Calvary Road Baptist Church


Luke 13.24


Allow me to recap and summarize: From Isaiah 42.1-3 and Matthew 12.17-20, we observed that Jesus withdrew Himself from the contentious and argumentative Pharisees, while willingly ministering to those who were humble in spirit, likened in those two passages as bruised reeds and smoking flax. Those who had proven to be resistant to the gospel and who had exhibited their stubbornness by their refusal to bend to Godís will are shown to be in great danger of being broken in their spiritual stiffness. What is to become of those many that travel the broad road that leads to destruction? They will perish. As well, since they seem thus far to be immune to being bruised to become flexible to Godís will in the gospel, Jesus directs such to strive to enter in at the strait gate. We have already seen that the parable of the sower and the recent history that Jesus referred to, the Galilaeans Pilate had slain and those on whom the tower of Siloam had fallen, serve to establish the proper framework of our understanding of both Godís dealings and manís sinfulness, and how crucial is striving to enter in to the strait gate for that one who has heard the gospel many times without receiving Christ.

We next move to the parable of the fig tree, in Luke 13.6-9:

 6      He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.

7      Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?

8      And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:

9      And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

 The parable of the sower is found in Luke chapter 8, you will notice as we progress from our Lordís review of Pilateís massacre of the Galilaeans and the tower falling on eighteen people in Siloam that we are proceeding through Lukeís thirteenth chapter on our way to Luke 13.24. Of all the words and incidents that occurred in our Lordís life and ministry, the Spirit of God inspired Luke to select those narratives and teachings that prepare the reader to see the importance of striving to enter in at the strait gate, and what will certainly happen to those who need to strive but who for one reason or another refuse to strive. The parable now being considered accomplishes two things: First, it reinforces the Saviorís previous conclusion: ďI tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.Ē It also takes us a step closer to the question, ďLord, are there few that be saved?Ē and His response in Luke 13.24. Here is how the parable of the fig tree serves to that end. The fig tree is emblematic of Godís people. It is planted and not recently put in place. Three years of fruitlessness establishes that it is good for nothing but to be cut down and burned. This gives leeway for a couple of years of drought. The vine dresser intercedes and pleads for the opportunity to fertilize the barren fig tree and improve the soil to provide one more growing season to produce the fruit. I suggest to you that the owner of the tree represents God, with the vine dresser who seeks an additional year representing the Lord Jesus Christ. What is to be understood by dunging the tree and digging the soil in this parable? My friend, I take this to be the striving that will be clearly prescribed in just a few more verses, with the additional time granted to bear fruit to be the space Godís long-suffering grants the hardened and gospel-resistant sinner to strive. You need to recognize that your unsaved loved ones who have grown up in church and heard the gospel many times are presently living on borrowed time. They have had their chances, more chances to respond to the gospel than most people who have lived. Should God call them to account at even a young age, He has still been more than gracious to them.

The daughter of Abraham who was loosed from her infirmity is another case of reality serving the same purpose as a parable. Read with me from Luke 13.10-17:

 10     And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.

11     And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.

12     And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.

13     And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

14     And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.

15     The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?

16     And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?

17     And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

 You may remember from Matthew 12, what prompted Matthewís reference to Isaiah 42.1-3, in Matthew 12.17-20. It started with the Savior doing things on the Sabbath that infuriated the Pharisees, such as pulling the grain from stalks of wheat and barley to eat and then healing a manís withered hand in the synagogue. In this passage, it is Jesus daring to loose a daughter of Abraham (a Jewish woman) from eighteen years of bondage to a spirit of infirmity on the Sabbath. In both Matthew 12 and here in Luke 13, the Pharisees and the ruler of the synagogue did not object to the miracles, just the idea of working a miracle on the Sabbath. They were fundamentally mistaken in thinking that they existed for the Law, when the reality is that the Law was given to benefit them. Did they not water their animals on the Sabbath? Of course, they did. Yet those same men vehemently opposed Christ rescuing the woman from her suffering on the Sabbath. Christís withdrawal from the Phariseesí objections and the possibility of the dispute escalating to a shouting match, and going elsewhere to minister and heal multitudes is explained by Isaiahís prediction about bruised reeds and smoking flax. Jesus ministers to those who are prepared to be flexible and who need to be dealt with gently. Here we see our Lord rebuking the ruler of the synagogue, going so far as to label him a hypocrite. The ruler of the synagogue did not recognize the spiritual plight of the woman, bound by Satan for so long. Thus, there were issues there that Christís adversaries were unaware of and paid no attention to. Should Satan be expected to honor the Sabbath? Some things rise above religious ritual and routine in importance. I submit to you that the real victim, if victim is the proper description, was not the daughter of Abraham who had been bound by Satan for eighteen years, but the ruler of the synagogue and the other adversaries of Christ who were hypocrites in their empty shell of religious pretense and blind to the realities before them. This is an example of one who desires to enter in, but is not able. Yet, if any in attendance at the synagogue that day were asked who could see the kingdom and enter it, no doubt the great majority would have included the ruler of the synagogue as one who was certainly prepared for the hereafter. It was left to our Lord to point him out the ruler of the synagogue as a hypocrite, who was blind to the realities of Satanís torment of the woman He had graciously loosed. This incident works like a parable to provide instruction about manís spiritual condition and needs. Afflicted for eighteen years, the daughter of Abraham needed no convincing that she was at Godís mercy for relief and deliverance. The ruler of the synagogue, on the other hand, must have thought himself quite well off. Both were lost, you see. Which one did Jesus minister to? The bruised reed, not the religious hypocrite. Would Jesus ever minister to the spiritual needs of the religious hypocrite? I suppose He would, once the layers of religious pretense and arrogant self-sufficiency is peeled off by striving to enter in at the strait gate.

In Luke 13.18-19, we find the short parable of the mustard seed:

 18     Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it?

19     It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.

 There are two things of note in this brief parable, that illustrates something the kingdom of God, and that it is likened to something (ďwhereunto shall I resemble it?Ē). Keeping in mind that the kingdom of God is the kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of Christ that you must be born again to see and to enter, and that entrance is accessible only to those on the narrow path and seeking to enter in at the strait gate, what does this parable teach us? This parable teaches us that the kingdom of God starts small and then becomes enormous; the way a mustard seed is so small yet develops into a great tree, so large that birds can perch in it. If the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed in this way, then it stands to reason that it was not large in its manifestations at the time the parable was uttered. However, it would become enormous, which our grasp of prophecy shows us will take place by over spreading the whole earth when Jesus comes again in power and great glory to sit on the throne of His father David. This would be surprise to Jesusí hearers because they expected the magnificent arrival of a grand kingdom all at once (this is why the disciples wondered what role they would have in ruling). Jesus says that the kingdom comes now, but it starts out small and will gradually assume the grand scale they expected. That is why the parallels speak of the mystery of the kingdom in such texts. It is still kingdom truth, but it is a fresh element added alongside the OT picture.[1]

The final parable leading up to our text is the parable of leaven, in Luke 13.20-21:

 20     And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God?

21     It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

Once again, we have here a very brief parable that is presented to describe some aspect of the kingdom of God to us. The difficulty with this parable is that in the comparison our Lord makes reference to leaven. Why does leaven pose a difficulty? Those of post millennial persuasion interpret this parable as indicating that the kingdom of God will grow as Christianity increases the world over, just as leaven infiltrates dough. The difficulty lies in the fact that of the twenty-three times the word leaven is found in twenty verses in the Bible, it is most often used as a type of sin that is to be purged or to illustrate the danger of contamination from even a small about sin. Exodus 12.15 is typical: ďSeven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.Ē Notice, also, the Apostle Paulís comments in First Corinthians 5.6-8:

 6      Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?

7      Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

8      Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

 If the pattern of leaven being typical of sin carries throughout scripture, how can the kingdom of God be likened in any good way to leaven? If this is the single exception, and leaven is not in this passage associated with sin, then we could here have a reference to something about the kingdom of God starting small and then spreading throughout the world. If the pattern of leaven being typical of sin carries through even to this parable, then perhaps something else is being taught here about the kingdom of God. When Jesus Christ comes again and establishes His direct kingdom rule over the whole earth and sits on the throne of His father, David, the citizens of the Millennial Kingdom will at first be only Christians, who survived the 70th week of Daniel at the time of Christís glorious return to earth. However, after a thousand years have passed there will be such a number born who will reach adulthood unconverted and will join with Satan in the final rebellion, Revelation 20.7-8:

 7      And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,

8      And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

My own theology leads me to favor the second interpretation of the parable. I am persuaded that leaven is always a type of sin in the Bible, even in this parable. If that be the case, I can think of no other place where the kingdom will not be permeated by sin except in the Millennial Kingdom that is established after Christís second coming. That said, I do not think the full implications of this would have been evident from the parable as Jesus taught it, and would not be evident until the completed revelation of Godís Word. However, the lesson that Jesus would leave His audience with at that time is the danger of sin spreading, even in the kingdom of God.

Let me review the six passages that bring us to the brink of Luke 13.24. We began in Luke 8, with the parable of the sower, which teaches that even seemingly positive responses to the gospel do not result in conversions unless real spiritual fruit is produced. This is a reality that contemporary Christians of all stripes and persuasions seem to intentionally ignore. Beginning in Luke chapter 13, we read of Pilateís slaughter of the Galilaeans, as well as the tower of Siloam falling and killing eighteen people. Jesus used those events to teach that tragedies striking lives does not mean those people were necessarily more sinful than others and that even those with good experiences are in need of repentance. The parable of the fig tree is a powerful indictment of those with a semblance of religiosity, bearing the leaves of religiosity without bearing the fruits of a genuine salvation. No fruit equals no life and the propriety of judgment. However, an additional season is graciously provided to the three fruitless years, after dunging and turning the soil. This is an allusion to striving, what is called for by those who have had opportunity to bear fruit in that they have heard the gospel, but are still unconverted. It is also a warning to those who have heard the gospel, as was the parable of the sower. Your receptivity to the truth is your responsibility. The loosing of the daughter of Abraham on the Sabbath day over the objections of the ruler of the synagogue showed his hypocrisy (religious to be sure, but without regeneration), reminded us of the behavior of the reed not bruised (stiff and without humility), and gives evidence that the religious but lost are in great need of striving to strip away their callous disregard for mercy and their blindness to the involvement of Satan in the affairs of men. The parable of the mustard seed shows us that the kingdom of God starts out small, like a mustard seed, but grows to immense proportions. It also reveals that the kingdom of God will not impress anyone in its beginning stages, but will grow as individuals bear fruit in their lives and spiritual reproduction takes place. The final parable, the parable of the leaven, teaches us that sin will always be a problem in relation to the kingdom of God. Luke has now set the stage for the question (ďLord, are there few that be saved?Ē) and Christís answer in our text. Sinners who have hardened to the gospel by repeated exposures to the truth that Jesus saves from sins (perhaps by outright rejections of Christ and perhaps by an accumulation of false hopes), must seize upon the means God has provided to undo some of the damage to the mind, the heart, and the soul to prepare oneself for the right response to the gospel.

[1] Darrell L. Bock, Luke Volume 2: 9:51-24:53, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), page 1227.


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