William Kelly Major Works Commentary
Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.Luke Chapter 7
Luke 7:1-10Matthew 8:5-13.
We have already had the leper in Luke 5, which Matthew displaces, in order to put it along with the centurion's servant, which opens our chapter; the one being used to show the dealings of the Lord Jesus and the character of His ministry among the Jews, and the other to bear witness to the great change which was about to take place in the going forth of mercy to the Gentiles on the rejection of Israel. Luke, as we have seen, was inspired by the Spirit of God to use it for a wholly different purpose. The leper was put with the paralytic man, not with the centurion, in order to bring out the different moral effects of sin, not the change of dispensation. Here, then, we find that the Lord has fully separated the godly remnant of His disciples and shown out the qualities of God's Kingdom as realised, and Christ's own character as looked for in them: this would extend to the Gentiles also when they were called.
Now He gives us, in the case of the centurion's servant, a manifestation of His power and goodness which carries out the truth still further. There are certain points of difference here, worthy of all note, as compared with Matthew, which we might not expect at first sight. The manner of its relation by Luke brings in two things, one of insertion and the other of omission, both very different from Matthew.160 First, the embassy of the elders is mentioned here, not in Matthew: "A certain centurion's bondman who was dear to him was ill and about to die; and having heard of Jesus he sent to him elders"' of the Jews, begging him that he would come and save his bondman." This brings before us, not only the officer's affection for his servant, but his employment of the elders of the Jews. "But they, being come to Jesus, besought him diligently, saying, He is worthy to whom thou shouldest grant* this, for he loves our nation, and himself has built us the synagogue.162 And Jesus went with them." Then we have a second embassy: "But already when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent to him friends, saying to him, lord, do not trouble thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof." Second thoughts are not always best among men. They constantly mar the simplicity of the first impression, which is apt to be direct from the heart or the conscience. But the mind which sees the consequences continually affects to correct these early impulses, and not seldom for the worse. Simplicity of purpose is ruined by secondary and prudential considerations. But it is not so with real faith, which makes us grow; as it is said, "Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18.) In this case we have what is beautifully characteristic of our Evangelist, both in the first embassy and in the second. The first is his reverence for God's dealings with the Jews shown in his employment of the elders, of those who were the leaders of Israel, to send to Jesus. But next also we see his employment of friends, who more spoke of his own heart. Matthew mentions the case, but far more succinctly. We should not even learn from the first Evangelist but that he came himself: "A centurion came to him, beseeching him." Whereas it is clear there was the intervention of both elders and friends. The clue to it is that old maxim of law or equity, that what one does by another one does by oneself. The second occasion brought out more fully the reconsideration in his soul of the glory of Jesus. It was natural that in sending the Jews he should ask for His presence. For not a Jew only, but a faith that leaned upon Israel, that laid hold, as it were, of the skirt of a Jew, was always bound up with the personal presence of the Messiah; but when he spoke out his own proper feeling, and when friends consequently were the medium of his second mission, he says, "Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof." This brings out two things - the deep sense of the Lord's glory, and a corresponding sense of his own nothingness. "Wherefore neither did I count myself worthy to come to thee." This is left out in Matthew entirely; because Matthew, summing it all up, simply speaks of the centurion. If we had had this alone, then we might have thought that the centurion actually came, and that there was only one message to Jesus. But it was not so. Here as we have the embassies mentioned, it is added by the Spirit of God, "Wherefore neither did I count myself worthy to come to thee."
*"Is worthy . . . thou shouldest g": so Edd. after ABCD, etc., with twenty-one cursives. "Was worthy ... he should g (T.R.) follows GΓΔ and most cursives.
And that was just his state. It looked the saddest case. He was not worthy that the Lord should come: and neither did he think himself worthy that he should go to the Lord. How could mercy flow? Faith finds in each extremity the opportunity for grace worthy of God, and for the glory of such an One as Jesus. "But say by a word, and my servant shall be* healed." Thus the "word," as we habitually find in Luke, has its paramount place. The turning-point is not the bodily presence even of Messiah, but the word. Jesus was man, but He was the vessel of Divine power; therefore He had only to say in a word, and his servant should be healed. His coming to the spot was in no way necessary - His word was enough. "For I also am a man placed under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say to one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my bondman, Do this, and he does [it]." That is, his faith owned that Jesus had the very same power, and indeed more; for he was only a man under authority: Jesus, the perfectly dependent and obedient Man, could command all, ever to the glory of God the Father. Even he, under authority as he was, nevertheless had authority himself to order this one and that one, especially his own servant. All things were but servants to Jesus - all subserved God's glory by Him. He had only to speak the word: disease itself must obey. "Say by a word, and my servant shall be healed." "And Jesus hearing this, wondered "' at him, and turning to the crowd following him said, I say unto you, not even in Israel have I found so great faith."
*"My servant shall be": so ACD, etc., with cursives and Syrsin. Edd. adopt "let m. s. be," after BL (T.R. regarded as correction from Matt.).
But, there is an omission - and this was the second point of difference I wished to mark - an omission of what Matthew adds: "But I say unto you, That many shall come from [the] rising and setting [sun], and shall lie down at table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens. But the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth." At first sight one might have expected this, particularly in Luke; but a closer inspection will show that its proper place is not here. The Lord does bring it in elsewhere in Luke, namely, in Luke 13, when the time was come for distinctly indicating the chance; and this on moral considerations, and not on dispensational ones only. Whereas Matthew, being intent on the impending change for Israel and the Gentiles, is led of the Spirit to introduce it in this place and time, where no doubt it was uttered. But with equal wisdom Luke reserves it for another connection. I do not doubt that the moral reason for that reservation was this, that while the Lord did acknowledge, if I may so say, the simplicity of the faith of the Gentile - and simplicity in faith is power - while He exceedingly valued that faith which saw much more than a Messiah in Him, which saw God in Him (man though He really was) - saw His power over sickness, even though at a distance from it, which is so effectual a bar to all human resources, but which only displaced One Who was man, but far more than man. Such was to be the faith of the Gentile, in due time, when Jesus should be actually absent from this world, but when all the virtue of Jesus should be as, Or even more, conspicuous in some important respects. Such is Christianity; and the Gentile centurion was an illustrious type of the character of this faith. Nevertheless Christianity being brought out, specially among the Gentiles, as Romans 11 shows us, the continual danger is for the. Gentile to account that the Jew has been cut off that he might be grafted in. Hence there was the wisdom of God in not introducing that solemn judgment upon Israel, as well as the strong expression of the substitution of the Gentile for him in this place. It was evidently to correct Gentile conceit. It is true the Jews were to be judged - in fact, were already under judgment; but that sentence was to be executed still more stringently when the Gentiles were to be gathered in. But the Lord waits a more fitting season for announcing it. Thus the Gentile is taught by this scene the proper feeling towards a Jew. Faith would not despise them. It may go beyond Jewish intervention, but it should honour the Jews in their own place. At the same time, his own danger of presumption, as if he were the exclusive object of God's purpose, is guarded against by the omission of any such sentence here.164
It is needless to say that they that were sent, returning to the house, found the bondman whole who had been ill.165
But there follows, the day after, another scene of great interest, carrying out the picture of our Lord's power more completely; and it is a scene peculiar to Luke. "It came to pass afterwards,* that he went into a city166 called Nain; and many† of his disciples and a great crowd went with him. And as he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was carried out, the only son167 of his mother, and she a widow." Two touches very characteristic of our Evangelist, as indeed the whole scene is peculiar to him: he was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. It is the heart of a man touched by the circumstances of desolation, and open to the affections that suited such a case. The Lord of glory deigned to feel, and to bring out by the Holy Ghost these circumstances. "A very considerable crowd [was] ‡ with her." Even man showed his sympathy. What did the Lord? "And the Lord168 seeing her, was moved with compassion for her, and said to her, Weep not."169 He came to banish the tears which sin and misery had brought into the world. I do not say that He came not to weep Himself; for, in banishing it, He must weep as none other wept. But to her He would say in His gracious power, "Weep not; and coming up he touched the bier,170 and the bearers stopped. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Wake up." Vain words had they not been His words, or from any other mouth! What a difference it is who says it! That is what men forget when they think of Christ, or speak of Scripture. They forget it is God's Word, they overlook God in man and by man, the Man Christ Jesus. "And the dead sat up and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother."
*"Afterwards": so W. H., Blass, as AB, Syrsin. "The day after": so Tisch. after CDKM. Nearly all cursives, most Syrr. and other versions.
†"Many of": so Tisch. with ACXΔ, most cursives, Goth. Other Edd. omit, after BDLΞ and some versions, as Syrsin and Old Lat.
‡["Was"]: so Edd. after BLΞ, 33, 69, Syrsin Memph. AE, etc., Latt., other Syrr., and Goth. omit.
God was there; God was with that Man in His own power: for what is more characteristic of God than raising the dead? It was even more wondrous than creation. That God should create is, so to speak, natural. That God should raise the dead to life again, after that which is created is fallen into. ruin, that He should show his all-compassing power of retrieving to the uttermost, supposes indeed man's weakness and evil, and the enemy's temporary success, but God superior to all circumstances of hostile power in the creature, and His own just judgment of sin. And this is true most evidently in the Gospel. It is viewed as the quickening voice of the Son of God, and this in view of sin and of eternity. But the Lord shows it in matters of time here. "And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Wake up." And our Evangelist closes with words in keeping with all his spirit: "And he gave him to his mother." If he was a man acquainted with grief, He was a man acquainted with the power of sympathy. He knew how to minister to the heart that was bereaved.171 "And fear seized on all and they glorified God, saying, A great prophet has been raised up* amongst us; and God has visited his people." He had the power of life in the midst of death. He was a prophet, and more than a prophet. God had anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, Who went about indeed doing good.172 "And this report went out in all Judea173 concerning him, and in all the surrounding country."174
*"Has been raised up so Edd. after ABCΙΞ, 1, 33. ERXΔ, 69, Syrsin have "is risen up."
Up to the end of Luke 6, the Lord is still within the precincts of Israel, though undoubtedly there are principles of grace which intimate much more - the outgoing of Divine mercy towards every soul of man. Yet until the end of that chapter the Lord does not actually go beyond the godly Jews now associated with Himself, and in mission too, as the apostles. If He gathers, He sends out from Himself to gather unto Himself: and their moral traits, which distinguished them from the nation, are laid down with great emphasis and direct personal application to the close of that chapter. Then we have a Gentile's faith, who owns Christ's Divine supremacy over all things, whether even disease or distance here below. Nothing could be too great for Him. Jesus, the day after, proves His power over death. Most truly man, He is nevertheless above nature, so to speak, and that which sin had brought in as God's judgment on the race. Clearly therefore in all this we have what goes beyond Israel as such, and expressly so in the case of the Gentile centurion's servant.
This, accordingly, brings in deeper things. John's disciples reported all these things to their master, who calls two of his disciples and sends them to Jesus,* questioning whether he were "he that is coming, or are we to wait for another?" The Lord, in the same† hour‡ that they stated their errand, cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits, and unto many that were blind He gave sight. And then He "answering said to them, Go, bring back word to John what ye have seen and heard: that blind see, lame walk, lepers are cleansed, deaf hear, dead are raised, the poor are evangelised; and blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me." It was a solemn answer, and should have been a very touching reproof to John. Here was One Who sought not His own glory, yet He could not but point to that which God was doing, for God was with Him. He "went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him." (Acts 10:38.) God meant this for a witness. But was it not sad and humbling that he who was raised up specially to render witness to Jesus should require witness from Jesus?175 And Jesus, in the overflowing of His grace, gives witness, not only to what God was doing by Himself, but to John also. Thus no flesh glories in His presence. He that glories must glory in the Lord. John himself failed completely in the object for which he had been sent, at least at this crisis. None can bear utter rejection but the Spirit of Christ; nothing else can go through it undimmed, unstained. Christ is not only the great doer, but greatest sufferer; and John did not look for this. He had known what fidelity of witness was in an evil world: but the testifying of the Messiah that He should be a sufferer, and consequently his own share of it as His herald in prison, seem to have been too much for his faith or that of his disciples. He needed at the very least to be confirmed; he needed to have proof positive that Jesus was the predicted Messiah, for himself or for others.175a We have seen the answer given him by our Lord.
*"Jesus": so AD, later uncials, most cursives, Syrr. Old Lat. Memph. Edd. adopt "the Lord," after BRLΞ 33,69, Amiat., etc.
*"In that": so Edd. after BL 1, 69, Memph. AD, 33, Syrr. Amiat. Goth. Arm. have "in the same."
*"Hour": so Edd. following corrBL, 1, 69, Memph. pmL, 69, have "day."
Observe here that there was no point more remarkable in the ordinary ministry of Jesus than His care for the poor. To the poor the gospel was preached. His concern about them was the very reverse of all that was found among men before. If others had cared for the poor, it was but an evidence of the working of His Spirit in them, and nothing characteristic; in Jesus' case it was opening out His heart, if possible, with greater care to them than to any others, the bright hopes that the gospel announces, the display of that which is eternal for the eyes of believers in the midst of present need among those who were most liable to be overwhelmed by it.176 "And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me." There we find a rebuke, couched certainly in the gentlest terms; nevertheless, it was that which was intended, no doubt, to deal with the conscience. John seems to have been stumbled; but blessed was he whosoever was not offended in Jesus. There was nothing that so grated upon every natural thought of a Jew its the rejection and shame accompanying the Messiah, or those that bore witness of Him. Man was wholly unprepared for it. They had been waiting for long and weary years for the Messiah to bring in deliverance. Now that He was come, that evil should fall with apparent impunity on His servants, and even upon Himself - that they, and He too, should be despised of men - was too much for their faith. They were "offended" in Him.177
Christianity, let me say, has given immense range to the display of all this. Indeed, it is the glory and blessing of the Christian. He is not stumbled at the rejection of Christ. He sees the Cross in the light of heaven, not of the earth; he knows its bearing on eternal things. Present things are not the question. God has brought in the unseen things, and the Christian is familiar with them even now. He accordingly rejoices in the Cross of Christ, and boasts in that which is the overthrow of all the natural thoughts of men, and the judgment of the world, but which is really, by the grace of God, the judgment of sin, and the vindication of His own moral glory. Therefore the Christian triumphs in it. Besides, it is that which gave occasion to the infinite grace of the Lord Jesus, and in all these things he delights. He therefore has the blessing fully; and is strengthened, not offended, by the Cross.
When the messengers of John go away, the Lord can speak in vindication of His servant. After all, viewed, not in connection with what was coming, but according to that which had been and was, who was found among men worthy of such honour? He was no reed shaken with the wind: this they might see any day in the wilderness. Neither was he a man clothed in soft raiment: they must look to kings' courts to find men gorgeously apparelled and living delicately. There is no moral grandeur in any of these things. A prophet then he was, and much more than a prophet. Such is the witness of Jesus: "This is he concerning whom it is written, Behold, I* send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee." (Malachi 3:1.) 178 He was the immediate forerunner of the Messiah. God put singular honour on him. There were many prophets; there was but one John, but one who could be the messenger before His face. Consequently our Lord adds, "Among those that are born of women,179 there is not a greater [prophet]† than John [the Baptist]."‡
*"I" (ἐγώ) is found in AEXΔ, 33, Syrr.; but Edd. omit after BDLΞ, 1, Old Lat. Memph.
†["Prophet"]: inserted in AEGH, later uncials, most cursives, Syrr. Goth. Edd. omit, after BKLM and most Old Lat.
‡["The Baptist"]: ADΔ, etc., most cursives (33), Syrr. and Old Lat. insert. Edd. reject, after BLΞ, 1, Memph.
Yet this, be it noted, brings out so much the more the superior blessing of those who were to be in the new state of things, when prophecy or unfulfilled promise should be no longer, but the basis of the kingdom should be laid on the work of Christ. That new order was coming in, first to faith, then in power; and Luke gives great force to that which was revealed to faith, because it is known through the Word of God and the power of the Holy Ghost. It is not yet the visible manifestation of the Kingdom, but none the less God's Kingdom, which was to come in through a rejected Son of man. Redemption may be the basis of better and still more glorious things, but it is the basis of the Kingdom of God: and in that Kingdom the least was greater than the greatest before - greater even than John. The least in that Kingdom would rest on redemption already accomplished; the least would know what it is to be brought to God, sin put away, and the conscience purged. John the Baptist could only look onward to these things. The Christian knows them to be actually come, and by faith his own portion. He is not waiting for them; he has them. Thus he that is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John.
At the same time, we are told that "all the people" that heard John the Baptist, "and the publicans" too - that is, the mass, even the despised tax-gatherers - "justified God,180 being baptized with the baptism of John." They were right so far. It was a witness of what was coming: it was a confession of their own sin. Thus far they justified God. But the prudent and wise, the religious, learned, and great, "the Pharisees and lawyers," rejected and "frustrated the counsel of God against themselves," because they refused even the preparatory work of John the Baptist. Having refused the lesser testimony, they never passed into the greater things - the reality from God. Having refused that which their own consciences ought to have proved to be true, they were not prepared to receive the gift of His grace. Christ can only in the conscience be received to salvation. Feeling and understanding will never do alone. There must be conscience. Those whose slumbering consciences had been aroused Godward concerning their sins were only too glad to receive Christ. Those whose consciences slept, or were roused but for a moment, were never brought to God savingly. When Christ is received by faith, the conscience is active toward God, the mind and heart rejoice as they enter into and appropriate the blessing, but not otherwise. Where there is no work in the conscience, all is given up speedily. They are "offended" by this or that. Thus, the men of that generation181 were like captious children, "sitting in the market-place, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped to you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned [to you],* and ye have not wept." Whatever God called to was offensive. If God brought in joy, they would not dance: if God brought in a call to mourn, they would not weep. Thus, when John the Baptist came, neither eating bread nor drinking wine, the expression of no communion, because sin was in question (and how could God send one to have communion with sin?), they said he had a demon. "The Son of man is come eating and drinking." Now there could be communion: the rejected Christ is the foundation of all true fellowship with God. But they said, "Behold, an eater and a wine-drinker, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!" Man, thinking well of himself, counts the grace of God to be allowance of sin. When God calls to righteousness, it is too severe for man: when He calls to grace, it is too loose for him. Every way man likes not God: he shrinks in presence of law, and he despises in presence of grace. "And wisdom is justified182 of all her children." And the incident that follows is a striking proof of it in both its parts - the witness of it, not only in her who was a sinner but is now a child of wisdom, but also in him who could not appreciate the One Who is the wisdom of God.
*"To you" (second time): so AP, Syrr. (including sin.), Aeth.; but, omitted by Edd. after BDLΞ, Amiat. Memph. Arm.
As illustrating wisdom justified of all her children, as well as the superiority of the new system of grace, the kingdom of God as it was about to come in, the Spirit leads Luke to give the story of the woman who followed Jesus into the house of the Pharisee (it would seem in His train). All was arranged to bring out the truth and the grace of God with great precision. "One of the Pharisees183 I begged him that he would eat with him." The Lord goes into the house and takes His place at table. "A woman in the city, a sinner," evidently of notorious character,184 "when she knew that he was sitting at meat in the Pharisee's house, took an alabaster box of myrrh, and standing at his feet behind [him] weeping, began to wash his feet with tears, and she wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed [them] with the myrrh."184a
Faith makes a soul very bold; at the same time, it gives great propriety. But its boldness is inspired by the attractive power of the Object looked to. It is from no qualities of our own. What, for instance, could be more beautifully in season, what more modest and right in feeling and act than the conduct of this hitherto abandoned woman? Now, at least, so much the more glory to the Object of her faith Who brought about this immense change. When she knew that Jesus was invited there, she went too. It was the last place where she would otherwise have ventured. It was Jesus Who emboldened her to go there without invitation. But when she found herself there, she did not ask Peter or James or John or any of them, as the Greeks asked Philip, to see Jesus. She went at once: not merely her own deep sense of need, but her sense of His ineffable grace - the grace of Jesus - gave the entrée at once, and introduced her without further form or ceremony. Completely absorbed in an object, which she may not have defined to her mind to be a Divine Person, but which proved itself to be none the less Divine by its all-overcoming power over her soul, she must have instinctively shrunk from the Pharisee's house under any other circumstances. Ordinarily there was everything to repel, nothing to attract her, in that house. Yet she made no apology for the intrusion; she knew without being told that Jesus made her free to draw near; and there she was found, standing at His feet behind Him, weeping.
Remark, too, how every way, every act, every feature of the case was perfectly suited to express without a word the real truth of her past" well as present, and of His goodness. She 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. Mary did it another day - did that, which was so similar, that some have even fancied this to be Mary."' But that is a profound mistake. We hear nothing at all of her tears. We do hear of her anointing the feet of Jesus, as well as His head, and wiping them with the hair; so that the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. In both it was an act of devotedness to Jesus; and devotedness does not imitate, but like devotedness to the same object, produces similar effects, though each with its own peculiarity. But besides devotedness, there was in this woman confession of her own self-abasement, of her horror at her sins, of her repentance towards God, and her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That was not the question with Mary. Mary was filled with a sense of the danger that impended over Jesus. She had a vague but true consciousness of His approaching death, so that the Lord counted it an anointing for His burial, gave it Divine value, and expressed what her heart had not uttered even to Himself, but nevertheless what she could not but feel, though she could not articulate it. But in this woman's case it was the unaffected pouring out of a burdened heart, which felt its only relief in thus washing his feet with tears and wiping them with the hairs of her head. Thus, a sense of grace produces effects very similar to a deep sense of His glory. They are both Divine, both of the Spirit of God. A sense of His grace, shaded by the sense of her own sinfulness, was the predominant feeling in this poor woman's mind; as a sense of His glory, shaded by the feeling of approaching danger, was of Mary's.
All this was lost upon the Pharisee; or rather, it stirred up the unbelief of his heart. "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." His thought was that the being a sinner would unfit for Jesus. Yet he had no adequate notion of the glory of Jesus, nor of His holiness, nor, of course, of His grace: he would not even allow Him to be a prophet. Had He been so, as he thought, He must have seen through the woman who touched Him. Simon knew that the woman was a sinner. It was known commonly in the place. If Jesus had only known her character, it was inconceivable to Simon that He would have allowed her to take such a liberty with His person. But Jesus thoroughly knew her as well as Simon; and if she was a sinner He was a Saviour. Alas! the Pharisee neither felt the sin nor saw the Saviour according to God. Phariseeism is an attempt to take a middle ground between a sinner and a Saviour, and this ignores both the misery of the one and the grace of the other. All worldly religion avoids a real, deep confession, as of sin so of a Saviour. It contents itself with generalities and forms. It admits sin, and it acknowledges a Saviour, after a sort: but the golden mean which in the world's things is so valuable is fatal in what is Divine. This is what Christianity was intended to bring people out of. It is what the faith of God's good news disproves and banishes: for the gospel of salvation stands expressly on the ground of total ruin through sin. Now man, religious man, dislikes all extremes, likes moderate views; but by this moderation of view the depths of sin are unfelt and the Saviour is unhonoured. The Pharisee shows it out in contrast with the woman. He was not a child of wisdom: "wisdom is justified of all, her children." He found ignorance where she found perfect grace; and she was wise. She was a child of wisdom. Wisdom was not justified by him. It was unseen and denied. "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." He did not know: such was the Pharisee's account of Jesus.
But Jesus answered what he did not utter. - "Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee;185a and he saith, Teacher, say [it]." And the Lord then tells him the parable of the creditor. "There were two debtors of a certain creditor: one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty" - one a comparatively large and the other a small sum; but neither could pay, and he186 "forgave both of them [their debt]." Who would love him most? The Pharisee would answer on human ground with correctness, "I suppose he to whom he forgave the most." The Lord owned that he had rightly judged, and then He at once applies it. "Seest thou this woman? I entered into thy house; thou gavest me no water for my feet."
After all, the entertainment that even a Pharisee - a religious man - provides for Jesus is very short. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks: the poor reception betrayed how little his heart welcomed Jesus. Yet he thought to patronise Jesus. This is what natural religion always does. He thought he was doing honour to Him, but instead of that he was nourishing himself, and proved the low conception he had of Jesus by the measured scale of that which he provided for Jesus. "I entered into thy house; thou gavest me no water for my feet" - that was an ordinary thing in these countries - "but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with her hair.* Thou gavest me no kiss" - in these lands no strange reception - "but she, from the time I came in, hath not ceased kissing my feet; my head with oil thou didst not anoint"187 - but here again how entirely she went beyond "but she hath anointed my feet with myrrh." Not even a king was so entertained. "For which cause I say unto thee, Her many sins are forgiven, for she loved much; but he to whom little is forgiven loveth little."188
*"Her hair": so Edd. after ABDLΞ, Syrrpesch hcl. Old Lat. Memph. "The hair of her head" is in ED, etc., most cursives (33, 69), Syrrsin cu.
It was evidently not the woman's first sense of the grace of Christ. What she had done was because with her heart she did believe in Him. She believed before she came. Her faith had brought her, but she did not know that her faith saved her. She loved before she came, and all that she did was the fruit of her love; yet not her love, but her faith saved her."189 She loved much, because she was forgiven much; and she felt it. Thus she was led to this love by the deep sense of her sin, and of the attractive grace of the Saviour; and so she must hear how truly she was forgiven. The Lord says to her, "Thy sins are forgiven." This drew out the inward question of those around, and not Simon's only: "They began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgives sins also?"
Here, again, also, it was not the first time. The Lord had said publicly to the palsied man, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." But there was a difference., and a weighty one, between that forgiveness and this. There it was within the bounds of Israel, and it was specially in reference to this world. I do not mean to say that the man may not have been forgiven eternally; but that it was emphatically the forgiveness of sins - proved by the healing of his body, and both in connection with the earth. Thus it was what may be and has been called governmental forgiveness, and after this sort I suppose it will be that God will act in the millennium. It may or may not be eternal. The millennial reign of Christ will be accompanied by the banishing of diseases and the forgiveness of sins. There will be nothing but blessing everywhere. But whether it be eternal or not will depend, no doubt, on the reality of the work of God in the soul (i.e., on faith).189a
In the case before us the forgiveness has nothing to do with the present life. It is absolute, unconditional, and eternal; and assuredly this will be found by and by in the kingdom of God, as it is now brought out in the power of the Holy Ghost. It was what ought to be in Christianity - a kind of little anticipation or example of what was to be proclaimed in the Gospel; and it is peculiar to Luke. He said to the woman in answer to these doubts, "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace"190 - words nowhere said to the palsied man. It was not her love that saved her, but her faith. Love is the exercise of that which is within us - of that new nature which the Holy Ghost imparts, and of which He is Himself the strength. But faith, although of the Spirit of God, nevertheless finds all in its object, in another. Love is more what people call a subjective thing; whereas the essence of faith is that, though in man, it is nevertheless exercised on what is outside him. The whole of that which it depends on is in its object - even Christ. "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." Thus there is present salvation, and this in such power that the Lord can bid her "go in peace." This is precisely what the Gospel now announces freely, and unfolds fully, according to the value of an inestimable, exhaustless Christ and His work."'
NOTES ON THE SEVENTH CHAPTER.
160 This chapter exhibits no link whatever with the Gospel of Mark.
161Luke 7:3. - "Sent." Abbott ("Encyclopaedia Biblica," col. 1774) remarks Matthew and Luke differ irreconcilably. Matthew says that the man did come to Jesus. And so, as the present writer has been informed by a member of the Burmese Commission, would a Burmese say not taught otherwise by Western magistrates. An Eastern calls himself the principal when acting only as agent. "Elders" are called "rulers" in Mark 5:22. Cf. "overseers" in Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2; and "guides" in Hebrews 13:7.
162Luke 7:5. - "The synagogue." Remains of this still extant may be found described in various books.
163Luke 7:9. - For wonder attributed to the Lord, cf. Mark 6:6; there at unbelief; here at belief.
164Luke 7:6-9. - The wording of these verses is compared with that of Matthew 8:8-10 by Harnack, "Luke the Physician," p. 94 f.
"I also," implying that he acknowledged the Power behind the Lord, at his appreciation of which Christ marvelled (Morison on Matthew 8:9).
165Luke 7:10. - This section should not be confounded - as by some moderns - with John 4:46 ff., which is entirely distinct.
166Luke 7:11. - How paltry some of the criticism that is bestowed on the Evangelist's geography or topography, finds illustration in Hausrath's objecting to the description of Nain as a city. See "New Testament Times," iii. 410, and Hahn ad loc. What, for example, did Hausrath know of Nazareth as it was then in the days of Christ?
Scripture speaks similarly of "streets" in Jerusalem, etc., but these are not what we so call: any visitor to the old part of Jerusalem could confirm this: there you have only open spaces.
167Luke 7:12. - "Only son." For another case, see Luke 9:38, and see note 48, above.
168Luke 7:13. - "The Lord" (ὁ κύριος). See again in Luke 10:1 [Edd., 39, 41], Luke 11:39, Luke 12:42, Luke 13:15, Luke 17:5 f., Luke 18:6, Luke 19:8, Luke 22:31, Luke 24:3 (before "Jesus") and 34, all in this Gospel of the "Son of Man." In John's Gospel it occurs only four times: John 4:1, John 6:23, John 11:2, and John 20:20. It is not found in either Matthew or Mark.
169 "Weep not" or "do not go on weeping," the continuous present, as in John 20:17, "do not go on clinging."
170Luke 7:14. - "Bier": as to Jewish manner of burial, see Joseph. "Antiqq.," xvii. 197f., Life, 323, or Edersheim, "Sketches of Jewish Social Life," p. 109 ff.
171Luke 7:15. - Cf. 1 Kings 17:23.
172Luke 7:16. - "Visited." Cf. i. 68 and 19: 44, where also it is merciful visitation (ἐπισκόπη). The word for "visitation" in the sense of vengeance is ἐκδίκησις, as in Luke 21:22.
173Luke 7:17. - "Judea." Meyer, Ewald, Weiss and H. Holtzmann take this of the whole land (cf. note 114); Hahn, who holds that it is nowhere in the New Testament so used, observes that the Lord's opponents were chiefly in the South (so Plummer on the present passage).
174 This incident of raising the dead is intermediate between that of Jairus's daughter, not carried out for burial, and the raising of Lazarus when already buried. Difference in the significance of the three cases as typical of stages the process of conversion was suggested already by Augustine, Sermon XCVIII., whom Wordsworth follows.
The publicity of this case, which is not recorded by Mark, might supply such critics with food for reflection as attach greater historical value to our second Gospel. Cf. O. Holtzmann, p. 274, for candid recognition of the circumstances of this miracle; also Wellhausen's note ad loc. ("before many witnesses").
175Luke 7:19. - As to the Jewish idea that there are two Messiahs, one the "son of David," the other the "son of Joseph," see Lightfoot, "Horae Hebr." The Baptist would at least know that JESUS was the suffering one.
The Expositor's view of John's state of mind is that taken by Tertullian, Neander, Meyer, De Wette, Olshausen and Godet: the Baptist had real (not, as Stier, simulated) doubt, and that increasing, not (as some moderns) declining. See further Godet ad loc., as to the Baptist's state of mind being characteristic of the old dispensation.
175a Augustine, Hilary, Chrysostom, Calvin, Wordsworth, and Ryle suppose that the mission of John's disciples was meant by him to aid their faith.
176Luke 7:22. - We have here a summary of Messiah's work: "Poor evangelized." Wesley offers a characteristic comment: "The greatest mercy and the greatest miracle of all."
177Luke 7:23. - Observe that nowhere in the Gospels are the Scribes and Pharisees represented as challenging the Lord as to miracles: this alone might show that they were actually performed. The Talmud adds confirmation by the very explanation that it offers (cf. note 107 above).
178Luke 7:27. - This quotation (as in Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2), from neither the Hebrew nor the LXX., illustrates the belief of the late Adolf Neubauer, that Aramaic paraphrases lie behind quotations in the Gospels from the Old Testament.
179Luke 7:28. - "Born of women." Chrysostom, whom Sadler follows, explains that our Lord excluded Himself from the number of those so described. It is noticeable that the word is γεννητός, not, as in Galatians 4:4 (cf. Php 2:7), γενόμενος ("come"). In verses 23, 29 of the same chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians the Apostle uses, of Isaac and Ishmael, verb forms cognate to γεννητός.
"Little." Bishop Basil Jones: "less," explaining it as, "than John in gifts and power." Augustine and Chrysostom, although happily followed by very few (as Spence), take this of the Lord Himself.
Farrar: "The smallest diamond is made of more precious substance than the largest flint."
The last words of the Lord here about John are, of course, very offensive to the Mandaeans, or modern disciples of the Baptist, settled to the south of Bagdad (Reinach, p. 107).
180Luke 7:29 f. - Syrsin here has "justified themselves to God." These verses are taken by the Expositor as parenthetical; that is, as Luke's own comment. So Field and Adeney; whilst Meyer, Bishop Basil Jones, B. Weiss, Spence, and Plummer regard the words as proceeding from the Lord. But, as Norris says, the tenses used indicate that it is the Evangelist who speaks. Besides a parenthesis is in his manner: see Luke 13:7, and Acts 1:18f. Compare, further, Matthew 21:32.
181Luke 7:31. - "This generation." Meyer, Hofmann and Hahn understand by this, the Pharisees.
182Luke 7:35. - "Is justified" (ἐδικαιώθη). Burton (§ 43) calls this a "gnomic aorist," to which effect was given by the English version, retained by the Revv.; whilst Winer (Moulton's ed., p. 346) held that this does not occur in the New Testament. Cf. like use of ἐβλήθη in John 15:6, and note there.
Dorner finds here germs of our Lord's pre-existence (Luke 1:1; Luk 1:61). Cf. Luke 10:23 f., Luke 11:49.
"Children." The reading of , "works," may have come from Matthew 11:19. "All" is omitted in corr D, Syrcu.
183Luke 7:36. - "One of the Pharisees." Not the same as Simon the leper (Mark 14:3).
As to the better side of Pharisaisrn, see Murray's "Handbook of Christian Ethics," p. 67.
Venn preached from this passage (Sermons, p. 217), as Augustine long ago (Library of the Fathers, vol. i. of "Sermons on the New Testament," p. 387).
184Luke 7:37. - "A woman . . . a sinner." The chapter-heading of Bibles still in use and the "Pilgrim's Progress" have given currency to the idea of Latin Fathers (Augustine, etc.) that she was the same as Mary of Magdala: to this Farrar was inclined to adhere on the sentimental ground of its associations in sacred art! But see B. Weiss and Norris.
184a Luke 7:38. - "Kissed," i.e., covered with kisses (κατεφίλησε).
"Behind." The Lord at the time was recumbent, His head forward, with His feet backward.
185 Gregory "the Great" ("Works," i. p. 1582), whose view was definitely accepted by the Church of Rome, supposed that she was identical with Mary of Bethany; as Grotius, Schleiermacher and H. Holtzmann also have done. But, to say little more, Bethany is described as a κώμη (Luke 10:38); this place, a πόλις. Cf. the wording of Luke 8:1, and note 192, s. init. On the Romish muddle here, see Stock, p. 126.
The Greek Fathers rightly distinguished all three cases. Schanz, although a Roman, regards the incident entirely from the Lucan standpoint.
185a Montefiore remarks (on Luke 6:27; Luk 6:35 etc.) that JESUS, had He carried out His own teaching, could not have called His enemies (Pharisees) "vipers" (Matthew 12:34), and exultingly have consigned them to Gehenna. Note, however, the words of F. W. Robertson: "He blighted Pharisaism, with irony and terrible invective. But to the actual living Pharisee, how tenderly did He express Himself! Simon I have somewhat to say unto thee. . . . So far as he is a man, he is an object of infinite pity and tenderness" ("Lectures on Corinthians," p. 72). Our Lord could not have used smooth words towards the system which Mr. Montefiore endeavours to defend. The Apostle Paul tells us that love is to be "without hypocrisy" (Romans 12:9).
186Luke 7:42. - "Forgave" (ἐχαρίσατο) is one of the Greek words that Luke shares with Paul (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 2:8 f.).
See Spurgeon's Sermons, 1739 and 2127. Gregory "the Great" said that as often as he read this narrative, he felt that he could better weep than preach.
187Luke 7:46. - For head "anointed with oil," see Psalm 23:5, and cf. Amos 6:6.
188 Farrar works out the rhythmic parallelism noticeable in these verses. Cf. Matthew 2:7-10.
189Luke 7:47. - Her faith wrought by love: Galatians 5:6. For the love accompanying faith which works manwards, see Matthew 5:43 ff. Cf. Gore, "The Creed of the Christian," p. 53. As to Lucan Paulinism, see note 100 above.
189a Luke 7:48-50. - Dr. Alexander Maclaren has preached from these verses. (Third Series of Sermons: "Love and Forgiveness.")
190Luke 7:50. - For "Go in (εἰς) peace," cf. Mark 5:34, ὕπαγε εἰς εἰρήνην, Plummer: εἰς marks the subsequent life (lasting condition); ἐν (as in Acts 16:36; Jam 2:16), the moment of departure. Cf. Carr ad loc. Farrar in his Excursus gives quotations from the Moed Qaton. Maclaren, "His Word is like a living creature and fulfils itself" (vol. i., p. 214).
191 Frennsen has made use of this narrative in his "Holy Land," p. 376.
The views of some critics that it is a "doublet" of Mark 14:37, which Luke omits, is rejected by J. Weiss. The parable of the two debtors, as Bruce observes, is an original element ("Apologetics," p. 462).
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.
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.
And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
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.
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.
And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.
And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
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.
And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.
And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.
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?
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?
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.
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.
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
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?
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.
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.
This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
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.
And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.
But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?
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.
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
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!
But wisdom is justified of all her children.
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.
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,
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.
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.
And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
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.
Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
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.
And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.