There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.Luke 13:1-3. There were present at that season — When Christ spake the foregoing words; some that told him of the Galileans — The followers of Judas Gaulonites, whose story Josephus has given us at large, Antiq., Luke 18:1. It appears he was the head of a sect who asserted God to be their only sovereign, and were so utterly averse to a submission to the Roman power, that they accounted it unlawful to pay tribute unto Cesar, and would rather endure the greatest torments than give any man the title of lord. Perhaps this story of the Galileans might now be mentioned to Christ with a design of leading him into a snare, whether he should justify or condemn the persons that were slain. Be this as it may, the scope and connection of the passage, as well as Christ’s answer, show, that the persons who mentioned the case of these Galileans thought God had permitted them to be massacred at their devotions for some extraordinary wickedness; thus insinuating a very wrong idea of divine providence. And Jesus said, Suppose ye, &c. — Christ “not only condemned the notion now mentioned, but told them expressly that these Galileans were not to be reckoned greater sinners than others, because they had been overtaken by so severe a calamity, and exhorted them, instead of forming harsh judgments of others from such examples of sufferings, to improve them as inducements unto themselves to repent, assuring them that if they did not they should all likewise perish;” or, perish in a similar manner, as the word ωσαυτως implies. And, as a general and national repentance did not take place, Christ’s threatening was most awfully verified. For there was a remarkable resemblance between the fate of these Galileans, and that of the main body of the Jewish nation; the flower of which was slain at Jerusalem by the Roman sword, or by the falling of walls and towers, while they were assembled at one of their great festivals: and many thousands of them perished in the temple itself, and, as their own historian relates, were literally buried under its ruins. Many, who came from far to attend the passover, fell before their sacrifices; and when Titus took the city a multitude of dead bodies lay round the altar.
And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
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?Luke 13:4. Or those eighteen, &c. — The case here referred to seems to have occurred lately, and may seem, in some respects, more to the purpose than the former, as there was no human interposition attending the death of these men; so that their destruction appeared to be more immediately from Providence than that of the Galileans, whom Pilate had massacred: on whom the tower in Siloam fell — From the fountain of Siloam, which was without the walls of Jerusalem, a little stream flowed into the city, (Isaiah 8:6,) which was received in a kind of basin, thought by some to be the same with the pool of Bethesda. Being near the temple, it is no wonder that many frequented it for purification. And the calamity here spoken of, occasioned by the fall of a neighbouring tower, had probably happened at some late feast; and some of Christ’s hearers might then have been at Jerusalem.
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
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.Luke 13:6-7. And he spake also this parable — With a view to awaken them more effectually to a deep and serious repentance: A certain man had a fig-tree in his vineyard — And because it was planted in good soil, he came and sought fruit thereon — Having good reason to expect it. Observe, he did not send, but came himself, which manifested his great desire to find fruit. Thus God came in the person of his Son, to his vineyard, the Jewish Church, Isaiah 5:1-7, seeking the fruits of righteousness. Observe, reader, the God of heaven requires and expects fruit from those that have a place in his vineyard, that are favoured with his word and ordinances, and the various means of edification and salvation. The leaves of an outward profession will not satisfy him; the crying Lord, Lord; nor will the blossoms of beginning well and promising fair suffice: there must be fruit; fruits meet for repentance, and proper to manifest that the gospel is not heard, and the ordinances of God administered and attended, in vain. And found none — Little or no fruit did the Lord Jesus find produced by the Jewish people when he came to visit them. There was profession, indeed, in abundance, but little fruit. And it is an awful consideration still how many enjoy the privileges of the gospel, and yet bear no fruit to God’s glory; neither ceasing to do evil, nor learning to do well, perhaps in almost any one instance; but going on in their old course of sin and vanity, unchanged, unreformed, both in principle and practice. Then said he to the dresser of his vineyard — To the vine-dresser, as Dr. Campbell renders it. We may either understand God the Father by him that had the vineyard, and Christ by him that kept and dressed it; or Christ himself is he that hath it, and his ministers are the keepers and dressers of it. Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree — The length of time it has been barren, while it has been favoured with all advantages for being fruitful, shows that it is good for nothing. Cut it down — Root it out, and throw it away; why cumbereth it the ground? — That is, not only beareth no fruit, but taketh up the ground of another tree that would bear some. This is spoken either by God the Father to Christ as the dresser of the vineyard, to whom all judgment is committed, or by him to the ministers of his gospel, who are in his name to declare this doom. “Many have supposed that the three years here mentioned allude to the time of Christ’s personal ministry, which, as most have computed the chronology of the New Testament, had now lasted three years; but it is certain the patience of God bore with them much longer than another year. Grotius, therefore, thinks it more probable it may refer to the nature of a fig-tree, which, if it bear at all, generally begins to do it within three years after it is planted; but might certainly be looked on as barren, if it had disappointed the expectation of the planter three years together, after the time in which it should have yielded fruit.” — Doddridge. Or, perhaps, the years in this parable may denote the whole duration of the Jewish dispensation. God came seeking fruit of the Jews in one space of time before the Babylonish captivity; in another, after their restoration; and in another again, in and by the preaching of John the Baptist, and of Christ himself. “But though this parable was originally meant of the Jews, it may be applied to unfruitful professors of religion in every age; for it exhibits a rule observed in the divine administration which should strike terror into all who enjoy spiritual privileges without improving them. Every man is allowed a certain time of trial, during which he enjoys the means and helps necessary to piety. If he continues ignorant of God’s visitation, despises the riches of the divine mercy, and goes on obstinately in sin, these advantages are commonly taken away from him, his day of grace ends, the utmost term of God’s patience is passed for ever, the Divine Spirit, being grieved, is provoked to depart, and the man is delivered over to a hardened heart, after which his repentance and salvation become impossible.” — Macknight.
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?
And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:Luke 13:8-9. And he said, Let it alone this year also — Here we have the vine-dresser’s intercession for the barren fig-tree. Thus Christ the great Intercessor interceded for the Jewish Church and people, and thus, as he ever liveth, he continues to intercede for all unfruitful professors, and other sinners. And all faithful ministers of the gospel are intercessors for their flocks. They that dress the vineyard intercede for it, and pray for those to whom they preach. Observe, reader, the vine-dresser does not pray that the barren tree might never be cut down, but that it might not be cut down immediately; that a little further space might be granted to try whether it would bear fruit. Till I shall dig about it, &c. — Here the vine-dresser promises to improve this reprieve, if it be granted, for our prayers must always be seconded by our endeavours. When we request God’s grace, it must be with an humble resolution to do our duty, otherwise we mock God, and show that we do not rightly value the mercy we pray for. He engages to dig about the tree and dung it: for unfruitful Christians must be awakened by the terrors of the law, which, as it were, break up the ground, and then encouraged by the promises of the gospel, which may be compared to the application of warming and fattening manure to a tree: both methods must be tried, the one preparing for the other, and both are found by experience to be scarce sufficient. If it bear fruit, well — There being evidently an ellipsis in the original here, (for there is nothing answering to the word well,) Mr. Wesley and Dr. Campbell render the verse, Perhaps it will bear fruit; but if not, thou mayest afterward cut it down — Though God bear long, he will not bear always with unfruitful professors: his patience, if abused, will have an end, and will give way to that wrath which will have no end. And the longer he hath waited, and the more cost, so to speak, he has been at with sinners, the greater will be their destruction when it comes. And those who now intercede for them, and take pains with them, if they persist in their unfruitfulness, will be even content to see them cut down, and will have no more to plead in their behalf. Their best friends will acquiesce in, nay, will approve of, and applaud the righteous judgment of God, in the day of the manifestation of it; Revelation 15:3-4. Thus, in this parable, primarily intended, as we have observed, to be applied to the Jews, our Lord represented to that people God’s displeasure against them for having neglected to improve, or, to speak more properly, for having abused the many advantages and opportunities vouchsafed to them, as planted in the vineyard of his church; and in an awful manner intimated, that though they had hitherto, at his intercession, been spared, and a further time of trial afforded them; yet, if they continued unfruitful under the additional cultivation they were shortly to receive, on the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the proposal of the gospel, in its full extent and evidence; that is, under the last and best means with which they should yet be favoured, no more pains would be taken with them, nor had they any thing to expect but speedy, irresistible, and irrecoverable ruin.
And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.Luke 13:10-13. He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath — Our Lord Jesus spent his sabbaths in the synagogues, and we should make conscience of doing so; that is, of attending places of worship, as we have opportunity, and not think that we can spend our sabbaths as well at home, in praying and reading good books; for public worship is a divine institution, to which we must bear our testimony, though the congregation may consist but of two or three. And generally, when Jesus was in the synagogues, ην διδασκων, he was teaching there, knowing that the people were perishing for lack of instruction. On this occasion, to confirm the doctrine which he preached, and recommend it as important, faithful, and worthy of all acceptation, he wrought a signal miracle of mercy. For, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity — Ασθενειας, of weakness; eighteen years — During which she had been bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself — Or stand straight. The evil spirit, which possessed her, afflicted her in this manner. To many doubtless, it appeared a natural distemper. Would not a modern physician have termed it a nervous case? That by a spirit of infirmity we are to understand an infirmity produced by an evil spirit, we learn from our Lord’s own explanation of the phrase, Luke 13:16, where he says, Satan had bound this woman eighteen years. When Jesus saw her — Knowing perfectly all the sad circumstances of her affliction, and the difficulty with which she was now come to attend the solemnity of divine worship there; he called her to him — It does not appear that she had made any application to him, or had any expectation of relief from him; but, though she did not call, he answered. She came to him to be taught, and to receive spiritual benefit, and he gave her deliverance from her bodily infirmity. Thus, those whose first and principal care is for their souls, do best promote the true interests of their bodies likewise; because they seek the kingdom of God, other things are added to them. He said, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity — Thou hast long been labouring under it, but thou art now at length released from it. Let not those despair, therefore, whose disease has been of long continuance, and is inveterate. God can relieve them, and has he not encouraged them to apply to him, and wait for him? Reader, remember, he is a present help, a help at hand in trouble, and hath said, Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee; and thou shalt glorify me. So this woman did; immediately upon Christ’s laying his hands on her, and healing her, she glorified God — Praised him before the whole assembly, for the signal and unexpected favour, declaring, doubtless, how long her affliction had continued, and how desperate and incurable it had been thought to be.
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.
And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.
And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
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.Luke 13:14-17. And the ruler of the synagogue — Instead of joining in acknowledgments of the divine power and goodness, displayed in this gracious action of our Lord; answered — The woman’s praises, with indignation — As if Christ had committed some heinous crime in healing this poor woman! He endeavoured, however, to disguise his wrath under the form of piety and zeal; as if he was angry only because the cure was wrought on the sabbath day; saying unto the people, There are six days, &c., in them therefore come and be healed — See how light he makes of the miracles which Christ wrought, as if they were things of course, which might be done by any one any day of the week. One would have thought, that the extraordinary miracle now wrought might have been sufficient to convince him that Jesus was a divinely-commissioned teacher, who spoke and acted by authority from God; and that the circumstance of the miracle’s being done on the sabbath day could not have served to enable him to evade the conviction. But what light can shine so clearly or strongly against which a spirit of bigotry and enmity to Christ, and his gospel, will not serve to shut men’s eyes? Never was such honour done to the synagogue of which he was ruler, as Christ had now done to it; and yet he had indignation at it! The Lord then answered him, Thou hypocrite, &c. — Our Lord gives him this appellation, because the real motive of his speaking was envy, not (as he pretended) pure zeal for the glory of God. Ought not this woman — Ought not any human creature, which is far better than an ox or an ass: much more this daughter of Abraham — Probably in a spiritual as well as a natural sense; to be loosed? Thus the Lord soon put this hypocritical ruler to silence, by placing the action with which he found fault in the light of their own avowed practice. They loosed and led their cattle on the sabbath to water, and thought the mercy of the work justified them in so doing. He, by uttering a word only, had loosed a woman, a reasonable creature, and a daughter of Abraham, that had been bound with an incurable distemper, not for a single day, but so long a time as eighteen years. Without doubt the far greater mercy of this and the other godlike works which Jesus did, justified his performing them on the sabbath day, as the ruler might easily have seen, had he not been wholly blinded by his superstition. When he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed, &c. — The folly even of the men of learning among the Jews, conspicuous in this and some other instances mentioned in the gospels, shows the malignant nature of superstition. It is capable of extinguishing reason, of banishing compassion, and of eradicating the most essential principles and feelings of the human mind.
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?
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?
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.
Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it?Luke 13:18-21. Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? — After the Lord had thus silenced the ruler of the synagogue, and while he observed the rejoicings of the people, he reflected with pleasure on the reason and truth which so effectually supported his kingdom. For he delivered a second time the parables of the grain of mustard-seed, and of the leaven, to show the efficacious operation of the gospel upon the minds of men, and its speedy propagation through the world in spite of all opposition. See notes on Matthew 13:31-33.
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.
And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God?
It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.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.
Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
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:Luke 13:25-27. When once the master of the house is risen up — Christ is the master of the house, that will take cognizance of the character and conduct of all that belong to it, or occasionally have a place in it. It now seems as if he left things at large, and made no distinction between his faithful servants and those who falsely pretend to be such. But the time is coming when he will rise up and shut to the door — Namely, a door of distinction and separation between hypocrites and true believers; between formalists, who have only a name to live, and such as are truly alive to God. Now in the temple of the church there are carnal professors, who worship in the outer court, and spiritual worshippers, who worship within the veil; between these the door is now open, and they meet promiscuously in the same external performances; but when the master of the house is risen up, the door will be shut between them, and those who are in the outer court shall be kept out, and remain excluded for ever. Alas! how many that were very confident they should be saved, will be rejected in the day of trial! And ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door — Then, neither asking, nor seeking, nor knocking, nay, nor agonizing, will avail any thing. Let us now, therefore, strive and agonize, by faith, prayer, holiness, patience. Observe, reader, many are ruined by an ill-grounded hope of heaven, which they never once distrusted or called in question; and they conclude their state as good, because they never doubted the goodness of it. They call Christ, Lord, as if they were his servants; nay, in token of their confidence and importunity, they double the expression, Lord, Lord; and are now desirous to enter in by that door which they formerly slighted, and would now gladly have a place among those serious Christians whom they formerly despised! And he shall answer and say, I know you not, &c. — I know my sheep, and am known of mine; but I know not you; you do not belong to my family; you are neither my servants nor my subjects; I have neither employed nor governed you. Alas! how new, how late, how lasting will be the sense which they will now have of their misery! Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, &c. — Over and above the privileges which you have enjoyed by the Mosaic dispensation, you shall plead, on that occasion, the peculiar favour which I showed you in the days of my flesh, by exercising my ministry among you, and by conversing familiarly with you. But he shall say, &c. — He will persist in disowning you, whatever acquaintance with him you may pretend to; declaring again, I know you not whence ye are — All the former relations to which you refer, are, as it were, blotted from my remembrance, since your hearts were still insincere, or unchanged, and your lives unsuitable to your fair professions; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity — For none like you can ever be admitted here. In the character which he here gives them, we have the reason of their doom: they were, and continued to be, workers of iniquity, and under a pretence of piety, persisted, though perhaps secretly, in the practice of sin.
Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.
But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
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.Luke 13:28-30. There shall be weeping, &c. — Here he repeats what he had said when he commended the centurion’s faith. See on Matthew 8:11-12. As if he said, How little soever you may now regard it, the awful word, Depart from me, &c., will wound you to the heart, and throw you into agonies of everlasting despair, attended with the bitterest weeping and gnashing of teeth — For madness and rage; when you shall see Abraham, &c. — Your holy ancestors; and all the prophets — Of the succeeding ages; in the kingdom of God — Actually possessed of God’s kingdom of glory; and shall find yourselves thrust out — Rejected and excluded with just contempt and indignation. And they shall come from the east, &c. — From the most distant heathen lands; and shall sit down in the kingdom of God — In rejoicing and admiring multitudes, to partake of the heavenly banquet with your pious ancestors, while you are utterly and for ever excluded from it. Here, therefore, as well as in Matthew, our Lord plainly affirms that many others, besides Jews, shall be saved. And there are last — There are many who are now last in point of religious advantages, that shall then be first in honour and happiness; and there are first, &c. — Many who now appear first in the enjoyment of privileges, which, on account of the abuse thereof, shall be last — Shall appear as the most infamous and miserable of mankind. See on Matthew 19:30; Matthew 20:16.
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.
And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.
The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.Luke 13:31-32. The same day there came certain of the Pharisees — Who pretended friendship, and a great concern for his safety; saying, Get thee out and depart hence — Withdraw from this country into the territories of some other prince; for Herod — In whose dominions thou now art; will kill thee — Greek, θελει σε αποκτειναι, intends, or rather, is determined to kill thee. The term will, in our translation of this clause, is a mere sign of the future time, and declares no more than that the event spoken of would take place. But this is not what is declared by the evangelist. His expression denotes that, at that very time, it was Herod’s purpose to kill him. It is much to be doubted whether these Pharisees had any ground at all for making this declaration respecting Herod’s resolution. From the known disposition of the Pharisees, who were always Christ’s enemies, it seems not improbable that their concern for his safety was reigned, and that their real design was to intimidate him, and make him flee into Judea, not doubting that the haughty priests at Jerusalem would fall upon some method of putting him to death. Herod, too, might possibly be in the plot, for it seems he now began to take umbrage at Christ’s fame and authority, fearing that they might occasion him some embarrassment, either with his people or with the Romans. But he dreaded to make an attempt on his life, remembering the agonies of mind he had suffered on account of the Baptist’s murder. He therefore, probably, sent the Pharisees to him with the message above mentioned. In this view there was a peculiar propriety in our Lord’s calling him a fox, rather than a lion, wolf, or bear; to which savage beasts the prophets had sometimes, with a plainness becoming their character, compared wicked princes. And he said, Go ye, and tell that fox, &c. — That crafty, wicked, and murderous prince; behold, I cast out devils and do cures — In thy dominions. With what majesty does he speak to his enemies! With what tenderness to his friends! to-day and to-morrow — And carry on my work a little while longer; and the third day I shall be perfected — For the appointed time will quickly come when I shall have finished my course, and have done all that I intend to do here. It is probable our Lord is not to be understood here as speaking exactly of three days, but of a short period of time: for in many places of the Old Testament similar expressions, such as yesterday, and the third day, signify lately, or a little while ago; and, on this interpretation, the word τελειουμαι, I shall be perfected, may refer to his finishing the work of redemption, and being by death consecrated to his office, as the great High-Priest and Captain of our salvation, as the same word is used Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 7:28. It is proper to observe here, with regard to our Lord’s terming Herod a fox, that we must carefully distinguish between those things wherein Christ is our pattern, and those which were peculiar to his office. His extraordinary office justified him in using that severity of language, when speaking of wicked princes and corrupt teachers, to which we have no call: and by which we should only bring scandal on religion, and ruin on ourselves, while we irritated, rather than convinced or reformed, those whom we so indecently rebuked.
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.
Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.Luke 13:33-35. Nevertheless, I must walk to-day, &c. — Notwithstanding all that he can do, I shall, for the short time I have left, do the works of Him that sent me, without being afraid of any man; because my life cannot be taken from me till the time come, which is appointed of God. When that period is arrived, I shall be offered up, yet not here, but in the bloody city. For it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem — That unhappy city, which claims prescription for murdering the messengers of God. Such cruelty and malice cannot be found elsewhere. If a true prophet was put to death, he was prosecuted as a false prophet. Now the supreme court, whose prerogative it was to judge prophets, had its seat at Jerusalem. Inferior courts did not take cognizance of such causes; and therefore, if a prophet was put to death, it must be at Jerusalem. So Dr. Lightfoot here. Our Lord, “in saying a prophet could not perish out of that city, insinuated, that he knew the intentions of the Pharisees too well to pay any regard to their advice respecting departing from Galilee for fear of Herod. Or, in making this observation, his design may have been to display the wickedness of that city, the inhabitants of which had been, in every age, the chief enemies of the messengers of God: and to this agrees what our Lord says of Jerusalem in the pathetic lamentation which he now utters concerning it, on account of its crimes, its obstinacy, and its punishment.”
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem — Thou guilty and miserable city, which, though thou hast been distinguished by divine favours beyond any place on earth, yet, with the utmost ingratitude and cruelty, killest the prophets, and stonest, as the vilest malefactors, them that are sent unto thee — As the ambassadors of God. How often would I have gathered thy children — Unto myself, with all the tenderness of paternal love; as a hen her brood under her wings — To cherish and defend them. Three solemn visits he had made to Jerusalem, since his baptism, for this very purpose. And ye would not — You were still regardless of the offers of my grace, and would not be persuaded to hearken to my call, and to accept my favour. And now, behold, with awful dread, and mark the prediction and event: your house is left unto you desolate — Is now irrevocably consigned to desolation and destruction. For verily I say unto you — I will quickly cease my labours among you, and withdraw from you in such righteous displeasure, that ye shall not see me until the time come when, taught by your calamities, ye shall be ready and disposed to say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord — Wishing in vain for the succour of him whom you now despise. See on Matthew 23:37-39. This does not imply that they should then or ever see Jesus at all; but only that they would earnestly wish for the Messiah, and, in the extremity of their distress, be ready to entertain any one who might offer himself under that character. Compare Luke 17:22-23.
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!
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.