Bible Study: Luke, Chapter Thirteen
Transcript: Today we are going to continue our interactive Bible study and we are going to cover Luke Chapter 13. After the meeting today, or sometime this week, please take the matching Quiz that I have prepared on the website. Thanks to all that have participated. Let’s get started:
Luke Chapter 13 beginning in verse 1 reading from the World English Bible: Now there were some present at the same time who told him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.
Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea at the time when Jesus preached the Kingdom of God, during the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Pilate was a cruel and sadistic ruler that had no respect for the Jewish people or their traditions. Philo wrote in the first century that Pilate was vindictive and that he had a furious temper. He was well known for corruption, seizing people’s property, and the continuous murder of untried and un-condemned people. There is no record in secular history of this particular incident, but it would have certainly fit his character.
This is the forum of Pilate where all the action took place.
Josephus notes that while Pilate's predecessors had respected Jewish customs by removing all images and effigies on their standards when entering Jerusalem, Pilate allowed his soldiers to bring them into the city at night. When the citizens of Jerusalem discovered these the following day, they asked Pilate to remove the ensigns of Caesar from the city. After five days of deliberation, Pilate had his soldiers surround the demonstrators and threaten them with death, which the Jews were willing to accept rather than submit to desecration of the law of Moses. Pilate finally removed the images.
Josephus also recounts an incident in which Pilate took money from the Temple treasury to build an aqueduct. When the Jews complained and wanted the money back, Pilate had soldiers hide in the crowd while he addressed them and, when Jews began to protest his actions, he gave the signal for his soldiers to randomly attack, beat and kill them, in an attempt to silence Jewish complaints.
2 Jesus answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way. 4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them; do you think that they were worse offenders than all the men who dwell in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way.”
Jesus mentions two well-known disasters of His day: the Galileans that Pilate had killed and eighteen people who were killed when a tower fell. It was commonly believed that disaster was a punishment for sin, so Jesus makes it a point that these Galileans had not been singled out for punishment, but that everyone listening to Him could suffer the same fate, and likewise have no time to repent. Their death was sudden and they did not see it coming. Repenting of sins is both a once-for-all event in life and a day to day affair that keeps putting new sins behind you.
We often think of some people as good, and some people as bad, so we find it easy to believe that God should allow good things to happen to good people and bad things to bad people. Jesus corrected this thinking. God loves us all, and at the moment we are all in the same boat, but the day will come when the crop will be harvested, and then the weeds will separated from the wheat. For now, wicked men have fallen dead in the street, and preachers in the pulpit, so it looks like death treats us equally. It is what happens afterwards that matters.
6 He spoke this parable. “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it, and found none. 7 He said to the vine dresser, ‘Behold, these three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and found none. Cut it down. Why does it waste the soil?’ 8 He answered, ‘Lord, leave it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit, fine; but if not, after that, you can cut it down.’ ”
Jesus tells a parable of a man who owned a vineyard with a fig tree in it. For three years he looked for fruit on this tree but found none and he decided to cut it down. The vinedresser asked him to wait one more year while he fertilized it. As I understand this parable, God is the owner of the vineyard. The fruit trees in it are us. The Vinedresser is the Holy Spirit who is trying to increase our fruit. The Holy Spirit continues the work of Jesus in our lives today.
Jesus said in John 16:13 “when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” That is the Holy Spirit guiding us into maturity. Paul wrote in Romans 8:14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” This is a mature son, not an infant.
So in light of that, God came looking for fruit, a fruit inspection. He had waited for three years to see fruit in this person’s life. God is merciful and patient, but He does eventually expect to see good fruit growing in our lives. There will come an end to His patience one day, and the tree that will not bear good fruit will be cut down and burned. God gives second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances, but this parable shows that one day there will be a final chance.
The fruit of our life shows what kind of person we really are. An apple tree will always bring forth apples, not watermelons. If Jesus Christ has truly touched our life, then it will show in the fruit that we bear, even if it takes a while for that fruit to come forth.
What fruit is God looking for? It certainly has to begin with the fruit of the Spirit, which is mentioned in Galatians 5:22–23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
10 He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath day.
Though the opposition was increasing against Jesus, He continued to speak in some synagogues.
11 Behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years. She was bent over, and could in no way straighten herself up.
This woman had a “spirit of infirmity” that was causing her back problems. Now it is foolish to think that all physical problems are spiritual, but it is also foolish to think that spiritual issues can never cause physical problems. They certainly can. This woman had been bound for eighteen years.
12 When Jesus saw her, he called her, and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” 13 He laid his hands on her, and immediately she stood up straight and glorified God.
Jesus laid His hands on her and set her free the spirit. He had complete mastery over illness, disease and deformity, and it did not matter if was spiritual or physical.
14 The ruler of the synagogue, being indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the multitude, “There are six days in which men ought to work. Therefore come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day!”
The ruler of the synagogue, or pastor today, got upset with Jesus because He healed her on the Sabbath day and addressed the crowd, not Jesus. Though the ruler had no power to heal on any day of the week, for the woman had been coming to his church for years and to be sure, he had prayed for her before, he didn’t seem to care that a great miracle had happened. It is like the demon that left the woman went into him, if there was any more room.
15 Therefore the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each one of you free his ox or his donkey from the stall on the Sabbath, and lead him away to water? 16 Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham whom Satan had bound eighteen long years, be freed from this bondage on the Sabbath day?”
Jesus did not respond gently, but answered in a way that would have made everyone’s eyes in the church widen, and He called them “hypocrites” to their face. Jesus’ reply was pretty simple: “If you can help an animal on the Sabbath day, why can’t you help a suffering person? It is amazing how religion often takes away common sense.
The rabbis believed that on the sabbath, animals could be led out by a chain or rope, as long as nothing was carried. You could draw water for them and pour it into a trough, though you could not hold the bucket while they drank from it. This fulfilled the letter of the law while still caring for the animals. Jesus asked them that if they worked around the law to take care of the animals, how much more so to heal a daughter of Abraham? It was the power of God that healed the woman, and God chose to do it on the sabbath day. Who are we to tell God when and what to do like He is our pet? Though I have seen attitudes like this in the church myself with people deciding who God could minister to, and who He should avoid, like He was their pet.
17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were disappointed and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.
The woman was now healed and standing up straight. The ruler of the synagogue was obviously wrong and could not defend against the words of Jesus. The people rejoiced.
18 He said, “What is God’s Kingdom like? To what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and put in his own garden. It grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the sky live in its branches.”
Jesus now tells two short, but complex parables. The grain of mustard seed is a tiny seed that grows into a large bush-sized plant, a pretty unlikely place for bird nests, but this one grew into a large tree. Many people usually regard this as a beautiful picture of the church growing so large that it provides refuge for all of the world, but you know I love history…
Let’s look closer and put these parables in the context of where Jesus was. He was in the middle of a heated dispute with the ruler of the synagogue, and had just called him a hypocrite. The ruler of the house of God was a highly religious person who was upset at the real power of God showing up on the Sabbath day. So did Jesus suddenly change the subject? Or did He continue on with the “you are a hypocrite” theme?
Birds in the Bible often represent evil spirits. Jesus spoke of the birds of the air that snatched away the word of God in Matthew 13:4, and 13:19. Revelation 18:2 reads: “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!”
If you examine it closely, this parable accurately describes what the church became in the decades and centuries after the paganism of Rome and Christianity merged together, the Christianization of the Roman empire. In those centuries, the church grew extremely large in influence and dominion. It ruled governments, and it also became a nest for corruption. You could buy the offices of the Pope and Bishops with money. Birds lodging in the branches probably refers to elements of corruption which take refuge in the very shadow of Christianity. Continuing on…
20 Again he said, “To what shall I compare God’s Kingdom? 21 It is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”
Again, many people regard this parable as a beautiful picture of the kingdom of God working its way through the whole world. But in just the last chapter, Jesus warned the disciples to beware of the yeast of the pharisees, which is hypocrisy. And Jesus just confronted hypocrisy here in the ruler of the synagogue.
Yeast / Leven is consistently used to represent sin in scripture. The Israelites were to remove all leaven from their homes during passover and to eat unleavened bread: (Exodus 12:8, 12:15–20).
Also the woman used an unusually large amount of flour. From what I can gather, that amount today would be at least 33 cups of flour, which would make a whole lot of bread. The woman “hid” the yeast in the bread. The word “hid” here is where our word for encryption comes from, concealed, covered over, hidden.
This is just food for thought, but Jesus was standing in a synagogue filled with religious corruption, and God was not welcome in His own house. It is quite possible that the parable of the tree, teaches the growth of the Kingdom into a great power; and the second, the parable of the leaven, its coming corruption.
You can count on satan to jump on anything that God creates and to try and taint it and turn it into something perverted, and men, like the ruler of the synagogue, are all too ready to help.
22 He went on his way through cities and villages, teaching, and traveling on to Jerusalem. 23 One said to him, “Lord, are they few who are saved?” He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter in by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter in and will not be able.
Jesus was slowly making His way to Jerusalem and taking time to teach along the way. The Jews believed that all Israel would certainly be saved, except for a few blatant sinners who excluded themselves. Jesus made it clear that there will be many surprises in the membership of the coming kingdom and He urges those listening to strive to make sure that they are in that number. The word “strive” means whole-hearted action. It was a technical term for competition and where we get the English word “agonize.” It means no half-hearted effort; give it everything that you have got.
Also there are two groups of people mentioned here and timing seems to be one difference: “Strive to enter” is current; “Will seek to enter” is in the future. Everyone is welcome to come to God now, but there appears to be a time limit on the offer of salvation. When the door is finally shut, those standing outside of it will be lost. The return of Jesus will come like a bolt of lightning, catching everyone off guard (Matt 24:27). When the door on Noah’s ark closed, then everyone outside of it perished and only eight people were saved (1 Peter 3:20). That was certainly a narrow door. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2) so live your life ready to die, and begin to put God first now.
What are some things that would stop us from entering in? The cares of this world are an obstacle. The devil is an obstacle. Probably the worst obstacle is our own flesh: the “I want, and I will.”
25 Once the master of the house has risen up, and has shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ then he will answer and tell you, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
The point is that there will come a time when it is too late to enter; that is why we must enter now. One the devil’s greatest lies is that there is always tomorrow, but the truth is that we are all one heartbeat from death at any given moment.
The words of Jesus here tell us two important things that He was concerned with: 1. The status of their relationship (“I do not know you”), and 2. The manner of their living (“you workers of iniquity”)
26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 He will say, ‘I tell you, I don’t know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in God’s Kingdom, and yourselves being thrown outside.
There will be people that know about Jesus, but do not know Him. They saw Him teach in their streets, but that alone will not save them. One thing that we should note is that Jesus was unafraid to talk about hell, in fact He did so more than any other person in the Bible.
29 They will come from the east, west, north, and south, and will sit down in God’s Kingdom.
The Jews thought that they alone would be saved, but Jesus told His audience that there would be many from all over the world, from many nations, that would be with God in His kingdom.
30 Behold, there are some who are last who will be first, and there are some who are first who will be last.”
Jesus did not say that “All who are last will be first” or “All who are first will be last.”, yet some will, and it will surprise many. Those who are in very prominent positions in this world, may be in very humble positions in the next, and those whom no one notices here, may be the princes of the world to come. Jesus said that the least among you shall be the greatest, so we should not be surprised.
31 On that same day, some Pharisees came, saying to him, “Get out of here, and go away, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I complete my mission. 33 Nevertheless I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the next day, for it can’t be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem.’
The Pharisees gave Jesus a death threat from Herod who had put John the baptizer to death. Jesus called Herod a “fox” which probably meant that he was neither a great man, nor a straight man. Foxes were small, but considered sly and sometimes represented destructiveness (Song 2:15). Later, when Jesus appeared before Herod, He did not say a word (Luke 23:9). When Jesus has nothing to say to someone, that person is pretty hopeless.
34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, like a hen gathers her own brood under her wings, and you refused! 35 Behold, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”
Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and it has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. That is the temple mount is in the foreground.
Jerusalem was the heart of the nation of Israel and though Jesus knew that He was going to be crucified, He followed the path that God had set before Him. Luke mentions Jerusalem ninety times, while it occurs only forty-nine times in the all the rest of the New Testament. The city was important to Luke and being the heart of the nation, Jerusalem was where the prophets appeared before the Sanhedrin, were tried and then put to death. It was there that the nation’s attitude towards Jesus would reach its final stages and God’s Messiah would fulfill His purpose on the earth.
The words of Jesus here seem to predict the coming destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70 A.D. That wraps up our study on Luke chapter 13.
(If the Quiz doesn't work for you, questions are below)
Quiz Questions on Luke 13: