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Dummelow listed the lessons from this parable, thus:
(1) The duty of continual prayer; (2) the answer to prayer, persisted in, is certain; (3) in the end, God will maintain the cause of his elect against their adversaries; and (4) a warning against the failure of faith in times of seeming abandonment by God. F1
And he spake a parable ...
Ought always to pray ...
This has no reference to a ceaseless bending of the knee, or a continuation without intermission in the utterance of petitions to the Almighty, but to an attitude of unbroken fellowship with God. As Augustine said, "There is another interior prayer without intermission, and that is the longing of thy heart." F3 It was to this that Paul referred: "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
And not to faint ...
There is a remarkable analogy in this comparison of spiritual failure to physical fainting. Physically, men can faint from shock, disease, hunger, fear, etc.; and for a development of the application to spiritual things, see my Commentary on Hebrews, Heb. 12:3.
Such a judge would have been one of those notorious magistrates appointed by either Herod or the Romans, and of whom Barclay said, "Unless a plaintiff had money and influence to bribe his way to a verdict, he had no hope of ever getting his case settled." F4
Feared not God and regarded not man ...
"These things go together. He that has no regard for God can be expected to have none for man." F5
This was not a plea on the widow's part for vengeance in a vulgar sense, but a plea for justice against an enemy who had wronged her.
He said within himself ...
As frequently noted, one of the unique features of God's word is that it gives the truth of what men are saying inwardly.
I fear not God ... nor man ...
This evil judge was boastful and arrogant in his infidelity and disregard of all considerations except those touching his selfishness.
I will avenge her ...
As Barnes exclaimed:
How many actions are performed from the basest and lowest motives of selfishness, that have the appearance of external propriety and even goodness. F6
This shows that even a righteous deed, undertaken upon selfish and evil motives, cannot be well-pleasing to God.
Lest she wear me out ...
This means, literally, "Lest she give me a black eye"; F7 but from this, we should not conclude that "The judge supposed she might do him bodily harm." F8 A proverb known to all generations makes the destruction of one's good reputation to be "giving him a black eye," and it is clearly his reputation that concerned the judge, and not his physical safety.
Jesus here contrasted the unrighteous judge's hearing the widow's plea with God's hearing the prayers of his elect. Therefore, the unjust judge stands for God in the analogy. No moral problem is involved in this, because Jesus frequently used such analogies, not only to show similarities but to point up the contrast also.
The concept of a suffering and persecuted church is also evident in these verses, making this parable a prophecy of the persecutions and tribulations that should come upon the church in ages to come, looking forward to so remote a time as the Second Coming (Luke 18:8).
He is longsuffering over them ...
This is a caution against expecting a sudden answer to all prayers, no matter how persistent. As Wesley said, "God does not immediately put an end, either to the wrongs of the wicked or the sufferings of good men." F9
Shall not God avenge his elect ...
The power and wrath of the eternal God are ever against those who persecute his people. Lactantius has twenty pages of the most interesting discussions of the awful punishments, judgments, and miseries that befell the famed persecutors of the church, giving in detail the things that happened to Nero, Domitian, Decius, Valerian, Aurelian, Diocletian, etc. F10 As Dummelow said, Jesus' words here were literally fulfilled "in the calamities which overtook the Jews and the chief heathen persecutors of the Christians." F11
Shall he find faith on the earth ...?
These words are variously understood, but there seems to be a definite foretelling of the decline of faith before the end. Trench thought that:
We have other grounds for believing that the church, at that last moment, will be reduced to a little remnant; yet the point is here, not that the faithful will be few, but that the faith even of the faithful will have almost failed. F12
Wesley saw this as a statement that, when Jesus shall appear, "how few true believers will be found on earth." F13 As Lamar asked, "The JUDGE will be ready, but will the WIDOW be there?" F14
The parable of the unjust judge was to teach persistence in prayer; but Jesus immediately gave another parable to show that something more than persistence is required for prayers to be answered.
THE PARABLE OF THE PHARISEE AND THE TAX COLLECTOR
With the strange reversal of values which is the hallmark of evil in all ages, the people in this generation who "set others at naught" are not the careful observers of the outward forms and ceremonies of holy religion; but they are the gross sinners who "set at naught" those people who are striving to live as Christ commanded, styling them "self-righteous bigots"! Significantly, in this parable, there is no indication whatever that the publican "set at naught" the Pharisee; and those who seek the publican's reward by "setting others at naught" are on very precarious ground. It is just as easy to set others at naught because "we are not self-righteous like them" as it is to set them at naught for gross sins. Much of the comment one encounters with reference to this parable fails to note this significant fact.
The character of both classes of men represented by these two has frequently been noted in this series. For comment on "Pharisees," see my Commentary on Matthew, Matt. 3:7. The publicans were the tax collectors, particularly odious to the Jews because they were willing agents of Roman oppression; and besides that, many tax gatherers were dishonest. The very name "publican" passed into the popular vocabulary as a designation for one who was hated and despised.
Before noting specific words and phrases in this passage, the following discussion is presented:
THE PHARISEE AND THE TAX COLLECTOR
The tumult and the shouting dies. The captains and the kings depart. Still stands thine ancient sacrifice, An humble and contrite heart. F16
I fast twice a week ...
God had commanded only one day of fasting each year, on the Day of Atonement; and the Pharisees had extended this to twice a week!
I give tithes of all that I get ...
"Tithes were not due from all gains, but only from the production of the fields, and cattle." F17 The Pharisees, however, "even tithed what they bought." F18 In such things as these, one can see the extent to which they had "improved" (in their view) upon God's law!
The publican, standing afar off ...
Our English translation does not make clear the distinction between the posture assumed by the Pharisee, as contrasted with that taken by the publican. Boles noted that "STOOD (in the case of the Pharisee) in the original, means that he struck a pose, or assumed an attitude where he could be seen." F19
God be merciful ...
This is one of only two places in the New Testament where this word "propitiation" or the verb "propitiate" is used, the other being Hebrews 2:17; and, according to Vine, it has the meaning here of "be propitious to," or "merciful" to the person as the object of the verb.
is undoubtedly the verb spoken by Jesus which registered so indelibly in the mind of the apostle Paul, whose writings found so much use for it. We disagree with those who think that Luke, through long companionship with Paul, retrospectively injected this into Jesus' words. It is far more likely that from this Paul received his first knowledge of the word, developing it extensively in his writings.
Be thou merciful to me a sinner ...
The brevity of this prayer is astounding. Cox said:
The Pharisee's prayer is composed of thirty-five words, that of the publican eight words (Revised Version). As a rule, the deeper the feelings the fewer the words ... We should have the attitude of the publican. F20
He that exalteth himself ...
This is a maxim which Jesus repeated often. See Luke 14:11. We conclude this study of the parable with a perceptive word from Summers:
There is something a bit terrifying about this parable. There is within every person that which makes it possible for him to do the same thing the Pharisee did. He can go to the place of worship and go through the forms of worship and still go home the same person he was! F21
BRINGING CHILDREN TO JESUS
This saying was commented upon under Matthew 19:13 and under Mark 10:13; and "Luke differs from Matthew only in the word which he uses for children." F22 Luke's word is "babes." See my Commentary on Matthew, my Commentary on Mark, (en loco). Summers said that the word here used for "babes" was used of "unborn and very young babies. Paul used it of Timothy who had received religious instruction from babyhood (2 Timothy 3:15)." F23
It should be pointed out here, as Lamar said, that:
There is no baptism here, and no hint of any; and I think it is unfortunate that this beautiful and tender incident was ever transferred to the arena of controversy, especially as the lesson the Saviour draws from it is of so different a character. F24
Ash said that "At this point the material unique to Luke comes to an end, and the Gospel resumes the outline found in Mark." This is not, however, strictly true; for, after recording the incident of the children being brought to Jesus, the account of the rich ruler, another prediction of his Passion, and the healing of the blind man at Jericho, Luke again resumes the narrative of two other episodes peculiar to himself, the story of Zacchaeus and the parable of the pounds. Also, there are some who believe, with good reason, that the prediction of the Passion here is not the third instance, as in the other synoptics, but a fourth, peculiar to Luke.
In the pericope before us, the harmony and agreement in the three synoptic accounts are as nearly perfect as could be imagined; but certain schools of criticism, intent on finding some disparity, have resorted to such a comment as this:
Both Matthew and Luke omit Mark's statement that Jesus was "much displeased" (with the disciples for rebuking the ones who brought the children), as well as the detail in Mark 10:16 that he embraced the children and blessed them. They hesitated to attribute the human emotions of anger and affection to the Lord of the church. F25
There is positively no way that such a comment can be true. In this comment, there is the assumption that Matthew and Luke were ashamed of Mark's statement that Jesus was "displeased," the assumption that they "changed Mark" by omitting such a word, with the necessary corollaries that (a) they had Mark before them as they wrote, and (b) that they did not consider Mark inspired, plus still another assumption, the most amazing and arrogant of all, that Matthew and Luke considered the human emotions of anger and affection to be, in some unaccountable manner, UNWORTHY of the Lord of the church! There is no need to examine all of these subjective guesses, since all of them self-destruct upon a little reflection; but as an example of their reliability, we shall note just two of them.
THE RICH YOUNG RULER
Note: this incident has already been commented upon fully in both Matthew (Matthew 19:16f) and Mark (Mark 10:17f), and for fuller discussion see in my Commentary on Matthew and my Commentary on Mark (en loco).
Geldenhuys was right in declaring that:
Taken together (Matt. 19:16, and the verse before us) the complete question may have been: "Good Master, what good thing, etc." and Jesus may have replied, "Why callest thou me good and askest me about good things?" Thus the Gospels supplement one another. It is unwarranted in such cases to speak of a contradiction between them." F26
To such a comment, we are delighted to say, "Amen, and Amen!" All of the alleged contradictions in the variable synoptic accounts are of as little importance as a flyspeck on Michelangelo's MOSES! The great message of the Gospels is perfect, complete, and overwhelming. The word of God has indeed revealed to us his Christ in these precious Gospels; and the truly devout soul will be little inclined to heed the insinuations of them that make a business of finding fault with the Word.
Hobbs caught the import of these verses perfectly:
No pupil ever addressed a rabbi as "good." So the young man paid Jesus the supreme compliment; but he called him only a "teacher." Jesus reminded him that only God is good. Thus either he had used the term loosely, or else he must think of Jesus as more than a great Teacher. By subtle suggestion Jesus was leading him to think of him as deity, not simply as a great man. F27
Salvation was always, is now, and ever shall be dependent upon obedience to the commandments of God. Matthew explicitly stated this in his account, and Luke implies as much here. As Summers said, "Implicit in Jesus' answer is the meaning that to obey these commandments is to have eternal life ... This was good Jewish religious thinking." F28 In Summers' final sentence (above), however, there is the implication that, of course, "this is not Christian thinking, at all, but Jewish thinking." On the other hand, this is an eternal and invariable law. Of course, human beings being utterly unable to keep God's law perfectly, they must unite with Christ, being baptized into him; and as Christ, in Christ, they are total, perfect keepers of all God's commandments (Colossians 1:28). This does not, however, negate the principle laid down here that eternal life is directly and irrevocably related to keeping God's commandments.
Matthew has the significant question of this young ruler, "What lack I yet?" And, since that is the question that Jesus here answered, we have another example of the supplementary nature of the Gospel accounts.
Cox mentioned the "soul hunger" of this young man. "It was a case of youth asking for life, the rich seeking a treasure, hunger amidst plenty. Life was before him and wealth around him, yet he hungered." F29 Tinsley remarked that "In this particular instance, Jesus obviously thought discipleship must involve renunciation of possessions." F30 The true explanation lies much more probably, however, in the fact that this young man was called to accompany Jesus and the Twelve, perhaps as some kind of an apostle; and apostleship did require renunciation of possessions, a test that all of the Twelve met, as Peter mentioned a bit later. At any rate, it would have been the height of folly for Jesus to have invited him to "follow" in THAT company without meeting the test they all had met and passed.
The allegation that one cannot be a follower of Jesus Christ except on condition of selling and distributing all of his earthly possessions is based partially upon Jesus' words here; but it is impossible to sustain such a thesis, either from this or any other passage in the New Testament. It has just been noted that Christ's word here was to this young man, and not to all; and the reason for this requirement in his case is easily discernible. In order to be an apostle, or to accompany Jesus, as this young man was invited to do, it was absolutely necessary to renounce all earthly possessions; but such was never made a universal requirement of Christianity (see my Commentary on Matthew, 19:21).
Lamar was correct in the deduction which he made from this, saying:
Our Saviour, in all these wonderful lessons about worldly goods, means nothing tending to the disorganizing of society, or to the undervaluing of earthly riches, but to infuse a principle that shall uplift them to higher uses, and consecrate them to worthier objects. F31
In turning away from the Master, this young man not only made the wrong decision regarding his eternal state, but alas with regard to his earthly state. He would have been far better off in this present world if he had obeyed Jesus. The whole Jewish nation was, within his lifetime, to go down to utter ruin and destruction, a calamity that no Christian suffered. The deepest instincts of his heart were such that he knew the tragedy of his decision, hence the sorrow.
Abraham, Job, David, and most of the mighty patriarchs of Israel were men of very great wealth; yet Jesus affirmed that these shall be in the everlasting kingdom (Luke 13:28). Moreover, the inspired evangelist Philip, and other distinguished persons in the New Testament church, were men of extensive means; and, therefore, what Jesus taught here is not the impossibility of a rich man's being saved, but the difficulty of it. Wealth itself is "unrighteous," no matter how innocently it might have been acquired, being inherently charged with temptations few find the strength to overcome. See under Luke 16:9.
The sheer impossibility of a camel going through the eye of a needle forces the deduction that this is a hyperbole, employed to stress the difficulty of a rich man's being saved.
Those who asked this rightly understood the impossibility of the camel going through the needle's eye. Jesus at once softened the remark.
Jesus would shortly show his disciples an example of a rich man entering the kingdom, in the instance of the rich tax collector, Zacchaeus of Jericho (Luke 18:19:1-10). Significantly, in his case, Jesus did not require that Zacchaeus sell all that he had and distribute it to the poor.
Barker thought that "Peter self-righteously reminded Jesus of the sacrifices the disciples had made," F32 but nothing in the New Testament justifies such a suggestion. Peter's question was truthful and fair; and Jesus honored it by answering it.
Manifold more in this time ...
Was Jesus here thinking of the sorrowful young man who had just departed? What was true of him is true of all. There is "more" in following Jesus, even in this present time, more of all that really matters.
And in the world to come, eternal life ...!
Here in these words is the climax of the episode. The Christian pilgrimage is a quest for everlasting life, a benefit that Jesus dogmatically promised. Who but God could make such a promise? There is no way to reconcile such promises of Jesus with any conception of him that fails to include his eternal power and Godhead; and it is who Jesus is, and was, and is forever, that endows such a glorious promise with the validity that has commended it to a hundred generations of believers. This epic promise is given in this same context by all three synoptics (19:29; Mark 10:30), the same being the tonic chord and resolution of the whole episode. One may only be astounded at the failure of some commentators even to mention this key promise. Hunting pseudocons is so much more interesting!
ANOTHER PREDICTION OF HIS PASSION
All the things that were written ...
Some 333 prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ, and these included many prophecies of his sufferings, rejection, and death, as well as of his resurrection.
That are written through the prophets ...
Jesus kept the distinction ever in view that it was not the prophets who wrote the Holy Scriptures, but God who wrote them "through the prophets." We believe the same thing is true of the words of the sacred authors of the New Testament; and this writer, in a lifetime of reading, has found nothing whatever in the insinuations of those who abuse the sacred New Testament, in their assumption that it was written by fallible MEN, that justifies any relaxing of this confidence. In Matthew 1:22; 2:5; 2:17, etc., throughout the Gospel, there are many texts in which this same concept of God's writing "through the prophets" is emphatically stated.
For a list of things Jesus prophesied of himself, see under Luke 9:22,45; 13:33, and parallels, in Matthew and Mark. Geldenhuys saw this passage as the FOURTH announcement of Jesus' Passion. "For the fourth time now the Saviour announces that he will be delivered to suffer and to die" F33 (this verse, plus the three cited above). This makes it certain that one of the four Passion predictions recorded by Luke is peculiar to this Gospel, since Matthew and Mark each have three.
The third day ...
See the article in my Commentary on Mark on "What Day Was Jesus Crucified?" for a full discussion of the meaning of this expression.
Summers was surely right in perceiving this passage as an identification of Jesus with "the Suffering Servant section of Isaiah." F34 He also denied any necessity of supposing that the details in view here were retrospectively included in Luke after the events occurred. We are face to face here with genuine prophecy.
This saying was hidden from them ...
"It was not hidden in that Jesus did not want them to understand. It was hidden because of their reluctance to accept it." F35
HEALING THE BLIND MAN AT JERICHO
There were two Jericho's in New Testament times, and this incident took place between the villages, where, of course, a beggar would have stationed himself to take advantage of more traffic; thus it was as Jesus was leaving one Jericho and as he "drew nigh" to entering the other. F36 See more under Matthew 20:29 and Mark 10:46.
A multitude going by ...
This was a great throng of people on the way up to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Thou Son of David ...
The messianic connotation of this title cannot be denied, the same being the favorite designation of the long-awaited Messiah. The sad irony in view here is that this man who was physically blind had the spiritual perception to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. The Pharisees (a part of every audience, or crowd) had physical eyesight but could not see the Lord as the Messiah; thus here is an example of the blind seeing and the seeing blind, as stated by Jesus in John 9:39. And again, there is a startling affinity between Luke and John.
Our guess is that it was the Pharisees who objected to all the shouting which hailed Jesus as the long-expected Messiah. There cannot fail to be an element of humor in this blind man shouting to high heaven that here indeed was the Messiah, and the lordly Pharisees trying to hush him up! There was no way that they could silence the blind man nor prevent the ages from hailing Christ as the Messiah.
Grimour's terse comment here is that "Mark's graphic details are omitted," F37 which, of course, is proof that Luke was not copying Mark, nor is there the slightest hard evidence that Luke ever saw the Gospel of Mark. If he had, why would those beautiful details in Mark have been omitted?
Thy faith hath made thee whole ...
This means that Jesus gave salvation to this man as well as restoring his sight. That the multitude so understood it, and that they also recognized that only God could do such a thing, is implicit in the statement with which the paragraph closes, that the people "followed, glorifying God."
Praising God ...
is twice repeated in this single verse; and, as these are the inspired author's words, it is clear that Luke intended to identify Jesus as one with Almighty God. This is one of the theological overtones of the passage that justifies Summers' comment that "such overtones were more commonly associated with John's Gospel." F38 Thus, as Robertson affirmed, "The Christ of Paul and of John is in the synoptic Gospels. In all essentials, the picture is the same in Luke as in John." F39
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.