As in chapter 12 so in this chapter, it is the souls relationship with God in the light of the return of the Lord Jesus to set up His kingdom (verses 28 and 35). It is easy to think about things which divert our attention away from the real issues namely, how solid and secure a relationship do I have with the Lord Jesus? To have our eyes focussed on Him would mean that we did not spend time on trying to answer the unanswerable questions like why particular people suffer. T0 have our eyes on Him would mean that we would not dither. To have our eyes on Him would mean that the healing of a woman who was doubled over would cause us great joy rather than shame as we had misjudged the Saviours motives and actions. To have our eyes on Him would mean that we would not be worried about many were in Gods family but just see to it that we encouraged more to be come members of His family and to become His child if this had previously not been the case. To have our eyes fixed on Him would mean that we would not have fear of the likes of Herod.
Verses 1-9 Repent or perish
13 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
6 He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. 7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? 8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
Do we use the term good luck? Perhaps we use the term fate. The Christian does not use either the term good luck or fate. Proverbs 27.1 says, Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. I am due in work tomorrow. This may happen or it may not happen. We make plans but they are only plans. Some may know that in my spare time I am a beekeeper. There are some people who are just happy for the bees to do their own thing but the smart beekeeper tries to get more honey. The fear is that the colony may swarm off - that they will want a new house. You have to plan as a beekeeper. The hives have to be manipulated. You have to do something to prevent something. There is a finite time in which to do that something. I know that I have to do something but if I don't then I lose out on the bees don't work from me. There are parallels with Luke 13.
There are three sections which we will condense to two in this section. There are two stories in the first five verses.
Verses 1-5. There are those who lost their lives. There were those who thought they did right but they lost their lives. This was no fault of their own and yet they still lost their lives. Why does God allow this sort of thing? Perhaps that is why people speak of luck or fate. Psalm 14.1 says, The fool hath said in his heart (not even on his lip), There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. I believe in God. Verse one is gory so I will be careful even though my children like gory stories. These Galileans offered animal sacrifices but Pilate killed the offerers and mingled their blood with the sacrifices they made. They were doing the right thing but disaster overtook them. When tragedy strikes perhaps we ask, Have I done something that has caused the tragedy? Pilate did a wrong thing. What would the Lord Jesus in answer to this question? He was asked by a people who expected the Lord Jesus to overthrow the Romans. The Lord Jesus turned to them and said, Do you think these Galileans were sinners above other Galileans? Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish. They were not to ask the question why tragedy struck but to think about what would happen to them if their lives were terminated suddenly. They were not to want to see Pilate dead, to see him judged for his actions, but to think that judgment was to fall on them if they remained impenitent. Was this fair? Yes it was. In effect He was saying that we need to act on things that we do know rather than ask about things we do not know.
What about the 18 on whom the tower fell? Here there was no wicked Pilate involved. This was not wickedness but accident. Apparently they were innocent victims of a calamity. How do we explain such suffering? We do not and perhaps we cannot. His mention of the fall of the Tower of Siloam was different from His prior point: this tragedy was not as a result of a wicked man getting his way but accidents do happen. Death can come unexpectedly to anyone, irrespective of how righteous or how sinful they are. He was emphasizing that the time granted by God for repentance is limited. In John 9 there was a man who was blind from birth. He knew about the Lord Jesus. The man received his sight. The people were annoyed. Was it he who had committed the sin or his parents? No, but that the works of God might be manifest. The sin and calamity issue assumes that a victim must have done something terrible for God to allow something so tragic to happen to them. That was not the case with the blind man where it could not be his sin for he was born blind. It was not the case either with the people at the tower as this was an accident. We must be ready should an accident overtake us and we pass from time into eternity.
Verse 6 to 9 I have an allotment. I have to tend to the plants that I have in the allotment. I need to see fruit for my labour. People here were saying, Why have all these things and no fruit on the trees? The dresser says, Give it a year. I will nurture it. I will tend it. I will feed it and then if it still isn't producing fruit then cut it down. The previous verses (1-5) deal with people in calamitous situations but who were marked by procrastination. They were not prepared for what happened to them. The parable with the fig tree has a similar lesson in that we are taught not to procrastinate. There is an opportunity but if we do not believe we may miss out. It's no good waiting until we are cut down for that is too late. Sinners are to acknowledge their sin (not bringing forth fruit). There is an opportunity to repent and believe and be fruitful. Romans 6.23 says, For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. God wants me to be sorry. Someone has paid the price. We can be forgiven because He has died but we must repent and believe. II Corinthians 6.2 says, (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) The opportunity is now - we must not leave it until it is too late. In Acts 26.28 we read, Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. He had heard Paul tell him many things but he was not persuaded. The Lord Jesus is willing to save - am I willing to be saved?
Verses 10-17 All His adversaries ashamed
10 And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. 12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. 13 And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. 14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. 15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? 16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? 17 And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.
It was the Sabbath. God had revealed the need for rest upon the seventh day. The Jews, especially the religious ones, held onto this truth with a tenacity which meant that they were guilty of hypocrisy such as this ruler who received such words of condemnation from the Saviour (see verse 15). For Him to utter these words was remarkable for He had not come to judge the world for Him to encounter a situation that demanded them was sad. Verses 10-13 deal with the healing of the woman and verses 14-17 with the rulers reaction.
The section starts with the Lord Jesus. He had come from heaven to reveal the grace of God and it is manifest in this story. We need to consider Him as we consider this story. It is about the woman and the ruler but it is primarily about Him. We need to consider Him constantly in this our day and His words too for He was teaching here as the story begins. He loved to teach. We should equally love to hear the words that were taught as many are recorded for us. We are not told what he taught here and there is no criticism of the teaching though it took place inside a synagogue. We do not know the location of the synagogue (clearly it is not important to know its whereabouts) but we remember that He was on His way to Jerusalem (Luke 9.51 but see also Luke 10.38 where we know from elsewhere that the village in question is Bethany and that this village is very close to Jerusalem).
When was the last time He had taught in a synagogue on the sabbath? Luke 4.16 says, And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. Luke 6.6 says, And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. Evidently it was His custom to spend time in a place of worship on the Sabbath. We do not set aside the seventh day as Christians but rather the first day of the week. Leaving aside the discussion of which day to set aside do we do such a thing once a week and if so for what purpose? Do we treat it as a day of rest or of worship and service?
Inside the synagogue there was a woman despite all that was wrong with her. She had made the effort even though it must have been difficult to get about. She had been infirm for 18 years (note that the number 18 has already occurred in this chapter). She could in no wise lift herself up. What was true of her physically is true of each and every person born into this world in a spiritual sense. We cannot lift ourselves up. We cannot raise ourselves to heaven. We need someone to get us there. We are bowed down by sin and Satan (see verse 16) and in a hopeless and helpless state. We need someone to lift us up.
The Saviour called such a one as this to Himself. He could do her good. All she needed to do was to be obedient and come to Him in response to His call and yet that would have meant much effort in her case. There had to be determination. There had to be faith that the one who called could do her good. The Lord Jesus was about to undo the works of the wicked one but she had to accept the invitation to come. For us to be loosed from Satans power we, too, have to come. It is a simple instruction that a child could understand and yet so many baulk at the idea.
The Saviour laid His hands on her. He identified Himself with her in her weak state. It was not that He was weak. He was about to show tremendous power to reverse the ravages of deformity that had been with this woman for 18 years of her life but touching her showed He was going to enter her life by His transforming power. She was about to be transformed physically and He wanted peoples lives to be transformed spiritually. The woman who had been doubled over was now upright again as a result of the Saviours intervention. God longs to make us upright.
The ruler of the synagogue responded in a pitiful way. Perhaps he was happy with the teaching but when this miracle was done there was a response that did not do him any credit. He answered with indignation. Answered what exactly? He answered the action of the Lord Jesus with his outburst directed towards the people who were present. He was not against healing. He was against healing on this day of the week. To him healing was working and yet no charge was made for the service. There was no more done that a touch of the hands and a spoken word. How did this constitute work? Probably this woman could not work and many others who experienced the Saviours healing likewise could not work then why the man had the audacity to say that there were six days in which men (by men he really meant the Lord Jesus) ought to work and that it should be on those days that those in need should avail themselves of the services of the Healer. And yet if a person was sick and able to work then how would that person be freed from his or work to come (that is the verb that is used) to the healer? Surely this was nonsense. Instead of praising God for the might deed done and rejoicing with the woman for the wonderful change that had taken place in her life he allowed his beliefs that, sadly, were not right, to affect his better judgment. There is a danger of doing that as believers in the Lord Jesus. The work that someone is doing and evidently being used of God may not sit well with what we believe. It is easy to confuse personal preference in the service of God with standing for the truth. It is easy to condemn in the name of God something that is good that is being done and is of God because we do not have the ability to do the work. It so easy to be so critical and hypocritical as this man was. God spare us from hypercriticism and hypocrisy.
The Lord Jesus answered Him. There was no oblique speech made to the crowd though the crowd is addressed. There was a direct statement made to the man first of all followed by a general statement that was true of everyone and accepted as reasonable practice. Thou hypocrite there is no doubt to whom the words are directed. It is not you hypocrites but thou hypocrite. An animal needs watering. There is a need. The animal cannot wait until the next day until it drinks but there is a dilemma. The water that the animal needs is not accessible to the tethered beast. The water may be brought to the animal. That would be work (far more so than what the Lord Jesus as far as this woman was concerned). If that could not be done then the animal would have to be loosed and brought to the water source and especially in the Middle East where there was great heat or the animal would suffer. At the commencement of the next chapter a similar incident takes place that causes the Lord Jesus to talk about animals on the sabbath day once again.
It was OK for the man to loose his animal and lead it to drink in order that it did not suffer and in order that it stayed alive, however, it was not, in this mans mind, in order for this woman to be healed. To his mind it was not the womans fault but the Healers fault that this this breach of the law had taken place. He was happy to move an animal to water. He was not happy that a woman, and she one of his own (a daughter of Abraham), had been loosed from these bonds that she had endured day in and day out for 18 years.
Apparently the ruler was not alone in his condemnation of the Lord Jesus for what He had done. Others may not have expressed their feelings in the way that this man did but there were clearly two groups of people at the end of this story. The one group took the rulers view and are classed as adversaries. The other group was made up of the people who were prepared to rejoice with this woman at what had happened. Often the actions and words of the Lord Jesus polarised thinking among the people and this was the case on this occasion.
The adversaries were all ashamed and well they should have been. The people all rejoiced and well they did for the glorious things that were done by Him. There are two camps. There are those who are for Him and those who are against Him. No doubt the rejoicing in the Lord Jesus was temporal else these people would have shouted words on His behalf at the crucifixion. No doubt they were prepared to accept His acts of kindness with rejoicing but when it came to Him they did not receive Him. What He wants from us is not outright rejection as with the ruler and his friends, nor a superficial acceptance of Him but a wholehearted submission to his claims upon my life.
Verses 18-35 Jerusalem, Jerusalem
18 Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. 20 And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. 22 And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last. 31 The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. 32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. 33 Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! 35 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Verses 18- 22
We are given two pictures of the kingdom of God which is the earthly kingdom that God will have. It has not been established yet. The nation of Israel was waiting for the day when they would be rid of the Roman rule and be set up as a people in the kingdom of God. That was their desire and the kingdom that they wanted was one where someone with superior power would reign to depose the incumbent Romans. When the Lord Jesus came to earth it was His desire to establish a kingdom but it was not going to be a kingdom such as they wanted
Isaiah 53 v 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
The way in which the Saviour viewed the kingdom of God was as a mustard seed - normally the mustard seed is insignificant and grows up into a small shrub. Why does it wax into a great tree? It is due to unnatural growth which is a picture of a faade or of people who claim to be in the kingdom of God and bear His name but are fake for example the Pharisees and scribes. The mustard seed grows fast into a great tree but that great tree can house all sorts of birds. A kingdom without a king, for they refused Him as king in the kingdom that He wanted to establish was out of control. They would have made him king according to their reckoning but the saviour would have none of that (John 6). The picture that the Saviour paints was of a great tree that, due to the birds that lodged in its branches (birds invariably speak of spirits either good or bad; by inference the spirits are evil here see Revelation 18.2), was open to every kind of evil. Gods kingdom was to be where God was in control. We see the same thing in man made Christendom which has grown from small beginnings but the birds of the air rest in its branches these are a picture of the servants of the prince of the power of the air, the devil. The tree provides shelter shelter to confuse and keep people from the Lord Jesus.
God is different David says in Psalm 61:3 (KJV), For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.
The Lord Jesus grew up before God in what was to Him a dry and barren land. He took no sustenance from the world around Him. He allowed, in picture, no birds to dwell in His branches. Isaiah 53 v 2, For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He was someone who was ever reliant upon His God and for whom the kingdom of His life was subject to the Father above.
Then there is second picture given of this kingdom. Leaven always speaks of evil. Leaven is that which spreads throughout the whole mass giving its character to that in which it works as our verse indicates. This shows that the kingdom of God that the Jewish nation believed they were in was evil to the core in every different part. We see the same today that there is a man made system where nominal Christianity is treated like the real thing and this form of godliness spreads throughout the whole system that man has devised.
We have mentioned on many occasions that the Lord Jesus was moving towards Jerusalem making His final journey. Verse 22 lets us know that He was headed for Jerusalem (see also 17.11; 18.31; 19.11 and 28)
v23 Does the Lord Jesus really answer the question? No! He did not say who would be saved but who would perish.
The Lord Jesus did not come to answer the curiosity of men but to fulfil His Fathers will & talk about what He knew was right. John 6:38 (KJV), For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
Hebrews 10v9 Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He told the man and those around him to not worry about numbers & not to worry about others until they were right with God! It is so easy to be distracted by endless questions and not be focussed.
v24 Strive. - Make it your hearts desire and most important thing to trust in the Lord Jesus - by coming through the true and living way - Jesus Christ. Proverbs 3:5 (KJV), Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. To endeavour with strenuous zeal, strive: to obtain something
V30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last. The same honour and glory will be to those who are last to get saved as those who were first.
There is a cost to trusting in God and walking HIS will. Jesus cost was death but it would happen in Gods timing and not mans. Herod was not going to kill Him. He knew that so that He had no fear of Herod. Note that it was certain of the Pharisees who told Him to be careful. Herod would not be the one who took His life and he was not going to stop the Lord Jesus ministering in the city of Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus had a concern for this nation and their city.
Philippians 3 v 8-9, Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the Excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.
Warning to Israel Jesus had done everything as a loving God but they would not have Him. Verses 34-35 manifest the Saviours concern for Jerusalem. Their rejection of Him (ye would not) meant that God would step in and Jerusalem would be destroyed.
2 Corinthians 6 v 1-2, We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)