Luke 13


Christ preaches the necessity of repentance, from the

punishment of the Galileans massacred by Pilate, 1-3.

And by the death of those on whom the tower in Siloam fell,

4, 5.

The parable of the barren fig tree, 6-29.

Christ cures a woman who had been afflicted eighteen years,


The ruler of the synagogue is incensed and is reproved by our

Lord, 14-17.

The parable of the mustard seed, 18, 19;

of the leaven, 20-21.

He journeys towards Jerusalem, and preaches, 22.

The question, Are there few saved? and our Lords answer, with

the discourse thereon, 23-30.

He is informed that Herod purposes to kill him, 31, 32.

Predicts his own death at Jerusalem, and denounces judgments on

that impenitent city, 33-35.


Verse 1. At that season] At what time this happened is not easy

to determine; but it appears that it was now a piece of news which

was told to Christ and his disciples for the first time.

Whose blood Pilate had mingled] This piece of history is not

recorded (as far as I can find) by Josephus: however, he states

that the Galileans were the most seditious people in the land:

they belonged properly to Herod's jurisdiction; but, as they kept

the great feasts at Jerusalem, they probably, by their tumultuous

behaviour at some one of them, gave Pilate, who was a mortal enemy

to Herod, a pretext to fall upon and slay many of them; and thus,

perhaps, sacrifice the people to the resentment he had against the

prince. Archelaus is represented by Josephus as sending his

soldiers into the temple, and slaying 3000 men while they were

employed in offering sacrifices. Josephus, War, b. ii. c. 1, s. 3,

and ii. c. 5. Some suppose that this refers to the followers of

Judas Gaulonites, (see Ac 5:37,) who would not acknowledge the

Roman government, a number of whom Pilate. surrounded and slew,

while they were sacrificing in the temple. See Josephus, Antiq.

lib. 18: but this is not very certain.

Verse 4. The tower in Siloam] This tower was probably built over

one of the porticoes near the pool, which is mentioned Joh 9:7.

See also Ne 3:15.

Debtors, οφειλεται, a Jewish phrase for sinners. Persons

professing to be under the law are bound by the law to be obedient

to all its precepts; those who obey not are reckoned debtors to

the law, or rather to that Divine justice from which the law came.

A different word is used when speaking of the Galileans: they are

termed αμαρτωλοι, as this word is often used to signify heathens;

See Clarke on Lu 7:37; it is probably used here in nearly a

similar sense. "Do ye who live in Jerusalem, and who consider your

selves peculiarly attached to the law, and under the strongest

obligations to obey it-do ye think that those Galileans were more

heathenish than the rest of the Galileans, because they suffered

such things? No. It was not on this account that they perished:

both these cases exhibit a specimen of the manner in which ye

shall all perish, if ye do not speedily repent, and turn to God."

Verse 5. Ye shall all likewise perish.] ωσαυτωςομοιως, In a

like way, in the same manner. This prediction of our Lord was

literally fulfilled. When the city was taken by the Romans,

multitudes of the priests, &c., who were going on with their

sacrifices, were slain, and their blood mingled with the blood of

their victims; and multitudes were buried under the ruins of the

walls, houses, and temple. See Josephus, War, b. vi. ch. iv., v.,

vi.; and see the notes on Matt. 24.

It is very wrong to suppose that those who suffer by the sword,

or by natural accidents, are the most culpable before God. An

adequate punishment for sin cannot be inflicted in this world:

what God does here, in this way, is in general: 1st, through

mercy, to alarm others; 2, to show his hatred to sin; 3, to

preserve in men's minds a proper sense of his providence and

justice; and 4, to give sinners, in one or two particular

instances, a general specimen of the punishment that awaits all

the perseveringly impenitent.

Verse 6. A certain man] Many meanings are given to this parable,

and divines may abound in them; the sense which our Lord designed

to convey by it appears to be the following:-

1. A person, τις, God Almighty. 2. Had a fig tree, the Jewish

Church. 3. Planted in his vineyard-established in the land of

Judea. 4. He came seeking fruit-he required that the Jewish people

should walk in righteousness, in proportion to the spiritual

culture he bestowed on them. 5. The vine-dresser-the Lord Jesus,

for God hath committed all judgment to the Son, Joh 5:22. 6.

Cut it down-let the Roman sword be unsheathed against it. 7. Let

it alone-Christ is represented as intercessor for sinners, for

whose sake the day of their probation is often lengthened; during

which time he is constantly employed in doing every thing that has

a tendency to promote their salvation. 8. Thou shalt cut it down-a

time will come, that those who have not turned at God's

invitations and reproofs shall be cut off, and numbered with the


Verse 7. Behold these three years] From this circumstance in the

parable, it may be reasonably concluded that Jesus had been, at

the time of saying this, exercising his ministry for three years

past; and, from what is said in Lu 13:8, of letting it alone this

year also, it may be concluded likewise that this parable was

spoken about a year before Christ's crucifixion; and, if both

these conclusions are reasonable, we may thence infer that this

parable was not spoken at the time which appears to be assigned to

it, and that the whole time of Christ's public ministry was about

four years. See Bishop Pearce. But it has already been remarked

that St. Luke never studies chronological arrangement. See the

Preface to this Gospel.

Why cumbereth it the ground?] Or, in other words, Why should the

ground be also useless? The tree itself brings forth no fruit; let

it be cut down that a more profitable one may be planted in its

place. Cut it down. The Codex Bezae has added here, φερετην

αξινην, Bring the axe and cut it down. If this reading be genuine,

it is doubtless an allusion to Mt 3:10:

Now the axe lieth at the root of the trees. If the writer has

added it on his own authority, he probably referred to the place

above mentioned. See the note on the above text.

There is something very like this in the γεωπονικα, or De Re

Rustica of the ancient Greek writers on agriculture. I refer to

cap. 83 of lib. x., p. 773; edit. Niclas, entitled, δενδρον

ακαρπονκαρποφορειν, How to make a barren tree fruitful.

Having girded yourself, and tied up your garments, take a bipen or

axe, and with an angry mind approach the tree as if about to cut

it down. Then let some person come forward and deprecate the

cutting down of the tree, making himself responsible for its

future fertility. Then, seem to be appeased, and so spare the

tree, and afterwards it will yield fruit in abundance. "Bean straw

(manure of that material,) scattered about the roots of the tree,

will make it fruitful." That a similar superstition prevailed

among the Asiatics, Michaelis proves from the Cosmographer Ibn

Alvardi, who prescribes the following as the mode to render a

sterile palm tree fruitful: "The owner, armed with an axe, having

an attendant with him, approaches the tree, and says, I must cut

this tree down, because it is unfruitful. Let it alone, I beseech

thee, says the other, and this year it will bring forth fruit. The

owner immediately strikes it thrice with the back of his axe; but

the other preventing him says, I beseech thee to spare it, and I

will be answerable for its fertility. Then the tree becomes

abundantly fruitful." Does not our Lord refer to such a custom?

Verse 11. A woman which had a spirit of infirmity] Relative to

this subject three things may be considered:-

I. The woman's infirmity.

II. Her cure. And

III. The conduct of the ruler of the synagogue on the occasion.

I. The woman's infirmity.

1. What was its origin? SIN. Had this never entered into the

world, there had not been either pain, distortion, or death.

2. Who was the agent in it? Satan; Lu 13:16. God has often

permitted demons to act on and in the bodies of men and women; and

it is not improbable that the principal part of unaccountable and

inexplicable disorders still come from the same source.

3. What was the nature of this infirmity? She was bowed

together, bent down to the earth, a situation equally painful

and humiliating; the violence of which she could not support, and

the shame of which she could not conceal.

4. What was the duration of this infirmity? Eighteen years. A

long time to be under the constant and peculiar influence of the


What was the effect of this infirmity? The woman was so bowed

together that she could in no case stand straight, or look toward


II. The woman's cure.

1. Jesus saw her, Lu 13:12. Notwithstanding her infirmity was

great, painful, and shameful, she took care to attend the

synagogue. While she hoped for help from God, she saw it was her

duty to wait in the appointed way, in order to receive it. Jesus

saw her distress, and the desire she had both to worship her Maker

and to get her health restored, and his eye affected his heart.

2. He called her to him. Her heart and her distress spoke

loudly, though her lips were silent; and, as she was thus calling

for help, Jesus calls her to himself that she may receive help.

3. Jesus laid his hands on her. The hand of his holiness

terrifies, and the hand of his power expels, the demon.

Ordinances, however excellent, will be of no avail to a sinner,

unless he apprehend Christ in them.

4. Immediately she was made straight, Lu 13:13. This cure

was-1. A speedy one-it was done in an instant. 2. It was a perfect

one-she was made completely whole. 3. It was a public one-there

were many to attest and render it credible. 4. It was a stable and

permanent one-she was loosed, for ever loosed from her infirmity.

5. Her soul partook of the good done to her body-she glorified

God. As she knew before that it was Satan who had bound her, she

knew also that it was God only that could loose her; and now,

feeling that she is loosed, she gives God that honour which is due

to his name.

III. The conduct of the ruler of the

synagogue on the occasion.

1. He answered with indignation, Lu 13:14. It would seem as if

the demon who had left the woman's body had got into his heart. It

is not an infrequent case to find a person filled with rage and

madness, while beholding the effects of Christ's power upon

others. Perhaps, like this ruler, he pretends zeal and concern for

the honour of religion: "These preachings, prayer meetings,

convictions, conversions, &c., are not carried on in his way, and

therefore they cannot be of God." Let such take care, lest, while

denying the operation of God's hand, they be given up to demonic


2. He endeavours to prevent others from receiving the kind help

of the blessed Jesus-He said unto the people, &c., Lu 13:14. Men

of this character who have extensive influence over the poor, &c.,

do immense harm: they often hinder them from hearing that word

which is able to save their souls. But for this also they must

stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Reader, hast thou ever

acted in this way?

3. Jesus retorts his condemnation with peculiar force;

Lu 13:15, 16. Thou

hypocrite to pretend zeal for God's glory, when it is only the

workings of thy malicious, unfeeling, and uncharitable heart.

Wouldst thou not even take thy ass to water upon the Sabbath day?

And wouldst thou deprive a daughter of Abraham (one of thy own

nation and religion) of the mercy and goodness of God upon the

Sabbath? Was not the Sabbath instituted for the benefit of man?

4. His adversaries were ashamed, Lu 13:17. The

mask of their hypocrisy, the only covering they had, is taken

away; and now they are exposed to the just censure of that

multitude whom they deceived, and from whom they expected

continual applause.

5. His indignation and uncharitable censure, not only turn to

his own confusion, but are made the instruments of the edification

of the multitude-they rejoiced at all the glorious things which he

did. Thus, O Lord! the wrath of man shall praise thee, and the

remainder thereof thou shalt restrain.

A preacher will know how to apply this subject to general


Verse 18. - 19. The kingdom-is like a grain of mustard seed]

See Clarke on Mt 13:31.

Verse 21. Like leaven] See this explained, Mt 13:33.

Verse 22. Journeying toward Jerusalem.] Luke represents all that

is said, from Lu 9:51, as having been done and spoken while

Christ was on his last journey to Jerusalem.

See Clarke on Lu 9:51, and

See Clarke on Lu 12:58, and see the Preface.

Verse 23. Are there few that be saved?] A question either of

impertinence or curiosity, the answer to which can profit no

man. The grand question is, Can I be saved? Yes. How? Strive

earnestly to enter in through the strait gate-αγωνιζεσθε,

agonize-exert every power of body and soul-let your salvation

be the grand business of your whole life.

Verse 24. Many-will seek] They seek-wish and desire; but they do

not strive; therefore, because they will not agonize-will not be

in earnest, they shall not get in. See this subject more

particularly explained on Mt 7:13, 14.

Verse 25. And hath shut to the door] See the notes on

Mt 7:22, 23, and Mt 25:10-41.

Verse 28. Abraham, and Isaac, &c.] See Clarke on Mt 8:12, where

the figures and allusions made use of here are particularly explained.

Verse 29. They shall come] That is, the Gentiles, in every part

of the world, shall receive the Gospel of the grace of God, when

the Jews shall have rejected it.

Verse 30. There are last which shall be first]

See Clarke on Mt 19:30.

Verse 31. Depart hence, &c.] It is probable that the place from

which Christ was desired to depart was Galilee or Perea; for

beyond this Herod had no jurisdiction. It can scarcely mean

Jerusalem, though it appears from Lu 23:7, that

Herod Antipas was there at the time of our Lord's crucifixion.

Herod will kill thee.] Lactantius says that this Herod was the

person who chiefly instigated the Jewish rulers to put our Lord to

death: Tum Pontius, et illorum clamoribus, et Herodis tetrarchae

instigatione, metuentis ne regno pelleretur, victus est:-fearing

lest himself should be expelled from the kingdom, if Christ should

be permitted to set up his. See LACT. Inst. Div. lib. iv. c.

xviii., and Bishop Pearce on Lu 23:7.

Verse 32. Tell that fox] Herod was a very vicious prince, and

lived in public incest with his sister-in-law, Mr 6:17: if our

Lord meant him here, it is hard to say why the character of fox,

which implies cunning, design, and artifice, to hide evil

intentions, should be attributed to him, who never seemed studious

to conceal his vices. But we may suppose that Christ, who knew his

heart, saw that he covered his desire for the destruction of our

Lord, under the pretence of zeal for the law and welfare of the

Jewish people. A fox among the Jews appears to have been the

emblem of a wicked ruler, who united cunning with cruelty, and was

always plotting how he might aggrandize himself by spoiling the

people. See a quotation in Schoettgen.

The following observation from the judicious Bishop Pearce

deserves attention. "It is not certain," says he, "that Jesus

meant Herod here; he might only have intended to call that man so,

from whom the advice of departing came, (whether from the speaker

himself, or the person who sent him,) for it is probable, that the

advice was given craftily, and with design to frighten Jesus, and,

make him go from that place."

To-day and to-morrow] I am to work miracles for two days more,

and on the third day I shall be put to death. But it is probable

that this phrase only means, that he had but a short time to live,

without specifying its duration.

Perfected.] Or finished, τελειουμαι. I shall then have

accomplished the purpose for which I came into the world,

leaving nothing undone which the counsel of God designed me to

complete. Hence, in reference to our Lord, the word implies his

dying; as the plan of human redemption was not finished, till he

bowed his head and gave up the ghost on the cross: see Joh 19:30,

where the same word is used. It is used also in reference to

Christ's death, Heb 2:10; 5:9; see also Ac 20:24, and

Heb 12:23. The word

finish, &c., is used in the same sense both by the Greeks and

Latins. See KYPKE.

Verse 33. I must walk, &c.] I must continue to work miracles and

teach for a short time yet, and then I shall die in Jerusalem:

therefore I cannot depart, according to the advice given me,

(Lu 13:31,) nor can a hair of my head fall to the ground till

my work be all done.

To-day and to-morrow, &c.] Kypke contends that the proper

translation of the original is, I must walk to-day and to-morrow

IN THE NEIGHBOURING COASTS: and that εχομενη is often understood

in this way: see Mr 1:38, and his notes there. That Christ was

now in the jurisdiction of Herod, as he supposes, is evident from

Lu 13:31; that he was on his last journey to Jerusalem,

Lu 9:51; that he had just passed through Samaria, Lu 9:52, 56;

that as Samaria and Judea were under the Roman procurator, and

Perea was subject to Herod Antipas, therefore he concludes that

Christ was at this time in Perea; which agrees with Mt 19:1, and

Mr 10:1, and Lu 17:11. He thinks, if the words be not

understood in this way, they are contrary to Lu 13:32, which says

that on it Christ is to die, while this says he is to live and


Perish out of Jerusalem.] A man who professes to be a prophet

can be tried on that ground only by the grand Sanhedrin, which

always resides at Jerusalem; and as the Jews are about to put me

to death, under the pretence of my being a false prophet,

therefore my sentence must come from this city, and my death take

place in it.

Verse 34. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem] See notes on Mt 23:37-39,

where the metaphor of the hen is illustrated from the Greek


Verse 35. Your house] οοικος, the temple-called here your

house, not my house-I acknowledge it no longer; I have abandoned

it, and will dwell in it no more for ever. So he said, 2Ch 36:17,

when he delivered the temple into the hands of the Chaldeans-the

house of YOUR sanctuary. A similar form of speech is found,

Ex 32:7, where the Lord said to Moses,

THY people, &c., to intimate that he acknowledged them no longer

for his followers. See the notes on Mt 23:21, 38. But some think

that our Lord means, not the temple, but the whole commonwealth of

the Jews.

The principal subjects it this chapter may be found considered

at large, on the parallel places in Matthew and Mark, to which the

reader is referred. As to the account of the woman with the spirit

of infirmity, which is not mentioned by any other of the

evangelists, see it largely illustrated in the notes on Lu 13:11,


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