Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
Lu 13:1-9. The Lesson, "REPENT OR Perish," Suggested by Two Recent Incidents, and Illustrated by the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree.
1-3. Galileans—possibly the followers of Judas of Galilee, who, some twenty years before this, taught that Jews should not pay tribute to the Romans, and of whom we learn, from Ac 5:37, that he drew after him a multitude of followers, who on his being slain were all dispersed. About this time that party would be at its height, and if Pilate caused this detachment of them to be waylaid and put to death as they were offering their sacrifices at one of the festivals, that would be "mingling their blood with their sacrifices" [Grotius, Webster and Wilkinson, but doubted by De Wette, Meyer, Alford, &c.]. News of this being brought to our Lord, to draw out His views of such, and whether it was not a judgment of Heaven, He simply points them to the practical view of the matter: "These men are not signal examples of divine vengeance, as ye suppose; but every impenitent sinner—ye yourselves, except ye repent—shall be like monuments of the judgment of Heaven, and in a more awful sense." The reference here to the impending destruction of Jerusalem is far from exhausting our Lord's weighty words; they manifestly point to a "perdition" of a more awful kind—future, personal, remediless.
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?
4, 5. tower in Siloam—probably one of the towers of the city wall, near the pool of Siloam. Of its fall nothing is known.
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
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.
6-9. fig tree—Israel, as the visible witness of God in the world, but generally all within the pale of the visible Church of God; a familiar figure (compare Isa 5:1-7; Joh 15:1-8, &c.).
vineyard—a spot selected for its fertility, separated from the surrounding fields, and cultivated with special care, with a view solely to fruit.
came and sought fruit—a heart turned to God; the fruits of righteousness; compare Mt 21:33, 34, and Isa 5:2, "He looked that it should bring forth fruit"; He has a right to it, and will require it.
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?
7. three years—a long enough trial for a fig tree, and so denoting probably just a sufficient period of culture for spiritual fruit. The supposed allusion to the duration of our Lord's ministry is precarious.
cut it down—indignant language.
cumbereth—not only doing no good, but wasting ground.
And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
8. he answering, &c.—Christ, as Intercessor, loath to see it cut down so long as there was any hope (see Lu 13:34).
dig, &c.—loosen the earth about it and enrich it with manure; pointing to changes of method in the divine treatment of the impenitent, in order to freshen spiritual culture.
And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
9. if … fruit, well—Genuine repentance, however late, avails to save (Lu 23:42, 43).
after that, &c.—The final perdition of such as, after the utmost limits of reasonable forbearance, are found fruitless, will be pre-eminently and confessedly just (Pr 1:24-31; Eze 24:13).
And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.
Lu 13:10-17. Woman of Eighteen Year's Infirmity Healed on the Sabbath.
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.
11. spirit of infirmity—Compare Lu 13:17, "whom Satan hath bound." From this it is probable, though not certain, that her protracted infirmity was the effect of some milder form of possession; yet she was "a daughter of Abraham," in the same gracious sense, no doubt, as Zaccheus, after his conversion, was "a son of Abraham" (Lu 19:9).
And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.
12, 13. said … Woman … and laid—both at once.
And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
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.
14. with indignation—not so much at the sabbath violation as at the glorification of Christ. (Compare Mt 21:15) [Trench].
said to the people—"Not daring directly to find fault with the Lord, he seeks circuitously to reach Him through the people, who were more under his influence, and whom he feared less" [Trench].
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?
15. the Lord—(See on Lu 10:1).
hypocrite!—How "the faithful and true Witness" tears off the masks which men wear!
his ox, &c.—(See on Mt 12:9-13; and Lu 6:9).
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?
16. ought not, &c.—How gloriously the Lord vindicates the superior claims of this woman, in consideration of the sadness and long duration of her suffering, and of her dignity notwithstanding, as an heir of the promise!
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.
Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it?
Lu 13:18-30. Miscellaneous Teachings.
18-21. mustard seed … leaven—(See on Mr 4:30-32). The parable of "the Leaven" sets forth, perhaps, rather the inward growth of the kingdom, while "the Mustard Seed" seems to point chiefly to the outward. It being a woman's work to knead, it seems a refinement to say that "the woman" here represents the Church, as the instrument of depositing the leaven. Nor does it yield much satisfaction to understand the "three measures of meal" of that threefold division of our nature into "spirit, soul, and body," (alluded to in 1Th 5:23) or of the threefold partition of the world among the three sons of Noah (Ge 10:32), as some do. It yields more real satisfaction to see in this brief parable just the all-penetrating and assimilating quality of the Gospel, by virtue of which it will yet mould all institutions and tribes of men, and exhibit over the whole earth one "Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ." (See on Re 11:15).
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.
And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God?
It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.
Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,
23. Lord, &c.—one of those curious questions by talking of which some flatter themselves they are religious.
said unto them—the multitude; taking no notice of the man or his question, save as furnishing the occasion of a solemn warning not to trifle with so momentous a matter as "salvation."
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
24. Strive—The word signifies to "contend" as for the mastery, to "struggle," expressive of the difficulty of being saved, as if one would have to force his way in.
strait gate—another figure of the same. (See on Mt 7:13, 14).
for many … will seek—"desire," that is, with a mere wish or slothful endeavor.
and shall not be able—because it must be made a life-and-death struggle.
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:
25. master of the house is risen up and hath shut to the door—awfully sublime and vivid picture! At present he is represented as in a sitting posture, as if calmly looking on to see who will "strive," while entrance is practicable, and who will merely "seek" to enter in. But this is to have an end, by the great Master of the house Himself rising and shutting the door, after which there will be no admittance.
Lord, Lord—emphatic reduplication, expressive of the earnestness now felt, but too late. (See on Mt 7:21, 22).
Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
26, 27. See on the similar passage (Mt 7:22, 23).
eaten and drunk, &c.—We have sat with Thee at the same table. (See on Mt 7:22).
taught in our streets—Do we not remember listening in our own streets to Thy teaching? Surely we are not to be denied admittance?
But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
27. But he shall say, &c.—(See on Mt 7:23). No nearness of external communion with Christ will avail at the great day, in place of that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. Observe the style which Christ intimates that He will then assume, that of absolute Disposer of men's eternal destinies, and contrast it with His "despised and rejected" condition at that time.
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.
28, 29. (See Mt 8:11, 12). Also see on Mt 13:42.
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.
And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.
The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.
Lu 13:31-35. Message to Herod.
31. and depart hence—and "go forward," push on. He was on His way out of Perea, east of Jordan, and in Herod's dominions, "journeying towards Jerusalem" (Lu 13:22). Haunted by guilty fears, probably, Herod wanted to get rid of Him (see on Mr 6:14), and seems, from our Lord's answer, to have sent these Pharisees, under pretense of a friendly hint, to persuade Him that the sooner He got beyond Herod's jurisdiction the better it would be for His own safety. Our Lord saw through both of them, and sends the cunning ruler a message couched in dignified and befitting irony.
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.
32. that fox—that crafty, cruel enemy of God's innocent servants.
Behold, I cast out devils and I do cures—that is, "Plot on and ply thy wiles; I also have My plans; My works of mercy are nearing completion, but some yet remain; I have work for to-day and to-morrow too, and the third day; by that time I shall be where his jurisdiction reaches not; the guilt of My blood shall not lie at his door; that dark deed is reserved for others." He does not say, I preach the Gospel—that would have made little impression upon Herod—in the light of the merciful character of Christ's actions the malice of Herod's snares is laid bare [Bengel].
to-day, to-morrow, the third day—remarkable language expressive of successive steps of His work yet remaining, the calm deliberateness with which He meant to go through with them, one after another, to the last, unmoved by Herod's threat, yet the rapid march with which they were now hastening to completion. (Compare Lu 22:37).
I shall be perfected—I finish my course, I attain completion.
Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.
33. it cannot be that a prophet, &c.—"It would never do that," &c.—awful severity of satire this upon "the bloody city!" "He seeks to kill me, does he? Ah! I must be out of Herod's jurisdiction for that. Go tell him I neither fly from him nor fear him, but Jerusalem is the prophets' slaughter-house."
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!
34, 35. O Jerusalem, &c.—(See on Mt 23:37; Mt 23:39).
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.