Luke 13:10–35 the Question Is
Whether Few Will Be Saved.
Key Notes: Healing on Sabbath. The Kingdom is of small beginnings. Jesus wept for Jerusalem.
The question whether few will be saved has arrested the thinking of many of us. It has an answer. Each week in Luke we are challenged to see the connection between successive events. This lesson is no exception, and the work is rewarding.
13:10 On Sabbath, while teaching in the synagogue, Jesus saw a woman with a bent back for‘ years and "a spirit of infirmity". He called her to come, told her she was freed, laid his hands on her and she straightened at once. She praised God, but the ruler was annoyed and told the people to come some other day than Sabbath to be healed. Jesus retorted that anyone would untie his animal and take it to water on Sabbath; she had been tied up by Satan for years! The people rejoiced; the opposition was shamed.
What was the spirit of infirmity? One surmise is that it was an organic disease of the spine (eg. rheumatoid spondylitis or tuberculosis). An alternate view considers the possibility of emotional, rather than either physical or demonic, illness that bent her over, long enough so that she became unable to straighten. Grief, shame, or depression make a person curl up. Unforgiven or unrelieved, Satan had her bound. Jesus broke the social custom (exaggerated work restrictions on Sabbath) to meet a human need. She had been in pain for‘ years. Why should she wait one more day? The donkey is not left without exercise and water for one day although it could live for days without it.
13:18–21 Then Jesus told two parables about the Kingdom using seeds, both very small. The tiny mustard seed grows into a 10–15ft. plant big enough for birds to roost in. The birds are often associated with variety (Ezek.17:23)--cultures, languages, genders, age, denominations --all finding their place in the Kingdom of God, under God's rule. Leaven is yeast, too small to see, but powerful enough to transform flour and water into something big and very different--bread dough. This suggests that the Kingdom, starting small, will grow into an imposing structure, but also will permeate society and transform it.
What is the connection of these parables with the healing of the bent woman? Commentators find little. Perhaps Jesus is saying, "This healing is very small. From such small beginnings, the Kingdom will become very large, a resting place for people everywhere, but also transforming society from within."
13:22–30 A logical question follows: will many be saved, or a few? Jesus' response was to exhort the questioner to strive mightily to enter the narrow gate. Many would not be able to. Then he told a parable of a householder who excluded visitors who knocked and asked admission. He did not know them, although they had had meals with him; that is, they were in superficial fellowship. They have heard His public teaching and were familiar with His message. But He called them workers of iniquity.
Does Jesus exclude people? We know Jesus. The question is does He know us? It is not what we think, but what He thinks that matters. He warned His listeners that the patriarchs and prophets, as well as people from all over the world would be in the Kingdom, but that they would be excluded.
So the immediate answer to the question "Will many be saved", is "few Jews".
Why would the majority of Jews not be saved?
•They had everything already: sonship, the glory, the covenants, the Law, the worship, the promises, the patriarchs. Rom.9:4–5
•They were already saved. They relied on the merits of Abraham and Moses. As they told Jesus "We are descendents of Abraham and have never been in bondage to anyone." (Jn.8:33) John the Baptist said "Bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not being to say to yourselves, 'we have Abraham as our father.'" (Lk.3:8).
•But the Law in the hands of the lawyers had become an intolerable burden that hindered Israel from entering the Kingdom. Lk.11:52
•Israel had always rebelled against the prophets, as they had against Christ (Lk.11:47–51; 13:33,34). Their track record remained unaltered.
•Jesus was Himself a stumbling block. "Can any good come out of Nazareth?" (Jn.1:46). "We were not born in fornication." (Jn.8:42). "People were saying 'He is beside himself'". (Mk.3:21)"You, being a man, make yourself God." Jn.10:33. He also healed on Sabbath. Miracles and words of wisdom did not overcome the scandal of the virgin-born Son of God, the stranger from Galilee.
Gentiles would not have these obstacles. And the gods of the Greco-Roman world were so decadent, their behaviors beneath the approval of any moral person, that their theologians and philosophers were embarrassed. The gods lied and cheated and killed and fornicated, often incestuously. The civilized world was looking for a better way and embraced the Christ whom the Jews rejected.
13:31–35 Then Pharisees warned Him away because Herod wanted to kill him." That Fox" should know that Jesus would complete His work today, tomorrow and the next day, terminating in Jerusalem. Then He wept over Jerusalem, the graveyard of the prophets. Jesus would be as a mother hen, taking Jerusalem's children under His wing, but they refused. Their house was desolate. Only much later would they welcome Him back. Will there be time for repentance when Christ returns, when they look on Him whom they have pierced? Zech.12:10
Jesus' parable of the householder pinpoints the difference between knowing about Him and knowing Him. Israel knew about Him from meals and public speaking, but failed to trust Him. The baby chick hearing the warning cluck runs for its mother's cover, saved under her wings. Even if the hen dies in the barn fire the chicks are protected. Israel refused to come to Jesus.
The cliche about head religion vs. heart religion is illustrated. It is a matter of the heart. "For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved." Rom.10:10. We must trust Him with our whole heart.