Matthew Poole's Commentary
And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;Luke 18:1-8 The parable of the unjust judge and the importunate widow.
Luke 18:9-14 The parable of the Pharisee and publican.
Luke 18:15-17 Christ’s tenderness to the little children that were
brought unto him.
Luke 18:18-23 He teacheth a ruler how to attain eternal life.
Luke 18:24-27 He showeth how hard it is for the rich to enter into
the kingdom of God,
Luke 18:28-30 promises rewards to those who have foregone aught
for the gospel’s sake,
Luke 18:31-34 foretells his own death and resurrection,
Luke 18:35-43 and giveth sight to a blind man.
This duty of praying always is inculcated to us several times in the Epistles, as may appear from those texts quoted in the margin, which we must not interpret as an obligation upon us to be always upon our knees praying; for thus our obedience to it would be inconsistent with our obedience to other precepts of God, relating both to religious duties and civil actions, neither was Christ himself always praying: but it either, first, lets us know, that there is no time in which we may not pray; as we may pray in all places, every where lifting up holy hands without doubting, ( as the apostle saith, 1 1 Timothy 2:8), so we must pray at any time. Or, secondly, it is as much as, pray frequently and ordinarily; as Solomon’s servants are said by the queen of Sheba to stand always, that is, ordinarily and frequently, before him, 1 Kings 10:8; and the Jews are said always to have resisted the Spirit of God, Acts 7:51; that is, very often, for they did it not in every individual act of their lives. Or else, in every part of time; knitting the morning and evening (the general parts of our time) together by prayer. Thus the morning and evening sacrifice is called the continual burnt offering, Exodus 29:42 Nehemiah 10:33. Or, as it is in Ephesians 6:18, en panti cairw, in every season, whenever the providence of God offers us a fair season and opportunity for prayer. Or mentally praying always, intermixing good and pious ejaculations with our most earthly and sublunary occasions. Or, having our hearts at all times ready for prayer, having the fire always on the altar, (as was required under the old law), though the sacrifice be not always offering.
And not to faint, which is the same with that, Ephesians 6:18, watching thereunto with all perseverance; and Colossians 4:2, Continue in prayer, and watch in the same. Not fainting either by reason of God’s delay to give us the things we ask of him, or through laziness, and remission of our duty, before our life doth determine. This is now what our Saviour designs to teach us in this parable which followeth.
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:Ver. 2-8. We have here the parable, and the interpretation thereof, both, Luke 18:1, in the proparabole, or the words immediately going before it, and also in an epiparabole, or some words following it, which sufficiently explain our Saviour’s scope and intention in it, viz. To assure his people, that though the Lord show a great deal of patience towards wicked men, who are the enemies of his people, and doth not presently answer their cries for a deliverance of them out of their hand; yet if they go on crying to him, he will most certainly at length deliver them. To this purpose he tells them a matter of fact, which either had happened, or might happen in the world.
There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, & c.: from hence he concludes, arguing from the lesser to the greater, and indeed there is an emphasis in every part of the comparison.
1. This was an unjust judge; God is a righteous Judge.
2. He did this for a stranger; God’s people are his own elect.
Then he assures them, that God would avenge them speedily. We may from this discourse of our Saviour observe several things.
1. That all the wrongs and injuries which the people of God suffer in this life should make them fervent and frequent in prayer to God for redressing them.
2. That notwithstanding their prayers, God may bear with their enemies long, for so much time as they shall think a long time.
3. If God’s people do not faint, but continue night and day crying to him, God will hear them, and avenge them of their adversaries.
The power that importunity hath upon sinful men, may confirm us in this thing, and ought to engage us to pray without ceasing and fainting.
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? When Christ shall come to judgment, he will find very few whose hearts have not fainted; there will be multitudes who are fallen away, through the power that temptations have upon the frailty of human nature. By faith here seems to be understood the true and proper effects of faith, growing out of it as the fruit out of the root. This premonition of our Saviour also served for an excellent caution to his disciples, that they would watch, and take care that they might be none of that part of the stars of heaven, which by the dragon’s tail should be cast down to the earth.
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.See Poole on "Luke 18:2"
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;See Poole on "Luke 18:2"
Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.See Poole on "Luke 18:2"
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.Ver. 6 See Poole on "Luke 18:2"
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?See Poole on "Luke 18:2"
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?See Poole on "Luke 18:2"
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:By the term certain, or some, he unquestionably understandeth the Pharisees and their disciples, who (as we have all along in the history of the Gospel observed) were a generation of men who were eminently guilty both of a boasting of themselves, and a scorning and despising all others.
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.Who these Pharisees, and who the Publicans, were we have had frequent occasions before to tell. The temple stood upon a hill, therefore they are said to ascend, or go up. They had in the temple set hours for prayer, as may be learned from Acts 3:1, at which some of all sorts went up to pay that homage unto God. Our Saviour mentions but two, having in it no further design than by this parable to inform His disciples, how much more acceptable to God the prayers of broken, humble, contrite hearts are, though the persons possessed of them be such as have been, or at least have been reputed, great sinners, than the prayers of those who are hypocrites, and proud, and come unto God pleading their own righteousness, in order to the obtaining of his favour.
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.From hence we may observe that thanksgiving is a part of prayer. It is said he prayed, yet we read not of any one petition he put up. His standing while he prayed is not to be found fault with, (that was a usual posture used by persons praying), unless the Pharisee made choice of it for ostentation, that he might be the better taken notice of; which was too much their fault, Matthew 6:5. Whether the term prov eauton, with himself, in this place, signifieth that he only prayed in his heart, or with a voice that could not be heard, or only that he prayed by himself, I doubt; for though our Saviour, who knew men’s thoughts, could easily repeat his prayer, supposing it only mental, or at least with a voice not audible, yet this seemeth not to suit the humour of a Pharisee, whose whole design was to be taken notice of, seen, and heard by others. He saith,
God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men, extortioners, adulterers, &c. But was this blameworthy? May we not bless God for his restraining grace, not suffering us to run into, the same excesses of riot with other men? Doubtless it is both lawful, and our duty, provided:
1. That we speak truth when we say it.
2. That we do not come to plead this as our righteousness before God.
But this Pharisee:
1. Speaks this in the pride of his heart, in the justification of himself.
2. In the scorn and contempt of his neighbour.
3. Though he were guilty of as great sins as these, though of another kind.
In the mean time we observe, that he did not attribute this negative goodness, of which he had boasted, or that positive goodness, which he will tell us of by and by, to the power of his own will. He gives thanks to God for them.
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.Twice in the sabbath, saith the Greek, but that is ordinary, to denominate the days of the week from the sabbath; the meaning is, twice between sabbath and sabbath. Those learned in the Jewish Rabbins tell us, that the Jews were wont to fast twice in a week, that is, the Pharisees and the more devout sort of them; once on the second, another time on the fifth day (which are those days which we call Monday and Thursday). From whence some tell us that Wednesday and Friday come to be with us fasting days or fish days. The Christians in former times, thinking it beneath them to be less in these exercises than the Jews, would have also two fasting days each week; and those not the same with the Jews, that they might not be thought to Judaize. If that custom had any true antiquity, I doubt not but they fasted after another rate than the papists or others now do, who pretend a religion to those days. But neither was the Pharisees practice, nor the practice of Christians, in this thing to be much admired or applauded. For fasting was always used in extraordinary cases; and the bringing extraordinary duties into ordinary practice usually ends in a mere formality. It is a good rule, neither to make ordinary duties extraordinary or rare, nor yet extraordinary duties ordinary: the doing of the first ordinarily issues in the loss of them, and quite leaving them off; the latter, in a formal lifeless performance of them.
I give tithes of all that I possess. The emphasis lieth in the word all. Others paid tithe of apples, and some fruits of the earth (of which alone tithe was due); but the Pharisees would pay tithes of those things, as to which it was generally held that the law did not strictly require them, such as pot herbs, eggs milk, cheese. Our Saviour bare them this testimony, that they paid tithe of mint, anise, and cummin, Matthew 23:23; rue, and all manner of herbs, Luke 11:42. This Pharisee boasteth of his exactness in two things, neither of which were required particularly by the law of God. Nor did he amiss in them, if he had not omitted the weightier things of the law, as our Saviour charges them to have done in both the texts before mentioned. But how came these things to make him a plea for his justification before God? Will he plead his righteousness, because he did things which God did not command him, while in the mean time he omitted those things which God had commanded? Or, what did these things signify; if they were not done out of a root of love? The law is, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart; and how could they be performed out of love, when love was one of the things which our Saviour charges them to have omitted? Of the same nature are other works, such as building of churches, and hospitals, and alms houses: the fruit is good, if the root be good; but if they be done out of ostentation, or opinion of meriting at God’s hands, men’s money (notwithstanding these things) will perish with them, for heaven is not to be purchased by our money.
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.Those who fancy the publican stood afar off from the Pharisee, because the Pharisees would suffer none but those of their sect, at least none that were under such a notoriety of disrepute as the publicans generally were, to come near them, suppose him to have been a Jew (which is not impossible): if he were a Gentile, he must stand so far off as the court of the Gentiles was from the court of Israel. This publican’s humility in his address to God is described,
1. By his posture; he looked upon the earth, as one that thought himself not worthy to look toward heaven.
2. By his action; he smote upon his breast, as one full of sorrow and trouble.
3. By the matter and form of his prayer; he confesseth himself a sinner; he fleeth unto the free grace of God.
Here is not a word of boasting, that he was not such or such, nor yet that he did thus or thus. He confesseth himself a sinner, a miserable sinner, and fleeth to the free grace of God; thereby instructing us how to make our applications to God, disclaiming any goodness or righteousness in ourselves, and fleeing to the alone merits of Christ, and the free grace of God in and through him.
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.Justified h eceinov, we translate, rather than the other; not that the other was at all justified by God; the other was justified by himself only, and those of his party. The publican was justified by God. It followeth, for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, & c. It is another of our Saviour’s sentences, often made use of by him, Matthew 23:12, and in this Gospel, Luke 14:11. It is applied to the ordinary practice of men, but here to God in the ways of his providence; he resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. The blessed Virgin magnifies God on this account, Luke 1:51,52.
And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.Ver. 15-17. See Poole on "Matthew 19:13", and following verses to Matthew 19:15, See Poole on "Mark 10:13", and following verses to Mark 10:16, where we before met with this piece of history.
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.See Poole on "Luke 18:15"
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.See Poole on "Luke 18:15"
And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?Ver. 18-27. We have met with this story at large, Matthew 19:16-26; and with (if not the same) very like to it. Mark 10:17-27. See Poole on "Matthew 19:16", and following verses to Matthew 19:26. See Poole on "Mark 10:17", and following verses to Mark 10:17. The history is of great use to us.
1. To show how far a man may go, that yet is a great way short of a truly good and spiritual state. He may know that nothing in this life will make him perfectly happy. He may desire eternal life, and salvation. He may go a great way in keeping the commandments of God, as to the letter of them. He may come to the ministers of the gospel to be further instructed. But herein he will fail, he will not come to Christ that he may have life, but fancy he should do something meritorious of it; he doth not aright understand the law, and that there is no going to heaven that way, but by the perfect observation of it, and therefore fancies himself in a much better state than he is.
2. It instructs us in this, that there is no coming to heaven by works, but by a full and perfect obedience to the whole revealed will of God.
3. That every hypocrite hath some lust or other, in which he cannot deny himself. This ruler’s lust was his immoderate love of the world, and the things thereof.
4. That it is a mighty difficult thing for any persons, but especially such as have great possessions on earth, to get to heaven.
5. As difficult and almost impossible as it may appear to men, yet nothing is impossible with God. He can change the heart of the rich, and incline it to himself; as well as the, heart of the poor. The rich man hath more impediments; but be men rich or poor, without the powerful influence of God upon the heart, without his free grace, no soul will be saved.
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.See Poole on "Luke 18:18"
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.See Poole on "Luke 18:18"
And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.See Poole on "Luke 18:18"
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.See Poole on "Luke 18:18"
And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.See Poole on "Luke 18:18"
And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!See Poole on "Luke 18:18"
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.See Poole on "Luke 18:18"
And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?See Poole on "Luke 18:18"
And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.See Poole on "Luke 18:18"
Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.Ver. 28-30. See Poole on "Matthew 19:27" and following verses to Matthew 19:30, See Poole on "Mark 10:28" and following verses to Mark 10:30. The difficulty is only to reconcile Luke 18:30 to God’s providences. For the everlasting life promised in the world to come, that is matter of faith, and not so much as seemingly contradicted by any providence of God. But how many lose much for Christ, that in this life do not receive manifold more, or a hundredfold!
Answer. It is true, if we understood it in specie. But the promise is not so to be interpreted. It is enough, if they do receive much more in valore, in value upon a true and just estimation. And this every sufferer for Christ hath, either,
1. In a joy, and peace, and assurance of God’s love, which is a thousand times more.
2. Or at least in a contentment of mind with that state into which the providence of God bringeth them: this also is much more, as any will judge it a happier state never to thirst, than to have much drink to satisfy the appetite.
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,See Poole on "Luke 18:28"
Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.See Poole on "Luke 18:28"
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.Ver. 31-34. We shall afterward, in the history of our Saviour’s passion, see all these things exactly fulfilled, and our Lord here assures his disciples, that it was but in accomplishment of all that was prophesied concerning the Messiah; nor was it any more than he had told them, Luke 9:22, and again, Luke 9:44 Matthew 20:17-19, Mark 10:32-34. Yet it is said, that they understood none of these things. The words were easy enough to be understood, but they could not reconcile them to the notion of the Messiah which they had drank in, they could not conceive how the Messiah, that should redeem Israel, should die, or be thus barbarously used by those whom he came to redeem, or save. We have great need to consider well what notions we entertain concerning the things of God. All this blindness and unbelief of the disciples was bottomed in the false notion of the Messiah which they had taken up. However, our Saviour thought fit to inculcate them, to prepare them against the offence they might take at them when the providence of God brought them forth. It is good for us to hear, though it be only for the time to come.
For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:See Poole on "Luke 18:30"
And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.See Poole on "Luke 18:30"
And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.See Poole on "Luke 18:30"
And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging:This blind man was Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, as Mark tells us, Mark 10:46. Matthew mentions two, the other two evangelists but one, as being more famous, either upon his own or his father’s account.
And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant.Ver. 36-43. See Poole on "Matthew 20:30", and following verses to Matthew 20:34, See Poole on "Mark 10:46", and following verses to Mark 10:52, where this whole history is more fully opened. It is here again very remarkable, how much Christ attributes to faith:
Thy faith hath saved thee, Luke 18:42, which can be no otherwise understood, than of faith as the condition that was required in the person to be healed, for it is most certain that Christ by his Divine power was the efficient cause of this blind man’s healing; but he exerted this Divine power upon that exercise of faith which he discerned in the blind man, whose faith seemeth to be a degree higher than that of the leper’s, Luke 17:13, who said no more than Jesus, Master. Jesus, thou Son of David, was much more than this. It speaks the blind man’s persuasion, that Christ was the Messiah; for it was an uncontrolled tradition amongst the Jews, that the Messiah was to be the Son of David. Christ rewards the least exercises of true faith, but much more the higher exercises of it. It doth not appear that this blind man was fully informed who the Messiah should be, viz. God man, but so far as he knew he professeth, he calleth Jesus the
Song of Solomon of David.
And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.See Poole on "Luke 18:36"
And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.See Poole on "Luke 18:36"
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.See Poole on "Luke 18:36"
And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him,See Poole on "Luke 18:36"
Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.See Poole on "Luke 18:36"
And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.See Poole on "Luke 18:36"
And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.See Poole on "Luke 18:36"