Luke 18

CHAPTER XVIII.

The parable of the importunate widow, 1-8.

Of the Pharisee and the publican, 9-14.

Infants brought to Christ, 15-17.

The ruler who wished to know how he might inherit eternal life,

18-23.

Our Lord's reflections on his case, 24-27.

What they shall receive who follow Christ, 28-30.

He foretells his approaching passion and death, 31-34.

He restores a blind man to sight at Jericho, 35-43.

NOTES ON CHAP. XVIII.

Verse 1. Men ought always to pray] Therefore the plain meaning

and moral of the parable are evident; viz. that as afflictions and

desolations were coming on the land, and they should have need of

much patience and continual fortitude, and the constant influence

and protection of the Almighty, therefore they should be instant

in prayer. It states, farther, that men should never cease praying

for that the necessity of which God has given them to feel, till

they receive a full answer to their prayers. No other meaning need

be searched for in this parable: St. Luke, who perfectly knew his

Master's meaning, has explained it as above.

Verse 2. A judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man] It

is no wonder that our Lord calls this person an unrighteous judge,

Lu 18:6. No person is worthy to be put in the sacred office of a

judge who does not deeply fear God, and tenderly respect his

fellow creatures. Because this person feared not God, he paid no

attention to the calls of justice; and because he respected not

man, he was unmoved at the complaint of the widow. Even among the

heathens this was the character of a man totally abandoned to all

evil. So Dion Cassius says of Vitellius, that he neither regarded

gods nor men-ουτετωνανθρωπωνουτετωνθεωνεφροντιζεν.

Verse 3. Avenge me of mine adversary.] The original, εκδικησον

μεαποτουαντιδικουμου, had better be translated, Do me justice

against, or vindicate me from, my adversary. If the woman had come

to get revenge, as our common translation intimates, I think our

blessed Lord would never have permitted her to have the honour of

a place in the sacred records. She desired to have justice, and

that only; and by her importunity she got that which the

unrighteous judge had no inclination to give, but merely for his

own ease.

Verse 4. He said within himself] How many actions which appear

good have neither the love of God, nor that of our neighbour,

but only self-love of the basest kind, for their principle and

motive!

Verse 5. She weary me.] υπωπιαζημε, Stun me. A metaphor taken

from boxers, who bruise each other, and by beating each other

about the face blacken the eyes. See 1Co 9:27.

Verse 6. Hear what the unjust judge saith.] Our blessed Lord

intimates that we should reason thus with ourselves: "If a person

of such an infamous character as this judge was could yield to the

pressing and continual solicitations of a poor widow, for whom he

felt nothing but contempt, how much more ready must God be, who is

infinitely good and merciful, and who loves his creatures in the

tenderest manner, to give his utmost salvation to all them who

diligently seek it!"

Verse 7. And shall not God avenge his own elect] And will not

God the righteous Judge do justice for his chosen? Probably this

may refer to the cruel usage which his disciples had met with, and

were still receiving, from the disobedient and unbelieving Jews;

and which should be finally visited upon them in the destruction

of their city, and the calamities which should follow. But we may

consider the text as having a more extensive meaning. As God has

graciously promised to give salvation to every soul that comes

unto him through his Son, and has put his Spirit in their hearts,

inducing them to cry unto him incessantly for it; the goodness of

his nature and the promise of his grace bind him to hear the

prayers they offer unto him, and to grant them all that salvation

which he has led them by his promise and Spirit to request.

Which cry day and night unto him, &c.] This is a genuine

characteristic of the true elect or disciples of Christ. They feel

they have neither light, power, nor goodness, but as they receive

them from him; and, as he is the desire of their soul, they

incessantly seek that they may be upheld and saved by him.

Though he bear long with them?] Rather, and HE is compassionate

towards THEM, and consequently not at all like to the unrighteous

judge. Instead of μακροθυμων, and be long-suffering, as in our

translation, I read μακροθυμει, he is compassionate, which reading

is supported by ABDLQ, and several others. The reason which our

Lord gives for the success of his chosen, is, 1. They cry unto him

day and night. 2. HE is compassionate towards THEM. In consequence

of the first, they might expect justice even from an unrighteous

judge; and, in consequence of the second, they are sure of

salvation, because they ask it from that God who is towards them a

Father of eternal love and compassion. There was little reason

to expect justice from the unrighteous judge. 1. Because he was

unrighteous; and 2. Because he had no respect for man: no, not

even for a poor desolate widow. But there is all the reason under

heaven to expect mercy from God: 1. Because he is righteous, and

he has promised it; and 2. Because he is compassionate towards his

creatures; being ever prone to give more than the most enlarged

heart can request of him.

Every reader must perceive that the common translation is so

embarrassed as to be almost unintelligible; while that in this

note, from the above authorities, is as plain as possible, and

shows this beautiful parable to be one of the most invaluable

pieces in the word of God.

Verse 8. He will avenge them speedily.] Or, He will do them

justice speedily-ενταχει, instantly, in a trice. 1. Because he

has promised it; and 2. Because he is inclined to do it.

When the Son of man cometh] To require the produce of the seed

of the kingdom sown among this people.

Shall he find faith on the earth?] Or rather, Shall he find

fidelity in this land? Shall he find that the soil has brought

forth a harvest proportioned to the culture bestowed on it? No!

And therefore he destroyed that land.

Verse 9. Despised] εξουθενουντας, Disdained, made nothing of

others, treated them with sovereign contempt. Our Lord grants that

the Pharisees made clean the outside: but, alas! what pride, vain

glory, and contempt for others, were lodged within!

Verse 10. A Pharisee] For a description of the Pharisees and

their tenets, See Clarke on Mt 16:1.

Publican.] See an account of these on Mt 5:46. Both these

persons went to the temple to pray, i.e. to worship God: they were

probably both Jews, and felt themselves led by different motives

to attend at the temple, at the hour of prayer: the one to return

thanks for the mercies he had received; the other to implore

that grace which alone could redeem him from his sins.

Verse 11. Stood and prayed thus with himself] Or, stood by

himself and prayed, as some would translate the words. He probably

supposed it disgraceful to appear to have any connection with this

penitent publican: therefore his conduct seemed to say, "Stand by

thyself; I am more holy than thou." He seems not only to have

stood by himself, but also to have prayed by himself; neither

associating in person nor in petitions with his poor guilty

neighbour.

God, I thank thee, &c.] In Mt 5:20, our Lord says,

Unless your righteousness abound more than that of the scribes

and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God: see the

note there. Now, the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is

described here by a Pharisee himself. We find it was twofold: 1.

It consisted in doing no harm to others. 2. In attending all the

ordinances of God, then established in the Jewish economy; and in

these things they were not like other men, the bulk of the

inhabitants of the land paying little or no attention to them.

That the Pharisees were in their origin a pure and holy people can

admit of little doubt; but that they had awfully degenerated

before our Lord's time is sufficiently evident. They had lost the

spirit of their institution, and retained nothing else than its

external regulations. See Clarke on Mt 16:1.

1. This Pharisee did no harm to others-I am not rapacious, nor

unjust, nor an adulterer. I seize no man's property through

false pretences. I take the advantage of no man's ignorance in

buying or selling. I avoid every species of uncleanness. In a

word, I do to others as I wish them to do to me. How many of those

called Christians are not half as good as this Pharisee! And, yet,

he was far from the kingdom of God.

2. He observed the ordinances of religion-I fast twice in the

week. The Jewish days of fasting, in each week, were the second

and fifth; what we call Monday and Thursday. These were

instituted in remembrance of Moses' going up to the mount to give

the law, which they suppose to have been on the fifth day; and of

his descent, after he had received the two tables, which they

suppose was on the second day of the week.

Verse 12. I give tithes of all that I possess.] Or, of all I

acquire, κτωμαι. Raphelius has well observed, that this verb, in

the present tense, signifies to acquire-in the preter, to

possess: the Pharisee's meaning seems to be, "As fast as I gain

any thing, I give the tenth part of it to the house of God and to

the poor." Those who dedicate a certain part of their earnings to

the Lord should never let it rest with themselves, lest possession

should produce covetousness. This was the Pharisee's

righteousness, and the ground on which he builded his hope of

final salvation. That the Pharisees had a strong opinion of their

own righteousness, the following history will prove:-

"Rabbi Simeon, the son of Jochai, said: The whole world is not

worth thirty righteous persons, such as our father Abraham. If

there were only thirty righteous persons in the world, I and my

son should make two of them; but if there were but twenty, I and

my son would be of the number; and if there were but ten, I and my

son would be of the number: and if there were but five, I and my

son would be of the five; and if there were but two, I and my son

would be those two; and if there were but one, myself should be

that one." Bereshith Rabba, s. 35, fol. 34. This is a genuine

specimen of Pharisaic pride. No wonder that our Lord accused these

of pride and vain glory: they were far from humility, and

consequently far from righteousness.

Verse 13. The publican, standing afar off] Not because he was a

heathen, and dared not approach the holy place; (for it is

likely he was a Jew;) but because he was a true penitent, and felt

himself utterly unworthy to appear before God.

Would not lift up-his eyes] Holding down the head, with the eyes

fixed upon the earth, was, 1. A sign of deep distress. 2. Of a

consciousness and confession of guilt. And, 3. It was the very

posture that the Jewish rabbins required in those who prayed to

God. See Ezr 9:6; and

Mishna, in Berachoth, chap. v.; and Kypke's note here. So the

Pharisee appears to have forgotten one of his own precepts.

But smote upon his breast] Smiting the breast was a token of

excessive grief, commonly practised in all nations. It seems to

intimate a desire, in the penitent, to punish that heart through

the evil propensities of which the sin deplored had been

committed. It is still used among the Roman Catholics in their

general confessions.

God be merciful to me] ιλασθητιμοι-Be propitious toward me

through sacrifice-or, let an atonement be made for me. I am a

sinner, and cannot be saved but in this way. The Greek word

ιλασκω, or ιλασκομαι, often signifies to make expiation for sin;

and is used by the Septuagint, Ps 65:4; 78:38; 79:9, for

kipper, he made an atonement. So ιλασμος a propitiation, is used

by the same, for chataah, a sacrifice for sin, Eze 44:27;

and ιλαστηριον, the mercy seat, is, in the above version, the

translation of kapporeth, the lid of the ark of the

covenant, on and before which the blood of the expiatory

victim was sprinkled, on the great day of atonement. The verb is

used in exactly the same sense by the best Greek writers. The

following from Herodotus, lib. i. p. 19, edit. Gale, is full in

point. θυσιησιμεγαλησιτονενδελφοισιθεονιλασκετο, Croesus

appeased, or made an atonement to, the Delphic god by immense

sacrifices. We see then, at once, the reason why our blessed Lord

said that the tax-gatherer went down to his house justified rather

than the other:-he sought for mercy through an atonement for sin,

which was the only way in which God had from the beginning

purposed to save sinners. As the Pharisee depended on his doing no

harm, and observing the ordinances of religion for his acceptance

with God, according to the economy of grace and justice, he must

be rejected: for as all had sinned and come short of the glory of

God, and no man could make an atonement for his sins, so he who

did not take refuge in that which God's mercy had provided must be

excluded from the kingdom of heaven. This was no new doctrine: it

was the doctrine publicly and solemnly preached by every sacrifice

offered under the Jewish law. Without shedding of blood there is

no remission, was the loud and constant cry of the whole Mosaic

economy. From this we may see what it is to have a righteousness

superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees. We must humble

ourselves before God, which they did not: we must take refuge in

the blood of the cross, which they would not; and be meek and

humble of heart, which they were not.

Many suppose that the Pharisees thought they could acquire

righteousness of themselves, independently of God, and that they

did not depend on him for grace or power: but let us not make them

worse than they were-for this is disclaimed by the Pharisee in the

text, who attributes all the good he had to God: O God, I thank

thee, that I am not as others-it is thou who hast made me to

differ. But this was not sufficient: restraining grace must not be

put in the place of the great atonement. Guilt he had

contracted-and this guilt must be blotted out; and that there was

no way of doing this, but through an atonement, the whole Jewish

law declared. See Clarke on Mt 5:20.

Verse 14. Went doom to his house justified] His sin blotted out;

and himself accepted.

Rather than the other] ηεκεινος: that is, the other was not

accepted, because he exalted himself-he made use of the mercies

which he acknowledged he owed to God, to make claims on the Divine

approbation, and to monopolize the salvation of the Most High! He

was abased, because he vainly trusted that he was righteous, and

depended on what he had been enabled to do, and looked not for a

change of heart, nor for reconciliation to God. It is a strange

perversion of the human mind, to attempt to make God our debtor by

the very blessings which his mere mercy has conferred upon us! It

was a maxim among the Jews, that whoever brought a sacrifice to

the temple returned justified. But our Lord shows that this

depended on the state of mind-if they were not humbled under a

sense of sin, they were not justified, though they had even

offered a sacrifice.

Verse 15. - 17. They brought unto him also infants] On these

verses the reader is requested to consult the notes on

Mt 19:13, 14, and on Mr 10:16.

When a spiritual guide (a gooroo) visits his disciple, the

latter takes his child to him for his blessing, forcing the head

of the child down to the gooroo's feet, who gives what is called

his blessing in some such words as these, Live long!-Be

learned!-Be rich!

Verse 18. - 23. A certain ruler] See the case of this person

largely explained on Mt 19:16-22, and Mr 10:21, 22.

Verse 24. How hardly shall they that have riches, &c.] See the

notes on this discourse of our Lord, on Mt 19:21-30, and

Mr 10:30.

Verse 25. It as easier for a camel] Instead of καμηλον, a camel,

S, and four other MSS., read καμιλου, a cable. See the same

reading noticed on the parallel place, Mt 19:24.

Verse 28. We have left all] Our trades, our houses, and

families. The reader is desired to consult the notes on

Mt 4:20; 19:27, &c.

Verse 29. That hath left house, or parents, &c.] See on

Mt 19:28, 29, and Mr 10:29, 30.

Or brethren] ηαδελφας, OR SISTERS, is added by the Cod.

Bezae, and some others.

Verse 31. Behold, we go up to Jerusalem] See the notes on this

discourse, Mt 20:17-19, and Mr 10:32.

Verse 33. And the third day he shall rise again.] See Ho 6:2;

and let the reader observe that the passage should be read thus:

In the third day he will raise HIM up, () and we shall live

before him: his resurrection shall be the pledge, token, and cause

of ours.

Verse 34. They understood none of these things] Notwithstanding

all the information which Christ had given them concerning this

awful subject, they could not as yet fully comprehend how the

Messiah should suffer; or how their Master, whose power they knew

was unlimited, should permit the Jews and Gentiles to torment and

slay him as he here intimates they would.

Verse 35. A certain blind man] Bartimeus. See this transaction

explained at large, on Mt 20:29-34, and Mr 10:46, &c.

Verse 40. And when he was come near] See the remarkable account

of the negro and white man, related on Mr 10:50.

Verse 43. And all the people-gave: praise unto God.] They saw

the finger of God in what was done; and they gave him that praise

which was due to his name. The Pharisees either saw not, or would

not acknowledge this. The common people are often better judges of

the work of God than the doctors themselves. They are more simple,

are not puffed up with the pride of learning, and are less liable

to be warped by prejudice or self-interest. Happy are those

spiritually blind persons, to whom Christ has given eyes, that

they may know him: feet, that they may follow him: a tongue,

that they may praise him: and a heart, that they may love him! A

true conversion, which no way contradicts itself, but is followed

by an edifying life, makes known the majesty and power of God in a

more eminent manner than the greatest external miracles. Quesnel.

FOR a practical use of the principal subjects in this chapter,

see the parallel places in Matthew and Mark. How shall I be

justified? is a most important question, which the parable of the

Pharisee and the publican most distinctly answers. A deep

consciousness of sin, humiliation of heart, and taking refuge by

faith in the great atonement, is the way, and the only way. Even

the worst transgressors, coming thus to God, are accepted. Blessed

news for penitent sinners!-for though they cannot boast of a

righteousness equal to that of the scribes and Pharisees, yet they

find they can, coming as the publican, be justified freely,

through the blood of the cross, from all things, from which they

could not be justified by the law of Moses. If this be so, how

shall they escape who neglect so GREAT a SALVATION!

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