Luke 13 The Kingdom Of God.
Luke 13:1-9 A Call To Repentance Before Impending Judgment.
Luke records a couple of examples of death that only occur in his record, which occurred in Jerusalem. One occurred when Pilate slaughtered some Galileans while they were offering sacrifices, which would have occurred in the temple, so that their own blood was mixed with their sacrifices (vv. 1-2). The other example was of eighteen who were crushed when the Tower of Siloam fell on them in Jerusalem (v. 4). In both instances Jesus said, “unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (vv. 3, 5). It seems clear that Jesus’ hearers knew that His discussion up to this point primarily concerned a judgment to come upon Jerusalem and the temple. These examples, in effect, become what Matthew details as that which would precede the judgment that was coming upon that generation (Cf. 24:1-35). This is borne out by the fact that these words from Luke are followed by the parable of the fig tree, just as Matthew concluded his words with this same parable (Cf. vv. 32-35).
Israel was the fig tree which Jesus came too, looking for the fruit of repentance but finding none (v. 6 Cf. Is. 5; Mt. 21:19; Jn. 15:2). For the three years of His ministry the vast majority of the Jewish leadership, and with them the people, had rejected Him and His message (v. 7). “A vineyard was fertile soil for a fig tree and “three years” points to an established tree. It was unlikely that it would ever bear fruit, but it was given one more chance” (NGSB, p. 1631). This was exactly what Jesus gave to the old covenant people, as His patience was meant to give them opportunity to repent. If we thus take the fig tree as a metaphor for the people of Israel we see that they are spared complete destruction until after Jesus’ finished work on the cross, or as He said, “a baptism to be baptized with” (12:49). It would also be after many other signs of Christ’s ongoing work as Luke would record in Acts. If there were no repentance after all this then the judgment of 70 AD was all the more deserved.
Luke 13:10-21 The Sabbath And The Kingdom.
Early in His ministry Jesus made clear that He was Lord of the Sabbath, and that it was made for man and not vice versa (Mk. 2:27-28). Here Luke records an example of what has come to be described as a work of mercy. As Jesus pointed out, His listeners would feed and water their livestock on the Sabbath, so why would they be opposed to Him healing someone on the Sabbath? It was a hypocritical position on their part. It was teaching like this that put the teachers to shame. False teaching is one thing, teaching that lacks integrity is even worse.
This event is placed by Luke within what he just wrote about concerning the barren fig tree, and the seed and leaven of the kingdom which grows steadily until it fills the whole earth. The implication seems obvious: false teaching does not produce fruit, but the gospel of the kingdom does. Sandwiched between these two is an event which puts things in focus-people and their needs are more important than manmade tradition. Sadly, what occurs on the Lord’s Day in many places of worship misses this important lesson.
Luke 13:22-35 The Narrow Way Of Faith.
Luke reminds us that the context of what follows is Jesus “journeying toward Jerusalem” (v. 22). “The Jews generally agreed that all Israel (except for a few especially sinful people) would be in the number of the saved” (NGSB, p. 1632). In this context Jesus delivers a contrary message. As the Master of the house that many presumed to be entering, He made clear that being in its precincts was not enough, only those who had faith evidenced by a changed life would ultimately find His house a home (vv. 23-27 Cf. 6:46; Mt. 7:23). No one would be able to simply claim physical lineage to Abraham. The Patriarchs and the prophets were in the kingdom of God by faith (v. 28). Likewise, those who are of faith will come from all over the world to sit with these men of faith (v. 29).
It is in this context of the development of salvation history and the expansion of the gospel to the nations that Jesus says, “there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last” (v. 30). There is to be a dynamic here which Paul picked up on when he wrote that it was his hope and prayer that the ingathering of the Gentiles would cause jealousy among his countrymen (Cf. Romans 9-11). Faith is a narrow way for it allows for no admittance of any works or efforts of humans at all (v. 24 Cf. Mt. 7:13-14). It is all of God’s grace. No amount of knocking will get one in (v. 25). In Matthew’s account there was a time for knocking, asking, and seeking for God and His help, but it would pass (7:7-12). There is no other way into salvation but by faith (Cf. Eph. 2:8-9).
Jesus’ hearers indeed still had Him with them (v. 26), but as He headed toward Jerusalem He knew He would not be with them much longer (Cf. Jn. 7:34; 8:21). By some Pharisees warning Him of Pilate’s desire to kill Him (v. 31), at least some of them knew this as well. His message to His children was the same as to the Jews, albeit with a different purpose. “Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you” (Jn. 13:33). We do not know the status of these Pharisees, but by Jesus’ response these may have been among the few Pharisees who believed (v. 32). We have no question from them of the perfection of the third day (v. 33). Did they know what He meant?
Jesus would be perfected when the Father would accept His sacrifice and raise Him on the third day-in Jerusalem (vv. 32-33 Cf. 24:46). He was the Prophet who would die as a Priest offering the sacrifice of Himself, to then be exalted to reign as King at the right hand of the Father. However, in the mean time, Jesus would weep over Jerusalem, because instead of receiving the narrow way of faith delivered by the prophets, they killed the prophets who were sent to her (v. 34). Those who have faith declare, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD” (v. 35b Cf. 19:38; Ps. 118:26)! Then the Master of the house would say to the others, “Your house is left to you desolate” (v. 35a Cf. Lev. 26:31-32). The temple would find fulfillment in Him (Cf. Dan. 9:26-27).