From: Busy Person’s Guide to Luke 1 to 12 Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2019
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Busy Person’s Guide to the New Testament:
Quickly Understanding Luke
(Volume 1: Chapters 6 to 7)
Jesus Claims “Lord[ship]” Power Over Deciding What Is Right and Wrong to Do on the Sabbath (Luke 6:1-5): 1 Jesus was going through the grain fields on a Sabbath, and his disciples picked some heads of wheat, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is against the law on the Sabbath?” 3 Jesus answered them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry— 4 how he entered the house of God, took and ate the sacred bread, which is not lawful for any to eat but the priests alone, and gave it to his companions?” 5 Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
6:1 Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. The expression “second Sabbath” has caused mountains of perplexity in explaining its significance and if one were to translate the words roughly literally you would have “on the second-first Sabbath” (as in Weymouth)--an expression found nowhere else, including in the parallel accounts of the event. Most translations assume that this was an accidental textual corruption since so many Greek manuscripts omit the “second” part.
On that Sabbath, Jesus and the apostles happened to be walking through the grainfields--or, far more likely to be the language’s intent, on a path through or edging on them. There is no criticism of Jesus for what He was doing so it was apparently only being done by the others. They reached out and grabbed some heads of grain, made them eatable by rubbing them in their hands, and ate the result as a snack. This was permitted by the Jewish law (Deuteronomy ) but when there is the desire to find offense there is always a way. . . .
6:2 And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” They had, in effect, harvested grain and that was work and work was forbidden on the Sabbath--such is their unstated train of logic. Of course the difference between grabbing some heads of grain and the systematic work of harvest was profound in regard to the amount of grain involved, the labor involved, and the intent involved. The fact that it could be (creatively) shoe-horned into the definition of “Sabbath work” was adequate for those looking for something to gripe about--which tells us a whole lot about the mentality of these critics.
6:3 But Jesus answering them said, ”Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him. David was about as respectable an example as one could find: Pious, dedicated to God, and ultimately ruler of the land. Yet even he did something far more drastic than Jesus’ disciples were doing (see the account in 1 Samuel 21:1-6). . . .
6:4 how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?” They did not merely pluck a little grain (as the disciples were doing), they actually entered “the house of God” and ate the showbread which was reserved strictly for the priests. None of the Pharisees would think for a second to criticize what David had done. Yet was not David’s action far more open--not just to accusations of violating the Sabbath--but to the charge of desecration than anything done by Jesus’ disciples?
6:5 And He said to them, ”The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” When it comes down to authority to interpret what is proper and improper on the Sabbath that is in Jesus’ domain and not their’s. As the “Son of Man” He has the inherent right to be “Lord of the Sabbath” and to decide the propriety of the matter. When He invokes “lordship” language and authority over the Sabbath that was initiated by God, there is no way to avoid the conclusion that Jesus was not merely asserting that individuals must interpret the word that God has delivered.
Rather, He is invoking Messiahship language in words just barely vague enough (“Son of Man”) to avoid an even more vehement exchange over that subject as well. For the Messianic usage of the term Daniel 7:13-14 is the jumping off point: “13 I was watching in the night visions, / And behold, One like the Son of Man, / Coming with the clouds of heaven! / He came to the Ancient of Days, / And they brought Him near before Him. / Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, / That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. / His dominion is an everlasting dominion, / Which shall not pass away, / And His kingdom the one / Which shall not be destroyed.”
Jesus Claims It Is Inherently Proper to Miraculously Heal Even on the Sabbath Because It Is Doing Good and Salvaging a Life (Luke 6:6-11): 6 On another Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and was teaching. Now a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7 The experts in the law and the Pharisees watched Jesus closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they could find a reason to accuse him.
8 But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Get up and stand here.” So he rose and stood there. 9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil, to save a life or to destroy it?”
10 After looking around at them all, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” The man did so, and his hand was restored. 11 But they were filled with mindless rage and began debating with one another what they would do to Jesus.
--New English Translation (for comparison)
6:6 Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. The action of the disciples was open to the accusation of it being self-interested and self-beneficial. But what if it were behavior that benefited someone else--someone in serious need of help on the Sabbath? Would that be interpreted as unlawful “work” as well? On this Sabbath that question got answered. In a synagogue where Jesus worshipped that day, there was present a man with a withered right hand. Since the bulk of the population is right handed, that meant that most (all?) jobs he could hold were beyond his physical capacity. At best, he was reduced to an economically marginal existence.
Sidebar: Which hand was involved is new information that the other accounts omit (Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6). Is it Luke’s medical background that causes him to mention this?
6:7 So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. The man’s welfare is an irrelevancy to them. All that is important is finding an accusation to use against the Lord. The Sadducees likely had no problem with a healing (their problem would have been who was doing it); the Pharisees, in contrast, tended to find even innocent things a violation of the Mosaical system: “The followers of Shammai, at that epoch the most powerful of the Pharisaic Schools, were so strict about the Sabbath, that they held it a violation of the Law to tend the sick, or even to console them on that day. Hence what the Pharisees were waiting to see was whether He was going to side with them in their Sabbatic views, or with the more lax Sadducees, whom the people detested” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges).
6:8 But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. Whether miraculously gained or because their hostility was so manifest that He could see it in their eager yet hostile faces we don’t know; either way, the end result was the same. Hence what comes next is an intentional confrontation since He knows they are going to object. But doing good to make a man self-sufficient was more important than keeping peace with them. Hence Jesus commanded the man to stand up and come next to Him.
6:9 Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” They had hoped to discredit Jesus. He takes the opportunity to undermine their credibility: If one is to choose between saving life on the Sabbath and destroying it, which is to be chosen? If a person is to choose between doing good on that day or doing evil, which is to be selected? Thus is His challenge. So far as He is concerned it must be one or the other. There is no middle ground. (And probably 90% of the population would have concurred.)
And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. He looked at “all” His critics, as if daring them to protest further. But note how His argument carefully equated “to do good” with “saving life” and “doing evil” with “destroying life (by inaction).” Can one possibly be “honoring the Sabbath” by “doing evil by inaction?” They are not about to touch that fatal an argument. It’s a losing proposition.
So when no one chose to publicly challenge Jesus, He commanded the man to stretch out his hand and immediately it was restored to the same condition as the good one. This did nothing to reduce their outrage, however. . . .
But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. If they had responded, any response would have made them even more obviously look like the hard-hearted individuals they were . . . who cared more for their theology than for the welfare of the people. So they continued the conversation, so to speak, in the one place safe for them to do so: Among themselves and it didn’t deal with whether a valid argument could be constructed to answer Him; it centered solely on their ultimate retribution and what might be done to undermine or destroy Him.
After a Night of Prayer, Jesus Chooses Twelve of His Disciples to Become Apostles (Luke -16): 12 Now it was during this time that Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and he spent all night in prayer to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), and his brother Andrew; and James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. --New English Translation (for comparison)
Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. Prayers may be long and they may be short. But in regard to a subject this important--the selection of apostles--and in light of the troubling times that were ahead, there was a need for Him to pour out His heart all night to His Father . . . not for wisdom to choose the right men (that was guaranteed) but for His own strength and theirs in the troubling days that would lie ahead.
And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles. Such a leadership cadre is required for any movement that is going to become large. One person can never carry the entire load but for so long. In addition, Jesus knew that His own destiny was ultimately the cross and He needed reliable and steadfast souls to continue to share His message after His resurrection and ascension.
Sidebar on the terminology used--“apostle:” “The literal meaning of this term is ‘one who is sent’ [i.e., a messenger, as in Philippians ] but in classical Greek it had acquired a distinct meaning as ‘envoy or ambassador’ of a sovereign or of a state. These favored men, then, received this as the official designation by which they were ever to be known.” (Pulpit Commentary)
Simon, whom He also named Peter,
and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew. About those in this list
(verses 14-16) we know very little.
Peter, James and John are clearly the inner circle of the apostolic
group, being present at the Mount of Transfiguration and taken further into the
Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot. Of those mentioned in this verse Matthew has traditionally been considered the same as the author of the gospel that bears that name. There was also a “Simon” who was “called the Zealot.” This is a bit early chronologically for him to have been a member of the ultra-nationalist band of cut-throats that later went by this name, though it would be a natural nomenclature for someone of a similar temperament (i.e., prior to working with Jesus). On the other hand, if one prefers a purely positive interpretation, it could refer to Simon’s outstanding spiritual enthusiasm and zealousness, beginning either in his days before meeting Jesus or after becoming His disciple and then apostle.
Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor. There were two Judas in the group. The writer quite bluntly warns us that the one named Judas Iscariot will be the one who eventually betrays Jesus to His enemies. One can’t help but wonder whether the other Judas ever felt uncomfortable with his own name after the tragic events that ultimately occurred . . . perhaps even favoring a different one afterwards. This may well explain the presence in other apostle lists of Lebbaeus (Matthew) and Thaddaeus (Mark) while both are unmentioned by Luke--with at least one of them being the honorable Judas.
The “Sermon on the
Plain” Is Preceded by the Presence of a Large Crowd and Numerous Healings (Luke
-19): 17 Then he came down with
them and stood on a level place. And a large number of his disciples had
gathered along with a vast multitude from all over
--New English Translation (for comparison)
6:17 And He came down with them and stood on a level place with
a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all
Furthermore the Sermon on the Mount was delivered when “He went up on a mountain and when He was seated His disciples came to Him (Matthew 5:1). In contrast, here we read of how “He came down with them and stood on a level place”--and then healed and preached. These can be effectively intermingled into the same event, but the more natural expectation would seem to be that we are dealing with a similar sermon delivered on a different occasion. (For evidence they do refer to the same lesson, see on 7:1).
However we judge that possibility, it is important to note how great an interest Jesus had aroused at this point. It wasn’t that they approached after He came to their towns; in this case, large crowds came to Him, undertaking journeys that could have taken several days. They clearly anticipated at least the approximate location where He would be found. Would it be out of line to wonder whether this was, in effect, the first pre-announced “gospel meeting”--held at a time and place people were informed of ahead of time?
Perhaps that is mere pleasant speculation and the assembling was the simple result of how well Jesus had gained a reputation. Either way, before He began His teaching He first established full credibility for it by His miraculous healings. These included power over both natural phenomena (the present verse) and unnatural, as mentioned in the next one. . . .
as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed. Once again we see the distinction between those suffering from “diseases” and those afflicted with “unclean spirits.” Not that the demon possessed couldn’t manifest similar symptoms, but that something else was also present that moved it out of that category. Specifically the demonic interpretation was placed when the symptoms were far more intense than found in organically caused problems. The case of apparent schizophrenia found in Mark 5:1-20 illustrates this well. It should also be noted that when demonic words are recorded, they speak in coherent language and not gibberish.
The term used to describe the result of possession was the emphatic word “tormented.” Although some translations prefer the less forceful “suffered,” from what we read in other cases, this rendition covers well the conceptual freight intended by the expression when it is used in connection with demons.
And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all. “The whole multitude” who wished “to touch Him” is normally interpreted as the many who were ill and that certainly fits with the stress on the great number of sick mentioned in the preceding verses and how the people sought to do the same thing in Matthew 14:34-36. Yet in this environment of repeated healings, is it not probable that more than a few who weren't physically sick would have done so as well--not really knowing how it would help them, but knowing that if such manifest power could flow out from Him that they must also in some manner be benefited? Superstitious, quite probably; but doesn't it ring true to “human nature?”
How to Obtain
Divine Blessings—Or Divine Retribution (Luke -26): 20 Then he looked up at
his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the
21 ”Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
22 ”Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject you as evil on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and jump for joy, because your reward is great in heaven. For their ancestors did the same things to the prophets.
24 ”But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your comfort already.
25 ”Woe to you who are well satisfied with food now, for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
26 ”Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for their ancestors did the same things to the false prophets.”
--New English Translation (for comparison)
Then He lifted up His eyes toward
His disciples, and said: “Blessed are
you poor, for yours is the
Hence, strangely enough, their very worldly lack provided them a blessing. It was not the poverty that was “blessed,” but the accompanying ability to see with their eyes and obey with their hearts the truth of God.
This is absolutely true--as far as it goes. But there is a second idea being stressed, though the prevalence of poverty/near-poverty masses make me suspect that one can't fully separate the two approaches. Hence we read. . .
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Taken literally both verses could easily refer to how all of earth’s hurts and injuries will be compensated in the resurrection with heartfelt joy and happiness: our “reward . . . in heaven” (verse 23). In a spiritual context, both this and the preceding verse would refer to those who are spiritually poor and downcast and who, through Jesus, discover their joy while here on earth.
In Matthew such an intent on spirituality is clear; here in Luke the text can easily convey a literalism as regards both poverty and hunger. On the other hand, if that were intended as the emphasis--or, at least, the dominant one--the following two verses’ stress on spirituality and its reward would represent a strange shift in emphasis. The emphasis then is on the spiritual “full meal” rather than the temporal.
The stress on those seeking to please God as being “fed” by God represents a concept found in both the Old Testament (Psalms 107:9: “For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness”) and the New Testament as well (Luke 1:53: “He has filled the hungry with good things”).
The concept of hunger being abolished with happiness naturally leads to the other assertion, that tears will be replaced with joy. In this “great reversal of ‘the natural order’,” how else could it possibly be? As the imagery of Revelation 21:4 surely implies when it records: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” If that doesn’t require happiness as the result, what else could it possibly mean?
Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Even when your religion and character have become purified, things are not going to be perfect on earth. Some people will hate you and manifest it by “exclud[ing] you” from their religious meetings in the synagogue--as is predicted in John 16:2. Even their friendship is terminated as shown by the fact that they insult (“revile”) you because of your discipleship. Your very name will be treated as despicable (“evil”) so reprobate are you for embracing the cause of Jesus.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets. Oddly, at the very time of stress and difficulty (“in that day”) you will have abundant cause for happiness (= “leap for joy”). They are deceived; they are deluded. It is people like you who have something to look forward to in heaven--“your reward is great in heaven.” They have nothing at all. Is that not both encouragement and comfort for your soul?
But then there is more: Meditate upon the fact that their ancestors treated the “prophets” of old just as insultingly as they do you. Is it really that shocking that they are unwilling to treat you any better? “Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” was the challenge of Stephen (Acts ). An exaggeration but rooted in the repeated and violent rejection of God’s messengers by the nation’s people and leaders: It was their common fate for daring to be loyal to God.
Sidebar of examples of the rejection
of the prophets: “Elijah and his contemporaries, 1 Kings . Hanani imprisoned by Asa, 2
Chronicles 16:10. Micaiah
imprisoned, 1 Kings 22:27.
Zechariah stoned by Joash, 2 Chronicles
24:20-21. Urijah slain by Jehoiakim, Jeremiah
26:23. Jeremiah imprisoned,
smitten and put in the stocks, Jeremiah [37:15-16, 21]. Amos slandered,
expelled, and perhaps beaten to death (Amos 7).
Isaiah (according to tradition) sawn asunder [possibly the unidentified
person in] Hebrews ,
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. If some are to be counted as truly blessed others should be considered as carrying a heavy load of “woe” and sorrow. In at least two of the cases this is in spite of having what outwardly is every indication of triumph in life. For example it is easy to think of the “rich” as having nothing to worry about. Yet in real life, except for that minority of spiritually minded, the “consolation” they have is their wealth. If through war, death, or pure bad luck they loose it, they have nothing left. And when the protection that money can buy is no longer there to shield them--after they die and sometimes even while still alive--they have nothing to use to escape quite justified retribution for both evil done and good left undone.
Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. To have a “full” stomach and to live a happy life seems the definition of contentment. Yet, Jesus warns, that such people will also face their own form of hunger and sorrowfulness. Spiritual starvation, so to speak. As Luke 1:52-53 puts it: God “has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich He has sent away empty.” In this life they suppress the spiritual hunger that is implanted in every human soul; but in the next life they awaken, so to speak, as mere starved skeletons.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets. Finally there is a “woe” on those who are universally praised. What more could a person want? Unfortunately universal praise is often purchased at the price of personal integrity. So Jesus holds up the example of the ancient “false prophets” who were so very, very popular. They said what the people wanted, buying acceptance by becoming an echo chamber of their desires and preferences (Jeremiah -31; Isaiah 30:9-11). If our own popularity or self-advancement are our greatest goals, then conviction must be similarly surrendered upon demand. Then we also will fall into the trap saying whatever will keep people happy. Often there can be a pretty good “living” in it; unfortunately not a very happy eternity.
Love and Do Not Commit Violence Even Against Your Enemies Since That Is How You Would Want To Be Treated (Luke 6:27-31): 27 ”But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
29 To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. 31 Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Perhaps the closest to a definition of loving one’s enemies given in the New Testament is this verse and how it parallels such love with doing “good to those who hate you.” The core of love is not some mushy feeling of good will, but the kind of behavior that is exhibited in helpful and constructive relations with others.
While it was not called “loving your enemy” in the Old Testament, it certainly recognized this principle. In regard to helping the hungry: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” (Proverbs 25:21). It was, if you will, a kind of ironical constructive revenge: “For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (verse 22) Both verses are quoted by the apostle Paul in the context of asserting that revenge should be left to God (Romans 12:17-21).
In regard to recovering lost property this kind of practical love was to be exhibited as well: “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again” (Exodus 23:4). Similarly even helping him when he can’t carry out a needed task by himself: “If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it” (Verse 5).
bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. When someone curses you the natural temptation is to throw insulting words back. Instead Jesus insists that we both use non-insulting language (“bless” them rather than “curse” them) and that we even pray for those who mistreat us. That does not mean that we accept as right what they are doing or even voluntarily put ourselves in a situation where we can be abused. It does mean that we not allow resentment to overwhelm us. Jesus doesn’t claim that it is easy; simply that it is what should be done.
To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Another example of restraint under provocation is that when one slaps us we do not strike back. When they sue us, we give them even more than they demand. They think they are dominating the situation. We prove by our behavior that we haven’t totally lost control of it. We seize the initiative rather than merely allowing them to control what is going on. Psychologically rather than physically we assert our own independence without doing harm in the process. Nor do we need let it go by unprotested. Even Jesus Himself did not (John -23).
Both the violence of 29a and the theft of 29b make most sense in terms of conscious persecution rather than the incidents of everyday life.
Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. The injuries and insults of life can easily embitter us. It can choke the sense of concern for others. We develop an attitude of “if life isn’t working out well for me, why should I care what happens to other people?” In contrast, Jesus urges His listeners that no matter what happens in their own lives that they are not to forget to be charitable to those in need if it is within their capacity.
(He is also assuming that there is no reason to doubt his or her genuineness. If he has a large bottle of freshly opened liquor at his feet, the odds are mighty high your money is going into subsidizing his excess rather than providing him assistance. In such cases, one can always substitute food, for example, for money.)
In an odd juxtaposition with this, Jesus argues that if any one has stolen from you (either personally or from your home), don’t demand it back. In a modern urban society with police forces there is a well organized mechanism to deal with much such crime. In the ancient world, even if you knew who had done it, it could easily be that the only way you could get your possessions back would be by violence. Such situations Jesus wants them to avoid.
Sidebar: The Mosaical Code also stressed the moral obligation to help the needy even when a handy excuse was available (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).
And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. The guiding star in behavior might be called “identicalism:” However you want to be treated, treat others in the same manner. Some ancient rabbis came close to this concept by wording it in the negative: don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you. Either makes for a better society.
The negative formulation, however, means all you have to do is avoid doing wrong. That can be satisfied by having nothing to do with them. Jesus demands a positive approach instead--one which inherently requires the avoidance of doing conscious evil as well.
He also pointed out that the Old Testament also demanded this standard: “Therefore whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew ). He may well have Leviticus in mind, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
Surpass the Reciprocal “Love” That Exists Even Between Those Who Do Not Live the Way They Should: Instead, Treat Your Foes Honorably in Order to Be Blessed by God (Luke 6:32-36): 32 ”If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full.
35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. The test of our character is not how we treat those who are our friends but how we treat those we dislike. Loving those who feel the same way toward us is easy. The worst sinner will normally live that way. Hence that standard for behavior is far too low.
And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. Doing good--the outward expression of love--carries no inherent praise when it is merely toward those who treat us in a positive manner already. Even reprobates usually have that much morality. Note the shift in these two verses from mental/emotional attitude (love, verse 32) to behavior/doing good. The two are irretrievably interlocked--attitude and action. Human psychology prohibits them being broken apart.
And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. Note that they expect “to receive as much back” rather than “that and interest.” Jesus is addressing Jews and the Old Testament prohibited “usury” being imposed on one’s co-religionists (Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 23:19-20). But here we seem clearly to be dealing with those we more or less consider “friends;” from such one would normally not expect interest even if that prohibition were lacking. The latter would be clearly obvious to Luke’s Gentile readers even if the Jewish prohibition were not.
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. There is an assumption here--that the person has a legitimate need. We would not expect to lend to even a friend unless that were the circumstance. And even enemies do occasionally get “between a rock and a hard place” and have to ask for help from “someone I’d rather die than ask help from”--us. If they are willing to eat that much “crow,” we need to be humble enough to be helpful.
Because the need is legitimate we take the same attitude as we do toward a friend: Willingness to do it even at the cost of losing what we’ve given. Indeed, we should be predisposed to such: “hoping for nothing in return.” If we get it, that is counted a “bonus;” we are already prepared not to.
Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Living in such a manner makes us true sons of God for He is similarly “kind to the unthankful and evil” (verse 35). Just as He manifests generosity, so should we. It is also a form of “mercy” rather than revenge; something that will help rather than destroy. If recognition of God’s blessings can lead us to repentance, might not recognition by our earthly foe of our helpfulness lead him to change his attitude as well?
The Degree of Unjustified Condemnation You Avoid Giving Others Will Determine How Abundant Are the Blessings Given You (Luke 6:37-38): 37 ”Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. If we go around constantly “judg[ing]” others as worthy of censure, if we are constantly “condemn[ing]” others and can’t find anything to praise, we will be treated with a similar lack of kindness. In these cases of constant fault-finding, there is the temptation to see moral failures in even the most innocent actions. On the other hand (unlike the first examples cited) if we can “forgive” when genuine faults are present--and we are the victims--then we ourselves can count on forgiveness.
Sidebar: Jesus isn’t saying to whitewash sin as if our verbal kindness could magically transform it into virtue. His point is not to allow an overactive imagination to mislabel someone when they’ve done nothing to legitimately earn condemnation.
Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” If we are generous to others, we will reap abundant generosity in return. Although this may be intended of monetary gifts to the poor, coming immediately after the censure of judging others as worse than they are, it is tempting to take the “give” and the receiving as giving and receiving credit for accomplishments and successes.
Do Not Try to Fix Other Peoples’ Small “Problems” When You Aren’t Able to See the Major Ones That Exist in Your Own Life (Luke 6:39-42): 39 He also told them a parable: “Someone who is blind cannot lead another who is blind, can he? Won’t they both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not greater than his teacher, but everyone when fully trained will be like his teacher.
41 Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while you yourself don’t see the beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? In deciding who one follows as a religious leader far more ought to be involved than just their speaking talents or their charisma. If they are spiritually “blind” they will land both themselves and their followers in “the ditch.” Instead of benefiting them, they will land up doing harm--leading them into doctrinal or moral evil. That religious leaders and not just the average religious person is in mind, is seen by both the “leading” language in the current verse and the description of that “leading” person in the next verse as “his teacher.”
Sidebar: Paul invokes this kind of imagery when he refers to the one who is “confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind” and cautions them to remember that they are not free from following the teaching they advocate for others to follow (Romans 2:17-24).
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. To be “perfectly trained” by a teacher is to duplicate that teacher in attitudes, sentiments, and behavior. Hence, if a very imperfect model is followed, the imitation is going to mirror those imperfections--perhaps even make them worse. Therefore the teacher has the moral obligation to set the best pattern he can to avoid that outcome. This “having your own house in order” is especially important when we are trying to help our co-religionist purge himself of his own moral shortcomings. . . .
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Jesus challenges the listeners as to why they can see a minor problem in another’s life, but miss the clear and obvious one in their own. Lack of self-examination? Lack of consistency? In the worst case, blatant hypocrisy justified by one’s position and worldly or spiritual successes.
Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye. Before we criticize someone else we should make sure that we ourselves are not doing something that, comparatively, is much worse. To try to get the “speck” of minor imperfection out of another person is hypocrisy when we have a blatant fault so obvious that it should be as visible as a piece of lumber in the eye. First, the major problem needs to be righted before we start demanding perfection in lesser matters. Unless we do, how in the world are we going to “see” (= comprehend) what the other person needs to do and how to do it?
What You Say and Do To Others Reveals the True Character Of Your Own Heart (Luke 6:43-45): 43 ”For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from brambles. 45 The good person out of the good treasury of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasury produces evil, for his mouth speaks from what fills his heart.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. The human parallel found here: Outward action reflects the inward nature out of which it grows. In character as in nature, a “good tree” does not bear vile or poisonous fruit. Likewise a tree that never produces what is eatable is unable to start producing apples. Of course the parallel has its limits for good men can err and do injustice while dishonorable men can, upon occasion, startle us and stand for something that is right. But these are exceptions to what we are expecting. Jesus is talking about what we normally expect; the “rule of thumb” of life. As such it “hits the nail on the head” in describing reality.
For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. In morality as in nature, we know the true character by the visible and tangible “fruit” in front of us. If a doctrinal/moral system gives us approval to overlook ongoing and repeated sexual sin, then the joyful practice of the sin indicts the “tree” that gave it birth. Not only is our own behavior evil but the very “conceptual tree” that justifies the sin. And calling “evil good” or Bible morality “old fashioned” and “bigoted” doesn't change reality one bit either.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Behavior originates in the “heart.” Hence if it is bad behavior, it bears witness to our evil inner nature. (Of course the standard of judging whether it is such are the scriptures.) Furthermore, our character is revealed by what we say “for out of the abundance of the heart [the] mouth speaks.” If the language is constantly vile, fault finding, and negative, we are revealing our core nature. Likewise if it boasts of success in doing evil and immoral things. Any sin can be rationalized and the rationalization of the sin in no way removes the guilt.
Do Not Merely Pretend That I Am Your “Lord” by Pious Words Since the Only One Who Will Spiritually Prosper As My Disciple Will Be the One Who Is Fully Committed (Luke 6:46-49): 46 ”Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do what I tell you? 47 ”Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and puts them into practice—I will show you what he is like:
48 He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep, and laid the foundation on bedrock. When a flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the person who hears and does not put my words into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against that house, it collapsed immediately, and was utterly destroyed!”
--New English Translation (for comparison)
“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Language is to be consistent with behavior. In the religious sphere, that means why do we honor Jesus as “Lord” if we are unwilling to do what He teaches?
This is also true in the moral sphere as well. For example Jesus affirms: “And He answered and said to them, 'Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?' “ (Matthew 19:4-5). Yet we have this strange illusion today that somehow Jesus would have no problem with marriage involving either two males or two females. Is it not a strange arrogance in which we believe that we have a better insight into true morality than the One we count on for our eternal redemption?
Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like. He illustrates the importance of practicing His teaching by a parable that will show how futile a disobedient person’s profession of loyalty actually is (verses 47-49). A point emphatically relevant to the one we just raised but also applicable to the Lord’s teaching in general.
Sidebar: Note James’ argument concerning the same point (James -25): “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (verse 22).
He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. A man who builds a house in a foundation of rock (rather than on top of the sand) is prepared for the future. Even if a flood hits, the house will have the strength to stand because it has the kind of strong foundation that will keep it from being washed away. This is the physical equivalent of the person who both hears and obeys Jesus’ teaching.
But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” This is the exact opposite of the previous case and represents the person who hears the preaching but does not bother to carry out Jesus’ demands as to behavior and conduct--through negligence or laziness, it doesn’t matter. He is like a person who recklessly builds a house where it visually pleases him or simply because it seems far easier--but a house without any foundation at all. As soon as a stream goes into flood it quickly collapses into ruin. All because of failure to carry out an act of elemental prudence.
Similarly fatal is to lay aside the instructions of Jesus and try to find a “better” and “more modern” way of doing things. It may make our ego feel quite good, but it rips away the foundation we rely on for spiritual security.
Although an Officer in the Occupying Roman Army, a Centurion Comes Who Is So Highly Respected By The Locals that Jesus Happily Heals His Servant (Luke 7:1-10): 1 After Jesus had finished teaching all this to the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion there had a slave who was highly regarded, but who was sick and at the point of death. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they urged him earnestly, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 because he loves our nation, and even built our synagogue.”
6 So Jesus went with
them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to
him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under
my roof. 7 That is why I did not
presume to come to you. Instead, say the
word, and my servant must be healed. 8 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go,’
and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’
and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this,
he was amazed at him. He turned and said
to the crowd that followed him, “I tell you, not even in
10 So when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well. --New English Translation (for comparison)
7:1 Now when He concluded all His sayings
in the hearing of the people, He entered
Sidebar: This is used by those who believe the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain cover the same event since immediately after the Mount Sermon (Matthew 5-7), Jesus then healed a leper (8:1-4) and next we have the account of this centurion servant being healed (8:5-13). Since the lesson was presumably a long one--He is going to have this large a crowd and merely preach a short sermon?--the similarities and divergences between them might be attributable to different parts of the same discourse being cited. Shall we even mention the preacher tool of repetition (with variations) to drive home similar themes?
7:2 And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. The respected servant of a Roman centurion had degenerated to the point that he was not only sick but on the edge of death; his great pain (Matthew 8:6), making it even harder to bear and further fueling the centurion’s worry. He had gone through so much for so long it was obvious death had to be near.
7:3 So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. His desperation can be seen in that he was willing to seek the help of a mere “itinerant preacher” and his wisdom in that he selected the best of intermediaries--he utilized synagogue leaders (= “elders”) to intervene in His behalf. For a Roman to ask a favor of a Jew was an act of great humility. For a Roman centurion to do so, even more.
Jesus was obviously ministering to Jews. The Roman’s direct intervention might actually produce a negative response: Although clearly well respected among some Jews, there would surely be others who felt less kindly. If Jesus were a mere human religious teacher, He might hesitate to do anything lest His own credibility be undermined among them. Hence, he speaks to Jesus through intermediaries He would respect.
7:4 And when they came to Jesus, they
begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was
deserving. Not a mere polite request, but a
passionate one: “they
begged Him earnestly” (“pleaded earnestly with Him,” NIV). And they added to this a, if you will, moral
argument on his behalf: Whatever one
might think of Romans in general, this individual was clearly
“deserving” of any assistance that could be given. Clearly they also recognized that, as a Jew,
Jesus might feel it inappropriate to help a Gentile. Cf. Jesus’ own words on a different occasion,
“I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the
7:5 “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.” Documentation for their claim that he deserved assistance. He thought well of the people--“loves,” not tolerates or a less committed word such as “likes.” Furthermore, he had proved it in costly action as well: he had gone so far as to build a synagogue for them. He had put his money where his mouth was. And since even a modest synagogue would not have been the cheapest thing to build, it represented a considerable investment of time and money even if--as quite possible--he utilized some of his own troops to do part or all of the construction. (If his superiors had raised questions he would probably have described it as the ancient equivalent of “a good will project.” Keep the locals happy and contented--at least as much as you can.)
that he did all this argues that he was what was later called a “proselyte of
the gate,” a non-circumcised Gentile who embraced the ethical ideals of the
Torah. If the common estimate of
7:6 Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. We find something of the man’s character revealed in this. He did not wish to embarrass Jesus or waste His time. In addition, he clearly felt guilty over the imposition having to be made in the first place: “I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.” He was, after all, a Gentile and not part of God’s people. For the healing he sought, there was no need to enter his residence at all. . . .
7:7 Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. This lack of worthiness is why he had sent others to Him to ask assistance rather than doing it himself. He was well aware of the attitude that Peter later laid summed up in these words, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts ). The Romans were superior in power, but the Jews were supposed to be superior in all the ways that most counted--morally and spiritually. The social humility and desire to be respectful to Jewish sensibilities was accompanied with the profound confidence that Jesus was quite capable of healing the dying slave whether physically present or not. And he uses an illustration to illustrate that confidence. . . .
7:8 For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” As a military leader, he also was a man of authority. When he spoke, it was done. He had had similar confidence in Jesus that if He spoke, the healing would occur. His own authority was simply over men, while He recognized that Jesus’ was even over disease and human affliction.
7:9 When Jesus heard these things, He
marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great
faith, not even in
This surely implies healing will occur. In Matthew’s account it is explicitly spelled out: “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you” (Matthew ).
And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick. This would not have taken long since they were “not far from the house” (verse 6). Even death had not blocked Jesus’ power; the servant was both alive and well. It must have awed the centurion: The servant had been on death’s door--and suddenly he was well again. Amazing. Incredible. Such thoughts must have flooded through his mind.
So far as we know, Jesus never did enter the man’s home. What now required His presence? The necessary deed had been performed. Furthermore the centurion had had his profound faith cemented. And can there be any doubt that when the gospel began to be openly spread among Gentiles, that he failed to be one of the zealous and enthusiastic early embracers?
In the Town of
13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and those who carried it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”
15 So the dead man sat up
and began to speak, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they began to glorify God, saying, “A great
prophet has appeared among us!” and “God has come to help his people!” 17 This report about Jesus circulated throughout
Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large
crowd. The day after
the healing of the centurion’s servant, Jesus visited a different community--Nain. It was a
community twenty some miles’ walk southeast of
And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. This was about as great a tragedy as a woman could face. Without a husband and now her only other source of income, her one son, has died as well. Accompanied by many friends and neighbors, they were going out of the city in order to bury him.
Sidebar: With rare exceptions, all burials were routinely expected to be outside the city’s walls because dead bodies made one ceremonially unclean and even accidentally touching their tombs was regarded as doing so as well: “Whoever in the open field touches one who is slain by a sword or who has died, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days” (Numbers 19:16). Hence the whitewashing of tombs (Matthew ) was not only a way of respecting the burial place of the dead, but also a way of discouraging needless physical contact with it. Rare exceptions to non-city burials can be found in cases such as the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 28:3) and King Manasseh (2 Kings ).
When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” There are things we know intellectually (“they need help”) and there are things we understand both intellectually and emotionally (“they need help”). Hence this is a case that affects Him on an even deeper level than much of the other healing work He performed. So He gives her the words of encouragement about not crying. An almost meaningless piece of rhetoric unless something more comes next--and it does.
Sidebar: Jesus refused to perform miracles simply to prove that He had the power to do so--as in the example in Mark 8:11-12. He was not a mere performance artist, doing things to prove to others that he could. As here, He did them out of “compassion” and concern for those in need. And in His success, He provided clear cut proof of the Divine authority that lay behind His teaching as well. Hence the miracles served more than one purpose: benefiting others and authentication of Jesus’ teaching authority as well.
Occasionally He made this explicit: He unambiguously healed a man afflicted with paralysis to prove the credibility of His doing the “invisible” (grant Divine forgiveness). He accomplished this by the visible and “equally impossible act” of giving immediate Divine healing (Luke -26). Hence the intended result of Jesus’ miracles was also to provide visual confirmation of His authority to speak and act on God’s behalf. Peter expressed the idea this way, “Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you [God proved He sent Jesus to you, CEV] by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know” (Acts ).
Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” In ancient Jewish practice the “coffin” would refer not to what we today call a “coffin,” but to the bier that he was carried on. (As in the ESV, NET, and NIV, for example.) It would have been “open” in the sense that any burial wrappings did not yet cover the face so that friends and kin could get their “last look” at the departed.
So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. Obviously the body wrappings were not tight ones or he would not have been able to set up. Doing so would have been astounding in itself. That words began to immediately come out of his mouth would have been even more so. We don't have the foggiest idea of what they were, but one can easily imagine something along the line of “what’s going on?” and “I feel a lot better”--obvious possibilities that jump to the front of our mind. Whether Jesus explained that he had been dead, we don't know--if he had been in extreme condition at the time of death (quite likely)--the words would almost not have been needed. On the other hand, if he had been fully aware, then the words were likely ones of praise to God--both for rescuing him from death and for enabling him to once again care for his widowed mother.
The fact that he needed to be “presented to his mother” argues that she was walking further back in the band of mourners, probably leaning on others for physical support at this time of intense emotion and mental suffering. Not to mention help in not fainting when she got her first full view of her now alive son!
Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” From one standpoint this was a wonderfully constructive miracle and paid tribute to Jesus’ deep compassion for people who found themselves in such a horrible extreme as the death of an only son. It demonstrated a Divine “visitation” of God's people through His miracles.
That He is called a “prophet” was a logical attribution since certain prophets had demonstrated this kind of resurrection making power: both Elijah (1 Kings ) and Elisha (2 Kings ). Jesus had repeatedly exercised the role of a prophet, by publicly teaching God's will. The fact that He could raise the dead as well, surely argued that He must be “a great prophet as well” . . . one that could not safely be ignored or dismissed as irrelevant.
But all these jumbled and intermixed thoughts--how else could they be anything else so quickly after the event--carried additional baggage as well: “Then fear came upon all.” Probably because they recognize that power is always a two edged sword and can be used for either helpful or destructive purposes. The power was manifest, but what if it were utilized in a hostile manner? Within the framework of being “a great prophet,” what are we to do if He gives demands that are difficult to follow or will get others upset with us? If God is willing to manifest such vast power to heal, what are the limits of it if we rebel against His teachings?
And this report about Him went
Sidebar: Nain was within
When John Reacts to the Healing by Sending the Query Whether Jesus Was the Messiah, Jesus Refused to Give a Direct Response. Instead He Urged the Messengers to Report Back the Various Types of Miraculous Healings They Had Both Seen and Heard of From the Locals and Let Him Deduce His Answer From That (Luke 7:18-23): 18 John’s disciples informed him about all these things. So John called two of his disciples 19 and sent them to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” 20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’”
21 At that very time Jesus cured many people of diseases, sicknesses, and evil spirits, and granted sight to many who were blind. 22 So he answered them, “Go tell John what you have seen and heard: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news proclaimed to them . 23 Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
Then the disciples of John reported to him concerning all these things. This is not rumor, passed on through multiple individuals before reaching him. These reports are from eyewitnesses of these events and they are ongoing followers of John; hence personally known for their reliability. Assuming--as is almost certain--that they knew of John’s favorable attitude about Jesus, it was natural for them to update him on what they had seen.
However, this raised questions for John himself. In particular the not unnatural question of just what status Jesus enjoyed in God’s ultimate scheme of things. John already had some idea of this from what happened at His baptism, but might there not be even more than he had realized at that point? For that matter might there not even be some confusion on his own part?
And John, calling two of his
disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are You the Coming
One, or do we look for another?” Rather
than let the questions go unanswered, John delegated two of his many disciples
to approach Jesus and ask point blank if He was truly the Messiah. After all the words spoken of Jesus at His
baptism were only “You are My beloved Son” (-22).
But did they not unquestionably imply a unique role shared by no one
else? What else but the Messiah? Yet Jesus is not meeting the assumptions
about how the Messiah would act so John naturally wants to know for sure if
that is Jesus’ role in God’s plan. (Or something different!)
And if John himself isn’t certain, who better to ask than Jesus Himself?
Sidebar: He can’t do so personally because he is in prison (-20). The fact that he was permitted visitors such as these disciples shows Herod the tetrarch’s mixed feelings toward keeping him there.
When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ ” Thereby conveying faithfully the query entrusted to them. (They, themselves, were surely more than a little curious as to what the answer would be since it would also affect what they thought and later did.)
And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. It happened that at the very time they came to inquire, Jesus was curing a wide variety of problems--one group fell into the category of “natural” disease and that is described as to the difficulties/weaknesses they cause (“infirmities”) and then by the ongoing difficulties they impose upon the flesh (“afflictions”).
He then interjects a separate category of difficulties, the demonic (“evil spirits”)--once again distinguished from normal physical difficulties. Contrary to a good amount of misrepresentation through the last few centuries, Jesus did not believe that all physical disabilities and diseases were caused by the Devil. (Luke, being a physician by trade, would find this a most important fact to stress. He makes the distinction in several other passages as well: Luke 6:18; 8:2; )
Of the various bodily weakness only one is specified and that is “blind[ness]”--apparently due to how many cases there were: “One” might, somehow, be dismissed as coincidence; “many” couldn’t be. Nor when a variety of different ailments, as in this case, were also removed.
Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. Sometimes questions don’t need to be answered with a “yes” or a “no,” but simply with the request that the questioner look at the evidence and reach his or her own decision. This is the tack that Jesus takes: tell John the fact that you have personally observed these many kinds of various healings, not to mention the fact that “the poor have the gospel [= good news / glad tidings] preached to them.” If Jesus is not providing adequate evidence of being the Messiah, what would constitute enough evidence?
Interpreting the “gospel” as including His message of moral reform, it would have been very easy for John and others to take Isaiah 35:5-8 as a messianic foreshadowing of these things:
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, / And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then the lame shall leap like a deer, / And the tongue of the dumb [mute, ESV] sing / For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, / And
streams in the desert. 7 The parched ground shall become a pool, / And the thirsty
land springs of water; / In the habitation of jackals, where each lay, / There shall
be grass with reeds and rushes. 8 A highway shall be there, and a road, / And it
shall be called the Highway of Holiness. / The unclean shall not pass over it, / But
it shall be for others. / Whoever walks the road, although a fool, / Shall not go
We know that Jesus took Isaiah 61:1-3 Messianically because in Luke -19 He had publicly read at least part of that text and explicitly applied it to Himself. Would not Isaiah 34 also represent a rather obvious and relevant foreshadowing as well?
And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” In spite of prophecy and all the wonders of His ministry, Jesus’ popularity could still be misinterpreted--including by John--as a snub at him. The fact that Jesus was not matching the stereotypical ideal of a nationalistic Messiah-redeemer could disappoint him. His own imprisonment at this stage could encourage envy or depression. Jesus tries to counter the danger by adding that the person is “blessed” who is “not offended” because of the way He acts--the fact that it does not conform to their own expectations or desires. He wishes to encourage the Forerunner without discouraging him.
Hugely Important as John the Baptist Was, Even the Least Important Individual in God’s Kingdom Is Even Greater (Luke 7:24-30): 24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What did you go out to see? A man dressed in fancy clothes? Look, those who wear fancy clothes and live in luxury are in kings’ courts!
26 ”What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I
tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Look, I am sending my
messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 28 I tell you, among those born of women no one is
greater than John. Yet the one who is
least in the
29 (Now all the people who heard this, even the tax collectors, acknowledged God’s justice, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. 30 However, the Pharisees and the experts in religious law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.) --New English Translation (for comparison)
When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? The presence of John’s disciples would have automatically perked the curiosity of the crowd as to Jesus’ attitude toward the Baptist, so Jesus took the opportunity to satisfy their interest. He begins by asking the question what did they go out to the wilderness to see? Was it a mere “reed shaken by the wind,” someone so unstable and changeable that one could never be sure what he would say or whether he would reverse himself?
The rhetorical question is unanswered but the obvious one is, “of course not.” They went out to see a bold, confident, strong advocate of fully living up to the standards God expected of His people--and which so many had found excuses to ignore and violate.
But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. Jesus repeats the question as to what they went to see: someone living a life of luxury, wearing expensive clothes like people do in the courts of kings? That was an inherent folly. That couldn’t have been the reason. Such people didn’t waste their time and quality garments in unpleasant wilderness conditions. Jesus takes this route of making a strong depiction that requires a negative answer in order to make even more emphatic what they were anticipating when they went. . . .
But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. “All count John as a prophet,” as even Jesus’ religious enemies conceded among themselves (Matthew ). Someone guided by God in what he spoke and preached: A forthteller whether he was engaged in foretelling as well or not. Yet even here he was far more than even these words of praise would imply. He was also the individual Malachi (3:1) had spoken of so long before. . . .
This is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ Even in his greatness the Baptist was still a preparer for the Messiah, but the text is modified: “the way before Me” in Malachi 3:1 (i.e., before God Himself) becomes the “way before You” (i.e., Jesus). That effectively implies the idea of Jesus being Deity Himself without explicitly doing so. Instead the emphasis is on John’s goal of preparing the way for Jesus without directly getting into all the potential explosiveness of the Messiah sharing Deityship with the Father.
Although this is certainly true, I can’t help but wonder whether the change also serves a double duty by preparing us for what is said in the next verse: The Baptist was also preparing the way for “you”--the listeners to these words--to enter God's kingdom.
For I say to you, among those born of women
there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the
And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. “Justified” is a strange sounding word in the current context: “declared God just” (i.e., He had done the right and proper thing) or “acknowledged that God’s way was right” (NIV) make far better contextual sense. Yes, they were predisposed to this judgment “having been baptized with the baptism of John.” But, even so, it is always encouraging to be given additional reasons to validate our good sense in what we have done. After all there were many--think “the tax collectors” mentioned in particular--who had surely been mocked for what they had done. Think along the lines of: “What in the world would God possibly want with people like you?”
But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. The widely respected Pharisees (the embodiment of “layman” piety) and the religious specialists (= “lawyers”) rejected what God wanted done. This was manifested not only by their attitude toward Jesus but also by their earlier refusal to be baptized by John. Yet here were the “ignorant and unlearned masses” showing far better judgment than those who were supposed to be their social and religious “betters!”
Sidebar: Not that they refused to go through the ritual of baptism at his hands, but they rejected the message of moral reform that he taught and relied on their Abrahamic ancestry as adequate to prove their superiority (Matthew 3:8-9). John recognized the emptiness of their delusion by publicly rebuking them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (verse 7). They refused to openly attack John’s credentials, however, because “they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed” (Mark ).
The Foes Of Both Jesus and John Were Amazingly Inconsistent and Blind: They Found Excuses to Reject Both Of Them (Luke 7:31-35): 31 ”To what then should I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, yet you did not dance; we wailed in mourning, yet you did not weep.’
33 “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? He does not need to name any specific names. Rather, He is interested in what is common to those who rejected John--and Jesus Himself for that matter . . . what verbal picture best sums up their attitude and actions.
They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: ‘We played the flute for you, / And you did not dance; / We mourned to you, / And you did not weep.’ They are really like inconsistent and argumentative children. If they aren’t complaining about one thing being done, they are going to be complaining about when the opposite is done.
The reference to “children” alludes to the fact that these are the kinds of games small juveniles would play to occupy their time--one group wanting to pretend it’s a festive occasion and another that it’s a mournful one . . . each criticizing the other for not doing what their group wanted. To us it may seem strange to be “rehearsing” death, but both it and the dancing--in different ways--permitted them to be loud and boisterous and adopt a form of the behavior they saw parents and kin exhibit on more serious occasions: Joy in dancing and loud weeping in death and funerals.
The parallel is that Jesus and John had critics that expressed both of these attitudes: John for being too “sorrowful” and restrictive in his lifestyle and Jesus for being too open and exuberant to one and all. . . .
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ John’s diet was dictated by his, in effect, Nazarite vow: “He will be great in the sight of the Lord and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink” (Luke ). Since the Nazarite practice was a well known Old Testament one (Numbers 6:1-8), John’s lifestyle--whether embracing the entire approach or only parts of it--had ample Biblical precedent. To denounce it in such vehement terms indicated character assassination of the worst kind.
The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber [“drunkard,” ESV, NIV], a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ In light of how John’s behavior was mocked, one would think that someone who enjoyed socializing with others would gain their praise. Not so. Jesus came and lived the normal social life and found Himself accused of excess (of being “a glutton and a winebibber”) and of being tainted with immoral friendships (that of “tax collectors and sinners”). Consistency was sacrificed in the interest of finding something with which to discredit both. In this case it was not like the childhood example of different groups being unable to agree but of the same adults desperate to find an excuse to reject anyone whose teachings they rejected. Consistency was the last thing on their minds.
But wisdom is justified [“proved right,” NIV; “is vindicated,” NASB] by all her children.” Those who are determined to follow the path of wisdom will justify (= endorse, understand, accept) the distinctive practices of both John and Jesus rather than using them as an excuse to reject one or both. They realize that both have a distinct role to play in the Divine plan and that both fully deserve to be treated with respect.
A Well Known Sinner Washes Jesus’ Feet with Tears and Ointment and His Host Is Convinced That His Receptiveness to the Act Proves He Can Not Possibly Be a True Prophet (Luke 7:36-39): 36 Now one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 Then when a woman of that town, who was a sinner, learned that Jesus was dining at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfumed oil. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfumed oil.
39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. Jesus had discussed the accusation that He was friendly with the reprobates of society (verse 34), but He was equally willing to be on close social terms with the alleged spiritual elite if it gained Him the opportunity to discuss spiritual matters with them. Hence we next find Jesus eating in the home of a Pharisee. This itself should warn us that there were ones willing to at least discuss matters outside the context of a public confrontation. This one was willing to give Jesus a hearing but, judging by his behavior (verses 44-47), quite willing to skip even the normal courtesies of that day. He borders on, “I’m willing to talk over matters with you, but I’m going to show a bit of disdain and contempt in the process.”
Sidebar: For another dinner conflict with a Pharisee host see Luke 11:37ff.
7:37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil. “Sinner” is vague. What does it mean? Prostitute comes immediately to mind (and is often assumed), but those whose outrageous conduct offends the public religious and moral sensibility can come in many other forms as well. It could just as easily have been someone who was an adulteress. Or someone who had been widely known as a troublemaker in the community. The broader expression allows it to immediately be applied in principle to a wide range of behavior--thereby allowing others who have fallen grievously short to easily see it as reflecting how they also poured out their own hearts to the Lord to express sorrow for a sin filled life.
and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. The eating custom was to be stretched out on a “couch” with the upper part of the body at the table and the feet at the end away from the table. She had been so moved by Jesus’ teaching that she cried at His feet and used her hair to wipe the tears away. Then she poured the oil upon His feet, an act that both helped cleanse and perfume them (cf. verse 46).
Cultural sidelight: No surprise is indicated that someone has entered the dining hall for that was common enough--strange as it is to think of people entering and leaving while we eat at a formal dinner. What was upsetting was the kind of person she was, the reaction implying that she had a well developed reputation in the community.
Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” We do not know who else were participants at the meal though we know that there were some (verse 49); it may well have been just Jesus and him and a minimum of others. After all the welcoming of such a controversial figure could easily have seemed a daring act stretching the boundaries of propriety and prudence.
To the host, Jesus’ willingness to have the notorious “sinner” touch Him in this manner was proof positive that all His teaching was as dubious as his fellow Pharisees had insisted: If Jesus were truly a prophet, He would know her decrepit background and rejected her touch. The possibility that her actions flow out of a decision to change her behavior does not enter his mind at all.
Sidebar: Ironically he manifests the mind frame of the Jewish polytheist mocked in Isaiah 65:5, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!”
Jesus Defends Both Himself and the Woman By Pointing Out that She Had Been Kinder and More Caring than His Official Host Had Been! (Luke 7:40-50): 40 So Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” He replied, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 ”A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
44 Then, turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house. You gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss of greeting, but from the time I entered she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfumed oil. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” --New English Translation (for comparison)
And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” Simon (the Pharisee-host; cf. verse 44 ) grants Him permission to speak. There are courtesies that should be granted even for someone who has just proved Himself a fraud. The criticism had been “to himself” (verse 39) and either barely muttered or simply thought inwardly, with the look on his horrified face revealing what was thought.
“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. If these were Jews, the loan had to be without interest, but that is irrelevant to the point being made--which is the respective size of the debt. A denarius approximated one day’s wages for a worker so we are talking about amounts roughly equal to 1-1/2 years as contrasted with 2 months. You don’t loan what you don’t expect to get back; you simply give the money in those cases. These monies, however, he was anticipating being returned on their due dates.
And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” Things did not work out as either borrower anticipated. It turned out that when the debt was due for repayment neither had the funds to do so. It wasn’t that they were trying to dodge the debt; they simply didn’t have the funds to meet the bill.
The creditor decided to remit and forget the debt of both and the key word here is “freely.” It wasn't grudgingly or bitterly or with impatience. Quite remarkable for a debt holder isn't it?
So which of the two debtors appreciated him more? “Love him” is probably not an exaggeration or a mere synonym for appreciation, however, though that element is certainly also involved as part of it. Failure to repay could be punished by imprisonment (Matthew ), torture out of anger and to assure that the funds weren’t hidden away somewhere (), and having themselves and their family sold into slavery to recover part of the debt (). To escape all of these potential consequences could hardly avoid producing a reaction of gratitude, affection, and love.
Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Both of the debtors have the strongest reason to appreciate what has been done for him, so the sentiment is definitely going to be present for both. But if you had to make a qualitative judgment as to which loved more, all you have to go on is the pure volume of debt. That argues it would have been the one in the most debt.
The “I suppose” could be taken as ironical or even a tad sarcastic--as in the absurdity of questioning that the apostles were drunk so early on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:15)--or it could represent just a shade of caution from someone who has heard of Jesus’ ability to take one’s own words and to leave you uncomfortable with what comes next. Either way, he hears Jesus concur in the judgment. Whatever temporary relief that brings, Jesus promptly applies the conceded principle in an unexpected manner. . . .
Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. Even though Simon had invited Him and even though it was always customary to provide water for individuals to wash their feet, he had not done so. This was vastly more important than in western society where the reference can be puzzling. Wearing sandals created a vastly different situation than wearing shoes. “In those hot dusty countries, after walking, water to wash the feet was scarcely a luxury, it was rather a necessity” (Pulpit Commentary). In her own way this reprobate woman had provided the everyday courtesy that the “righteous” publican had not--washing His dirty feet with her tears . . . and not drying His feet with a towel but with her own hair.
You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. Every society has ways to “put you in your place,” the polite not-quite-insult action or inaction to mark you as the “lesser” and the “outsider.” In that day, it was social etiquette to greet a guest with a kiss on the cheek. Simon had not done so, but this woman had repeatedly kissed not His cheek, but the feet. How much more humble could you get? (Note the implicit charge of not only negligence but, quite possibly, arrogance on Simon's part as well.)
You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Anointing the head with oil was, in part, a means to refresh the spirits of the person receiving it. He had been out in the sun and it would make his flesh feel better and the pleasant aroma would be appealing as well. Yet this common courtesy Simon had not arranged to have done with Jesus. In contrast this woman had done such--though with His feet.
Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” From the standpoint of normal discussion, this is really quite odd since the forgiveness is attached to the love and no mention is made of faith. On the other hand, how and why could she possibly have manifested such great love unless she had great faith in Him as well? In other words, faith is assumed to be present; otherwise her actions would have had no reason to occur at all.
Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Since she had manifested faith through loving actions, He spoke to her the reassuring words of her forgiveness. She had amply manifested the attitudes and behavior of one deserving it. She was receiving what she deserved.
And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” This is the claim of an authority even the most arrogant among themselves would be hesitant to make: To be an “interpreter” of Divine law is one thing; to be able to forgive the sins that result from the violation of those laws is something far more profound. “To themselves” could mean within themselves or to each other (“among themselves,” as in NET). His words startle them but that is a far cry from being willing to embrace them.
Then He said to the woman, ”Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” She could leave their company knowing that her past sins had been forgiven and that Jesus wished her the best for the future. There is a natural linkage between faith and peace; as Paul said in Romans 5:1: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” However much the surrounding society might look down upon us, we have the blessing of God with us. And so did she.