Luke 13:22
And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.
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(22) And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying.—Literally, making a journey, as implying a circuit deliberately planned. This is apparently the continuation of the same journey as that of which Luke 9:51 recorded the beginning. There seems reason to believe, as stated in the Note on that passage, that it lay chiefly through the cities and villages of Peræa, the modern Hauran, on the east side of the Jordan. Such a journey, though with comparatively little record of what happened on it, is implied in Matthew 19:1, Mark 10:1, in the retirement “beyond Jordan” of John 10:40. It had led our Lord at first through Samaria (Luke 9:52), then back to Samaria and Galilee again (Luke 17:11), then either from the east, crossing the river, or from the west to Jericho (Luke 18:35).



Luke 13:22 - Luke 13:30

‘Are there few that be saved?’ The questioner’s temper and motives may be inferred from the tone of Christ’s answer, which turns attention from a mere piece of speculative curiosity to the grave personal aspect of the condition of ‘salvation,’ and the possibility of missing it. Whether few or many went in, there would be many left out, and among these some of the listeners. Jesus speaks to ‘them,’ the multitude, not to the questioner. The men who approach solemn subjects lightly, and use them as material for raising profitless questions for the sake of getting religious teachers in a corner, exist still, and are best answered after Christ’s manner.

Of course, the speaker meant by being ‘saved’ participation in Messiah’s kingdom, regarded in the carnal Jewish fashion; and our Lord’s reply is primarily directed to setting forth the condition of entrance into that kingdom, as the Jew expected it to be manifested on earth. But behind that immediate reference lies a solemn unveiling of the conditions of salvation in its deepest meaning, and of the danger of exclusion from it.

I. We note, first, the all-important exhortation with which Christ seeks to sober a frivolous curiosity.

In its primary application, the ‘strait gate’ may be taken to be the lowliness of the Messiah, and the consequent sharp contrast of His kingdom with Jewish high-flown and fleshly hopes. The passage to the promised royalty was not through a great portal worthy of a palace, but by a narrow, low-browed wicket, through which it took a man trouble to squeeze. For us, the narrow gate is the self-abandonment and self-accusation which are indispensable for entrance into salvation.

‘The door of faith’ is a narrow one; for it lets no self-righteousness, no worldly glories, no dignities, through. Like the Emperor at Canossa, we are kept outside till we strip ourselves of crowns and royal robes, and stand clothed only in the hair-shirt of penitence. Like Milton’s rebel angels entering their council chamber, we must make ourselves small to get in. We must creep on our knees, so low is the vault; we must leave everything outside, so narrow is it. We must go in one by one, as in the turnstiles at a place of entertainment. The door opens into a palace, but it is too strait for any one who trusts to himself.

There must be effort in order to enter by it. For everything in our old self-confident, self-centred nature is up in arms against the conditions of entrance. We are not saved by effort, but we shall not believe without effort. The main struggle of our whole lives should be to cultivate self-humbling trust in Jesus Christ, and to ‘fight the good fight of faith.’

II. We note the reason for the exhortation.

It is briefly given in Luke 13:24 {last clause}, and both parts of the reason there are expanded in the following verses. Effort is needed for entrance, because many are shut out. The questioner would be no better for knowing whether few would enter, but he and all need to burn in on their minds that many will not.

Very solemnly significant is the difference between striving and seeking. It is like the difference between wishing and willing. There may be a seeking which has no real earnestness in it, and is not sufficiently determined, to do what is needful in order to find. Plenty of people would like to possess earthly good, but cannot brace themselves to needful work and sacrifice. Plenty would like to ‘go to heaven,’ as they understand the phrase, but cannot screw themselves to the surrender of self and the world. Vagrant, halfhearted seeking, such as one sees many examples of, will never win anything, either in this world or in the other. We must strive, and not only seek.

That is true, even if we do not look beyond time; but Jesus carries our awed vision onwards to the end of the days, in the expansion of his warning, which follows in Luke 13:25 - Luke 13:27. No doubt, the words had a meaning for His hearers in reference to the Messianic kingdom, and a fulfilment in the rejection of the nation. But we have to discern in them a further and future significance.

Observe that the scene suggested differs from the similar parable of the virgins waiting for their Lord, in that it does not describe a wedding feast. Here it is a householder already in his house, and, at the close of the day, locking up for the night. Some of his servants have not returned in time, have not come in through the narrow gate, which is now not only narrow, but closed by the master’s own hand. The translation of that is that, by a decisive act of Christ’s in the future, the time for entrance will he ended. As in reference to each stage of life, specific opportunities are given in it for securing specific results, and these can never be recovered if the stage is past; so mortal life, as a whole, is the time for entrance, and if it is not used for that purpose, entrance is impossible. If the youth will not learn, the man will be ignorant. If the sluggard will not plough because the weather is cold, he will ‘beg in harvest.’ If we do not strive to enter at the gate, it is vain to seek entrance when the Master’s own hand has barred it.

The language of our Lord here seems to shut us up to the conclusion that life is the time in which we can gain our entrance. It is no kindness to suggest that perhaps He does not shut the door quite fast. We know, at all events, that it is wide open now.

The words put into the mouths of the excluded sufficiently define their characters, and the reasons why they sought in vain. Why did they want to be in? Because they wished to get out of the cold darkness into the warm light of the bountiful house. But they neither knew the conditions of entrance nor had they any desire after the true blessings within. Their deficiencies are plainly marked in their pleas for admission. At first, they simply ask for entrance, as if thinking that to wish was to have. Then, when the Householder says that He knows nothing about them, and cannot let strangers in, they plead as their qualification that they had eaten and drunk in His presence, and that He had taught in their streets. In these words, the relations of Christ’s contemporaries are described, and their immediate application to them is plain.

Outward connection with Jesus gave no claim to share in His kingdom. We have to learn the lesson which we who live amidst a widely diffused, professing Christianity sadly need. No outward connection with Christ, in Christian ordinances or profession, will avail to establish a claim to have the door opened for us. A man may be a most respectable and respected church-member, and have listened to Christian teaching all his days, and have in life a vague wish to be ‘saved,’ and yet be hopelessly unfit to enter, and therefore irremediably shut out.

The Householder’s answer, in its severity and calmness, indicates the inflexible impossibility of opening to such seekers. It puts stress on two things-the absence of any vital relationship between Him and them, and their moral character. He knows nothing about them, and not to be known by the Master of the house is necessarily to be shut out from His household. They are known of the Shepherd who know Him and hear His voice. They who are not must stay in the desert. Such mutual knowledge is the basis of all righteousness, and righteousness is the essential condition of entrance.

These seekers are represented as still working iniquity. They had not changed their moral nature. They wished to enter heaven, but they still loved evil. How could they come in, even if the door had been open? Let us learn that, while faith is the door, without holiness no man shall see the Lord. The worker of iniquity has only an outward relation to Jesus. Inwardly he is separated from Him, and, at last, the outward relation will be adjusted to the inward, and departure from Him will be inevitable, and that is ruin.

III. Boldly and searchingly personal as the preceding words had been, the final turn of Christ’s answer must have had a still sharper and more distasteful edge.

He had struck a blow at Jewish trust in outward connection with Messiah as ensuring participation in His kingdom. He now says that the Gentiles shall fill the vacant places. Many Jews will be unable to enter, for all their seeking, but still there will be many saved; for troops of hated Gentiles shall come from every corner of the earth, and the sight of them sitting beside the fathers of the nation, while Israel after the flesh is shut out, will move the excluded to weeping-the token of sorrow, which yet has in it no softening nor entrance-securing effect, because it passes into ‘gnashing of teeth,’ the sign of anger. Such sorrow worketh death.

Such fierce hatred, joined with stiff-necked obstinacy, has characterised the Jew ever since Jerusalem fell. ‘If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee.’ Israel was first, and has become last. The same causes which sent it from the van to the rear have worked like effects in ‘Christendom,’ as witness Asia Minor and the mosques into which Christian churches have been turned.

These causes will produce like effects wherever they become dominant. Any church and any individual Christian who trusts in outward connection with Christ, and works iniquity, will sooner or later fall into the rear, and if repentance and faith do not lead it or him through the strait gate, will be among those ‘last’ who are so far behind that they are shut out altogether. Let us ‘be not high-minded, but fear.’

Luke 13:22-24. And he went through the cities and villages, &c. — Being on his way to Jordan from the northeast parts of Peræa; teaching — Wheresoever he came; journeying toward Jerusalem — To which he had now begun to steer his course, intending to be there at the approaching feast of dedication, (John 10:22,) and to spend the little remainder of his time, during his continuance upon earth, in that city, or in the neighbouring parts, no more returning to these northern regions, till he should appear there after his resurrection. Then said one unto him — Somewhere on the road, probably soon after he had described the success of the gospel by the parables of the mustard-seed and the leaven: Lord, are there few that be saved — That is, shall but few be saved eternally? For the whole context, and especially our Lord’s answer, evidently shows, that no temporal preservation, but salvation from the wrath to come, and the enjoyment of eternal life, are intended. It is uncertain what motive induced this person to make this inquiry at this time, or what gave occasion to his making it. Perhaps the strictness of Christ’s doctrine made him apprehensive, that, according to it, few would be saved; and as this might be a stumbling-block in his way, therefore he wished for satisfaction on that head, in order to the removal of it. And his motive might be, not mere curiosity, as most commentators have supposed, but a desire to receive that information which might at once solve a difficulty with which he was perplexed, and minister in other respects to his spiritual profit: namely, that if the Lord Jesus (of whom, as a teacher, he seems to have formed a high opinion) should inform him but few would be saved, he might strive to be of those few; or if he should give him reason to think that the generality of his countrymen were in a safe state, and should attain eternal life, he might give himself no further unnecessary alarm, but might content himself with resembling them, and living as they did. From whatever motive the person here spoken of made the inquiry, and whatever gave occasion to his making it, our Lord thought proper, in his answer, to give him that advice upon it which might tend to his own salvation, it being not our concern to know how many will be saved, but how we may be saved. Our Lord therefore replied, Strive, &c. — As if he had said, By inquiring thus into the condition of others, you seem to be at ease with respect to yourselves. I must therefore advise you, instead of occupying your minds, and spending your time in such inquiries, with relation to others, to attend rather to what more nearly concerns yourselves, and be solicitous to secure your own salvation. For I must assure you, that though, as Jews, you have great advantages, the gate leading to eternal life is still strait; and that if you would be saved you must exert yourselves to the utmost.

Though our Lord does not here positively say, whether few or many would be saved; yet, in terming the gate strait, whereby the way leading unto eternal life is entered, he certainly intimates what he had elsewhere plainly declared, (see on Matthew 7:13-14,) that but few of the adult Jews, of that generation, would be saved, whatever might be the case with that people in some future age. And is the Christian Church in general in a much better state than the Jewish Church was then in? Can professing Christians enter heaven without being conformed in principle and practice to the doctrine of Christ, any more than the Jews could enter it without a conformity to that of Moses and the prophets? But our Lord’s exhortation here implies another thing, namely, that the few that do enter in at this gate, do not enter without much opposition and difficulty. For this reason, also, he terms the gate strait, and exhorts us to strive, or rather to agonize, as the word αγωνιζεσθε properly signifies, that is, to contend and strive as in an agony, or, to exert our utmost strength to enter in, as Doddridge renders it, a sense which the word certainly very fully expresses; importing the act of contending in the most ardent and resolute manner, as with antagonists in games or in war; and may well be considered as intimating that the strait gate is beset with a variety of enemies, through which, if we aspire to a crown of eternal glory, we must force our way; a representation equally just and awakening. Compare 1 Corinthians 9:25; Colossians 1:29; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7. “Here,” says Dr. Whitby, “Christ shows, that the number of them who may be saved is not defined by any decree of God, excluding all others from salvation, or rendering them unable to attain it; for, in that case, Christ must in vain have exhorted them to use their diligence to enter in at this strait gate; and yet, by saying, strive as in an agony to do it, he shows, that to do this requires great constancy, zeal, diligence, and courage, and a strong conflict with the devil, the world, and the flesh and therefore, that those only who thus strive will obtain it.” For many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able — Trusting in their privileges as descendants of Abraham, in circumcision, in being favoured with the oracles and ordinances of God, and, in the mean time, living in neglect of faith, love, and obedience, of the mediation of the Messiah, of reconciliation with God through him, and the influences of the Divine Spirit; of the justification of their persons, and the renovation of their nature, and all the blessed fruits thereof. But not only many brought up Jews, but many Christians, so called, shall seek to enter in at this strait gate, and shall not be able: 1st, Because they seek in a wrong way, a way different from that which God hath prescribed, not bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance; not believing in Christ, and in the truths and promises of the gospel, with a faith working by love, and with their heart unto righteousness, or not following after holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord, or doing this in their own strength, and not in due dependence on the grace of the Divine Spirit. Or, 2d, They barely seek, and do not strive, or, agonize; do not seek with all their hearts, and with all diligence in the use of means. Or, 3d, as is implied in the next verse, they seek when it is too late, using, perhaps, importunate entreaties, (like the foolish virgins in the parable, Matthew 25.,) after the period of their trial is concluded, and their state is finally and irreversibly determined.

13:18-22 Here is the progress of the gospel foretold in two parables, as in Mt 13. The kingdom of the Messiah is the kingdom of God. May grace grow in our hearts; may our faith and love grow exceedingly, so as to give undoubted evidence of their reality. May the example of God's saints be blessed to those among whom they live; and may his grace flow from heart to heart, until the little one becomes a thousand.Cities and villages - Chiefly of Galilee, and those which were between Galilee and Jerusalem.

Teaching and journeying - This evinces the diligence of our Lord. Though on a journey, yet he remembered his work. He did not excuse himself on the plea that he was in haste. Christians and Christian ministers should remember that when their Master traveled he did not "conceal" his character, or think that he was then freed from obligation to do good.

Lu 13:18-30. Miscellaneous Teachings.

18-21. mustard seed … leaven—(See on [1657]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 [1658]Re 11:15).

Still wherever we find our blessed Lord, we find him teaching, and that not by an exemplary life only, but by word of mouth. There are different opinions whether our Saviour was now journeying towards Jerusalem with respect to the passover, or some other great festival of the Jews.

And he went through the cities and villages,.... Either of Galilee, or of Judea, or both; since he was upon his journey from Galilee, through Judea, to Jerusalem, as it follows:

teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem; as he was journeying he taught in every place he came, where he could have an opportunity; his delight was to do good both to the bodies and souls of men; and he was constant and assiduous in it.

{6} And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.

(6) Against those who had rather err with many than go right with a few, and because of this through their own indifference they are shut out of the kingdom of God.

Luke 13:22-30. Are there few that be saved? This section is a mosaic of words found dispersed in the pages of Mt.: the strait gate (Luke 13:24) in Matthew 7:14; the pleading for admission (Luke 13:26-27) recalls Matthew 7:21-23; the exclusion from the kingdom (Luke 13:28-29) reproduces Matthew 8:11-12; the apothegm in Luke 13:30 = Matthew 19:30; Matthew 20:16. The parabolic word concerning the master of the house (Luke 13:25) seems to be an echo from the parable of the ten virgins. The question as to the number of the saved introducing the group need not be an artificial heading furnished by Lk. or the compiler of his source.

22-30. The Narrow Door.

. he went through the cities and villages] Some see in this the starting-point of a separate journey. The expression is too vague on which to build. It may imply a fresh progress after some brief period of rest.

Luke 13:22. Εἰς, towards) His route was arranged with a view to reaching Jerusalem at the terminus of a journey especially memorable. See Luke 13:33, ch. Luke 17:11, Luke 18:31, Luke 19:11; Luke 19:28.

Verse 22. - And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. This note of the evangelist simply calls attention that the last solemn progress in the direction of the capital was still going on. The question has been discussed at length above. St. Luke, by these little notes of time and place, wishes to direct attention to the fact that all this part of the Gospel relates to one great division of the public ministry - to that which immediately preceded the last Passover. Luke 13:22
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