LUKE - CHAPTER 7
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2001 James Melough
“Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he
entered into Capernaum.
“And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready
Capernaum means village of
comfort, and the Lord’s healing the servant of this Gentile may well be
the foreshadowing of the fact that eventually Israel’s rejection of Him would
result in His turning to the Gentiles.
In this centurion’s compassion
for his servant we catch a glimpse of God’s compassion for us; and in the
servant’s condition we see the portrait of our own spiritual state before the
Lord saved us. We too were sick, and ready to die.
“And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews,
beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.”
The faith and humility of this
Gentile are remarkable, for he believed that the Lord could heal the sick
servant, but he considered himself unworthy to even approach the Lord
personally, hence his asking the Jewish elders to present his plea.
The centurion’s humility
rebukes the irreverence frequently displayed by professing believers in the
“And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was
worthy (deserving of this favor) for whom he should do this:”
“For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.”
This continues to demonstrate
the basic error of Jewish thinking (and the thinking of many Gentiles also),
that salvation was available only to those who kept the law, and did good
works; and it seems that the centurion to some extent was guilty of the same
wrong reasoning. His love for Israel, and his having built them a synagogue
indicate that he was a man genuinely seeking to know God, but that he believed
that acceptance with God was available only on the basis of works.
An essential truth that must
be grasped by all men is that there is no man worthy of blessing, but rather
of eternal judgment, for “All have sinned,” Ro 3:23, and no man can ever make
himself worthy of God’s pardon except through confession of unworthiness, and
trust in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Then Jesus went with them, And when he was now not far from the house, the
centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for
I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof:”
“Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a
word, and my servant shall be healed.”
His humility and faith were
genuine. Had they not been, the Lord would certainly have known. This
unsaved Gentile puts many of us to shame.
“For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say
unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my
servant, Do this, and he doeth it.”
As another has pointed out,
this declares that he believed Jesus to have the same authority over sickness
as Rome had over him, and as he had over his soldiers. In other words,
he believed that the Lord had simply to bid the sickness depart, and it would.
“When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turned him about, and
said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so
great faith, no, not in Israel.”
It was very different with
Israel, for in Mk 6:6 it is recorded that He marveled at the Jews’ unbelief.
“And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that
had been sick.”
It had been unto him according
to his faith, and this ought to encourage us to have similar faith.
We cannot but wonder what
followed the healing of the servant, and though Scripture doesn’t record it,
there can scarcely be doubt that the centurion and the servant alike, and
many, if not all of his household, came to know the Lord as Savior.
The account of this same
incident in Mt 8:5-13 states that the centurion himself came to the Lord, but
there is no contradiction: the explanation seems to be that he first sent the
Jewish leaders, and then came himself, after having allowed them time to
explain the situation to the Lord.
“And it came to pass the day after (subsequently), that he went into a city
called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.”
“Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man
carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people
of the city was with her.”
Nain means afflicted:
beautiful. If the Lord’s going to the centurion foreshadows His
turning to the Gentiles following His rejection by Israel, then it may be that
this present scene depicts His return to Israel during the Tribulation, her
time of weeping. The widowed mother would represent Israel (described several
times in Scripture as a widow - Isa 54:4; La 1:1); and the resurrected son,
the 144,000 saved after the rapture of the Church, they being the beginning of
the remnant that will be saved (raised up out of spiritual death) in the
“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep
It was the same compassion for
a perishing world that led the Lord out to Calvary to die so that men might be
Of practical value to us is
the fact that had that widow but known it, all her tears were unnecessary; and
so is it often with us. Like Peter attempting to walk on the sea, we take our
eyes off the Lord, and immediately we are overwhelmed by circumstances,
instead of resting peacefully in the assurance that, “All things work together
for good to them that love God,” Ro 8:28.
“And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he
said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.”
Their standing still reminds
us that man has no part in the salvation of a soul. As it was on the shores
of the Red Sea when the Egyptians pursued the recently delivered Israelites,
and Moses commanded the people, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the
Lord” (Ex 14:13), so is it always in regard to salvation. Man must stand
still. Only God can work this miracle.
The young man’s resurrection
occurring as his body was being carried to the tomb, and when humanly speaking
all hope was gone, foreshadows what will be in connection with Israel’s
spiritual resurrection in the Tribulation. It too will occur when it will
seem that all hope is gone, and the nation seems about to be cut off by the
forces of the beast. Apart from the resurrection of her son, the widow’s line
would have been cut off, for he was her only son.
“And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his
As noted already, this may
foreshadow the conversion of the first part of the remnant in the
Tribulation. Physical death portrays the spiritual death in which all the
unconverted lie, and as a dead man cannot rise by his own power, neither can a
sinner rise out of spiritual death apart from the working of God’s almighty
His beginning to speak reminds
us that every believer is responsible to testify to God’s saving grace, as it
is written, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt
believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be
saved” (Ro 10:9). The testimony of the 144,000 will result in the salvation
of many Jews and Gentiles in the Tribulation.
If we have been correct in
seeing the man’s resurrection as a picture of the salvation of the 144,000,
then his being delivered to his mother declares the truth that as she was made
to rejoice so will Israel also rejoice in God’s salvation in the Tribulation.
We have the same
responsibility today to testify to others, and to bring to them the same joy
as was experienced by that widowed mother. No joy equals that of salvation.
“And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great
prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.”
So will it be after the
Tribulation. Those terrible judgments will produce that reverential fear of
God which is His due, but which men deny Him today; and as it is with
testimony, so is it also with reverence. The irreverence of the world has
affected the professing church. It behooves us to remember that He Who is our
God, is the One in whose presence angel’s veil their faces.
The confession, “That God hath
visited his people” will be the confession of the remnant in the Tribulation.
“And this rumor of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all
the region round about.”
As the news of the Lord Jesus
Christ spread abroad following this miracle, so is it God’s desire that the
truth relative to Christ should spread abroad as a result of our testimony. A
feature of the Tribulation age that will be different from this present Church
age is that before the Tribulation ends, the whole world will have heard the
Gospel. That is not true of this present age. The whole world will not have
heard the gospel before the Rapture. Were it otherwise, no one could be saved
in the Tribulation, for 2 Th 2 makes it clear that the converts of that
terrible era will be they who had never previously heard the gospel.
“And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.”
John’s being told these things
was doubtless to encourage him by confirming that the One of Whom he had
testified was indeed the Christ.
“And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying,
Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?”
John was in prison (see Mt
11:2), and his uncertainty regarding the Lord assures us that he was no
different from other men, in that he must have faith to believe that the
Lord’s miracles were the proof that He was the Messiah. John’s uncertainty
seems to have been rooted in the fact that he, like all the other believers,
was looking for the immediate setting up of the millennial kingdom, none of
them apparently grasping the truth that the Lord must first die to make
atonement for sin, rise again, return to heaven, and then after seven years of
tribulation on the earth, return in power and glory to inaugurate the
kingdom. Such was the preoccupation of Israel, believers and unbelievers
alike, with Christ as the Lion of Judah, that they ignored the equally clear
word of prophecy that Messiah must first die, hence their difficulty to grasp
the truth that this meek, lowly, despised Jesus was He. John possibly
wondered why this One Whom he had believed to be the Messiah, didn’t deliver
His servant out of Herod’s hand. It was difficult even for him to reconcile
his being left in prison, while the One in Whom resided the inherent power to
vanquish every foe and establish the millennial kingdom, exercised that power
simply to heal the sick and raise the dead. It wasn’t until after His
resurrection that even the disciples grasped the full truth of the two lines
of prophecy concerning the Messiah.
In connection with this
passage William MacDonald quotes a very appropriate comment made by C.G.
Moore, “I know of no hours more trying to faith than those in which Jesus
multiplies evidences of His power and does not use it.”
A practical lesson for us
relative to the Lord’s not only leaving John in prison, but permitting him
also to be executed, is that we must not measure His love or power by outward
circumstances, but have the faith to believe that “All things work together
for good to them that love God,” Ro 8:28.
“When the men were come unto him, they said, John the Baptist hath sent us
unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?
“And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of
evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight.”
The Lord’s miracles attested
His claim to be the long awaited Messiah, for no mere man could have wrought
such miracles, but the fact remained that His sin-atoning death, and
resurrection, must precede the inauguration of the millennial kingdom.
“Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things
ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are
cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is
As men are known by their
works rather than by any profession they may make, so would Christ as Man live
by the same standard. He didn’t merely ask men to believe in Him - His works
justified their faith. It ought to be the same with us. Our deeds should
encourage men to believe the Gospel we preach.
The Lord’s intent obviously
was to strengthen John’s faith, so that however much John might lack exact
knowledge as to the time of the setting up of the kingdom, he would not cease
to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. What was more needful for John was
that however much outward circumstances might raise doubts in his mind, the
power displayed in the Lord’s miracles was to banish those doubts. And so is
it with us. We are not to look at circumstances, but at what is written
concerning the Lord in His infallible Word, and to cling to the belief that
everything written there will most certainly be fulfilled.
“And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”
Other translations of this
verse are, “... who has no doubts about me”; “... who does not lose confidence
in me”; “... who never loses faith in me.” No matter what circumstances may
indicate to the contrary we are never to doubt the Lord’s love for us, Calvary
being the great antidote for all such doubt.
“And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the
people concerning John. What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A
reed shaken with the wind?”
The Lord’s testimony to John,
delayed until John’s disciples had departed, reminds us that it isn’t here on
earth that we are to be looking for the Lord’s commendation. The Bema is the
place where commendation and reward will be given. The Lord valued John no
less because He reserved His praise until the departure of the messengers. He
values us no less because He withholds His commendation until the Bema.
To the eye of man, John
clothed in the rough garment of the prophet, and eating locusts and wild
honey, may have seemed of as little worth as a patch of reeds waving in the
wind, but the Lord’s estimate of His servant was very different. The wind is
a Biblical symbol of the Holy Spirit, and as literal reeds bend to the will of
the wind, so did John move and speak only at the impulse of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord sets a very high value on all such obedience.
John’s not being as a reed
shaken by the wind is generally understood to mean that he was a man of strong
convictions who didn’t change with every wind of circumstance.
“But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold,
they which are gorgeously appareled, and live delicately, are in kings’
Such was the perversity of the
nation to which the Lord presented Himself, that as they were repelled by the
prophet’s Spartan lifestyle, so would they also have found fault with John had
he come in the guise of a king. And as it was with the forerunner, so was it
also with the Master, as is declared in verses 31-35.
“But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much
more than a prophet.”
Man’s appraisal of John
mattered little, nor does man’s evaluation of us matter much. It was
sufficient that the Lord approved, and declared him to be more than a
prophet. It should be sufficient for us that the Lord approves of our lives,
hence the need to live so as to be worthy of His approval.
“This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy
face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.”
The OT references are Isa 40:3
and Mal 3:1, but it is significant that in Mal 3:1 the wording is, “Behold, I
will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me,”
but here in Luke it is, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face,
which shall prepare thy way before thee.” This is another proof
that Jesus Christ is God.
“For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater
prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is
greater than he.”
It seems that John was greater
than the other OT prophets only in that he, the last of them, had the
privilege of actually seeing and introducing the Messiah whose coming the
others had foretold.
The latter part of this verse
seems to imply that John was not in the kingdom of God, i.e., that he wasn’t a
believer, but since he was a believer, the further implication is that we are
meant to view the term “kingdom of God,” in the present context, in a more
restricted sense than its being simply the whole sphere of creation, or the
realm of faith. It may be therefore that the Lord was using the term in its
application to the realm of faith in the Church age only, because He knew that
Israel would reject Him, and thereby forfeit the earthly millennial kingdom
which He was then offering, her rejection compelling Him to withdraw the offer
until a day still future. This appears to be the only possible explanation of
the Lord’s words, for the least member of the Church has a place superior to
that of any believer of any other age. Only Church age believers are members
of Christ’s body. They have a place of unique nearness to Him which is
beautifully portrayed in connection with Joseph. Those reconciled brethren
who had once sold Joseph to what they thought would be death, represent Israel
converted during the Tribulation, and then passing into the Millennium. He,
ruling Egypt, and blessing those repentant and reconciled brethren, portrays
Christ ruling the millennial world, and blessing repentant and reconciled
Israel, His brethren according to the flesh. Near and dear as were those
reconciled brethren, nearer and dearer was Asenath, the Gentile bride given
Joseph during the time of his rejection by his brethren. She portrays the
Church. Relative to John, it is to be remembered that he died before the
Church age began, so that though a believer, he was not a member of the
Church. His place in the eternal kingdom of God will correspond to that of
Joseph’s reconciled brethren. He will be near to Christ, but not as near as
even the least of those who constitute the Church which is His bride.
“And all the people that heard him (John), and the publicans, justified God,
being baptized with the baptism of John.”
In spite of the ambiguity of
the KJ translation, it is generally agreed that the Speaker is still the Lord,
and His reference is to the response of the people and the publicans to John’s
preaching. Their justifying God relates to their confession that they were
sinners whose repentance and faith were displayed in their submitting to
John’s baptism. These penitents acknowledged that God was just when He called
upon them to repent, and that same acknowledgment must be made by every sinner
who would be saved.
“But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves,
being not baptized of him.”
The self-righteous Jewish
leaders refused to accept God’s assessment of their spiritual state as
declared by John, and accordingly refused to submit to his baptism, for as
noted already baptism is the symbolic confession of guilt, but also of
redemption through faith in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus
It is no different today. The
self-righteous, religious, but unconverted man, refuses God’s salvation,
because he refuses to see himself as a sinner who needs the Savior. He
refuses to accept the fact that he needs to repent and trust in Christ’s
“And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation?
and to what are they like?”
The Lord marveled at the
stubborn unbelief of the Jewish leaders. They who should have seen most
clearly that He was the long-promised Messiah, were those most adamant in
denying His claims. And it is the same today. The religious rulers of
Christendom are for the most part the leaders in denying that men are sinners
who need to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved from hell and
fitted for heaven.
“They are like children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to
another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have
mourned to you, and ye have not wept.”
“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say,
He hath a devil.”
“The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous
man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!”
Like children refusing to play
funeral, they rejected the ministry of John who warned them to flee from
coming wrath. Nothing he could say induced repentance. In their ignorant
complacency they considered themselves so righteous as to have no need of
repentance. They were also like children who refused to play wedding. The
ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ which offered them pardon for sin, and God’s
priceless of gift of eternal life, was likewise unacceptable to them.
Dependent on their own imaginary self-righteousness obtained by equally
imaginary law keeping, they refused the offered gift. They were of such a
critical self-righteous spirit that nothing pleased them. They found fault
with everyone and everything except themselves, and yet it was in themselves
that all the fault lay. Such was their blind unbelief that they would justify
themselves even though that judgment made Christ Himself guilty of sin!
7:35. “But wisdom is
justified of all her children.”
This may be taken to mean that
each man believes that his attitude and conduct are wise, e.g., the Jewish
leaders thought themselves to be very wise; but it is generally understood to
mean that the wisdom of God alone is that which truly wise men, i.e.,
believers, acknowledge to be right. The truly wise man, accepting the
condemnation pronounced by John, first repents and weeps; and then, accepting
the gift of pardon and eternal life offered by the Lord Jesus Christ, rejoices
that he has passed from death to life, having been saved from hell and fitted
for heaven, not through his own attempted law keeping, but by the Lord’s
vicarious death, and glorious resurrection.
“And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went
into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.”
The events recorded here must
not be confused with those recorded in Mt 26:6-13; Mk 14:3-9 and Jn 12:1-8.
There the host was Simon who had been cured of leprosy, and the woman is
generally accepted as having been Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus and
Here the Pharisee, also called
Simon (a common name), was clearly not a believer, but rather an antagonist
who probably sought opportunity to embarrass the Lord. This supper is
generally believed to have taken place earlier in the course of the Lord’s
ministry than the one mentioned above in the house of Simon the former leper.
“And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that
Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of
ointment (fragrant oil),”
“And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with
tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and
anointed them with the ointment.”
In those days people dining
reclined with their heads towards the table, and their feet away from it with
the sandals removed, hence its being said that she “stood at his feet behind
him,” her ministry neither disturbing Him nor the other guests.
This woman’s name is not
known, and apart from what is recorded of her here, we know nothing other than
that she was a sinner, but, it is to be noted, a sinner who, as the context
clearly indicates, had already been forgiven, see verse 47, a fact which
implies a previous encounter with the Lord. Her activity as described here
was her response to that forgiveness. How different was her conduct from that
of the self-righteous, and therefore unforgiven Pharisee! The very courtesies
he had neglected, she bestowed, and with such loving devotion as made Simon’s
neglect all the more conspicuous. Yet men considered her a sinner, and Simon
righteous; but the Lord saw things very differently. He commended her, and
rebuked Simon. The opulence of the Pharisee’s table paled into insignificance
compared with the literal and spiritual fragrance of the ointment she lovingly
lavished on the Lord. The difference between the two is set before us in 1
Corinthians 13. What isn’t impelled by love for Christ is as worthless “as
sounding brass, or a tinkling symbol.”
“Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself,
saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who, and what manner
of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.”
In his complacent
self-righteousness, the Pharisee could neither see his own shortcoming, nor
the loving devotion of the woman. If ever a man had a beam in his eye, it was
Simon. Like all his breed, he looked only on the outward part with no concern
for what was in the heart, but God looks on the heart. The Lord knew what was
in the woman’s heart, as He did also what was in Simon’s. That inward look
justified the woman, and condemned the Pharisee, for it is what is in the
heart that matters with God. Simon in his self-righteous pride not only
condemned the woman, but also the Lord: he doubted even whether the Lord was a
prophet, much less the Messiah!
“And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee.
And he saith, Master, say on.”
The Pharisee, failing to
realize that the Guest read his heart, thought to hide what was lodged there,
and feigned goodwill by addressing the Lord as Teacher.
“There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred
pence, and the other, fifty.”
“And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me
therefore, which of them will love him most?”
All men are God’s debtors,
incapable of repaying the debt, for whether the outward sins are the
equivalent of five hundred pence or fifty, the fact remains that all alike are
possessed of a fallen corrupt nature, for which the only remedy is a new
birth, brought about through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. From
that perspective therefore all are under the same condemnation. All stand in
the same need - Simon as much as the woman, needed to be born again. The
difference was that she knew it, he didn’t.
“Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he
said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.”
Even in his spiritual
blindness the Pharisee gave a right judgment; but his qualifying “I
suppose...” may have been impelled by a premonition that he might perhaps be
exposing himself to censure, and he sought if possible to leave himself some
way of escape by giving a reply that was less than unequivocal.
“And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I
entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath
washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.”
Against the background of the
woman’s devotion, Simon’s dereliction stands forth in even sharper focus.
“Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not
ceased to kiss my feet.”
The coldness of the Pharisee’s
heart stands the more clearly exposed by the warmth of the woman’s love. Do
we say we love the Lord? Then let our obedience prove it, remembering His
command, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jn 14:15.
“My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet
The Pharisee had omitted every
common courtesy, and the woman’s love continued, without intent on her part,
to reveal the coldness of his heart. The best barometer by which to measure
our love for the Lord is not by outward religious activity, or what we
ourselves think, but by the obedience we are willing to render Him, for as
noted above, it is He Himself Who said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,”
“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she
loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”
She was forgiven, not because
of her works, but because she very obviously believed in Christ as her Savior,
for only the redeemed can love God, as it is written, “We love him, because he
first loved us,” 1 Jn 4:19; and as the Lord declared, love is in proportion to
the amount of sin forgiven. If we love the Lord only a little, it isn’t
because the number of our sins was small, but because we fail to comprehend
just how sinful we were when He forgave those sins and saved us.
7:48. “And he said unto her,
Thy sins are forgiven.”
The Lord wasn’t satisfied to
leave the announcement of her forgiveness in the form of a general statement
to the whole company: He made it very personal. He addressed only her when He
said, “Thy sins are forgiven.” Forgiveness is always personal. Multitudes
are willing to say, “I believe that Christ died for the sins of the whole
world,” but not, “I believe that He died for my sins.” The confession
of the true believer is always personal, “He died for me, for my sins.”
“And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, who is
this that forgiveth sins also?”
The clear implication is that
they considered Him a blasphemer, for only God can forgive sins, and they
refused to believe that He was God the Son, coequal and coeternal with the
Father and the Holy Spirit.
“And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”
This places beyond question
that it was her faith, and not her works that had saved her. Her good works
were simply the expression of the love of her redeemed heart.