Luke 10
Pulpit Commentary
After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.
Verses 1-24. - The mission of the seventy. The Lord's words to them of instruction and direction and warning. Verse 1. - After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also. That is to say, after the events just related which had taken place in the north of the Holy Land. "Alter these things" formally began the solemn marches in the direction of Jerusalem, which ended, as we have stated, in the last Passover. Roughly speaking, the seventy were first sent out about the October of the last year of the public ministry. The manuscripts vary between seventy and seventy two. The preponderance of authority is in favour of seventy. The Sanhedrin numbered seventy-one. The elders appointed by Moses were seventy. There was a Jewish saying also that the number of peoples on earth were seventy or seventy-two. Fourteen descended from Japhet, thirty from Ham, twenty-six from Shem. In the 'Clementine Recognitions,' a writing of the first half of the third century, the number of peoples is given as seventy-two. The Fathers dwell on the sacred symbolism of the desert-wanderings especially mentioned at Elim - "twelve wells and seventy palm trees," alluding to the two groups of Christ-sent missionaries, the twelve apostles and the "seventy" here mentioned. Two and two. As in the case of his apostles sent forth previously, for mutual help and comfort. Before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. By their means, as the time left him was now so short, all the needful preparations should be made before he personally visited the place. Villages and towns, too, where his presence was found, as in the case of the Samaritan village, unwelcome, would be thus carefully noted, and no time would needlessly be lost.
Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.
Verse 2. - Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. This and many of the sayings reported on this occasion had been said apparently before, when the twelve had been sent out on a similar mission. It seems almost certain that, on several occasions, the Lord repeated the same expressions containing great truths, with scarcely any variation in language. The harvest simile was evidently a favourite one of the Master. "The field is the world" he told them in the parable of the sower. It is reproduced by St. John (Revelation 14:14-19).
Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.
Verse 3. - Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. These first missionaries were to go forth unarmed and unprovided. They were to be a type of the strange, seemingly weak Christian preachers of the next two hundred years, before whose simple words and unarmed presence the great system of paganism was to go down. One of the rare but beautiful traditional sayings of the Lord is referred to the first occasion of his speaking the words of this third verse. Peter is said to have asked him, "But how, then, if the wolves tear the lambs?" And the Lord said, "Let not the lambs fear the wolves, when the lambs are once dead;" and then added again the words of Matthew 10:28, "Fear not them which kill the body," etc.
Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.
Verse 4. - Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes. They were to burden themselves with no useless baggage, nor were they to be careful for ways and means of livelhood. Dean Plumptre very beautifully writes, on the similar words reported in Matthew 10:10 "Experience (and, we may add, the spirit that teaches by experience) has led the Christian Church at large to look on these commands as binding only during the mission on which the twelve were actually sent. It is impossible not to admire the noble enthusiasm of poverty which showed itself in the literal adoption of such rules by the followers of Francis of Assist, and, to some extent, by those of Wickliffe; but the history of the mendicant orders and other like fraternities forms part of that teaching of history which has led men to feel that in the long-run the beggar's life will bring the beggar's vices. Yet here, as in the case of the precepts of the sermon on the mount, the spirit is binding still, though the letter has passed away. The mission work of the Church has ever prospered in proportion as that spirit has pervaded it." And salute no man by the way. This especially refers to the length and tediousness of Eastern salutations, often very unreal, and which would consume much valuable time. Men were to see that one absorbing interest possessed them, and that to them was no time given for the ordinary useless amenities of life.
And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.
Verse 5. - Peace be to this house. The original of the words used in the Church of England Office for the Visitation of the Sick.
And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.
Verse 6. - The son of peace. An Aramaic (Hebrew) expression. Although the language here is pure and fairly classical Greek, yet the presence of such expressions as this shows that the basis of this part of St. Luke's narrative was probably an Aramaic document.
And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.
Verse 7. - And in the same house remain.... Go not from house to house. Similar instructions were given in the case of the sending out the twelve as missionaries. One house and family were to be selected as the centre of their work (see note on Luke 9:4). Eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire.
And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:
Verse 8. - Eat such things as are set before you. Most commentators have simply seen in this charge

(1) an instruction to be content with whatever their host should set before them, avoiding even the appearance of caring or wishing for dainties;

(2) that his servants should look upon such maintenance in the light of a fairly earned wage, rather than as an alms bestowed upon a beggar. In other words, his servants, while perfectly content with the most frugal fare, at the same time should preserve their manly independence. The bare austere sustenance, the simple lodging, - these things they had surely earned. But in addition to this meaning, true and appropriate though it be, there seems a quiet recommendation not to be rigid in inquiring as to the cleanness or uncleanness of the viands. One very able commentator (Godet) remarks that of this there is no question, for we are yet in a Jewish world. But remembering only in the last chapter a mission was specially sent to a Samaritan village, such an assertion can scarcely be maintained. It seems probable that extreme rigidness in this particular, now that mission work on a broad scale had commenced, here began to be relaxed; and that in this charge of Jesus we have, at least, the basis of that yet broader commandment set out by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:27.
And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
Verse 9. - And heal the sick that are therein. These were strangely great powers to confer upon poor weak men - men, too, only in the very dawn of faith - and their naive surprise and joy (see ver. 17) show how little they believed in their possession of such powers, even after their Master's words announcing to them the gift. But this prodigality of miraculous energy was needful then. The first beginning of so stupendous a work as laying securely the ground stories of Christianity - what Renan, with all his enmity to revealed religion, calls "l'evenement capital de l'histoire du monde" - required this special aid from another sphere.
But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say,
Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.
Verse 12. - But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. Such a rejection implies that they would have nothing to do with the Master of these preachers, the pitiful, loving, Galilaean Teacher. These were days of possible mighty blessings, of proportional terrible punishments. The woe of Sodom, that well-known swift destruction, most probably through sudden volcanic agency, was tolerable in comparison with the far more awful doom reserved in the immediate future, at the hands of Rome, for these guilty cities of Palestine (see a further note on this on ver. 15).
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
Verse 13. - Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. In St. Matthew's Gospel (Matthew 11:20), where the woe of the fair lake-cities is announced in similar language, the "woe" is introduced with the words," Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done." Now, we have no record of any miracles having been worked at Chorazin, the first mentioned. But these cities were in the immediate vicinity of Capernaum, where for a length-cued period our Lord principally resided. He was, no doubt, during the Galilaean ministry, constantly in one or other of those bright, busy cities built on the shores of the Lake of Gennesaret. This bears out St. John's statement (John 20:30) concerning the many unrecorded miracles of Christ, and gives us some notion of the numerous events in the life left without mention; much must have happened in Choraziu to have called forth this stern saying. Late research thinks it probable that the site of Chorazin has been discovered near Capernaum; the ruins, however, at a little distance, look but a mere rough heap of stones. A great theological truth is urged in this saying of the Master. Men will be judged not only for what they have done or failed to do, but their opportunities, their circumstances, their chances in life, will be, before they are judged, strictly taken into account.
But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.
Verse 14. - But it shall be more tolerable for Tyro and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. Tyre and Sidon, those representative examples of the luxury and vileness of the great cities of the old pagan world, will, when the dreadful awards are made, be beaten with few stripes, while the cities of the lake wilt be beaten with many, because these last listened unrepentant to the sweet and tender words, and gazed unmoved at the mighty works of mercy, of the pitiful Jesus of Nazareth. This is one of the passages in the New Testament where the doctrine of degrees in punishment is plainly set forth, and in words which fell from the lips of the Redeemer himself!
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.
Verse 15. - And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. When the Lord came to speak of the woe of Capernaum, his own chosen city, his favourite earthly home, his words grew even more solemn. The simile he uses, "hell," better rendered Hades, is chosen to paint the contrast between the glorious destiny [this beautiful lake-city might have chosen, and the tremendous woe which she had voluntarily brought on herself. The present state of the Plain of Gennesaret is indeed so desolate and miserable that we can scarcely picture to ourselves that it was once a populous, crowded district, the blue lake covered with fishing and trading vessels, its shores and the plain inland highly cultivated, a very garden in that part of Asia. Rich towns and thriving villages in that favoured neighbourhood are described by contemporary writers in such glowing terms that we, who are spectators of the dreary and melancholy shores of the Gennesaret lake, are puzzled as we read, and should suspect an exaggeration, only an exaggeration would have been purposeless (see Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 3:03.2). Some thirty years after the woe had been uttered, in the terrible wars in which Rome avenged herself on the Jewish hatred and scorn, the garden of Gennesaret was changed into a ruin-covered solitude. Joseph's, who had been dwelling on the loveliness of the place, describes the state of the shore strewn with wrecks and putrefying bodies, "insomuch that the misery was not only an object of commiseration to the Jews, but even to these that hated them and had been the authors of that misery" ('Bell. Jud.,' 3:10. 8; and see Dr. Farrar's' Life of Christ,' 2:101).
He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.
And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.
Verse 17. - And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy Name. How wavering and hesitating the faith of the chosen followers of Jesus was, even at this late period of his public ministry, is clear from this frank confession of surprise at their powers. They were contrasting the present with what had lately happened at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration, where the disciples were utterly unable to heal the possessed boy. What a contrast do these true writers of the gospel story paint between themselves and their Master! They never seem to tire in their self-depreciatory descriptions. They describe with the same careful, truthful pen their slowness to understand what afterwards became so clear to them - their mutual jealousies, their covetous hopes of a brilliant future, their shrinking from pain and suffering, their utter failure when they try to imitate their Master; and now we find them marvelling at their own - to them - unexpected success in their imitation of him.
And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
Verse 18. - And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. The Lord's words here were prophetic rather than descriptive of what had taken, or was then taking place. The seventy were telling him their feelings of joy at finding that his Name in their months enabled them to cast out evil spirits from the possessed. Their Master replied in an exalted and exultant strain - strange and rare sounds on the lips of the Man of sorrows - telling them how he had been looking - not on a few spirits of evil driven out of unhappy men, but on the king and chief of all evil falling from his sad eminence and throne of power like a flash of lightning. Jesus Christ saw, in the first success of these poor servants of his, an earnest of that wonderful and mighty victory which his followers, simply armed with the power of his Name, would shortly win over paganism. He saw, too, in the dim far future, many a contest with and victory over evil in its many forms. He looked on, we may well believe, to the final defeat which at length his servants, when they should have learned the true use and the resistless power of that glorious Name of his, should win over the restless enemy of the souls of men.
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
Verse 19. - Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. The older authorities read here, "I have given." The only recorded instance of a literal fulfilment of this promise was in the case of Paul at Melita, after the shipwreck (Acts 24:3-5). A similar promise was made during the "forty days" (Mark 16:17, 18). It seems however, best, in the case of this peculiar promise, to interpret the Lord's words as referring to spiritual powers of evil, taking the serpent and scorpion as symbols of these. It should be remembered that the subject of conversation between the Master and his servants was the conflict with and victory ever these awful powers restlessly hostile to the human race (see Psalm 91:13).
Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
Verse 20. - But rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. "After all," went on the wise and loving Master, "though you have made the glad discovery of the power you possess, if, as my servants, you use aright my Name, after all, your real reason for joy is, not the possession of a new, mighty power, but the fact of your name having been written in the book of life as one of my servants commissioned to do my work." Many commentators here cautiously point out that even this legitimate joy should be tempered with fear and trembling, for even this true title to honour might be blotted nut of that golden book of heaven (see Exodus 32:33; Jeremiah 17:13; Psalm 69:28; Revelation 22:19). In this deep legitimate joy men and women of all callings, who try to follow the Master, in every age, may share.
In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.
Verse 21. - In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit. More than "rejoiced;" the Greek word rather signifies "exulted." Very rarely in the holy story of the life of lives is a hint given us of any gleam of gladness or of joy irradiating the spirit of the Man of sorrows. The exultation of the Blessed here was based upon his conviction that this first success of his own was but the commencement of a long and weary, but yet, in the end, of a triumphant campaign against the spirits of sin and evil. What these, in their mortal weakness by the aid of their poor imperfect faith in his Name, had been able to accomplish, was an earnest, a pledge, of the mighty work which his followers would, in the power of the same Name, be enabled to effect in the coming ages. In that solemn hour did Messiah see, in the far future, of "the travail of his soul," and was satisfied. The absence of all sign of joy in the life of our Lord is well brought out in that touching legend which we find in the spurious letter of P. Lentulus to the senate, that he wept often, but that no one had ever seen him smile. That thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Looking upon his servants after their return from their successful mission, a group made up certainly for the most part of poor untutored men - fishers, artisans, and the like, children of the people, without rank or position - Jesus thanks the Father that, in the persons of the men chosen to be the instruments of his work, he has looked away from all the ordinary machinery of human influence. As he gazes upon the band of successful missionaries, Jesus thanks the Father that henceforth his servants, if they would be successful, must owe the powers which gave them success entirely to his training, and not to the world's. Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. This is "the only record, outside St. John's Gospel, of a prayer like that which we find in John 17. For the most part, we may believe, those prayers were offered apart, on the lonely hillside, in the darkness of night; or, it may be, the disciples shrank in their reverence, or perhaps in the consciousness of their want of capacity, from attempting to record what was so unspeakably sacred. But it is noteworthy that in this exceptional instance we find, both in the prayer and the teaching that follows it in St. Matthew and St. Luke, turns of thought and phrase almost absolutely identical with what is most characteristic of St. John. It is as though this isolated fragment of a higher teaching had been preserved by them as a witness that there was a region upon which they scarcely dared to enter, but into which men were to be led afterwards by the beloved disciple, to whom the Spirit gave power to recall what had been above the reach of the other reporters of his Master's teaching" (Dean Plumptre).
All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.
Verse 22. - All things are delivered to me of my Father. These words, spoken late in the public ministry, evidently refer to the Almighty power possessed and frequently exercised by the incarnate Son of God. During the days of his humiliation, Jesus Christ exercised the power of Creator, Lord of the elements, Lord of the secrets of health and disease, Lord of life and death. Dean Mansel, comparing this statement, recorded both by SS. Matthew and Luke, with the language of St. John, remarks "that there is no substantial difference between the different evangelists in their views of our Lord's Person and nature, and that the Gospel of St. John, far from being the representative of a later theology, does but more fully expound what is implicitly contained in the earliest of the Gospels." St. Matthew (Matthew 11:28-30) here gives us that sublime invitation of the Master's to the weary and heavy-laden. In the consciousness of his possession of all power, Jesus, with infinite compassion, offers to the great army of sufferers that rest which he alone can give.
And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see:
Verses 23, 24. - And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: for I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see. Alluding, especially, to such prophets and their words as Balaam (in Numbers 24:17) and Jacob (in Genesis 49:18). Keble has a quaint verse here, striking, as is usual with him, the central truth -

"Save that each little voice in turn
Some glorious truth proclaims;
What sages would have died to learn
Now taught by cottage dames."
These last words, the evangelist expressly says, were spoken privately. In fact, such a statement could only have been addressed to the inner circle - to those men (not exclusively the twelve) who had been much under the immediate influence of the Lord's teaching about himself. Gradually their sense as to who and what he was was becoming more acute. Glimpses of his Divinity ever and anon flashed before their eyes. But, to the last, their faith was very weak and wavering. Such words as these, after what had gone before, must have sunk deep into many of the listeners' hearts.
For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
Verses 25-37. - The question of the lawyer. The Lord answers with the parable of the good Samaritan. Verse 25. - And, behold, a certain lawyer. It seems (as has already been noticed) probable that in St. Luke's general account of our Lord's teaching during the six months which immediately preceded the last Passover, certain events which took place at a short visit which Jesus paid to Jerusalem at the Feast of the Dedication are noticed. This question of the lawyer was probably asked on the occasion of this visit, and the little episode connected with the Bethany family of Lazarus took place at the same period. The "lawyer" is sometimes termed "scribe." There is little difference between these appellations. They were professional teachers and expounders of the Mosaic Law and of the vast complement of traditional sayings which had gathered round it. As the whole life of the people at this period was ruled and guided by the Law, written and traditional, this profession of scribe and lawyer was an important and influential one. Stood up. The Master was evidently teaching in a house or a courtyard of a house. Many were sitting round him. To attract his attention, this lawyer stood up before putting his question to Jesus. This scene, as we have said, took place most likely in or near Jerusalem, not improbably, as the Bethany episode follows, in that suburb of the city, and perhaps in the house of Lazarus. And tempted him; that is to say, tested him and his skill in answering questions out of that Law which then was the rule and guide of daily life in Israel. It is not unlikely that the lawyer hoped to convict the broad and generous Rabbi of some unorthodox statement which would injure his reputation as a Teacher. It was a hard and comprehensive question, this query how eternal life was to be won, and possibly one carefully prepared by the enemies of Jesus,
He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
Verse 26. - He said unto him, What is written in the Law? The Lord replied, perhaps pointing to one of the phylacteries which the lawyer wore on his forehead and wrist. These phylacteries were little leather boxes (the dimensions of these varied from the size of an ordinary hazelnut, to that of a large walnut, and even in some cases much larger). In these leather boxes were little parchment rolls containing certain texts from the Pentateuch. Certainly the first of the two great rules, that concerning God, was one of these texts (Deuteronomy 6:5); possibly, but not certainly, the second concerning the neighbour formed another text.
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
Verse 28. - This do, and thou shalt live. The learned Jew was evidently confounded at the Galilaean Rabbi's first answer referring him to the sacred Mosaic Law. His perplexity is increased by the Lord's quiet repartee when he had rehearsed the two duties, to his God and his neighbour, "This do, and thou shalt live." It seems as though the clever, unfriendly critic of Jesus of Nazareth now forgot the hostile purpose with which he stood up to question, and, really conscience-stricken, willing to justify himself, in real good faith put the query which called out the famous parable.
But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
Verse 29. - And who is my neighbour? The self-righteous, but probably rigidly conscientious, Jewish scholar, looking into the clear, truthful eyes of the Galilaean Master he had been taught to hate as the enemy of his own narrow, lightless creed, was struck, perhaps for the first time, with the moral beauty of the words of his own Law. Of the first part, his duty towards God, as far as his poor distorted mind could grasp the idea, he was at ease in his conscience. The tithe, down to the anise and cummin, had been scrupulously paid; his fasts had been rigidly observed, his feasts carefully kept, his prayer-formulas never neglected. Yes; as regards God, the Pharisee-lawyer's conscience was at ease! But his neighbour? He thought of his conduct towards that simple, truthful-looking Galilaean Rabbi, Jesus, that very day; trying to trip him up in his words, longing to do him injury - injury to that worn-looking, loving Man who had never done him any harm, and who, report said, was only living to do others good. Was he, perchance, his neighbour? So, vexed and uneasy - but it seems in perfect honesty now, and in good faith - he asks this further question, "Master, tell me, who do you teach should be included in the term 'neighbour'?"
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
Verse 30. - And Jesus answering said. For reply the Master told him and the listening by-standers the parable-story we know so well as the "good Samaritan" - the parable, which has been "the consolation of the wanderer and the sufferer, of the outcast and the heretic, in every age and country" (Stanley). The story was one of those parables especially loved by Luke (and Paul), in which instruction is conveyed, not by types, but by example. It was very probably a simple recital of a fact which had happened, and at some period in the Lord's life had come under his own observation. The local scenery, the characters of the story, would all lead to the supposition that the parable was spoken in or near Jerusalem. A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. We are not told who the traveller was, Jew or Gentile; not a word about his rank, descent, or religion; simply that he was a man, a human being. It seems, however, from the whole tone of the story, most probable that the wounded traveller was a Jew. The way he was travelling was the road leading down from Jerusalem to Jericho, a distance of twenty-one miles - not the only way, but the most direct. It was a rugged, rocky pass, well adapted for the purposes of thieves and desperadoes, and was known, owing to the many dark deeds of which it had been the scene, as "The Way of Blood." The Lord's words tell the story. The traveller, likely enough a Jew pedlar, bad fallen among thieves, who had robbed him, and then had left their victim - dying or dead, what cared they? lying in the pass.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
Verse 31. - There came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Both the priest and Levite were frequent travellers along this road between the capital and Jericho. Jericho was especially a city of priests, and when the allotted service or residence time at the temple was over, these would return naturally to their own homes. It has been remarked that the grave censure which this story levels at the everyday want of charity on the part of priests and Levites, fills up what would otherwise have been a blank in the Master's many-sided teaching. Nowhere else in the gospel narrative do we find our Lord taking up the attitude of censor of the priestly and Levitical orders. We have little difficulty in discovering reasons for this apparently strange reticence. They were still the official guardians and ministers of his Father's house. In his public teaching, as a rule, he would refrain from touching these or their hollow, pretentious lives. Once, and once only, in this one parable did he dwell - but even here with no severe denunciations, as in the case of scribes and Pharisees - on the shortcomings of the priestly caste. The bitter woe was fast coming on these degenerate children of Aaron. In less than half a century, that house, the glory and the joy of Israel, would be utterly destroyed, net to be raised again. No woe that the Christ could pronounce could be as crushing in its pitiless condemnation. The very reason for the existence of priest and Levite as priest and Levite would exist no longer. The selfish life of the doomed order, in which holiness seemed effectually to have been divorced from charity, is portrayed in the lifelike picture of the parable of the good Samaritan.
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
Verse 32. - And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. They both, priest and Levite, shrank from the trouble and expense of meddling with the poor victim of the robbers; perhaps a cowardly fear of being identified with the robbers was mixed with these feelings. The whole of their conduct was inhuman, but not unnatural; alas! how faithfully is it copied by multitudes of men and women professing Christianity now! The Levite's conduct was better and worse than his official superior's - better, in that he did feel a little pity, and stopped to look, no doubt compassionately, on the sufferer; and worse, because he selfishly strangled the noble impulse in its birth, and passed on to his own place without so much as throwing a cloth over the poor maimed body to shelter it from the scorching sun, or the cold night dew.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
Verse 33. - But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. Now, for the sake of strong contrast, Jesus paints on his canvas the figure of one who, as a Samaritan, was as far removed as possible from being a neighbour to the sufferer (who, most probably, was a Jew) in the sense in which the austere Jewish lawyer would of himself understand the term "neighbour", The Samaritan, hated of the Jews, and most probably, in common with the rest of his nation, hating them - he, in his turn, was journeying along the ill-omened "Way of Blood;" he too sees, like the priest, the form of the man, wounded perhaps to death, lying by the way, and, like the Levite, draws near to look on the helpless sufferer; but, unlike priest and Levite, stays by the wounded man, and, regardless of peril, trouble, or expense, does his best to help the helpless.
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
Verses 35, 35. - And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in off and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. All these little tender details of the Samaritan's pitiful love are sketched in by a master-hand. There is first a noble, generous impulse, at once crystallized into a kindly brotherly act. Not satisfied with merely carrying out the first impulse, the Samaritan puts himself to inconvenience, perhaps to peril, and, after dressing the wounds, takes the wounded one along with him, provides lodging for him, and even takes care of the sick and friendless man's future. The wounded man was no rich and powerful merchant or noble - that is clear from the necessity of the little provision which the Samaritan made for him at the inn when he went on his journey; probably just an itinerant Jew pedlar. There were many of these always travelling about the East, we know. The piled-up acts of kindness were all clearly done to a poor stranger, without hope of recompense or reward. The life of that kindly man was evidently one which finds its high but secret guerdon in the blessedness of its own deeds. The Master trod been called by his bitter foes, in their blind rage, a "Samaritan." liras he in any way picturing himself? To an inn. The Greek word is not the same as the "inn" of Luke 2:7. It reminds us that, besides the open khan or caravanserai spoken of at Bethlehem, and which was crowded with travellers, in Palestine at this period was to be found the Greek type of inn, where a host or landlord entertained the guests. The khan was simply a group of empty buildings kept up for the use of travellers, who provided furniture and food for themselves. Throughout the Levant, Greek customs were gradually being introduced.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
Verses 36, 37. - Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. The deep pathos of the little story, the meaning of which the trained-scholar mind of the lawyer at once grasped, went right home to the ]mart. The Jewish scribe, in spite of prejudice and jealousy, was too noble not to confess that the Galilaean Master's estimate of a neighbour was the true one, and the estimate of the Jerusalem schools the wrong one; so at once he replies, "He that showed mercy on him." Even then, in that hour of the noblest confession his lips had ever made, the lawyer trained in those strange and mistaken schools, the outcome of which is the Talmud, could not force himself to name the hated Samaritan name, but paraphrases it in this titan. The scene closes with the Lord's charge, "Then imitate that act." Go, and do thou likewise. The parable thus answers the question - Who is my neighbour? Any one, it replies, who needs help, and whom I have power and opportunity to help, no matter what his rank, race, or religion may be. Neighbourhood is made coextensive with humanity; any human being is my neighbour who needs aid, or to whom I can render aid. But it answers the other and the still larger and deeper question with which the scene which called the parable out began. "Master," asked the lawyer (ver. 25), "what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Or in other words, "What is the virtue which saves?" The Scriptures teach that without holiness no one shall see the Lord, that is, shall inherit eternal life; and in this parable two kinds of holiness are set before us - the one spurious, the other genuine. The spurious holiness is that of the priest and Levite, two officially holy persons; - spurious holiness is sanctity divorced from charity. In the person of the Samaritan the nature of true sanctity is exhibited; - we are taught that the way to please God, the way to genuine holiness, is the practice of charity. Another and a very different exposition of this great and loving parable treats it as a Divine allegory. It commends itself to the present generation less than the plain matter-of-fact exegesis adopted in the foregoing notes. In the allegory, the wounded traveller represents mankind at large, stripped by the devil and his angels; he is left by them grievously wounded, yet not dead outright. Priest and Levite were alike powerless to help. "Many passed us by," once wrote a devout mediaeval writer, "and there was none to save." Moses and his Law, Aaron and his sacrifices, patriarch, prophet, and priest, - these were powerless. Only the true Samaritan (Christ), beholding, was moved with compassion and poured oil into the wounds. Among the ancients, Chrysostom and Clement of Alexandria and Augustine might be cited as good examples of these allegorical expositors. Among mediaeval Churchmen, Bernard and his devout school. Although this method of exposition has not been adopted here, still an exegesis which has commended itself so heartily to learned and devout Churchmen in all the Christian ages deserves at least a more respectful mention than the scornful allusion or the contemptuous silence with which it is nowadays too often dismissed. Godet, for instance, describes this allegorical interpretation adopted by the Fathers as rivalling that of the Gnostics.
And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
Verses 38-42. - The sisters of Bethany. The following points are noticeable. A close intimacy evidently existed between the brother and his two sisters and Jesus. They evidently were prominent friends of the Master, and during the years of the public ministry were on many occasions associated with Jesus of Nazareth, and yet a singular reticence evidently existed on the part of the writers of the first three Gospels in respect of the brother and sisters. His name is never mentioned by them. Here, for instance, Bethany is simply alluded to as "a certain village." There was some reason, no doubt, why the three synoptical evangelists exercised this reticence. We have before explained that these Gospels more or less represent the "texts," so to speak, upon which the first preachers of the religion of Jesus based their sermons and instructions. The long recital of John 11. gives us the clue. For the disciples of Jesus publicly to call attention in their sermons and addresses to Lazarus, on whom the Master's greatest miracle had been worked, would have no doubt called down a ceaseless, restless hostility on the Bethany household; for it must be remembered that for years after the Resurrection the deadly enemies of Jesus and his followers were supreme in Jerusalem and the neighbourhood. There were reasons, no doubt, now unknown to us, which rendered it important to the welfare of the early Church that the Bethany family should remain undisturbed and in comparative privacy. The peculiar and unique position of Lazarus. During those four days what had he seen and heard? Much curiosity, no doubt, existed to question the risen one:what fierce hostility, what morbid useless speculation, might not have been easily aroused? St. John's Gospel was not written for long years after the event. It probably represents no public preaching, rather a private and esoteric teaching. The home of St. John, too, for years prior to putting forth his Gospel, was far distant from Jerusalem. Probably Jerusalem had ceased to exist as a city and the Jews as a nation well-nigh a quarter of a century before St. John's writing was given to the Church. There were no reasons then for any silence. Jerusalem and Bethany were a heap of ruins. Lazarus and his sisters and well-nigh all their friends had probably then been long in the presence of the loved or hated Master. Verse 38. - Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village. The scene here related took place, no doubt, at Bethany, and, most probably, during that short visit to Jerusalem, at the Feast of Dedication, in the month of that December which preceded the Passover "of the Crucifixion." This visit to Jerusalem, as has been suggested above, was made in the course of that solemn progress the account of which fills up the long section of St. Luke's Gospel, beginning at Luke 9:51. The characters of the sisters here mentioned exactly correspond, as do their names, with the well-known Bethany family of that Lazarus for whom the great miracle, related at length by St. John, was worked. There are several mentions of this family in the synoptical Gospels, besides the long and important notice in St. John. A certain woman named Martha. The name is rather Aramaic than pure Hebrew. It is equivalent to the Greek Kyria, and signifies "lady." It has been suggested that the Second Epistle of St. John was addressed to this Martha. It was written, we know, to the elect kyria, or "lady" (2 John 1). Various identifications, more or less probable, have been attempted in the persons of the Bethany family. Martha has been supposed to be identical with the wife of Simon the leper (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3). One hypothesis identifies Lazarus with the "young ruler" whom Jesus loved (see Dean Plumptre, in Bishop Ellicott's Commentary); another, with the saintly Rabbi Eliezer (or Lazarus) of the Talmud. These are, however, little more than ingenious, though perhaps not quite baseless, fancies.
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
Verse 40. - Came to him. Dr. Farrar very happily seizes the tone and temper of Martha. He renders the Greek words here, "but suddenly coming up." We see in this inimitable touch the little petulant outburst of jealousy in the loving, busy matron, as she hurried in with the words, "Why is Mary sitting there doing nothing?" Bid her therefore that she help me. "We almost seem to hear the undertone of 'It is no use for me to tell her.' Doubtless, had she been less' fretted,' she would have felt that to leave her (Martha) alone and withdraw into the background while this eager hospitality was going on, was the kindest and most unselfish thing which Mary could do."
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
Verse 41. - And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha. There are several notable instances of this repetition of the name by the Master in the New Testament story, and in each case apparently in pitying love. So "Simon, Simon," in Luke 22:31, and "Saul, Saul," in Acts 9:4.
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Verse 42. - But one thing is needful. Jesus had been saying to this kindly but over-fussy friend, "Are you not too anxious about these household cares of yours?" and then he adds, "See, only one thing is really needful." Now, what is the exact meaning of these last words? Some expositors have taken the expression to mean "a single dish is sufficient" for my entertainment; so much careful, anxious thought is thrown away. A curious variation in the reading occurs here in some, though not in all the oldest, authorities. It seems as though some of the early copyists of the text of the Gospel were wishful to make the words, which they possibly understood as a lesson of the Master's on simplicity of food, clearer and more emphatic. This other reading is, "There is need of few things, or of one only." In other words, "Few things are enough for me and my friends to sit down to, or even one dish only." The teaching contained in ver. 7 gives a little colour to this quaint interpretation of the Master's words here, which sees in them a general warning against taking thought for the pleasures of the table. But, on the whole, the old reading contained in the received text is preferable, and the old interpretation, too, viz. that the true life of man needs but one thing, or, if the other reading be adopted, needs but few things. If we must specify the one, we would call it" love," or "charity." So John, we know, in his old days, summed up all man's duties in this "love." If, on the other hand, we are asked to name the few, then we would add to love, faith and hope. The parable of the "good Samaritan," that practical lesson of the love or charity the Master was alluding to, had just been spoken; it was Still, we may reverently assume, fresh in the Divine Teacher's mind. And Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. And Mary, his dear Bethany friend, had made her happy choice of the one thing, that love or charity which never fails; or, perchance, had made her choice of the few things needful (if we prefer the longer reading of those old manuscripts we have spoken of) - the few things would then mean that faith, hope, and charity which abide both now and in the ages of ages yet to come!

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