121-114 Luke Chapter 13
A Lesson from Tragedy 1-5
Some Galileans reported that a group of Galileans were slain at Pilate’s orders. It is probable that these Galileans were revolutionaries against Roman rule. Why was this report brought to Jesus? By the response of Jesus we see that the reporters felt that the Galileans had received more than they deserved. The smug self-righteousness of the reporters caused them to draw the wrong conclusion. Jesus told them the only correct conclusion. The tragedy reminds us of our own sin and the need for repentance.
Jesus brought to their mind a tragedy of a different kind. It was an accident in Jerusalem that killed eighteen people. The first century historian Josephus recorded that Pilate financed an aqueduct to Jerusalem using funds from the Temple. This was an unpopular action on Pilate’s part and the accident may have occurred during the construction project. If that was the case, the pious Jews would have thought the accident was a divine judgment on the workers who were paid with sacred money.
Jesus was enlarging His point with a tragedy that was more of an accident that an execution by Pilate. Popular theology of the day assumed that such accidents were divine judgments on sinners. Many in the Jewish community would have reached this conclusion.
Jesus denied this argument. He did not deny that the workers were sinners, nor did He deny that a person’s sin could result in death. What Jesus did do was to focus the issue on the listeners who would pass quick judgment on others while ignoring their own sin.
When tragedy comes upon people, the only lesson to be learned is our own need for a right relationship with God. We should not be so busy passing judgment on others as we are tending to our own spiritual needs.
Judgment on Fruitlessness 6-9
Jesus tells a parable that compliments the verses we have just read. Man has two choices either repent or face judgment. The opportunity for repentance is near over. Then the judgment will come.
The owner of the fig tree had every reason to expect fruit on the tree after three years. So he ordered it to be cut done because it was useless and used up the soil. The vineyard keeper ask the owner to allow one more year and the owner allowed this grace. The vineyard keeper took every action to encourage the tree to bear fruit.
The point of this parable is that God is patient and forbearing. When people refuse to repent they are bound for doom. (2 Peter 3:8-10) The immediate application was to the Israel people. (Isaiah 5:1-7) During the time of John the Baptist and Jesus was a time of great opportunity. This opportunity was not yet past, but it soon would be, and then it would be too late.
Even as the immediate application was to the Israelite people the principles apply to people and groups of every generation. No issue is more urgent that the need to repent, as the alternative is judgment.
Is This an Emergency? 10-17
This is the last time that Jesus taught in the synagogue in the Gospel of Luke. In Luke 6:6-11 Jesus is healing a man on the Sabbath. Jewish tradition allowed the treatment of people who were in life threatening situations on the Sabbath. But Jesus was healing people whom the Jewish leaders did not consider life threatening.
This explains why the ruler of the synagogue was angry. He believed that the forth commandment had been broken. The ruler was angry with Jesus but he addressed himself to the people. He accused the people of coming to the synagogue for healing on the Sabbath. Jesus sought out a woman and healed her.
The view point of the ruler was pure hypocrisy. The traditional interpretation of the forth commandment was that none could be cared for on the Sabbath. The Sabbath regulations even allow a person to draw water as long as they did not carry the water to the animal.
Jesus had forced them to face this question. Are animals better than humans? For eighteen years the woman had been bound by a crippling disease. If the animal could be loosed its bonds on the Sabbath, why not a human being?
Jesus and the ruler were standing on what they thought were the moral obligations for the Sabbath. But Jesus had restored its original intent. God had given the Sabbath as a sign of liberation. (Deuteronomy 5:16; Mark 2:27) It is not only lawful to do good on the Sabbath it is a moral obligation to do so.
The case of the woman was an emergency. Not because it could wait for another day but because Jesus saw it as an emergency. The woman had been bound for eighteen years and He had an opportunity to lift that burden off of her. This on the day of God’s sign of liberating grace and power. It is no wonder that the people were thrilled and His adversaries were shamed.
God’s Kingdom Will Come 18-21
Jesus tells two parables, one of the mustard seed, (18-19) and of the leaven, (20-21) to affirm the certainty of God’s purpose.
The mustard seed grows into a tree large enough to nest many birds. The Kingdom will extend like the mustard tree and influence many. The birds may include the inclusion of the Gentiles.
Only a tiny amount of leaven is needed for a large amount of dough. Even so will the influence of God’s work permeate many human lives and society.
The Number of the Saved 22-27
The question in verse 23 is a popular one for those who consider themselves to be saved. By the answer that Jesus gave we can speculate this was the situation here.
As Jesus often did He refocused the issue from the future to the present, and from others to self. Without answering their question Jesus has another question, are you among the saved?
The door of salvation is open to any who would enter. “Strive” and “narrow” in verse 24 do not refer to a works salvation. Jesus is positioning the difficulties faced in being willing to make the commitment to the way of the cross. The difficulty that people have is entering from the human side, not from God’s side.
Jesus says nothing about those who strive failing to enter. The many who will not be able to enter are those who wait until the door is closed before they try to enter. There is no amount of effort or any excuse that will avail once the door is closed.
Who’s Coming to Dinner? 28-30
Jesus’ reference too many might seem to imply that few will be saved. On the other hand verses 28-30 refer to the many who will be saved. The point is that many who expected to be inside will find themselves on the outside. Their places will be taken by those many whom the former group never expected.
God’s Kingdom, as Himself, is bigger than people can imagine. Jesus is here warning that a twofold shock awaits many in regard to future salvation. Many who expect to be saved will not and many who were not expected will be saved.
In verse 28 we learn that Israel cannot rely on their heritage as Abraham’s children to be saved. The Patriarchs and prophets will be on the inside but many of the other Israelites will not. The verses of Isaiah 45:6 and 49:12 are used to describe the inclusion of the Gentiles in the future feast in God’s Kingdom. Those who had assumed they would be first will be last, while the last became first.
A Death Threat 31-33
Most of Jesus’ ministry was in Galilee and Perea, an area that was under the control of Herod. Jerusalem was in Judea, where Pontus Pilate was the governor.
We are not given explanation as to why the Pharisees delivered the death threat from Herod. Jesus replied to the Pharisees with words directed to Herod. This means Jesus accepted the report as accurate. The Pharisees may have wanted Jesus to go to Judea. There their power and influence was greater than Herod’s.
Jesus called Herod “that fox.” He may have been making a reference to the cunning of a fox in regards to Herod. If this is true, then Jesus was discounting Herod’s death threat as a strategy to try and frighten Jesus away.
“Fox” also in that day an insignificant person in comparison to a “lion,” a person of true greatness. Jesus had little liking for Herod. When the two did meet Jesus did not even answer his questions.
By Jesus’ reply He showed that He would not be manipulated. Jesus would continue His ministry according to His time schedule. Jesus was bound for Jerusalem but He would get there in His own time not Herod’s. Jerusalem was the traditional place the prophets were killed.
Rejected Love 34-35
There is no greater tragedy than for people to reject God’s love. Jesus said “How often would I … and you would not.” It was the intent of the Lord to gather His people unto Himself. What had thwarted that divine plan? God willed it, but they did not! Some of God’s will is absolute and unconditional. However, His will to draw people unto Himself is always conditioned on the people’s response. Love and relationship cannot be forced. Love can only be given freely. Love and freedom go together. Love can be accepted and it can also be rejected.
God then reluctantly gives the people what them want, to be left alone. The use of the word “house” may mean the Temple or the nation. The outward trapping of religion would be present but God would not.
The last part of verse has been interpreted in a number of ways. The royal entry, the resurrection, the fall of Jerusalem, and the second coming.
Although many reject God’s love and He allows them to do so, His work will continue to its competition. People can refuse God’s Kingdom but they cannot stop it. His Kingdom shall came and His will shall be done.
The Messianic Banquet
Jesus through His teaching and miracles He had announced that God’s messianic banquet was about to be served. All may come and feast at the table of salvation in God’s Kingdom.
Jesus’ description of His ministry was a wedding feast. Jesus Himself was the groom and the Kingdom of God as a great banquet. All were invited, but many would refuse to come. Jesus is often portrayed as eating with diverse people, from the despised tax collectors to pious Pharisees. Jesus also used imagery of feasting and banquets in His teaching and parables. He had fed huge multitudes with a few loaves and fish.
The Old Testament background of His imagery is Isaiah 25:6, where God’s final salvation is described as a great feast for all people.
Jesus’ public ministry marked the invitation to the banquet and its inauguration. Through His death and resurrection, He achieved salvation. All people can now come to God’s banquet table and receive the spiritual blessings of the Kingdom. At the same time, this banquet awaits its final consummation in the future Kingdom, when Jesus’ disciple will “eat and drink at my table in the Kingdom” and “will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Invitation to Discipleship
The general theme of chapter 14 is the invitation to the discipleship of Jesus. The words of verses 1-24 were spoken at a meal in the house of a Pharisee. Jesus was dealing with people whose pride caused them to presume that they were already destined for the Kingdom. Jesus’ invitation was addressed to the crowds that had been following him, but had little or no idea of what was involved in becoming real followers.