Please read Luke 13
Now at that same time there were some present who were reporting to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered these things? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you think that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse offenders than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-5 LSB
Yeshua countered the popular narrative concerning these terrible events – they were not God’s punishment on the individuals involved for their personal sins, but they were a warning to all that apart from repentance we will perish.
And He was telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in manure, and if it bears fruit next year, fine, but if not, cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9 LSB
Repentance bears fruit. John the baptizer had warned them before: “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:10 NIV). During this the third year of His ministry, Yeshua now bemoans: Behold, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree without finding any. God’s goodness is to lead men to repentance, the nation of Israel were experiencing His goodness in all Christ was doing and teaching, yet there had been no national repentance.
Shabbat Teaching in a Synagogue
The next time we read of Yeshua, He’s no longer with the innumerable multitude but in a synagogue on shabbat, teaching the people.
And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who for eighteen years had a sickness caused by a spirit, and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. But when Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God.
But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus healed on the Sabbath, answered and was saying to the crowd, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”
But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath release his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead it away to water it? And this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for—behold—eighteen years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”
And as He said this, all His opponents were being put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him. Luke 13:10-17 LSB
Once again the gentle love and purity of Yeshua’s actions generates conflict instead of peace in the community. His enacting of the kingdom rule of God is in stark parallel with the opposition that the coming of the kingdom provokes. Satan, the accuser, had bound this humble woman for eighteen cruel years but lost his hold immediately Yeshua spoke to her. She was set free and began glorifying God. But the proud synagogue official allied with the accuser in seeking to denigrate her for being healed on Shabbat. Yeshua replaced the woman’s shame with honour by referring to her as “a daughter of Abraham” and is so doing placed the shame where it belonged – on the accuser.
The synagogue official’s offence lay in his interpretation of Deuteronomy 5: 12-14: Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work. Yeshua’s interpretative strategy involved reading on, and more fully, to expound the theological principle of Sabbath observance rather than offering a mere surface reading. His response simply continues reading Deuteronomy 5 into its immediate context (Vs 14-15): On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
Sabbath means rest and liberation, not only for God’s people but also for the ‘ox and the donkey’ that Yeshua mentions. He again employs the first of Hillel’s rabbinic rules of exegesis – qal wahomer, “light to heavy.” Essentially this rule posits that what applies in a less important case (the “light”) will also apply in a more important case (the “heavy”), often using the phrase “how much more” to draw a conclusion. Here Yeshua argues, if you are prepared to offer Sabbath rest to your animals, surely you cannot withhold this from a precious daughter of Abraham? The Sabbath itself is a reminder of the release from captivity that God effected – if they thus release their animals to water them on Shabbat how much more should this child of Abraham be released from the bondage of disease on Shabbat! Setting people free is not only not a breach of Shabbat but provides a perfect illustration of the meaning and purpose of Shabbat.
It is worth noting that the cause of this woman’s ailment is attributed to a spirit, and Yeshua’s healing released her whom ‘Satan has kept bound’, but it is not described as demonic, nor does her … there is no sense in which this is described as exorcism from demon possession; the language of ‘demon’ or ‘unclean spirit’, and the actions of ‘possession’ and ‘expelling’, found in other gospel accounts of exorcism, and are all absent here. Rather, the physical and the spiritual are seen as inextricably interlinked; it is striking that when she is physically able to stand and look up, this woman immediately breaks into praise to God (surely the purpose of Shabbat). The cause of physical ailments is cosmological disorder and healing is an act of liberation from satanic bondage, it involves direct engagement in cosmic conflict, in the kingdom of God expanding and being manifest on the earth, overthrowing the rule of darkness.
Therefore, He was saying, “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three sata of flour until it was all leavened.” Luke 13:18-21 LSB
Having displayed the kingdom of God in healing the woman, Yeshua reiterated (Matthew 13 and Mark 4) two parables teaching on this kingdom. They are two parables by which Christ foretells the great success of the gospel, despite the present small appearance of the efficacy of it, like the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands in Daniel 2, that grew to fill the whole earth.
Proceeding on His way to Jerusalem
And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. Luke 13:22 LSB
The point here is that Yeshua was teaching everywhere He could as He proceeded in determination toward His crucifixion in Jerusalem. Everything is leading towards that fateful day when He paid the price for our sins.
And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ And He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you workers of unrighteousness.’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being cast out. And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.” Luke 13:23-30 LSB
We are to consider the question of salvation with reference to ourselves, not with reference to others. It is not “do they qualify to be saved”, but “do I qualify to be saved?” Have we entered through the narrow door or are we relying on knowing about Jesus or seeing His works, or our religious heritage to earn a place in the kingdom of God?
Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Leave and go from here, for Herod wants to kill You.”
And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish.’ Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day, for it is not possible that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you did not want it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate, and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Luke 13:31-35 LSB
There is some evidence that Yeshua was during this time ministering in the towns and cities of the Peræan area “beyond the Jordan”, and thus His journeys may have brought Him near Machærus, where John the baptizer had been imprisoned and murdered, and in which was one of Herod’s most stately palaces. Thence the Pharisees may have come with a threat, in which we may possibly trace the hand of Herodias, and which, at least, reminds us of the message sent by Jezebel to Elijah (1Kings 19:2). Yeshua was not perturbed, this threat aroused no fear in Him, He knew the Father’s will and sovereignty, neither Herod nor anyone else could take Him before it was His time to lay His life down for us all and that would not happen here, for Jerusalem was the appointed place and Passover the appointed time. He would not enter Jerusalem again until the triumphal entry when the people cried out: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Holy Bible. New International Version. s.l. : Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
4. —. New American Standard Bible. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, 2020.
5. The Lockman Foundation. The Legacy Standard Bible. [Online] https://lsbible.org/.
6. Bible Commentaries. Luke 12:5. Bible Hub. [Online] [Cited: December 27th, 2022.] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/luke/12-5.htm.
7. Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary. Luke 12:1. Study Light. [Online] [Cited: December 28th, 2022.] https://www.studylight.org/commentary/luke/12-1.html.
8. Paul, Ian. The many layers of the story of the women bent double in Luke 13. Psephizo. scholarship. serving. ministry. [Online] August 21st, 2019. https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/the-many-layers-of-the-story-of-the-women-bent-double-in-luke-13/.
9. Burer, Michael H. Qal wahomer: light to heavy. Exegesis for Christ, the Gospel, and the Church. [Online] July 11th, 2012. https://michaelhburer.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/qal-wahomer-light-to-heavy/.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
* What are the warnings Jesus gave us in this chapter?
* What do we learn from the woman’s healing in the synagogue on the Sabbath?
* What do we learn about the kingdom of God from this chapter in Luke’s gospel?