Today Jesus reminds us that death is coming to each of us and repentance is necessary. Bearing fruit –or life change is necessary. Jesus then uses two parables to teach about the Kingdom of God. Also today we find some of his most controversial teaching, The Narrow Door. The worst words you could ever hear are, “I don’t know you.” It’s not enough to know about Jesus.
Jesus Calls the People to Repent / 13:1-9
Jesus warned the people that judgment was around the corner. He took the well known current event of some recent deaths and reminded his listeners that all would eventually die and face judgment.
13:1 Pilate was last mentioned in 3:1. The city of Jerusalem, the site of the Jews’ Temple, lay in his jurisdiction. While no other historical source refers to this incident where some people from Galilee were murdered at Pilate’s orders, it is completely in character for this man. Galilee was a hotbed for fanatics who sought to bring down Rome by force. Galilee was out of Pilate’s jurisdiction, but when some Galileans arrived in Jerusalem, they were murdered.
13:2-3 Jewish theology attributed individual suffering to individual sin. While the Pharisees would also have liked to see Israel freed from Roman control, they were against the use of force that many in Israel (such as a group called the Zealots) were advocating. Some people, such as the Pharisees and their followers, would have thought that these Galileans that were murdered must have been worse sinners than other people from Galilee because they had suffered. The Pharisees, who were opposed to using force to deal with Rome, would have said that the Galileans deserved to die for rebelling.
Jesus explained, however, that suffering has nothing to do with one’s spiritual state. In fact, all people are sinful and, unless people repent, they all will perish. This doesn’t mean that everyone will be killed in such a manner. It could mean that death will be sudden with no second chance to repent, or it could mean that Jesus’ listeners would suffer at the hands of the Roman conquerors (which the entire nation did in a.d. 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed and millions of Jews were killed).
13:4-5 Just as suffering is no indicator of one’s spiritual state, neither is tragedy. The Pharisees would have seen the previous incident as God’s judgment on the Zealots, but the Zealots would have seen this incident as God’s judgment against those who had compromised with Rome. Again, popular thought would have concluded that the eighteen men who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them must have been the eighteen worst sinners in Jerusalem, otherwise they would not have suffered such a fate. The Zealots, a group of anti-Roman terrorists, would have said that the aqueduct workers deserved to die for cooperating. The Zealots would have considered Jews working on a Roman project such as this as traitors and deserving of God’s punishment.
Again, Jesus explained that all people are sinners who must repent or they too will perish—spiritual death with eternal consequences. He said that neither the Galileans nor the workers should be blamed for their calamity. Instead of blaming others, everyone should consider his or her own day of judgment. Whether a person is killed in a tragic accident or miraculously survives is not a measure of righteousness. Everyone has to die; that’s part of being human.
- LIFE APPLICATION – OF LIFE AND DEATH
- Jesus dismissed ideas widespread in his day that accidents or human cruelties were God’s judgment on especially pernicious sinners. Why else would some die and others live? Jesus did not answer that question but instead pointed to everyone’s need for repentance.
Today some families will experience grief because of a car accident, airplane disaster, flood, tornado, or violent crime. They will ask why, and they will struggle to understand the unfairness of the loss. Jesus pointed to the only answer: God’s grace. Accept Jesus as Lord and Savior today. When disaster strikes, God’s promise will sustain you.
13:6-7 After highlighting the need for repentance, Jesus used an illustration to show the people that while God is gracious in giving people time to repent, come to him, and grow in him, that patience will not go on forever. In the Old Testament, a fruitful tree was often used as a symbol of godly living (see, for example, Psalm 1:3 and Jeremiah 17:7-8). Jesus pointed out what would happen to the other kind of tree—the kind that took valuable time and space and still produced nothing for the patient gardener. In this way, Jesus warned his listeners that God would not tolerate forever their lack of productivity. (See 3:9 for John the Baptist’s version of the same message.) A fig tree in fertile soil should certainly have produced fruit—a tree that did not produce for three years was probably not going to produce at all. The farmer gave the command to cut it down so another, more fruitful tree, could be planted in its place.
*Are you producing any fruit? Is there a difference in your life because of Christ? Are you more loving, do you serve others, do you care that there are people who do not know Christ? If not it’s time to repent, or turn from your current ways and ask Christ to change your life.
13:8-9 The gardener intervened and asked the owner to give the tree one more chance. He even offered to give it special attention and fertilizer. Jesus had come to the nation; the time for repentance had come. The extra attention and love had been showered on the nation in the presence of their Messiah. God’s judgment had been graciously held back. But if the people continued to refuse to “bear fruit” for God—if they continued to refuse to live for and obey him—the end would come. The tree would be cut down. There would be no more chances. God is merciful toward sinners. But for those who reject him, he will not be merciful forever. They will be punished.
- LIFE APPLICATION – GOD’S PATIENCE
- God patiently allows more time. Do you suffer from an addiction that has spoiled your life for years? Lots of people have given up on you, but not God. Have you resisted coming to faith, forgiving your family, or admitting a crime—and the festering secret has spoiled friendships and jobs?
- Maybe you’ve given up on yourself. But God has not given up on you. Give your problem to him. With the support of mature Christians, seek the help you need. Make the change today.
Jesus Heals the Crippled Woman / 13:10-17
The story of healing this woman is unique to Luke. It reveals the unfruitfulness of the nation of Israel to which Jesus’ parable of the unfruitful tree alludes (in the previous passage, see 13:6-8). Instead of finding love, justice, humility, and mercy among God’s people, Jesus found an arrogance that didn’t even allow healing a woman on the Sabbath, the day set aside for the God of mercy.
13:10-11 Jesus had already come into conflict with the religious leaders over how the Sabbath should be used. At this particular time, as Jesus looked over the crowd, he saw a woman who had been bent double for eighteen years. The text explains that this was the work of an evil spirit. She may not have been demon-possessed, because a demon didn’t speak and Jesus did not cast out any demon. Instead, this woman’s painful affliction is attributed to Satan’s work (see 13:16).
13:12-13 The woman did not ask; instead, Jesus called her. He touched her and she was instantly healed. She stood up straight for the first time in eighteen years. No wonder her first response was to praise and thank God!
13:14 Jesus had performed a great miracle with God’s power; a woman had been set free from years of suffering and was praising God! But the synagogue leader was indignant. Why? Because Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath. The synagogue leader, who was addressing his remarks to the crowd and not to Jesus, could not see beyond the law to Jesus’ compassion in healing this crippled woman. He simply concluded that if Jesus wanted to heal people, he should reserve his healings for the other six days of the week. Jesus did not need to abide by those laws, for they did not fulfill God’s intention for the Sabbath and were burdensome on the people.
13:15-16 Jesus shamed this synagogue ruler and the other leaders by pointing out their hypocrisy. They would untie their animals and care for them on the Sabbath. Yet these same people refused to see that care for humans is far more important. Jesus attributed the woman’s illness to Satan and bondage by him. Whatever the immediate cause of an illness, its original source is Satan, the author of all the evil in the world. The good news is that Jesus is more powerful than any devil or any disease. He often brings physical healing in this life; and when he returns, he will put an end to all disease and disability.
- LIFE APPLICATION –OPEN TO CARING
- Today, well-meaning Christians have allowed purely human rules to intrude on the church’s welcome to “outsiders.” Dress codes, hair codes, behavior codes, and language codes give many churches a pharisaic feel. Let Jesus remove all such barriers to people finding God’s love. Let compassion be your guide; let the rules that hinder it be forgotten.
13:17 When Jesus made this point, all the people rejoiced. They probably appreciated a rabbi who stood up for them against the burdensome laws that the religious leaders had placed on them in every area of life. Jesus had shamed his enemies. This humiliation would cause such intense hatred that they would plot to kill him.
- LIFE APPLICATION-PLANT LIFE
Take any seed—most are small. It represents your life with God. Plant it. Care for it. Each time you check it, praise God for your growing faith. It may be slow and quiet, but it’s sprouting and bearing and reaching for the sun. When you water that plant, water your life with God’s Word. When you weed around that plant, eliminate activities that stunt your spiritual growth. As you watch it grow and blossom, thank God for his personal love and care for you.
Jesus Teaches about the Kingdom of God / 13:18-21
First-century Jews expected the Kingdom of God to come all at once, in great glory and power. But Jesus corrected their perception, by the illustrations of the mustard seed and yeast. Both are small; but one grows into a huge tree and the other eventually permeates an entire loaf. Jesus’ ministry began small, but the gospel would eventually grow to cover the entire globe (a story Luke begins to tell in the book of Acts).
13:18-19 Jesus used a variety of parables to describe what the Kingdom of God is like. Nothing on earth can completely explain the Kingdom or give us an adequate picture of it, for the Kingdom will be far beyond anything anyone could ever imagine. Jesus used this parable to explain that his Kingdom would have a small beginning. The general expectation among Jesus’ hearers was that the Messiah would come as a great king and leader, freeing the nation from Rome and restoring Israel’s former glory. But Jesus said that his Kingdom was beginning quietly. The mustard seed was so small that it would take almost twenty thousand seeds to make one ounce. From one tiny seed would grow a tree. A mustard shrub could grow ten to twelve feet in just a few weeks. No other seed so small produced such a large plant. While that is not technically a “tree,” Jesus used its rapid growth to stress both the insignificance and magnificence of the Kingdom. Like the tiny mustard seed that becomes a large plant, the Kingdom of God would eventually push outward until the whole world would be changed.
Jesus’ mention of birds added color and showed how large the shrub could become, but they probably had no allegorical meaning. Some commentators, however, think the birds may represent the Gentiles becoming part of God’s Kingdom (see prophecies such as Ezekiel 17:22-24; 31:6).
13:20-21 Another symbol of something small producing something much larger occurs with yeast. In some Bible passages, “yeast” is used as a symbol of evil or uncleanness (12:1). Here it pictures positive growth. Although yeast is a minor ingredient (only a small amount is used), it is responsible for the dough rising. Although God’s Kingdom had small beginnings, it would grow to have a great impact on the world.
Jesus Teaches about Entering the Kingdom / 13:22-30
Jesus answered a person who asked whether only a few would be saved. Jesus turned this theoretical question into a practical question. Instead of letting the questioner analyze who would be entering heaven, and by implication judge the process and then those who would enter, Jesus asked that person: “Are you saved?”
13:22 This is the second reminder that Jesus was intentionally pressing on toward Jerusalem (the other time is in 9:51). Jesus knew he was on his way to die, but he continued traveling and teaching. The prospect of death did not deter Jesus from his mission.
13:23-27 The question about whether only a few or many people would be saved was a topic of debate and much speculation among the rabbis. Jesus refused to be drawn into taking a side in this argument; instead, he urged his listeners to be among those who would be saved, no matter what the final number might be. He told his audience to work hard to get in. The word “work” means to put one’s whole self into the task of listening and responding. Jesus did not explain the narrow door, but the picture is of a way that one must seek out and then enter into while it is still open. Although many people know something about God, only a few have acknowledged their sins and accepted his forgiveness. Just listening to Jesus’ words or admiring his miracles is not enough—all must turn from sin and trust in God for salvation. Regardless of how many would be saved, Jesus said that many will try to enter, but it will be too late. The time for decision would pass them by.
- LIFE APPLICATION – FINDING SALVATION
- Many people react negatively to the concept of a narrow door or of Jesus being the only way. Behind their reaction may be the desire that the door of their choosing be the right way to God. The point of Jesus’ story was not to keep people out or to make it difficult to enter but to stress that the narrow door was still open for a short time. God opens the door, not people. He makes salvation available. People do not custom-design their own salvation. All people must come to God on his terms, not their own.
It’s difficult to submit and surrender to God. It’s difficult to accept someone else’s terms, even God’s. It’s difficult to give up control. Don’t let your ego keep you from God.
Familiarity with Jesus will not count when God’s Kingdom arrives and people rush to be a part of it. When the door is locked, the time for salvation will have passed, and they will not be able to enter. While many will claim to have eaten with him and listened to his teaching, they had not turned to him in faith for salvation. Such people will be utterly rejected, for Jesus will simply say, “I do not know you.” Such words will be the final pronouncement of rejection on those who rejected him. They will be sent away from God and the Kingdom.
13:28 When the door is shut and they are sent away, there will be intense sorrow (weeping and gnashing of teeth). Jesus pictured them looking in the windows at the ancestors on whom they had depended for their salvation—the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They will also see all the prophets, many of whom had been slain for speaking God’s messages. These men had not had the opportunity to see the Messiah, but they had loved God, believed his promises, and trusted that he would accomplish what he said. Thus, they received places in the Kingdom. By contrast, many of these Jewish people, who did have the opportunity to eat and drink with and then listen to the teachings of the Messiah himself (13:26), subsequently rejected him. For such rejection they would be thrown out of the Kingdom.
- LIFE APPLICATION- TRUE FAITH
- How could those who have known Jesus be rejected by him? Jesus makes clear that the way of salvation is open to all. No one is excluded by birth or background (13:29). Yet salvation does not happen merely because of loose association with Jesus. Jesus said in 5:32, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (niv). We must come to Jesus on his terms, not our own. Jesus requires action, namely repentance, from those who desire to be his followers. As we present Christ to others, we must stress the importance of repentance. As we deal with those who have been in the church for many years, we must help them see that associating with Christians will not substitute for true faith and repentance.
13:29-30 God’s Kingdom will include people from all over the world. Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah would not stop God’s plan. True Israel includes all people who believe in God (see Isaiah 49:12). The inclusion of Gentiles in God’s Kingdom had been prophesied, but it still would have astounded Jesus’ Jewish audience to hear of the Gentiles being involved in God’s Kingdom at all. This was an important fact for Luke to stress because he was directing his Gospel to a Gentile audience (see also Romans 4:16-25; Galatians 3:6-9). Even worse for these Jews, however, was the statement that some of them might not have places at the feast.
- LIFE APPLICATION- FIRST-PLACE FINISHERS
- If nations grow by war and conquest, God’s kingdom grows slowly and quietly. If successful people fight to the top, successful Christians enjoy the bottom.
- Someday, all the strategies for greatness the world has devised will be dismantled as God’s kingdom fully emerges. The poor, ordinary, faithful believer will be honored as first; the powerful pagan will be relegated to last. Don’t be troubled by your ordinary life today. Faithfully follow Jesus. At history’s finish line, you will be a champion.
Jesus Grieves over Jerusalem / 13:31-35
Luke placed Jesus’ grieving over Jerusalem right after a discussion about salvation, those being first (the Jews who were chosen by God) being placed last (or excluded from God’s heavenly Kingdom). Jesus mourned Jerusalem’s rejection of God’s message and salvation.
13:31 The motives of these Pharisees remain unknown. Perhaps they were simply trying to get him out of their area. They thought that telling Jesus of Herod’s plan (whether true or not) would cause Jesus to be afraid and run. Herod Antipas had killed John the Baptist and had been perplexed about who Jesus was (9:7-9). It is highly possible that he did want to kill Jesus. But Jesus’ life, work, and death were not to be determined by Herod or the Pharisees. His life was planned and directed by God himself, and his mission would unfold in God’s time and according to God’s plan.
13:32 Jesus was hardly going to run in fear of Herod; in fact, the message he sent to him was filled with contempt, calling Herod that fox. Jesus clearly explained that Herod would have absolutely no control over Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus would continue doing miracles until the day when he would accomplish his purpose.
- LIFE APPLICATION – ON GOD’S TERMS
- Often it appears that life unfolds by accident, by someone’s power-decision, or by luck. Jesus knew that life unfolds by God’s guidance and control. Herod could hunt for him, but God alone controlled Jesus’ future.
- Likewise for you. Don’t worry about threats or accidents or evil catching up with you. Your life is God’s to guide. Don’t be afraid. You will fulfill the purpose God has for you.
13:33-34 Jesus knew that he must proceed on in his ministry until the very moment appointed for his death. The words, it wouldn’t do for a prophet of God to be killed except in Jerusalem, have a stinging sound—Jesus knew he was to die and he knew he would die in Jerusalem. Jerusalem had a history of rejecting God’s prophets (1 Kings 19:10; 2 Chronicles 24:19-21; Jeremiah 2:30; 26:20-23), and it would reject the Messiah just as it had rejected his forerunners. Thus Jesus mourned for the city. Jesus’ emotional words reveal his compassion and love for the people to whom he had come. Like a mother hen who protects her chicks beneath her wings, Jesus would have gathered and protected his people. Several places in the Old Testament picture the loving God protecting his people under his “wings” (see Ruth 2:12; Psalms 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4). But they wouldn’t let him.
- LIFE APPLICATION – FULL RANGE OF EMOTION
- Jesus was clearly saddened by Israel’s resistance to God’s message. His compassion for people included love’s full range of emotions.
- So should yours. When love gets exuberant, let it show. When love must weep, don’t hide your emotion under a phony front.
- Jesus was “real.” He spoke about his feelings. He voiced the reasons for his sadness. Follow his permission to do likewise.
13:35 House could refer to the city itself or to its Temple. The nation had rejected their promised Messiah and invited the final result of such rejection. They would be empty (or forsaken). In Jeremiah 12:7, Jeremiah prophesied the coming destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians. The nation’s sin had sealed their punishment, and God’s presence had left the Temple. When Jesus Christ came, God himself again stood in the Temple. But the people’s refusal to accept him would have severe consequences, for he would leave again. The Temple stood for the people’s relationship with God; an empty Temple meant separation from God (see Matthew 23:38).
The Jews understood their Temple to be the dwelling place of God on earth. The city was intended to be the center of worship of the true God and a symbol of justice to all people. No wonder Jesus loved the city and grieved over it. But the people had become blind to God. They had killed the prophets and would put to death the One about whom the prophets had testified. In that very city, the Messiah would be rejected and put to death (13:33). God’s presence would leave what was supposed to have been the holy city. The city would not see him again until the words of Psalm 118:26 would be fulfilled, “Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” While some take this to refer to Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, Matthew recorded these same words as being spoken after the Triumphal Entry (Matthew 23:39). The solemn prediction of desolation would come true, but as always, God would have compassion. A day would come when some of God’s people would recognize him as their Messiah (Romans 11:25-26).
Sources: Life Application Bible Commentary, Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary
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