Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
Lu 18:1-8. Parable of the Importunate Widow.
1-5. always—Compare Lu 18:7, "night and day."
faint—lose heart, or slacken.
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
2. feared not … neither regarded—defying the vengeance of God and despising the opinion of men.
widow—weak, desolate, defenseless (1Ti 5:5, which is taken from this).
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
3. came—kept coming. See Lu 18:5, "her continual coming."
Avenge me—that is, rid me of the oppression of.
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.
5. continual coming—coming for ever.
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
6-8. the Lord—a name expressive of the authoritative style in which He interprets His own parable.
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
7. shall not God—not unjust, but the infinitely righteous Judge.
avenge—redeem from oppression.
his own elect—not like this widow, the object of indifference and contempt, but dear to Him as the apple of the eye (Zec 2:8).
cry day and night—whose every cry enters into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (Jas 5:4), and how much more their incessant and persevering cries!
bear long with them—rather, "in their case," or "on their account" (as) Jas 5:7, "for it"), [Grotius, De Wette, &c.].
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
8. speedily—as if pained at the long delay, impatient for the destined moment to interpose. (Compare Pr 29:1.)
Nevertheless, &c.—that is, Yet ere the Son of man comes to redress the wrongs of His Church, so low will the hope of relief sink, through the length of the delay, that one will be fain to ask, Will He find any faith of a coming avenger left on the earth? From this we learn: (1) That the primary and historical reference of this parable is to the Church in its widowed, desolate, oppressed, defenseless condition during the present absence of her Lord in the heavens; (2) That in these circumstances importunate, persevering prayer for deliverance is the Church's fitting exercise; (3) That notwithstanding every encouragement to this, so long will the answer be delayed, while the need of relief continues the same, and all hope of deliverance will have nearly died out, and "faith" of Christ's coming scarcely to be found. But the application of the parable to prayer in general is so obvious as to have nearly hidden its more direct reference, and so precious that one cannot allow it to disappear in any public and historical interpretation.
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
Lu 18:9-14. Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican.
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
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.
11, 12. stood—as the Jews in prayer (Mr 11:25).
God, &c.—To have been kept from gross iniquities was undoubtedly a just cause of thankfulness to God; but instead of the devoutly humble, admiring frame which this should inspire, the Pharisee arrogantly severs himself from the rest of mankind, as quite above them, and, with a contemptuous look at the poor publican, thanks God that he has not to stand afar off like him, to hang down his head like a bulrush and beat his breast like him. But these are only his moral excellencies. His religious merits complete his grounds for congratulation. Not confining himself to the one divinely prescribed annual fast (Le 16:29), he was not behind the most rigid, who fasted on the second and fifth days of every week [Lightfoot], and gave the tenth not only of what the law laid under tithing, but of "all his gains." Thus, besides doing all his duty, he did works of supererogation; while sins to confess and spiritual wants to be supplied he seems to have felt none. What a picture of the Pharisaic character and religion!
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
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.
13. standing afar off—as unworthy to draw near; but that was the way to get near (Ps 34:18; Isa 57:15).
would not lift up—blushing and ashamed to do so (Ezr 9:6).
smote, &c.—kept smiting; for anguish (Lu 23:48), and self-reproach (Jer 31:19).
be merciful—"be propitiated," a very unusual word in such a sense, only once else used in the New Testament, in the sense of "making reconciliation" by sacrifice (Heb 2:17). There may therefore, be some allusion to this here, though not likely.
a sinner—literally, "the sinner"; that is, "If ever there was one, I am he."
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.
14. rather than the other—The meaning is, "and not the other"; for the Pharisee was not seeking justification, and felt no need of it. This great law of the Kingdom of God is, in the teaching of Christ, inscribed, as in letters of gold, over its entrance gate. And in how many different forms is it repeated (Ps 138:6; 147:6; Lu 1:53). To be self-emptied, or, "poor in spirit," is the fundamental and indispensable preparation for the reception of the "grace which bringeth salvation": wherever this exists, the "mourning" for it which precedes "comfort" and the earnest "hungerings and thirstings after righteousness" which are rewarded by the "fulness" of it, will, as we see here, be surely found. Such, therefore, and such only, are the justified ones (Job 33:27, 28; Ps 34:18; Isa 57:15).
And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.
Lu 18:15-17. Little Children Brought to Christ.
15. infants—showing that some, at least, of those called in Matthew (Mt 19:13) and Mark (Mr 10:13) simply "little" or "young children," were literally "babes."
touch them—or, as more fully in Matthew (Mt 19:13), "put His hands on them and pray," or invoke a "blessing" on them (Mr 10:16), according to venerable custom (Ge 48:14, 15).
rebuked them—Repeatedly the disciples thus interposed to save annoyance and interruption to their Master; but, as the result showed, always against the mind of Christ (Mt 15:23; Lu 18:39, 40). Here, it is plain from our Lord's reply, that they thought the intrusion a useless one, as infants were not capable of receiving anything from Him. His ministrations were for grown people.
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.
16. But Jesus—"much displeased," says Mark (Mr 10:14); and invaluable addition.
said—"Suffer the little children to come unto Me"—"AND FORBID THEM NOT," is the important addition of Matthew (Mt 19:14) and Mark (Mr 10:14). What words are these from the lips of Christ! The price of them is above rubies. But the reason assigned, "For of such is the Kingdom of God," or "of heaven," as in Mt 19:14, completes the previous information here conveyed; especially as interpreted by what immediately follows: "And He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them" (Mr 10:16). It is surely not to be conceived that all our Lord meant was to inform us, that seeing grown people must become childlike in order to be capable of the Kingdom of God, therefore they should not hinder infants from coming to Him, and therefore He took up and blessed the infants themselves. Was it not just the grave mistake of the disciples that infants should not be brought to Christ, because only grown people could profit by Him, which "much displeased" our Lord? And though He took the irresistible opportunity of lowering their pride of reason, by informing them that, in order to enter the Kingdom, "instead of the children first becoming like them, they must themselves become like the children" [Richter in Stier], this was but by the way; and, returning to the children themselves, He took them up in His gracious arms, put His hands upon them and blessed them, for no conceivable reason but to show that they were thereby made capable, AS INFANTS, of the Kingdom of God. And if so, then "Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" (Ac 10:47). But such application of the baptismal water can have no warrant here, save where the infants have been previously brought to Christ Himself for His benediction, and only as the sign and seal of that benediction.
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
Lu 18:18-30. The Rich Young Ruler and Discourse Thereon.
This case presents some remarkable points. (1) The man was of irreproachable moral character; and this amidst all the temptations of youth, for he was a "young man" (Mt 19:22), and wealth, for "he was very rich" (Lu 18:23; Mr 10:22). (2) But restless notwithstanding, his heart craves eternal life. (3) Unlike the "rulers," to whose class he belonged (Lu 18:18), he so far believed in Jesus as to be persuaded He could authoritatively direct him on this vital point. (4) So earnest is he that he comes "running" and even "kneeling before Him," and that when He was gone forth into the war (Mr 10:17)—the high-road, by this time crowded with travellers to the passover; undeterred by the virulent opposition of the class he belonged to as a "ruler" and by the shame he might be expected to feel at broaching such a question in the hearing of a crowd and on the open road.
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
19. Why, &c.—Did our Lord mean then to teach that God only ought to be called "good?" Impossible, for that had been to contradict all Scripture teaching, and His own, too (Ps 112:5; Mt 25:21; Tit 1:8). Unless therefore we are to ascribe captiousness to our Lord, He could have had but one object—to raise the youth's ideas of Himself, as not to be classed merely with other "good masters," and declining to receive this title apart from the "One" who is essentially and only "good." This indeed is but distantly hinted; but unless this is seen in the background of our Lord's words, nothing worthy of Him can be made out of them. (Hence, Socinianism, instead of having any support here, is only baffled by it).
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.
20. Thou knowest, &c.—Matthew (Mt 19:17) is more complete here: "but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which—as if he had said, Point me out one of them which I have not kept?—"Jesus said, Thou shalt," &c. (Mt 19:17, 18). Our Lord purposely confines Himself to the second table, which He would consider easy to keep, enumerating them all—for in Mark (Mr 10:19), "Defraud not" stands for the tenth (else the eighth is twice repeated). In Matthew (Mt 19:19) the sum of this second table of the law is added, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," as if to see if he would venture to say he had kept that.
And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
21. All these, &c.—"what lack I yet?" adds Matthew (Mt 19:20). Ah! this gives us a glimpse of his heart. Doubtless he was perfectly sincere; but something within whispered to him that his keeping of the commandments was too easy a way of getting to heaven. He felt something beyond this to be necessary; after keeping all the commandments he was at a loss to know what that could be; and he came to Jesus just upon that point. "Then," says Mark (Mr 10:21), "Jesus beholding him loved him," or "looked lovingly upon him." His sincerity, frankness, and nearness to the kingdom of God, in themselves most winning qualities, won our Lord's regard even though he turned his back upon Him—a lesson to those who can see nothing lovable save in the regenerate.
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.
22. lackest … one thing—Ah! but that a fundamental, fatal lack.
sell, &c.—As riches were his idol, our Lord, who knew if from the first, lays His great authoritative grasp at once upon it, saying, "Now give Me up that, and all is right." No general direction about the disposal of riches, then, is here given, save that we are to sit loose to them and lay them at the feet of Him who gave them. He who does this with all he has, whether rich or poor, is a true heir of the kingdom of heaven.
And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
23-25. was very sorrowful—Matthew (Mt 19:22) more fully, "went away sorrowful"; Mark still more, "was sad" or "sullen" at that saying, and "went away grieved." Sorry he was, very sorry, to part with Christ; but to part with his riches would have cost him a pang more. When Riches or Heaven, on Christ's terms, were the alternative, the result showed to which side the balance inclined. Thus was he shown to lack the one all-comprehensive requirement of the law—the absolute subjection of the heart to God, and this want vitiated all his other obediences.
And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
24. when Jesus saw—Mark says (Mr 3:34), He "looked round about"—as if first following the departing youth with His eye—"and saith unto His disciples."
How hardly, &c.—with what difficulty. In Mark (Mr 10:24) an explanation is added, "How hard is it for them that trust in riches," &c.—that is, with what difficulty is this idolatrous trust conquered, without which they cannot enter; and this is introduced by the word "children"—sweet diminutive of affection and pity (Joh 21:5).
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.
25. easier for a camel, &c.—a proverbial expression denoting literally a thing impossible, but figuratively, very difficult.
And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?
26, 27. For, &c.—"At that rate none can be saved": "Well, it does pass human power, but not divine."
And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.
28-30. Lo, &c.—in the simplicity of his heart (as is evident from the reply), conscious that the required surrender had been made, and generously taking in his brethren with him—"we"; not in the spirit of the young ruler. "All these have I kept,"
left all—"The workmen's little is as much his "all" as the prince's much" [Bengel]. In Matthew (Mt 19:27) he adds, "What shall we have therefore?" How shall it fare with us?
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,
29. There is no man, &c.—graciously acknowledging at once the completeness and the acceptableness of the surrender as a thing already made.
house, &c.—The specification is still more minute in Matthew and Mark, (Mt 19:27; Mr 10:29) to take in every form of self-sacrifice.
for the kingdom of God's sake—in Mark (Mr 10:29), "for MY sake and the Gospel's." See on Lu 6:22.
Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.
30. manifold more in this present time—in Matthew (Mt 19:29) "an hundredfold," to which Mark (Mr 10:30) gives this most interesting addition, "Now in this present time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions." We have here the blessed promise of a reconstruction of all human relationships and affections on a Christian basis and in a Christian state, after being sacrificed, in their natural form, on the altar of love to Christ. This He calls "manifold more"—"an hundredfold more"—than what they sacrificed. Our Lord was Himself the first to exemplify this new adjustment of His own relationships. (See on Mt 12:49, 50; and 2Co 6:14-18.) But this "with persecutions"; for how could such a transfer take place without the most cruel wrenches to flesh and blood? but the persecution would haply follow them into their new and higher circle, breaking that up too! But best of all, "in the world to come life everlasting." And
When the shore is won at last
Who will count the billows past?
These promises are for every one who forsakes his all for Christ. But in Matthew (Mt 19:28) this is prefaced by a special promise to the Twelve: "Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed Me in the Regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Ye who have now adhered to Me shall, in the new kingdom, rule, or give law to, the great Christian world, here set forth in Jewish dress as the twelve tribes, presided over by the twelve apostles on so many judicial thrones. In this sense certainly the promise has been illustriously fulfilled [Calvin, Grotius, Lightfoot, &c.]. But if the promise refers to the yet future glory (as may be thought from Lu 22:28-30, and as most take it), it points to the highest personal distinction of the first founders of the Christian Church.
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.
Lu 18:31-34. Fuller Announcement of His Approaching Death and Resurrection.
(See on Mr 10:32-34.)
31. all written by the prophets concerning the Son of man … be accomplished—showing how Christ Himself read, and would have us to read, the Old Testament, in which some otherwise evangelical interpreters find no prophecies, or virtually none, of the sufferings of the Son of man.
For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:
And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.
And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.
34. understood none, &c.—The Evangelist seems unable to say strongly enough how entirely hidden from them at that time was the sense of these exceeding plain statements: no doubt to add weight to their subsequent testimony, which from this very circumstance was prodigious, and with all the simple-hearted irresistible.
And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:
Lu 18:35-43. Blind Man Healed.
In Mt 20:29-34, they are two, as in the case of the Demoniac of Gadara. In Matthew and Mark (Mr 10:46-52) the occurrence is connected with Christ's departure from Jericho; in Luke with His approach to it. Many ways of accounting for these slight divergences of detail have been proposed. Perhaps, if we knew all the facts, we should see no difficulty; but that we have been left so far in the dark shows that the thing is of no moment any way. One thing is plain, there could have been no collusion among the authors of these Gospels, else they would have taken care to remove these "spots on the sun."
And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant.
And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.
And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
38. son of David, &c.—(See on Mt 12:23).
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.
39. rebuked, &c.—(See on Lu 18:15).
so much the more—that importunity so commended in the Syrophenician woman, and so often enjoined (Lu 11:5-13; 18:1-8).
And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him,
40. commanded, &c.—Mark (Mr 10:49) has this interesting addition: "And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise, He calleth thee"—just as one earnestly desiring an interview with some exalted person, but told by one official after another that it is vain to wait, as he will not succeed (they know it), yet persists in waiting for some answer to his suit, and at length the door opens, and a servant appears, saying, "You will be admitted—he has called you." And are there no other suitors to Jesus who sometimes fare thus? "And he, casting away his garment"—how lively is this touch, evidently of an eye-witness, expressive of his earnestness and joy—"came to Jesus" (Mr 10:49, 50).
Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.
41-43. What wilt thou, &c.—to try them; to deepen their present consciousness of need; and to draw out their faith in Him. Lord "Rabboni" (Mr 10:51); an emphatic and confiding exclamation. (See on Joh 20:16.)
And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.
And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.