Matthew Poole's Commentary
There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.Luke 13:1-5 Christ showeth that temporal calamities are no sure
signs of sinfulness, but that others should take
warning by them, and repent.
Luke 13:6-9 The parable of the fig tree that was ordered to be
cut down for being fruitless.
Luke 13:10-17 Christ healeth a woman that had been long bowed
together, and putteth the hypocritical ruler of the
synagogue to silence.
Luke 13:18,19 He likens the progress of the gospel to a grain of
Luke 13:20-22 and to leaven.
Luke 13:23-30 Being asked of the number of the saved, he exhorteth
to strive to enter in at the strait gate,
Luke 13:31-35 He will not be diverted from his course through fear
of Herod; and laments over the approaching
desolation of Jerusalem.
Ver. 1-5. The Holy Scriptures giving us no account of these two stories to which our Saviour doth here refer, and those who have wrote the history of the Jews having given us no account of them, interpreters are at a great loss to determine any thing about them. We read of one Judas of Galilee, who drew away much people after him, and perished, Acts 5:37. It is said that he seduced people from their obedience to the Roman emperor, persuading them not to acknowledge him as their governor, nor to pay tribute to the Romans. It is guessed by interpreters, that some of this faction coming up to the passover, (for they were Jews), Pilate fell upon them, and slew them while they were sacrificing. Others think that these were some remnant of Judas’s faction, but Samaritans, and slain while they were sacrificing at their temple in Mount Gerizim, and that (though Samaritans) they were called Galilaeans, because Judas, the head of their faction, was such. The reader is at liberty to choose which of these he thinks most probable, for I find no other account given by any. The latter is prejudiced by our Saviour’s calling them Galilaeans, and advantaged by the desperate hatred which the Jews had to the Samaritans, which might make them more prone to censure any passages of Divine providence severe towards them. But what the certain crime or provocation was we cannot say; we are sure that de facto the thing was true, Pilate did mingle the blood of some Galilaeans with their sacrifices, of which a report was brought to Christ. We are at the same loss for those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell. Siloe, or Siloa, was the name of a small fountain at the foot of Mount Zion, which, as we are told, did not constantly, but at certain times, send out waters, which running through hollow places of the earth, and mines and quarries of stone, made a great noise. Isaiah mentions it, Isaiah 8:6. There was also a pool in Jerusalem which had that name, and had a wall built by it, Nehemiah 3:15. Christ sent the blind man to go and wash there, John 9:7. Turrets are (as we know) very usual upon walls. It seems one of these towers fell, and slew eighteen persons, come thither either to wash themselves, or by reason of some healing virtue in those waters, upon what occasion we cannot determine; but there they perished. This story seems to have been something older than the other. Our Saviour either had heard what some people had said, or at least knew what they would say upon those accidents, for we are mightily prone to pass uncharitable judgments upon persons perishing suddenly, especially if they die by a violent death. As he therefore took all occasions to press upon them repentance, so he doth not think fit to omit one so fair; and though he doth not, by what he saith, forbid us to observe such extraordinary providences, and to whom they happen, but willeth us to hear and fear; yet he tells them, there were many Galilaeans as bad as they, who unless they repented, that is, being sensible of, heartily turned from, the wickedness of their ways, would perish also: thereby teaching us,
1. That punishments come upon people for their sins, and more signal punishments for more signal sinnings.
2. That although God sometimes by his providence signally punishes some for notorious sinnings, yet he spareth more such sinners than he so signally punishes.
3. That therefore none can conclude from such signal punishments, that such persons punished were greater sinners than they.
4. That the best use we can make of such reports, and spectacles of notorious sinners, more than ordinarily punished, is to examine ourselves, and to repent, lest we also perish.
And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?See Poole on "Luke 13:1"
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.See Poole on "Luke 13:1"
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?See Poole on "Luke 13:1"
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.See Poole on "Luke 13:4"
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.Ver. 6-9. This parable very fitly coheres with the preceding discourse: there he had let his hearers know, that though God spareth some sinners, and hath a longer patience with them than others, though they be every whit as great transgressors, in expectation still that they should bring forth fruit; yet if they answer not the means which God useth, with them to bring them to repentance, they shall not be spared long, but vengeance shall overtake them also. Those who think that this parable concerned not the Jews only, but all mankind, or more especially those who are in the pale of the church, judge well, provided that they allow it to have been spoken with a primary reference to that nation, amongst whom Christ had now been preaching and working miracles three years, and expected the fruits of repentance and reformation from them in vain. I do not think it any prejudice to this, that the vine dresser begged but for one year longer, whereas after this Christ had patience with them forty years, before they were destroyed; for one year may not be intended strictly, (though the three years be), but to signify some little time more, that the apostles might use all probable means to reclaim them, and make them more fruitful. Grotius thinks the term of three years is used, because every fig tree (not wholly barren) brought forth fruit one year in three; which notion (if true) of that plant is valuable, but may be of ill consequence, if any should thence conclude, that men’s days of grace exceed not three years: yet thus much is observable, that when God sends a faithful minister to a place, the greatest success and blessing of his ministry is within a few of his first years in a place. The parable doubtless extendeth much further than to the people of the Jews, and learns us all these lessons:
1. That where God plants any one within the pale of his church, he looks he or she should bring forth the fruits of repentance and faith.
2. That many are so planted, yet bring forth no fruit.
3. That there is a determined time beyond which God will not bear with barren souls.
4. That barren souls are not only useless, but also spoil others; thn ghn katargei, they make the soil unprofitable: a quench coal spoils the fire.
5. That faithful ministers will be very earnest with God to spare even barren souls.
6. That it is their work and duty to use all probable means to make barren souls fruitful. I will dig about it, and dung it.
7. That bearing fruit at last will save souls from ruin and destruction.
8. That out it every soul, though standing in God’s vineyard, will at last perish eternally.
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?See Poole on "Luke 13:6"
And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:See Poole on "Luke 13:6"
And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.See Poole on "Luke 13:6"
And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.Ver. 10-13. Though the Greek be on the sabbaths, which might signify any day of the week, yet it is manifest by what followeth that this miracle was wrought upon the seventh day, which was the Jewish sabbath, else the ruler of the synagogue would not have quarrelled with our Saviour about it. What is meant here, Luke 13:11, by a spirit of infirmity, would not easily be determined, whether only a very great infirmity, or an infirmity in the bringing and continuing of which upon her the devil had a great instrumentality, but for Luke 13:16, where she is said to be one that Satan had bound; she was a cripple, and so bowed down that she could not lift up herself, and thus she had been for eighteen years, so as the distemper was inveterate, and out of the course of ordinary cure. Christ, who, as to people’s bodily infirmities, was sometimes found of those that sought him not, seeing her, calleth her to him, and saith,
Woman, thou art loosed from thy infirmity. And he laid his hands on her; and immediately she was made straight. The inveterateness of the disease, and the instantaneousness of the cure, without the use of any means, made the miracle evident. The woman for it gave thanks to God, for that is meant by
glorified God, she spake some things to the honour and glory of God, who had healed her.
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.See Poole on "Luke 13:10"
And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.See Poole on "Luke 13:11"
And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.See Poole on "Luke 13:11"
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.Answered here signifies no more than, he spake, as in a multitude of other places in the Gospels. The Jews were both very superstitious and very uneven as to the sanctification of the sabbaths: superstitious, because they would not do many things which by God’s law they might do, such as applying means to heal the sick, defending themselves against enemies, &c. Uneven, because they would do divers things of equal bodily labour with those things which they pretend to scruple, one of which we shall hear our Saviour by and by instancing in. This ruler studied to defame him before the people. His pretence was, this was a work, and such a work as might be done in the six days. Let us hear how our Saviour defends himself.
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?Ver. 15,16. Our Saviour here calleth this ruler of the synagogue hypocrite, for his impudence in so severe a reflection on him for doing on the sabbath day a work of that nature which he himself did, and thought himself blameless in the doing of, and his friends ordinarily did, upon whom for so working he did not reflect, thereby teaching us one note of a hypocrite, viz. to reflect upon others for things which we do ourselves. This ruler of the synagogue aud his party indeed did not heal on the sabbath day. But what kind of work was healing? Was it not a work of mercy? What servile labour was there in it? It is only said Christ called this poor creature, and she came, not she was brought to him. What did Christ do? He only laid his hands upon her, and pronounced her loosed from her infirmity. Now the Jews would ordinarily upon the sabbath day loose a beast from the stall to go and drink at a pit, or lead it thither; was not this a greater labour? How came this to be lawful, and not that act of mercy which Christ did show to this poor creature? Their act was capable of no other excuse, than that it was an act of mercy, and a good man will show mercy to his beast: it could be no act of piety, nor of necessity; for a beast may live one day without water, or at least might have had water set by it the night before. Nay, our Lord’s work of mercy was much more noble. Theirs was to a beast; his to one of mankind, to a woman, and she a Jewish woman, a daughter of Abraham, a father upon whom they much valued themselves, and their whole nation, Matthew 3:9 John 8:39. Their beast might not be sick; she was under an infirmity, and that no ordinary infirmity, she was in the hands of the enemy of mankind, bound by Satan; nor was her affliction of a few days’ continuance, she had been so bound eighteen years.
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?See Poole on "Luke 13:15"
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 is one thing to be ashamed, another thing to be convinced, so as to confess an error; they were ashamed that they were so put to silence before the people, but we read of no confession of their error and mistake, and begging Christ’s pardon.
The people rejoiced and gave thanks to God
for all the glorious things that were done by our Saviour.
Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it?Ver. 18-21. See Poole on "Matthew 13:31", and following verses to Matthew 13:33. They are two parables by which Christ foretells the great success of the gospel, notwithstanding the present small appearance of the efficacy of it.
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.See Poole on "Luke 13:18"
And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God?See Poole on "Luke 13:20"
It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.See Poole on "Luke 13:20"
And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.Still wherever we find our blessed Lord, we find him teaching, and that not by an exemplary life only, but by word of mouth. There are different opinions whether our Saviour was now journeying towards Jerusalem with respect to the passover, or some other great festival of the Jews.
Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,Ver. 23,24. Our Saviour hath told us, Matthew 7:14, that strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth to eternal life, and few there be that find it. Upon this this exhortation is founded. ’ Agwnizesye, Contend, or strive, to enter in at this strait gate, a word which signifies a labouring against opposition, and the utmost endeavour of the mind and body: not that our own labouring will bring us thither, the eternal life is the gift of God, and without the influence of his grace we can do nothing effectually; but to let us know, that the Lord will give heaven to none but such as labour and strive for it, yea, and also strive lawfully: he tells us that many
will seek to enter, and shall not be able; either seeking in a wrong way, or in an undue time. By this speech of our Saviour’s he diverts them from that curious question, about the number of those that shall be saved. That was not so much their concern to know, as that they should be some of that number.
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.See Poole on "Luke 13:23"
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:Ver. 25-27. Our Saviour in these verses doth represent himself by a man, who, having invited guests to his supper, stays till all those who were invited, and accepted the invitation, were Come in; then rising up, shuts the door; and after that is shut, turns a deaf ear to any that shall come knocking, let them plead for admittance what they can plead. By this parabolical expressing of himself, he both openeth in part what he meant by the foregoing words,
many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able, and also lets us know, that there is a determinate time, wherein souls must (if ever) accept of the offers of grace and salvation, when they are made to them, which if they slip, they will not be able to obtain of God an entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Seek the Lord while he may be found, saith the prophet, Isaiah 55:6. In an acceptable time have I heard thee, saith the prophet, Isaiah 49:8; which the apostle applies, 2 Corinthians 6:2, to persuade men that they should not receive the grace of God (in the gospel) in vain. What this determinate time is God hath hidden from us, and it is probable that it is not the same as to all persons; we know nothing to the contrary, but while there is life there is hope, which warrants us to preach truth and repentance to all. We are also further instructed, that no outward privileges though Christ hath taught in our streets; no external acts of communion with Christ, though we can say we have ate and drunk with him; will justify our hopes of entrance into heaven, if in the mean time we be workers of iniquity. We had much the same; See Poole on "Matthew 7:21", and following verses to Matthew 7:23.
Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.See Poole on "Luke 13:25"
But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.See Poole on "Luke 13:26"
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.Ver. 28,29. We have the same Matthew 8:11,12, only he saith only from the east and west: See Poole on "Matthew 8:11", See Poole on "Matthew 8:12".
Weeping and gnashing of teeth, are usual expressions by which the pains of the damned are expressed, especially by the evangelist Matthew, Matthew 8:12 Matthew 13:42,50 22:13 24:51 25:30. One cause of this vexation of spirit, expressed under this notion, is the Jews’ sight of the rest and happiness that their relations, nay, some to whom they upon earth were enemies, should enjoy in heaven; nay, which some which were heathens should enjoy there; whereas they, who took themselves to be the only church, and to have the same right to the kingdom of heaven that children have to the inheritances of their fathers, should be cast out, as having no portion there.
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.Ver. 29 See Poole on "Luke 13:28"
And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.This is a sentence which our Saviour often made use of, and not always to the same purpose. See Poole on "Matthew 19:30". See Poole on "Matthew 20:16". See Poole on "Mark 10:31". As to the sense of them here, it is plain. Our Saviour here foretells the conversion of the Gentiles; but yet I do not take the Gentiles to be all who are intended under the notion of the last, but divers others also. Men who, both in their opinion of themselves, and in reality with respect to privilege, are the first, whether in respect of gifts, or office, or the means of grace, or profession, will many of them be the last, that is, furthest off from the kingdom of God; and many who are the last, upon these accounts will in the day of judgment be first, that is, appear so, as having more of the favour of God, and be so, taken to heaven, when the others shall be cast to hell, Matthew 11:20-24.
The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.Ver. 31-33. It is plain from this text, that our Saviour was at this time in Galilee, for that was the tetrarchy or province of Herod Antipas, who is the Herod here mentioned. Whether these Pharisees came of their own heads, or as sent by Herod, is not so plain, nor so well agreed by interpreters. If they came of their own heads, it is certain they came not out of kindness, for the whole history of the gospel lets us know, that the Pharisees had no kindness for Christ, but were his most implacable enemies, and continually consulting how to destroy him; but they either came to scare him out of Galilee, whose repute was so great, and who did them so much mischief there, or to drive him into the trap which they had laid for him in Judea. But it is most probable that they came as secretly sent by Herod, who though of himself he be reported to be of no bloody disposition, yet upon the Pharisees’ continual solicitations might be persuaded to send them on this errand, choosing rather cunningly to scare him out of his province, than by violence to fall upon him. This opinion looks more probable, because, Luke 13:32, our Saviour sends them back with a message to Herod, Go ye, and tell that fox. Herod had gained himself no reputation amongst the Jews, by his murdering John the Baptist, whom the Jews generally valued as a prophet; and probably seeing our Saviour exceeding him in popular applause, he was not willing to augment the odium which already lay upon him for that fact; yet, to gratify the Pharisees, (many of which were in his province), he was willing, if he could effect it cleverly, and without noise, to he quit of Christ, especially considering (as we before heard) he had an opinion that he was John the Baptist risen from the dead, or the soul of John the Baptist in another body; and possibly: he could not tell what might be the effect of his ghost so haunting his province. It is certain, that either he, or the Pharisees, or both, had a mind to have him gone some where else, to which purpose this message is brought to him. Our Saviour, either discerning Herod’s craft in this thing, or having observed the craft he used in the whole management of his government, that he might keep favour both with the Roman emperor and with the Jews, bids them, Go and tell that fox. I do not much value their critical observation, who observe that it is not alwpeki eceinh, but, tauth, that is, this fox; from whence they would observe that our Saviour might mean the Pharisees, not Herod; nor is there any need of it to excuse our Saviour from the violation of that law of God, Exodus 22:28, Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people; which law Paul reflected on, Acts 23:5, and pleads ignorance for his calling Ananias a whited wall. For we shall observe that the prophets all along (being immediately sent from God) took a further liberty than any others, in severely reproving kings and princes. Elijah tells Ahab it was he that troubled Israel; the prophets call the rulers of the Jews, rulers of Sodom, and princes of Gomorrah, &c. But Christ may be allowed a liberty neither lawful nor decent for other persons, not though they were prophets. But what is the message which Christ sends by these Pharisees?
Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Tell him, saith he, what I am doing; I am freeing his subjects from molestations by evil spirits, and the encumbrances of many diseases. What do I do worthy of death? I have but a little time to trouble him, for in a little time I must die, which is that which he means by being perfected: it is plain that those words today, and tomorrow, and the third day, must not be taken strictly, for Christ lived more than three days after this. If this will not satisfy him, tell him, saith our Saviour, that
I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following. I know that, as to this thing, I am not under his command or power, I must walk, & c.; my days are not in his hands, and I know that he cannot kill me,
for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the place where I must die, not Galilee; the sanhedrim sits at Jerusalem, who alone can take cognizance of the case of false prophets, and Jerusalem is the place where the people must fill up the measure of their iniquities by spilling my blood. Upon this our Saviour breaketh out into a sad lamentation of the case of that once holy city, the praise of the whole earth.
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.See Poole on "Luke 13:31"
Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.See Poole on "Luke 13:32"
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!
Ver. 34-35. See Poole on "Matthew 23:37". See Poole on "Matthew 23:38". See Poole on "Matthew 23:39". These five last verses afford us much for our instruction.
1. We may from them learn the craft of the enemies of the gospel, as well as their malice; they are lions, and will, like lions, tear rand rend when they see an opportunity; but when they see it convenient, then they put on the fox’s skin, doing the same thing by subtlety, which they durst not attempt to effect by cruelty.
2. Their malice is as much perspicuous; who but the children of the devil could have found in their hearts to have desired Christ to go out of their country, who did nothing there but innocently and diligently preach the gospel, deliver people from grievous diseases, and the power of Satan, who miserably possessed and tormented them?
3. When the most malicious enemies of God’s people have done what they can, they shall finish their course, and work the time God hath set them.
4. When they have perfected their work, they shall be perfected. Death is but the perfecting of the saints, as it was the perfecting of Christ.
5. Men shall die, as at the time, so at the place, which God hath set.
6. God sending of his ministers faithfully to reveal his will to people, is a declaration of his willingness to gather them under the wings of his special favour and protection.
7. The perverse wills of men are those things which hinder men and women from being gathered.
8. Temporal judgments, and that of the severest nature, will first or last follow men’s contempt of the offers of grace and salvation.
9. Those that do contemn the means of grace shalt not see them long. —Ye shall not see me.
10. The proudest scorners and contemners of Christ and his grace shall one day wash that one would or might come unto them in the name of the Lord, and do but now contemn what hereafter they would be glad they might enjoy.
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.See Poole on "Luke 13:34"