound by the power of sin and the fear of the devil; He cuts the cords and breaks the fetters with which the enemies have held the souls in their power. He gives sight to the blind, that their eyes may no longer be held in the darkness of unbelief; He grants the liberty of the children of God to those that were violently abused, that were slaves of their own lusts as they were led. And all of this together meant for all men the acceptable year of the Lord. As when the harvesters rejoice when the last sheaves are safely stored away, so the Lord of mercy is delighted when His harvest is bountiful. It is a year of rejoicing for His Church, Leviticus 25:10, the year in which all debts of sins and trespasses are remitted, in which all the goods of God’s heritage, which were lost through sin, are recovered, Isaiah 49:8. “That is His kingdom, that is His office, that we might not be conquered by death, by sin, by the Law, but that He helps us against them that they may also be overcome in us, not by our strength, but through the power of Christ, who triumphs in us through His Word.” [Luther, quoted in Besser, Bibelstunden, 1, 164].

The sermon and its effect:

Luke 4:20-22

20 And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him. 21 And He began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears. 22 And all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?


Cross-references

Matthew 5:17-18; John 5:39-40; Luke 24:27; Matthew 13:53-56; John 6:40-51

When Jesus had finished the reading of the lesson, He rolled the parchment together again and then returned it to the servant of the synagog, who had charge of the sacred books. The Scriptures were very precious in those days, and every synagog took the best care of its copies. He then sat down. During the reading of the Scripture-lesson, both the congregation and the reader stood. But during the talk, or sermon, the speaker as well as the audience were seated. His reading and His entire bearing had made such an impression upon all those present that all eyes were fixed upon Him in anxious expectation. Their interest had been aroused. Luke gives only the topic or the beginning of the Lord’s discourse: To-day is fulfilled this scripture in your ears. That is the gist of the sermon: He that spoke these words through Isaiah, He stands to-day, at this moment, before your eyes; the promised Messiah has stepped into your midst. And then He surely invited them to come to Him with meek and contrite hearts, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled not only in their ears, but also in their hearts. Repentance and forgiveness of sins the Lord preached. The effect of Christ’s sermon is shown in the words: They bore witness to Him and were surprised at the words of grace which issued from His mouth. The confession was wrung from them, though they were reluctant at first about making the concession. The words about the grace of God whereby the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled came upon them as a surprise: they had not known that so much beauty was contained in the Old Testament. But that the admission was made very grudgingly in the majority of cases, appears from the question which passed around among the audience: Is not this man the son of Joseph? Cp. Mark 6:2-3. The jealousy of small souls came to the foreground, feeling constrained to spoil the effect of the words of grace.

The rebuke of Christ:

Luke 4:23-27

23 And He said unto them, Ye will surely say unto Me this proverb, Physician, heal Thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Thy country. 24 And He said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. 25 But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; 26 But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. 27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.


Cross-references

Matthew 27:41-44; Luke 23:32-33,39; Matthew 11:23-24; Mark 6:1-6; 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:1; James 5:17-18; 1 Kings 17:8-16; 2 Kings 5:1-14

Even now prejudice and rejection were raising their heads in the minds of the people of Nazareth; they were refusing in their hearts to believe Him to be the Messiah of the prophets. And Jesus read their thoughts and intentions; He anticipated their attack. They were not satisfied with preaching, but had a proverbial saying in mind: Physician, heal thyself. They had heard that Jesus had done great miracles at Capernaum and elsewhere, and they believed that miracles of healing, like charity, should begin at home. They wanted concrete evidence of His ability, if they were to believe. They met Him from the start with skeptic, unbelieving hearts. And Jesus, reading these thoughts, solemnly declared to them, what He repeated upon various occasions, that no prophet is acceptable in his own country. His own countrymen, his own fellow-citizens, are the most critical, the most skeptical, and the first to condemn. If the people of Nazareth had met the Lord with an open mind, ready to be convinced by word and deed, as other communities had been, then Jesus would have been more than willing to convince them. But here He is forced to draw a parallel between the present situation and two incidents recorded in the Old Testament. Emphatically He declares that there were many widows in the country at the time of Elijah of old, during the great famine, and yet Elijah was sent only to the town of Sarepta, or Zarephath, to a widow that lived there, 1 Kings 17. And many lepers lived in Israel at the time of Elisha, and yet only Naaman the Syrian was cleansed, 2 Kings 5. Here was a lesson and a warning. The Jews of old might also have said with regard to these strangers, one a Sidonian, the other a Syrian: Why did the prophets not perform these miracles among their own country-people? Just as those prophets, with whom the Lord, in His humility, places Himself on a level, could not work among the Jews on account of the latters’ unbelief, so the people of Nazareth, that had the help at their very doors, closed and hardened their hearts against the influence of the preaching of Jesus. They would, therefore, have no one to blame but themselves if condemnation would come upon them.

The attempt to kill the Lord:

Luke 4:28-32

28 And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 And rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong. 30 But He passing through the midst of them went His way, 31 And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the Sabbath days. 32 And they were astonished at His doctrine: for His word was with power.


Cross-references

Leviticus 24:16; John 8:48-59; John 10:22-39; Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 7:28-29

Up to this point the congregation had listened to Jesus, though with growing indignation, since He dared to expose and flay their national vice, their self-righteous pride. But now their indignation, which filled them to overflowing, carried all reason and common sense before it. The entire population shared in the movement. Rising up, they cast Him out of the synagog, out of the city. And then they deliberately laid hold upon Him and led Him to a precipice of the hill on which their city was built, a place where there was a steep, sheer drop into the valley below, their intention being to throw Him down bodily. Theirs was the action of people that have lost all semblance of calm reasoning, whom insane wrath has deprived of the ability to think right and to consider the consequences, a typical mob, such as are the rule to this day under similar circumstances. As long as faithful pastors speak in a general way in their preaching and admonishing, they have peace and are even praised. But if the same men dare to point to individual sins, they are accused of unjust criticism and condemnation. For it is a peculiarity of the truth that it embitters and makes enemies where it does not work conversion. There is no worse censure for a pastor than that which was spoken of one concerning his position in his congregation: We do not hurt him, and he does not hurt us. But the mob, in Christ’s case, did not realize its murderous intention, though they received evidence of the supernatural power of the Lord. For He quietly passed through their midst and went His way. Whether He rendered Himself invisible for the time being, or whether they were struck with blindness, or whether their arms were paralyzed by a power above them, is not stated. It was not merely the power of a tranquil spirit and a firm will over human passions, but the almighty power of the Son of God that stayed their hands.

Jesus went down from the hill country to the city of Capernaum, which He made His headquarters during His Galilean ministry. Here He made it a habit to teach in the synagogs on the Sabbath-days, for the preaching of the Gospel of salvation was the first and principal part of His work. And wherever He taught, the effect of His words was the same: people were astonished almost to stupefaction over His doctrine, which differed so radically from the vapid discourses of the average rabbi, and in authority and power His word went out. There was not only the force of conviction behind it, but the merciful power of God which is in the means of grace and gives them their efficacy. Note: Luke always adds the geographical references for the sake of his readers, who were unacquainted with the location of the various towns which are mentioned in the Gospel story.


Verses 33-44

Healing of a demoniac and other miracles

The healing of the demoniac at Capernaum:

Luke 4:33-37

33 And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, 34 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth? art Thou come to destroy us? I know Thee who Thou art; the Holy One of God. 35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not. 36 And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power He commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. 37 And the fame of Him went out into every place of the country round about.


Cross-references

Mark 1:23-28; Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 5:1-20; Acts 19:11-15; James 2:19; Matthew 25:41; Jude 6; Revelation 16:5; John 6:66-69; Acts 3:1-16; 1 John 2:20

Matthew commonly speaks of these unfortunates whom we meet in this passage as demoniacs, Mark as people with unclean spirits. The man was possessed of a devil, who worked in the body to harm him. He was evidently not always violent, otherwise the man could hardly have come to the synagog service. But in the course of the morning worship the sick man had an attack, the evil spirit took possession of his members. He screamed with a loud voice, whether from aversion, or horror, or wrath, or fear, or from them all together. The devil knows the Lord, and his words were a revelation concerning Him. He knows His name: Jesus; he knows whence He hails: of Nazareth; he knows Him to be the true Son of God, the Holy One of God, of equal majesty and power with the Father. He wants nothing to do with Jesus, for he fears lest the last destruction will be meted out to him and all his companions at once. Mark well: The devil is a mighty spirit and, together with his angels, can work a great deal of harm, if God permits it. The evil spirits are busily engaged in hurting the souls and the bodies of men wherever this is possible, and they are working with all speed, since they fear the Judgment Day, which will bring to them the final confirmation and the consummation of their eternal damnation. But Jesus earnestly rebuked the evil spirit because of his words. He wants no confession and proclaiming of His name and power from these spirits of darkness. Not by the revelation of devils, but by the preaching of the Gospel people should learn to know Him. The Lord bade him keep silence, and also come out from the man, from the victim of his spite. The spirit had to obey, but in doing so, he took the last opportunity to wrench the poor man in a frightful manner, throwing him down in the midst of the synagog. But beyond that he could not hurt him; Jesus would not permit it. But the effect upon the congregation was such as to throw a stupor upon them all. They were inclined to doubt the evidence of their own eyes and ears. To hear a man speak words of command, with power and authority, lay down the law to unclean, evil spirits and receive unquestioned obedience, was an entirely new thing in their experience; it filled them with something like horrified reverence. But they thought of promises like Isaiah 49:24-25, and were soon busily engaged in spreading the news of this deed to every town of the entire neighborhood. The miracle was a proof that Jesus was indeed the Holy One of God, and that He had come to destroy the works of the devil and to deliver men from the bonds of Satan.

The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law:

Luke 4:38-39

38 And He arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought Him for her. 39 And He stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.


Cross-references

Matthew 8:14-15; Mark 1:29-31; 1 Corinthians 9:5

From the synagog Jesus went directly to the home of Simon Peter, of whose call Luke tells in the next chapter. Having lived at Bethsaida formerly, Simon had moved to Capernaum, where he lived with his family, to which the mother of his wife belonged. Evidently, Scripture knows nothing of the foolish unkindness which is now so commonly shown to those to whom reverence and honor is due. This aged woman, at any rate, must have been esteemed very highly in the house of her son-in-law, for when she was prostrated with a fever, severely afflicted with the severity of the attack, they, the members of the family, made intercession for her to Jesus. The Lord immediately signified His willingness. Stepping to the cot on which she was lying, He raised Himself in the fulness of His majesty, He threatened the fever, and it obeyed His voice. The healing was immediate and complete. If in any family some one becomes a disciple of Jesus, there is a path between that house and heaven, guarded by angels. Not only in temporal things, but especially in spiritual matters blessings will attend such a house where a faithful soul prays. And the subsequent serving of the mother-in-law of Peter after healing shows that the beautiful, but rare plant of gratitude flourished in that house [Besser, Bibelstunden, 1, 180].

Cures on the Sabbath evening:

Luke 4:40-41

40 Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them, and healed them. 41 And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And He rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that He was Christ.


Cross-references

Matthew 8:16-17; Mark 1:32–34; Matthew 4:23-25; Isaiah 53:4

With the setting of the sun the Sabbath was over, and therefore all Sabbath commands no longer binding. It was then that people, as many of them as had sick relatives and friends that were afflicted with any diseases, began to lead and to carry them to Jesus. The miracle of the morning had convinced them that they had a powerful Healer in their midst, and they were only too willing to take advantage of that fact. Jesus had compassion upon them: upon every one of the sick He laid His hands and thus cured them. What purpose the Lord had in mind in permitting Himself to be imposed upon with all this wholesale healing is shown by Matthew, Matthew 8:17. The one greatest disease, which the Lord has taken upon Himself and borne, is sin; all sickness, all evil, comes from sin, is a punishment of sin. When Jesus therefore laid His hands upon any sick person, it implied: Thou art a sinner, I am the Savior of sinners; I take the curse and consequence of sin from thee, let this be an admonition to thee to abstain from the service of sin. At the same time, demons came out from those possessed at the very presence of Jesus, screaming loudly and revealing the Lord’s identity as the Christ. But these revelations Jesus stopped summarily, since He desires no praise and confession from the devil nor from all those that have placed themselves in the service of the devil.

The withdrawal of Jesus:

Luke 4:42-44

42 And when it was day, He departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought Him, and came unto Him, and stayed Him, that He should not depart from them. 43 And He said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. 44 And He preached in the synagogues of Galilee.


Cross-references

Mark 1:35-39; Luke 5:15-16; Luke 6:12; Matthew 14:23; Hebrews 5:7-8

The very next morning, at break of day, Jesus left Capernaum. He followed the method He employed at other times also: He went out into the solitude to be all alone in prayer and communion with His heavenly Father. It would be of advantage to most Christians if they would occasionally withdraw from the bustle of modern business and spend some time after the example of Christ. We are too liable to lose our balance and the sense of proportion according to Biblical standards if there is only the ceaseless hurry of work, alternating with rounds of pleasure. Sunday should be the day for quiet communion with God, not spent in contempt of God’s Word and in loud and boisterous picnics, but in prayerful contemplation of our need of God. But the absence of Jesus was soon noticed, and a large multitude of people, with Peter in the lead, went out to search for Him and bring Him back. But He would not be persuaded by them. He knew that it was not the Word of Life for which they were eager, but the miracles which they hoped to see. And so He explained to them the principal purpose of His ministry. The obligation rests upon Him to bring the Gospel news of the kingdom of God to other cities also. This work He has taken upon Himself; in this work He wants to show all faithfulness. And so He departed on a preaching tour of Galilee, Himself proclaiming the Gospel-message in His sermons in the synagogs of Galilee.

Summary

Jesus, in the wilderness, is tempted of the devil, begins His Galilean ministry, teaches in Nazareth, where the people try to kill Him, and at Capernaum heals a demoniac and other sick people.


Chapter 5

Verses 1-11

The miraculous draught of fishes and the call of the first disciples

Preaching on the shore of the sea:

Luke 5:1-3

1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon Him to hear the Word of God, He stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And He entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And He sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.


Cross-references

Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; John 6:1

Jesus had left the city of Capernaum on a certain day, with the intention of walking along the shore of the lake, Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16. But it was impossible for Him to avoid the crowds that gathered whenever His presence was announced by some one that saw Him. Here a multitude pressed upon Him, whose eagerness for the Word of God is mentioned. They wanted to hear this man speak that preached with such authority. If they had but been as eager for the salvation which He offered in His preaching! Jesus was standing on the shore of the lake, but the growing crowds were hemming Him in on all sides, making it impossible for Him to address the people in an effective manner. As He then looked around for some way of meeting the situation, He saw two fishing-boats standing along the shore. They may just have come in and had barely been fastened by the fishermen who, after having disembarked, were washing their nets. Jesus, having known the men before, did not hesitate to enter into one of the two boats, the one belonging to Simon. He then asked the owner to put out to some distance, a matter of a rod or so, from the shore. And then, having sat down, Jesus taught the people from the boat. From this elevated position He had command of the audience and could speak to all of them without difficulty. Jesus was ever ready and eager to preach the Gospel of the salvation of mankind. Not only in the schools, but out under the open sky, wherever He stood or walked and had opportunity of any kind, He preached the Word of God. God’s Word fits in all places and at all times. Nothing is more necessary for men, nothing more urgent than the preaching of the Word.

The miraculous draught:

Luke 5:4-7

Now when He had left speaking, He said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto Him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.


Cross-references

John 21:1-14; Matthew 17:24-27; Psalm 104; Psalm 145

The discourse of the Lord may have taken up the greater part of the forenoon. But now He made a pause in His speaking, and addressed Simon, who was probably at the helm, with a peculiar request, which sounded like an arbitrary demand. Peter should launch out far, he should take his boat out to the place where the sea was deep, away from the shore. These first words were addressed to Peter alone, as the master of the vessel; but the second part, describing the manner of taking the fish, is directed to all the men in the boat. Jesus thus took charge of the boat and directed its disposal, as though He were the owner. It was a test of Peter’s faith and trust in the Lord. The answer of Simon indicated the greatest respect for the Man who thus unceremoniously took charge of his affairs. He calls Him Master, the Greek word being used of a prefect or of one that is set over certain persons or affairs, a title of respect which did not imply a personal relation. He does not register an objection, but merely states as a fact that they have worked hard all night and have caught nothing. They had plied their trade at the time and under the conditions which experience had shown them to be the most favorable, at night, and on the benches of the lake not far from the shore. But all his fisherman’s experience and theory Peter is willing to bring as a sacrifice to his faith in the words of Jesus. There are several lessons to note here. “Therefore thou must learn these things well that thou mayest work and hope, even if He should delay the matter for some time; for though He lets thee wait and labor in perspiration, and thou thinkest thy work is lost, yet thou must be prudent and learn to know thy God and to trust in Him. … For we see in this gospel how God cares for them that are His, and keeps them both in body and soul. If we but get to the point that we freely trust Him, then things cannot be wanting, then God pours us full of bodily and spiritual goods, and with such an abounding treasure that we may help all people. That surely means making the poor people rich and feeding the hungry.” [Luther, 11, 1309. 1313]. Luther also shows that disappointments and failures in the work of our calling should not discourage us entirely, whether it be in the training of children, if we have but been faithful, or in positions of authority, or in the government of the Church. “And, to summarize, the entire human being and life is constituted thus, that one must often have worked long and much for nothing, until God finally gives the increase; and therefore the work shall not be omitted, nor any person found without work, but expect the increase and blessing from God, when He wants to give it, Ecclesiastes 11:6.” [Luther, 11, 1323].

Simon’s faith was richly rewarded. For when they followed the directions of Jesus, their net enclosed a great quantity of fish, and it began to tear. Pulling with all their might, they had no breath to waste in calling, so they anxiously waved to their companions in the other boat that they should come and help them. And so great was the catch that both boats were filled with fish to such a point that there was danger of their sinking under the load; they were all but submerged. It was such an obvious miracle that they all were astounded.

The call of Simon:

Luke 5:8-11

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed Him.


Cross-references

Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 7:16; Isaiah 6:5-8

Peter was most deeply affected by the miracle, of which he had been not merely a spectator, but a partaker and recipient. It was the first time that Peter had been brought so close to the almighty power of Christ that he could judge as to its greatness and majesty. It belonged to his calling, it took place on his vessel, with his own fish-net, after his own fruitless endeavors, in his immediate presence. And so he utters his cry of confession and faith: Depart from me! This evidence of the almighty power of Jesus was evidence of His divinity. And the divine Christ is a holy, sinless Christ. Peter felt too utterly unworthy to remain any longer in the presence of the Master, before whom he always felt his sinfulness. For a stupor had fallen upon him, so great was his astonishment. And the others of the party that were Simon’s partners in the fishing business were in the same condition. They almost feared to trust the evidence of their senses. They were also seized with fear, which encompassed them, especially James and John, the sons of Zebedee. But Jesus addressed a special word of comfort to Peter, bidding him not to fear. And they all from henceforth should be fishers of men. This should be their permanent occupation; their life should be spent in casting forth the net of the Gospel and drawing redeemed hearts into the kingdom of Christ. “As though He should say: Now thou hast a calling that thou art a fisherman, but I want to command a different one to thee, that thou shalt go into a different water and catch people, make the heaven full of fish, and fill My kingdom in the same way as these fish now fill thy boat. For this draught I will give thee a different net, namely, the Gospel; with that thou shalt catch the elect that they permit themselves to be baptized, believe, and live eternally.” [Luther, quoted in Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 50]. The call of Jesus was an effectual call. They brought their ships to the land, and, leaving all, they followed Him. They were formally enrolled as His disciples. When Christ calls and shows the way to His service, there must be no consulting with flesh and blood, but a cheerful following of His voice and a happy bowing under His will. There can be no doubt as to the blessing that attends such obedience.


Verses 12-26

The healing of a leper and of a paralytic

Healing a leper:

Luke 5:12-15

12 And it came to pass, when He was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought Him, saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. 13 And He put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him. 14 And He charged him to tell no man: but go, and shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 15 But so much the more went there a fame abroad of Him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.


Cross-references

Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Matthew 4:23; Matthew 11:2-6; Leviticus 13:1-8; Leviticus 13:45-46

Luke does not, as a rule, tell the Gospel-stories in the order in which they happened, except in a general way. This usually, as here, appears from the words with which he introduces the story. Jesus was at one time in one of the little cities of Galilee, where there was a man full of leprosy. The loathsome disease had reached its full virulence in his case, and he was suffering in proportion. When this poor man saw Jesus, he fell down upon his face in the attitude of abject supplication, as an unworthy slave might ask a favor of a mighty king. His earnest prayer was a model for all times. For, since he is asking for a temporal gift, for a thing concerning this life only, he makes no demand, he sets no time, but places the fulfilment entirely in the hands of Jesus: Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. It is a prayer in the form of a statement, the strongest possible form. It throws the burden upon the Lord and pleads more effectively than a delineation of symptoms could possibly do. And since the matter was left to the will of the Lord, the Lord chooses to exercise that will and the almighty power behind that will in hearing the prayer of the sick man: I will, be thou cleansed. And the almighty words had the effect that the Lord intended: the leprosy immediately departed from the man. Jesus then gave him the earnest order not to speak of the matter, but above all to hurry to the priest, in order that the latter might make the proper declaration of cleanness, and accept the sacrifices which were prescribed at such a time, Leviticus 14. The Lord did not want the matter published abroad, in order that the news might not reach the priest before the former leper arrived and a spiteful examination refused to declare him clean. And Jesus at all times wanted the people to understand that the miracles were only secondary manifestations of His ministry, His chief work being the preaching of the Gospel. But the word concerning this miracle done to the leper went out all the more, with the usual result. Great crowds gathered to hear Him and also to be healed of their sicknesses, the latter reason being the more urgent for their coming to Jesus. But Jesus took the first opportunity that presented itself, and retired for prayer and spiritual communion:

Luke 5:16

16 And He withdrew Himself into the wilderness, and prayed.


Cross-references

Mark 1:45; Mark 1:35; Hebrews 5:7

He asked and received strength from His heavenly Father to carry on His work according to the divine will. This constant communication with God was the secret of His being able to perform so much work; a hint that might well be applied in the case of all His followers.

The healing of the paralytic:

Luke 5:17-21

17 And it came to pass on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. 18 And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before Him. 19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when He saw their faith, He said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?


Cross-references

Matthew 9:1-3; Mark 2:1-7; Matthew 4:24; Matthew 8:16; Matthew 9:22; Psalm 32:1,11; Psalm 103:1-4; Matthew 23:13; John 10:31-38; Matthew 26:63-68

The first indication of the systematic effort on the part of the leaders of the Jewish Church to persecute and discredit Jesus. The story is an independent incident, having no connection with the foregoing, since Luke has no interest in exact chronological sequence. The chief men of the Jewish nation had received full information of the preaching and of the miracles of this otherwise unknown Galilean rabbi, who had not so much as asked their sanction for His work. The local men, of the various synagogs of Galilee, the experts in the Law and in all the doctrines as they had been fixed by tradition, were not equal to the situation. So they were reenforced by men from Judea, and especially from Jerusalem, Pharisees and scribes, the most learned men and skilled in the Law. All these were present in a house where Jesus was teaching the multitude. Not that they were eager for the Word of Life, but that they were watching for some opportunity of accusing Him. And the power of the Lord, the omnipotent majesty of the Triune God, was present in Jesus to the intent that He should heal. The other persons of the Godhead were never mere disinterested or neutral onlookers while the work of redemption was going on, but the entire Godhead in its three persons wrought the salvation of mankind. The chance for which the Pharisees and teachers of the Law had been waiting presented itself very quickly. Certain men bore upon a couch or hammock a man that had suffered a stroke of paralysis. “Commonly those who are attacked in all their members by severe nervous debility are quickly taken away; if not, they live, it is true, but seldom recover their health, and for the most part drag on a miserable life, losing, moreover, their memory. The sickness of those who are partially affected is, it is true, never severe, but often long and almost incurable.” When these men with their burden reached the house where Jesus was staying, they anxiously sought a way in which they might bring the sick man and lay him before Jesus, for that was the purpose of their coming. They had the conviction of faith that this prophet from Nazareth was the Christ, who could easily cure their friend. But the crowd in the house and before the door was too densely packed; it was impossible to find an opening through which they might wedge themselves into the room where Jesus was speaking. But they were not long at a loss as to further procedure. They climbed the outside stairway to the roof of the house, they took off some of the tiles or material of which the roof was made, and then lowered the sick man on his hammock before the feet of Jesus. Luke’s account is influenced by his desire to make the manner of performing this work of love clear to the Romans for whom he was writing. Jesus paused in His teaching at this interruption, and His omniscient gaze swept the faces of the newcomers, including that of the sick man. In every one He read the firm conviction as to His ability to help, and also a voiceless pleading and interceding that He would show mercy. He was satisfied with the results of His scrutiny, and therefore turned to the paralytic with the words: Man, forgiven are thy sins! Note: Sin is the cause of all misery, sickness, and death in the world. By removing the cause, the consequences were, in effect, taken away. The sick man’s faith knew this; he knew that the greatest earthly gift became his by these comforting words of Jesus. It was not a case of special punishment for special sins, but one in which the Savior knew where the healing must commence, in the soul. No sooner had Jesus uttered the words of forgiveness than the scribes and Pharisees began to reason, to discuss the matter, either in their hearts only, or in an undertone among themselves. Their Pharisaic conscience was deeply grieved that any one presumed upon remitting sins. Such arrogance they must brand as blasphemy; for surely no one could forgive sins but God only. If Jesus were not God, He could not forgive sins in His own power; and His arrogating this authority to Himself would have been blasphemy against God, in the proper sense of the word. But that these scribes and Pharisees might have the fullest and most absolute proof of His divine power and Godhead, He now worked in their presence three miracles, all of which could be done only by an omniscient and omnipotent Being. These miracles were: the remission of the sick man’s sins; the revelation of the secret thoughts of the scribes; the restoration of the paralytic in a moment to perfect health.

The miracle:

Luke 5:22-26

22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? 23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? 24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (He said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. 25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. 26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.


Cross-references

Matthew 9:4-8; Mark 2:8-12; Luke 7:11-17; Daniel 9:9; Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:23

Jesus, in His omniscience, read their thoughts as easily as though they had spoken aloud, and answered in that sense, promptly calling them to account for their condemnation of His words. He proposes a question to them as to what they believed to be easier, to say: Forgiven be thy sins; or to say: Arise and walk. The scribes and Pharisees naturally thought that the saying of the former would be the easier, since the fulfilment lay in the spiritual field and could therefore not be seen or controlled by men. That this miracle of mercy really happened at the word of Jesus they did not believe. The Lord therefore performed before their eyes what they considered the more difficult, for a testimony unto them, incidentally proving that His words to the sick man could not have been blasphemy. The fact that He, the Son of Man, actually possessed the power on earth to forgive sins, He demonstrated by saying to the paralytic: To thee I say, Arise, and pick up thy hammock, or couch, and go to thy house. And without delay, at once, the sick man got up before them all, took up the bed upon which he had been lying, and went to his home, full of praise toward God for the miracle of healing performed in his case. His faith and trust had been gloriously vindicated. Christ the Lord has power to forgive sins as the Son of Man. Had God not, in Christ, become man and reconciled the world to Himself, He would have the power to destroy the sinners, but not to save them, since His holiness must be preserved at all costs. And Christ, the Head and Lord of His Church, has given the power to forgive sins to His Church on earth. This is the peculiar church power which Christ has given to His Church on earth, which His servants administer according to His command, John 20:23. When the absolution is spoken by the minister of the church or by any Christian in comforting his neighbor, then we may gladly believe that such word of forgiveness is spoken down from heaven itself and is the merciful sentence of God upon us. Of this fact the people had an inkling on that occasion in Capernaum. The greatest astonishment took hold of them all, even the Pharisees that hardened their hearts against Jesus feeling something of the power of God in the incident. The people in general glorified God, being filled also with reverential awe in the presence of such supernatural evidence. Their opinion was that they had seen strange things, such as appeared contrary to the common run and course of nature, wonders which human reason declares to be impossible.


Verses 27-39

The call of Levi and the discourse concerning Christ’s ministry

The call and the feast of Levi:

Luke 5:27-32

27 And after these things He went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and He said unto him, Follow Me. 28 And he left all, rose up, and followed Him. 29 And Levi made Him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. 30 But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against His disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? 31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. 32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.


Cross-references

Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 6:12-16; Luke 15:1-2; Matthew 4:12-17; John 9:39-41

After the healing of the paralytic Jesus left the house and went out to the seashore. On His way, which probably led along the great caravan road toward Damascus, He passed by the booth of a publican, a tax-collector or customs-inspector, by the name of Levi. Not by accident, but by design and with full intention, did the eyes of Jesus rest upon the man busy with his reports and the other business of his calling. Cp. Matthew 9:9. Levi had very probably heard of Jesus, since the city was full of the talk concerning Him, had even attended some of His discourses in the neighborhood of Capernaum. Jesus spoke only a short sentence in the form of a command: Follow Me! This word decided the fate of Levi. He left everything behind, he turned his back upon his entire former life with all its associations, and followed Jesus. In the thankfulness of his heart Levi now made a feast for the Lord. It was a great feast, and he had it prepared in his own house. The guests, outside of Jesus and His disciples, were Levi’s former companions, a multitude of publicans and others, the majority such as were regarded with anything but favor by the proud and self-righteous Pharisees; they were mostly such as had been put out of the synagog, with whom the average strict Jew would have no dealings. But here they were at the feast, reclining on the sofas about the tables. And many of them may have even then known and loved the Savior of sinners, being thankful to Levi for giving them the chance to see and hear more of the Lord. The fact that Jesus accepted an invitation into such a mixed assembly again offended the scribes and Pharisees of the Jews. The contrast between the teachings and methods of Jesus and those of the Jewish Church leaders was becoming more and more evident. The latter expressed their disapproval of the whole affair in no uncertain terms by remarking to the disciples of Jesus, probably with the intention of alienating them from the Master: For what reason do you eat with the publicans and sinners? The point of the question was directed against Jesus, for His disciples would hardly have gone to the feast without Him. They want Him to feel that they resented His disregard of their customs. But Jesus answered for His disciples, by stating in the form of a proverb that the healthy people had no need of a physician, but those that are in a bad way, that are sick. And He explains the proverb for their benefit: Not am I come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. Mark: Jesus calls Himself a physician of the soul; He represents sin as a disease of the soul; He states that He is come to cure men of this disease; He implies that those that did not feel their sickness, but believed themselves to be well and healthy, had no need of His services on account of that foolish opinion. Those that cared nothing for a Savior of sinners, He calls righteous or healthy; not as though they were exceptions in a world of lost and condemned sinners, for whose salvation He had come into the world, but because they felt no need of His services, because they did not know that they were wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, Revelation 3:17; John 9:41. Only he that acknowledges and knows his sinfulness, that realizes, as Luther says, that he belongs into hell with skin and hair, with body and soul, only he has part in this Savior. If we accept this fact with meek hearts and rely upon it as sacred truth that God is merciful to us for Christ’s sake, then we can be delivered from the terrible disease of sin.

A question of fasting:

Luke 5:33-35

33 And they said unto Him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but Thine eat and drink? 34 And He said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.


Cross-references

Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; John 1:6-8; John 3:25-30; Matthew 11:2-19; Matthew 6:16-18

The Pharisees had allies, more or less openly, in the disciples of John. Misunderstanding the austere manner of living of their Master and imitating it in a false way, they believed such conduct necessary for a devout Jew. And therefore some of these, representing both parties, came to Jesus with a question concerning some of these strict observances in frequent fasting and the practise of prayer, which the disciples of the Lord in no way observed. The implication was a laxness of morals and a disregard of the proper customs. Note: Observances of this kind are well enough in themselves, are, as Luther expresses it, a fine outward training. But to ascribe any other power and value to them as works of merit in the sight of God is foolish, and therefore the attitude of the Pharisees was foolish. Jesus gives His answer in figurative language. He is the Bridegroom; His disciples are the sons of the bridal feast, the best men at the wedding. The time of Christ’s sojourn on earth is the wedding-feast. Now it would obviously be altogether wrong for the chief guests at a marriage-feast to give any evidence of mourning, such as fasting. Only joy and happiness should fill their hearts at this time, and find expression in their actions, John 3:29; Song of Solomon 5:1. But in the days when the Bridegroom would be taken from them, when Christ would have to enter upon the path of suffering and be taken from them, as to His visible presence, by death, then they would mourn, John 16:20, then they would give evidence of sorrow.

Proverbial sayings:

Luke 5:36-39

36 And He spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. 37 And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. 38 But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. 39 No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.


Cross-references

Matthew 9:16-17; Mark 2:21-22; Matthew 23:1-3; Matthew 5:17-20; Psalm 96; Psalm 98; Revelation 5:6-14

Here are three parabolic or proverbial sayings by which the Lord intends to teach the Pharisees a much-needed lesson. It is foolish to take a patch of a new dress and attempt to make it hold a rent in an old dress. This effort only makes matters worse; for the new cloth, in shrinking, and in accommodating itself to the fit of the dress, draws the threads of the rotten, weak part of the garment, and the matter is made far worse. Besides, the new patch, with its clear colors, stands out too prominently from the old dress, making the patch all the more conspicuous. To put new wine, that has not yet stopped fermenting, into old skins, that have lost the power to stretch, is equally foolish, since the new wine will only tear the bottles. Therefore the new wine is properly put only into new bottles, or skins. The old dress is the righteousness of works, in which the Pharisees believed, the new patch the free grace of Jesus. The piety and self-righteousness of the Pharisees and the doctrine which Jesus proclaimed, the doctrine of the free grace of God in the Savior, do not agree and will never fit in the same person’s life and behavior. If any one trusts in his own works, and then intends to put a patch of the Gospel upon this self-righteousness, or wants to cover the one or the other transgression with the work and merit of Christ, he will soon find out that this comfort is not reliable. Such a person in the depths of his heart still trusts in his own merit and will be condemned with this unstable comfort. And the new wine is the sweet Gospel of the forgiveness of sins, of the grace of God. This glorious news does not fit into carnal, Pharisaic hearts; if the Gospel is preached to such as still depend upon their own works, it is wasted, for they cannot and will not understand it rightly and receive no benefit from the Gospel. The Gospel requires all hearts to deny all their own righteousness and believe simply in the merits of Jesus the Savior. And finally: A man that has drunk old wine knows its richness and mellowness and therefore does not desire to change for the new, which may be sharper, less agreeable. So dearly did the Pharisees and the disciples of John love their old, accustomed ways that they did not want to change, although the offering of the new doctrine of the Gospel was salvation full and free.

Summary

Jesus causes the miraculous draught of fishes, calls Simon and his companions, heals a leper, cures a paralytic, calls Levi, and defends Himself and His disciples against Jewish attacks.


Chapter 6

Verses 1-12

Disputes concerning Sabbath observance

The Lord of the Sabbath:

Luke 6:1-5

1 And it came to pass on the second Sabbath after the first, that He went through the corn fields; and His disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath days? And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him; How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone? And He said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.


Cross-references

Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Deuteronomy 23:25; Exodus 31:13-15; Exodus 34:21; Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; 1 Samuel 21:1-6; Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5-9; Exodus 29:32-34; Numbers 28:9-10; Luke 13:14-16; Luke 14:1-6; John 5:1-17; John 7:19-24; John 9:13-16; Hebrews 4:4-13; Colossians 2:16-17; Acts 15:22-29

It was on the first Sabbath after the second day of Passover that this happened. For on that day the sheaves of the first-fruits of the field were offered to the Lord, and the Jews reckoned the Sabbaths until Pentecost from this day, for which reason the latter festival was known also as the Feast of Weeks. Jesus was walking through the crop, which was now in full ear and ready for cutting. The ancient paths were usually in the nature of short cuts, and were apt to lead across some man’s land. But according to ancient custom, no man thought of plowing these up. The field was tilled on either side of the path, and the grain sometimes encroached on the path, but the path itself belonged to the public. As the Lord was walking along with His disciples, the latter began to pull out spikes of the ripe grain and to rub the ears between the palms of their hands to extract the kernels. This was permitted according to the Law, Deuteronomy 23:25. But the Pharisees, some of whom were present as usual in order to spy on the Lord, made this innocent act a sin against the Third Commandment, looking upon the pulling of stalks as harvesting and upon the removing of the hulls as threshing and cooking. Note: This attitude is characteristic also of modern sticklers for the so-called sanctity of the Sabbath, or Sunday. Instead of teaching the proper observance of the New Testament holiday according to the sense of the Bible, which Luther has so beautifully expressed in the explanation of the Third Commandment, they suspect base motives and objects in matters which are left absolutely to the decision of Christian liberty. The Pharisees at once attacked the disciples, but always with the point directed against Jesus. They accused them of profaning the Sabbath. Nothing would have pleased them more than if Jesus would have taken up the challenge and argued concerning the fine points of distinction between the various forms of work permitted on the Sabbath. Instead of that, the Lord turns the tables on them by challenging their knowledge of Scriptures. His words, not unmixed with irony, contain a sharp rebuke: Not even this have ye read what David did; have you so little understanding of the Old Testament? His reference is to 1 Samuel 21:6. There it is related of David that he did indeed go into the house of the Lord, into the tabernacle, which probably stood on the hill between Gibeon and Nobe, and accepted some of the show-bread, the bread of the Lord’s countenance, which he then ate with his men, although this bread belonged to the priests only. That was a case of emergency, in which the law of love is always the highest law. The Pharisees should now draw the conclusion from the smaller to the greater. If David had this right and did not sin in taking and eating this bread, then David’s Lord must have the right with much greater authority. And if this argument would not be sufficiently strong for them, they should remember that the Son of Man, Christ, the Prophet of Nazareth, is Lord also of the Sabbath. If He chooses to dispense with, or to change, the law with reference to this holiday, it is a matter entirely in His right and power, Colossians 2:16-17; Romans 14:5.

The man with the withered hand:

Luke 6:6-12

And it came to pass also on another Sabbath, that He entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched Him, whether He would heal on the Sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against Him. But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? 10 And looking round about upon them all, He said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other. 11 And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus. 12 And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.


Cross-references

Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6; Exodus 23:4-5; Deuteronomy 22:1-4; Exodus 31:13-15; Exodus 34:21; Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Luke 13:14-16; Luke 14:1-6; John 5:1-17; John 7:19-24; John 9:13-16; Hebrews 4:4-13; Colossians 2:16-17; Acts 15:22-29

On the other Sabbath, the one following that on which the Lord had given the Pharisees the first lesson concerning the real meaning of the Sabbath, Jesus was again in the synagog, teaching, as was His custom. He was preaching when the incident which is here related occurred. There was a man in the synagog, probably brought there purposely by the Pharisees, whose right hand was withered, as the result of disease or accident. Now the scribes and Pharisees kept watching in a sly, furtive manner what Jesus would do when the condition of this man would be brought to His attention. If the Lord would heal the man, they thought they would be able to make out a case against Him from their law. But Jesus knew the hypocritical reasoning of their hearts and took up their challenge. He had the sick man stand forth in the center of the room, in order that all those present might see him and the miracle which He proposed to do to him. Jesus now directed a question to His enemies, to show them that He read the thoughts of their hearts, for He was filled with the emotions of anger and pity. He asked them pointblank whether it was the right and proper thing, whether it should be considered an obligation resting upon all those present to do good or to do evil on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it. To leave any sick and crippled person in his misery for even one minute longer than is necessary is a transgression of the Fifth Commandment; this fact they should know. There was no answer forthcoming, however, the Pharisees being convinced in their hearts, but still too stubborn to bear witness to the truth. Jesus therefore once more looked around upon the circle of faces, hoping to find some indication of yielding; but there was none. And so He performed the miracle before their eyes. At His command the sick man stretched forth his hand, and it was restored to full health and strength at once. The Pharisees were again foiled, and this fact filled them with insane fury against the Lord. Their senseless anger was directed at Jesus, especially because the miracle would tend to make Him popular with the people, since they had not been able to answer His question. From this time forth they were continually active in considering ways and means to remove Him. They frankly sought His life, Mark 3:6. So far can hypocrisy bring a person that fights against the knowledge of truth that he will excuse the most conspicuous lack of love and mercy, and will conceive a deadly hatred against any one that suggests the proper observance of the summary of the Law. But Jesus gave them no opportunity at this time to carry out their murderous designs. It was in those days, as Luke remarks, that He again withdrew to a mountain. There, in the solitude and silence, He found the right conditions under which He could, without disturbance or distraction, pour out His heart in prayer to His heavenly Father. He spent the entire night in prayer, not a minute too much under the circumstances when He was preparing to extend His ministry. Note: Regular, intimate, importunate prayer to God is the best way of obtaining strength, above all before an important step in life.


Verses 13-16

The twelve apostles

Luke 6:13-16

13 And when it was day, He called unto Him His disciples: and of them He chose twelve, whom also He named apostles; 14 Simon, (whom He also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, 15 Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, 16 And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.


Cross-references

Mark 3:13-19; Matthew 10:1-4; Acts 1:13-26; John 1:35-42; Matthew 9:9; Matthew 4:21-22; John 1:43-51; John 20:24; Mark 15:40; John 14:22; Matthew 26:14-16

Having prepared Himself for this important step by an all-night vigil and prayer, Jesus now carried out His plan. He called all His disciples to Him, and from their total number He selected twelve, to whom He gave the honoring title apostles, those sent forth. Their principal work was to consist in going forth in His name and spreading the glorious Gospel of His redemption. A few notices concerning the work of these men, taken from Scripture and history, may prove of interest. Simon, who later became a true Peter or rock-man, was actively engaged in missionary work in the East and West. He is said to have suffered martyrdom in Rome under Nero, by being crucified. His brother Andrew did his principal work in Scythia, north of the Black Sea, where he also suffered death by crucifixion. James, the son of Zebedee, was the first martyr from the ranks of the apostles, dying by the sword of Herod, Acts 12:2. His brother John was the beloved disciple of the Lord. He died at an advanced age in the midst of his congregation at Ephesus. Philip is said to have proclaimed the Gospel in Phrygia, where he suffered martyrdom by crucifixion. Bartholomew, or Nathanael, worked in India and suffered a like fate. Matthew Levi is said to have been the first apostle of the Ethiopians. He was put to death in a frightful manner by nails driven through his body. Thomas Didymus, the Doubter, brought the Gospel-message into the far East, into Media, Persia, and India, where he also died as a martyr. James, the son of Alphaeus, also known as the Younger, Mark 15:40, is probably to be distinguished from James, the brother of the Lord, the author of the Epistle of James. Simon of Cana, called Zelotes, is said to have journeyed as far as the British Isles and there suffered martyrdom. Judas, the son of James, to be distinguished from the brother of James of the same name, was known also as Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus. His field of activity was Arabia. The last apostle, Judas of Kerioth, was the traitor [Besser, Bibelstunden, 1, 240-242].


Verses 17-49

Miracles of healing and preaching

Healings of various kinds:

Luke 6:17-19

17 And He came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of His disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear Him, and to be healed of their diseases; 18 And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. 19 And the whole multitude sought to touch Him: for there went virtue out of Him, and healed them all.


Cross-references

Matthew 5:1; Matthew 15:30-31; Isaiah 53:4-6; Matthew 8:14-17; Matthew 11:1-6; John 20:30-31

This passage shows how far the influence of Christ’s ministry extended. As Jesus came down from the summit of the mountain and reached a plateau on the mountainside, He had before His eyes a great gathering of people. Not only was there a large number of His own disciples, but a large multitude of people from all Judea, from proud Jerusalem, from Tyre and Sidon, the cities by the Mediterranean Sea. They all had come to hear Jesus and to be healed of various diseases. But there were also many of such as were bothered or troubled with evil spirits: all of them gathered about the great Teacher and Healer. The popularity of Jesus had reached its greatest height. All these sick people sought to touch Him; and the pity and sympathy of His Savior’s heart went out to them. Strength, the power of the almighty Physician, went out from His person, and they were all healed.

The beginning of the sermon:

Luke 6:20-23

20 And He lifted up His eyes on His disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. 22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.


Cross-references

Matthew 5:2-12; Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 62:2; Isaiah 66:2; Psalm 70:5; Luke 12:32; Psalm 2:12; Luke 1:46-55; Isaiah 55; Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:13-17; Revelation 21:1-7; Matthew 10:22; John 15:18-19; 1 John 3:13; 1 Peter 4:14; James 1:2-4; John 1:9-13

This discourse is commonly considered as an extract of the Sermon on the Mount, but it is not essential to regard it as such. The Lord may well have spoken on the same subject and in much the same words upon different occasions. The words were addressed chiefly to His disciples, but the other people were also within reach of His voice and had an opportunity to take with them the golden truths which the Lord here uttered. Blessed the poor: Not so much those that are poor in the goods of this world, although the truly poor are usually found among these, but those that are poor in spirit, that in themselves and in the whole world neither have nor find what can truly delight their souls. This poverty has a glorious promise: For yours is the kingdom of God. They will receive the true riches of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Blessed that now hunger: Not spoken of physical hunger, but of that greater desire for the food from on high, the hungering and thirsting after righteousness. They will be filled: The bounteous riches of the beauty of God’s table are theirs. Blessed those that weep now: Such as feel deeply the distress of sins and their consequences and live in constant sorrow because of them. For they shall laugh: The joy of the Redeemer will be theirs, filling them with a happiness beyond all human comprehension. Blessed are ye if the people hate you; if they show this hatred by withdrawing from you, by ostracizing you as people afflicted with a malignant disease; if they vituperate you and cast your name out from them and their society on account of the Savior. Note: So thoroughly has the amalgamation of the world with the Church been done, so far has it progressed, that such isolation is rare in our days, more’s the shame! People that call themselves Christians will rather confine their Christianity and its profession and practise to a few hours on Sunday than to bear the reproach of the Lord, for the sake of the Savior. The spirit of martyrdom seems to have left the Church entirely. Denials of Christ are practised daily, confessions for the sake of the Christian principle are rare. Rejoice in that day and leap: That is a reason for being happy, that the world refuses to recognize the Christians as belonging to them, that they accuse them of narrowness and bigotry, that it withdraws from them; that is an evidence of Christian profession. For, behold, your reward will be great in heaven. Just because it is a reward of mercy, it will be all the more acceptable. When Christians suffer such persecutions, they are but following in the footsteps of the early martyrs, those that preferred death to the denial of the Lord and the Christian doctrines and practises.

A threefold woe:

Luke 6:24-26

24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. 25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. 26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.


Cross-references

Luke 1:46-55; Luke 16:19-31; 1 Timothy 6:9-10; James 5:1-6; Proverbs 30:7-9; Luke 11:3; Matthew 6:2; Revelation 21:8; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; James 4:1-10; 2 Timothy 3:1-7; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Matthew 7:15-20; 2 Peter 2:1-3

Woe unto you rich people! for you have your solace in advance. This is spoken, as often in Scripture, Mark 10:23; 1 Timothy 6:9, of those that place their trust in their money. The Christian that is rich does not think of putting his faith in mammon. He knows that he is not in reality the owner of the goods entered under his name, but the steward of God, with the greater responsibilities, the greater the amount of riches which men call his. And he must give an account on the last day. Those people, therefore, that consider their wealth their own to do with as they please, and who use it with this idea in mind, to receive their good things in the present lifetime, Luke 16:25, have the only solace that they will ever get, Job 31:24. They may seem satisfied and try to persuade themselves and others that they are happy; but what about the world to come? Woe unto you that are filled up; for ye shall hunger. Those that seek the satisfaction of all their desires in this life and are rewarded in such a way that they get all that they have longed for, have their ambition realized. But they will have to suffer hunger throughout eternity. Woe unto you that laugh now; for ye shall mourn and weep. Those that have the motto: Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we shall be dead, and live in accordance with it, may assume a boisterous happiness in the enjoyment of the pleasures of this world. But the time is coming when they must render account of every moment foolishly spent in the lust of the flesh, in the lust of the eyes, in the pride of life. Then there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The last woe is one directed especially to the apostles. If every one speaks well of them, praises them, the chances are that they have omitted some part of their duty, that pertaining to the fearless denunciation of sin. That has ever been a special feature of the false prophet’s work that they preach to the itching ears of the people, 2 Timothy 4:3; Ezekiel 13:18-20; Isaiah 56:10. That is no recommendation, but the strongest censure that could be spoken upon a pastor’s work, that he hurts no one, and that no one hurts him.

The law of love:

Luke 6:27-31

27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, 28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. 29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. 30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. 31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.


Cross-references

Matthew 5:43-44; Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:36-40; Luke 10:25-37; Proverbs 25:21-22; Romans 12:14-21

There is a double contrast here: Jesus had uttered His woes against various classes of people, but that would not give others a right to act in an arbitrary way, according to their own interpretation of the saying; He had addressed His disciples mainly, but now He purposely includes all those that heard His discourse. All that were within reach of His voice at that time, and all that are in a position to hear His words to-day, should observe the law of love toward their enemies. The contrast throughout emphasizes the point which Jesus wishes to make: To love, not friends, for there no urging is needed, but enemies; to do good, not to those that show us every form of kindness, for there the act of reciprocating is self-evident, but to those that hate us; to bless, not those that wish us well, for there we return the greetings as a matter of course, but those that heap imprecations and curses upon us; to pray, not for those whose kind solicitude surrounds us every day, for there the remembrance is almost matter-of-fact, but those that spread calumnies about us. Needless to say, these ethical precepts of Christ must themselves in turn be explained in the spirit of Christ, for He is the highest and best example. Some practical examples to illustrate the scope of the precepts: To the smiter of one cheek the other should be turned; from him that forcibly takes the upper garment the lower should not be withheld; to him that asks we should give; what is taken by force we should cheerfully resign. To that extent will Christian meekness in individual cases go, and where no harm is done to others incidentally. For all of these rules must themselves be understood in the light of the Golden Rule: Just as ye wish that the people should act toward you, just so do ye act toward them. “The Savior gives a touchstone into the hands of His disciples, by which they might prove themselves as to whether their demeanor towards neighbors and enemies was in agreement with their duties. His utterance contains no principle, but the touchstone of morality, since it refers only to an outer form of action. Where it is so used, we shall discover in it a plain, simple, universally applicable precept of the practical wisdom of life, fully fitted for the purpose for which the Savior has given it.” [Schaff, Commentary, Luke, 104].

The application of the Golden Rule:

Luke 6:32-35

32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.


Cross-references

Matthew 5:44-47; Romans 12:14-21; John 13:34-35; Ephesians 5:1-2; Philippians 2:14-16; Psalm 145:8-10; Acts 14:15-18; Romans 1:19-20

There is no special favor or reward of mercy from God to be expected if we love only those that love us; in that case there is a condition of give and take which rewards the people involved. And such evidence of love is nothing extraordinary, for even the sinners, the outcasts, that profess no Christian morality do as much among themselves. The same holds true of doing good when others have done good to us. There is not even the feeling of exhilaration and joy over a good deed that animates us in such a case. And as for helping out some one that is in trouble, the mere lending of money may be a species of selfishness, for it will be for the purpose not only of having the capital returned, but of gaining the interest besides. The law of love requires in such a case rather that we help freely, without expecting anything in return. If the brother gets on his feet again, he will return the money received or pass the kindness on. Where the specific Christian character of works is concerned, the kindness must be that of pure altruism. It is for that reason that love of enemies is urged, and the doing of good where no returns are to be expected. For then the reward of mercy from the Lord will be correspondingly large, and we shall come nearer to the mind which is in our good and gracious Father in heaven. We, as children of the Highest, should exhibit the traits and characteristics of the good God. For He also, in His providence, is good and kind, even to the ungrateful and evil. And our Father will extend His favors to us in full measure, here in time and hereafter in eternity.

The measure of mercifulness:

Luke 6:36-38

36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.


Cross-references

Matthew 7:1-2; Romans 2:1-11; Romans 14:13; James 2:8-13; James 4:11-12; James 5:8-9; John 7:53-8:11; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Matthew 6:9-15; Ephesians 4:30-32; Mark 4:21-25

Not only kindness and goodness is enjoined upon the Christians, but also mercy or mercifulness, something of that divine quality which had compassion upon us in Christ, our Savior. This will include refraining from officious judging and condemning of our neighbor, of his person and manner of life. Some forms of judging are enjoined by Scripture, as that of the erring brother, Matthew 18:15, that of people in public office under a democratic form of government, and others. But so far as the personal life and transgressions of our neighbor are concerned, we must practise forgiveness if we wish to receive forgiveness. We must give if we hope to receive; the measure of God’s gracious kindness being filled in proportion to our sympathetic compassion: a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and flowing over the top will be our portion if we practise the kindness whose example we have received so richly in our own lives. The generousness of our own nature and the graciousness of God’s spirit are placed side by side, for our emulation, since the thought of His plenteous redemption should be a spur for us, Psalm 130:7. “Where this mercy is not found, there is no faith. For if thy heart is full of faith that thou knowest that thy God has shown Himself thus to thee, with such mercy and goodness, without thy merit and altogether for nothing, while thou wert still His enemy and a child of eternal curse: if thou believest this, thou canst not refrain from showing thyself to thy neighbor in the same manner, and all that for love of God and for the benefit of thy neighbor. See to it, then, that thou make no difference between friend and enemy, worthy and unworthy; for thou seest that all those mentioned here have earned the opposite of our love and goodness.” [Luther, 11, 1275; 13, 378]. “Therefore, if thy brother be a sinner, cover his sins and pray for him. If thou reveal his sin, thou art truly not a child of the merciful Father, for else thou wouldst be merciful like Him. That surely is true, that we cannot show such mercy to our neighbor as God has shown to us, but that is our great wickedness, that we act contrary to mercy; and that is a sure sign that we have no mercy.” [Luther, 11, 1281].

Parabolic sayings:

Luke 6:39-42

39 And He spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? 40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. 41 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 42 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.


Cross-references

Matthew 7:3-5; Matthew 15:13-14; Matthew 23:13-26; Isaiah 56:10-11

The proverbial saying concerning the blind people that attempt to lead others that are afflicted in the same way is here applied to such as have neither the proper understanding of mercy and goodness nor of their application in their relation toward their neighbor. Whosoever wants to show another person the way and teach him how to walk properly must first have the proper knowledge himself. He that wants to correct the sins and weaknesses of others must have gained the right knowledge concerning his own sinful condition. For the disciple is not above his teacher; he cannot learn more than his master knows and practises. He that presumes to teach others should not demand more of them than he himself is able to perform. The master is the pupil’s pattern; if the latter has attained to that perfection, he is satisfied. Therefore guard against uncharitable judging and condemning. He that is always ready with blame, censure, and condemnation is as one that readily sees the mote, the tiny speck of dust, in his brother’s eye, and feels the greatest concern for his brother and his brother’s welfare until he has removed the insignificant dust, while he himself, during the whole process, has a beam in his own eye, which actually prevents his seeing clearly. A hypocrite, an actor of the worst kind, the Lord calls such a person, since his own infirmity and condition makes him unfit to be a fair judge. The proverbs in use to-day: Let each one sweep his own stoop first; and, They that live in glass houses must not cast stones, fitly give the sense of the Lord’s injunction. Cp. Matthew 7:3. “Therefore a Christian should train himself differently. When he sees the mote in his neighbor’s eye, he should first, before he judges, step to the mirror and examine himself closely. There he will find such great beams that one could make pig-troughs out of them, so that he would be obliged to say: What shall this be? My neighbor grieves me once in a quarter, a half, a whole year; and I have grown so old and have never kept my God’s commandments, yea, I transgress them every hour and moment; how can I be such a desperate scoundrel? My sins are all immense oak-trees, and that poor splinter, the dust in my brother’s eye, I suffer to excite me more than my great beam? But it must not be; I must first see how I may become rid of my sin; there I shall have so much to do that I may well forget the tiny splinter. For I am disobedient to God, to my government, to my father and mother, to my master, and I continue herein and do not stop sinning; and yet I want to be unmerciful against my neighbor and not overlook a single word? O no: Christians must not act thus.” [Luther, 13, 750].

A further application:

Luke 6:43-45

43 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.


Cross-references

Matthew 7:15-20; Matthew 12:33-37; Matthew 15:18-19; Matthew 6:22-23; Galatians 5:16-26; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 2 Peter 2; 1 John 4:1-6; James 2:18-19; Titus 1:16; 1 John 2:4; John 15:4-5

The heart of a man is like a tree, whose fruits are the works of the man. It is the nature of a good tree to bring forth good fruit; it is the nature of a rotten, evil tree to bring forth bad fruit. By its fruit a tree is judged. To attempt to gather figs from thorns is just as foolish as to look for grapes on bramble-bushes. Even so a man whose heart has been renewed by faith, and thus has been changed to a truly good heart, will produce out of this truly good heart good works that will stand the test of God’s scrutiny. On the other hand, a person whose heart has not been changed by faith and is thus evil before God, will bring forth only such works as must be condemned in His sight. As is the heart, so is the utterance. Cp. Psalm 36:1.

A warning in conclusion:

Luke 6:46-49

46 And why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? 47 Whosoever cometh to Me, and heareth My sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: 48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. 49 But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.


Cross-references

Matthew 7:21-27; John 15:1-11; James 1:22; Romans 3:28-31; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11; Matthew 21:42-44; 1 Peter 2:1-10; Ephesians 2:8-10

A word of searching earnestness to such as make Christianity a mere confession, but not a profession, which they practise, that make great protestations of loyalty to Christ, but do not back up their words with concrete proofs. To contradict with every act in life what one vehemently asserts to be his conviction is the most miserable form of contradiction. And in the end, the mere confessor will find his house of cards and hypocrisy toppling about his ears. To impress this fact upon His hearers, Christ places two men before them in a parable. The first one wanted to build a house; so he dug and kept on deepening his trenches until he was sure that he had struck bed-rock. There he laid a solid foundation, upon which he proceeded to build his house. Then came the test. A flood came rushing in like the billows of the sea, and the angry waters tugged at the foundation of that house, but could not budge it: it was built well, with firm solidity. That is the faith of a man that trusts in Jesus with all his heart as his Savior. The second man also wanted to build a house. But he set the rafters and joists on the ground without any foundation; he built at haphazard on the surface. When the rushing stream of the flood struck this edifice to tug at its walls, it toppled over and sank down quickly, and the fall of that house was great. That is the faith and the fate of a man that confesses Christ merely with his lips and draws nigh to Him only with his mouth. In times of stress and danger, when the storms of life beat against the weak heart, there is only one rock that will weather every gale, that is Jesus the Christ, the one and only Savior of mankind. To learn to put his trust in the Redeemer and the glorious Gospel of the redemption through His blood must be the constant effort of every Christian. And the true believer will not be satisfied with a mere beginning, but will dig and keep deepening his knowledge of God’s Word and will, in order that he may be prepared for the evil days, and for the hours of the valley of the shadow of death.

Summary

Jesus has two disputes with scribes and Pharisees concerning the observance of Sabbath and the works permitted thereon, selects His twelve apostles, performs many miracles, and teaches the apostles and a great many people on the mountainside.


Chapter 7

Verses 1-10

The centurion of Capernaum

The prayer of the centurion:

Luke 7:1-5

1 Now when He had ended all His sayings in the audience of the people, He entered into Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto Him the elders of the Jews, beseeching Him that He would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought Him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom He should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.


Cross-references

Matthew 8:5-7; Matthew 4:12-17; Mark 2:1-2; Matthew 11:20-24; Psalm 107:19-20; James 5:11; Isaiah 60:3; Luke 3:2-3,14; Matthew 27:50-54; Acts 10:21-23

Jesus brought His long discourse to a close. It was addressed to the hearing of the people; they were not merely to listen inattentively and forget all the precepts within a few minutes, but their hearing, their understanding, was to take hold of the great truths, in order that they might become the property of the mind, and be received into the heart. Some time afterward, Jesus entered into Capernaum. In this city there lived a certain centurion, officer of a Roman garrison stationed there, probably on account of the great highway that led through here from Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea. This Roman officer had become acquainted with books of the Jews and with the hopes of the Messiah, of whom they were always speaking. He had also come to the conclusion that Jesus, by whose hand such great miracles were being performed throughout Galilee, must be the promised Messiah. This centurion had a servant who, though a slave, was very dear to him, for he was a humane master. This servant had been taken ill and was at the point of death. Since the reports concerning Christ’s activity, which reached the officer from time to time, had given him the conviction that here was the great promised prophet of the Jews, he sent a delegation to Jesus at this time. The men whom he sent were carrying out his embassy, speaking in his name; he spoke through them, Matthew 8:5. They were elders of the people, probably officers of the synagog, for not all Jewish leaders joined in the campaign of hate against Jesus. These men carried out the centurion’s wishes in a very able manner. They not only stated the earnest prayer that the Lord would come and restore to full health the servant, but they also added some reasons why Jesus ought to grant the request. They declared the centurion to be worthy of help, since he was not one of the proud Romans that vexed and oppressed the Jews upon every occasion, but rather loved the nation. He had lived among them for so long that he had conceived a genuine liking for their doctrine and for their religious institutions. This affection had taken the form of building a synagog for the Jews as a token of regard. “The Deutsche Orientgesellschaft, which was carrying on excavations in Egypt, Babylonia, and Assyria, undertook the investigation of the remains of ancient synagogs in Galilee and the Jaulan. Among these they excavated the ruins of the synagog at Tell Hum on the Sea of Galilee, the probable site of Capernaum. Here they found the remains of a once beautiful synagog which was probably built in the fourth century A. D. Beneath this is the floor of a still older building. The last is probably the synagog in which so many of the incidents of the ministry of Christ in Capernaum took place, the one built by a Roman centurion.” [Barton, Archeology and the Bible, 98].

The faith of the centurion:

Luke 7:6-10

Then Jesus went with them. And when He was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying unto Him, Lord, trouble not Thyself: for I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto Thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things, He marvelled at him, and turned Him about, and said unto the people that followed Him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.


Cross-references

Matthew 8:8-13; Mark 6:1-6; Luke 13:22-30; Galatians 3:7-9; Galatians 3:27-29

Strange disagreement! The Jewish elders declare that he is worthy, the centurion says that he is not worthy. They had intimated in their petition that it would be best for Jesus to come, and He, accordingly, went with them. The officer maintains that so much bother and inconvenience on the part of Christ was too much honor for him. When the centurion received the news that Jesus was coming in person, a possibility with which he had not reckoned, the fear of his unworthiness took hold of him. Jesus was even now quite near. Therefore the Roman quickly dispatches other friends to intercept Him, saying that Christ should not bother, should not put Himself out by coming in person. He as the host, and his house as reception-hall for the Most High: that seemed altogether too incongruous to him. For that reason also he had not come in person, but had sent a delegation to plead with the Lord. Note: The argument of the centurion is a model of humility, especially since he does not draw the conclusion, but makes his object so obvious that the effect is all the more overwhelming. He himself was a mere man; Christ was the Lord from heaven. He was a man under authority, in a constant state of subordination; Christ was the King of kings, the Lord of lords. Yet the centurion could give commands which his soldiers and his slave must carry out at once at his bidding, so great was the authority of a mere man. Surely here was a clear case: Speak only in a word, by means of a single word, and the sickness must obey Thy almighty will. He that has the true, living faith in his heart realizes his own unworthiness and weakness before the Lord, and yet he does not doubt, but firmly believes, that the Lord of heaven loves him and will gladly help him. The believer understands what mercy is, and that the mercy of God is intended for those that are without worthiness and merit.

This argument of faith conquered Jesus. He was filled with astonishment; He turned to the multitude that was following Him and said: I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. In the midst of the chosen people, to whom were entrusted the words of the revelation of God, the majority, if not all, should have felt as this Roman officer did, but they were here put to shame by an outsider. And in His joy over this rare find Jesus spoke the word for which the centurion had pleaded. When those that had been sent returned to the centurion’s house, they found the sick servant restored to perfect health. Thus was the faith of this heathen rewarded. Faith at all times takes hold of Christ, the almighty, kind Helper and Savior, and thus it accepts from Christ help, comfort, grace, and every good thing. Faith depends entirely upon the Word, and therefore takes and puts into its own possession all that the Word promises.


Verses 11-17

Raising of the widow’s son

The miracle:

Luke 7:11-15

11 And it came to pass the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and much people. 12 Now when He came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. 14 And He came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And He said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And He delivered him to his mother.


Cross-references

Psalm 68:4-5; Luke 8:40-56; Revelation 21:3-4

Jesus did not remain in Capernaum after he had healed the centurion’s servant, for the very next day we find Him approaching the little town of Nain, which was located at about an equal distance from Nazareth and Mount Tabor, to the south. Its name, Vale of Beauty, gives some idea of the surroundings, as they were also described by the early church historians. Jesus was accompanied, not only by a large number of His disciples, but also by a great multitude of people. As they came near to the gate of the city, a sad sight met their eyes, a funeral train just leaving the town for the burial-ground outside the gates. This was an exceptionally sad funeral, since the dead man was an only son, and his mother was a widow. Both husband and son taken away by death: her position merited sympathy such as was given her by her fellow-citizens, a great multitude of whom went with her to the grave. “This woman had two misfortunes on her back. First, she is a widow; that is a misfortune enough for a woman that she is desolate and alone, has no one from whom she may expect comfort. And for that reason God is often called in Scriptures a Father of the widows and orphans, as Psalm 68:5, and Psalm 146:9: The Lord preserveth the strangers; He relieveth the fatherless and widow. Secondly, she had only one single son, and he dies before her, though he might have been her comfort. Thus God acts here, takes the husband and the son away; she would much more gladly have lost house and home, yea, her own body than this son and her husband.” “But this is pictured before us that we should learn that before God nothing is impossible, whether it be called damage, adversity, wrath, as severe as it may be, and remember that God sometimes suffers the punishment to go both over the good and the evil, yea, that He even permits the evil people to sit in the garden of roses and lets them suffer no want, but toward the pious He acts as though He is angry with them and cares nothing for them.” [Luther, 11, 1649. 1660]. Note: There is a great contrast between the procession which is leaving the city, with sad and mournful steps, and that which is about to enter the city, happy because of the Savior in their midst. As Luther says, the Lord here boldly steps in the way of death, as the Mighty One, who has authority and might over him. Also: In Capernaum it is the daughter of Jairus, a mere child, that has barely closed her eyes in death; at Nain it is a young man, in the strength of incipient manhood, whose body is on the way to the place of burial; at Bethany it is a man in his best years that has rested in the grave for four days; surely enough diversity in these miracles of raising the dead.

When Jesus saw the funeral procession and noticed the peculiar sadness of the burial, His heart was moved with the deepest sympathy for the bereaved mother. He had all the feelings of a true man, and those feelings, which are brought out in our case but imperfectly and unwillingly, He showed without reserve, Hebrews 4:15. His word to the widow was: “Weep not!” With what an expression of heartfelt compassion Jesus must have spoken the word, and how fully the poor woman realized the cordiality of the greeting and its power, to which she clung! So the Lord often reminds also us, when we are in great sorrow and trouble, of some of the verses and Scripture-passages which we learned in our youth or read at some time, as a form of introduction to the help which He graciously grants us. Jesus then stepped to the frame upon which the dead man lay, He touched the coffin: the hand of Life rapped at the chamber of death. Those who carried the coffin stood at the touch of the Lord’s hand. Then Jesus, as the Lord of life and death, gave a peremptory command: Young man, to thee I say, arise! He speaks to the dead as though he were merely sleeping. At His word the soul is reunited with the body, and death must yield up his prey. And the dead man, who was all ready to be buried, suddenly sat up and began to speak. He was restored to life. And Jesus gave him back to his mother, restored to the widow the one treasure which remained for her in life. She had been “surrounded with great pains and terror that she must have thought that God, heaven, earth, and everything were against her; and because she looks at things according to her flesh, she must conclude that it is impossible for her to be relieved of this fear. But when her son was awakened from death, then no other feeling took hold of her than as though heaven and earth, wood and stones, and everything was happy with her; then she forgot all pain and sorrow; all that went away; just as when a spark of fire is extinguished when it falls in the midst of the sea.” [Luther, 11, 1653]. On the last day, when the Lord will return for judgment, He will halt the great funeral procession which is moving forward all over the world, He will bring the dead back to life, He will heal all wounds which death has made, He will reunite all those whom death has separated. Then there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, Revelation 21:4. That is the hope of the believers. While they are in this vale of tears, they cling to the hope of the Gospel. And this hope will then be realized and revealed in them.

The effect of the miracle:

Luke 7:16-17

16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited His people. 17 And this rumour of Him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.


Cross-references

Deuteronomy 18:15; Luke 9:28-35; Matthew 21:1–11; Luke 2:8-20; Matthew 9:1-8; Jude 24-25; Revelation 5:6-14

At this manifestation of almighty power which they had seen with their eyes, a fear and dread of the supernatural fell upon, took hold of, all the people. They felt the presence of God in this Man of Nazareth. But they did not acknowledge Him as the Messiah in spite of the greatness of the miracle. Merely as a great prophet they heralded Him; only as a visitation of God’s grace did they look upon His coming. Their faith and understanding fell far short of that of the centurion of Capernaum. A mere recognition and acceptance of Jesus as a great prophet and social reformer is not sufficient at any time. All men must know Him to be the one and only Savior of the world. Only this knowledge and trust will bring salvation.


Verses 18-35

The embassy of John the Baptist

The question of the Baptist:

Luke 7:18-20

18 And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things. 19 And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art Thou He that should come? or look we for another? 20 When the men were come unto Him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto Thee, saying, Art Thou He that should come? or look we for another?


Cross-references

Matthew 11:1-3; Luke 3:1-6; John 1:6-8; Matthew 14:3-5; Matthew 9:14-17; Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 49:10; Deuteronomy 18:15; Psalm 2; Psalm 110; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6-7; Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38; John 20:30-31

After John the Baptist had been sure of the identity of Christ, John 1:29-34, he had made an earnest effort to get his disciples to follow Jesus. A few left and joined the ranks of the disciples of the Lord. But some refused to give up their allegiance to John. They could not distinguish between essentials and non-essentials; they felt that the austere life of John the Baptist belonged to the substance of a moral life. But many of them hovered about Christ and reported to John what they thought worth while. The great miracle of the raising of the young man at Nain made a deep impression upon some of them, and they hastened to the prison of John and gave him a report concerning this last miraculous deed. John now thought the time ripe for a last effort to lead his disciples to Jesus. For that reason he delegated two of them to go to Jesus with the question: Art Thou He that is coming, that should come, the promised Messiah, or must we expect, and prepare for, another? The disciples of John carried out his order very faithfully, repeating the very words of their master.

Christ’s reference to the prophecy:

Luke 7:21-23

21 And in that same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind He gave sight. 22 Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. 23 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me.


Cross-references

Matthew 11:4-6; Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 15:29-31; Luke 4:16-21; John 11:23-27; John 11:38-44; Matthew 10:8; John 20:30-31; 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

The time of their coming to Jesus could not have been arranged more auspiciously. For just then Jesus was busily engaged with performing miracles of all kinds: He cured many of sicknesses, of plagues which were scourges upon their backs; He healed some of evil spirits; to many that were blind He granted the priceless favor or boon of sight. With reference to these and other miracles Jesus reminded the messengers of the Baptist of a prophecy which had been spoken concerning the Messiah, Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 61:1-2. There miracles of all kinds, also in the field of physical healing, had been foretold as taking place through the power of the Messiah. Cp. Matthew 11:4-6. Any one that pays the slightest attention to the Old Testament prophecy, and compares it with the present visible fulfilment, cannot doubt that Jesus is the Christ. And Jesus adds a word of warning for the special benefit of the two disciples: Blessed is he that shall not be offended in Me. That was the danger for all those disciples of John that were not satisfied with the manner in which the disciples of Jesus were conducting themselves, without regard to the rules of the elders about fasting and washing of hands, etc., Luke 5:30. If a person is so carried away with a false asceticism that he wants to curtail the liberty of the New Testament, and for that reason is offended at Jesus the Christ, he has only himself to blame for the evil consequences.

Christ’s testimony concerning John:

Luke 7:24-27

24 And when the messengers of John were departed, He began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 25 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts. 26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. 27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.


Cross-references

Matthew 11:7-10; Luke 1:57,80; Ephesians 4:11-16; Luke 1:76-79; Malachi 3:1; Mark 1:1-3

Cp. Matthew 11:7-15. The Lord took this opportunity to bear witness to John and his ministry. The happenings of that time were so recent that they were still fresh in the memory. He put the question to the whole multitude, since many of them, undoubtedly, had been among those that were drawn by the reputation and by the powerful sermons of John. Had they gone out into the wilderness to see a reed agitated and swayed by the wind? John had not been a weathervane in his preaching, 2 Timothy 4:2-5. He had spoken the truth in a most uncompromising way, regardless of the fact that the great ones of the earth may have felt offended. Had they gone out into the wilderness to find a man clothed in soft garments? There is a place for such people; they may be found among those that live in the houses of kings. There those living in luxury and clothed with splendid apparel properly belonged. But John was a poor preacher of repentance. The luxuries of life had no appeal for him; he spurned the delicate side of wealth. Note: There is a fine hint in both references of the Lord for him that will read aright. But now came the main question: Had they gone out to see a prophet? Then indeed they had not been disappointed. For John was a prophet, and greater than the prophets of old. Of him it had been prophesied that he should be a messenger before the face of the Messiah, to prepare the way before Him, Malachi 3:1.

Further praise of John:

Luke 7:28-30

28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. 29 And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.


Cross-references

Matthew 11:11-15; John 1:1-34; John 3:25-36

High praise indeed: All the prophets of old merely prophesied of the Messiah as one coming in the future, John pointed to the present Christ, testified of Him directly. And yet, by a strange paradox, he that is smaller than all in the kingdom of God is greater than John. Though John bore witness of Jesus as having come into the midst of His people, he yet saw but the dawn, and not the full break of day. His work was finished, his course was run before Christ entered into His glory. And so the children of the New Testament that have the complete fulfilment of the prophecy before their eyes, that know Christ crucified and resurrected, that possess the complete account of salvation in the writings of the evangelists and apostles, these have a greater revelation and a brighter light than even John the Baptist. But in spite of John’s greatness, his ministry did not receive the recognition everywhere that it should have had. The popular judgment, indeed, had agreed with the estimate which Jesus had just given. The whole people, even the publicans, had, by submitting to the baptism of John, acknowledged the power of God in him, had endorsed him as a prophet. But the Pharisees and scribes had been found a sad exception. The counsel of God with regard to the salvation of all men concerned also them, they were invited as well as the others. But they deliberately rejected and spurned this counsel of love; they refused to be baptized by John; they preferred the damnation brought upon them by their hard-heartedness. This has always been the fate of the Gospel-message with regard to the majority of people. God calls out to the whole world, He invites all men without exception to become partakers of His grace and mercy in Jesus Christ the Savior. But they refuse to accept His love and the proffered hand of help; they prefer to continue in their life of sin and thus are condemned by their own fault.

Parable of the children in the market-place:

Luke 7:31-35

31 And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like? 32 They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept. 33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil. 34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners! 35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.


Cross-references

Matthew 11:16-19; Matthew 16:1-4; Luke 11:29-32; Luke 1:13-15,80; Mark 1:6; Matthew 9:9-13

The Lord here scores the inconsistency of the Jewish people as a whole, and especially of their leaders, by comparing their actions to those of capricious, peevish children, whom no game will suit that their playmates propose. If these play on the flute, they refuse to dance to the tune; if they sing a mournful song to them, they refuse to simulate sorrow. In the language which Jesus spoke, there is a fine play on words in this passage, which brings out the emphasis of His thought very beautifully. Just as in the case of these children, no one can please the Jews, neither John nor Christ. John preached the baptism unto repentance and led a strict and austere life, and their verdict was: He is possessed of a demon; he is not in his right mind; why listen to him? When Jesus came, He introduced no such peculiarities, but lived and acted like other people, only with a kindly sympathy for all men. And this behavior they distorted into a frightful caricature; calling Him a glutton, a drunkard, a companion of publicans and sinners. Thus the Jews contradicted themselves to their own condemnation. But Jesus reminds them of a proverbial saying: Wisdom is justified of all her own children. There is no disagreement between this passage and that Matthew 11:19. By a slight change in vocalization the Aramaic word used by Jesus may mean either “works” or “children.” Both renderings are inspired and accepted by God. The personal, divine Wisdom, Christ, Proverbs 8, was obliged to justify Himself against the judicial verdict of those who should have been His children by faith, but who refused to accept Him. His work stood the test of God’s judgment in spite of their unbelief.


Verses 36-50

The first anointing of Jesus

The anointing:

Luke 7:36-38

36 And one of the Pharisees desired Him that He would eat with him. And He went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, 38 And stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment.


Cross-references

Luke 11:37-44; Luke 14:1-6; Matthew 26:6-13

Jesus was the friend of publicans and sinners, but not in the derogatory sense in which His enemies used the word. The true nature of His relations to the classes of people that were held in such contempt by the self-righteous Pharisees is shown in this story. One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to take dinner with him, and Jesus accepted, going into the house and reclining at the table. There is no mention of the preliminary usages and customs by which a host among the Jews honored his guest. Then a strange incident took place. A woman of the city, a notorious character, heard of Christ’s presence in the house of the Pharisee. She had been deceived by the apparent pleasures of sin, she had received gall and wormwood instead of the expected honey, and now she was, in desperation, looking down into the abyss of a life of shame. But the news of Jesus, the Savior of sinners, whose kindness to the lowly and outcast was heralded far and wide, had brought her to the realization of her position; she now felt the full weight of her corruption and misery. So she bought an alabaster vase of costly ointment and, coming into the house, she stood at the feet of Jesus, weeping so bitterly in the full consciousness of her sinfulness that her tears washed the feet of Jesus, and she could try them off with her hair. And she kissed His feet again and again and anointed them with her precious salve. It was an exhibition of overwhelming sorrow, combined with an almost pitiful clinging to the Lord as the only one in whom she could put her trust. And the tears of her sorrow, as one commentator has it, became tears of ineffable joy that Jesus did not spurn her, that she had a Savior with a heart full of loving sympathy and boundless grace for even the worst of sinners.

The Pharisee’s condemnation:

Luke 7:39-40

39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden Him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if He were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him: for she is a sinner. 40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.


Cross-references

Luke 15:1-7; Luke 7:11-17; Luke 7:22–23; John 6:61-62

The host had watched the entire proceeding with ill-concealed disgust. The very thought of Jesus’ being touched by such a notorious character made him shudder. And therefore he passed the verdict in his heart that Jesus could not be a prophet. The tears of the woman were disagreeable to him, and the smell of the ointment filled him with loathing. Note: The same spirit of self-righteous repulsiveness is found in the modern Pharisees. They draw aside their silken skirts or their fur-lined overcoats, even when they are given the assurance that a former sinner has left the path of transgression, not knowing that their hearts are filled with a far worse, a much more dangerous disease, that of pride and conceit. But Jesus knew the thoughts of the Pharisee, and He soon gave him evidence that He was a prophet who knew the hearts of men. He determined to give this haughty Pharisee a much-needed lesson, but in a kind and gentle way, with the object of convincing and gaining him. The host politely acquiesced when the Lord asked him whether He might tell him a certain matter, lay a certain case before him.

The parable and its application:

Luke 7:41-46

41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And He said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 44 And He turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest Me no water for My feet: but she hath washed My feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest Me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss My feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed My feet with ointment.


Cross-references

Matthew 18:21-35; Matthew 25:31-46

Two debtors were to one creditor; a fine bit of emphasis for the sake of the application of the parable: Simon and the woman, both debtors to the Lord. In the one case the debt was very large, five hundred Denarii, almost eighty-five dollars [Luco note: About $1,450 in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator]; in the other very small, only one-tenth of that sum. Both were unable to pay, both were excused from paying the debt. Now the question was: Which of the two debtors was under the greater obligation to the Lord, and whose love would therefore be the greater? The answer was obvious, although the Pharisee answered somewhat cautiously that such was his opinion. Jesus accepted the answer gravely. But now came the application. For the first time Jesus turned to the woman directly and also asks Simon to look at her whom he had despised so absolutely. For the proud Pharisee could learn a lesson from the outcast of society. Jesus draws a parallel between the behavior of Simon and of this woman. Note the sharp contrast throughout the description: water — tears; kiss of welcome — repeated kisses; common oil — precious ointment. Simon had not even observed the common courtesies invariably extended to a visitor or guest. When a guest came to the house of a Jew, he was greeted with a salutation and with a kiss, out under the entrance portico. Then the servants brought the water for rinsing off the feet, since people wore only sandals, and their feet became very dusty. And then followed the anointing with oil, of which a few drops were poured on the head of the guest [Goodwin, Moses et Aaron, 476-486]. The words of Christ were a fine, effective reproof. “That, then, is the office of Christ the Lord which He carries on in the world, namely, that He rebukes sin and forgives sin. He rebukes the sin of those that do not acknowledge their sin, and especially of those that do not want to be sinners and consider themselves holy, as this Pharisee did. He forgives sin to those that feel it and desire forgiveness; as this woman was a sinner. With His rebuke He earns little thanks; with the forgiveness of sins He succeeds in having His doctrine branded as heresy and blasphemy. … But neither should be omitted. The preaching unto repentance and the rebuking we must have, in order that people come to the knowledge of their sins and become meek. The preaching of grace and of forgiveness of sins we must have, in order that the people do not fall into despair. Therefore the preacher’s office should preserve the mean between presumption and despair, that preaching is done thus that people neither become presumptuous nor despair.” [Luther, 13b, 2762. 2764].

The lesson:

Luke 7:47-50

47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And He said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with Him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And He said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.


Cross-references

Daniel 9:9; Psalm 32:1,11; Psalm 103:1-4; Matthew 9:22; Luke 5:17-26

On the basis of the parable and the facts as stated by Christ, He tells Simon: Forgiven are her many sins, for she loved much. The fact that her many grievous trespasses had found forgiveness in the sight of Christ and God filled her heart with joyful love, which she was constrained to show by her outward behavior. The forgiveness was not the result of the love, but the love followed and flowed out of the forgiveness, just as the sun does not shine because it is light outside, but it is light because the sun shines. “The Papists adduce this verse against our doctrine of faith and say, Since Christ says: Her many sins are forgiven because she loved much, therefore forgiveness of sins is not obtained by faith, but by love. But that this cannot be the meaning the parable proves, which shows clearly that love follows out of faith. Therefore, when one has forgiveness of sins and believes, there faith follows. Where one does not have forgiveness, there is no love.” [Cp. Luther, 7, 1456]. On the other hand, there is no partial forgiveness. A sinner to whom certain grievous sins are forgiven has forgiveness of them all. Simon’s lack of love proved that he had no forgiveness, in fact, cared nothing about forgiveness in his proud Pharisaic mind. But to the woman Jesus now said: Forgiven are thy sins. This word out of the Savior’s mouth was the seal and surety of her forgiveness. It was the word which inflamed the glow of her faith into a rich fire. Though the other guests took offense at the words of Jesus, He continued in His kind assurance to the poor woman. Her faith, which she had proved by her love, had saved her. Through her faith she had accepted the redemption of Jesus, she was a blessed child of salvation.

Summary

Jesus heals the servant of the centurion of Capernaum, raises the widow’s son of Nain, receives an embassy of John the Baptist, and is anointed in the house of a Pharisee, teaching a lesson in faith and forgiveness.


Chapter 8

Verses 1-21

Teaching in parables

Women minister unto Christ:

Luke 8:1-3

1 And it came to pass afterward, that He went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with Him, And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto Him of their substance.


Cross-references

Luke 4:43; Matthew 4:23-25; John 19:25; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:50-56; Luke 24:1-12

As usual, Luke is not concerned about the exact sequence of events that happened at about the same time, in this case during the ministry of Jesus in Galilee. Some time afterward, while the Lord was still in Galilee, He passed along through, He made a tour of the cities and towns of, that part of Palestine. His chief work is again brought into the foreground, proclaiming and gospeling the kingdom of God, preaching the good news of the salvation of mankind. This fact cannot be emphasized often enough, especially in these days of the perversion of the doctrine of redemption. The twelve apostles were with the Lord on this tour; they were the theological students, receiving both theoretical and practical training in the school of Jesus. But there were also others with Him, certain women whom Luke mentions by name, a feature of his gospel. Mary, who was called Magdalene, had been healed by Jesus when He drove seven demons out of her. Johanna, or Joanna, the wife of Chuza, the administrator, or steward, of Herod, and Susanna, and many others, Matthew 27:55, had also received special favors at the hand of Jesus, as being healed of evil spirits and sicknesses. These were bound to Jesus by the bonds of gratitude, and they were glad and proud to be of service to Him with their goods, for some of them were well-to-do. Christian women have at all times counted it an honor to be able to serve their Master with their substance and with their service. We see here an emancipation of woman in the noblest sense of the word, and the beginning of the service of women in the Church of Christ, and at the same time a decided triumph of the evangelical spirit over the limitation of Jewish rabbinism.

The parable of the fourfold soil:

Luke 8:4-8

And when much people were gathered together, and were come to Him out of every city, He spake by a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when He had said these things, He cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.


Cross-references

Matthew 13:1-9; Mark 4:1-9; Psalm 78:1-4

The fame of Christ was still spreading so rapidly that people from all the cities and towns from near and far came together to see and hear Him. They came out to Him as He was on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and He used a boat as His pulpit, in order that He might reach them all, Matthew 13:2; Mark 4:1. He spoke to the people of the mysteries of the kingdom of God through parables, of which one is given by Luke. There went out a sower to sow his seed. The picture is that of a farmer casting forth the seed broadcast over the land, every year with new diligence and hope, just as the longsuffering and kindness of the heavenly Sower does not become weary in spite of much apparently lost work, Isaiah 49:4. His work is an example to the present day. “Every pious preacher, when he sees that things will not go forward, but seem to be growing worse, feels almost disgusted about his preaching, and yet he cannot and dare not desist, for the sake of even a few elect. And that is written for our consolation and admonition, that we should not be surprised or think it strange even though few people accept the benefit of our doctrine, and some even become worse. For commonly the preachers, especially when they are new and but recently come from the shop, believe that there should be success immediately, as soon as they have done speaking, and everything should be done and changed quickly. But that will miss the object far. The prophets and Christ Himself had that experience.” [Luther, quoted in Besser, Bibelstunden, 1, 334]. As the sower, in the patient work of his calling, cast his seed, some of it overshot the mark, falling on the path which crossed the field. This was a feature of the landscape in Palestine, that the paths between the various towns and hamlets followed the nearest way and the easiest slopes, without regard for grain-fields. The result was that the travelers that used the path trod the seed to pieces, and the winged animals of the air, the fowls, came and devoured it. Other grains fell upon the rock, upon rocky soil, where the bed-rock came to within a few inches of the surface. Here was moisture and warmth, the best conditions for quick germination, but not enough moisture and soil to support a growing plant. The stone below caught the heat of the sun, causing every bit of moisture in that spot to evaporate. Still other seeds fell into the midst of the thorns, where the preparation of the soil had not succeeded in grubbing out the roots of the weeds. When the seed, therefore, had sprouted, and the blades grew up, the hardier thorns absorbed both sun and air and thus choked the tender plants. Only the seed that fell upon the good soil fulfilled the farmer’s hopes; it grew, not only into blades, but it formed heads which were filled with grain and matured with rich returns, up to an hundredfold. After having told this parable, Jesus added a warning and pleading word that the people should hear in truth, not only with the ears of the body, but also with their spiritual ears, to get the full understanding of the lesson which He wished to convey to them.

The explanation of the parable:

Luke 8:9-15

And His disciples asked Him, saying, What might this parable be? 10 And He said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God. 12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.


Cross-references

Matthew 13:10-23; Mark 4:10-20; Psalm 78:1-4; Deuteronomy 29:2-6; Isaiah 6:9-10; Isaiah 42:1,18; Jeremiah 5:21-24; Ezekiel 12:1-2; Romans 11:1-24; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; 2 Corinthians 4:1-6; John 15:5; John 3:16-21; 1 John 2:15-17; 1 Peter 5:6-11

The disciples at that time had as yet little spiritual knowledge and understanding. And so Jesus patiently explains to them the meaning of the parable, since to them it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, not by their merit or worthiness, nor because they had been interested in Christ or His work by their own reason and strength. In case of the others, however, that did not want to believe, the parables served a different purpose. Seeing they should not see, and hearing they should not understand. The eyes of their bodies might behold all that was going on in miracles and other happenings, and yet they would not recognize the power of God, the Messiahship of Jesus. Their ears might hear the sounds of the words, but their meaning was hidden from them. What Isaiah had been obliged to say with regard to the hardening of Israel was being fulfilled, Isaiah 6:9-10. The judgment of God upon a disobedient people had begun in the days of Isaiah, and was completed in the days of Christ and the apostles. It is an earnest warning for all times, 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. Christ’s explanation of the parable was brief and simple. The seed of which He speaks is the Word. That shall be strewn, that shall be scattered broadcast again and again, with patient labor. The first class of hearers are those by the wayside, hearers only. There is not even a chance for the Word to begin its saving influence in their case. The seed is lying on top of the hearts, and the devil takes it away, lest, believing, they should be saved. “Therefore He says that the devil comes and takes the Word from their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. Which power of the devil not only signifies this, that the hearts, hardened by worldly ideas and life, lose the Word and let it escape, that they never understand it, but also that in the place of the Word of God the devil sends false teachers that tread it down with doctrines of men. For both is here given, that the seed is trodden down on the path and that it is eaten by the birds.” [Luther, 11, 516]. The second class of hearers are those that have a mere veneer, a shallow covering of Christianity. With them the “getting religion” is merely an incident, and they are able to change their profession like their clothes. There is no idea of indoctrination in their case; they are not firmly grounded and rooted in Scriptures. They are violent enthusiasts while it lasts, but the excitement does not last. For a time, and usually a short time, at that, they are prominently identified with the work of the Church. But then their interest flags and departs as suddenly as it came into being. In the time of temptation, when there seems to be danger of suffering for the sake of their convictions, they are no longer among those present. “The second class contains those that accept with joy, but they do not hold out. This is also a great crowd, that hear the Word properly and accept it in its purity, without any sects and schismatics and enthusiasts; they are glad also that they may know the right truth and find how we may be saved without works through faith; also because they have been delivered from the imprisonment of the Law, the conscience, and human doctrine. But when it comes to the battle, that they should on that account suffer harm, contempt, loss of life and goods, then they fall away and deny it all.” [Luther, 11, 517]. The third class includes such as also hear the Word, in whose hearts the seed finds a proper lodging. But later they, being taken possession of by the cares of riches and the pleasures of life, suffocate, so far as their faith is concerned, and do not bring their fruit to maturity. This is properly called suffocation, for the process is not brought to a climax at once, but takes much time. Very gradually the love of money and the deceitfulness of riches creeps into the heart; or just as unostentatiously the liking for the pleasures of this world takes possession of the mind, until the lingering spark of faith is extinguished almost without their noticing it. “The third class that hear and accept the Word and yet fall to the wrong side, that is, to the pleasure and ease of this life, also bring forth no fruit according to the Word. And their number is also very large; for though they do not establish heresies, as the first ones, but always have the pure Word, and also are not attacked on the left side by opposition and temptation, yet they fall on the right side, and that is their ruin, that they enjoy peace and good days. Therefore they do not earnestly regard the Word, but become lazy and sink into the care, riches, and lust of this life, that they are without use.” [Luther, 11, 518]. Only the last class of hearers, in whose case the seed of the Word falls into hearts that have been properly prepared by the preaching of the Law, is of value in the kingdom of God. There the meekness of the knowledge of self is replaced by the nobleness and generousness of the regenerated soul. The Word which they hear they also keep; they hold firmly to its glory and power, and are thus enabled to bring forth fruit well pleasing to God, with all perseverance.

Other parabolic sayings:

Luke 8:16-18

16 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. 17 For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. 18 Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.


Cross-references

Mark 4:21-25; Matthew 5:14-16; Luke 11:33-36; Ephesians 5:1-21; Philippians 2:14-16; Luke 12:1-3; Matthew 7:1-5; Luke 6:37-38

These words seem to have been a favorite saying of Jesus, for He repeats them on various occasions, Matthew 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 11:33. For any one to light a lamp and then hide it under some hollow vessel or place it under a bed or couch, when it is intended for a light to all that are in the house, would be foolish. It must rather be placed in a holder, on a candlestick; then all that come in may see the light, and it will serve its purpose. Even so people that have received Christianity into their hearts, that have the light of the Gospel shining in them, that have been given this light in order that its radiance may be shed also on others, must hide neither the light of their individual godliness nor that of the pure Gospel-preaching in such a way that no man can find out about it, not even if he inquired about it. There is a grave responsibility resting upon the believers of the pure Gospel in these last days of the world. For there is nothing hidden which shall not be revealed, nor is there anything covered over which is not bound to become known and be exhibited. The very object in hiding something precious is to bring it forth at some convenient time. And so Christianity and the Christian doctrine is a treasure which we should guard most carefully lest it be taken from us; but incidentally, we uncover this treasure at every opportunity and permit others to share in the wonderful riches of God’s grace and mercy in Christ Jesus. From this fact arises the duty of Christians to be careful hearers. The responsibility is for them really to know, and not merely have a knowledge about, the light of the Gospel, the treasure of salvation. To the one that has Christian knowledge the Lord adds thereto, with compound interest reckoned daily; the constant study of the Word of the Gospel enriches the hearer and reader in a manner beyond the comprehension of even the well-grounded Christian. But if one is careless about his growth in Christian knowledge, then even that little which he foolishly believes himself to be possessing will be taken from him. A check in the growth of Christian faith amounts to the same thing as a frost in early fall: the plant is definitely harmed by the misfortune.

The true relatives of the Lord:

Luke 8:19-21

19 Then came to Him His mother and His brethren, and could not come at Him for the press. 20 And it was told Him by certain which said, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to see Thee. 21 And He answered and said unto them, My mother and My brethren are these which hear the Word of God, and do it.


Cross-references

Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; John 7:1-5; Galatians 1:19; Acts 15:13; Isaiah 9:6; Hebrews 2:11-15; John 15:12-17

In the narrative above Luke had combined the discourses of two different occasions. This explains the fact that he here relates the incident concerning the relatives of Jesus. Christ was busily engaged with His teaching when there came an interruption. His mother and His brothers (cousins or half-brothers) had come down with the intention of taking Him away for some time and giving Him a much-needed vacation. Though they tried to get into the house, they could not so much as come near Him on account of the great multitude that filled every bit of available space. So the request of His relatives was passed along, until finally Jesus was told by those nearest to Him that His mother and His brothers wanted to see Him. There was no doubt that they meant well, but their understanding of the Savior’s work and ministry was very poor. And therefore their attempt, with all its implied kindness, was an unwarranted interference with the Lord’s business. He did not go out to them, nor did He permit them to disturb Him. He was about His Father’s business, and in the performance of those duties which had been given Him by His Father no man may disturb or hinder Him. Note: This is an example for us that we may not be discouraged or turned aside from our purpose when our work concerns the kingdom of God. Jesus here, after looking at His disciples that were sitting nearest to Him, gave an answer which could be transmitted to the waiting relatives: My mother and My brethren are these that hear and do the Word of God. The spiritual relationship with Christ through faith is far more intimate than any physical relationship possibly could be. It brings the believer into the closest communion with his Savior, John 15:1-6.


Verses 22-25

The storm on the sea

Luke 8:22-25

22 Now it came to pass on a certain day, that He went into a ship with His disciples: and He said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. 23 But as they sailed He fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. 24 And they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then He arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 And He said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for He commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey Him.


Cross-references

Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Matthew 14:22-33; Jonah 1:4-6; Psalm 104:5-7; Psalm 89:8-9; Exodus 15; 1 John 1:1-4

Cp. Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41. It was at the close of a strenuous day that Jesus embarked in a boat with His disciples, and He gave the command to sail across the sea to the other side. The disciples, some of whom were expert navigators, having spent a large part of their life on the lake, immediately launched forth, setting sail for the center of the lake. Jesus was a true man, with all the physical needs of a true man. So now, fatigued as He was with the strain of teaching and probably also with the sultriness, He fell into a deep sleep, though there was no comfortable couch aboard. Suddenly a tornadolike storm came down upon the lake, accompanied with such a turbulent upheaval of the waters of the sea that they rushed in upon them from all sides, filling the boat and placing them all in the greatest peril of their lives. And yet Jesus slept. The powers of nature are in His hand. They may storm and threaten, but they cannot harm Him. Note: If a Christian has Jesus with him in all his work and in all his play, then he is secure in spite of all threatenings of the enemies. Not a hair of his head may be harmed without the will of his Lord. The disciples were at their wits’ end. They rushed over to Him, they awakened Him with the anxious call that they were perishing. And He heard their frantic cry and gave them such an exhibition of His almighty power that they must have felt the greatness of their unbelief on this account more than by the reproving words of the Lord. For He arose at once and threateningly spoke to the wind and to the surge of the waters. And they paused in the midst of their fury. At once their unleashed fierceness was replaced with an absolute calm. And then came the rebuke from the mouth of the Master, chiding their lack of faith. The effect upon the disciples, who had seen quite a number of wonderful deeds at His hands, was peculiar. They were filled with fear in the presence of such evidence of almighty power. At the same time they wondered that He who ordinarily appeared a mere man, who had but a few minutes ago lain in their midst in the sleep of utter exhaustion, could command the winds and the water, and exact absolute obedience from them. Jesus, true man, is at the same time the mighty God from heaven, the almighty Creator of the universe. People that trust in Him are assured of safety in the arms of Him whose providence governs even the death of a sparrow.


Verses 26-39

In the country of the Gadarenes

The demoniac:

Luke 8:26-29

26 And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. 27 And when He went forth to land, there met Him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God Most High? I beseech Thee, torment me not. 29 (For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)


Cross-references

Matthew 8:28-29; Mark 5:1-8; Numbers 19:11-22; Matthew 23:27; Revelation 18:2; Mark 1:21-28; Mark 3:22-30; Mark 7:24-30; Mark 9:14-29

Cp. Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20. Luke’s description is graphic: They sailed down from the deep sea to the land. There was not the faintest indication of the recent tempest, and they had no difficulty about putting in near the shore. The country where they landed belonged to a strip of Gaulanitis, which was variously called the country of the Gadarenes or the Gerasenes, Gadara being a town farther inland, and Gerasa, or Gergesa, being situated near the Sea of Galilee. The strip of the country where the disciples cast anchor was comparatively wild and uninhabited, the hilly section just east of the lake, opposite Galilee. No sooner had Jesus set foot to the land, with the intention of going over to the city which was not far distant, than two demoniacs came toward Him, the more violent of whom Luke speaks of. The home of this unfortunate sufferer was in the city, but he himself was not living there at the present time, being possessed of demons, who tortured him in various ways. Their power over him was such as to make him spurn all shame; for a long time he had worn no clothes. He would also not remain in a house, but preferred to live in the tombs which were hewn into the rock on the lake shore. He had almost been stripped of the attributes of a human being, and rather resembled a wild beast in appearance and habits. No sooner, however, did he see Jesus than he screamed aloud and threw himself down at His feet and begged with a loud voice that Jesus should not torment him. That was the demon, one of their number speaking. The devil knows who Jesus of Nazareth is, was aware of it during the entire lifetime of Jesus, and tried everything in his power to frustrate the work of the Lord. If Christ had been a mere man, the devil could easily have conquered him. But He was the Son of the most high God, and therefore Himself true God from eternity. He had the power, if He so chose, to let the last terrible judgment upon the devils begin at any time, to chain them in the abyss of darkness and keep them there. The devil and his angels have been condemned by God, they are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the Great Day, Jude 6. The very fact that they are excluded from the bliss of heaven is for them a species of hell torture. In the mean time, however, and especially during these last days of the world, the devil is loosed for a little season, Revelation 20:3. Until the Day of Judgment Satan and his demons still have permission to move here on earth and to torment God’s creatures. But their chains are upon them. And on the Day of Judgment they will enter their eternal prison and feel the tortures of the fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels, Matthew 25:41. For Jesus was about to command (conative imperfect) that the unclean spirit should come out of the man, hence the cry of fear. The disease was not permanently and continually of a violent nature, but rather took hold of this victim with intermittent spells of acute mania, followed by intervals of comparative quiet and sensibility. But when the devils seized him in their powerful grip, all efforts at keeping him under guard were fruitless. People had tried to keep him bound and in subjection by means of fetters and chains on hands and feet, but these were like strips of gossamer in the hands of the demoniac. At such times the poor victim was driven into the deserts, and no one could hold him.

The healing:

Luke 8:30-33

30 And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. 31 And they besought Him that He would not command them to go out into the deep. 32 And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought Him that He would suffer them to enter into them. And He suffered them. 33 Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.


Cross-references

Matthew 8:30-34; Mark 5:9-13; Mark 1:21-28; Mark 1:32-34; Luke 4:31-37; Acts 19:11-15; James 2:19; Matthew 25:41; Jude 6; Revelation 12:12

Since the man appeared to have a rational interval, Jesus asked him his name. The poor man being the victim, not only of one or of a few devils, answered accordingly that his name was Legion, thousands of demons having taken possession of him. But the devils were growing restive, knowing that their time for torturing this man was over. And so they pleaded with Christ not to commit them to the abyss, to the pit of hell. But there was a herd of many swine feeding on the side of the mountain, within easy distance of the place where Jesus had landed, and the devils eagerly begged Christ to permit them to enter into the dumb brutes. And when Jesus had given permission, the devils took possession of the swine. And the brutes, taken with a sudden spasm of fright, bolted down the precipice overhanging the lake, leaped down into the waves below, and were drowned, suffocation taking place in the water. Note: The devil is a murderer from the beginning. If he cannot destroy the souls of men, he tries to harm their bodies, and when this is denied him, he takes out his spite on the dumb animals. His one desire is to ruin the works of God. But he can do this only with God’s permission. It is indeed a secret of God why He gives this permission. But it may be said, in general, that even such visitations, by which the devil works harm against us, are fatherly visitations of God, by means of which He wants to chastize us and call us to repentance.

The consequences:

Luke 8:34-39

34 When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. 36 They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. 37 Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought Him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and He went up into the ship, and returned back again. 38 Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought Him that he might be with Him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.


Cross-references

Matthew 8:33-34; Mark 5:14-20; Job 21:7-14; Deuteronomy 5:24-29; Psalms 105:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Mark 5:35-43; Mark 7:31-37

The swineherds were taken by surprise at this strange action of the animals entrusted to them. When this supernatural thing happened before their eyes, they fled and brought the news to the people of the district, both in city and country, wherever such lived as owned some of the drowned swine. They knew or felt that there must be some connection between the coming of Jesus and His speaking to the demoniac and the misfortune which struck the entire countryside. And the people, undoubtedly with some resentment, went out to the spot to see what had happened. They came to Jesus, not in a gentle, receptive, but in an aggressive mood. They found many things which should have set them to thinking and praising God. He that formerly roamed over the country without rest was now quietly sitting at the feet of Jesus; he that formerly was plagued with the devils was now freed from that scourge; he that had scorned shame and clothing was now fully dressed; he that had been a raving maniac was in full possession of rational powers of thinking and speaking. The feeling of the presence of the supernatural took hold of them all, and they were afraid. They did not learn the lesson which was held before them; they did not realize that this was a time of gracious visitation for them. Neither did they understand when those that were present told them how the demoniac had been delivered from his terrible condition. This rather increased their superstitious terror, they were possessed with a great fear, they were panic-stricken. And the entire countryside, as one man, arose and begged Jesus to leave their coasts. Their pigs, in their eyes, exceeded both the value of the one former demoniac and of the Prophet of their salvation. Note: Even to-day there are many people that neglect Jesus, the Savior of their souls, and His holy Word, for the sake of some petty earthly property. People act as though there were always plenty of time for preparing for death and for believing in Jesus after their hoard has grown large enough for their greed, forgetting, meanwhile, that the time of grace may never come again.

Jesus complied with their request, since for Him to stay in the country under the present circumstances would have been foolish. He entered into the boat and returned to Galilee. But when the healed man begged Him that he might join Him and become one of the disciples that were always with Jesus, He denied the request. The Lord wanted a witness of His power in these parts. And since they did not want Him, this man would be the best substitute, as he would speak from personal experience and conviction. It was good for the man that he should return to his home and people, and tell them all that had befallen him through the mercy of God. The man, following the order of Christ, promptly became a missionary throughout the city and region, declaring what Jesus had done for him. His faith would not permit him to remain silent; he must needs declare the great works of God. Every Christian has received such wonderful gifts of God in and through Christ, though perhaps not in the body, yet surely in the soul. And it behooves every one that loves the Lord Jesus to speak of the great things which God has done for him, as far as his personal influence reaches.

Verses 40-56

The woman with an issue and the daughter of Jairus

The plea of Jairus:

Luke 8:40-42

40 And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received Him: for they were all waiting for Him. 41 And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought Him that He would come into his house: 42 For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as He went the people thronged Him.


Cross-references

Matthew 9:18-19; Mark 5:21-24; Luke 4:40

The return of Jesus to Galilee was apparently hailed with delight by the majority of the people, though the scribes and Pharisees were again a thorn in the flesh, Matthew 9:18. Whether they had expected the Lord to come back this soon or not, they were eager to see Him. Their minds were turned toward Him, mainly on account of the recent healings, for but few of them realized His real office. Their carnal hopes concerning a Messiah with an earthly kingdom were still dominant in their hearts. But now a man by the name of Jairus, an elder of the local synagog, came to Him, greatly excited. Falling down at the feet of Jesus, he begged Him most earnestly to come into his house, for his daughter, an only child of about twelve years, was dying, yea, as Matthew relates, she may even now be dead. Luke adds that when Jesus turned to go away, the great multitudes thronged Him to suffocation.

The sick woman:

Luke 8:43-48

43 And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, 44 came behind Him, and touched the border of His garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. 45 And Jesus said, Who touched Me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with Him said, Master, the multitude throng Thee and press Thee, and sayest Thou, Who touched Me? 46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched Me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of Me. 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before Him, she declared unto Him before all the people for what cause she had touched Him, and how she was healed immediately. 48 And He said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.


Cross-references

Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Leviticus 15:25-31; Numbers 5:1-4; Luke 7:36-50

This thronging of the crowd, which Luke emphasizes so strongly, was taken advantage of by a certain woman. She had been in the sickness of a flux of blood, surrounded by this misery, for the space of twelve years. This issue rendered her Levitically unclean, Leviticus 15:25-30, and deprived her of many of the rights and privileges of the other members of the congregation. She had made every effort to be cured, to the extent of giving up to the doctors, expending upon physicians, all her living, all her means. And yet, as even Luke the physician writes, she could not be healed of any of them. A true picture of human misery and helplessness! This woman, coming from behind in the crowd, touched the hem or tassel of Christ’s mantle, which He wore according to Jewish custom. This was not an act of superstition, but of faith. Her humility and sensitiveness merely kept her from making her condition public. And her faith was rewarded: at once the flow of blood was stopped, the healing was complete. Jesus, who, of course, was perfectly aware of the entire incident, determined to test the woman. Turning around, He asked who had touched Him. The remark was addressed chiefly to the disciples, and they, and the others near them, denied any wilful jolting. And, upon second thought, Peter, acting as spokesman for the rest, reminded the Lord that He was hemmed in and squeezed by the crowds on all sides, therefore the question seemed strange. But Jesus, with His object in mind, insisted that some one had deliberately and intentionally touched Him. Then the woman saw that her secret was no secret before Christ, and therefore she came and confessed the entire matter fully. And with happy heart she dwelt upon the fact of her having been cured at once, when the virtue had gone out from Him, as He had said, when the divine, miraculous power was given by Jesus as a reward of her faith. Hereupon Jesus, ever kind and sympathetic, gave her the further assurance that her faith had brought her the priceless boon of health. He takes great pleasure in commending again and again the qualities of faith, by which it is able to do such great things. Her health was a reward of grace for the firmness of her trust. She should not fear or be uneasy in her mind over the incident, but go to her home in peace. Note: Such faith is needed in the Church and in its individual members even to-day; there is too much stereotyped sameness in the lives of the church-members in merely moving along a broad Christian way. Victories of faith are not so frequent in our days because the conquering faith is absent.

The raising of the daughter of Jairus:

Luke 8:49-56

49 While He yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to Him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master. 50 But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole. 51 And when He came into the house, He suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden. 52 And all wept, and bewailed her: but He said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth. 53 And they laughed Him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. 54 And He put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. 55 And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and He commanded to give her meat. 56 And her parents were astonished: but He charged them that they should tell no man what was done.


Cross-references

Matthew 9:23-26; Mark 5:35-43; John 11; John 12:9-11; Matthew 27:45-54; Revelation 21:3-4

The matter with the woman had delayed Jesus for some time, and this was altogether in line with His plans. For now one of the servants of the ruler of the synagog came and told Jairus that his daughter had really died, adding that he should no longer vex the Master, should in no way bother Him any more. All help was now too late. But Jesus wanted to strengthen the faith of the distracted father, and therefore calmly told him: Fear not, only believe. Mistrust, suspicion, fear is an enemy of faith. For faith demands a trust with all the heart, with all the soul, and with all the mind. Even when the last breath has been drawn and one of our loved ones lies quiet in death, even then trust must not be thrown away. Faith reaches beyond the grave. In the house of Jairus everything was in commotion. The official mourners had arrived as early as this and were making the day hideous with their noises, with their weeping and wailing. And when Jesus sternly bade them desist from their weeping, they called out to Him in derision, knowing that the girl had really died. But Jesus cleared the house, taking only the parents and three of His disciples into the room where the child lay dead. He there took hold of her hand, saying, at the same time, in the Aramaic language: Maid, arise. And at once her spirit, which had left her body, returned to her. She could get up immediately. She was returned to complete health. She needed food, probably having been without it for some time during the sickness, and she was able to take it. The parents were extremely amazed at the miracle which was done before their eyes to their beloved daughter. But Christ retained His calm manner, merely impressing upon them the necessity of keeping the fact for themselves. He wanted no advertising of this miracle, especially not at this time. Jesus of Nazareth has life in Himself and gives it to whomsoever He will. With His human voice He called back this girl from death. The human nature of Christ possesses the full powers of life also in the state of humiliation. Therefore we have in Jesus, the Savior, a Lord that can and does deliver from death. When Christ, our Life, will be revealed on that Great Day, then He, by His almighty voice, will call us and all the dead out of the grave, and will give to all believers in Him eternal, glorious life.

Summary

Jesus, continuing His ministry in Galilee, teaches in parables, calms the storm on the sea, heals a demoniac in the country of the Gadarenes, cures the woman with an issue, and raises the daughter of Jairus.


Chapter 9

Verses 1-9

The mission of the twelve

Rules for the apostles:

Luke 9:1-6

1 Then He called His twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And He sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. And He said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece. And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart. And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them. And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.


Cross-references

Matthew 10:1-16; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 10:1-12; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13-26

Jesus had chosen the Twelve out of the larger company of the disciples that usually followed Him. These Twelve, commonly designated by that term, He called together for a formal meeting. He gave them power and right, or authority, unlimited authority, as His representatives. Although the message which Jesus brought was not new, the form and clearness in which He brought it was. The apostles therefore, going out in His name, must be clothed with unusual power. The demons were made subject to them, and the power to heal diseases was transmitted to them. Note that these two are mentioned separately, and that their treatment was not the same: The demons were to be cast out, the diseases were to be healed. Then, with all due formality, they were sent out, the substance, the essential part of their ministry being the preaching of the kingdom of God, supplemented by works of healing. The Gospel-message must always stand first in the kingdom of God and receive the prime attention; upon its proper proclamation all other activities of the Church depend. Some of the detailed instructions follow. The apostles were to take nothing for their journey; they were not to prepare themselves, and, above all, they were not to be burdened on the way. They were to show no characteristics of the itinerant begging preachers and prophets, having neither a staff nor a beggar’s collecting bag, neither bread nor silver money, nor even a change of tunics with them. They were to be dependent altogether upon the people whom they served for their sustenance. They should lose no time in selecting a place to stay, in hunting choice quarters. The house into which they should enter first and whose inmates would receive them, that should be their abode until they had finished their work in that city. But if some people would reject them and their message, they should express the judgment of Christ upon the people of such a city by an appropriate gesture, by shaking off the very dust from their feet, signifying that they would have nothing to do with such opposition to the Word and work of Christ, but hereby bore witness before God against them. This, in brief, was the sum and substance of the instructions given to the apostles by Jesus. And, armed with this authority, they went forth through the towns of Galilee. In the most important place they put the preaching of the Gospel, the good news of salvation; and this proclamation of the Word was given the proper emphasis under the circumstances by the healings which were done everywhere.

Herod’s interest in Jesus:

Luke 9:7-9

Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him: and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead; And of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see Him.


Cross-references

Matthew 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-16; John 1:6-8; Luke 3:1-6; Matthew 3; Matthew 11:7-15; Matthew 21:25-26; Acts 1:15-26

Herod was at this time probably living at Tiberias, a city which he had practically rebuilt to fit in with his great plans. Rumors of the activity of a certain rabbi in Galilee may have reached the tetrarch of this province before, but he was too busy with his profligate life to pay much attention to them. But here, in the very region in which many of the greatest miracles of Jesus were performed, the courtiers of Herod supplied him with information concerning the movement among the people, probably not without a hint as to its possible dangerousness, for the Herodian party was strong. The news of the great Prophet bothered Herod, it embarrassed him, it placed him in a quandary; he did not know what to make of it. Various reports came to his ears, some saying that John had risen from the dead; others, that Elijah had been revealed, for their understanding of Malachi 4:5 was of the real Elijah; still others, that one of the old prophets had risen again. Herod’s conscience was pricking him, for he had been guilty of murder, a fact which is here merely referred to briefly. Herod knew that he had beheaded John in the prison, for the sake of his stepdaughter Salome, and now that this Prophet had arisen, with a message so much like that of the Baptist, he brooded on the matter and was anxious to see Jesus, in order that he might be satisfied as to His identity. Herod’s position and manner of acting is that of a great many people that do not wish to break entirely with the Church. They may, under circumstances, hear a sermon and even form a liking for some preacher. But when they are placed before the choice: Christ or the world, they choose the latter. But their conscience will give them no rest; in the midst of all apparent happiness their defection gives them no peace. God is not mocked.


Verses 10-17

The feeding of the five thousand

The retirement of the apostles:

Luke 9:10-11

10 And the apostles, when they were returned, told Him all that they had done. And He took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. 11 And the people, when they knew it, followed Him: and He received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.


Cross-references

Matthew 14:13-14; Mark 6:30-34; John 6:1-4

When the apostles returned from their first missionary journey, they related to the Lord in detail what they had done and what success they had had. They had labored with all the enthusiasm of beginners; it had been a strenuous experience for them. And therefore Jesus took them along with Him, He withdrew with them alone into the neighborhood of the city Bethsaida Julias, on the northeast coast of the Sea of Galilee, not far from the river Jordan. Note: It is altogether well-pleasing to the Lord if one of His servants, after a period of strenuous activity in the interest of the kingdom of God, withdraws for a time and gains new physical strength for the new demands awaiting him. But the withdrawal of Jesus did not remain undiscovered. The multitudes found out about it, and, some of them having noticed the direction in which He sailed, they followed afoot around the north end of the lake. So the recess of Jesus was of but short duration, since His kind heart would not turn from the people after their long journey to find Him. He willingly received the multitude, and He began speaking to them, and continued for the larger part of the day, on His favorite topic, the kingdom of God, what it means, and how they might enter into it. And all those that were in need of His healing hand He did not disappoint, but ministered unto them with all the compassion and power of His Savior’s heart. Note: Jesus always has time for us; our prayers are never unwelcome to Him; His ear is always inclined to those that put their trust in Him, whether it be in matters concerning this world or that to come.

The miracle of the loaves and the fish:

Luke 9:12-17

12 And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto Him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. 13 But He said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people. 14 For they were about five thousand men. And He said to His disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company. 15 And they did so, and made them all sit down. 16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. 17 And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them twelve baskets.


Cross-references

Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:35-44; John 6:4-15; Exodus 16:4; Psalm 78:21-25; John 6:22-35; Isaiah 25

Jesus had been busy preaching and healing without ceasing all day long. But now the day began to decline, to draw near its close, bringing an unwelcome interruption in the Lord’s beneficent labors. The apostles felt it their duty to interfere at this point. They urged Jesus to dismiss the people, to send them away. The place where they were was an uninhabited region; but there were towns, Bethsaida Julias itself and other small hamlets, within walking distance round about; there the people might go and find places to lodge and also provisions for themselves. The disciples were not yet filled with the love for others which recognizes no sacrifice and sternly represses all selfishness. Their words rather express a certain peevishness as though they had been bothered long enough by these unwelcome guests. But Jesus gives them a lesson, both as to hospitality and trust in Him. He suggested immediately that the disciples be hosts to the multitudes. But their faces fell at the mere suggestion. They had, by some exploration, ascertained that there were five loaves and two fishes as provisions; that was the entire stock. And they add: Unless perhaps we are to go and buy food for the whole people. Neither their words nor their tone implied that they relished the idea very strongly or were very fond of the prospect. One of them had even figured out that the amount of money on hand would not be sufficient to buy bread for all those present, since there were some five thousand men present, without the women and children. And all this fuss and excitement with Jesus standing before them, of whom they knew and had the evidence of their senses that He was able to help at all times, even when death had laid his cold hands on a person and driven away the living soul. The disciples certainly do not appear to good advantage in this story. Note: This same lack of faith is found all too often in the Christians of these latter days. Worry and care for the body is all too apt to take the place of firm and undoubting trust in the providence and goodness of Christ and our heavenly Father. “That is the great fault that we, also in our days, not only on account of food, but also in manifold troubles and temptations feel that we know well how to figure out what we need, and how these needs should be met and help given to us. But if it is not there quickly as we like it, then nothing remains of our figuring but discontent and sadness. And it would be far better if we would leave God to deal with the situation and would not think of what we need.” [Luther, quoted in Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 124].

But Jesus now took the matter in hand. He had His disciples command the people to recline on the grass which grew at that place, in dining parties, or companies, of fifty each. He was preparing to spread a banquet before them. Then He took the five loaves and the two fishes, and, looking up to heaven, He spoke a blessing upon them, He blessed the food. Then He broke both bread and fishes into smaller pieces and gave these to His disciples, who acted as His waiters upon this momentous occasion. And all ate, and all were filled, they were fully satisfied, they had all they wanted to eat. And then, at Christ’s command, that which was left over to them that ate, the fragments, were picked up, and these filled twelve large baskets. Christ here appears again as the almighty Lord and Creator of heaven and earth, upon whom the eyes of all creatures wait, that He may give them their food in due season. There is a world of comfort for Christians in the fact that Jesus, to whom we owe the salvation and life of our soul, also has the food for every day in His hand and will give us our daily bread every day. We are taken care of in body and soul.


Verses 18-27

Peter’s confession and Christ’s answer

The confession of Peter and the Twelve:

Luke 9:18-22

18 And it came to pass, as He was alone praying, His disciples were with Him: and He asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? 19 They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. 20 He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. 21 And He straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; 22 Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.


Cross-references

Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; John 1:6-8; Matthew 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-16; Luke 9:7-9; Matthew 17:10-13; Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:17-23; Matthew 1:1; Matthew 1:16-18; Luke 1:39-43; Luke 2:25-32; Matthew 14:32-33; Matthew 26:57-68; Matthew 27:32-54; John 1:1-5; 1 John 1:1-4; Colossians 2:8-15; John 20:26-29; Ephesians 2:11-22; Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 18:31-34

It was some time before Jesus was able to withdraw from the neighborhood of the Sea of Galilee and find time for rest and uninterrupted intercourse with His disciples. But when the occasion offered, He gladly availed Himself of the opportunity, traveling up into the northern part of Gaulanitis. Here He had leisure for prayer. And here He could speak to His disciples alone, to the Twelve that were with Him. And after some time He tested them with a searching question, not so much to determine the state of their faith (for His omniscience knew that) as to have them make an open confession. He asked first what the people in general said of Him, whom they believed Him to be. And the disciples answered what rumors were afloat regarding the Lord’s identity, as in Luke 9:7-8. But now came the Lord’s test question as to their own personal conviction. He addressed them all, but Peter gave the answer for them. Boldly and gladly he cried out: The Christ of God. That was saying that they had learned to know their Master as the promised Messiah, the Anointed One of God, that they believed Him to be the One through whom the salvation of the world was to come. This knowledge was indeed still mixed with a good deal of carnal understanding. But it was a wonderful thing that they had made at least so much headway. Jesus therefore accepted the confession and commended them for it, but He also immediately made an effort to lead their thoughts into the right channel concerning His office. Gravely and emphatically admonishing them not to make this fact known among the people at large, lest their false understanding of the work of the Messiah precipitate a crisis, He gave them a prophecy concerning the purpose of His coming into the world, the first prediction of His Passion. He told them that He, the Son of Man, must, that the divine obligation was resting upon Him to suffer much and to be rejected officially by the leaders of the Jewish Church and to be put to death, but also to rise again on the third day. Here the principal moments in the great Passion are given. His fate was sealed when the high priests and elders and scribes, the members of the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, declared such a person excommunicated that would declare his adherence to Jesus. The people were too easily cowed. Many believed in their hearts that Jesus was a prophet and the Messiah Himself, but they did not dare to make an open declaration of their faith, and so matters went on through the great suffering to His death. Only one thing the Jewish leaders had not taken into consideration, the rising on the third day, which upset all their fine calculations, and proved Christ the Victor, the Son of God with power.

The cross-bearing of the disciples:

Luke 9:23-27

23 And He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it. 25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? 26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. 27 But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.


Cross-references

Matthew 16:24-28; Mark 8:34-9:1; Matthew 10:34-39; Philippians 3:7-11; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Revelation 21:5-8; Mark 16:16; Romans 6:1-4; Daniel 7:9-14; Zechariah 14:5; Matthew 13:36-43; Matthew 24:29-31; Matthew 25:31-46; Matthew 26:57-68; Acts 1:6-11; Revelation 1:4-8

Christian discipleship is not all receiving and rejoicing, it involves also work and sacrifice. He that believes on Christ and wants to follow Him must deny his natural self, must give up his own natural wishes, desires, and inclinations, and must patiently take upon himself all the sufferings and hardships which his confession of Christ will bring upon him. That is the Christian’s cross, not a physical one like Christ’s, but none the less real and burdensome. The Lord explains the necessity. He that wants to save his life, the life in this world with its pleasures, he will lose the true life for all eternity; for the only real life is that in communion with Christ. But he that denies his old sinful self for the sake of Christ, crucifies his flesh with all lusts and desires, he will find and save his soul, he will possess it as an eternal gain, he will have eternal life as his reward of grace. For what gain has a person if he bring the whole world into his possession, but in doing so destroys himself and brings damnation upon himself? The entire world with all its glories and riches cannot outweigh the value of a single soul. Knowing this, the true disciples of Christ will deny themselves and also the world. Every man’s heart is attached to the treasures, the joys, the delights of this world. And therefore denial of self includes denial of the world. Whosoever here in this world has served the world, has been a slave of the lusts of the world, will receive the judgment of damnation on the last day. Of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He returns in all His glory with all His holy angels. But those that in this life served Christ faithfully, and proved their faith by denial of self and of the world, will enter into that glory which God has prepared for them that love Him. But to His apostles Jesus solemnly says that there are some of them that will not taste of death, will not be taken away by death before they have seen the kingdom of God. The day when God poured out His wrath upon Jerusalem is the dawn of the coming of Christ in glory. And some of the apostles, like John, lived to see the destruction of Jerusalem, and thus became witnesses of the truth of Christ’s words and of the inexorable punishment which comes upon those that deny Him.


Verses 28-36

The transfiguration

The miracle itself:

Luke 9:28-32

28 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. 29 And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistering. 30 And, behold, there talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elias: 31 Who appeared in glory, and spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 But Peter and they that were with Him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw His glory, and the two men that stood with Him.


Cross-references

Matthew 17:1-3; Mark 9:2-4; 2 Peter 1:16-18; Mark 5:35-43; Matthew 26:36-46; Matthew 28:1-3; Daniel 7:9; Revelation 1:12-18; Deuteronomy 34:1-12; 2 Kings 2:1-15; Malachi 4:4-6; Matthew 5:17; Matthew 11:7-15

After these things had happened, after Peter had spoken the confession in the name of all the disciples, a matter of about eight days, on the eighth day after, Jesus took Peter and John and James along with Him. He wanted to give them visual evidence and proof that He was truly the Son of the living God. He ascended the mountain with them, the highest mountain in the neighborhood where they were at that time, a mountain well known to all of them. The Lord’s purpose was to pray, to enter into intimate communion with His heavenly Father, for the purpose of getting wisdom and strength for His coming difficult work, for the Galilean ministry was drawing to a close, and the days of the Judean ministry would be short. And God revealed Himself in a remarkable manner to His Son. For while Jesus was engaged in prayer, His entire aspect changed. The appearance of His face became unlike His usual self, and all His clothing became white and resplendent, shining, flashing like lightning. And suddenly there were two men that appeared and were engaged in conversation with the Lord, namely, Moses and Elijah. In the case of the first, only God knew his grave, and as for the second, the Lord took him up to heaven outright. Moses had given the Law and was the great exponent of the Old Testament covenant, and Elijah had been zealous for the Law and suffered much for his faithfulness. Both of them had looked forward with eager longing to the coming of the Messiah. And now that the Christ had appeared on earth and was engaged in the work of His ministry, God permitted and caused these men to appear to Jesus on the mountain before the amazed eyes of the three apostles. Thus Peter and the others were witnesses of the glory of Jesus, 2 Peter 1:16. The divine glory, which He otherwise bore hidden before the eyes of men and only occasionally made manifest in word and deed, this glory now shone forth through His weak flesh, imparting to it that wonderful majesty which it was destined to bear at all times after entering into the final glory. Meanwhile, Peter and the other men were almost overwhelmed by the glory of the revelation; the brightness and the wonder of it all affected them so that they were as if heavy with sleep; they could barely manage to open their eyes from time to time. They heard only that Moses and Elijah were conversing with Jesus concerning His going out of this life, concerning the consummation of His ministry, which was to be fulfilled at Jerusalem and take place through suffering and death. And sometimes, when they roused themselves for a few moments, the disciples caught sight of the glory of their Master and of the two prophets that were standing with Him.

The voice from heaven:

Luke 9:33-36

33 And it came to pass, as they departed from Him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for Thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. 34 While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. 35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son: hear Him. 36 And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.


Cross-references

Matthew 17:4-9; Mark 9:5-10; Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34; Psalm 2; Colossians 1:9-14; Ephesians 1:2-14; 1 John 3:1-2; Ephesians 5:1-2; Romans 8:12-17; John 1:1-18

Moses and Elijah, having spoken those things for which they were sent, departed to make way for a still greater manifestation of glory. But in the interval, while they were withdrawing, Peter regained full consciousness for a moment, though he was still dazed with the wonder of what he had seen. He was filled with a peculiar ecstasy, with the joy characteristic of the great festivals of the Jews, especially of that of the Feast of Tabernacles. He was loath to see the visitors from heaven depart, and therefore proposed to build three tabernacles, one for Christ, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, that the communion thus begun might continue indefinitely, and the disciples might be witnesses of the heavenly glory for an indefinite length of time. But, as the evangelist says, Peter was not clear in his mind as to what he was really saying. The entire happening on the Mount of Transfiguration was for Christ a taste and pledge of the glorification which should be His after His final great Passion. For the disciples it was to be a strengthening of their faith in view of the days through which they would be obliged to pass, days of severest trial and tribulation. But to all that believe in Christ and share the persecutions which come upon the believers for His sake, the future transfiguration and glorification is here pictured. “This revelation shows that this life is nothing in comparison with that to come, which will surely fall to the lot of those that have died to the world in Christ. And we owe it to God to thank Him with sincere praise that He thus far humiliated Himself to reveal such glory to us, and that He wanted to make us sure of the hope of the life to come by means of such a beautiful, open, and mighty revelation.” [Luther, quoted in Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 148].

While Peter was still speaking these words, there came a cloud, not a dark and dreary mass, but one refulgent with heavenly brightness. So obvious was this feature that the poor, sinful mortals instinctively shrank back and were filled with fear as they entered into the cloud. Here was such a cloud of glory as that which filled the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle and the Temple when the Lord wanted to speak to the children of Israel. But whereas in those days there was only the lid of the ark of the covenant that served as a type of the things to come, now the great Mercy-seat Himself was in the midst of the cloud of God’s glory, surrounded with heavenly brightness. And now came the revelation of God the Father, who spoke out of the cloud as a witness for His Son: This is My Son, the Chosen One; hear Him, give obedience to Him. Hereby the prophetic dignity of the High Priest of the New Testament was raised above even that of the elect prophets of old. Beside Him even the highest, greatest, and best of mortals falls away into insignificance: Jesus must be all in all. As soon as the voice had been heard, Jesus was found alone and in His former lowly appearance, that of a servant. All traces of the heavenly glory had been removed. But the disciples had heard what they were to do. They had the Word of Jesus, the Word of the Gospel; this they should hold fast, to this they should render obedience. We Christians need not worry because the bodily presence of Christ has been removed from us; for we also have the Word and Jesus in the Word in all the glory of His wonderful love unto our salvation. In obedience to a command of Christ the three disciples kept silence concerning this wonderful revelation in those days. They did not speak of this experience until after the resurrection of Christ.


Verses 37-45

The healing of the epileptic boy

The miracle:

Luke 9:37-42

37 And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met Him. 38 And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech Thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child. 39 And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him. 40 And I besought Thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not. 41 And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither. 42 And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father.


Cross-references

Matthew 17:14-18; Mark 9:14-27; Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 10:1-12; Luke 10:17-20; Matthew 12:38-39; Matthew 12:43-45; Matthew 16:1-4; Luke 11:9-13; Luke 4:31-41

Since Luke is writing for heathen Christians, he omits almost all reference to the Pharisees and Sadducees, as his readers would have followed him only with difficulty. In this story, also, there is no reference to the quarrel which the disciples had with the leaders of the Jews, the story only being given. Jesus had been on the mountain over night. But when He came down on the next day with His three disciples, He came upon an excited scene. In the first place, a great many people came to meet Him. And out of the crowd, as it drew near, one man came forward and cried to Him with a loud voice, in a pitiful prayer. He wanted Jesus to look upon his only son, with a view to helping him. From time to time it would happen that an evil spirit would take hold upon him, and the boy would suddenly scream with pain. The demon, meanwhile, would distort and tear him until froth would appear at the mouth, and even after bruising the child fiercely, he would barely withdraw for a time. It was a case of severe epilepsy and lunacy caused by an evil spirit. The poor father had pleaded with the disciples that had remained in the valley whether they could help in this emergency, but they had not been able. The cry of Jesus at this point: 0 unbelieving and perverse generation; people that have no faith and consistently go the wrong way! How long must I be with you and tolerate you? includes the people as a whole, also the father of the boy and, in a way, the disciples, as He told them afterwards. That was characteristic of the chosen people of God at that time: they were rejecting the Messiah of their salvation or following false leads and hopes in their dream of a temporal kingdom. Jesus then commanded the boy to be brought to Him. While the boy was approaching Jesus, in accordance with His command, the demon made a final assault on his victim, rending and convulsing him. Note: It is very probable that certain severe attacks of sickness, such as cramps, convulsions, epilepsy, lunacy, and others, even to-day are caused or aggravated by the devil. He is a murderer from the beginning and has only one thing in mind, to destroy the creatures of God. But the power of the evil spirit also in this case, as in all, goes only so far as Jesus permits it. For Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

The second prediction:

Luke 9:43-45

43 And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, He said unto His disciples, 44 Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men. 45 But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask Him of that saying.


Cross-references

Matthew 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32; Matthew 16:21-23; Matthew 20:17-19; Genesis 3:15; John 19:28-30; Luke 24:13-27; Acts 17:1-3

The people were greatly astonished at the majesty of God, revealed in the power that could work such a cure. This majesty is the essence of Jesus, it is given to Him as man, in the state of humiliation. He is true God and eternal Life. But while they were all wondering about the great deed which Jesus had performed, He took His disciples aside and spoke to them privately, affirming once more that they should set into their ears the words which He was now telling them, that they should remember them and get their understanding: It will be done that the Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. This is a certainty; and He wanted His disciples to become accustomed to the thought that such was the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies. But, as Luke remarks in a pitying aside, they did not understand this saying, and it was totally hidden from them to the extent that they did not have the faintest understanding of it. At the same time, they were afraid to ask Him with regard to this saying of His. The evidence of His ineffable majesty had stood out so strongly in His recent miracle that the disciples could not muster the courage to question Him on the matter.


Verses 46-56

Lessons in humility

The question as to the greatest:

Luke 9:46-48

46 Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. 47 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by Him, 48 And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in My name receiveth Me: and whosoever shall receive Me receiveth Him that sent Me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.


Cross-references

Matthew 18:1-6; Mark 9:33-37; Mark 10:13-16; Mark 10:35-45; Luke 18:15-17; Matthew 11:25-30; Matthew 25:37-40; Matthew 20:25-28; 1 Corinthians 14:20; 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

Just how great the spiritual denseness of the disciples was even at that time, appears from this incident. For while Jesus was concerned about the work of salvation, about the woe and weal of the whole world, the apostles were bickering, in petty jealousy, about rank in their own midst. There was a regular altercation about the question in their circle on this trifling matter. Luke does not relate that Jesus asked them about their dispute, being content to point out the lesson which Jesus taught. The Master took a little child and placed it beside Him as He was standing in their midst, telling them that by receiving this little child they would receive Him, and therefore also Him that sent Him. The little and insignificant in the eyes of the world is great in the eyes of Jesus, if there is faith to be found. And then He states the great paradox, the apparent contradiction which holds true in the kingdom of God: He that is smaller than all, he is great in the kingdom of God. He that is satisfied with the humblest, lowest position, if he can but serve the Master, he has the true qualities that make for greatness, and will be acknowledged in that way by Christ Himself.

An interruption by John:

Luke 9:49-50

49 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.


Cross-references

Mark 9:38-41; Philippians 1:14-19; Acts 18:24-26; Acts 19:11-20; Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23; 1 John 2:23; 1 John 4:15; 2 John 9

The claim has been made that this is an unnatural transition, and that this incident is in the false place. But it fits very nicely. The present subject was by no means a pleasant one, and John thought by introducing this story he would change the subject and also earn some commendation. John tells the Lord that either on their missionary journey or more recently, some of them, probably he and James, had seen a man casting out devils in the name of Jesus. They had promptly resented and forbidden this as an interference with their rights and as an insult to their Master. But Jesus instructs them differently. It was far better for the exorcists to be using His name than to be relying upon incantations of devils. The chances were that this man believed in Jesus as the Messiah, but he had not yet gained the understanding that he ought to join the disciples of Jesus and follow after Him, thus confessing his faith before men. Just the same, he did not hinder, but furthered, so far as he was concerned, the work of Jesus. This judgment of Christ contains an instruction for all of us to have patience with our weak brethren and sisters. They have faith in their hearts and confess the name of Jesus, but are not yet so far advanced as to be on a level with established Christians. But the Lord will give them further enlightenment, and it is not for us to set limits too arbitrarily.

Rejection by the Samaritans:

Luke 9:51-56 (Verse 56a not in the ESV)

51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that He should be received up, He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 And sent messengers before His face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him. 53 And they did not receive Him, because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55 But He turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.


Cross-references

Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Ephesians 4:4-10; Luke 18:31-34; 2 Kings 1:9-14; Exodus 9:23; 1 Kings 18:38; Genesis 19:24; Revelation 13:11-18

John and James, the “sons of thunder,” had not yet learned the full lesson of humility, as this incident shows. When the days of His being received up were altogether fulfilled, when the days of His assumption were in course of accomplishment, “implying the approach of the closing scenes of Christ’s earthly experience,” then He firmly set His face to journey up to Jerusalem. It was not the last journey which the Lord was here undertaking, but one which would settle His fate, so far as the leaders of the Jews were concerned. From this time forth He might expect a falling away of popular favor. He made this journey through Samaria. But when, in one case, He sent messengers ahead to provide lodging, He met with a flat refusal. The Samaritans, a mixed people, had fallen away from the Jewish Church, accepted only the Pentateuch as God’s revealed Word, and did not worship at Jerusalem. There was, on that account, little love lost between the Jews and the Samaritans, John 4:9. In this case the people of the Samaritan village would not give Jesus lodging, because, literally, His face was journeying to Jerusalem; He was headed in that direction, that was His destination. But this treatment of their Master filled John and James with the greatest indignation. Referring to the act of Elijah, 2 Kings 1:10, they wanted to follow his example and have the village destroyed by fire from heaven. But Jesus turned to them and very earnestly upbraided them for their suggestion. The spirit of Christ and the New Testament is not bent upon destroying the souls of people, but upon saving them. Rather than show any resentment, Jesus chose a different village to lodge in. This lesson is in place even to-day. The Christian Church, the Christian congregation, uses no force in bringing Christ and His Gospel to people, for His kingdom is not of this world. “Here Christ says: Remember of what spirit ye are children, namely, of the Holy Spirit, who is a Spirit of peace, not of division. This Peter also forgot in the garden, when Christ said to him: Put the sword into the sheath. It requires not fighting, but suffering. The Holy Spirit permits it now, and maintains His silence that Christ is thus crucified and abominably dealt with. Thus, because we have the pure doctrine, it happens also to us that everything that is great in the world uses power and might against this doctrine. But God alone upholds it, else it would have been destroyed long ago. … But since they vilify the doctrine and defend their godless estate, we cannot hold silence, but must speak against them. But we are here like John and James; our heart has this feeling, that we desire revenge upon the godless tyrants. … Here every one should repent thoroughly and pray God that He would keep us from such murderous thoughts. Revenge we should not desire, but have compassion, and remember why the Son of Man is come, namely, that we should not desire judgment and revenge upon the sinners.” [Luther, 7, 1464. 1465].


Verses 57-62

True discipleship of Christ

Luke 9:57-62

57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto Him, Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest. 58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head. 59 And He said unto another, Follow Me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. 61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow Thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. 62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.


Cross-references

Matthew 8:19-22; Ephesians 2:1-10; Luke 15:32; 1 Timothy 5:5-6; John 5:25-29; Luke 8:19-21

Cp. Matthew 8:19-22. All three incidents teach the same lesson: True discipleship of Christ implies a denial of self and all earthly ties, in certain circumstances even the obligations of blood-relationship. The first man offered to become Christ’s disciple, but did not know that sacrifices were asked. Jesus points to His own case. The foxes have dens, and the birds of the heaven have roosting-places, but the Son of Man has no place which He can call His own. If that is the Master’s position, the disciple can hardly expect more. In the second case, Jesus asked a scribe to become His disciple. When this man gave his excuse that he must first go back and bury his father, Jesus tells him that this duty is well taken care of in the hands of those that make it their occupation to bury the dead, but that he should come and follow Jesus by proclaiming on every side the kingdom of God. In the third case, the man offers to follow, but proposes a preliminary condition, namely, that he first be given an opportunity to say farewell to his friends. This is a type of man who always first wants to do something in which he himself is personally interested, and then take care of the main duty. But Jesus calls him to order with a proverbial saying: No one having laid his hand to the plow and then looking behind him is fit for the kingdom of God. To follow Jesus in His ministry is the highest calling, and it requires a firm intention and a steady eye. Any labor is unfruitful unless the whole man takes part in it and devotes his entire mind to the subject in hand. These lessons are so badly needed to-day that every one can make the application for himself. “The first case is that of inconsiderate impulse, the second that of conflicting duties, the third that of a divided mind.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 537].

Summary

Jesus sends out the Twelve on a missionary journey, feeds five thousand, accepts Peter’s confession and predicts His Passion, is transfigured, heals a lunatic boy, gives several lessons in humility, and teaches a lesson in discipleship.


Chapter 10

Verses 1-22

The mission of the seventy

The plenteous harvest:

Luke 10:1-2

1 After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before His face into every city and place, whither He Himself would come. Therefore said He unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest.


Cross-references

Luke 9:1-2; Matthew 9:35-38; John 4:34-38; 1 Corinthians 3:5-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:1

The Lord was constantly seeking more disciples, as the last incidents plainly show; His word of invitation went out again and again, pleading with men to follow His merciful leadership. And there were always some that were convinced and gladly joined the ranks of the believers in the Messiah of the world. From among these disciples in the wider sense, most of whom accompanied Jesus on His journeys, He now appointed or commissioned others, seventy in number [Luco note: Some manuscripts say seventy-two], in addition to the Twelve whom He had elected as His representatives. The principal difference between the work of the two groups seems to have been that the seventy had only a temporary commission, the work of preparing the way for Him in parts of Palestine, in Judea, where the Lord was comparatively unknown. Jesus sent them two by two, for companionship and mutual assistance. They went before His face, as special heralds, to prepare the people for the appearance of the Christ. He mapped out His itinerary and had them take note of the cities and places where He planned to go. It may not have been the intention of Christ to visit all the small villages and hamlets personally, but He wanted the announcement to go before Him that the great Prophet of Galilee, the Savior of Israel, was drawing near to their country. Knowing this, every one that was concerned about the Messiah could come in person and see and hear Him. And Jesus characterized the situation for the benefit of these messengers. The harvest was great: there were many thousands of people in need of redemption, and many perhaps ready to receive it. Therefore the need of men fit to take part in the great work of preaching the Kingdom was particularly great. This has been true at all times since the days of Jesus, and will continue to be true till the end of time. In the heathen countries there are millions of souls still sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. And in the so-called Christian countries the proportion of professing Christians is very small. In our own country there are thousands of towns and small cities without any preaching of the Gospel. And so the second part of Christ’s statement must also find its application, that the earnest prayer of all sincere Christians must go up to the Father of all grace and mercies that He would send forth laborers into His harvest, that He would make many young men willing to heed His call, and that many others take upon themselves the privilege of supplying these workers with the supplies for maintaining life while attending to these duties.

The first instructions:

Luke 10:3-7

Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.


Cross-references

Luke 9:3-4; Matthew 10:16-18; John 20:21-23; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; Matthew 6:11

Throughout the instructions the note is sounded: It is the business of the King; and the business of the King requireth haste. In general, these marching orders do not differ from those given to the apostles, for the circumstances were practically the same. The order was to go; but the Lord frankly tells them that their position would resemble that of lambs in the midst of wolves. They should know from the start that their helplessness was absolute, so far as their own strength was concerned. The enemies that would arise to combat them would be so much mightier than they that with might of theirs could naught be done; their one trust should be the Lord and His protection. They were not to carry a purse, since money should not be found on them; they were not to follow the methods of the itinerant prophets and have a beggar’s sack on the shoulder; they should not even take sandals with them, the heavy sandals used for journeys. They should not indulge in the circumstantial Oriental salutations, during which, for example, the inferior stood still until the superior had passed by; they should be intent exclusively upon their business. Theirs was to be a house mission, and with the greeting of peace, as the first word spoken, they should enter into every house. If any one were living there that fitted the attribute “son of peace,” a person of uprightness and benevolence, a true Israelite, then their peace should and would rest upon such a person; but in the opposite event, the blessing of the peace would return to him that uttered it. In any case the good wish would not be lost. True Christian courtesy is never in vain, for even if the intended recipient chooses to be unpleasant and grouchy, there is always the satisfaction of having shown politeness. A kind word costs nothing, and may bring rich interest. Incidentally, the seventy should not scout around from house to house, looking for the best boarding-place, but should remain in the house where they first entered. And there they should eat and drink the meat and drink which belonged to the people of the house as though it were their own. For, Christ says, the laborer is worthy of his hire; their food and keep was their hire, it belonged to them of right for work done, 1 Corinthians 9:11-14.

Further instructions:

Luke 10:8-12

And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. 10 But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, 11 Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. 12 But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.


Cross-references

Luke 9:1-5; Matthew 3:1-2; Matthew 4:17; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:36-39; Mark 16:16; Matthew 8:8; Acts 16:14-15; Acts 13:44-52; Genesis 18:20; Genesis 19:24; 2 Peter 2:4-9; Matthew 11:20-24; Matthew 25:31-32

What was said of individual houses is now repeated with respect to entire cities. Wherever the reception was kind and in accordance with the dignity of their calling, there they should remain, eating the things that were set before them. They should be content with the fare which the people could afford, even if that happened to be frugal. A pastor will always be glad to share the poverty of his parishioners, just as the parishioners should always be glad to share their wealth with their pastor. The work of the seventy is then briefly indicated, to heal the sick and to announce the coming of the kingdom of God in the person of Jesus. For every one that accepts Christ by faith enters into this Kingdom. This would be the privilege of the people that heard the message, since the invitation was thereby extended to them all. But if the disciples should be refused admission into some city or its houses, they should endeavor to bring home to the inhabitants of such a city the heinousness of their offense, since in rejecting the heralds they despised the Master. Going out of the inhospitable houses into the streets, they should deliberately wipe off the very dust that had been taken up by their feet since entering the town. It was the most expressive gesture of absolute rejection. And yet, so far as the rest is concerned, the people of that city should know that the kingdom of God was just upon them, that they were offered an opportunity of accepting it, and that it was their own fault if it had come to them in vain. Solemnly Jesus declares that the fault of such a city in despising the Gospel would be of a nature to outrank the transgressions of Sodom, and would be thus treated on the Day of Judgment.

Woes upon several cities of Galilee:

Luke 10:13-16

13 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. 15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. 16 He that heareth you heareth Me; and he that despiseth you despiseth Me; and he that despiseth Me despiseth Him that sent Me.


Cross-references

Matthew 11:20-24; Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:14-15; Psalm 81:11-13; Matthew 12:38-42; Isaiah 23; Isaiah 14:13-15; Revelation 20:11-15; John 12:44-50; John 20:21-23

Cp. Matthew 11:21-23. The question of the guilt of those that reject the Gospel calls to the mind of Jesus the behavior of the cities of Galilee in whose neighborhood some of His greatest works had been done. He had come to them with the fulness of His love and mercy, and they had rejected Him. Chorazin and Bethsaida were on the shores of Lake Gennesaret, almost side by side. Great miracles had been done in their midst, and the people had been willing enough to be entertained, but the words of eternal love out of the mouth of Jesus had made no impression upon them. Under like circumstances Tyre and Sidon, the heathen cities whom the Jews despised for their idolatrous practises and beliefs, would long since have repented, clothed in a garment of sack-cloth, with ashes on the head. And therefore Tyre and Sidon, to whom His grace had not been revealed in this measure, would receive greater consideration on the Day of Judgment than these cities of Galilee. And Capernaum also, which had been lifted up to heaven by the fact that Jesus made this city His headquarters during His Galilean ministry, would receive the full measure of His wrath on the last day and be forcefully thrust down to hell. Note: There is a word of warning here for all Christians. They have Christ in their midst for years, decades, and generations, in the printed and in the spoken Word of the Gospel. But how often is Jesus neglected and overlooked in the Christian homes! No reading of Scriptures alone or in family worship; no regular attendance at church; — there is danger of falling into the condemnation of the Galilean cities. And this applies also to the treatment accorded to the messengers of Christ. In hearing them we hear Christ, for they are His ambassadors and plenipotentiaries; but also, in despising them, in repudiating the Gospel of mercy, we repudiate Christ, of whose salvation it preaches; and in despising Christ, we despise His heavenly Father, partly because He is sent forth by the Father with full power, partly because He is one with the Father. Here is food for serious thought!

The return and report of the seventy:

Luke 10:17-20

17 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name. 18 And He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. 19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.


Cross-references

Luke 9:1-2; Mark 16:15-18; Isaiah 14:12-15; Revelation 9:1; Revelation 12:7-12; Romans 8:31-39; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Philippians 4:4; Exodus 32:30-33; Daniel 12:1-3; Malachi 3:16-4:3; Revelation 3:5-6; Revelation 20:11-21:4

The mission of the seventy was attended with great success, as Luke here reports at once, and they returned with joy. They were especially elated over the fact that they had been able to accomplish more than they had expected or been promised. Confronted with the necessity, they had adjured demons in the name of Jesus, and through the power of this mighty name and by faith in His almighty strength they had driven them out. Not all exigencies of pastoral work can be mapped out, even in a very complete course, and therefore a pastor must, under circumstances, beg for power from on high and then use his best judgment in solving a difficulty. The report of the disciples was no news to Jesus. In His omniscience He had seen the very Satan, Satan himself, falling from heaven like lightning. As a bolt of lightning comes down from heaven in shining glory and disappears on earth, so the splendid power of Satan was thrust down out of heaven. As spirits the devil and his angels belong to the creatures above the earth, and therefore their destruction, their conquest, appears as a fall from heaven. In the casting out of the evil spirits the destruction of the power of Satan appeared. Christ Himself, as the stronger, had come upon the strong, had overcome and bound him. The entire life of Christ, from His birth to His burial, was a victory over Satan. And this victory is transmitted to the disciples of Jesus. He gave them the power to step upon, to tread under foot, vipers and scorpions and the entire power of the enemy, and nothing should in any wise hurt them. All the dangerous, demoniac powers that attempt to harm the disciples of Jesus in their work of preaching the Gospel must be subject to them. The work of the Lord must progress and be brought to the desired conclusion, and if all the devils of hell make a league to overcome it. But this is not the most important fact for the individual Christian, and this is not his greatest cause for rejoicing, that the devils are subject to him through the name of Christ, but the happiness of the Christians rests upon; is founded upon that fact that their names are inscribed in the heavens. That is the glorious certainty of the believers, that they know God has chosen them from the beginning unto salvation, has prepared the everlasting mansions for them. This fact must remain uppermost in a Christian’s consciousness. It will keep him from putting his trust in his own gifts and works.

The exultation of Jesus:

Luke 10:21-22

21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight. 22 All things are delivered to Me of My Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him.


Cross-references

Matthew 11:25-30; Acts 17:24-25; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Psalm 8:2; Matthew 21:15-16; Matthew 18:1-6; John 1:1-18; 1 John 1:1-4; John 6:44-46; John 7:28-29; John 8:19; John 10:14-18; John 14:6-11; John 10:30; 1 John 2:22-23

There is a note of triumph in these words of Jesus, that the salvation of men is going on in spite of all efforts of the enemy to frustrate it. He exulted in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit in Him uttered an inspired saying. He gives the fulness of praise to the Father, the almighty Lord of heaven and earth. The final purpose of the entire work of redemption was to redound to the glory of God, according to whose counsel it was carried out. To those that are wise and prudent in their own conceit, that hope to find the way to a heaven of their own imagination by works of their own imagination and by wisdom of their own, to these the way of salvation is hidden, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. But to the unlearned, to those that are willing to take all reason captive under the obedience of Christ and, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, to these God reveals the wonders of His Word and works. That has been God’s good pleasure, and for that we owe Him everlasting thankfulness.


Verses 23-37

The good Samaritan

The blessedness of Christ’s disciples:

Luke 10:23-24

23 And He turned Him unto His disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: 24 For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.


Cross-references

Matthew 13:10-17; Genesis 3:15; Luke 2:25-38; John 8:48-59; Hebrews 11:1-13; 1 Peter 1:10-12

The disciples were not conscious of their great privilege, nor did they value it as highly as they should have. Jesus, therefore, addresses Himself to them alone and impresses upon them the glories of their station and of their calling as disciples and believers. Happy were their eyes since they were privileged to see Jesus, the Savior of the world, in the flesh. Many prophets and kings of the Old Testament had looked forward to the appearance of the Messiah with great longing, Genesis 49:18; 2 Samuel 7:12. There had been many a Simeon and many an Anna that were longing to see the Savior with their own eyes. All this had fallen to the lot of the disciples without their seeking. They saw the eternal Word who was made flesh; they saw His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth; they heard from His own mouth the Word of eternal life. We Christians of the New Testament do not share the disadvantages of the believers of old. For though we are not able to see Jesus in the flesh, we have Him with us always, until the end of the world, Matthew 28:20. And He is with us in His Word, in and through which we have communion with the Son and with the Father. “As though He would say: Now is a blessed time, a pleasant year, a time of mercy; the thing which now is present is so precious that the eyes which see it are fittingly called blessed. For till now the Gospel had not been preached so openly and clearly before everybody; the Holy Ghost had not been given openly, but was still hidden, and had little success. But Christ began the work of the Holy Ghost, and the apostles afterward carried it on with all earnestness; therefore He here in general calls those blessed that see and hear such grace.” [Luther, 11, 1537].

The question of the lawyer:

Luke 10:25-28

25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the Law? how readest thou? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And He said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.


Cross-references

Luke 18:18-20; Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Matthew 25:31-46; Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Leviticus 19:18; Leviticus 18:4-5; Galatians 3:10-14; Romans 3:21-28; Ephesians 2:8-10

A lawyer, a man versed in the Law and the traditions of the Jews, one of those that belonged to the wise and prudent of the world, stood up before or against Jesus, as His opponent. His purpose was deliberately to tempt Jesus, to lead Him astray. He tried this with the question: Master, what shall, what must I do to inherit eternal life? His question is strangely put, for it can hardly be said that the heirs do anything to get the inheritance. He would have expressed his meaning more truthfully if he had said: What must I do to earn eternal life? Jesus, according to a disconcerting habit He had, answered with a counter-question. He did not give the results of any philosophy, but referred the questioner to the written Scripture. The first question with its general trend is supplemented by the second, which searches the mind of the man before Him. Note: Philosophy of the Christian religion is a dangerous term, and stands for a dangerous science. The Lord does not want us to philosophize and to think out our own religious scheme, but to follow the Word. The man was indeed well versed in the Old Testament, for he gave the summary of the Moral Law correctly, according to Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18. To love God the Lord with all the heart and with all the soul and with all the strength and with all the mind and understanding, that is the summary of the first table. And to love one’s neighbor as one’s self is the summary of the second table. “To love God with all the heart, to love God above all creatures, that is: although many creatures are pleasant that they please me and I love them, that I yet, for the sake of God, when God, my Lord, wants it, despise and give them all up. To love God with all the soul is that thy whole life be directed toward Him and thou mayest say, if the love of creatures or any persecution wants to overwhelm thee: All this I gladly give up rather than leave my God; they may throw me out, they may strangle me or drown me, let anything happen to me that God wills, all this I will gladly endure rather than leave Thee. Lord, to Thee I will cling more firmly than to all creatures, also to all that does not belong to Thee; all that I am and have I will give up, but Thee I shall not leave. … To love God with all the strength is to bring all members into action, so that one will risk all that he can with his physical body rather than do what is opposed to God. To love God with all the mind is to accept nothing which does not please God; by this he means the self-conceit which a person has; but rather that the mind be centered in God and upon all things that please God.” [Luther, 11, 1541. 1542]. Jesus commended the answer of the lawyer as being correct. But He added a weighty word: This do, and thou shalt live. Here lay the real difficulty, for knowing and doing are two very different things. If that were possible, indeed, to keep the Law of God perfectly, then the person that could perform this wonderful feat would thereby earn eternal life. A perfect fulfilment of the Law has, as its reward of merit, the blessedness of heaven. But there is the rub. By the deeds of the Law is no man justified before God, because there is no man on earth that doeth good and sinneth not. “That is preaching the Law properly and giving a good, strong lesson, yea, catching him in his own words and in the right place, where He can show him what he still lacks.” [Luther, 11, 1559].

Jesus teaches who our neighbor is:

Luke 10:29-32

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.


Cross-references

Luke 16:14-15; Numbers 8:19

The lawyer was somewhat taken aback at the answer of Jesus, and especially by the pointed: This do! It was his boast that he had always kept the commandments of the Lord, and the implication of Christ that there was still something for him to do rather caused some resentment. His desire was to justify himself, the old story of the aim of every human being since the time of Adam. “Those are the truly evil people that are proud of their external appearance, that want to justify themselves and make themselves pious with their works, as this lawyer here does. … Thus all hypocrites do that outwardly march along beautifully with admirable, great, high works. They may say that they do not covet glory and praise, but inwardly in their heart they are full of false ambition, they desire that all the world should know their piety, are greatly pleased if they hear any one speak of it.” [Luther, 11, 1539]. The resentment of the lawyer crops out in his question: And who, then, may my neighbor be? His argument is that one cannot always know who one’s neighbor is; it surely cannot be expected that we help all men in all their misfortunes. The Jews drew the boundaries very sharply, including only those of their own nation in the law of love, and excluding all others. “And above all is here rebuked and rejected the hypocritical explanation of the Jews, who picture and locate their neighbor according to their own ideas and consider only those whom they want in this class, that is, one who is a friend and merits it, who is worthy of the benefit and love, of whom they have made use and hope to make use of still more, believing that they were not under obligation to serve nor to help strange, unknown, unworthy, ungrateful enemies.” [Luther, 11, 1565].

But the story which Jesus tells, teaches, in a most searching and impressive manner whom God regards as our neighbor. A certain man went down from the hill country, where Jerusalem is situated, down through the rocky, badland section of Judea to the city of Jericho, in the low valley of the Jordan, the lowest river in the world. This region is an ideal country for robbers, since both the places for ambush and for hiding are so numerous. It was a certain man; no nationality given; a human being. And he fell into the hands of robbers which infested this region. They stripped him, belabored him with stripes, and then went their way, leaving their victim in a half-dead condition. Here was a man, a human being, in direst need of help. Now it so happened that a certain priest traveled down the same road. He saw the man lying there in his blood, but he went by, intent upon saving his own life and getting out of the dangerous region as fast as possible. In the same way a Levite, coming to that place, stepped near and saw the unfortunate man, but also hurried by over on the farther side, intent only upon saving himself. Both of these men belonged to the leaders among the people, to such as were supposed to be teaching and practising the arts of mercy and kindness toward all men. Yet they neglect an obvious duty in the desire to save themselves a disagreeable experience, in the fear that they might have to share his misfortune. This same spirit is abroad in the land to-day. The sayings: Every one is nearest neighbor to himself; Charity begins at home, and others are abused with an obvious purpose, namely, to find an excuse for neglected opportunities for aiding one’s neighbor.

The story concluded:

Luke 10:33-37

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. 36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? 37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.


Cross-references

Matthew 10:5-7; John 4:7-10; Luke 6:32-36; Luke 18:18-27; Matthew 3:8; Ephesians 2:8-10

The first two travelers had been Jews, and men of influence in the Jewish nation at that. This man that came last was a Samaritan, of whom the average Jew, as, for instance, this lawyer, believed anything but good. But this Samaritan, who had set out on a long journey, and was presumably in a hurry to cover as much ground as possible, yet when he came to the victim of the hold-up and saw his condition, was filled with the deepest compassion. But he wasted no time, neither in anxious solicitude for his own welfare nor in idle lamenting over the man’s misfortune. He acted. He went to the man, washed out his wounds with wine, on account of its antiseptic, cleansing properties, and also with oil, on account of its soothing, cooling qualities. He bound up the wounds to prevent further loss of blood; he placed him upon his own beast of burden, his pack-mule; he took him to an inn by the wayside, where a host could take care of his wants; he took the best care of the feverish man during the night. And when, on the next day, he was obliged to continue his journey, he paid the host in advance for the keep of two more days, two Denarii (about 34 or 35 cents) [Luco note: About six dollars in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator]. Thus he gave the poor sick man into the charge of the innkeeper, with the promise to pay any additional expense, when he came by here again. It is implied that he expects to return to this inn on his return; he is known as a regular customer. After this detailed, vivid picture there was hardly need of the question of Jesus as to who of the three travelers had proved himself a true neighbor to him that fell into the hands of the brigands. But the lawyer answered willingly and correctly enough: He that showed mercy toward him. And the word of Jesus made the application of the whole story: Go, and thou do likewise. The lesson was clear. There is no need of spending much time in looking for neighbors. Every one whom the Lord places near us, brings us into contact with, and who is in actual need, is one toward whom we can and ought to show mercy. For the chance of which we are apt to speak is God’s way of bringing suffering to our attention. If we should harden our hearts in such a case and refuse to do what is so obviously our duty under the circumstances, we deny our neighbor the help which the Lord demands of us and thus become murderers in the sight of God. Not that we are commanded to encourage idleness and loafing; But we have homes, institutions, in which poor, sick, orphans, and other unfortunate people are taken care of. Not all of us can go and tend to the service of these people. On account of the labors of our calling we would have neither the time nor the ability to do so. But we engage people that have the proper training for the work, and then see to it that the charity account of such institution does not suffer with a chronic shortage. That is the service of mercy, a blessed service.


Verses 38-42

Mary and Martha

Luke 10:38-42

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word. 40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.


Cross-references

John 11:1-2; Luke 12:22-34; Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Corinthians 7:32-36; Psalm 27:4

It is interesting to see that Luke here again brings a story of women that were disciples of Jesus. As they went, in the continuation of their journey, they came to a certain village. In the opinion of many commentators, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus at that time lived in a village on the Samaritan border, moving to Bethany later; but this is immaterial. However, we are struck by the evident intimacy of Jesus with the members of this household. This serves as an excellent example for all Christian households. Jesus should be the Friend, the ever-welcome Guest in every Christian home. In the prayers before and after meals, in family worship, in the prayers at bedtime His gracious presence should be invited, and the affairs of the entire household should always be conducted in such a manner that the Lord will be glad to make His home in the midst of such a family circle. Martha seems to have been the elder of the sisters, since we find her directing the affairs of the home and assuming the part of the hostess. But her sister Mary found a better use for her time than busying herself with household affairs. Just as Jesus always taught the matters concerning the kingdom of God with great willingness, so Mary absorbed His teaching with extreme avidity. So absorbed was she in the words of eternal truth that came forth from the mouth of Jesus that she forgot all else. Martha, on the other hand, after the manner of housewives the world over, was over-busy to serve the distinguished and beloved Guest properly; she tried to discover new ways of serving the Lord in her work as hostess. Note: We have here two forms of service, each done to the Lord, each with the best of intentions, the one with the work of the hands, the other in listening to the words of eternal wisdom. They need not clash, but have their worth, if the relation of values is always regarded, and first things are placed first. This lesson Martha had not yet learned. It displeased her that she was obliged to do the work of preparing the meals and serving the Lord all alone. And so she finally stepped up and said: Lord, does it not bother Thee that my sister lets me serve alone? Tell her that she should take a hand in this service also. There is a certain amount of resentment even against Jesus noticeable in these words, as though she would indicate that the Lord might stop teaching for a while and not interfere with the household duties. Jesus, however, tells the harassed hostess patiently and kindly, but also firmly, that she was bothering and concerning herself about many things. “Here you see that Christ, although He is hungry, yet He is so anxious about the salvation of souls that He forgets the food and only preaches to Mary; and He is so careful and concerned about the Word that He even rebukes Martha, who on account of her work, about which she is worried, even neglected the Gospel. … And especially should we give up all worry when the Word comes; then all work and occupation should be neglected.” [Luther, 13b, 2354]. There is only one thing that is needful in this world, which must be placed ahead of all other things, that is the Word of the Gospel, and faith in such Word and salvation. This good portion Mary had chosen. She had found in the Word the peace which passes all understanding; she was being trained unto eternal life. And that good part shall be taken neither from Mary nor from any other believer. The things of this world pass away, but the Word of the Lord abideth forever.

Summary

Jesus commissions seventy disciples as His messengers, utters a woe upon three Galilean cities, praises the blessedness of His disciples, tells the story of the Good Samaritan, and is a guest in the house of Martha, whom He instructs concerning the one thing needful.


Chapter 11

Verses 1-13

A lesson in prayer

The Lord’s Prayer:

Luke 11:1-4

1 And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And He said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.


Cross-references

Isaiah 64:8; Ephesians 1:2; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38-39; Romans 8:14-17; Leviticus 19:2; Exodus 20:7; Exodus 15:18; 2 Samuel 7:12,16; Isaiah 9:7; Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 3:2; Colossians 1:13-14; Luke 17:20-21; Luke 12:31-32; John 3:5; Psalm 145:15-16; Proverbs 30:7-9; Acts 17:26-28; Matthew 6:25-34; Romans 3:23-24; Psalm 51:1-12; Psalm 130:3-4; Psalm 19:12; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 1:8-10; Matthew 6:14-15; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-17; James 1:13-15; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 1 Peter 5:8-9; 1 Corinthians 10:12-13; Mark 14:38; James 1:2-3; Psalm 121:7-8; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Colossians 1:9-14

The habit of Jesus of resorting to prayer as often as possible, but especially at times of great stress and menacing trouble, was well known to the disciples; but one of them at least had occasion also to be convinced of the power and fervency of His prayer. When Jesus, therefore, upon that occasion, had ceased praying, this disciple, one of the later ones, that had not heard the Sermon on the Mount, stated a request to the Master that He teach them to pray, just as John the Baptist had given his disciples such lessons. The questioner had probably been one of John’s disciples, but had now finally been persuaded to follow Jesus. The Lord gladly yields to the wish and repeats, in a somewhat briefer form, what He had taught before. Cp. Matthew 6:9-13. As Father we address God: He is the Father of all created beings; they are His by virtue of His creation and His providence; but Father of the believers in a special sense, through the redemption and merits of Jesus Christ, Galatians 3:26; Galatians 4:6; 1 John 3:1-2. His name, His Word, everything that in any way designates and describes His essence, shall be hallowed, not by being made holy, but by being kept untarnished, unblemished, before the world. The believers pray earnestly for power so to live from day to day, so to comport themselves, that the name of God may be praised and honored throughout the world and not in any way dishonored or blasphemed, Romans 2:24. His kingdom should come — to us, by the fact of His keeping us in His Word and faith at all times; to all other people on earth, through the preaching of the glorious news of salvation in all the world. His will should be done. With the same willingness and eagerness as the angels in heaven delight in doing God’s will, so glad should we be found to carry out all His precepts. At the same time we pray for patient submission, if the will of the heavenly Father should find it necessary to lay a cross upon us. He will carry out His good and gracious will against all the attempts of the enemies to frustrate the designs of mercy toward us. The bread of and for the day we ask of the Lord, enough to last us till the next morning, that we may not be concerned and worry about the things of this body and life. For the forgiveness of our sins, the greatest spiritual gift, we pray, promising incidentally to forgive every one that offends us, since the small debts of our fellow-men cannot even come into consideration in comparison with the immense debt of our trespasses against God. We pray that He would not lead us into temptation, not permit our enemies to place traps for our unwary feet, to guard and keep us, that the devil, the world, and our own flesh may not deceive us, nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice, as Luther explains. Rather do we ask of Him and hope to receive this by faith, that God would deliver us from the devil and every evil which that evil spirit and most dangerous enemy may devise against us. The disciples of Christ of all times, who ought to be instant and expert in prayer, are still very sluggish, weak, and forgetful in spiritual things; they must always learn over again what they have once learned, they must be taught day by day what and how they should pray.

The importunity of prayer:

Luke 11:5-10

And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.


Cross-references

Matthew 7:7-8; Mark 11:20-25; John 14:1,13-14; John 15:1-16; James 1:5-8; James 4:3; James 5:13-18; Mark 9:14-29; 1 John 5:13-15; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Isaiah 55:6-7; Jeremiah 29:10-14

An effective admonition to be instant and persistent in prayer. Note the vividness, but also the chasteness of the narrative: The friend, presuming upon the rights of friendship; the midnight call; the urgent pleading for three loaves of bread to set a meal before an unexpected guest; the displeasure of the other at the disturbance and his unwillingness to disturb the children that shared the same room with him; his pleading inconvenience and grumbling over the matter, protesting that he cannot fulfil his request. All this is true to life. But just as true to average experience is the final yielding of the housefather, not so much on account of the demands of friendship as for the purpose of quieting the importunate disturber. The picture is strongly drawn, and purposely so, on account of the lesson the Lord wishes to convey. The importunity of the Christian’s prayer must verge on impudence; it must be characterized by an unwearied perseverance, by an endurance which refuses to be discouraged, by a shameless disregard of God’s apparent indifference. There is a climax in Christ’s admonition. The asking must be followed by an earnest seeking, and this eager searching by persistent knocking at the door of God’s heart. The result must finally be that the pleader will see his petition fulfilled; the searcher will find his quest rewarded; he whose knocking reverberates through the house again and again will find the doors opened unto him. This is the holy importunity of prayer which Jesus here recommends to us, enjoins upon us; for it is a praying, an urging, a storming which comes out of faith and therefore cannot fail of its object. “If even a man that loves his night’s rest more than his friend can be moved to yield, since he cannot sleep on account of the importunate pleading: how much more the best Friend in heaven, who is all love toward His friends on earth?” [Luther, quoted in Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 184]

A further admonition:

Luke 11:11-13

11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?


Cross-references

Matthew 7:9-11; Genesis 6:5; Psalm 14; Psalm 53; Psalm 51:3-5; Romans 5:12; 1 John 1:8-10; Romans 3:9-26; 1 Timothy 5:8

Jesus draws a final lesson from the love which parents bear to their children. Whom of you, being a father, shall his son ask for bread, — surely he will not give him a stone! Or also a fish, — surely he will not give him, instead of the fish, a serpent! Or also an egg, — surely he will not give a scorpion (the latter being a lobsterlike animal lurking in stone walls). A parent that would act as Jesus describes would be inhuman. No normal, sane father would be capable of such cruelty. And now Jesus makes the conclusion from the smaller to the greater. If human parents, whose disposition of heart is by nature evil, will show so much affection toward their children, surely the Father from heaven, in His merciful goodness and grace, will give the Holy Ghost, the highest and most wonderful gift from above, the gift which includes all other spiritual gifts, to them that ask Him! God wants the Christians to pray, and He intends to give them the spiritual gifts which they have need of without condition. But He insists upon being asked, lest the gifts lose their value in the eyes of men, and lest the Christians become careless about working out their own salvation with fear and trembling. He does not force His gifts upon unwilling and indifferent hearts.


Verses 14-28

Christ casts out a devil and rebukes the Pharisees

The miracle and its effect:

Luke 11:14-16

14 And He was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. 15 But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. 16 And others, tempting Him, sought of Him a sign from heaven.


Cross-references

Matthew 12:22-24; Matthew 9:34; Mark 3:20-22; Matthew 4:23-25; John 6:41-42; John 7:14-31; John 8:48-59; 2 Kings 1:2-4

Luke makes the historical setting of this story very meager, stating merely the fact that Jesus cast out a demon that was dumb, but omitting to mention the Pharisees and scribes, since his readers would not have known what these persons represented in this connection. The evangelist’s purpose is to bring out the words of Jesus upon this occasion. Three classes of people are mentioned as being influenced by the miracle of casting out the demon. The great majority of the common people wondered; that was their usual status after some extraordinary proof of Christ’s power. Had they but searched the Scriptures and believed what Jesus said of Himself, their astonishment might have had some value. Their direct descendants are the modern persons that want to bear the Christian name, that marvel at the beauty and power of the Gospel, but are not interested in its deeper meaning, in the salvation of their souls. The second class was much smaller. It was recruited from the ranks of the Pharisees, and their feeling toward Christ was that of implacable, malignant hatred. Sneeringly they remarked that in and through the power of Beelzebub (the god of flies) or Beelzebul (the god of dung), the prince and foremost of the demons, He cast out the demons. That was infamous, base slander, against their own knowledge and conviction. And the third class, agreeing with the second in their hatred of Jesus, tempted Him, tried to draw Him on, sought a sign from heaven from Him, as though the many signs and wonders which had been done before the people were not sufficient evidence of the Lord’s divine mission. To this day the enemies of the Lord resort to lies and slanders to harm the work of the Gospel; their object is to suppress the truth at all costs.

Christ’s defense:

Luke 11:17-23

17 But He, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. 18 If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. 19 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. 20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. 21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: 22 But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. 23 He that is not with Me is against Me: and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth.


Cross-references

Matthew 12:25-32; Mark 3:23-27; Isaiah 49:25; Matthew 4:1-11; Matthew 27:50-54; 1 Corinthians 1:18; Colossians 1:13-14; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 20:1-3

Cp. Matthew 12:25-30; Mark 3:23-27. Jesus, by His divine omniscience, knew the thoughts of His enemies, even though He did not hear them, and proceeds to give them a line of argument that leaves them and their slanderous blasphemy in well-deserved disgrace. Every kingdom that is divided against itself is destroyed: the natural result of revolution is dissolution. And, under those circumstances, one house will fall against the next, one tumbling house knocking down its neighbor, and so everything be drawn into the general desolation. This fact being universally acknowledged as in harmony with the experience of mankind, the application to the present situation is easily made. If Jesus be in league with the prince of the devils, and yet cast out devils to their own harm and disgrace, then it follows that there is a division in the kingdom of the devil, and how will his kingdom then stand? Then there is another argument. If that accusation were true and the power of Jesus over the demons were derived from Satan, how were they going to explain the fact that their own sons, their disciples, were acting as exorcists, going about through the country and attempting to cast out devils? Cp. Acts 19:13-14. By insisting upon their explanation of Christ’s ability, they were condemning themselves, their own disciples becoming their judges. But, on the other hand, if the miracles of casting out devils which Jesus performed were due to the finger of God, the power of God which was necessary in true exorcising [Cp. Deissmann, Licht vom Osten, 222], it was an incontrovertible proof that in and with Christ, the Prophet of Nazareth, the kingdom of God had reached them, come upon them. In His person and in His message they had the means of obtaining everlasting life if they would but accept the grace of God. In a kindly, but comprehensive way Jesus now tries to show His audience what His coming into the world signified and included, so far as the rule of Satan was concerned. The latter, indeed, was a strong and mighty spirit, and was at all times fully armed, guarding his court, his palace, his castle, with all his power. For he is the prince of this world and has his work in the children of unbelief. And up till now he had held his own in peace, without any trouble to speak of; all his subjects had been willing and obedient. But now the Stronger one had come, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Messiah. He came upon the devil and vanquished him. And not only that, but He reduced him to utter subjection and helplessness by taking from him his panoply, his armor, his practically unlimited power in which he placed his trust, and dividing the spoils among His own followers, Colossians 2:15. But these spoils, victory over death and the devil, belong only to such as have chosen this Champion as their own Lord; for those that are not with Christ, on His side, taking His part at all times, are against Him and must be reckoned with His enemies; and he that is not working with Him in every respect must be considered as belonging to those that disperse and scatter the fruit of His ministry and labor.

An impressive warning:

Luke 11:24-26

24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. 25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. 26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.


Cross-references

Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 8:26-33; Isaiah 34:14; Revelation 17:3; Revelation 18:2

We have here an exact and fitting description of the average “saw-dust trail” and “New Year’s reformation” and its results, where resolutions are made under the influence of a temporary fear or an attack of civic righteousness, without the power of God in the Gospel. It was even thus with many of the Pharisees, with their outward righteousness and their inward filthiness. By a proud resolution they banished forever, as they thought, some special vice which had ruled them, intemperance, uncleanness, blasphemy. And the banished spirit found no congenial company, finally deciding, therefore, to return to his former home. Cp. Matthew 12:43-45. In the mean time the proud maker of resolutions has long ago regretted the hasty words, and when the spirit of his favorite vice returns, the house of that person’s heart is fully swept and ornamented for his reception. In great glee will such a spirit then go out and hunt companions, more wicked than himself, for now there is little danger of a second banishment. And thus it happens that the last state of that person is worse than the first. It is only by understanding the nature of sin and transgression as an offense against God that repentance can be worked; and it is only through the power of God in the Gospel that a change of heart can truly occur and remain permanent.

A woman’s judgment of Christ:

Luke 11:27-28

27 And it came to pass, as He spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto Him, Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked. 28 But He said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it.


Cross-references

Luke 1:26-38; Genesis 3:20; Genesis 4:1; Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 2; Luke 8:19-21; John 19:25-27

The words of Christ may not have had much influence upon the hard-hearted Pharisees, but they certainly did make a deep impression upon a certain woman in the crowd. Raising her voice, she called out, calling the mother that had borne and nourished such a Son happy and blessed. She thought and spoke like a mother, and one that would have counted herself lucky in having such a Son. But Jesus corrected her. True happiness, true blessedness, has a different basis, a different reason. Rather let this be known and acted upon, that they that hear the Word of God and keep it are the truly blessed. Hearing alone is not sufficient, as He has shown in the Parable of the Fourfold Soil, but to this must be added the observing and keeping of the Word and the bringing forth of fruit in accordance with their profession. “Therefore let us thank God for such grace that to aid us He sent His Son against the devil to cast him out, and left His Word with us, through which to this day such work is carried on, the kingdom of the devil destroyed, and the kingdom of God is established and increased.” [Luther, 13a, 277].


Verses 29-36

A warning to the Jews

Luke 11:29-32

29 And when the people were gathered thick together, He began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. 30 For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.


Cross-references

Matthew 12:38-42; Luke 11:16; Luke 23:8; John 2:18; John 4:48; 1 Corinthians 1:22-24; Mark 8:11-12; Matthew 16:2-4; Genesis 6:5; Psalm 53:3; Luke 11:11-13; Mark 8:38; James 4:4; 1 Kings 10:1-5; Jonah 3:6-10; Matthew 12:6; John 8:53-59

The altercation with the Pharisees and scribes after the healing of the dumb demoniac had drawn a large crowd, and, as always under such circumstances, the crowd was quickly augmented and enlarged. And so Jesus took the opportunity of speaking to them all, taking His cue from the request that some of them wanted to see a sign from heaven. The entire generation, the whole race of the people that were here represented, were evil, wicked, far from knowing wherein true morality consists. They sought a sign, but they should not receive any in the sense which they had in mind. Only the sign of the Prophet Jonah would be set before them, just as the sign of the brazen serpent was placed before the children of Israel in the wilderness. The resurrection of Jesus is the one great sign from heaven before the people of all times. Cp. Matthew 12:38-42. Altogether, in his whole ministry, Jonah had been a sign to the inhabitants of Nineveh, as a preacher of righteousness unto salvation. And so Jesus was a sign to the people of His generation and times, proclaiming before them all the coming of the kingdom of God through faith in His ministry and work. But the results would not even measure up to those of Jonah, a fact which would redound to their own condemnation. For in the Judgment, on the day when God will judge the quick and the dead, the queen of the South, the rich and powerful queen that had come to visit Solomon, would appear with them, as their accuser, before the throne of the Judge. For she, for the sake of hearing the wisdom of a mere man, came from the extreme ends of the earth, 1 Kings 10:1; but here, in the person of Jesus, stood one that was far greater than the ancient king, whose wisdom was immeasurably greater than that of Solomon. Instead of having people come to Him for the words of eternal life, He was obliged to go out and seek the people. And the queen of Sheba would be joined by the men of Nineveh, who would also arise to condemn this generation on the Day of Judgment; for when Jonah preached his sermon of repentance to them, they gave heed and turned from the error of their ways. And here, in the person of Jesus, was a greater man than Jonah, Jonah’s God and Lord, in fact.

Parabolic warnings:

Luke 11:33-36

33 No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. 34 The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. 35 Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. 36 If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.


Cross-references

Matthew 5:13-16; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; John 1:1-5; John 8:12; Psalm 27:1; Proverbs 4:18-19; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; Philippians 2:14-15; Ephesians 5:1-16

These proverbial, parabolic sayings of the Lord were favorite remarks of His when He wanted to drive home the great truth of the necessity of harmony between profession and practise of Christian morality. To light a lamp or a light of any kind, and then to place it into a cellar or vault or under a measure, where it cannot be seen and cannot serve as a guide for him that comes into the house, is foolish; for the purpose of the light is not realized. But equally foolish it is for a person professing faith to give no evidence of that faith in outward visible deeds. If there were any present on that day that had gained the conviction of His Messiahship, they should come out boldly for Him and stand up before the whole world. What disastrous results follow the method of being convinced in the heart and yet not daring to confess Christ openly, He shows by a comparison. If the eye of the body, which is its light, is single, healthy, properly fitted for its work, then it serves as the instrument for conveying light to the whole body; but if the eye is evil, unhealthy, not in proper condition, it cannot serve its purpose; and the person possessing such an eye is in darkness though he stand in a flood of sunlight. If, then, the light in any person be darkness, if what he considered to be light be the opposite, then the double darkness of such a person will be appalling. But if the whole body be in bright light and no part in darkness, then the brightness will be like that of lightning. The eye of a Christian is his Christian understanding; it enables the believer to walk in the light of God’s Word, makes him ready for every good work. When the light of Christ dwells fully in the heart, it extends its influence to every thought, word, and action, and directs its possessor how he is to comport himself in all places and circumstances. “It is of the utmost importance to have the soul properly influenced by the wisdom that comes down from above. The doctrine that is contrary to the Gospel may say, Ignorance is the mother of devotion; but Christ shows that there can be no devotion without heavenly light. Ignorance is the mother of superstition; but with this the heavenly light has nothing to do.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 439].


Verses 37-54

Woes upon the Pharisees and lawyers

The Pharisee’s offense:

Luke 11:37-41

37 And as He spake, a certain Pharisee besought Him to dine with Him: and He went in, and sat down to meat. 38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that He had not first washed before dinner. 39 And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. 40 Ye fools, did not He that made that which is without make that which is within also? 41 But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.


Cross-references

Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23; Matthew 23:25-26; Luke 16:14-17; Luke 7:36-50

Cp. Matthew 23. While Jesus was still speaking to the people, a Pharisee that may have been desirous of becoming more closely acquainted with Him invited Jesus to take a meal with him, the earlier one of the day. The Lord accepted, went into the house with His host, but purposely omitted the customary washing and sat down at once at the table in the usual recumbent position. The Pharisee was greatly surprised that He had not washed before the meal. Note: Literally, we read that He had not baptized Himself; another bit of evidence that the word “baptize” in the New Testament is not confined to the act of complete immersion. The wonder of the Pharisee may have found its expression in disapproving words as well as in disgusted glances. But Jesus was now ready to teach a lesson, brought on by the circumstances. He said: Ye Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but the inside of you is full of robbery and wickedness, thus explaining His figure at once. What was inside the cup and the platter was dishonest, stolen goods. Thus Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they stressed outside purity, the semblance of great holiness, while their heart was full of every evil thing. This showed their foolishness; for God made both the outside and the inside, and He puts the emphasis upon the right condition of the heart. If they therefore now would give what they had, especially what they had obtained by unjust means, the things which were within the dishes, as alms, then they would straighten out matters again, then everything would be clean. In this way they would show the proper disposition of heart toward Christ and God. It is the peculiarity of all self-righteous hypocrites that they pay much attention to customs and ceremonies, but think lightly of gross sins which pollute heart and mind.

A threefold woe:

Luke 11:42-44

42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 43 Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. 44 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.


Cross-references

Matthew 23:23; Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:24; Deuteronomy 14:23; Matthew 23:1-7; Matthew 23:27-28; Numbers 19:14-22; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

The Lord proceeds to characterize Pharisaism by bringing out its most objectionable features. The Pharisees were very careful and scrupulous about paying the tithe of even the smallest vegetable in their gardens, of mint, and rue, and every herb, Numbers 28:21; Deuteronomy 14:23. But this punctilious care did not extend to the really important virtues in life, to judgment and the love of God. Many Pharisees belonged to the Sanhedrin, the highest ecclesiastical court of the Jews; others to the local court of seven, which was found in every town. There their judgments were often unjust, partial, one-sided. And as they passed by and omitted love and faithfulness toward their neighbor, so they denied love toward God. That is the way of the Pharisees of all times, that they are painstakingly anxious in the smallest, most inconsequential things, but forget virtue and conscience in the great and important things. It is well enough to be conscientious in the little things, it was true enough that they owed that; but they most emphatically should not have left the other undone. Faithfulness in small things, but above all in the important matters of life, is required of all. And even as the Pharisees thus had a false idea of the relation of values, they possessed inordinate ambition. To occupy the seat of the elders, the place of honor in the synagogs; to receive the respectful salutations of the people in the market-places, that was the height of their ambition. And finally, they were characterized by hypocrisy and false sanctity. They were like graves without the distinguishing mark of whitewash, by which a person would be warned not to become unclean in touching them. Thus people came into daily contact with the Pharisees, not recognizing their falseness and hypocrisy, and were contaminated. Such pride, false ambition, and hypocrisy is found in all self-righteous people.

The insulted lawyer:

Luke 11:45-48

45 Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto Him, Master, thus saying Thou reproachest us also. 46 And He said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. 48 Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres.


Cross-references

Matthew 23:1-4; Matthew 23:29-33; Isaiah 5:20; Matthew 21:33-46; Acts 7:51-60; Hebrews 11:35-38; Matthew 5:11-12; Romans 8:16-17

A certain scribe, one of the teachers of the Law, who was sitting by, felt that the description which Jesus had just given of the Pharisees fitted his own case remarkably well. And so he actually invited the criticism of Jesus upon himself and his fellows by challenging Him at this point. For Christ fearlessly proceeds to say exactly what He thinks of the whole class. These teachers of the Law, in their rules of conduct for the people, weighed them down with heavy, unbearable burdens, with precepts which regulated even the most minute happenings of their daily life, but they themselves did not so much as touch the burdens with one of their fingers, for they knew better and did not care to torture themselves. How well this fits many rules of the Roman Catholic Church! The lawyers also built tombs unto the prophets with the idea of honoring them. But in reality they were continuing the evil work of their fathers. Their forefathers had put more than one of the prophets of old to death, and the present people, in erecting the tombs, agreed with the work of their ancestors. “They killed, you build; worthy sons of such fathers!” The lawyers truly had their fathers’ disposition. Outwardly they honored the prophets, insisted upon observing any precept that might be found in any book of the Old Testament, but the prophecy concerning the Messiah they garbled and denied. This feature characterizes the preaching of the false prophets of all times. They refer to the Bible and praise many sections of it highly, but the great central doctrines of Scripture, especially that concerning the justification of a poor sinner through the merits of Jesus, by faith only, that they omit, and they are full of enmity toward the true messengers of the Gospel, persecuting them whenever they have an opportunity.

The last woe and its effect:

Luke 11:49-54

49 Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: 50 That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; 51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. 52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. 53 And as He said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge Him vehemently, and to provoke Him to speak of many things: 54 Laying wait for Him, and seeking to catch something out of His mouth, that they might accuse Him.


Cross-references

Matthew 23:34-36; Acts 7:51-60; Hebrews 11:35-38; Matthew 10:16-23; Genesis 4:1-10; Hebrews 11:4; 1 John 3:11-15; Zechariah 1:1-6; 2 Chronicles 24:20-22; Deuteronomy 32:35; Psalm 94; Revelation 6:9-11; Matthew 23:13; Isaiah 22:22; Matthew 16:15-20; John 20:21-23; Revelation 1:17-18

Jesus here revealed to the lawyers the counsel of God; for He Himself, the personal Wisdom, was the representative of the council of the Trinity. The children had inherited the character, the evil disposition, of their fathers, and therefore the iniquity of the fathers was visited upon the children. The blood of all the righteous people and of all the prophets since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel, the son of Adam, to the blood of Zechariah, 2 Chronicles 24:20-21, would be required at the hands of the present generation. Most solemn and impressive is the prophecy of Jesus, which was fulfilled so terribly in the destruction of the city. The Jews of the time of Jesus had received a greater measure of God’s mercy than the Jews of old. They had seen and heard the Messiah Himself, and would have an opportunity to hear also the apostles. But their hatred and bloodthirstiness was even greater than that of their fathers; they utterly despised and rejected God’s visitation of grace. What a warning to them that despise the preaching of the Gospel in our days! And still Jesus continues His rebuke. The lawyers had taken away the key of understanding of Scriptures. The words of prophecy concerning the Messiah were so plain that the people might have gained the proper understanding themselves, if they had been permitted to study without hindrance. But here the teachers stepped in with their false, carnal interpretation of the Bible and deprived the people of the knowledge of salvation. They themselves did not enter, and they hindered such as were anxious to enter. How like the sectarian teachers of our days, especially among the Papists!

Small wonder that the scribes and Pharisees began to be very angry at the Lord. Wherever they could, they plied Him with crafty questions, in the hope that He would give ill-considered answers. They were literally lying in wait, assiduously watching every word out of His mouth, in order to find some reason for accusing Him. That is the hatred which the truth, and he that speaks the truth, must expect at all times. The example of Christ is encouraging.

Summary

Jesus gives His disciples a lesson in prayer, casts out a dumb devil, and rebukes the Pharisees, issues a warning to all the Jews, and utters a series of woes against the Pharisees and lawyers.


Chapter 12

Verses 1-21

Warning against hypocrisy and covetousness

The leaven of the Pharisees:

Luke 12:1-3

1 In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, He began to say unto His disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.


Cross-references

Luke 11:29; Matthew 16:5-12; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:1-9; Matthew 23:27-28; Luke 8:16-18; Matthew 10:26-27; 1 Timothy 5:24-25

While the assaults of the Pharisees and scribes were going on, while they were attempting everything in their power to discredit Jesus and find some ground for accusing Him, the people, on the whole, came together to Him in greater multitudes than ever before, by the thousands, the largest gathering that had ever assembled about Him. So violently did they surge forward to come near the Lord that they literally trod one another down. Jesus, after His custom, took this opportunity to address the people on some subjects which were needful to them. His remarks were addressed chiefly to His disciples, but could easily be understood as far as His voice reached. The first topic of His discourse was that of hypocrisy. Note: The fact that many sayings of this chapter resemble, or are identical with, some of those in the Sermon on the Mount need cause no uneasiness. Jesus undoubtedly said many things which He wanted the people to know again and again, in order to impress it upon their minds. Here He warns His hearers to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which He explains as hypocrisy, while at other times He refers to their false doctrine, Matthew 16:11-12. Hypocrisy is like leaven; if it is given room in the heart, it begins to work and extend its influence, until finally the effects will show on the outside. A hypocrite may wear the mask of sanctity for some time and dissimulate before the eyes of men; but it will putrefy the heart and soul to such an extent that it may be revealed at a most unexpected time. For though a thing may be very carefully covered, it will come to light some time; and though it be hidden, it will be made known. The Lord now makes the application of the saying in a good sense. Instead of trying to cover up and hide their convictions, the believers in Christ should take note. They should not resort to whispering in secret, in darkness, in the inner chambers, with the object of keeping their Christian convictions from the knowledge of the people, for that is a species of hypocrisy, but should be open and fearless before all men about speaking the truth and proclaiming the Gospel. Note: The warning is needed also in our days, when church-members are going to the extent of hiding even their churchgoing from their neighbors and of removing every evidence of Christianity from their rooms, Bibles, prayer-books, religious pictures, and papers, lest some of their “friends” may smile in a pitying fashion over their time-worn superstitions! Such hypocrisy is tantamount to an open denial of Christ.

True fearlessness:

Luke 12:4-7

And I say unto you My friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear Him, which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.


Cross-references

Matthew 10:28-33; Romans 3:10-18; 1 John 4:15-19; 1 Peter 2:17; Proverbs 9:10; 1 Peter 3:13-22; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12

As friends Jesus addresses His disciples, a title showing His love and trust in them, John 15:14. They should have no fear of those that can injure and destroy the body, if God should so permit. Only one fear can and should live in their hearts, a deep-seated fear, an awe and reverence which is not afraid of the punishment, but stands in holy dread of Him that judges and condemns both soul and body to everlasting destruction. For this is not a mere human tempter, who tries to harm his neighbor’s soul by leading him into sin, nor is it Satan, for he has no absolute power over body and soul. It is the great God, the divine Judge, Himself. Fear of human enemies, of their contempt and of their injury, implies lack of faith in Him, which may, in turn, lead to denial and thus to damnation. And again: Why fear? So little are sparrows valued by men that they were put up in packages of five or ten and sold on the market at the rate of five for two assaria, or less than a cent apiece; so insignificant is the loss of a single hair that it is not even noticed. And yet: Not a single one of these cheapest of birds is forgotten or neglected before God; all the hairs of our head are numbered by Him, and His accounts are always right. How foolish therefore is fear, since we have His assurance that we are preferred above many sparrows in His estimation.

Confessing Christ:

Luke 12:8-12

Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. 10 And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. 11 And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: 12 For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.


Cross-references

Romans 10:5-13; 1 John 2:23; 1 John 5:1; Luke 9:23-26; Luke 15:1-10; 2 Timothy 2:10-13; Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30; Luke 23:34; Mark 16:16; John 3:18; Romans 11:20-22; Isaiah 5:20-21; Romans 1:18-23

In order to impress upon His disciples the necessity of an open and fearless confession, Jesus solemnly refers to the final judgment. A confession of Christ before men, an open proclamation of the truth and a steadfast defense of the truth, is demanded of every follower of Christ. By the grace, in the strength of Christ, we confess. And He will stand by us on the last day and confess us just as fully and much more cheerfully before the angels of God that will be present before the judgment throne. But if we deny Christ before men, we thereby prove that we have no faith in our heart. The denier of Christ will find himself denied and rejected just when he needs help and saving, on the Day of Judgment, before all the holy angels of God as witnesses. There is grave danger in denial, even in the present time, under the present conditions. For denial may result in blasphemy, of a kind spoken by the Pharisees that charged Jesus with being in league with Satan or Beelzebub. There may be such a thing as a lapse, a temporary speaking against the person of Jesus. That sin will readily find forgiveness if true repentance is found. But if one blasphemes against the Holy Ghost, against His work, then the sin, in its very nature, is outside of the pale of forgiveness. “To blaspheme the Holy Ghost means to hate and reject the Spirit of Truth wantonly, with full knowledge and will. Only such a person can do this as has felt the work of the Spirit in his heart and knows Him to be the Spirit of Truth. If any one, as a child of Satan, follows Satan in this, that he hates the Spirit who reproves him as a spirit of torture, and becomes an enemy and opponent of the truth witnessed by the Holy Ghost: such a person blasphemes the Holy Ghost, and this sin is unforgivable. The reason why it cannot be forgiven is not to be found in this, that the fountain of mercy in God’s heart is stopped up, but rather in this, that the opening for repentance and faith in the heart of the sinner is stopped up.” As for the disciples, however, let them feel no uneasiness and fear about their ability to defend their faith at the proper time. When their enemies would bring them before the council of their synagogs, before the rulers, and before other tribunals, it would be true indeed that they could not hope to dominate the situation by means of their own ability. The wisdom and skill of the world in oratory would be arrayed against them. But still they should not worry about their defense, for the Holy Ghost would teach them at that time and give such words into their mouths as would exactly fit the situation and tend to confound their enemies. Many a Christian has been surprised, when attacked by the enemies of Christ, at the easy flow of thoughts and words which came to him at such a time. If a person does not depend upon his own art and skill, the Lord Himself will guide his tongue in the defense of the great truths of the Bible.

Warning against avarice:

Luke 12:13-15

13 And one of the company said unto Him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. 14 And He said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? 15 And He said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.


Cross-references

Luke 11:27-28; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; Exodus 20:17; Colossians 3:5-6; Hebrews 13:5; Proverbs 30:7-9

While Jesus was addressing the multitude, there came an interruption. A man in the crowd asked Him to speak to his brother about dividing the inheritance with him, the brother apparently having found a way to evade the law, Deuteronomy 21:17. But Jesus, true to the principle that spiritual and temporal affairs should be kept strictly asunder, immediately shows that He was not in the least in sympathy with the man’s object. He is neither a judge, to decide the case on its merits, nor is He an arbiter, to carry out any decision which He might be inclined to make. But the interruption gave Jesus occasion to draw a lesson for His entire audience and to warn them against covetousness. This is an insidious, a dangerous vice, coming upon a person with subtle wariness, and therefore to be guarded against with double care. And it is a foolish vice, for a man’s life and happiness do not depend upon the great abundance of goods which he may call his own. A certain amount of food, clothing to protect against the inclemencies of the weather, and a roof against the elements, that is all that may be considered necessary for life. Whatever is beyond that entails additional care and responsibility, and will have to be accounted for most carefully on the day of the great reckoning.

The parable of the rich man:

Luke 12:16-21

16 And He spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.


Cross-references

Mark 4:18-19; Luke 11:3; Proverbs 30:7-9; Ecclesiastes 2:18-26; Ecclesiastes 5:10-11; Psalm 49; James 4:13-16; Matthew 6:19-24; James 5:1-6; 1 Timothy 6:6-19; 1 Peter 1:3-9

The foolishness of covetousness and of trusting in riches could not be brought out more emphatically than in this parable. A certain rich man’s land had proved very fertile, it had yielded a bumper crop. This was God’s blessing, as it always is in such cases. But the man evidently thought the surplus was his to deal with as he deemed best, since he intended to use it in his own service. And so he planned to save the big crop with its riches by building greater barns and granaries than he had, and then to store there all the fruit of his lands and all his other personal property. But this was not for the purpose of doing the work of his stewardship before God with greater faithfulness, but to have the enjoyment of all the riches for himself. His goods were his god; in them he trusted to bring him happiness and the fulfilment of all his desires. This man, like most rich men, made the mistake of considering the additional wealth an asset, whereas it was a liability. Every dollar that God blesses a person with beyond the actual needs of life for himself and his family is not an asset in God’s sight, but a liability. The prayer of Agur, Proverbs 30:8-9, is very necessary in our days when the love of money, covetousness, is stalking through the land, sowing dissatisfaction and strife in every station of life. But into the midst of these rosy meditations thundered the voice of God: Fool, man void of sense and understanding, in this night thy life is asked of thee. And the greater reckoning will follow. That which thou hast gathered, whose will it be? But even as foolish are all people that think only of gaining riches for themselves, the goods of this world, neglecting to seek the true wealth, the spiritual, heavenly gifts. “Total bankruptcy is the end of the covetous man. He is brought into judgment with his name lost, for before God he is a fool; with his soul lost, for that is required of him for eternal punishment; with the world lost, for that he must leave behind; with heaven lost, for he has neglected to deposit a capital in heaven.” [Besser, quoted in Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 187]. “He that lives without God will never enjoy a single penny, and will have no happiness of his goods, for he has a bad conscience, as the Scripture says Isaiah 57:21. … These people have no heart towards God, therefore they are afraid of death every moment; they are not secure, neither within nor without; they fear that the house will burn down, that thieves will come and steal their money; there is no happy heart, no joy, no rest, neither by day nor by night.” [Luther, 3, 1060].


Verses 22-59

Of trust in God and preparation for Christ’s coming

Warnings against care:

Luke 12:22-26

22 And He said unto His disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. 23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. 24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? 25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one Cubit? 26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?


Cross-references

Matthew 6:25-27; Philippians 4:4-7; Psalm 145:15-16; Acts 17:26-28; Matthew 5:36

There is a close connection between the warning spoken to the people in general and that addressed to the disciples in particular, for covetousness may have its root in care and worry for the matters of this earthly existence. God has given life to us, therefore He will also provide food to sustain it; He has given us our body, and therefore He will also provide the clothing to shelter it. He has given the greater, that which has more value in His sight, and therefore He may be trusted to take care of the smaller and less important also. The ravens, the birds of the air, are our examples for perfect trust in the providence of God. They neither sow nor reap; they have neither storehouse nor granary; and yet God takes care of them. So we should heed the lesson they teach. “There the birds fly past our eyes, with little honor to us, that we might well take off our hats to them and say: My dear doctor, I must confess that I do not understand the art which thou knowest. Thou sleepest through the night in thy nest, without care. In the morning thou arisest, art happy and joyful, sittest on a tree, singest, praisest, and thankest God; then thou seekest thy food and findest it. Why, what have I, for an old fool, learned that I do not act in the same way? If the little bird can desist from worrying and acts in such a case like a perfect saint, and yet has neither land nor barn, neither box nor cellar; it sings, praises God, rejoices, and is happy, for it knows that it has One that cares for us, whose name is Father in heaven: why, then, do we not also act thus, we that have the advantage that we can work, till the ground, gather the fruits, put them together, and keep them for the time of need? And yet we cannot omit the shameful worrying. Do as the birds do; learn to believe, sing, be happy, and let your heavenly Father care for you.” [Luther, quoted in Besser Bibelstunden, 1, 578]. All the worrying of a person will also not succeed in doing what God can easily do, add a Cubit to the stature. And if we cannot even do what seems so self-evident and simple according to the laws of nature, why should we worry about things which are entirely in God’s hands, and which He has always taken care of for our welfare?

A lesson from the fields:

Luke 12:27-31

27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will He clothe you, O ye of little faith? 29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. 30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. 31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.


Cross-references

Matthew 6:28-34; 1 Kings 10:4-7; 2 Chronicles 9:20-22; Psalm 8; Acts 14:17; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Romans 14:17; Luke 11:2-4

The lilies of the field, with their velvety texture and their inimitably gorgeous colors, present the second object-lesson. For they do not ply the needle, neither do they spin or weave. And yet they are not only clothed, but their raiment is of such a kind that even rich King Solomon, with the almost fabulous riches at his disposal, could not compare with one of them in this respect. And Jesus goes even farther than this. Even the grass, that has little beauty to commend it to the average observer, uses better judgment. It blooms and flourishes in the field to-day, and to-morrow it is used as fuel for the ovens of the people. And yet it is clothed by God for the short space of its life; how much rather will God, then, give the necessary clothing to His children. “There stand flowers of every color, decorated in the most beautiful manner, that no emperor or king is equal to them in ornament. For all their ornament is a dead thing. But a flower has its color and beauty, and is a natural, living thing. And it is not to be understood that it grows thus by chance. For if it were not God’s special order and creation, it would never be possible that one be so much like the other, having the same color, leaves, number of petals, veins, indentations, and other measures. If God, then, uses such diligence in case of the grass, which exists only that it may be seen and that the cattle may eat it, is it not a sin and a shame that we still doubt whether God will actually provide clothing for us?” [Luther, quoted in Besser Bibelstunden, 1, 580]. What foolishness, therefore, to be concerned about eating and drinking; to be full of hesitation and doubt, to look anxiously for help, like the mariner in a tempest-tossed vessel! These all are things which the people of the world, the heathen, make their prime concern; but as for you, the Father knows that ye need these things. Only one thing there is which should be the object of anxious search, that is the kingdom of God. To be a member of this kingdom, to have and keep true faith in the heart, through which such membership is insured, that is the one fact which should give every Christian his chief concern, on account of which he daily prays the Second Petition. All the other things that are necessary for the sustaining of life are added without worry or care, by the providence of God.

The little flock:

Luke 12:32-34

32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.


Cross-references

Luke 11:2; Matthew 25:31-34; John 3:5-6; Acts 8:12; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Jeremiah 17:7-8; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Matthew 6:19-21; Matthew 19:16-30

Only a little flock is that of the disciples in the midst of the great mass of the nations of the world; only a few, a mere handful, that are earnestly and anxiously seeking the Kingdom. But these shall not fear, for the Kingdom shall be theirs according to the good pleasure of the Father, because it pleases Him, in His great mercy, to give it to them, as a free gift. “As though He would say: You have not earned it; yea, you have earned hell; but what happens to you, that is nothing but grace, promised to you out of the good pleasure of the Father; therefore only believe, and you shall surely have it. It is a great thing that we are children of God and brethren of Christ, that we have power over, and are lords of, death, sin, devil, and hell; but such power not all men have, but only such as believe. For he that believes that God is our Father and we are His children, he need not fear any one; for God is his Protector, in whose power all things are, and all men’s hearts in His hand.” [Luther, 11, 2193]. Rather than that the believers should set their hearts and minds upon the things of this world and be filled with care for the body, they should, according to the advice of the Lord, sell their goods and give the proceeds to charity. Then their hearts will be torn loose from all earthy considerations and will be fixed all the more easily and firmly on eternal riches. The possessions of the disciples will then be contained in a purse which will never grow old, for they are the riches of God’s grace in Christ Jesus; no thief is able to come near and abstract that inexhaustible, precious treasure, and no moth can destroy the white garment of the righteousness of Jesus which has been given to us by faith. How necessary to become ever surer of the heavenly calling in Jesus the Lord by a constant consideration of passages like the present!

Christian alertness:

Luke 12:35-40

35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; 36 And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. 37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. 38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 39 And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. 40 Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.


Cross-references

Matthew 24:42-44; Mark 13:31-37; Matthew 25:1-46; Luke 21:5-36; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

A state of watchful waiting is that which is expected of the Christians of the last days. They shall be like servants whose master has gone to his wedding-feast and expects to return home with his bride. Their loins will be girt, for immediate service, without delay or dallying; the lights will be burning, to avoid all confusion. Every servant will be in his exact place and occupied with his own duty. Just as soon as the master comes, and at the moment of his knocking, they will be ready to open the door and to be of service to him, with joyful alertness. Such faithfulness is a rare virtue, but happy are they that have learned this virtue, for theirs will also be a rare reward of grace. Solemnly Jesus declares that the master will exchange rôles with the servants, urging them to recline at the table, while he himself would gird up his undergarments and “help them to portions of the marriage-feast he has brought home with him.” And should the coming of the lord be delayed to the second watch, just before midnight, or to the third, just after midnight, and the same conditions obtain, those servants would find themselves rewarded for their faithfulness far beyond their deserts. Thus the disciples of Christ will be found ready at all times to receive their Lord Jesus Christ, when He returns to judge the quick and the dead. And although they are merely fulfilling their duty in living lives of constant, prayerful watchfulness, yet He will give them a reward of mercy far surpassing their fondest hopes and expectations.

The lesson of alertness is emphasized by another parable. Just as a thief may come at any hour of the night, and just when he is least expected, and just as the householder therefore will be watchful at all times, lest the thief make his way into the house and carry out his intentions, thus the disciples of the Lord should be on their guard lest the last day come upon them while they are unprepared. To be ready and alert always, that is their duty, always to look forward to the coming of the last day; for the Son of Man, as the great Judge, comes at an hour when He is least expected.

Peter’s question and the Lord’s reply:

Luke 12:41-46

41 Then Peter said unto Him, Lord, speakest Thou this parable unto us, or even to all? 42 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. 45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.


Cross-references

Matthew 24:45-51; Matthew 25; Mark 16:16; Romans 6:1-4; Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 8:12-17; James 2:14-26; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Corinthians 13; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Revelation 5:6-10; Revelation 21:5-8

Cp. Matthew 24:45-51. Peter interrupted the Lord with the question whether the parable, and therefore also its lesson, was meant for the disciples only or for all the people present. While Jesus did not answer directly, the continuation of the discourse made it plain that He had reference mainly to His disciples. The believers should be ready at all times, they should be examples of watchfulness for all men. The Lord’s parable is a fine bit of vivid description: A servant selected for a position of special trust by his master, given the administration of the entire household, which includes, above all, the dealing out of due portions of food; the faithful servant found engaged in this service upon the return of the master and rewarded far beyond his deserts, receiving the charge of all the goods of the master; the unfaithful servant trusting in the further delay of the master, by which he will gain time for his wicked deeds, beating the slaves of both sexes, taking their portion of the food for himself, to gorge himself to gluttony and drunkenness; the unexpected return of the master at an unusual hour; the awful punishment meted out to the scoundrel. The faithful servant is a type of the true disciple of Christ, especially of the faithful pastor. Those that serve Christ in their fellow-men will rule with Christ in the world to come. And the pastors that have given to every one of their fellow-servants their due portion of the Word of God, and have sought only to minister after His great example, they will be rewarded with mercy far beyond all hopes and understanding. But the faithless disciples, that lived in careless security, that believed in enjoying life, that refused to take part in the duties of charity toward their neighbor, and even were guilty of cruelty to their fellow-men, they will receive their portion with the wicked in eternal damnation. Above all is this true of hirelings that do not care for the flock of Christ, but try to gain from them what they want for a life of ease, that neglect the preaching of the Gospel, that feed the souls with the husks of human wisdom. They will receive the greater damnation.

Christ’s summary:

Luke 12:47-48

47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.


Cross-references

Psalm 116:5; Romans 1:18-20; Romans 2:12-16; Matthew 11:20-24; John 15:18-25; 1 Timothy 1:12-14; James 3:1

The Lord here states the principle according to which punishments are given in the kingdom of God, and especially on the Day of Judgment, not according to an absolute decree, but according to the measure of fault. There is the servant that was fully informed as to the will of his Lord, but deliberately chose to ignore this will and to do as he pleased. His punishment will be heavy, and it will consist of many stripes. On the other hand, a servant may have been in ignorance of the master’s will, but still committed something which deserved punishment; he will receive only few stripes. This is not to be understood as though a servant could plead ignorance when he had deliberately ignored a command. Ignorance is no excuse where knowledge might have been obtained. The rule is that the demand of the master is in proportion to the gifts dispensed, whether these be temporal or spiritual. In every case the person concerned is only a steward having charge of the gifts. A rich man cannot dispose of his property as he chooses; a person with unusual powers of intellect has no right to put them to uses pleasing his own ambition or selfishness; one to whom God has given an extraordinary measure of spiritual knowledge cannot choose to ignore this talent. The day of reckoning is coming; and the reckoning will be severe, but just. In the entire matter of sanctification, therefore, a Christian will be alert at all times.

The dissension caused by the Gospel:

Luke 12:49-53

49 I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? 50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! 51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: 52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. 53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.


Cross-references

Matthew 10:34-39; Micah 7:5-7

Cp. Matthew 10:34-36. The Gospel is to some people, whose minds the god of this world has blinded, a savor of death unto death, 2 Corinthians 2:16. It brings a fire of controversy which results in fierce trials and conflicts for the believers. The sooner this fire therefore is kindled, the better it will be for the faithful. And it is not as if Jesus would go out unscathed while His followers must bear the many crosses that are laid upon them because of their discipleship. The baptism of His last great Passion looms up before Him with such a threatening aspect that He is pressed on every side, both with fervent desire and with fear on account of the last ordeal. And so the disciples must not live in the foolish hope and idea that they will escape the same or a similar ordeal. Contention, dissension, strife, enmity will follow the preaching of the cross at all times, causing divisions even in the midst of the most closely knit households. Friendships of long years’ standing, the most intimate ties of blood-relationship have been disrupted because of opposition to the Gospel. This the believers of all times should know, lest they be offended. They dare not expect their lot to be more pleasant than that of their Lord.

A last word to the people:

Luke 12:54-59

54 And He said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. 55 And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. 56 Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time? 57 Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right? 58 When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison. 59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.


Cross-references

Matthew 16:2-3; Matthew 5:25-26; Acts 26:22-26; John 7:14-24; Matthew 18:21-35; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Luke 16:26; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8; John 17:20-21

Cp. Matthew 16:2-3; Matthew 5:25-26. It was a word of impressive warning which Jesus spoke to the people, as He had spoken to the Pharisees on a former occasion. The people in general had not profited by the Lord’s ministry of preaching, although they resembled their leaders very strongly in certain external particulars. When the clouds came up from the west, from the Mediterranean Sea, it was a sure sign of rain, and the prognostication of the people was made accordingly. When, the wind blew from the south, from the desert, it brought a withering heat; this they could predict with unfailing certainty. But the time and circumstances under which they were living the people could not judge properly; there they could not draw the right conclusions. They were a shallow lot, without judgment in spiritual things. Such is also the generation of these latter days, with wisdom and good judgment in external, worldly matters, but without understanding of the spiritual needs of our day and age.

The Jews were so void of proper judgment in matters concerning morality and religion that they did not even judge rightly in matters pertaining to their own private affairs. They did not know that placableness is a virtue which must be cultivated at all times, if it can be done without denial of the truth, Romans 12:18. The Lord here uses the picture of a creditor and a debtor on their way to court. The rational, expedient thing to do under the circumstances is for the debtor to seek a settlement out of court; he should make it a matter of all diligence to get away from the creditor. Should the debtor fail in his attempt, he may find himself dragged before the judge, the judge, in turn, making short work of him by committing him to an officer whose duty it was either to collect the debt after the judge had decreed payment, or to put the debtor into jail till the debt was paid. In such a case even the very last lepton, half of a quadrans, less than half a cent [Luco note: About 70 cents in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator], was exacted. Thus people in general should not wait and hesitate about seeking reconciliation with their adversary in time. It may become too late before they realize it. Death will overtake such persons, and they will find God an implacable Judge in such matters. To keep the example of God in Christ Jesus before his mind at all times and to pray the Fifth Petition with a full understanding of its import, will be the aim of every true Christian.

Summary

Jesus warns against hypocrisy and covetousness, teaches true trust in God and the proper preparation for His own coming to Judgment, and admonishes the people to cultivate placableness.


Chapter 13

Verses 1-9

Last admonitions to repentance

The lesson of the Galilean tragedy:

Luke 13:1-5

1 There were present at that season some that told Him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.


Cross-references

Luke 3:1-2; Matthew 4:12-17; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; John 9

At the same time, upon the same occasion, when Jesus had spoken the words of solemn warning concerning the Judgment and how to avert it. The current opinion was that there was a direct connection between the greatness of the transgression and the severity of the punishment. Some of the people present, therefore, gave Jesus an interesting piece of news which they had received from Jerusalem through some pilgrims that had recently returned. Pilate, the procurator of Judea, had punished subjects of Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee. A heathen governor had polluted the Temple of God with human blood. The incident is not related by Josephus, but fits in well with the character of the Galileans and with the disposition of Pilate. The Galileans were very restive under the Roman yoke and strongly inclined to sedition. And Pilate had the vice of most weak natures: when his temper snapped the leash, unbridled passion held sway. There had probably been a demonstration in the Temple which threatened to assume the proportion of a riot, and Pilate had promptly dispatched some soldiers and executed speedy punishment. Some commentators think that this incident caused the enmity between Pilate and Herod, Luke 23:12. The questioners implied that so sudden a death in the midst of so sacred an employment must be regarded as a special proof of the wrath of God upon those so slain. But Jesus corrects this notion. The slain Galileans were no sinners in an extraordinary measure, above all other Galileans, since they had suffered these things. A similar case, from the standpoint of the present discussion, was that of the eighteen persons upon whom the tower of Siloam, probably one built over the porticoes of the pool, fell. It was wrong to suppose that these were guilty above all the people that lived at Jerusalem. Very emphatically Jesus says, in either case: Not at all, I tell you. All the Jews, and also His hearers, were equally guilty, and a like fate might befall them at any time; unless they repented, they all might perish and be destroyed in the same way. The Lord here gives a rule according to which we may judge and measure the misfortunes and sufferings of others. The suffering of the world is the result of sin. In the case of the unbelievers the suffering is nothing but punishment, with a view, however, of leading them to repentance. In the case of believers suffering of every kind is chastisement at the hands of the Father, who punishes in time that we may be spared in eternity. If a Christian is struck by misfortune, he will not use the word “trial” in order to justify himself. Rather will he say, in true humility, that his many sins have merited far greater and more severe punishment, and will never ask the question with regard to his own crosses or those of others, Wherewith have I earned this? But above all, one thing must never be done, and that is to argue from the severity of the suffering, drawing conclusions as to the greatness of the guilt, Job 42:7; John 9:2-3.

The parable of the fig-tree:

Luke 13:6-9

He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.


Cross-references

Luke 3:7-9; Matthew 7:15-20; Matthew 12:33-37; John 15:6; Matthew 21:18-19

A word-picture preaching an earnest lesson. A certain man, apparently one of means, had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, in good soil, from which he naturally expected fruit. He waited for some time, but finally he voiced a complaint to the vine-dresser, to the gardener in charge of the vineyard. The fig-tree was supposed to bear fruit three times a year, and the owner had not yet found a single fig on it. It seemed useless to waste any more time and work on its cultivation; it ought to be chopped down, since it interfered with, and spoiled the ground for, more productive fruit-trees. The master no longer felt like coming and coming again, and always being disappointed. But the vine-dresser interceded for the tree. He begged for only one more year of grace, in which he intended to try all his art and labor in loosening the soil about the roots, in putting fertilizer into the ground; there might be some chances of coaxing the tree to bear fruit the coming year. But if not, then the doom of the tree is sealed, and the master may carry out his intention. The unfruitful fig-tree is a type of the Jewish people. During the entire time of the Old Testament the Lord had vainly looked for fruit commensurate with the amount of labor and the cost which He had put into the vineyard of His Church. Israel had received a rich measure of grace, but had not reacted in kind. It was like the unfruitful vineyard of which the Lord complained Isaiah 5:1-7. The fourth year, for which the love of the vine-dresser, Jesus, pleaded, was the time of mercy which had dawned with the ministry of John, had burst into full brightness with the preaching of Jesus, and would continue thus during the ministry of the apostles. Here the vine-dresser wanted to dig about and dung the fig-tree with the evidences of His most searching love, of His holiest zeal, and finally, through His servants, by the preaching of His suffering and death, of His resurrection and sitting at the right hand of Power. But the extra time of grace went by, the people as a whole brought no fruits worthy of repentance; and so finally the judgment of God was carried out upon the disobedient people: Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jewish nation rejected. Note: There is a lesson here for all times, for God deals with all men in a similar way. His justice is tempered with patience; He waits long before He condemns. The mercy and love on the part of Jesus succeeds often in extending the time of grace for a people. But finally the most loving patience must come to an end and justice be carried out.


Verses 10-17

The crippled woman healed

The healing on the Sabbath:

Luke 13:10-13

10 And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. 12 And when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. 13 And He laid His hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.


Cross-references

Matthew 4:23-25; Luke 7:11-17; Matthew 11:2-6

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

Christ’s defense against the ruler of the synagog:

Luke 13:14-17

14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day. 15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? 16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day? 17 And when He had said these things, all His adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.


Cross-references

Luke 8:40-56; Acts 18:8; Matthew 12:1-14; Exodus 20:8-11; Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 4:1-11; Acts 10:34-43

How deeply ingrained was the idea of mechanical Sabbath observance in the mind of the average Jewish teacher is evident from this incident. The ruler of the synagog became highly indignant, not because Jesus had healed the woman, but because He had done so on the Sabbath. He had too much respect for Christ’s ability to defend Himself to attack Him directly, so he spoke to the audience, striking indirectly at Jesus, rebuking them sharply for bringing any sick people to be healed on the Sabbath; for there were six days on which they could attend to such work. It sounded as though the ruler of the synagog wanted to prevent the people from tempting Jesus to break the Sabbath. But the Lord (called so with a purpose, as the Lord of the Sabbath) retorted to this condemnation with special force, calling the ruler of the synagog and all those that felt as he did about the matter, hypocrites, cheap, dissembling actors. What about their own case? They loosed their dumb beasts from the manger on the Sabbath; they even led them forth to water; they gave them to drink, probably not by carrying the water to them, since the Jewish elders had forbidden that, but at least by drawing the water from the well. Mark the contrast: A daughter of Abraham on the one hand, an ox and an ass on the other; the one bound by Satan for eighteen years, the others suffering from thirst merely for a few hours. The argument of Jesus suffered no gainsaying. The elders of the Jews, though not convinced, were confounded and ashamed, brought to shame before the audience; and all the people present were delighted over all the admirable, wonderful things that were performed by the Lord. Note: To this day it is hypocrisy if sanctity is attached to mere external matters, as, that the so-called Sabbath is kept with Puritan strictness, by the enforcement of blue-laws, while many important, necessary things, as benevolence to the poor, miserable, and needy, are omitted. “Therefore learn here from Christ what the true understanding of the Sabbath is, and how we must maintain the distinction between the outward use of the Sabbath, so far as the time, hour, and place is concerned, and the necessary works of love which God demands of us at all times and in all places; that we should know that the Sabbath was ordained for the sake of man, and not man for the sake of the Sabbath, Mark 2:27, and thus man is the lord of the Sabbath, and is to use it for his own and his neighbor’s necessity, thus being enabled to keep this and other commandments of God without hindrance. For the right understanding of the Third Commandment is really this, that we use the Sabbath to hear and learn the Word of God, how we may keep all other commandments both toward God and our neighbor and help others to this end through love.” [Luther, 12, 1970].


Verses 18-35

Parables and teachings

The parables of the mustard-seed and the leaven:

Luke 13:18-21

18 Then said He, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. 20 And again He said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.


Cross-references

Matthew 13:31-33; Mark 4:30-34; Luke 17:5-6; Daniel 4:20-37; Genesis 18:1-8; Matthew 16:5-12; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

In the effort to bring the great truths of the kingdom of God home to His hearers, to teach them in what way the Word takes hold of the hearts and exerts its wonderful power upon them, in what manner the Gospel is spread throughout the world and people are being added to the Church of Christ at all times, the Lord uses the simplest and homeliest examples. He points to incidents, to happenings of every-day life with which the people were familiar, allusions which they ought to be able to understand. Cp. Matthew 13:31-33; Mark 4:30-32. The seed of the mustard-tree is very small, and yet, if it sprouts in good soil and grows without hindrance, it grows to be a good-sized tree, whose branches are large enough to serve as a roosting-place for quite a number of birds. The Church of Jesus was at first so small as to appear insignificant, but in the course of time the power of the Gospel, which was proclaimed in the Church, proved its omnipotent quality by overcoming opposition of every nature, so that now people from every nation have been added to the number of believers. A pinch of leaven may seem small in comparison with three measures of flour, and yet its power is such as to leaven the entire mass. Even thus the power of the Word is exerted in the hearts of the individual believers as well as in the Church at large, influencing people even beyond the organization of the so-called visible Church. The power of God unto salvation is a power also unto sanctification. And the high ideals of Christianity have inspired the conduct of entire nations.

Entering in at the strait gate:

Luke 13:22-30

22 And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 Then said one unto Him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And He said unto them, 24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and He shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets. 27 But He shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.


Cross-references

Luke 9:51; Matthew 7:13-14; Matthew 8:11-12; Luke 16:19-31; Matthew 25

The final goal of Jesus was Jerusalem; thither He was making His way by easy stages. But, according to His plan, He stopped in the cities and villages along the way, continuing the work of His ministry with unabated faithfulness to the last. Teaching was the main occupation of Jesus at this time, the outstanding feature of His work. And His teaching doubtless touched again and again upon the admonition to be prepared for the last great day with its judgment. This fact caused some person in one of the places visited by Jesus to ask Him the half-idle, half-serious question, whether there would be only a few to be saved. He that is concerned seriously about his salvation does not put the question that way, but rather sets his mind upon the way of attaining salvation for himself. Jesus therefore does not answer the question directly, but addresses the questioner and all that share his curiosity in a serious admonition. Every person should strive earnestly, struggle as seriously, and exert himself as assiduously as an athlete coveting victory, to enter into heaven through the narrow gate. Heaven is here pictured as a house from which certain people exclude themselves. They strive to enter, they seek a way, but of their own choosing, and therefore their efforts are idle, their attempts futile: they are not able to accomplish their purpose. There is only one Way, and that is Jesus Christ, the Savior. Faith in His salvation will open the door; every other method is bound to fail. “Why, for what reason, can they not enter? For that reason that they do not know what the narrow gate is; for that is faith, which makes a person small, yea, altogether nothing, that he must despair of his own works and cling only to God’s grace, forgetting all other things because of that. But the saints of Cain’s kind think that good works are the narrow gate; therefore they do not become humble, do not despair of their works, yea, they gather them with great sacks, hang them around themselves, and thus endeavor to get through; but they have as little chance to go through as the camel with its great hump has to pass through the eye of a needle.” [Luther, 12, 209]. The hour is coming when the master of the house, God Himself, will arise from His throne. Jesus, sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, through the Gospel is calling out to all men: Come, for all things are now ready. He is waiting for them to accept the invitation, He has set a certain time of grace. But when that time has elapsed, then He will close the door. He will return in heavenly glory before the whole world, and then the door to heaven will no longer be open. The time of the world and the time of grace will then be at an end. Then some will want to come to the closed door and rap and call to the Lord to open to them. But it will be too late. They have not heeded the invitation in time, and now the Lord gives them the terrible answer: I know you not. They do not belong to His own, they have not turned to Him in repentance and faith. Even if they insist upon it, as the Jews could do in the full sense of the word, that He had lived in their midst, had eaten and drunk before them, that He had taught them on their streets, they will receive the same answer, and they must stand back from Him and be condemned as workers of iniquity. Note: On the last day those that were Christians in name only will try to frame similar excuses, reminding the Lord of the fact that they heard the Word of God in a church where the pure doctrine was proclaimed, that they were baptized, that they were instructed in the Christian doctrine. And even those that merely lived in a Christian community, and occasionally permitted Christian influence to graze them, will come and try to state this fact as an argument. But all arguing will be too late. The fact remains that all such people did not accept Jesus and His Word, but stubbornly remained in their sins, and therefore will die and be condemned in their sins. Then, when it is too late, remorse will come. Then there will be weeping in helpless fury and in delayed sorrow for sins; then there will be gnashing of teeth over a foolishness that has been recognized as such too late. And not the least part of damnation will consist in this, that these poor souls will see the blessedness of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in heaven, while they themselves will be rejected and condemned to the everlasting abyss of hell. And not only will the patriarchs and prophets enjoy the bliss of the kingdom of heaven, but there will be representatives from the East and from the West and from the North and from the South, all reclining at the feast of joy and happiness before the throne of God. And all this the unfortunate late-comers, that procrastinated once too often, will be able to see, Luke 16:23-24. The Lord here uses the same thoughts which He has employed also in other places where He has touched upon the necessity of being prepared. There are resemblances to the story of the ten virgins, to the rich man and poor Lazarus, to the Last Judgment, to the story of the centurion of Capernaum. And the gist of the warning is always the same, not to depend upon outward membership of the Church, not to delay real repentance until it is too late. For there are last that will be first, and there are first that will be last. Such as believe, by reason of the circumstances of their life, that they are members of God’s kingdom, as the Jews did on account of their descent from Abraham, will find themselves last and excluded from the blessedness of heaven. But many that became members of the Church from conviction of their hearts, without having had the advantages which church-members had from their youth, may become first, since they have repented truly and realized the things that pertain to their peace. All things being equal, the person that grows up in the midst of the Church, is baptized in infancy, learns the truth of Scriptures in a Christian school, and is always surrounded by the best conditions, should have the best knowledge and the soundest faith in Jesus, the Savior. But if such a person disregards these blessings and the greater responsibility resting upon him, his punishment will be all the greater, as one that despised the riches of the mercy and grace of God, not knowing that the goodness of God was calling him to repentance, Luke 12:47-48.

The warning against Herod:

Luke 13:31-33

31 The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto Him, Get Thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill Thee. 32 And He said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. 33 Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.


Cross-references

Luke 3:1-2; Luke 9:7-9; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 23:1-25; Matthew 5:17-18; Luke 24:13-35; Acts 17:1-3

Jesus was still in the territory of Herod Antipas, and this man was being driven by the furies of an evil conscience. Whether Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected or not, He was in the way. As one commentator states it: “In every work of Jesus he saw the hand of John the Baptist extended from the grave toward him; in every word concerning the Judgment that Jesus uttered he heard again the voice of John: Thou murderer of prophets!” It is hardly likely that the Pharisees had been commissioned by Herod to bring this message to Jesus. It was rather thus with these enemies of the Lord: They had exhausted every possible means that they could think of to make Him desist from the work of His ministry with the exception of touching His body, and they hoped to intimidate Jesus and cause Him to remove from the country. Upon Jesus the request: Go away from here, because Herod wants to kill Thee, made no impression. A threat of this kind could not make Him desist from the usual work of His ministry. Therefore He answers according to the character of the warning, bidding the warners go and take His return message to Herod. Jesus calls Herod a fox, both on account of his crafty, cruel disposition, and because of the fact that he had become a fox, a destroyer, in the vineyard of the Lord, Lamentations 5:18; Song of Solomon 2:15. The threat had no effect whatever upon Jesus. The scorn of the Idumean tyrant could not force the Prophet of Galilee to yield. He had work to do in the near future, and that work would be done. He must continue to cast out demons and to cure sicknesses as He has done hitherto, for the time set in the counsel of God is near. Then, according to His own will, at the time appointed by Him, the end will come. That was the obligation resting upon Him, and that He would carry out. And He adds, with bitter sorrow, that He must die in Jerusalem, the murderess of prophets, Luke 11:51. It is in accordance with God’s will that His career shall end in that city. In the same way the disciples of Christ of all times, the believers, fulfil their day’s work, the portion decreed to them by God. And in this no power of earth and hell can hinder them or shorten the time which God has fixed for their work. But when the hour has come which God has intended as the last, then they will have completed their course, then they will have finished their labors and may enter into the rest of the saints.

A cry of sorrow over Jerusalem:

Luke 13:34-35

34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! 35 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.


Cross-references

Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 19:41-44; Acts 7:51-60; Hebrews 11:35-38; Matthew 10:16-23; Psalm 147:2; Psalm 91; Proverbs 1:24-28; Deuteronomy 32:11-12; Ruth 2:12; Psalm 36:7; John 5:39-40; Psalm 118

Cp. Matthew 23:37-38. Luke adds this cry of Jesus at this point, and it is more than likely that Jesus spoke these words and similar ones more than once. The city of Jerusalem, the capital of the nation, which should have been leader in welcoming the prophets of the Lord and showing them every honor, had gotten a reputation sadly at variance with this ideal. To stone the prophets and kill the messengers of the Lord, that was the name which Jerusalem had gotten in the course of the centuries. Jesus Himself had tried, with all the wealth and fervor of His Savior’s love, to gather the people of the city about Him, to bring them the joyful assurance of their redemption through His blood. His solicitude had been unwavering during all the years of His ministry, like that of a brooding hen anxiously concerned about the welfare of her chicks. He had wanted, but they had not wanted. “Thus and no other way it was to happen, and it always has gone thus, that the greatest harm and damage has been done to Christ, to His Word, and to His Church by those that have presumed to be the holiest and best.” [Luther, 7, 1623]. And so they brought their punishment upon themselves: their dwelling, the city of Jerusalem, was destroyed and left desolate barely four decades later. They will not see Christ again until the day when He returns in His glory, and when even His enemies, who will then be completely confounded, will have to confess that Jesus is Lord. Then their lips, for the chattering of their teeth, will hardly be able to form the words, and their heart will utter curses and imprecations; but they will have to acknowledge Him whom they killed as the Lord of all.

Summary

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


Chapter 14

Verses 1-14

Christ the guest of a Pharisee

Healing a man afflicted with dropsy on the Sabbath:

Luke 14:1-6

1 And it came to pass, as He went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath day, that they watched Him. And, behold, there was a certain man before Him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day? And they held their peace. And He took him, and healed him, and let him go; And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day? And they could not answer Him again to these things.


Cross-references

Luke 13:10-17; Matthew 12:9-14; John 5:1-17; John 7:19-24; John 9:13-16; Exodus 20:8-11; Exodus 31:13-15; Exodus 34:21; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Exodus 23:4-5; Deuteronomy 22:1-4; Hebrews 4:4-13; Colossians 2:16-17; Acts 15:22-29

The Pharisees continued their method of attempting to provoke Jesus to some rash utterance, Luke 11:53-54. It was for this reason, also, that He was invited by one of their number, as once before. His host was one of the chief, or first, among the Pharisees, occupying a position of honor among them, since they had no regular rulers. He may have been a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest council of the Jewish Church, or he may have been known for the excellency of his learning. In the house of this man Jesus was a guest; for feasting on the Sabbath was common among the Jews, though they were permitted to serve only cold dishes. The Pharisees had an object in inviting the Lord, for they were observing Him most carefully and suspiciously. They had, as they thought, arranged a trap for Him. For when Jesus came into the house, there was, as though by chance, and yet by most cunning planning, a dropsical man. The omniscient Christ knew their thoughts, answering them as though they had spoken aloud. He addressed Himself to all the scribes and Pharisees present, for they were all equally guilty. His question was the same which He had asked upon other occasions, whether it was the right, the proper, the obligatory thing to heal on the Sabbath-day or not. His question implied an assertion in the affirmative, and they found themselves unable to contradict Him, preferring to say nothing, since their heart and conscience told them that they could not deny the fact which Jesus wanted to convey. Works of love were indeed permitted on the Sabbath-day, even according to the strictest Mosaic law. And so Jesus fulfilled the greatest law of all: putting His hand upon the sick man, He healed him and sent him away. Then the Lord turned once more to the Pharisees and answered their unspoken thoughts, which condemned the healing on the Sabbath. He asked them whether it would not be self-evident for them, in case one of their domestic animals, a mere beast of burden, should fall into a pit, an empty cistern, to draw the poor victim of the accident up at once, without the slightest hesitation, without paying any attention to the fact that it might be the Sabbath-day. Once more they were silenced, not being able to contradict the statement of the Lord, since it was impossible to do anything but acknowledge the truth of His argument. Note: The Pharisee, in inviting Jesus, professed friendship, affection, and respect for Him, while at the same time he was preparing snares to catch Him. Thus many children of the world will simulate interest and regard for the Gospel and its ministry, while in reality they are trying to draw out the Christians, in order to ridicule their belief in the words of Holy Scripture. Also: The same Sabbath fanatics that made the life of Jesus miserable at times are at work also in our days, insisting upon all manner of outward observances of Sunday, though many of them are not one whit concerned about the pure preaching of the Gospel. “The doctrine of Sabbath has mainly this object, that we learn to understand the Third Commandment correctly. For to sanctify the Sabbath means to hear God’s Word and to help our neighbor wherever possible. For God does not want the Sabbath kept so holy that we should on that account leave and forsake our neighbor in his trouble. Therefore, if I serve my neighbor and help him, though this means work, I have kept the Sabbath rightly and well; for I have performed a divine work on it.” [Luther, 13a, 894].

A parable teaching humility:

Luke 14:7-11

And He put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when He marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them. When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.


Cross-references

Luke 11:43; Luke 18:9-14; Matthew 23:1-12; Matthew 18:1-4; James 4:1-10; 1 Peter 5:6-11; Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 3:1-4; Revelation 3:21-22; Revelation 21:1-8; Revelation 22:1-5

The eyes of Jesus were always observing the manner in which people behaved under various conditions of life, for He drew lessons from everything. At the ordinary feasts of the Jews there was a good deal of informality, but at the wedding-suppers the question of rank was very important. Jesus had noticed upon this occasion that the guests all made an attempt to take the sofas of honor, the first pillows, at the head of the table. And so He teaches them a lesson concerning the higher sphere of morality and religion. At a wedding-feast the guests should not strive for the most honored seats, for it might easily happen that one to whom greater respect is due on account of his rank or station is among those invited. And what a humiliation it would be then if the host would openly request the forward guest to give up his place to the guest of honor, while the other shamefacedly and with ill grace would have to move to the last place! The Lord therefore advises the opposite method, to choose the lowest place, for then it might well happen that the humble guest would be invited in the presence of the assembled guests to move farther to the head of the table, thus receiving honor before all that reclined with him at the tables. It was not a mere question of prudence and good form which Jesus here broached, but it was a rebuke of the presumption and pride of the guests. Incidentally, it illustrates a rule which finds its application in the kingdom of God: Every one that exalts himself will be humbled, and he that humbles himself will be exalted. He that exalts himself, places himself above his neighbor, boasts of his own merit and worthiness before God, he will be humbled, will be excluded from the kingdom of God. But he that humbles himself before God, and consequently places himself also below his neighbor as a willing servant to minister unto his needs as occasion offers, he will be exalted, he will receive honor in the kingdom of God. For such humility expresses the true disposition of a disciple, it is an evidence of a repentance which is conscious of its own unworthiness, and of faith, which glories only in the cross of Jesus and finds comfort only in His mercy.

Advice to the host:

Luke 14:12-14

12 Then said He also to him that bade Him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. 13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: 14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.


Cross-references

Luke 6:27-36; Deuteronomy 15:7–11; Mark 14:3-9; Psalm 113; Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:1-13; Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 3:8-13

A lesson in true, selfless service. Upon the occasion of a dinner or supper the invitations should not go out to friends and relatives and brothers, and especially not to rich neighbors, if this were intended as a bait for receiving greater favors in return. If any apparent service is rendered with that idea in mind, to receive in return, and perhaps more than was given, it does not come under the heading of charity and kindness, and should not be advertised as such. On the other hand, if, as the Law required of the Jews, Deuteronomy 14:28-29; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 26:11-13, a kindness is shown to such as are in need of it, to the poor, to those suffering with sickness or bodily debility, to the lame, to the blind, then the person performing such unselfish works will be happy in the pleasure of having done a kindness not to be repaid by the recipients. Such charity would flow out of faith and would therefore receive a reward of mercy at the hands of God on the last day. He would receive in return, just as though he were worthy of it, such kindness as would be altogether out of proportion to the small labor of love which he was glad to show his unfortunate neighbors. He will, on account of this proof of a faith which must come forth in works of love, be looked upon as just, as justified, in the sight of God. Note: Jesus, in this parable, does not condemn the festival meals of friends, relatives, and neighbors, otherwise He would not have accepted the invitation of the Pharisee, but He would call attention to this fact: If any one on account of such intrinsically harmless parties and gatherings forgets the poor and unfortunate and neglects to show the proper manifestation of Christian charity, he places a false valuation upon social intercourse and forfeits the heavenly reward; he will have no part in the resurrection of the just for the recompense of the just. For where there is no charity toward one’s neighbor, faith also will be missing. Luther gives as the summary of the entire Gospel-lesson, Luke 14:1-14: “Charity and necessity must be the norms for all laws; and there should be no law that should not be bent and interpreted according to love; if there be, it should be abrogated, though an angel from heaven had made it. And all this serves for the purpose that our hearts and consciences be strengthened thereby. Then, also, the Lord teaches us how we shall humble ourselves and subject ourselves to others.” [Luther, 11, 1685].


Verses 15-24

The great supper

The invitation:

Luke 14:15-17

15 And when one of them that sat at meat with Him heard these things, he said unto Him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. 16 Then said He unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: 17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.


Cross-references

Matthew 22:1-4; Revelation 19:6-9; Revelation 21:1-8

One of the guests at the feast of the Pharisee was deeply impressed by the words of Christ, and especially by His allusion to the happiness which would be the lot of those that would be included in the resurrection of the just. The consummation of such glory filled him with a deep and ardent longing for the blessings which might be expected up in heaven. His remark may have been due mainly to the enthusiasm of the moment, but it served to call forth a very beautiful parable from the Lord. Blessed is he that eats bread in the kingdom of God, in the time of the fulfilment of the Church of Christ in heaven, where all those that have been accounted righteous will eat of the eternal pleasures and drink of the water of life, world without end. Jesus, in answering upon this exclamation, addressed Himself primarily to the speaker, but also to all the rest that were gathered about the tables. A certain man, a man of means and influence, as the story shows, made a great feast, prepared a supper of unusual magnitude. Great this feast was, as well on account of the abundance of refreshing foods as on account of the fact that it was intended for many guests. In accordance with the elaborate plans of the host, many were invited; the first invitation went out to a great number of people. When the time of the feast had come, the master of the house sent out his own servant, trusted and faithful, to give the customary second reminder or repetition of the first invitation. It was an urgent call: Come, for now are ready all things! The guests were asked to come to the feast prepared for them, and at once, for everything was now in readiness for them.

The excuses:

Luke 14:18-20

18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. 19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. 20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.


Cross-references

Matthew 22:5-6; Matthew 13:18-22; John 1:1-11

With one consent, as if by previous agreement, the invited guests began to excuse themselves, courteously enough, but with an air of finality which cannot be overlooked; they begged off, they did not want to come. The excuses of three of them are given as examples. One had bought a piece of ground, and just at that time the necessity devolved upon him to look it over; the purchase had not yet been made unconditional, and so it was absolutely necessary for him to go out at just this moment. His business was more important than the supper: he begged to be released from his promise. A second invited guest had just purchased five yoke, or pair, of oxen, and he was on the way to examine them. He was not even so anxious as the first man to make his refusal appear unavoidable: he wanted to go, it pleased him to do so, his business was also dearer and more important to him than the invitation. A third coolly stated to the servant that he had married a wife and therefore could not come. His marriage had taken place since he had first received the invitation, and that, he considered, absolved him from any social duties that he may have promised. It is not the factor of carnal pleasure that is here emphasized, but merely the fact that in his new happiness he cared nothing for distractions.

The result:

Luke 14:21-24

21 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. 22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. 23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.


Cross-references

Matthew 22:7-14; Revelation 19:6-9; Revelation 21:1-8

The servant was obliged to bring his master the news of the rejection of the invitations. The latter naturally became angry over such behavior, but immediately thought of a plan by which he might procure guests for his feast in a short time. The servant was to lose no time in going out, both on the broad streets and on the narrow lanes of the city, and to bring into the house of the master the poor and the weak, or crippled, and the blind and the halt. The servant had not anticipated his master’s command, but now hurriedly fulfilled it, returning with the report that the instructions had been carried out to the letter, but that there was still room. Then, as a last resort, the master sent the servant out to the country, along the highways and hedges, on the main roads, as well as on the footpaths running through the fields, alongside the hedges. Whomever he should find there, he should invite urgently, compellingly, since the poor people might not want to consider the fact of their having been invited seriously. The object of the master was frankly to fill his house. But so far as the first guests were concerned, the solemn declaration is made that not one of them would so much as taste of the feast which had been prepared with such care.

The meaning of the parable in the light of New Testament fulfilment is clear. The master of the house is God Himself, the almighty, but also gracious and merciful Lord. “The preaching of Christ is the great, glorious supper, to which He asks guests in order to sanctify them through His Baptism, comfort and strengthen them through the Sacrament of His body and blood; that they should be in need of nothing, that there be a great plenty and every one be satisfied.” [Luther, 13a, 715]. The food to be provided was thus the Gospel with all its glories, yea, Christ Himself, complete justification, forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. When Jesus came into the world, the hour of the great supper had come, Galatians 4:4-5. He Himself is the Servant of the Lord in the most exclusive sense, Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 53:11. Personally, through His herald John the Baptist, and through the apostles He repeated the invitation which had been issued through the prophets, that the time had come to which all the patriarchs and prophets had looked forward, that the kingdom of God had come near them. Christ went to the children of the house of Israel, for them His personal ministry was intended; they were the chosen people of God, Romans 3:2; Romans 9:5. To them and to their children the promise was published first. And so Christ journeyed back and forth through the length and breadth of the country of the Jews, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. And the apostles followed up His work, proclaiming the Gospel to the Jews first. But Israel as a whole wanted nothing of the glorious news pertaining to their salvation, they refused the invitation. Their minds were centered in earthly things, they expected a temporal kingdom of the Messiah. And their leaders, having a show of sanctity, used this as a cloak for their covetousness and their seeking for pleasure. They despised and rejected the Gospel of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. Then God in His anger turned from them. Jesus sought the poor and unknown among the Jewish people, those that were spiritually sick, halt, and blind. He called the publicans and sinners to Him and assured them that salvation was theirs. Poor fishermen, former publicans, reformed sinners, were the members of Christ’s flock, 1 Corinthians 1:26-28. And finally Jesus, through His apostles and other messengers, brought the invitation of God out into the world of the Gentiles, that were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, Ephesians 2:12. From all nations of the world the Lord is calling men to His great supper, that they may receive the fulness of His goodness and mercy. He is calling urgently and pleadingly; His call is sincere and powerful. He prepares the way for the preaching of the Gospel by the proclamation of the Law, that the sinner may learn to know his helplessness and rely upon the righteousness of the Redeemer all alone. “That is what it means to compel, if we fear the wrath of God and desire help from Him. If that has been accomplished through preaching, and the hearts are broken and terrified, then preaching is continued in the words: Dear person, do not despair, though thou art a sinner and hast such a terrible condemnation upon thee; rather do this: thou art baptized, now hear the Gospel. There thou wilt learn that Jesus Christ died for thy sake and has made satisfaction for thy sins on the cross.” [Luther, 13a, 722]. The merciful call of God is effective through the Gospel: that is the way in which a person comes to the great supper. Christ calls and pleads; the table is set; the full redemption is obtained; God is merciful to men for Christ’s sake. But if a person does not come and does not want to come, then it is his own fault. The Lord has called, and He sincerely offers to all men the riches of His grace. Those that despise His call will be excluded, by their own fault, from the joys of salvation, from the eternal supper of bliss in heaven.


Verses 25-35

The obligations of Christ’s discipleship

Bearing the cross:

Luke 14:25-27

25 And there went great multitudes with Him: and He turned, and said unto them, 26 If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.


Cross-references

Matthew 10:34-39; Matthew 16:24-27; Mark 8:31-38; John 12:25-26; Ephesians 5:22-6:9; 1 John 2:7-14; Romans 8:12-17; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 4

When Jesus left the house of the Pharisee to continue His journey, there followed Him, as usual, great multitudes of people, going with Him for the usual reason, mere external inquisitiveness. To these Jesus expounded the requirements of true discipleship. The mere following after Christ for the sake of seeing miracles signified and availed nothing. If any one comes to Him, with a view to close and permanent discipleship, sacrifices are necessary from the standpoint of this world. First of all, the love of Christ must precede all other love, even that of the nearest friends and relatives, Matthew 10:37. Absolute devotion to Him and to His cause requires that natural love to one’s relatives be relegated to the background, that life itself be denied, that the heart be torn away from temporal possessions, that the cross of Christ be willingly shouldered, though it sink in deeply and bruise unmercifully. All rival masters and interests must be put away that the love of the great Master may be supreme. If this devotion and work should demand the final sacrifice of life, according to His example, even that must be willingly given for the sake of the love He bore us.

Two parables for emphasis:

Luke 14:28-33

28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple.


Cross-references

Luke 9:57-62; Luke 18:28-30; Matthew 6:25-33

Foolish is he that counteth not the cost. If a man wants to build a tower, a fine, high structure, prominent before all the buildings in the neighborhood, prudence will dictate that he sit down first and calculate the cost very carefully. His plan will be gone over thoroughly; the material is painstakingly grouped and added; the exact cost of the project is computed. For if the man should start to build and then find that it is impossible for him to finish up, he will become an object of ridicule for all the passers-by. In the same way, prudence will govern the actions of a king who has broken off diplomatic relations with another ruler. He will call in all his counselors and make a very careful calculation whether he will be able to carry out his plans in case he should decide to assume the offensive. And in case the matter seems dubious, he will prefer to enter upon negotiations with the enemy in time, and find out his conditions of peace. Either parable teaches the necessity of considering the costs; either one represents the absurdity of those that undertake to be disciple of Jesus Christ shall require no less difficulties they are to meet with, and what strength they have to enable them to go through with the undertaking. “He that will be a true disciples of Jesus Christ shall require no less than the mighty power of God to support him, as both hell and earth will unite to destroy him.” Because complete self-renunciation is required, earnest consideration is absolutely unavoidable. So much the discipleship of Christ demands, and so much the true disciple will give cheerfully.

A final warning:

Luke 14:34-35

34 Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? 35 It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.


Cross-references

Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:50; Leviticus 2:11-13; Colossians 4:5-6; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 2 Peter 2:20-22; Hebrews 6:4-6; Romans 11:20

The very fact of self-renunciation brings out the genuineness of the discipleship, which must have the same seasoning power as salt. Cp. Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:50. As long as salt is strong, it has value for seasoning; but if it becomes insipid (almost a contradiction in itself), it has lost its purpose in the world. It can no longer be used in the preparation of foods for the table; it is neither earth nor fertilizer; out they cast it, since it is worthless, mere refuse. If the purifying influence of the Christians in the midst of the unbelieving world of these latter days ceases, if the Church is no longer a power for good, by the preaching that is done from its pulpits and by the example of the life of its adherents, then savor and worth are lost at the same time. The reason for existence can no longer be urged in such a case. Every individual Christian that fails of his wonderful destiny due to the call of God in him, that does not in speech and life confess Jesus the Christ, is deceiving himself, as well as others, but not God. He can well distinguish between seasoning salt and savorless salt. It is an impressive lesson, emphatically brought out by the Lord’s “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!” For many so-called Christians mere outward formality seems to be sufficient. But God looks upon heart and mind, and demands sincerity in His confession and service.

Summary

Jesus heals a dropsical man on the Sabbath, gives a lesson in humility and true altruism, tells the Parable of the Great Supper, and explains some of the obligations of Christian discipleship.


Chapter 15

Verses 1-10

Parables of the love of Christ to the lost

The murmuring Pharisees:

Luke 15:1-2

1 Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.


Cross-references

Luke 5:27-32; Luke 7:31-35; Luke 19:1-10

The fifteenth chapter of Luke is, as one commentator has called it, the golden center of this Gospel, revealing in a wonderful way the love of the Savior for the lost and condemned sinners. The Lord here exhibits the unspeakable riches of His merciful love to all men, but especially to those that feel the need of that mercy. There were nearing to Him at that time, the evangelist writes. As iron filings are attracted to a magnet, so the message of love and forgiveness which Jesus proclaimed drew the broken hearts to His grace. It was not merely the attraction of human sympathy and kindness, but it was the sweetness of the Savior’s love and the glorious promise of pardon, full and free. Publicans and sinners they were, despised and cast out of the synagogs throughout the land; they were not permitted to associate on a plane of equality with the Jews in good standing. But these outcasts came, not like the majority of the other people, primarily for the purpose of witnessing miracles of various kinds, but to hear Him. The blessed words of salvation attracted them; they could not hear enough of the healing message which Christ proclaimed with unwearying kindness. Others, however, were present that had a different opinion concerning such intimacy of the Lord with publicans and sinners. The Pharisees and scribes murmured with indignation against Him, saying that He made Himself the equal of the scum of the lowly people by receiving them and eating with them. The mocking and derisive words of the Pharisees have now become the song of praise in the mouth of believing Christians: “Jesus sinners doth receive!”

The Parable of the Lost Sheep:

Luke 15:3-7

And He spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.


Cross-references

Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 5:27-32; John 6:37-40; John 10:11; John 10:22-30; 2 Peter 3:9; Psalm 147:10-11

The Lord did not at all consider it an insult to His dignity that the Pharisees classed Him with the publicans and sinners. But He resented their attitude toward the poor outcasts of society whom His love comforted. For that reason He presents this picture of His merciful love. Pointedly the Lord says: “What man of you.” In their own affairs of daily life every one would act as Jesus here describes the owner of the sheep. A hundred sheep the man has, a goodly number, making the loss of a single one seem insignificant. It would seem that the man could well afford to lose one. But the owner thinks differently. If but a single one is absent, and as soon as he discovers the loss, he proceeds forthwith to recover it. He knows the dangers of abyss and swamp, of panther and wolf, of thorns and poisonous plants. He leaves the ninety and nine, though the place be desolate and far from home, and sets out after the lost member of the flock with unceasing, unabating fervor of search, until he has found it; that object must be accomplished. And having found it, his tender solicitude does not cease. Full of joy and gladness he lays it upon his shoulder, preferring to carry it safely, lest it become overweary. Even now, its strength is practically spent. And coming home, he shouts out the glad news to his neighbors and friends, bidding them come and rejoice with him, since he has found the sheep that was lost. Jesus Himself makes the application of the story, saying most impressively that in the same way there is joy in heaven, before God, over a single sinner that repents, more than over a large number of just people that are not in need of repentance. Since this is true of God and all His holy angels, that they rejoice greatly over every further repentant sinner, how much more would it be expected of Jesus, who is present here on earth and in the sight of all men, that He show His gratification over these former wilful and malignant sinners that have now turned from the evil of their ways! The ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance are evidently people like the Pharisees and scribes, who in their own opinion are not in need of a Savior. Cp. Matthew 9:12-13. They believe that they are just, accepted before God and men, that their outwardly unblemished life places them above the need of repentance. They have no idea of the actual filthy condition of their hearts. And so they are left in the wilderness while the lost sheep is taken home.

What the Lord here says of the seeking, finding, carrying of the lost sheep is full of beautiful significance. His merciful love embraces the lost, the forsaken, all sinners. There is comfort for all. “For upon that fact I am baptized and here have the seals and letters in the Gospel, that I am His dear sheep, and that He is the good, pious Shepherd, who seeks His lost sheep and deals with me altogether without the Law, demands nothing of me, neither drives nor threatens nor terrifies; but shows me nothing but sweet mercy and humbles Himself below me and takes me upon Himself that I lie on His back and suffer myself to be carried. Why should I fear the terror and thunder of Moses, and that of the devil in addition, since I am secure in the protection of that Man who gives me His piety, and everything that He has, for my own, and carries me and holds me that I cannot be lost, while I remain a sheep and do not deny the Savior nor deliberately reject Him?” [Luther, 11, 1264]. Jesus, the Shepherd of the souls, leads the sinners to repentance by having His Word proclaimed to them. With His Word He searches, calls, pleads, until He finds the lost sinner. “Just as the sheep cannot guard itself nor take care that it does not go astray unless the shepherd always points the way and leads it; it cannot return to the right way nor come to the shepherd, but the shepherd must follow after it and search so long until he finds it; and when he has found it, he must take it upon his back and carry it that it may not again be terrified, driven away, and be seized by the wolf: even so we can neither help nor counsel ourselves to come to the quietness and peace of conscience, and to escape from the devil, death, and hell, unless Christ Himself gets us and calls us to Him through His Word. And even if we come to Him and are in faith, we are not able to keep ourselves therein, … but Christ, our Shepherd, must do it all alone.” [Luther, 11, 1268]. And finally the good Shepherd takes His sheep home into the fold of heaven, giving every single one the bliss ineffable that has been prepared for them before the foundation of the world.

The parable of the lost piece of silver:

Luke 15:8-10

Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. 10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.


Cross-references

Luke 12:8-9; Luke 13:1-5; Acts 2:36-39; 2 Peter 3:9; Jude 24-25; Psalm 103

The scope, tendency, and lesson of this parable is identical with that of the previous one. A single piece of silver out of ten which a woman possesses may not seem a large sum to lose (it corresponded roughly in value to the Denarius, worth not quite seventeen cents) [Luco note: About three dollars in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator] [Barton, Archeology and the Bible, 166], but the owner evidently places a different estimate upon it. She lights a lamp, she sweeps the house, she seeks most diligently till she finds the lost coin. In the first parable the tender solicitude of the Redeemer was brought out; here the unremitting diligence and search for the lost is emphasized. And then comes the joy in the same form of expression, a joyful shout to acquaint the people with the fact of her success. Thus also there is joy, wonderful and inexpressible, in the presence of the angels of God over a single sinner that repents and is won for the kingdom of heaven. The worth of a single soul exceeds that of the whole world, Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:37; James 5:20. Some commentators make the application in such a way as to say that the Holy Ghost’s work in the heart of the sinner is here pictured. Just as the woman searched the whole house with all diligence, so the Spirit of God, in the work of regeneration, is of a cleansing and illuminating kind. He is not turned away by the frightful aspect of the natural heart’s depravity; He is not deterred by a long and arduous search for a backsliding sinner. Note also: The lost piece of silver is a very fitting emblem of a sinner that is estranged from God and has become a slave of sinful habits. The longer a piece of money is lost, the less probability is there of its being found again; it will lose its glittering newness and be covered with dirt and grime: so the sinner sinks ever more deeply into the filth of sin, loses his character and standing among men, and deliberately defaces the image of his Maker from his heart. Let such a one beware lest his time of grace expire and the searching mercy of the Spirit be turned in other directions.


Verses 11-32

The prodigal son

The reckless departure:

Luke 15:11-13

11 And He said, A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.


Cross-references

Luke 15:30; Deuteronomy 21:15-17; Genesis 25:29-34; Genesis 27; Hebrews 12:3-17; Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

This story has been called the Gospel within the Gospel, since it brings out the fundamental thought of the message of grace so beautifully, the acceptance of the sinners without any merit or worthiness on their part. Two sons a certain man had, both of them in a good home, with all the comforts and advantages which the word implies. But the younger one felt the fretful stir of youth. The boundaries of the home place were altogether too narrow for him, and the restrictions placed upon him by the paternal jurisdiction seemed altogether too galling. The first step of his desire for freedom, as he may have termed it to himself, was the demand that his father give him the goods to which he would fall heir after his father’s death. It has been custom in the Orient from times immemorial for sons to demand and receive their portion of the inheritance during their father’s lifetime; and in many countries the parent could not legally refuse to comply with the request. So the father, realizing that the heart of the boy was set upon his goods and not upon his person, as filial love would demand, divided his entire living, all that he had, to his two sons, the older probably receiving the home place, and the younger, money. So the younger boy now had the means to carry out any desires that he may have been secretly cherishing. And he determined within a few days to slip off the irksome fetters of parental authority and supervision. He heeded the voice of the oldest delusion in the world, namely, that things in the distance, which wear the halo of desirableness, too often prove mirages which lure people to destruction. He was determined to have his fling; he gathered together all his property, being in haste to escape into wild liberty or license. Home is usually a dear place, and homesickness takes hold of a great many children that are obliged to leave its sacred boundaries, but here selfishness and wilfulness had taken possession of his heart. Far away he went, the farther the better, and then he dissipated and flung away all that he had in a dissolute life. The journey led recklessly to final degradation. That is a picture of a person that has grown up in the house of God, in the midst of the Christian congregation, but does not realize the greatness of the blessings which attend him there. He turns his back to the Church, goes out into the world, and runs with the children of the world into the same excess of riot, in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries, 1 Peter 4:4.

Folly and repentance:

Luke 15:14-19

14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.


Cross-references

Luke 18:9-14; 2 Samuel 11-12:13

The young fellow, after the manner of his kind, undoubtedly had friends in droves while his money lasted and he was willing to spend it recklessly. His indulgence may at first have whetted the edge of appetite, but overindulgence wears out the power of enjoyment. When his money was gone, his so-called friends, after the immemorial manner of their kind, evaporated into thin air, leaving him severely alone. And the poor fellow, no longer a good fellow, having literally destroyed all that he had, found himself face to face with direst extremity and most distressing poverty, since a great famine came into that same land. The result of wastefulness and lack of food combined is dire want. He was at the point of starvation. And so he attached himself to a citizen of that country which he had thought to bless with his presence. The man did not want him, could not use him, in fact; to feed another mouth in the time of dearth is no easy matter. He now had work, that of a swineherd, despised above all other occupations by the Jews, and he could sleep out in the stable; but the amount of food he received from his master was inadequate for keeping body and soul together. He was soon reduced to such straits that he would have been glad to fill his spoiled stomach with husks, the pods of a wild fruit, that of the carob-tree. That was the food of the pigs entrusted to him; but he was denied even the roughage of the beasts. That is the result of sin. It is not only a reproach to the sinner, but it leads to the destruction of both body and soul. The sinner must find out what misery and anguish he brings upon himself if he leaves the Lord, his God. In his misfortune he is forsaken by God and man, he has no comfort nor support, the abyss of despair yawns before him. Or if fortune seems to smile upon him and good days fall to his lot, he still lacks peace of mind and a satisfied conscience: there is no peace in his soul. Happiness is possible only in communion with God; to leave that means to give up true happiness.

At last the heaping up of miseries and griefs had some effect upon the young man. He realized the situation; he came to his true, sane self; he awoke as from a deep, unpleasant dream; he saw himself and his whole life in the true light; he began once more to judge things according to the standards of a well-instructed conscience. He called to mind the laborers of his father that were now, in comparison with his own miserable situation, living in affluence, having more bread than they needed, while he was actually starving to death by degrees. His pride was broken, his unruliness a matter of the past. He decided to go at once to his father and make a full, an unequivocal confession of his sin, that he had transgressed against God in heaven, whom every sin strikes, in the first place, and against his father. He feels his utter unworthiness to be called a son of such a father any longer, he has forfeited all filial claims; the best he can hope for, if his father would be so merciful, is to be given a position as hired workman on the farm. That is true contrition and repentance, when the sinner searches his own heart and being, fully acknowledges his transgressions, admits the justice of the divine punishment without restriction, and is fully persuaded as to his own unworthiness. There must be no palliation, no equivocation. He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy, Proverbs 28:13.

The return:

Luke 15:20-24

20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.


Cross-references

Luke 18:9-14; James 4:8-10; Zechariah 3:1-5; Isaiah 61:10; Matthew 22:1-14; Revelation 19:6-10; Ephesians 2:1-10

True repentance is not satisfied with resolutions, its sincerity must be proved by actions. The young man therefore carried out his intention without delay. As a proud and haughty, disobedient and unfilial youth he had left home; with a humble, broken, and contrite heart he crept back through the familiar scenes. But the merciful goodness and the cheerful forgiveness of his father was even greater than he had dared to expect after the treatment which the boy had accorded him. The love of a father is not so easily destroyed. Day after day he had been on the lookout for the son of his old age; never had he given up the hope of seeing him return some time. The father’s loving eye therefore was the first to espy the boy, although the half-starved, tattered tramp may have resembled only distantly the well-nourished young man that had so flippantly turned his back upon his home a short time ago. All this the father saw in a glance, but it did not fill him with repulsion, but only with the deepest sympathizing pity. To walk was too slow; he ran down to meet his boy, he fell on his neck, he kissed him most tenderly. Before the boy even opened his mouth, the father read in his eyes, in his entire appearance what motive had brought him back home. He indeed accepted the confession of sins which the boy made, but would hear nothing more. As the young man’s repentance and confession were unrestricted, so the father’s forgiveness was unconditional. The love of the father here pictured is but a weak type and picture of the love of God toward sinners, of His manner of dealing with repentant sinners. His eyes search for them; His Word pleads with them to return from the path of transgression; His heart overflows with commiserating sympathy at their blindness and foolishness, by which they cast themselves into misery, grief, and anguish. He is reconciled to all sinners through the death of Jesus Christ; in the Redeemer He has forgiven them all their trespasses. When He therefore sees the evidences of repentance, His heart goes out to them, and He showers upon them the fulness of His mercy, grace, and kindness. He gives them the assurance, confirmed with a solemn oath, that all their sins are forgiven, that their transgressions are cast into the depths of the sea. And His promises then give to the faint-hearted, penitent sinner new trust and courage, by which the belief is engendered that he has again been accepted as a child of the heavenly Father.

The father, in the overwhelming joy of his heart, reinstates the son into all the rights of sonship. To some servants that came hurrying up he gave the command to make haste that the wretched rags might be taken from his son and he be clothed in the dress becoming to his station, with a golden ring on his finger and with proper sandals on his feet. They should then take the calf which was being fattened for the slaughter and use its meat to prepare a great feast, since the entire household was to take part in the joy of this occasion. All the symbols of the filial state, all the honors due to the son of the house, should here be brought out. And the father hurriedly explains that this wanderer, if they had not known him before or had not recognized him in his rags, was his son. Dead indeed he had been, lost to all good, given to all evil; but now he had returned to real life, now he was in truth the son of the house, since he had found himself and stood in the relation of a true son to his father. And so the feast was made ready at once, and the celebration went ahead with great joy. Thus the lost children of God that return to Him with penitent hearts are not admitted to heaven in such a way as barely to enter. No, the forgiveness of God is complete. There is joy in heaven over every sinner that comes to repentance.

The older son:

Luke 15:25-32

25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. 29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.


Cross-references

Proverbs 29:3; 1 Peter 4:1-11; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 John 2:7-14; 1 Peter 2:1-10

A picture of the prim and proper, sanctimonious and self-righteous person. The older son, whom no temptation had apparently ever assailed, was busy in the field during all this time, and may not have returned till toward evening. But when he did return, the unusual bustle and commotion on the place, which had recently been as quiet as a cemetery, caused him to wonder. The sound of the musical instruments which accompanied the choirs of singers could be heard for some distance. He was filled with astonishment and displeasure that a festival should have been arranged without his knowledge, and, calling one of the servants to him, he inquired what all that meant. The servant answered, as well as he could, probably according to the part that he had been obliged to take in the feast. The fatted calf had been slaughtered because the brother was home again and well. This news filled the older brother, not only with disgust, but with anger. A sense of wrong and general unfair treatment took hold upon him. So far as he was concerned, he had washed his hands of the good-for-nothing youngster; and the latter might have been lost and could have perished for all he cared. While the father, against whom the sin had been committed, was full of joy over the repentant son, the older son, in his peevish mood, does not even want to be seen in the company of the wastrel. Thereupon the father went out to him and pleaded with him, thus showing as much love and patience with this boy as with the other. The anger and the entire behavior of the older son was altogether unreasonable. It was spiteful talk to accuse his father of never having given him so much as a kid to provide a feast for himself and his friends. And his self-praise of his willing service and of his keeping the commands of the father was a veiled attack on his brother. The gentle rebuke of the father was very properly administered. What the father had acquired since the division of the goods was his to dispose of as he pleased. But he had been generous to the older boy beyond his duty, for he had shared all with him, had given him the full and unrestricted use of his property. Therefore he admonishes him finally to be joyful with the rest, since the dead one had returned to life, since the lost one had been found. The older son is a type of the self-righteous Pharisees of all times, that are always boasting of their good works and merits and begrudge the poor sinners the unmerited grace of God. That they themselves and all that they can perform owe this to the goodness of God, that fact seems never to strike their minds. That the fact of their never having been tempted to such an extent as many a fallen person is in itself an unmerited grace, that has never occurred to them. But God is merciful above all comprehension of man. According to His gracious will, He wants all men to be saved. He is not only happy over the repentance of publicans and sinners, but He tries to soften the hearts of proud Pharisees as well.

The entire parable has reference to the lost and prodigal sons and daughters of all times, showing to all sinners the way of redemption. But also the believers, the true children of God, that are enjoying the fulness of God’s grace, should learn the lesson of this parable, to understand ever more fully what sin and grace includes. The entire life of every Christian is a continual repentance. True Christians, by daily contrition and repentance, turn away from the world and its allurements, turn to God the Father, pray daily in true faith for forgiveness of all trespasses, and are glad of the experience of God’s love toward sinners. Such Christians will rejoice from their hearts whenever a prodigal son or daughter returns and asks for admission; they will give them a reception which is in accordance with the merciful will of God, never forgetting that every one that is saved receives this mercy in the same way as the thief on the cross, by grace alone.

Summary

Jesus teaches the Pharisees the meaning of God’s love for the lost by telling the parables of the lost sheep, the lost piece of silver, and the prodigal son.


Chapter 16

Verses 1-18

The parable of the unjust steward and its lessons

The accusation of unfaithfulness:

Luke 16:1-2

1 And He said also unto His disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.


Cross-references

Psalm 119:137; Proverbs 10:2,4; Proverbs 11:28; James 5:5; Luke 15:11-32; Matthew 18:21-35

The three parables of the previous chapter had been addressed to the Pharisees and scribes, probably in the presence of the publicans and sinners, and surely in the presence of the disciples. The parable of the steward is spoken to the disciples, but the Pharisees were still present. Disciples includes not only the Twelve, but all the followers of Jesus. There is a hint even here. A certain man there was, and he was rich, so rich that he personally did not attend to the clerical work and to his finances, leaving all this to a steward and putting him in full charge, as trusted officer. But the steward was accused, an accusation was brought against him to the master, that he was wasting the goods entrusted to his care, that he was squandering his master’s money, either by fraud or by extravagant living. The definiteness of the accusation caused the master to assume that the charge was true, and so he summoned the steward before him. He wanted him to give an account of himself and his work: What is this that I hear of thee? He orders him to produce his books, to render an account in detail of his stewardship before his position terminates. For if the books showed a discrepancy between the rents or debts that had been due in the past and the money that should be on hand, the loss of his position would naturally follow. There was still some chance for the steward, if he could prove or furnish apparent proofs of his innocence.

The deliberations with their result:

Luke 16:3-8

Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.


Cross-references

Luke 3:1-13; Luke 13:1-5; Luke 19:1-10; Luke 15:1-10; John 1:1-5,9-13; John 8:12; John 12:35-36; Ephesians 5:8

The unfaithful steward found himself in a very unpleasant situation, out of which only his wit could extricate him. Jesus reproduces the resulting monolog with realistic faithfulness. The steward was in a quandary, he was racking his brains for some way out of the difficulty. Dismissal under the circumstances meant degradation; no other master would give him a clerical position. He must be content, if he finds work at all, with such as involves little responsibility. His thoughts turn to farming, since his work had brought him into contact with agricultural labor; but he is physically not strong enough to dig, he could never stand that. The other alternative seems to be begging, and to do that he is ashamed. But finally he hits upon a scheme that ought to work. By means of it he hopes, even now yet, either to avert the threatened blow, or, in case he should not succeed in doing this, to provide for himself a comfortable old age. Should he lose his position and be degraded, the people whom he has in mind would be under obligations to take him into their houses. He carries his plan into execution at once. One after the other of his lord’s debtors he summons to the office. Since he still had charge of the whole business, he could easily do this. “These debtors might be farmers, who paid their rents in kind, or persons that had gotten supplies of goods from the master’s stores.” In each case, as he speaks to the individual debtor, he follows the same plan, although only two examples are given. At his direction, they changed or rewrote their bills of indebtedness, putting down a smaller amount than that which had been stipulated or which was due to the owner. One man owed a hundred measures, about seven hundred and fifty gallons, of oil. The amount was changed to read only one-half as much. Another owed one hundred measures, between seven and eight hundred bushels, of wheat. The amount was reduced to eighty. The object of the steward was to meet either contingency. If this scheme would prove successful, the shortage would no longer exist, for the income would appear to have been much smaller than the lord thought. Should the plan be found out, the bills of indebtedness would legally stand, and the debtors would show their gratitude by providing for him. It has even been suggested that the steward had falsified the amounts in the bills of indebtedness originally and pocketed the surplus, and was now returning to the original correct figures. At any rate, it was a clever scheme. Even the master, when he received information concerning this latest trick of the steward, could not withhold a certain commendation. He praised him, not on account of his unfaithfulness and his fraud, but on account of the cleverness in handling the situation and extricating himself out of an unpleasant predicament.

The application of the parable:

Luke 16:9-12

And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. 10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?


Cross-references

Luke 19:11-27; Matthew 24:45-47

The lesson of the parable has really begun in the previous section, and it may be that the entire judgment of Luke 16:8 was spoken by Jesus. The children of this world, the people of the present day and age, are wiser than the children of light, the believers that have been enlightened by the Spirit of God, in their generation, toward their own kind; they exhibit much more keenness and business ability in their concerns than the children of the Church in theirs. They show their wisdom in relation to men of their own kind and in reference to worldly matters. It behooves the Christians to profit by their example and to show the same zeal, the same keenness, the same business ability in matters of the kingdom of God. One application of the lesson the Lord Himself makes with the emphasis peculiar to Him (as for Me, to you I say). The Christians should make for themselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness. Mammon, a term found in several ancient languages, denotes money. Now, one evidence of the wisdom of the children of the world consists in this, that they make provision for the future, that they make all their business ventures serve this end. To put themselves and their families beyond care as soon as possible is their object, and therefore they make use of every possible advantage to attain to this end. The children of light, on the contrary, are often anything but energetic and diligent in the things that pertain to God’s kingdom. They forget, also, that the end is coming, that they will have to give an account to the Lord in regard to their business transactions for Him. Therefore Jesus here admonishes them that they should so conduct their affairs, and principally those that concern temporal goods, wealth and money in general, that they, like the steward, shall make friends with the goods, with the mammon entrusted to them. Christians will use their money in the interest of the kingdom of God, in establishing and extending the Church of Jesus Christ throughout the world. And wherever they can, they will be actively interested in true charity in all its phases. In this way the poor congregations, the heathen, and others that receive the benefit of such investments, and the poor and suffering of the household of faith, will be under obligations to them. All these debtors will later show their true friendship in such a way that they will receive the Christians into the everlasting habitations. For the time will come that earthly wealth and mammon will fail; it is entrusted to every person only for the short space of this earthly life; and they themselves must leave this world behind. Then the wisdom of their investment will be demonstrated. For all those that have received any form of benefit from the money of the Christian brethren and sisters will then speak for them before the throne of God, testifying to the gifts which they enjoyed here in this world by the kindness of the members of the Church that were willing to share with the less fortunate in the possession of this world’s goods. “All the good that we do to poor people here, the friendship and benefits which we show them, those works will on the last day not only be witnesses that we have conducted ourselves as brethren and Christians, but will also be rewarded and paid. Then some one will come and praise: Lord, this person gave me a coat, a dollar, a loaf of bread, a drink of water when I was in trouble.” [Luther, quoted in Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 204].

But Jesus draws other conclusions from the parable. Faithfulness in small, apparently insignificant things is a criterion. It will follow that he who shows the right spirit, true faithfulness, in the less, will be faithful also in the greater, while the opposite holds true in the opposite case. Now, if a person does not prove faithful in the administration of the money which the Lord has entrusted to him for the short space of this earthly life, who will be foolish enough to entrust matters of real value and importance to such a one? The care and charge of spiritual gifts and goods presupposes the faithfulness in the less important temporal goods. Faith, which accepts and preserves the heavenly goods, all the gifts of God through the means of grace, will prove itself in the faithful discharge of earthly duties, in conscientious use of earthly goods, in mercy and beneficence. He that is not conscientious in the use of the money and goods entrusted to him gives evidence of lack of faith and of a contempt of heavenly goods. And if people are not faithful in the administration of the things that belong to another, who will be willing to give them such as are their actual property? People of wealth in this world are administrators, stewards of God’s goods, which He has entrusted to them in the form of money or its equivalent. This involves responsibility, and the day of reckoning is coming. If God finds that such people could not even be trusted with strange property, He will conclude that they cannot be trusted either with the gifts of His grace, which are intended for their property for all eternity. All spiritual gifts, all that the heritage of heaven implies, are, unlike the temporal possessions, outright gifts. But the latter are given only to such persons as have given proof of their faith by works which proved that they could be trusted. The presence of faith is invariably shown by works of love.

A lesson concerning covetousness.

Luke 16:13-18

13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided Him. 15 And He said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. 16 The Law and the Prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the Law to fail. 18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.


Cross-references

Matthew 6:19-24; Romans 6:16; Proverbs 11:28; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Matthew 13:22

It is impossible for a servant to be in the service of, and to render proper service to, two different masters. Cp. Matthew 6:24. The one will have his affection and respect, and therefore the service which flows out of these feelings; the other will have his dislike, if not his outright hatred. And so he cannot serve the interests of both. If any one serves mammon, attaches his heart to his money, to his wealth, if he has only the object of satisfying his own desires, he cannot at the same time serve the Lord. His heart will be where his supposed treasure is. This last saying angered the Pharisees, who were present and had heard the parable. They were lovers of money, they were covetous. And since they felt the sting of the words, they tried to turn the tables on the Lord, in a childish way, by turning up their noses at Him, by sneering and deriding Him. This behavior of the Pharisees causes Jesus to flay their self-righteousness, and to remind them of some other shortcomings and vices which were found in their midst. They justified themselves before men, they lived their lives so as to conform with the outward forms of holiness before men, who could not look into their hearts to discover the hidden meanness. But God looked beyond the veneer of outward righteousness, He knew their hearts in all their filthiness. Before men they may be highly respected, but before the Lord they and their entire behavior were an abomination. And it is true in general that conventional moral statements are the opposite of real truth; the hypocrisies of the so-called high society in many cases are such as to make the behavior of the lowest class of people that are sincere in speech and action seem golden by contrast. But even here the searching mercy of the Lord is apparent. For He tells the Pharisees that the Law and the Prophets were in power until John, who stands on the threshold between the Old and the New Testaments. But beginning with John, and since his coming, the glorious preaching of the kingdom of God, as revealed in Jesus the Christ, had gone forth, and every one that became interested at all was so completely overcome with the glories revealed that he pressed forward with might and took it by force. Cp. Matthew 11:12-13. The believer is obliged to battle with, and to overcome, all his own natural desires and lusts, and to deny the world with all its gifts and allurements in order to enter into the Kingdom. But this does not imply that the Law has been abrogated. The situation rather is this, that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, — and heaven and earth will actually be destroyed, — before so much as one tittle, a single diacritical mark of the Hebrew script, falls to the ground. Cp. Matthew 5:17-18; Matthew 5:32. Therefore also the Seventh Commandment with its judgment upon covetousness would continue in force. And no less should the Pharisees remember the Sixth Commandment, concerning which there was far too much license in their midst. What Jesus had said at other times He here repeated with emphasis. The wanton dissolution of the marriage-tie by which a man put away his wife for almost any reason that he chose to name, simply by giving her a bill of divorcement, and then entered into a union with some other woman, is adultery before God. And the union with a woman that has been thus put away by her husband without a cause that God acknowledges is again adultery. God will not be mocked with the lax marriage and divorce of these latter days. The state may, for the sake of expediency, permit many things to the children of the world which God condemns unequivocally; but that fact does not and cannot influence a Christian nor cause him to deviate one inch from the will of God as revealed in the Law.


Verses 19-31

The rich man and Lazarus, the beggar

A contrast in fortunes:

Luke 16:19-21

19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.


Cross-references

Esther 8:15; Genesis 41:38-42; Daniel 5:29; Mark 15:16-20; Revelation 18:9-14; Proverbs 13:7; Proverbs 14:20; Proverbs 17:5; James 2:1-13; 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Although, for the lesson of this story, it is immaterial whether it is a parable or the account of an actual happening, as Luther remarks, yet the manner of presentation points to the correctness of the latter assumption. The connection between this narrative and the previous conversation is evident. The servants of mammon, by their misuse of the gifts of God, by their misapplication of the funds entrusted to them, earn for themselves the tortures of damnation. The vivid contrast which runs through the entire description should be noted: A certain rich man that made it a habit to appear always in dresses of the most expensive kind, purple and silky linen, that lived splendidly and yielded himself fully to the delights of feasting every day; on the other hand, a poor man, whose name, Lazarus (trust in God), has been preserved, living in the squalor of the utmost poverty, lying at the entrance gate of the rich man’s estate, with his ragged clothes insufficient for covering the ulcers which had broken out on his body due to unhealthy conditions of living and improper food, satisfied with, and eager for, the scraps which were thrown out from the table of the rich man. The dogs were more merciful than the men that saw him in his misery, for they at least came and licked his ulcers. The one lived only for himself and for the delights and luxuries of the body. He may have seen the beggar whom some one had deposited at his door, as he went in and out, or as he rode by in his fine carriage, but he paid no attention to him nor to his condition. Unpleasant facts interfere with the enjoyment of life. “If we look at this rich man according to the fruits of faith, we find a heart and a tree of unbelief. For the Gospel rebukes him that he daily fared sumptuously and dressed splendidly, all of which reason does not regard an unusually great sin. … But this rich man is not reproved because he had fine food and splendid clothes, for many saints, kings, and queens formerly wore fine dresses, as Solomon, Esther, David, Daniel, and others; but because he set his heart upon it, he sought, he clung to it, he chose it, he had all his joy, desire, and pleasure in it, and made it his idol.” [Luther, 11, 1196].

Another contrast:

Luke 16:22-26

22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.


Cross-references

Matthew 8:11-12; Matthew 13:36-43; Matthew 24:29-31; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:7-15; Revelation 21:1-8

Here the fortunes are reversed with a vengeance: the servant of God in bliss, the servant of mammon in misery. The beggar died, he finally succumbed to the combination of sickness and starvation. But his death provoked an embassy from heaven: he was carried up by the angels into the bosom of Abraham. Note: So inexpressibly wonderful is the bliss of heaven that human language cannot, even remotely, describe its glories; and therefore this circumscription is used, the bosom of Abraham, as the father of all the faithful. He that had not had a friend in the wide world, whom people refused so much as to touch, now was joyfully received into the eternal home and found a place of honor by the side of Abraham, leaning against his bosom, as the beloved disciple leaned against the bosom of Jesus. But the account of the death and funeral of the rich man is extremely bare and meager: he died and was buried. Such is the valuation which God places upon the life of him that wasted his substance in service of self; that was God’s obituary. But the sequel? In hell, where his soul found itself, the former rich man found himself in tortures, in inexpressible agony, as great, by contrast, as was the bliss of Lazarus whom he could see. In his pain and misery he called out for relief, asking Abraham to have pity upon him and dispatch Lazarus with only so much as a single drop of water on the tip of his finger, to quench the burning, feverish thirst which was consuming the pampered soul. Just a little cooling he longed, he pleaded for, on account of the flame which was affecting him with the severest pains. Note: Now the rich man could and did notice Lazarus, now he could plead for a favor from the hands of him whom his dainty fingers refused to touch in life. But the pathetic request is refused. Son, indeed, Abraham calls him, for such he is after the flesh, and upon that carnal relationship he had depended; but there is no relationship of spirit between them. He should remember that he had received that which he had wanted, the good things of life, while he was still alive and in the world. He had served mammon, and mammon had rewarded him after his own manner. Now the position of Lazarus and the rich man were reversed: the former received comfort, the latter torture. There was absolute justice in the situation. And even if Abraham had been willing to listen to the pleading of the poor wretch in hell, there was no possibility of fulfilling his request, since there was a deep chasm, an unbridgeable abyss, between the place of the blessed and that of the damned, firmly fixed, excluding all possibility of intercourse. So, though he that never showed pity now asks pity; though he that never practised humility now humbly pleads, there is no chance, his last hope is gone.

Hearing Moses and the Prophets:

Luke 16:27-31

27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.


Cross-references

Matthew 12:38-42; Matthew 17:22-23; Luke 24:1-7; Acts 10:34-43; 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Corinthians 1:20-25

A strange change has come upon the former rich man. Formerly he cared only for himself and the gratification of his own desires, but now, when it is too late, he remembers duties and kindnesses which he should formerly have shown to his relatives. The repentance of the damned in hell may be sincere and comprehensive a thousand times over, but then it is too late! A second petition the poor wretch sends across the chasm. He wants Lazarus sent back, as a spirit from the land of death, to warn his five brothers, lest they share his own awful fate. Where faith and belief have been thrown out, unbelief and superstition are rife and rampant. When the Word of God in Law and Gospel has been declared insufficient for the would-be enlightenment of a twentieth century, there spiritualism, real and imitated, is hailed as a solution and salvation. Abraham therefore gives him a bit of much-needed information. The old sound doctrine, the written Word of God, is the one and only safe norm and rule of doctrine and life. Moses and the Prophets were accessible to the brothers, they were read in all the synagogs on the Sabbath-day; let the brothers seek for the truth there, nothing more would be needed. If the brothers at that time, if the people of our time, will not heed Moses and the Prophets, if they will not obey the Word and heed its lessons and warnings, as well as its admonitions and promises, then there is no more hope. The Word is a lamp unto the feet of every searcher of truth, Psalm 119:105. Note: Hell is not a figment of a diseased imagination, but hell is real! Its torments are terrible: A consuming and yet never destroying flame; thirst that cannot be alleviated by so much as a tiny drop of water; the ability to see the bliss of the saints in heaven, but no possibility of ever becoming partakers of that happiness; no deliverance or salvation from hell’s tortures, — all hope forever gone.

Summary

Jesus tells the parable of the unjust steward and adds several lessons for the disciples and for the Pharisees, and relates the story of the rich man and of Lazarus, the beggar.


Chapter 17

Verses 1-10

A lesson on offenses and forgiveness

On offenses:

Luke 17:1-2

1 Then said He unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.


Cross-references

Matthew 18:1-9; Mark 9:42-50; Luke 9:46-48; Luke 1:11-15; Luke 1:39-44

In this chapter we have a number of lessons which were given, and incidents which took place, during the last journey of the Lord to Jerusalem. He did not take the direct route, but traveled back and forth in Southern Galilee and into Samaria, as occasion offered. The Pharisees had been reproved and silenced once more, and Jesus had leisure to teach His disciples without interference. Cp. Matthew 18:6-7. It is not possible, Jesus says, for offenses not to come. The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth, and all the evil thoughts that take their rise in the heart come forth and show themselves in evil deeds, unless a person is on the watch all the time to subdue every sinful movement. But the majority of people in the world have no interest in doing this. So long as they do not come into conflict with the law of the state, they live and act pretty well as they choose. And the result is that occasions for stumbling are given. Things are done continually in the world at which the sincere disciples of Christ take justifiable offense, since they are dishonorable to the Lord and harmful to the Church. To these offenses belong all the deliberate and unpremeditated blasphemies of the Lord and His Word, the many transgressions of the Sixth Commandment in word, dress, picture, and deed, and other sins. The fact, however, that offenses are inevitable does not excuse the offender nor condone his sin, but the Lord pronounces a woe upon him. It would be a more fortunate end for such a one, it would be more to his advantage, if a millstone were placed about his neck, one of the two small millstones such as were in use for grinding in the houses, and that he were thrown out into the sea. This fate would be preferable to the other, by which the sinner that has offended would be condemned into the deepest abyss of hell. For the offense against one of the little ones of the Lord, against the children and the simple believers in the Scripture and its truths, belongs to the transgressions of the first rank. If the children of the world were at all conscious of the guilt and the damnation they load upon themselves by the many methods which they have devised for tripping the feet of the unwary, they would probably be more careful with the opportunities for sin in both the gross and fine forms which they are holding out on all sides, in theaters, dance-halls, pool-rooms, saloons, through suggestive pictures and stories, and in thousands of other forms.

Concerning forgiveness:

Luke 17:3-6

Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.


Cross-references

Matthew 18:21-35; Matthew 6:12; Colossians 3:12-17; Mark 9:14-29; Matthew 17:14-20

The children of the world make it a point literally to scandalize, give offense with deliberate intent to hurt and to lead into sin. But among Christians it also happens, and frequently, that one brother offends the other, grieves him by some unpremeditated sin or in a moment of weakness. For that reason they should take heed, they should be on the lookout as regards themselves all the time, lest they themselves become guilty and scandalize a brother. And if a brother offends in any respect, the Christian that knows of the sin should earnestly admonish him, Matthew 18:21-22. As soon as the brother thereupon repents of his sin, the Christian should forgive him, fully and freely, even though the same process be repeated seven times a day. The heart of the believers should partake of the nature of God’s and Christ’s, or God’s in Christ, which knows neither end nor limit. Whenever the confession comes: I am sorry, then should the assurance be given in return that the matter is forgiven. Such a measure of love for the erring brother, it is true, requires an unusual amount of love, and therefore a corresponding amount of faith. The apostles were conscious of that fact; as matters stood then, they hardly believed themselves equal to the task proposed by Christ. And so, after mulling over the admonition for a while, they put the request to Him to add to their faith. This prayer is necessary for every Christian every day, if he wants his love to keep pace with the many demands that are placed upon it. Faith must grow at the same rate as love. A Christian will search ever more diligently, he will plunge ever more deeply into the depths of the love of God in Jesus the Savior. Only in that way will he be able to practise the forgiveness toward his brother which is demanded by the discipleship of Christ. The Lord took the occasion to enlarge upon one of His favorite topics, that of the strength of faith. If they had faith only as large as the seed of a mustard-plant or -tree, they would have the power to say to the fig mulberry or sycamore fig-tree standing before them that it should tear itself out by the roots and plant itself in the sea, and it would obey without question. Note: To grow in faith, in the power of faith, must be the earnest ambition of every Christian. Sincere prayer to the Lord, unwavering trust in His promises, a constant contemplation of His Word: those are the methods by which growth in faith may be accomplished.

No merit in works:

Luke 17:7-10

But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. 10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.


Cross-references

Ephesians 2:8-10; Galatians 5:16-26; John 15:1-17; Matthew 25:14-30

Since faith, according to the Lord’s own explanation, shows itself in good works, in deeds of mercy and forgiveness and other miraculous acts such as are impossible without faith, the thought might have arisen in the hearts of the disciples that works were therefore meritorious, that they earned something in the sight of God. But this thought the Lord precludes by a parabolic narrative, a parallel with strong application. “Christ’s purpose is not to teach in what spirit God deals with His servants, but to teach rather in what spirit we should serve God.” If a master has a slave that has been plowing or doing the work of a herder out in the field, and this servant comes home in the evening, he will not say to him: Go at once and get your supper. The master will continue to require the services of the slave, bidding him first prepare the supper for the master, then gird up his clothes about him and wait at the table. After the lord of the house has eaten and drunken, then the slave may also have his supper. The master would not think of thanking the slave for the work he has thus performed, for the service was taken as a matter of course; it was all in the day’s work. The picture is not too harsh or overdrawn, but is taken from conditions which were usual in the time of Christ throughout the Roman Empire. Now the Lord makes the application, saying that even so all believers, when they have done all that they were commanded to do, which includes all the demands which grow out of all situations confronting men at all times, when they have done their full duty (if that were possible), yet they will have nothing to boast of, nothing for which they could demand anything of God in return. They are still unprofitable servants; they have but done that which was expected of them as their duty. There is no merit or worthiness before God in them even then. If God looks upon the good works of the Christians with a kindly countenance and praises and rewards them, that is not a matter of merit, but of free grace. All the greater is our obligation of love.


Verses 11-19

The ten lepers

The cleansing:

Luke 17:11-14

11 And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.


Cross-references

Luke 9:51-56; Leviticus 13:1-8; Leviticus 13:45-46; Psalm 51:1; Daniel 9:9

Jesus did not travel to Jerusalem by the shortest route, but journeyed by easy stages along the boundary between Galilee and Samaria, now in the one, then again in the other province, as occasion offered, and He found villages which had not yet heard the Gospel of the Kingdom. Now when He was about to enter into a village in that region, ten leprous men came out to meet Him. Observing the strict rule concerning infection, they did not come all the way to Christ, but stood at some distance, near enough, however, that their hoarse voice might be heard. And they called in unison, to increase the carrying power of their prayer: Jesus, Lord, have mercy on us! That was a prayer of faith. They knew Jesus through the medium of the wonderful stories that had been told about Him. The message concerning Christ had worked faith in their hearts. Their plea for mercy was an expression of this faith. “This is testified to by their words, when they say: Have mercy on us! He that seeks mercy will surely not buy and barter it, but seeks only grace and mercy, as one that is unworthy of it and most assuredly merits something entirely different.” [Luther, 11, 1579]. And Jesus, seeing them, and fully aware of their miserable plight, ordered them to show themselves to the priests. It was commanded in the Law of Moses that such persons as supposed themselves to be cured of the dreadful disease of leprosy or had actually been cured, must present themselves to one of the priests on duty at the sanctuary, in order that their condition might be established. For if they had been cured of their sickness, they were required to bring certain prescribed sacrifices connected with their cleansing, Leviticus 13:2; Leviticus 14:2. Jesus did not heal the sick men outright, in order not to arouse the opposition of the priests unduly, for they would have had the power, if they so chose for enmity toward Him, to declare that the men were still leprous. Jesus combined tact and discretion with kindness and mercy. Therefore it happened that the men became clean after they had left His presence, while on their way to the sanctuary. Mark that their going, in these circumstances, was an act of faith. Without seeing the miracle, they believed that it would happen to them. And so it came about.

The grateful Samaritan:

Luke 17:15-19

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.


Cross-references

Matthew 10:5-8; Luke 10:25-37; Luke 7:1-10; Luke 2:22-32; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 7:36-50

Ten lepers had shown faith; ten lepers had been healed. But out of that entire number only one felt the obligation of thankfulness. Only one, seeing what a miracle had been done in his case, felt the need of turning back and giving thanks to the Healer. This man sought the Lord, who was probably still in the village, meanwhile praising God loudly and with fully restored voice. And when he found Jesus, he fell down on his face before Him, at His feet, in complete surrender, signifying his willingness to be the Lord’s servant forever. And all the while his mouth poured forth words of thankfulness. And yet this man, who thus put to shame his former companions in misery, was a Samaritan, a member of the race which was despised by the Jews and Galileans. The incident made a deep impression upon Jesus. In a bitter cry over the ingratitude of the former lepers He said: Is it not that ten were cleansed? But the nine, where are they? Were there not found such as would turn back to give glory to God but only this stranger, this man of a different race, and one that is ordinarily looked down upon by the Jews? “That is the true worship of God, to come back, to praise God with a loud voice. That is the greatest work in heaven and earth, and also the only one which we may show God; for of the others He has no need, neither does He receive them: only to be loved and praised by us, that He likes. … But that is terrible, that the Lord just knows that ten have been cleansed, a fact they had not reckoned with; and He does not hold His peace about it, but asks for them and seeks them: Where are the nine? O what a terror that will be when at that time they will feel the question and have to answer where they went when they did not give honor to God! … We have all vowed in Baptism to follow Christ and His doctrine; no one has vowed to follow the Pope, bishops, and clerics. Thus Christ has altogether rejected and prohibited the doctrine of men.” [Luther, 11, 1603. 1609]. This question is a very important and serious one for all Christians. The gifts of God which we have received from Him through the means of grace during our whole life amount to far more than a cleansing from bodily leprosy. We have received, and are continually receiving, the riches of God’s unmerited love and mercy Sunday after Sunday, day by day. And yet we are very dilatory about the gratitude which we owe to Him in thoughts, words, and deeds. The Lord will think kindly of us for any show of appreciation, as He showed in this instance. For He dismissed the Samaritan with the words: Arise, go thy way; thy faith has healed and saved thee. Jesus does not refer to the faith of the others, which had been extinguished in the midst of their newly found happiness. He praises only the faith of him that remained faithful. Those who forget His kindness He also forgets. Many a person has come to faith, had the beginning of faith in his heart, learned to pray in trouble, to trust in God for help; but later the same person, by base ingratitude, has suffocated the young plant of spiritual life. Faith for a time, followed by backsliding, results in the loss of faith and also of the mercy of God. Only lasting, grateful faith will provide lasting help and will save a person in body and soul.


Verses 20-37

Concerning the kingdom of God and the coming of Christ

Of the coming of the kingdom:

Luke 17:20-25

20 And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. 22 And He said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. 23 And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them. 24 For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in His day. 25 But first must He suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.


Cross-references

Luke 19:11-27; Acts 1:1-11; Matthew 24; Luke 9:18-22

The resentful, peevish attitude of the Pharisees came to the front with increasing frequency. Here Jesus was approached by them with a question which was intended to make Him an object of ridicule. His continual reference to the coming of the Kingdom provoked the question. The Pharisees wanted to know when the kingdom of God would come. They wanted to know the time, they wanted visible evidence. For their idea of the kingdom of Christ or of the Messiah was that of the modern millennialists, of a visible kingdom, a physical entity, brought into being by a political or social revolution and upheaval. But Jesus corrected their foolish ideas, telling them that the kingdom of God does not come with observation, in a way or mode that every one can see and measure it. It cannot be observed with the eye, it is not a vulgar, physical, visible body or realm. To attempt to fix its definite position, its limits, its boundaries in the world by the application of the senses, by sight, is foolish; for the kingdom of God is within, in the hearts of the believers. He that accepts the mercy of the King of grace is a member of the Kingdom of Grace, but by faith only, which is in the heart and cannot be seen by human beings. And all external signs of the presence of the Kingdom and its power in the hearts of the believers are not infallible, since these same signs may be feigned by such as are hypocrites. Upon this spiritual, invisible Kingdom the thoughts and minds of men should be set. Only he that is a member of the Kingdom of Grace here will be a member of the Kingdom of Glory up yonder.

The disciples themselves were not at all clear in this matter, they were still battling with carnal ideas as to the kingdom of the Messiah, and therefore the Lord gives them a few signs of the deceiver’s methods. For it was the Lord’s constant custom to support and comfort the minds of His disciples. Days will come when they would desire and wish for only one day of the revelation of the perfect glory of heaven, when just one day’s experience of the bliss to be would give them new strength to bear the trials and persecutions of the world. But the final revelation will not come until the day fixed by the decree of God. Then there will be false prophets and false Christs who will point and say: Lo, here is Christ; lo, there! Cp. Matthew 24:23; Mark 13:21. The believers must not permit themselves to be deceived by such talk, for it will be a temptation, a delusion, and a snare. As for Christ, His final advent will partake of the nature of the lightning. In one moment He will shine, with all the glory of His splendor, from this quarter under heaven unto that; He will be visible to all people of the earth. But before this glorious consummation there will be a long time of waiting and watching for the believers, with a sore trial for their patience. First of all the great obligation rests upon the Lord to suffer in the great Passion, to be rejected by the present generation. Christ must bear His cross first, and His Church, the members of His kingdom, will become partakers of this suffering, before the great day of glory dawns.

The suddenness of Christ’s advent:

Luke 17:26-30

26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builder; 29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. 30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.


Cross-references

Matthew 24:37-39; Genesis 6:5-8; Genesis 7:1-10; Genesis 18:20; Genesis 19:24; 2 Peter 2:4-9; Matthew 11:20-24; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Revelation 18:21-24; 1 Corinthians 1:4-9; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12; 1 Peter 1:3-13

The distinguishing characteristic of the time just preceding the final advent of Christ, the Son of Man, will be an indifferent carelessness. The days of Noah are an example. The warning had gone out through the mouth of this preacher of righteousness that the people should repent of their foolish ways. But they gave so little heed to the warning that they continued in all the manner of complete abandon in the desires of the flesh up to the very hour of the cataclysm: they ate, they drank, they married, they were married; men and women, the entire generation, past all hope of redemption. And then, with the sudden frightfulness that has characterized the judgments of God in similar situations, came the day on which Noah entered into the ark; then came the Flood and destroyed them all. And the days of Lot are another example of the utter, blind heedlessness of the people. In Sodom and Gomorrah the inhabitants continued in the delights of the flesh as well as in all their lines of business, work, and endeavor: they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built, up to the very hour of the catastrophe that overwhelmed the cities, when it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all. The people of the last times will not have learned their lesson from the previous calamities; when the Son of Man will be revealed before their astonished, horrified eyes on the last day, He will find them as unprepared for His coming, as deeply steeped in the foolishness of the Noachites and of the Sodomites as any generation ever was.

Final warnings:

Luke 17:31-37

31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. 34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. 35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 37 And they answered and said unto Him, Where, Lord? And He said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.


Cross-references

Matthew 24:17-18; Mark 13:15-16; Genesis 19:23-26; Luke 9:57-62; Luke 9:23-27; Luke 12:49–53; Matthew 24:40-42; Matthew 24:23-28

The thought which stands out from the Lord’s warning is this, that it will be too late to prepare for the Lord’s coming when His hour has come, when the Judgment bursts upon the world. The suddenness of the breaking of Judgment Day will take every person where he just happens to be at that time. A man will be up on the flat roof of the house. He will neither have, nor should he attempt to take, time to go down and get any instruments or possessions. A man will be out in the field. He also should not turn back behind him for anything of this world’s goods that he may have valued. As when an army of the enemy makes a sudden successful assault and only precipitate flight will save the inhabitants, he that turns back for money, clothes, or other goods is lost, so the person whose mind is still attached to the things of this world on the last day is beyond hope of salvation. The example of Lot’s wife should be before the minds of the believers at all times. Had she not turned behind her to satisfy her curiosity, she might have saved her soul with the rest. Her hesitation proved her destruction. Cp. Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24. He that in the last emergency will have nothing in mind but the saving of this earthly life and the goods that are necessary for its preservation, will lose forever the true life in and with God; but he whose desires are free from all love for this world and what it has to offer, that has denied himself and all that this life might have given him, he will save his life, the life in God, his soul and its eternal salvation. Christ repeats this warning once more, with great emphasis. In that same night two men will be occupying the same bed, of whom one will be accepted and the other rejected. Two women will be grinding flour at the same mill; one will be accepted, the other will be rejected. Two men will be in the field; the one will be accepted, the other will be rejected. And the emphasis of the Lord was not without its effect upon the disciples. In awe and fear, they barely breathe the question: Where, Lord? Where will all this happen? And He told them: Where the dead body is, there will the eagles gather themselves together. The world, especially in the last days, will be, and to-day is, like a decaying carcass, whose stench rises up into the heavens. And judgment and destruction will come upon the entire spiritually dead and morally rotten human race. It is a strong, but fitting figure, revealing the world as it is, in its true condition, without a redeeming feature to recommend it in the sight of God.

Summary

Christ gives a lesson concerning offenses and forgiveness, heals the ten lepers, receiving the thanks of one, and gives a discourse concerning the kingdom of God and the coming to Judgment.


Chapter 18

Verses 1-8

The importunate widow

The unjust judge:

Luke 18:1-5

1 And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.


Cross-references

Matthew 6:5-18; Luke 11:1-13; Luke 21:29-36; Romans 12:11-12; Ephesians 6:10-18; Colossians 4:2; Exodus 18:17-23; Deuteronomy 16:18-20; Psalm 111:10-112:1; 1 Peter 2:17

The revelations of Jesus concerning the last days of the world and His coming to Judgment would naturally fill the disciples with consternation and apprehension. It was evident that, with such afflictions and desolations coming upon the land, they would have need of much patience and continual fortitude, but also of the constant protection of God. To be instant and importunate in prayer, therefore, would be a necessity of the last days for such as intended to heed the warnings of the Master. The story was to teach the disciples the obligation always to pray, to be persistent and persevering in prayer, in spite of all temptation to unbelief, notwithstanding all delay on the part of God. Not to grow weary, not to be overwhelmed by fatigue, that is the secret of the conquering prayer. For the point of the story is not that God does not delay in answering prayer. This fact is only too well known from the experience of many Christians. But the cause, reason, or motive for delay in the case of God is entirely different from that of the judge. The judge represents God only in so far as the Lord often appears to a sorely tried heart as a hard and unreasonable Master, otherwise there is no similarity.

A judge was in a certain city. According to Deuteronomy 16:18, the Jews were to have, in all the gates of the city, judges, whose work consisted in hearing cases and pronouncing judgment. They were supposed to administer justice without respect of persons, Exodus 23:6-9; Leviticus 19:15; Matthew 5:21-22. But the judge here spoken of feared not God, he paid no attention to the calls of justice; and he had no respect for man, he was unmoved even by such complaints as required immediate adjustment. An utterly unprincipled man, controlled by shameless selfishness. Now there was a widow in the same city that had been defrauded, that had suffered an injustice, and she naturally brought her complaint to the official whose business it was to adjudicate matters of that kind. Her cry was: Vindicate me from my adversary, see to it that I get justice, provide a square deal for me. She continued to come again and again, and she became more insistent as time went by. For a considerable time he stood it, for he had no inclination to exert himself, since he was living for his own ease only. But finally he thought the matter out within himself. Though he had no fear of God in his heart and no respect for men in his mind, yet his selfishness thought very highly of his own comfort and peace of mind. To escape the bother which she was making for him, to spare himself disagreeable hours, since she was rendering life miserable for him, he wanted to secure justice for her, lest she at last, in the height of bitterness and rage, literally put her fists into his eyes, punish him, in the language of the prize-ring. [Cobern, New Archeological Discoveries, 120]. The condition of his heart was not changed in a single particle, but he disliked being bored to distraction.

The moral of the story:

Luke 18:6-8

And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?


Cross-references

Psalm 9; Psalm 94; Deuteronomy 32:35-36; Romans 12:9-21; Revelation 6:9-11; Romans 8:31-39; Matthew 24

The Lord Himself, in pointing out the lesson, brings out the contrast strongly: on the one hand, the judge of unrighteousness, whose ideas of justice were not only hazy, but who knew no justice, whose character was the essence of selfishness; on the other, the just and loving God, whose aim is not only to do justice, but to show mercy to all His works; the one yielding grudgingly and merely to escape being bored; the other finding His delight in showing mercy and in yielding to the entreaties of His own. Truly, God will provide vindication for His elect, for those that believe on Him through the power of His means of grace. But He wants them to continue in prayer, in calling to Him, day and night. He may be leisurely in coming to the help of His saints, He may delay His help for a while; but when His hour comes, succor which He renders comes suddenly. It is a speedy and glorious deliverance which they experience. The question of God’s hearing prayer is therefore beyond doubt, but the certainty of faith in the case of the people on earth is not so absolute. With all the temptations of the last days surrounding them, it will be a very serious question, from the standpoint of men, whether faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of the world will still be found at that time. It will surely be a matter of God’s power and mercy to keep His elect in the faith until the end.


Verses 9-14

The Pharisee and the publican

The Pharisee:

Luke 18:9-12

And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.


Cross-references

Matthew 3:1-10; Matthew 6:5 Luke 10:25-37; Luke 16:10-15; Luke 19:45-46; Acts 3:1; Matthew 9:14-17; Luke 11:42; Galatians 3:10-11

During the last journey of Jesus, representatives of the Pharisees were present almost continually. It is probable that some of these had given some evidence of their imagined superiority again, or there were others that had their way of thinking and acting. They trusted in themselves that they were righteous; they firmly believed themselves to be perfect; they felt only the deepest contempt for the others whom they supposed to be in a class far beneath them, below the consideration of all decent people. They were representatives of the self-righteous, self-sufficient people, with both inherent and carefully educated Pharisaic tendencies. The parable of Jesus was intended to open the eyes of this pitifully blind class. Two men went up into the Temple to pray. The third, sixth, and ninth hours of the day were observed by the Jews as the hours of prayer, Daniel 6:10. If possible, they went up into the Temple for that special prayer, or turned toward the Temple in making it. The chief places of prayer were the halls, or porches, or the inner courts, where there was little or no distraction or disturbance. The first of these two men was a Pharisee, a member of the strictest sect among the Jews. He stood, he made it his object to be as prominent and conspicuous as possible, for he felt his self-importance and intended to convey to others this same impression. He prayed to himself, literally: his words were more in the nature of congratulation and praise of himself than a communication to God. What he said was the firm conviction of his own heart. He proudly enumerated his supposed virtues, thanking God, incidentally, that he was not like other people. The poor man did not know, in the arrogance of his pride, that he might do whatever he chose, “yea, if he sweat blood and had himself burned with fire, it would still before God be an abomination and the greatest of sins.” [Luther, 13b, 2310]. The Pharisee boasted that he had done no harm to others; he was no extortioner, no robber that openly took his neighbor’s property; he was no unjust person, he paid his debts and gave to every man his due; he was no adulterer, he had never openly lived in sins of the flesh; he was not on a level with the publican, whose many transgressions were proverbial. But he also had positive virtues; he observed all the ordinances of religion, both those commanded by God and those enjoined by the elders. Only one day in the year had been set aside by God as a day of fasting for the entire people, the great Day of Atonement. But the Pharisees of the stricter kind added voluntary fasts on Mondays and Thursdays; the latter, because on that day Moses was said to have ascended on Mount Sinai; the former, because they believed he had come down on that day from the mountain. This Pharisee was also very strict about giving tithes, the tenth part of all that he possessed, down to the smallest vegetable in the garden, Matthew 23:23. The Pharisee is a type of all self-righteous people of all times, of every person that has pleasure and delight in himself, in his own wonderful being and doing, that boasts before God of his civic honesty and blameless reputation, of some outward, glittering virtues, and despises others.

The publican:

Luke 18:13-14

13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.


Cross-references

Ezra 9:5-6; Psalm 51:17; Ezekiel 18:32; Daniel 9:8-9; 2 Peter 3:9; Luke 11:4; Luke 14:7-11

The publican had nothing of the arrogance and self-assertiveness of the Pharisee. He stood at a great distance, probably in the shadow of a pillar, where he would be as inconspicuous as possible. He is acutely conscious of his unworthiness. He does not even dare to lift up his eyes toward the sanctuary as to the visible shrine of God’s presence among His people. He can only, in piercing grief because of his sin, beat upon his breast. His prayer is one shuddering sigh: God, be merciful to me, the sinner! In his eyes there is only one sinner worth mentioning, only one whose sins he can see; and that is himself. Cp. 1 Timothy 1:15. He knows of no merit, no worthiness, on his part; he has nothing to boast of. It is only shame, boundless, overwhelming shame, that he feels. And he asks only for mercy, nothing but God’s grace. The publican is a type of the repentant sinner, that knows and acknowledges his sin, that feels its guilt in heart and conscience, that confesses his guilt over against God, but also turns to the Lord as to his merciful, gracious God, accepts and appropriates the grace of God, the pardon which is assured to all sinners in Jesus, the Savior. The judgment of Christ in the case is clear and comprehensive. With emphasis He declares that this man, the publican, went down into his house justified, pardoned rather than the other, the Pharisee. He received the atonement of Jesus in faith in the Messiah. He was justified by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith. “There we hear two strange and peculiar sentences, altogether opposed to human wisdom and imagination of reason, terrible in the eyes of all the world, that the great saints are condemned as unrighteous and the poor sinners are accepted and declared to be righteous and holy.” [Luther, quoted in Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments, 213]. All the great saints after the manner of the Pharisees are in actual fact unrighteous; their worship, praying, praise is nothing but hypocrisy and boasting; they are not honest toward God and men, and, what is still worse, they have no prayer to God, ask nothing of God, want nothing of God’s love and mercy. And therefore they remain in their sins and are looked upon by God as unjust and treated accordingly. The poor sinners, on the other hand, that acknowledge their sinfulness and desire nothing but mercy, they receive the mercy for which they long. For every one that exalts himself will be humiliated; but he that humbles himself will be exalted. He that believes himself to be pious and righteous, that exalts himself above all sinfulness and above all sinners, will close the door of mercy before his own face, will bring upon himself damnation. But he that confesses his condition as that of a lost and condemned creature, and puts his sole and only trust in the grace of God, will be accepted by God as His dear child in Jesus the Savior.


Verses 15-17

Christ blesses little children

Luke 18:15-17

15 And they brought unto Him also infants, that He would touch them: but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.


Cross-references

Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Mark 9:33-37; Mark 10:13; Leviticus 1:1-4; Deuteronomy 34:9; Genesis 48:14-16; 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:22; Acts 6:1-7; Mark 10:46-48; Genesis 17:9-14; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:36-39; Acts 16:25-34

The incident here told happened in one of the hamlets, probably in Perea, while Jesus was on His last journey to Jerusalem. The kindness of Jesus won the hearts of all that were not filled with prejudice against Him. And therefore the mothers of the village brought their little children, their babies, to Jesus, in order that He might lay His hands upon them in blessing. There was nothing of superstition in this act. But the disciples, as soon as they noticed this proceeding, gravely rebuked the mothers for disturbing the Master, who in their opinion was far too busy and engaged with far too weighty questions to be disturbed with trifles. But the view of Jesus in this matter differed from that of His disciples very decidedly. In a manner which carried a world of reproof for their interference, He called out to the mothers, bidding them come. He was glad and wanted the little children brought to Him. No one should in any way interfere with such bringing nor deny to the little ones the friendship and blessing of the Savior. Of such is the kingdom of God. That is the requirement for entry into the kingdom of God, that faith must be as simple and sincere as that of children. They accept Jesus, their Savior, without question and without doubt; they love Him and cling to Him in joyful abandon. With solemn seriousness Jesus makes this declaration, that no one can enter into the Kingdom unless he accepts it as a little child. Note: Since the only way in which any one can come to Jesus is by faith, it follows that children can very well believe. Also: Since the only means of grace of which we know that it can transmit faith also to infants is that of Baptism, it follows that we should bring our children to Jesus by means of this Sacrament as soon as possible. Finally: We must strive unceasingly to bring our reason into captivity under the obedience of Christ in the Word, in order that our faith may become simple and childlike.


Verses 18-30

Denying all for Christ’s sake

The rich young ruler:

Luke 18:18-23

18 And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. 20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. 21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. 22 Now when Jesus heard these things, He said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me. 23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.


Cross-references

Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22; Daniel 12:2-3; Matthew 25:31-46; Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:1-21; Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Genesis 6:5; Psalm 14:2-3; Psalm 51:3-5; Luke 11:11-13; Romans 3:9-18; Romans 3:21-31; Galatians 3:10-14; Ephesians 2:1-10; Proverbs 30:7-9; Luke 12:32-34

Cp. Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22. Jesus was still on the eastern side of the Jordan when the incident occurred which is here narrated. A young rich ruler of a local synagog came to him and asked him, with all marks of respect and esteem: Good Master, by the doing of what will I inherit eternal life? The question gave Jesus one of the best opportunities of confessing Himself to be coequal with God the Father. For He did not decline the honor which lay in the word “good.” But He called the attention of the ruler to the word he had used. Jesus was not only good in the sense commonly associated with the word, that of a virtuous man and wise teacher. He is the Good in the absolute sense. So much for the form in which the young man had addressed Him. As for his question, he had mentioned works, he had expressed his belief that the inheriting of eternal life depended upon something that he could do. Jesus takes him up at this point. He reminds him of the commandments which, as ruler of the synagog, he certainly must be familiar with. Note: Jesus does not quote the commandments in the order which is generally followed, thus showing that not the order of the precepts of God, but the keeping of their contents, is the important matter. But when Jesus had named five of the commandments, all of them from the second table of the Law, the ruler made the astounding statement: These all have I kept from my youth, thereby proving that he had no true idea of the spiritual understanding of the Law of God. His conception of his duty according to the commandments was that universally held among the Jews, namely, that a mere outward observance of the letter of the Law was equal to its fulfilment. Only transgressions in deeds and, under certain circumstances, in words were accounted sin; transgressions in desires and thoughts were not taken into consideration. The ruler had evidently made his declaration in good faith, and Jesus loved him for it, Mark 10:21. Nevertheless, it was necessary for the great Physician to cut deeply in this case, in order to lay bare the tumor of false sanctity. So Jesus told him that he still lacked one thing in order to be perfect and thus to lay claim to the inheritance of heaven. Everything that he had he should distribute to the poor; then he would have a treasure safely laid away in heaven, then, also, he could be the Lord’s disciple in truth. The Lord’s object was to show the man how far he still was from keeping the commandments as he should, how far from perfect his love toward God and his neighbor was, how completely his heart was still bound up in the things of this world. The advice of Jesus strikes the heart of the matter, and finds its application in the case of every person. We should love God above all things, and if He demands it, if the welfare of the kingdom of God makes it necessary, we should be ready to sacrifice all earthly goods and life itself; and we should at all times serve our neighbor with our money. The test was too much for the young man. He was deeply grieved, he became very sorrowful on account of the words of Jesus. He had been touched in his weakest spot; he was very rich. In giving up his riches he would be denying himself that which his heart placed even above the love and service of Jesus. Thus many people that once heard the Word of God and were attracted by some phase of church-work, have turned their backs upon the Church, and everything it stands for and offers, because their Pharisaic hearts were struck by some sermon concerning their special sinful hobby. It is necessary at all times that the Word of God, the Law, tear the mask of self-righteousness from the face of the sinner before he can become a disciple of Jesus in deed and in truth.

The lesson of the incident:

Luke 18:24-27

24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, He said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26 And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? 27 And He said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.


Cross-references

Matthew 19:23-26; Mark 10:23-27; 1 Timothy 6:9; Luke 16:19-31; John 3:1-21; Jeremiah 32:27; Mark 16:16; Ephesians 2:4-5; Ephesians 3:14-21

The young ruler had gotten more than he bargained for; he went away from Jesus, and it is very doubtful whether he ever returned. Jesus determined to teach His disciples and others that were near a lesson drawn from the incident. He told them in the form of an exclamation: How difficult, how next to impossible, it is for those that have goods, that are rich, to enter into the kingdom of God! Cp. Matthew 19:23-30; Mark 10:23-31. A person that is rich, actually calls the goods that are entrusted to him his own, and thus puts his trust in them, instead of in God alone, who has laid this responsibility upon him, is a servant of mammon, and cannot get to heaven. The difficulty is well illustrated by a proverb after the Oriental fashion, according to which it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man of that kind to enter into the kingdom of heaven. “For the rich people commonly become so entangled in the love and in the lust of riches that they cannot seek Jesus; yea, they do not desire to see Him: All their consolation is centered in money and goods; the more they get, the greater their desire grows to possess still more.” [Luther, 11, 2415]. But the saying of Jesus was too much for the spiritual understanding of the disciples and other hearers. In astonishment and perplexity they ask: And who can be saved? But Jesus gave them the solution by saying: The impossible with men is possible with God. It is true in general that God’s almighty power is not limited. And it is true, with special reference to conversion, that it is by the merciful power of God that sinful people are converted and renewed, that their hearts are torn loose from the love of this world and its riches and turned to His service all alone.

Peter’s question:

Luke 18:28-30

28 Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed Thee. 29 And He said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, 30 Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.


Cross-references

Matthew 19:27-30; Mark 10:28-31; Matthew 4:18-22; Matthew 10:1-4; 1 Corinthians 4:9-16; Luke 14:26-27; Matthew 12:46-50; John 19:26-27; Romans 16:13; 1 Timothy 1:2; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; Romans 8:14-17

The disciples of Jesus had experienced in their own lives the wonderful mercy of God, who had not only caused them to forsake the things of this world and had wrought faith in their hearts, but had given them the additional privilege of being disciples and friends of their Savior. Peter now reminded Jesus of the fact of their having forsaken all in order to follow Him. It appears even here, however, that the thoughts of Peter were still engaged with things of this world, that the idea of a temporal Messianic kingdom had not yet been driven out entirely. But Jesus deals with him in all patience. He tells him and all the apostles with solemn emphasis that there is no one that has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who would not receive in return, as a reward of grace, much more, a hundred times more, even in this present world. Even here on earth, in Christ and in the Kingdom of Grace, a Christian finds full compensation for everything that he has given up and sacrificed in this world’s goods; for the standards of the kingdom of God are entirely different from those of the world, Mark 10:30. And finally, when the time set by God has come, He will give to the believers the inheritance of eternal life, not on account of any works or sacrifice, but as a reward of grace. Then all that he may have been obliged to suffer, to sacrifice, to deny, will sink into insignificance and be forgotten in the enjoyment of the heavenly bliss.


Verses 31-34

The Lord’s third prediction of His passion

Luke 18:31-34

31 Then He took unto Him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. 32 For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: 33 And they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death: and the third day He shall rise again. 34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.


Cross-references

Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Matthew 16:21-23; Matthew 17:22-23; Genesis 3:15; Matthew 26:63-68; Matthew 27:1-2; Matthew 27:24-31; John 19:28-30; Luke 24:13-27; Acts 17:1-3

Twice the Lord had spoken very explicitly of His coming Passion, but the disciples had not understood the reference. Here He took the Twelve aside and placed Himself at their head as their Champion and intrepid Leader. Then He gave them a full prophecy concerning His Passion, enumerating the several outstanding features. To Jerusalem they were going, there the great tragedy was to take place. All the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the suffering and death of the Servant of the Lord, of the Messiah, would there be fulfilled; all things would happen to the Son of Man as written in the prophets: Delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, derided and mocked, treated with contempt, spat upon. But always, in the end, the definite assurance of His resurrection on the third day. In spite of the detailed account, however, the disciples understood none of these things, the entire matter being hidden from them, they had not the faintest idea what it was all really about. They merely huddled about Him, while amazement and an indefinable dread took hold of them, as of an impending disaster. “Notwithstanding all the information which Christ had given them concerning this awful subject, they could not as yet fully comprehend how the Messiah should suffer; or how their Master, whose power they knew was unlimited, should permit the Jews and Gentiles to torment and slay Him as He here intimates they would.”


Verses 35-43

The blind man of Jericho

The passing of Jesus of Nazareth:

Luke 18:35-39

35 And it came to pass, that as He was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: 36 And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. 37 And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. 38 And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 39 And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.


Cross-references

Matthew 20:29-30; Mark 10:46-47; Matthew 1:1; John 7:42; Luke 1:31-32; Revelation 22:16; Psalm 51:1; Daniel 9:9

Cp. Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52. Jesus had now crossed the Jordan from Perea into Judea and was nearing the city of Jericho. Near this city He healed two blind men, as Matthew relates, one before entering the city, of whom Luke tells, one upon leaving the city, whose healing Mark relates. As Jesus with a large company of people, in addition to His disciples, was nearing the city, the blind man, who sat near the gate of the city, where many people were wont to pass by, heard the sound of the many feet moving along the road and inquired as to the reason. He received the information that it was Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth, who was passing by. Immediately the man acted as though he were electrified. He cried out with a loud voice, calling upon Jesus to have mercy upon him, giving Him the name which was reserved for the promised Messiah as a title of honor. From the reports concerning Jesus and His work this blind man had gained the right, the saving knowledge concerning Christ, and his faith looked up to the Master as the only one who, in His mercy, could cure him. The leaders of the multitude that were just passing the spot where the blind man was sitting, tried to hush him up, just as is often done in our days, when helpless cripples are regarded as a nuisance and treated accordingly. But the man was not daunted by their rebukes that he should hold his peace. He continued his cry to Jesus for mercy.

The healing:

Luke 18:40-43

40 And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto Him: and when he was come near, He asked him, 41 Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. 42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. 43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.


Cross-references

Matthew 20:31-34; Mark 10:48-52; Isaiah 29:18-19; Isaiah 35:3-5; Matthew 9:35-38; Luke 7:18-23; Psalm 103

Jesus, as soon as He heard the plaintive cry, stood still in the road and commanded that the blind man be brought to Him. And now willing hands were found without trouble to render the service required. In order to hear the prayer of faith, Jesus asked the man what he desired Him to do for him. The request of the blind man was incidentally a confession, for he called Jesus Lord, confessing Him to be God, just as he had previously expressed his belief that Jesus was the Messiah. Here was a full confession of faith in the person and in the office of Jesus. In the strength of this faith he made his prayer that he might be able to see, that his eyes might be opened. And Jesus, in the depth of His sympathy for all men, in whatever trouble they may be, spoke the almighty word which opened his eyes: Receive thy sight. His faith had gained the boon of the merciful healing for him. “As soon as the word sounds: Receive thy sight, he believes it; therefore, what he believed now happens to him. That is the first lesson which we should learn from this gospel, namely, to believe the Word of God with complete, trustful heart, without wavering.” [Luther, 13b, 1678]. At once he received his sight and followed after Jesus, with his mouth overflowing with praise to God. Trusting in God’s mercy and Christ’s love for sinners and His sympathy for those suffering in any way from the curse of sin, he was made whole without delay. And all the people that saw this miracle likewise gave praise to God. Note: A Christian that has received any evidence of the mercy of God, in the countless benefits conferred through the means of God, really never has cause to complain, but should always be found with his mouth singing the praises of Him who has led him out of the darkness of sin and unbelief into His marvelous light.

Summary

Jesus tells the parables of the importunate widow and of the Pharisee and the publican, blesses little children that are brought to Him, speaks to the rich young ruler concerning sacrifices for His sake, gives His disciples the third prediction of His Passion, and heals the blind man of Jericho.


Chapter 19

Verses 1-10

Zacchaeus the publican

Jesus at Jericho:

Luke 19:1-4

1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who He was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see Him: for He was to pass that way.


Cross-references

Matthew 20:29; Luke 18:35-43; Luke 18:9-14; Psalm 63:1

Having healed the blind man at the city gate, Jesus continued his way into the city with the intention of passing through, for he was on His way to Jerusalem. But there came an interruption. A man called by name Zacchaeus (pure), who held the position of head man or overseer over the local collectors of taxes, and who had become rich through the extortions connected with his work, was the cause of the delay. The business of publican, or tax collector, in Jericho must have been especially lucrative, for the city was known for its balsam trade, and Jericho was on the main road of traffic between Joppa, Jerusalem, and the country east of the Jordan. So it had been a comparatively easy matter for Zacchaeus, by the use of a little graft, to amass a fortune. Now he had heard much of Jesus and was filled with great curiosity concerning this Prophet of Galilee, what He might look like, what His appearance was. It was an eager and persistent curiosity which took hold of the man; he tried again and again, but for some time without success, for his small size hindered him from seeing over the shoulders of the many people that were crowding around the Lord. And who knows but what the message concerning Jesus had awakened and created the first longings for the mercy of the Savior? “He desired impetuously and diligently, with a devout, humble heart, only to see Christ. That was his sanctuary, that was his snow-white ornament before God’s eyes, which ornament the Lord especially commended to His disciples when He said: Be harmless as doves.” [Luther, 11, 2418]. Finally Zacchaeus hit upon a plan by which he hoped to realize his desire. He took notice of the direction in which Jesus was heading, probably along the main street of the city, and then ran ahead, in front of the crowd, and climbed on a sycomore fig-tree, such as are common in the valley of the Jordan. In that way he could easily look over the heads of the people and see the Lord when He would reach that point.

The call of the Lord:

Luke 19:5-7

And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That He was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.


Cross-references

Luke 5:27-32; Luke 7:31-35; Luke 15:1-7; Luke 10:38-42; John 1:11-13

Although this entire proceeding was done without commotion, in silence and with haste, yet Jesus, the omniscient Lord, was very well aware of all that was going on, just as He knew the name of the man in whose heart such feelings had been aroused. The saving grace of Christ planned all with tactful kindness. He came to the spot opposite or beneath the tree with its strange burden; He looked up and saw the publican; He called to him with friendly frankness. He at once fathomed the heart of the man with the same look of revealing omniscience which once followed Nathanael to his position under the fig-tree, John 1:48, and read his heart’s longing. The Lord bids Zacchaeus hurry and come down, since it was necessary for Him to make a visit at his house that same day. With this invitation the Master conveyed His complete understanding of the situation to the heart of the man in the tree, so that the latter was now disposed to pay the most cheerful and hurried obedience to the call. Even so to-day a heart that may be filled with thoughts of doubt, and yet desires to know the Lord more closely, is cheered by the many gracious invitations which come in the Gospel, which are transmitted through the means of grace, and pays joyful obedience to the friendly call of the Savior. Zacchaeus lost no time in climbing down from the tree, for his heart was filled with ecstatic joy, and he welcomed the Lord into his house with grateful hospitality. But the Lord, by this action, again provoked the great mass of the people, for their hatred of the publicans was almost inherent, and they murmured, saying: With a sinful man He has gone to be guest. Human nature has not changed to this day; it is scandalized even now when some person whose special transgressions in the past were well known turns to the Lord and is received into the Christian congregation.

The pledge of Zacchaeus and the Lord’s answer:

Luke 19:8-10

And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.


Cross-references

Luke 18:18-27; Leviticus 6:1-7; Numbers 5:5-10; Exodus 22:1; 1 Samuel 12:3; 2 Corinthians 9:6-9; Ezekiel 34:11-16; Luke 15:1-7

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Faith is bound to show itself in works of repentance and mercy. It had been no mere curiosity, but desire for salvation which had prompted Zacchaeus to seek the Savior, and now the personal impression created by the Lord in word and deed made his heart sure of its trust. He did not slink into a corner and make half-hearted promises, but made an open confession of his sins and an equally open statement as to his manner of making amends. He promises the Lord to give half of his goods to the poor; as a proof of his entire change of heart he makes restitution. And wherever he has defrauded any man in any manner whatsoever, he is willing to restore the unjust gain fourfold. Cp. Exodus 22:1. He did this of his own accord; it showed the sincerity of his conversion. “He had been a publican and a usurer; but now that he has the Lord as his guest, matters are changed with him, and he is ready to restore all where he has cheated any man; he also gives half of his goods to the poor. For he believes that they are all his equals and members of Christ; of which he formerly, before Christ came to him, did the opposite, taking money from the poor, grafting and harming wherever he could graft and harm. At once the matter is changed with him; he cares no more for such things; his riches are no longer his treasure, but Christ; he makes use of his goods without discrimination, not that he alone may have a full supply, but that he also may give food and assistance to the poor.” [Luther, 11, 2423]. Therefore Jesus also, seeing this proof of the faith which He knew to be present in his heart, proclaims this publicly: To-day salvation is come to this house, in the conversion of Zacchaeus by the advent and influence of Christ. Zacchaeus was now in truth a son of Abraham, spiritually considered, a child of the promise. Although the personal ministry of Jesus was confined principally to the children of Israel, He is come to seek and save that which was lost. All poor sinners throughout the wide world are included in His gracious counsel of redemption. That is the purpose of His coming. His seeking of the lost must be done if salvation, rescue, is to come to them all; thert is none excepted.


Verses 11-27

The parable of the talents

The departure of the nobleman:

Luke 19:11-14

11 And as they heard these things, He added and spake a parable, because He was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. 12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. 14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.


Cross-references

Luke 17:20-37; Acts 1:6-11; Mark 13:32-37; Matthew 25:14-30

To seek and save that which was lost, this, as Jesus had just stated, was the purpose of His coming. As the Messiah of the world He could have no other object, according to the prophecies of old. And therefore He wanted to impress this fact upon all His hearers, especially His disciples, once more. At the same time He wanted to indicate to them in just what way He expected His servants, His disciples and the believers of all time, to continue His work. He wanted to impress upon them the sense of responsibility in their position as followers of the Lord. He was nearing Jerusalem; the last act of the great drama was about to begin; He would soon be removed from their midst as their visible Leader. They must give up the foolish idea with which they were obsessed, as though Christ would still have a temporal rule, an earthly kingdom. Some of the disciples even now had the idea that He would be proclaimed king at Jerusalem at this time. So He wanted to make it clear to them that He was going away, and that they were, in the mean time, to continue the work which He had begun, in the upbuilding of the Church by the preaching of the Gospel. A certain man of noble birth, a prince, took a journey into a far country in order to take possession of a kingdom which belonged to him. He had the definite purpose and intention to return. But before going, he called ten of his servants to him and gave to them ten pounds, or minae (the value of each being somewhat less than twenty dollars) [Luco note: Each minae being about $340 in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator]. His instructions were brief and to the point: Do business until I come. The servants were to invest the money profitably, and gain for the master as much as possible. No sooner had the lord left than the citizens of his country sent an embassy after him with the message: We do not want this man to be king over us. They declared a state of open revolt against him.

The accounting:

Luke 19:15-21

15 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. 16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. 17 And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. 18 And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. 19 And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. 20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: 21 For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.


Cross-references

Luke 16:1-13; Matthew 24:45-47

The prince pursued his intention in spite of all the hatred and enmity of his rebellious subjects; he did not change his plans in one particle; at the appointed time he returned to his country. His first official act upon his return was to summon the servants before him to whom he had entrusted the silver. This was the most important business: it had to be settled before anything else was undertaken. He wanted to know what business they had done and what success they had had, for the object had been to test their fidelity and capacity. The first servant came before him with a modest report. Successful he had been indeed, but he ascribed this to the Mina of the lord: it had gained ten further pounds. That was a splendid increase, showing the hard and faithful work of the servant. The lord therefore praised the servant as good, noble, devoted, and rewarded him far beyond his hopes and deserts, giving him authority over ten cities. It was a gracious reward of faithfulness. A second servant had had similar success and reported on it with the same modesty. He was also praised highly and placed in charge of five cities. But with a third servant things did not look well from the start. With slinking gait he approached, with whining voice he attempted to excuse his failure. He brought back the one piece of money which the lord had entrusted to him, having had it wrapped up and carefully laid away in a napkin. As in the case of the average useless servant, his excuse contained an accusation against the master. He had been afraid on account of the austerity of the lord, literally, because he was such an exacting employer. Besides, he took things which he had not laid down, and harvested where he had not sowed. The servant had, from the start, despaired of pleasing the master, since he was afraid of an exorbitant demand for profit. This was a feeble and unjust accusation, merely calculated to cover over the servant’s laziness. It was his business to serve the master to the best of his ability.

The punishment:

Luke 19:22-27

22 And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: 23 Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury? 24 And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. 25 (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.) 26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. 27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.


Cross-references

Matthew 12:33-37; Luke 12:35-48; Matthew 13:10-17; Revelation 21:1-8

The useless servant was condemned by his own words; by them he was convicted as lazy and wicked. If he had had that honest conviction that the master was actually so strict and exacting that he expected to get blood out of a stone, he should have remembered his station and acted in accordance with his conviction. It would have been a perfectly simple matter for him to have taken the money which he feared to invest of his own responsibility and put it into the bank. With sarcastic emphasis the lord says that he, upon his arrival, might have taken his own with interest. Then the servant would have kept his fingers and his conscience unsoiled. Incidentally, he would have saved himself the punishment which now descended upon him. His one lonely piece of money was given to him that had ten pounds. And when those that were present, probably some of the other servants, faintly remonstrated, saying that that servant was already well provided, the master told them: To every one that hath there will be given; but from him that hath not even that which he hath will be taken. Every one that has a gain to show because he has faithfully managed the affairs entrusted to him will be rewarded with more and greater things than he originally received. But he that has no gain to show, through his own fault, because he has not used the gifts and goods entrusted to him, will be deprived of all that he has. But so far as the citizens of that country were concerned; the lord’s sentence upon them is that they should be punished in proportion to their crime of rebellion. They should be brought before him and there be slaughtered, thus paying the full penalty for their crime.

The meaning of the parable is evident. Christ is the noble-born Prince. Though born a true man, He was and is at the same time God, blessed forever. He left His country, His people, the chosen nation of God, through Passion, death, and resurrection, Philippians 2:8-9; Hebrews 1:3,8-9, in order to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and thus to receive, also according to His human nature, the kingly power and glory of His Father. The citizens of His country are the Jews, the children of Israel. They openly declared themselves against the Lord; they were a rebellious, stiff-necked people. They wanted nothing of the rule of the exalted Christ. And with them all unbelievers cry: We will not have this man to reign over us. The servants of the Lord are the believers, the Christians. To them Christ has entrusted, in the interval between His ascension and His coming to Judgment, many splendid gifts and goods, both spiritual and temporal, out of free kindness and grace. “Here human merits are rejected; for thou hearest that the servants take the money from the lord, in order to do business and gain with it. And the lord, because they were faithful, gives them the money and the gain, and, in addition, the cities, all for grace and goodness.” [Luther, 11, 2401]. Above all, the Lord has given to His Christians, to the Church on earth, His Gospel. With this, with the means of grace, they are to do business, they are to gain souls for the kingdom of heaven. And those Christians in whom faith is mighty to drive them onward are glad to serve the Lord to the best of their ability. They serve in church, in school, in the various organizations which aid the spread of the Gospel; they give time, money, work, with never a thought of sacrifice, some with more ability and success, some with less. There are some, however, that bear the name of Christians, but know nothing of the power of Christianity, that neglect the work of the Lord, that are never interested when they are approached, that are always too busy with their own affairs. Such people are useless servants, hypocrites. The day of reckoning is coming. Then the Lord will reward the faithful servants far above their work, with the reward of grace; He will give them glory and bliss without end. But the useless, lazy servants will receive their reward according as they have merited it. They will have no part in the eternal kingdom of Christ. And as for the open enemies of Christ, the rebels against His rule of kindness, the great Judgment Day will bring them everlasting shame and condemnation. With the Jews that called down the blood of Jesus upon themselves and their children, they will be punished with everlasting death and destruction.


Verses 28-48

Christ’s entry into Jerusalem

Christ commissions two disciples:

Luke 19:28-31

28 And when He had thus spoken, He went before, ascending up to Jerusalem. 29 And it came to pass, when He was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, 30 Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. 31 And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.


Cross-references

Matthew 21:1-5; Mark 11:1-3; Luke 9:51; Matthew 24:3-14; Matthew 26:30-35; Luke 21:37-38; Zechariah 14:1-5; Acts 1:6-14

Cp. Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11. Not so strongly as Mark 10:32, and yet with considerable emphasis, Luke places Jesus at the head of the little company that was going up to Jerusalem. He was their Hero, their Leader, their Champion, going into the face of danger for the sake of the redemption of the world. From the low country in the neighborhood of Jericho, Jesus, His disciples, and other pilgrims that were with them, ascended to the highlands, to the mountains, on one of which Jerusalem was situated. Jesus stayed in Bethany on the Sabbath, continuing His journey on the next day. Both Bethany and Bethphage were situated on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives, the latter being hardly more than a hamlet or crossroads, with a number of farm-buildings. When Jesus had reached a point on the outskirts of Bethany where the road led toward Bethphage, He sent two of His disciples with the order to go quickly ahead of the slowly moving procession into the hamlet over against them, into the suburban country-place. Upon entering, they would find there a colt tied in a certain place, which had never been ridden, no man having ever sat upon it. This they should loose and bring to Him. If there should be opposition on the part of any man, either the owner or some of the laborers that might be near, as to why they were untying the animal, their answer should be that the Lord had need of the animal.

Jesus ready for the entry:

Luke 19:32-35

32 And they that were sent went their way, and found even as He had said unto them. 33 And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? 34 And they said, The Lord hath need of him. 35 And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon.


Cross-references

Matthew 21:6-7; Mark 11:4-7; John 12:14-16; Zechariah 9:9; 1 Kings 1:38-40; Matthew 12:42; Isaiah 62:11-12

What the omniscience of Jesus had seen at a distance, the disciples found true as they came to the indicated spot. And when they were loosing the colt from the post or doorway where it was tied, the masters of the animal actually did ask why they were taking this liberty. But when the disciples answered according to the instructions of Jesus, that the Lord had need of the animal, no further objection was raised. So they brought the colt to Jesus, and, quickly throwing upon it their mantles, or upper garments, instead of a saddle, set Jesus upon the unbroken animal. The entire incident is charged with the miraculous. The Lord here sent forth a few rays of divine glory through the veil of His humanity. He knew where the colt and the mother animal were standing. A word from Him sufficed to make the owners willing to let Him have the foal. It was His attitude that inspired the disciples to act as they did, thereby unconsciously aiding in the fulfilment of a prophetic saying. Note: Even as the disciples trusted in the instruction of Jesus, even though the keeping of this might bring them into trouble, so all Christians should be willing to trust in the Word of God at all times and to follow its precepts without hesitation, even if the keeping of them may call down upon their heads difficulties and persecutions. It is better to be on the side of the omniscient, almighty God than upon that of the powerless world.

The joyful reception by the people:

Luke 19:36-40

36 And as He went, they spread their clothes in the way. 37 And when He was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; 38 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. 39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto Him, Master, rebuke Thy disciples. 40 And He answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.


Cross-references

Matthew 21:8-11; Mark 11:8-11; John 12:12-19; Luke 1:31-32; Revelation 7:9-10; 2 Kings 9:12-13; Leviticus 23:39-40; Ezekiel 41:18-20; Psalm 113; Psalm 114; Psalm 115; Psalm 116; Psalm 117; Psalm 118

As a snowball which begins to roll at the top of a mountain soon grows to a mighty avalanche, sweeping everything before it, so the enthusiasm that took hold of the disciples soon grew to a holy ecstasy, infecting also the bands of pilgrims that were going the same way and others that came out of the city to meet the procession. As Jesus continued on His way toward Jerusalem, they took their upper garments, their festival clothes, and spread them out on the road, as for the reception of a mighty king, an emperor. As He then reached the spot where the road doubles the brow of Mount Olivet, the excitement of the multitudes rose to its greatest height. The entire company of all the disciples broke forth into an exultant doxology, praising God for all the wonderful things that they had seen. They sang with a loud voice a section of the great Hallel, Psalm 118:26, with such additions as suited the occasion. They rendered all glory to the highest God for the rich manifestation of His grace in Christ the Redeemer. They sang His praises, because through the atonement of the Messiah the enmity between God and man had now been brought to an end. As on the great festivals, the multitudes could not restrain their joy, for the disciples were not alone in their enthusiastic outburst, but were ably seconded by the people. The joyous shout rose in a triumphant chorus, until the sides of the hills and the depths of the Kidron Valley resounded with the triumphant acclaim. And when some of the ubiquitous Pharisees began their usual grumbling, asking the Lord to rebuke and silence His disciples, they received poor comfort. For He told them that the very stones would burst forth in shouting if the disciples should hold their peace. The entire demonstration was arranged by God for the sake of His beloved Son. The Spirit of the Lord had taken hold of the pilgrims for a short while. God wanted to give His Son evidence and witness of the fact that the time was coming when all tongues would have to confess that Jesus is the Lord, though it was necessary for Him first to pass through the valley of His inexpressibly bitter Passion. Yet the work which He was to perform in Jerusalem was great and glorious and worthy of being praised by all creatures.

Christ’s lament over Jerusalem:

Luke 19:41-44

41 And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.


Cross-references

Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 13:31-35; John 12:36-43; Acts 7:51-60; John 5:39-40; John 1:11-13

Jesus continued on His way, accompanied by shouts of “Hosanna!” and songs of praise, until He reached a point opposite the city. And there suddenly He burst into tears, weeping aloud, as one in the depths of grief. Note: The tears of Jesus over the reprobate city of Jerusalem are the best evidence that He is sincere in His redemption for the sins of the whole world, that He wants all men to be saved. If the inhabitants of the capital city had but known, if they had but had the right understanding, if they had not deliberately hardened their hearts! In extraordinary fulness and brightness their day of grace had come upon them, since the Son of God personally had come into their midst and brought the glorious Gospel of their redemption to them. But now the day of grace was drawing to its close, and still the understanding pertaining to their salvation was hidden before their eyes. Because of their unbelief and hard-heartedness the time of grace was rapidly coming to a close, and the salvation which they had foolishly sought by means of works was as far from them as ever. And not only the fact of their unbelief and hard-heartedness caused the bitter tears of the Lord, but also the fact that He knew the fate of the city, saw the final destruction taking place before the vision of His omniscience. There is a picture of coming ruin before His eyes: Enemies coming upon the city, like hawks upon their prey; they dig trenches and erect walls of palisades all around the capital; they draw an impenetrable ring around her; they enclose her from all sides, leaving not a loophole of escape; they cast the city down to the ground and all her inhabitants within her (raze the city, dash the people to pieces); they do not permit one stone to remain upon the other within her: and all, because Jerusalem and its inhabitants had refused to recognize the time of their visitation, when the Lord came to them in the richness of His mercy and offered full atonement, life, and salvation to all the people of Israel. If any one despises the visitation of grace that comes upon him in time, when the Word of God is brought to his attention, when he has the use of the means of grace, then the time will come when spiritual blindness will set in, as the penalty of such contempt; and then comes the Judgment. O, that all people to whom the Word of grace is proclaimed, would remember at all times the bitter tears of the Lord over Jerusalem, and know in time the things which belong to their peace!

The purging of the Temple:

Luke 19:45-48

45 And He went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; 46 Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. 47 And He taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy Him, 48 And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.


Cross-references

Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; John 2:13-22; Isaiah 56:6-7; Jeremiah 7:8-11; Psalm 69:9

It was on the next morning that Jesus carried out a plan that had occurred to Him the day before, when He had seen the abuses to which the Temple had been put by the people. Since it would have been very inconvenient, in some cases almost impossible, for every Israelite to bring his sacrificial animal from his home to Jerusalem, the Lord permitted those living at a distance to buy their sacrificial beasts and birds in Jerusalem. The consequence was that a thriving business soon developed, which seems to have been controlled by some of the religious leaders themselves, for they were not at all averse to making money. All would have been well if they had held their market somewhere down in the lower town. But the venders had moved up into the neighborhood of the Temple, and finally into its very court. There were the stalls for the oxen, the pens for the sheep and goats, the coops for the doves. There were also the money-counters; for it was necessary to make change. The fact that their methods profaned the courts of the Lord had apparently not entered into the minds of these eager business men. But the Lord made short work of their marketing, of their buying and selling. He began to thrust out the buyers and sellers, reminding them meanwhile of the words of the prophet concerning the fact that the house of God should be considered a house of prayer for all people, Isaiah 56:7, as Solomon had said in his prayer of dedication. They had converted it into a den of robbers, where the people sat haggling over prices and pocketing excessive profits. It was not only the marketing that profaned the house of the Lord, but also the fact that many of the people came there without true repentance, intending to buy themselves free from the wrath to come with sacrifices. But all sacrifices and prayers that are made with an unrepentant heart are an abomination in the sight of God, a blasphemy of the most holy name of God. But the Lord is the Judge of all such, and will, in the end, pass sentence upon all such as are guilty of hypocrisy. After Jesus had thus purged the Temple, He taught in its halls daily. The leaders of the people, the members of the Sanhedrin, were greatly embittered over His words and works, and they sought for some way of destroying Him. But they were afraid to carry out their murderous designs; they could find no way of approaching Him with an evidently hostile intention. For the common people all together, during these days, were most attentive to hear Him; they hung upon His every word as though they could not get enough of the words of salvation. The word used by Luke describes not only the most careful attention, but also the very great pleasure and gratification that was theirs because they were privileged to hear Jesus. Thus all men should at all times hang upon the Word of eternal life as it has been revealed in the Gospel, for it testifies of the Savior of the world.

Summary

Jesus visits Zacchaeus, the publican, in Jericho, tells the parable of the pounds, enters Jerusalem in triumph, but weeps in the knowledge of the future fate of the city, and purges the Temple.


Chapter 20

Verses 1-18

The authority of Jesus

The challenge of the Jewish leaders:

Luke 20:1-2

1 And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon Him with the elders, And spake unto Him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest Thou these things? or who is he that gave Thee this authority?


Cross-references

Matthew 21:23; Mark 11:27-28; Matthew 23:1-4; John 9:28-29; John 19:10-16; John 1:19-28; Acts 4:1-7

On one of those days, the last days before the great Passion, on Tuesday of Holy Week. Cp. Luke 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33. Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple after His custom, the content of His preaching being summarized by Luke as preaching the Gospel, the good news of salvation. To the very last Christ’s great concern was for the eternal welfare of the people entrusted to His ministry, and there was no greater benefit that He could give them than that of the message of redemption, the sweet and comforting proclamation of the forgiveness of all their sins through His labor of love. But Jesus was disturbed in this occupation by the leaders of the Jews. They came upon Him, stood over against Him. It is not so much the suddenness of the coming as the deliberateness and solemnity of their appearance that is brought out by the word. It denotes the official character of their coming, for they came, chief priests, scribes, elders, either authorized representatives of the great Jewish council, or the Sanhedrin in a body. They wanted Jesus to be impressed at once with the importance of their embassy. They demanded an explanation from the Lord, for He acted with such definite authority and power, in the matter of cleansing the Temple as well as in His preaching in the Temple, that they bristled with resentment. They wanted to know who it was that had given Him such power. It was in no way a humble request for truth, otherwise they would have been remarkably dense. With all the great miracles happening before their eyes and with the overwhelming power of the preaching of Christ as evidence before them, they knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that His authority was divine. But they had hardened their own hearts, and they now challenged Him before the people, to hurt His prestige, if possible.

The answer of Jesus:

Luke 20:3-8

And He answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing; and answer Me: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; He will say, Why then believed ye Him not? But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet. And they answered, that they could not tell whence it was. And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.


Cross-references

Matthew 21:24-27; Mark 11:29-33; Luke 1:76-80; Matthew 3:1-12; Matthew 11:7-15; Matthew 17:1-5; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 4:8-12

The challenge of the Jews Jesus answered with a counter-question, which incidentally contained the answer they demanded. For His question implied that He personally knew John’s ministry to have been a divine commission. And if the Jews would concede so much to be true, they would admit also the authority of Jesus, for John had expressly testified concerning the Prophet of Galilee. The question of the Lord was therefore a poser for the members of the Sanhedrin, since Jesus made their answer the condition of His own answering. They well knew that to this question, whether the baptism of John had been done by divine authority and commission, there were only two answers possible, yes or no, from heaven or of men. They therefore conferred very earnestly among themselves in order to find some way out of the dilemma, either alternative being exceedingly distasteful to them. If they should say: From heaven, they would thereby invite the just censure of Christ on account of their refusal to believe. Should they say, on the other hand, that John had no divine commission, but acted solely on his own authority, they would incur the hatred of the people, who would probably stone them without the slightest compunction. For the people at large had the firm persuasion that John was a prophet, and would therefore have meted out quick justice upon any blasphemous denier of this truth. And so the wise leaders of the people had to acknowledge themselves outwitted and unable to answer; whereupon Jesus informed them that His answer would also be deferred. They had actually received both answer and refutation, and well they felt it. They had to admit to their own hearts: If even the baptism and ministry of John was from heaven, then Christ, whose miracles and preaching both proclaimed Him a greater than John, would have still greater authority to act as He did in the world. Note: It appears from this story how despicable, even from the standpoint of mere morality, unbelief must acknowledge itself to be. The unbelievers cannot deny the power of the truth, and yet refuse to bow to the truth. And so they try to avert disaster by making use of lies, subterfuges, and excuses. If a Christian is firmly grounded in the truth of the Scriptures, it will not even be necessary for him to know all the arguments of the opponents in advance. By simply marshaling facts of Scripture and calmly standing on the infallibility of the Bible, he can confound, even if he cannot convince, the gainsayers.

The parable of the wicked husbandmen:

Luke 20:9-12

Then began He to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. 10 And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. 11 And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. 12 And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out.


Cross-references

Matthew 21:33-36; Mark 12:1-5; Exodus 15:13-18; Isaiah 5:1-2; Matthew 23:29-36

Luke gives the beginning of this parable in a very brief form, omitting the detailed account of the planting of the vineyard. Cp. Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12. Jesus told this parable to the people, but in the presence of at least some of the Jewish leaders. They all would understand the reference to the vineyard, since a very similar description is found in Isaiah 5:1-7. The owner, having made all the necessary arrangements, gave his vineyard into the charge of certain vine-dressers, and himself went on a long journey, to be away for a long time. At the proper time, however, at the season of fruit each year, he sent servants to the husbandmen, to whom the latter should give that part of the fruit or of its proceeds which belonged to the owner. But the wicked vine-dressers had determined, if possible, to get the vineyard into their own possession, to do therewith what they pleased; and they carried out their intention of discouraging the owner in their own way. Just as regularly as the master sent servants, so regularly did they heap indignities upon them. The first one they beat, literally, gave him a sound thrashing; the second one they not only beat, but they also treated him in a shameful manner, putting him up to disgrace before all the people; the third one they wounded severely, and then cast him out of the vineyard. It was a picture of such utter wickedness that the Lord drew that it stood before the eyes of all the hearers with great vividness and distinctness. And in every case the wicked husbandmen sent the servant away empty.

The climax of the story and its application:

Luke 20:13-18

13 Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. 14 But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. 15 So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? 16 He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid. 17 And He beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? 18 Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.


Cross-references

Matthew 21:37-44; Mark 12:6-11; Psalm 118; Isaiah 28:14-22; Acts 4:5-12; Ephesians 2:11-22; 1 Peter 2:4-10; 1 Corinthians 1:22-24; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11; Galatians 1:8-9

The patience of the master of the vineyard is brought out with remarkable power. He deliberates upon the situation with himself, finally concluding to send his only, his beloved son. Surely the vine-dressers would not be so lacking in all qualities of decency and honorable dealing as to show disrespect and reverence for the son of the owner, whose authority stood second only to that of his father: I should think that without doubt they will reverence him. But his kindness had not reckoned with the utter depravity of the wicked husbandmen. For, seeing the son coming, the renters immediately held a consultation, with the result that they determined to kill the heir and to put themselves into possession of the property. And, acting upon this heinous plan, they took the son, cast him out of the vineyard, and put him to death.

The explanation of the parable must have been evident to the leaders of the Jews at once. The owner of the vineyard is God. The vineyard, as Isaiah says in his song, is the kingdom of God, which He had planted in the midst of His people, the children of Israel. God had made Israel His people by the covenant of Mount Sinai. And His people had lacked nothing under His fatherly care. He had planted the hedge of His Law around them, He had given them the tower of the kingdom of David, and the wine of the Word of God flowed in streams of unchanging richness. But the great benefits which God showered upon His people were not repaid by them in kind. The vinedressers are the individual members of the Jewish congregation, especially the leaders of the nation. When God sent them His servants, the prophets, expecting from them the fruit, the obedience they owed Him, these servants were treated with contempt and every form of hatred. They were despised, derided, mistreated, and even put to death, 2 Kings 17:13-14; 2 Chronicles 36:15-16. Isaiah, Amos, Micah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, the son of Jehoiadah, and others were obliged to feel the murderous hatred of the Jews, Hebrews 11:36; Acts 7:52. When all other means had failed, God sent His only-begotten Son. But against Him their enmity rose to heights hitherto untouched. They held councils against Him to kill Him. They did not want Him to rule over their nation as the King of grace and mercy. The Jewish leaders wanted to rule the people in their own selfish way, for their own sinful gain. And so the murder of Christ was the climax of their wickedness.

Instead of ending the parable in the usual narrative style, Jesus, for the sake of emphasis, put the direct question to His hearers as to what the owner of the vineyard would do to those wicked vine-dressers. And He answered Himself, saying that he would come and destroy those husbandmen, and give the vineyard to others. This answer was echoed by some of the bystanders, though the chief priests and scribes felt that the parable was spoken for them. Some of them, therefore, called out in apparent horror: Let it not be done! Since the Jews rejected Christ and His Gospel, the Lord carried out His judgment against them by taking from them the proclamation of His love and giving it to the heathen, many of whom heeded His call and brought forth fruits meet for the kingdom of God. Undisturbed by their shocked objection, therefore, Jesus fixed His eyes upon the Jews and reminded them of the words of the prophet, in the very Hallel Psalm which they sang with so much show of sincerity on their great festivals, Psalm 118:22. The chosen people rejected the Chosen Stone, and were therefore rejected by God. Christ is the Corner-stone of His Church, Ephesians 2:20. By faith in His atonement there is salvation for both Jew and Gentile. But every one that rejects the salvation through His blood must take the bitter consequences which he thus brings upon himself. It is a peculiar, a paradox judgment that falls upon the opponents of the Gospel. Foolish, mentally deranged, and spiritually blind people they are that want to run their heads, with the product of man’s wisdom, against the rock of the eternal Wisdom of God. Instead of making so much as a dent in the Rock of Ages, they find themselves staggering back with badly battered heads. And their rejection, in turn, reacts upon them, for the Stone falls on them with crushing judicial effect. They have their sentence of condemnation even here in time. And they will find out, in a dreadful eternity, what it means to reject the mercy of God. These solemn words of warning may well be brought to the attention of many people in our days that think the world has outgrown the old Gospel of salvation through the redemption of the blood of Jesus.


Verses 19-47

The Pharisees and Sadducees confuted

The question of the Pharisees:

Luke 20:19-22

19 And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on Him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that He had spoken this parable against them. 20 And they watched Him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of His words, that so they might deliver Him unto the power and authority of the governor. 21 And they asked Him, saying, Master, we know that Thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest Thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?


Cross-references

Matthew 21:45-46; Matthew 22:15-17; Mark 12:12-14; Mark 3:1-6; Mark 8:15; Luke 11:53-54; Psalm 2; Psalm 5; John 3:1-21

So embittered were the scribes and the chief priests on account of the merciless frankness of Jesus that they sought to lay violent hands upon Him in that very hour. But their fear of the people caused them to take such a step under advisement. Though they fairly ached to vent their anger upon Jesus, since they understood that the parable had been spoken against them, yet they deemed it expedient not to try extreme measures. The people at the time of Jesus, not having received the proper instruction in the Word of God, were about as fickle as the majority of the people to-day that live without God in the world and are driven hither and thither by every wind of doctrine, no matter from which side it is presented. But they had to do something to have an outlet for their feelings, and so they employed watchers and sent them to observe every move the Lord made and every word He spoke. The instructions of these spies were simple. They were to simulate great piety and righteousness, — surely not a difficult matter for the sanctimonious hypocrites, — all for the purpose of laying hold of some word of His, which might be construed in His disfavor. In that event the Jewish leaders wanted to deliver Him to the rule and authority of the Roman governor. To strike once and for always, under the semblance of honesty, in the pose of men that were sincerely anxious to know and do their duty, that was the program of the Jewish leaders. Their ingenuousness in the entire matter seems pitiful when the omniscience of Christ is taken into account. But they earnestly try to insinuate themselves into His favor by words of honeyed flattery. There are three points which they hold up before Him in order that He may not recognize their true selves under the mask. They flattered Him that He had sound judgment, that He always said the right thing at the right time; they praised His impartiality, that it made no difference to Him whom the sentence would strike, so long as the truth prevailed; they gave due deference to His sincerity, that He always said just what He thought. All of which, in their mouths, was the basest and most hideous flattery. But what made the matter almost ghastly was the fact that every word they uttered was true, in the full sense of the word. If only they had come to Him with sincerity in their heart and with openness of mind, then He would have been but too glad to lead their steps on the right way for their soul’s salvation. Their question was in the nature of an alternative, whether it was the right, the proper, the obligatory thing to pay tribute, the imperial tax to the Roman emperor, or not. Whether the answer of Jesus proved to be positive or negative, the Pharisees hoped to gain the upper hand. For should He, in the presence of such notorious opponents of the Roman government, declare Himself against the payment of the tax, then they could accuse Him before the governor. But should He declare Himself in favor of paying the tax, then they could fasten the suspicion upon Him, as though He were not the true friend of the people, but an abettor of the Roman tyranny.

The answer of Jesus:

Luke 20:23-26

23 But He perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye Me? 24 Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s. 25 And He said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s. 26 And they could not take hold of His words before the people: and they marvelled at His answer, and held their peace.


Cross-references

Matthew 22:18-22; Mark 12:15-17; Psalm 140; Matthew 4:1-11; Matthew 17:24-27; Luke 13:10-17; Romans 3:19

Jesus, the omniscient Son of God, noticed their craft, their sly cunning, even before they started to make their request. And He is not wanting in the frankness which they have just praised in telling them what He thought of them. He plainly told them that He knew their thoughts in trying to tempt Him. He then asked for a Denarius, the coin in which the imperial tax was usually paid (value, about 17 cents) [Luco note: About three dollars in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator]. Then He demanded information as to the picture and the inscription stamped upon the coin. Note: Instead of explaining to them at once what He told them afterwards, He made them give the information, making it appear that they had led Him to the conclusion, in order to confound them and win the people. Since the coin bore the emperor’s picture, it presented irrefutable evidence that the emperor was the ruler of the land, for the coins of a strange country are not legal tender in the homeland. And so the conclusion of Jesus seemed the only one that was justified under the circumstances, to give the things of Caesar to Caesar and the things of God to God. That is what God demands. The people of God, the Christians, will, above all, give due honor and obedience to God. In matters which pertain to God, the Word of God, Christian worship, faith, and conscience, they are obedient only to God, and reject all interference of men. But in temporal things, in matters which concern this world only, such as money, goods, life, Christians are obedient to the government of the country in which they are living. The State is not to interfere in the matters of the Church, and the Church is not to meddle in the business and affairs of the State. This answer of Jesus, while it satisfied the people, completely baffled the questioners. They could find no point at which they might take hold of, and attack, the Lord. At the same time, they could not repress a grudging, reluctant admiration for the clear distinction made by the Lord, and so they quietly withdrew.

The question of the Sadducees:

Luke 20:27-33

27 Then came to Him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked Him, 28 Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 29 There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. 31 And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. 32 Last of all the woman died also. 33 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.


Cross-references

Matthew 22:23-28; Mark 12:18-23; Matthew 16:1; Acts 23:8; Genesis 1:27-28; Genesis 2:24-25; Genesis 38:8; Deuteronomy 25:5

Cp. Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27. The chief priests and scribes having ignominiously failed in their attack, the Sadducees hoped to have better luck with a catch question which they had devised upon the basis of a story, real or invented for the occasion. The chief characteristic of the Sadducees is given by the evangelist, namely, that they denied the resurrection. They also denied the existence of angels and refused to accept any books of the Old Testament as having full authority but the five books of Moses. Their question, while striking at the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead which Jesus preached, had its direct concern with the institution of the so-called levirate marriage, Deuteronomy 25:5-10. The rule made by Moses required that a man marry the widow of his brother in case there was no male issue and the brothers had been residing on the same family estate. Now the case which the Sadducees presented concerned seven brothers who, in accordance with this rule, had married the same woman in succession, all of them dying without issue. And last of all the woman died also. The question of the Sadducees, which they thought very clever, was regarding the husband’s rights in this case, after the resurrection had taken place. The successive marriages had purposely been so graphically described, in order that the great difficulty of the situation and its ridiculousness might appear at once. Now if there be such a thing as a resurrection, which, they sneeringly implied, could not be, how will this difficulty be solved? Is it not flatly insurmountable? With similar arguments, that lack, however, the cleverness of this story, the opponents of the Scriptural resurrection try to ridicule the hope of the Christians, and there is an interesting lesson in the manner in which Christ handles the situation.

The answer of the Lord:

Luke 20:34-38

34 And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: 35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: 36 Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. 37 Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 For He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him.


Cross-references

Matthew 22:29-33; Mark 12:24-27; Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Exodus 3:6; Exodus 3:15-16; Matthew 17:1-9

First of all, Jesus corrects an entirely false idea which the question of the Sadducees showed them to be holding or to be inferring from the belief of others. So long as people are in this present physical world, they are subject to the laws of the propagation of the human race, they are under the blessing which God gave to our first parents, Genesis 1:27-28. And the necessity of marriage is emphasized by the sinfulness of human nature, 1 Corinthians 7:2. For that reason they marry and are given in marriage. But those that in the judgment of God will be accounted worthy of the life to come, those that will be taken up into the bliss of heaven, those that will obtain the real resurrection, that unto life, they will no longer be subject to such conditions. For in that life they will be immortal, and will no longer be dependent upon propagation and increase. There will be no marriage in heaven, because all persons will there, like the angels, be sexless. Since they are children of the resurrection, since they have become partakers of the resurrection, they are children of God. All old things that pertained to the life of the flesh will then have passed away, and all things will be new. The believers will indeed have their true bodies, but transfused with the spiritual, heavenly existence. That is one argument. And the second concerns the actual Scriptural proof for the resurrection. Jesus here very wisely refers only to the Pentateuch, to the five books of Moses, choosing His proof-text from one of these books, in order to conform to the idea of the Sadducees. That the dead actually do rise again, Moses indicates very plainly in the story of the burning bush, Exodus 3:6. For the text there calls God the Lord of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob. In popular belief the patriarchs may have been adjudged dead, but they could not have been, since God is called their Lord. And He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him. Before Him they are living, and so He accounts them. The souls of the righteous men of all times are alive and in the presence of God in eternal happiness. This is true of all believers of all times. And this view and exposition of God is infallible. Therefore we have the confidence that God will raise all those that are His, also according to the body, out of the grave, to a new, blessed, eternal life.

The counter-question of Jesus:

Luke 20:39-44

39 Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, Thou hast well said. 40 And after that they durst not ask Him any question at all. 41 And He said unto them, How say they that Christ is David’s son? 42 And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand, 43 Till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool. 44 David therefore calleth Him Lord, how is He then his son?


Cross-references

Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:28-37; Matthew 1:1; John 7:42; Luke 1:31-32; Revelation 22:16; Psalm 110; Acts 2:29-39

The answer of Jesus had been so convincing that even some of the scribes had to admit that He had spoken well. And all the enemies having been vanquished and no longer daring to ask any questions, the Lord, on His part, assumed the offensive. The question which He here put is one of the great questions of the ages. Its answer has become a touchstone to distinguish the believers from the unbelievers. How can people say that Christ is the Son of David? What think ye of Christ, whose son is He? How does the fact that He is called David’s Son agree with the fact that David himself, in Psalm 110:1, calls Him his Lord? Though Christ therefore is truly the Son of David, the descendant of David according to the flesh, yet He is at the same time a Lord, David’s Lord, the Son of God. Now, since Jesus had from the beginning claimed for Himself the Sonship of God, Christ’s is the unanswerable question of the ages for all such as do not believe the Scriptures or want to modify the Bible to suit their so-called modern ideas. But for every one that believes the old Gospel word for word, He is true God, born of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary.

A warning against the scribes:

Luke 20:45-47

45 Then in the audience of all the people He said unto His disciples, 46 Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; 47 Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.


Cross-references

Mark 12:38-40; Luke 11:37-12:3; Matthew 23

In the hearing of all the people Jesus sounded this warning against the scribes, for they all should know what the situation was. The scribes among the Pharisees were the most dangerous of them all, for they were teachers of the Law and should have been examples to all the people both in doctrine and life. Instead of which they were corrupters of the people in their teaching and hypocrites in their life. Cp. Mark 12:38-40. They dearly loved to walk around in a grand manner. As a mark of distinction they wore their robes or mantles clear down to their feet. They were flattered if any one recognized them in public with the greeting of deference due to a person of higher station. In the synagogs they invariably chose the seats of honor, the place where the rulers of the synagog sat, facing the people. In the homes also, they made it a point to try for the highest place at the table, the position of honor next to the host. Morally rotten they were, for they offered to make intercession for the widows in their bereavement and pretended thus to advance their interests, while in reality their one interest was their own enrichment at the expense of the poor credulous women. Thus hypocrisy, pride, and covetousness are the outstanding traits in the character of the scribes. They themselves who, as teachers, should know better, will receive the greater damnation, greater than that of those who sin in ignorance. And all disciples of Christ of all times should beware of their oily presence, since nothing good can ever come of it.

Summary

Jesus defends His authority, tells the parable of the wicked husbandmen with its application, eludes the craftiness of the Pharisees, rebukes the ignorance of the Sadducees, by a counter-question silences all opposition, and warns against the scribes.


Chapter 21

Verses 1-4

The widow’s gift

Luke 21:1-4

1 And He looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And He said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.


Cross-references

Mark 12:41-44; John 8:12-20; Matthew 27:3-10; Matthew 13:44-46; Mark 10:17-22; Mark 14:3-9; Matthew 6:24-34; Matthew 6:11

Jesus had probably delivered His last discourse in the Court of Women, where there were situated the thirteen trumpet-shaped treasure-chests, or collection boxes, of the Temple. Looking up now, He saw something which not only did not insult His holy eyes, but filled Him with joy. His looking was not a casual, momentary glance, but He scrutinized the people intently for some time, deliberately taking note of their coming and the size of their gifts. The rich people put in large gifts, which was an easy matter for them to do. Gifts of a comparatively large size represented no sacrifice for them. But then the Lord’s attention was drawn to a widow, a miserably poor and needy woman. Going up to one of the chests, this woman deposited therein two mites. “Another coin, translated mite, is in Greek lepton, ‘the small one,’ or the ‘bit.’ It was two of these that the widow cast into the treasury. … Two of them equaled a quadrans. The mite was, then, of the value of 1/8 of a cent. It was doubtless the smallest coin in circulation.” [Barton, Archeology and the Bible, 165], [Luco note: About 2 cents in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator]. This act of real love and sacrifice made a deep impression upon Christ. With warm feeling He told His disciples: Truly I say to you that this poor widow cast in more than all the others. The actual amount was, of course, much smaller than the gifts of the rich. But in proportion to the ability of the others her simple gift stood so far ahead of the rest that there was no comparison possible. The others had given of their superfluity: they did not even feel the giving of the amount they cast into the chest. But this widow might have been expected to beg rather than to be giving to the Temple treasury. And yet out of her want, when she was deprived of practically all her living, she had given her last quarter of a cent to the Lord, all that she had to sustain life. True love and real sacrifice are here exemplified, and this is the attitude in which all work for the Lord and all gifts for His kingdom should be given. Cp. Mark 12:41-44.


Verses 5-38

The destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world

The beginning of the discourse:

Luke 21:5-7

And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, He said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And they asked Him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?


Cross-references

Matthew 24:1-3; Mark 13:1-4; John 2:18-22; Luke 19:41-44; 1 Kings 9:1-9; Micah 3:9-12; Jeremiah 26:18; Daniel 1:1-2; 2 Kings 25:8-9; 2 Chronicles 36:15-23; Ezra 6:13-18

The evening was drawing near, and Jesus was on the point of leaving the Temple for Bethany, where He lodged with friends. But while they were walking out through the courts, some of His disciples remarked in admiration on the Temple itself, on its various buildings, porticoes, halls, and chambers, and especially did they mention the beautiful stones, the huge marble monoliths, which formed the Corinthian columns, and the gifts that were consecrated to the Lord, the many articles of adornment which were so conspicuous throughout the Temple. Among the votive gifts of the Temple were some very costly ones, such as a table from King Ptolemy of Egypt, a chain from Herod Agrippa, a golden vine from Herod the Great, which made the Temple famous for its wealth as far as Rome. But Jesus told them: As to all these things which ye see, the enormous wealth, the gorgeous beauty of the Temple, the days will come in which not one stone will remain upon the other that would not be utterly cast down in the general destruction. It was an announcement which must have filled the disciples with the greatest consternation and surprise. They may now have thought the matter over or discussed it among themselves for a part of the trip across the valley of the Kidron and up the slope of Mount Olivet. But when Jesus had then sat down opposite the city, where He and His disciples had a full view of the wonderful edifice, which, by Christ’s word, was marked for destruction, some of the disciples approached Him with a double question. They wanted to know the precise time, and also to recognize the special tokens of the approaching catastrophe. In their question they connected the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple with the end of the world. And this is altogether in accordance with the prophecies which make the judgment upon Jerusalem the beginning and the introduction of the judgment of the world. Matthew 16:27-28; 1 Thessalonians 2:16.

Tokens of the end:

Luke 21:8-11

And He said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. 10 Then said He unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: 11 And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.


Cross-references

Matthew 24:4-8; Mark 13:5-8; Matthew 7:15-20; Acts 20:28-32; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 2:18-27; 1 John 4:1-6; 2 John 7; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Philippians 3:17-21; Galatians 1:8-9; Matthew 16:13-21; Romans 8:18-30

It is a characteristic of prophecy that there is rarely an exact division of time according to human standards, for there is no time before the eternal, omniscient God. Whether things will happen a thousand years hence or within a few years does not influence the Lord’s time. For all things before Him are happening and taking place in the great present. And so in this case the Lord speaks of the two impending catastrophes, the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, in almost the same breath, connecting them in such a way that the signs foretelling the one must be taken in a measure to refer to the other also. The Lord’s first warning is against deception. In the days before the calamity which wiped out Jerusalem, false Christs arose, and in the name of the true Christ, the Messiah, at that. Deceivers of that kind appeared often in the decades after Christ’s ascension, and always did they find people willing to listen to them and to cast their fortunes with that of the fraudulent impersonator. Even so the false Christs and false prophets of our days are multiplying with great rapidity; in Eddyism, in Russellism, in Dowieism, and in scores of minor sects they arise to deceive the people of God. Their call and promise invariably is: Here is Christ; here is the full truth; the time is near. They have even, repeatedly, fixed the date of Christ’s coming to Judgment. [Luco note: e.g. Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, prophesied that the Lord would return in 1891. William Miller, founder of the Adventist movement, predicted that Christ would return in 1843, then 1844, afterwich followed a period neatly called The Great Disappointment. Out of this movement came the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Benny Hinn, Televangelist, claimed that Christ would return in 1993]. But the believers should pay no attention to them nor follow after them as their disciples, for they are deceivers. As in the days before the destruction of Jerusalem there were wars and uprisings throughout the Roman Empire, but especially in Palestine, so the terrible World War of these last days and the uprisings throughout the world are speaking a strong language to them that heed. [Luco note: Kretzmann’s commentary was published in 1921, only a few years after the Great War, WWI]. As in those days people rose against people and kingdom against kingdom, making it necessary for the Roman legions to be on the move continually, so, while the world stands, neither the most rosy nor the most practical dreams of diplomats will succeed in eliminating war. At the very moment when they are shouting peace with a voice calculated to drown opposition, they are trying to hide the selfishness of their plans which will plunge the world into further wars. As there were great earthquakes in many parts of the world in those days, in Asia Minor, in Italy, in Syria, so the recent terrible catastrophes in Italy, in Alaska, in Java, in Central America have filled the world with horrified astonishment. As great famines and pestilences visited various countries, especially Palestine, in those days, so the pestilence which recently swept the world and even now baffles science in certain of its aspects, and so the famines that have been reported from large areas of Europe and Asia, are God’s reminders of the end. As there were terrifying phenomena and fearful portents from heaven in those days, some of which are told by Josephus, so the science of astronomy is unable to account for many things out in the universe to-day and will be utterly helpless before the manifestations of the last great day.

Earlier signs:

Luke 21:12-19

12 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13 And it shall turn to you for a testimony. 14 Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: 15 For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. 16 And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. 17 And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake. 18 But there shall not an hair of your head perish. 19 In your patience possess ye your souls.


Cross-references

Matthew 24:9-14; Mark 13:9-13; Matthew 10:16-42; Matthew 13:18-23; Matthew 7:15-20; Acts 20:28-32; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 2:18-27; 1 John 4:1-6; 2 John 7; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Philippians 3:17-21; Galatians 1:8-9; Psalm 23; Psalm 117

Here are some of the signs which concern the disciples of Christ in the interval between His ascension and the destruction of Jerusalem in particular, but which find their application to the treatment and fate of the believers of all times. The enemies would lay their hands upon them and persecute them, as was done to the apostles almost from the beginning, James being the first one out of their midst to suffer martyrdom; and Stephen had been stoned even before that. They would be delivered to the councils of the synagogs for judgment, whose sentence would commit them to prison, as in the persecution in which the unconverted Paul was so active. They would use the legal machinery to have the confessors of Christ hauled before kings and rulers on account of the name of Christ which they confessed, Paul himself experiencing this several times, before Felix, before Festus, before Agrippa and Bernice, before Nero. The history of the early Church is full of stories which fully substantiate every word of the prophecy of the Lord. And that the hearts of the enemies of the Gospel to-day are no different than at that time has been shown during recent developments, where attacks were not directed against a language, but against the confession of faith. But Christ’s comfort stands to-day as it did then. All these things turn out for a testimony in favor of the believers and the truth which they profess. Not only do they receive credit and honor for their fearless confession of Christ, but their testimony has the effect which the proclamation of the Word of God always has: it influences the hearts and minds of men. To His disciples the Lord therefore gave instructions not to premeditate, to work out carefully in advance, their apology or defense. The best and highest efforts of mere human wisdom and skill will avail nothing unless the Lord Himself opens the mouth of His confessors and believers and gives them the proper wisdom from on high. Jesus and His Spirit, the Spirit of the Father, they are the invincible allies of all true believers, with whose aid they can cheerfully take up the apparently unequal battle against the powers of darkness in the persons of the enemies and detractors of the pure Gospel. More than once, as the example of John and Peter, of Paul, of Polycarp, of Luther, and of others show, the enemies have not been able either to withstand or to contradict the testimony of the servants of Christ. All that make it their aim to oppose the preaching of the Gospel-truth may be overcome and silenced by a simple and unequivocal confession of the truth of the Gospel as it is contained in the Word of God. The disciples should therefore not be deterred or discouraged even by the fact that there will be dissension in families, that the bonds of both relationship and the nearest friendship will be torn asunder by questions concerning the Gospel. Parents, brothers and sisters, near relatives, friends: they all will forget the duties and obligations of their station in their hatred of the Word of Salvation; they will deliver the Christians into the hands of their enemies, and in some cases they will not rest until they have caused them to be put to death. The believers will, in fact, be continually hated of all men on account of their confession of Christ’s name. This is the cross of the Christians, the prospect which they must face. There is neither compromise nor mitigation. And yet, in the midst of these prophecies which might well make the stoutest heart quail, the Lord promises His disciples that not a hair of their heads should perish without His will, Matthew 10:30. So long as the Christians are necessary for the service of the Lord, their bodies are inviolable, the enemies dare not touch them. They may, therefore, in their patience possess their souls. By faithful perseverance, by undaunted continuance in the confession of Christ’s Word and doctrine, they will preserve their souls. Even if they should lose the life of their mortal body, they will save their true life, that of the soul, by such faithfulness to the end. Their soul, and the eternal life of their soul, will then be for them a glorious prize or treasure, which they will carry off for eternal enjoyment in heaven.

A special prophecy concerning Jerusalem:

Luke 21:20-24

20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. 24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.


Cross-references

Matthew 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Luke 18:1-8; Romans 11:25-32; Ephesians 1:3-14

Here is valuable advice for the Christians of Judea at the time of the great catastrophe, which they should heed and follow to the letter. The armies of the Romans would surround the city, coming upon her from all sides. And this should be the final point of time for the believers to escape out of the city, since this would be at least one of the manifestations of the abomination of desolation. Cp. Matthew 24:15-21; Mark 13:14-19. The fact of the presence of the armies in the act of surrounding the city would be the last definite sign of her desolation and destruction, including the ruin of the Temple. At that time those that were in Judea, the believers that lived in this country, should flee to the mountains, for flight was the only means of their deliverance. In the hiding-plac