Luke 13:31-35 (Matthew 23:37-38)


We have substituted Luke 13:31-35 (Lent II, Series A) for our text because Luke 13:34-35 is almost verbatim the same as Matthew 23:37-39. Jesus spoke this text twice: in Luke it occurred in Perea, three months before the final Passover. In Matthew it occurred in Jerusalem during Holy Week.

Luke 13:31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him,  "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you." 

Marshall: These redactional explanations of the story at once arouse some suspicion since Denaux and Rese are able to argue that entirely opposed evaluations of the Pharisees (as hostile or friendly to Jesus respectively) can equally well be regarded as due to Luke's redaction.

In other words, redaction critics come out with opposing views. Were these Pharisees Jesus' friends? Surely not. They may have posed as friends but surely were not genuine friends.

"Wants to kill you"  (RSV, NIV, NASB, BECK). At bottom this means that Herod was an enemy and persecutor of the Truth. Did Herod send these Pharisees? We don't know. But, context indicates that the Pharisees were in total sympathy with Herod. They wanted Jesus out of this territory. Lenski thinks the Pharisees wanted Jesus in Jerusalem. Perhaps.

Luke 13:32 He replied,  "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'

Bengel: He calls Herod a fox, employing an epithet accurately characterizing him, on account of his cunning and hypocritical cowardice (compare 9:7), which were but a feint.

"Listen"  according to NEB and BECK. These notes suggest: "Look now." Jesus is in no way frightened. "I perform is active" but "I am brought to my goal" is passive. Thus Arndt, Lenski, Ylvisaker and Marshall, implying that God is the agent. It is God's will. Jesus is saying that He goes on His way performing miracles and thereafter will be brought to the goal of His crucifixion. No threats can detain Him or divert Him from God's will.

Stoeckhardt: Something similar happens to Jesus' disciples, to all of God's children. They accomplish their daily work, their calling on earth, and no power of earth or hell can or is permitted to disturb or hinder them. No one can shorten the time allotted by God for their work.

Well put. The three days are not to be taken literally nor do they refer to Jesus' three year ministry. They denote a short time. In this case, about three months. In His announcement to Herod, Jesus does not include the preaching of the Gospel. Herod roundly rejected this Jesus speaks only of His miracles which were signs of His divinity and Messiahship.

Luke 13:33 In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day--for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

Most of our translations render "in any case" as "nevertheless." But Marshall aptly points out that it can mean "moreover" or "indeed." That makes good sense. It is necessary in the sense that God willed it. There is no difference in this verse and 32 on the expression "today, tomorrow and the next day." But He adds "go"  not in the sense in which they used it in verse 31 (a threat) but in the sense that God willed it, both in Perea and Judea.

What does "for surely" mean? KJV, RSV, NASB translate:  "it cannot be that." Ylvisaker suggests that it has the same meaning as the Latin non fieri potest   "it cannot be." That is correct. In what sense? The impossibility is due to the obduracy and rejection of the Jews. Jerusalem should have welcomed Jesus with open arms. But quite the opposite happened. This passage denotes the rule, not the exception. Most prophets were killed in Jerusalem.

Arndt: We may think of Zacharias, mentioned by Jesus, 11:51, Jeremiah with his unspeakable sufferings, Urijah, spoken of Jeremiah 26:20-23, and Isaiah, whose martyrdom seems to be alluded to at Hebrews 11 :37. Lagmann draws attention to Manasseh's activities directed against the prophets, 2 Kings 21:16, to the pertinent references Acts 7:51ff and Hebrews 11:37ff, and to the persecutions of wicked Antiochus Epiphanes (1 Maccabees 1:10ff; 2 Maccabees 4:7ff etc.).

Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

Jesus' lament is found a second time at Matthew 23:37-39. He said it twice, here in Perea and three months later in Jerusalem. This should cause no difficulty. The repetition of the word "Jerusalem" is plaintive like that of David over Absalom.

The two adjectival, present tense, participles denote the constant hateful attitude of the people of Jerusalem toward God's commissioned messengers throughout her history. They were sent with a lasting commission.

The Gospel of John (2:23; 5:1; 7:10) furnishes the information about these several visits. Chapters 5,7-11 of John describe the obduracy of the Jerusalem Jews. John 12:37-50 describes this same obduracy. "Longed" denotes the saving will of Jesus. He earnestly meant it.  "But you refused."

The point of comparison (bird and brood) is of course the great love of Jesus for the Jews. A bird, when its brood is in danger, covers the young with her wings and will die rather than let them be harmed. Young birds run under the wings for cover. Jerusalem adamantly refused. As the brood belongs to the mother, so Jerusalem belonged to Jesus, but refused.

Arndt: His efforts had always been treated with disdain. The passage is a powerful witness to God's desire to save all men, including those who ultimately are lost. Could the comforting teaching of universal grace be set forth more cogently?
Ylvisaker: In diametric contrast to His will stands that of the 'children '. Hence they could not be saved: for divine grace is without restraint.
Lenski: Grace is not irresistible. . . . Damnation results from man's own will, which settles into permanent, obdurate, unaccountable resistance against God's will of grace. The more God draws the will with the power of grace, the more this will rejects God, until grace with its power can do no more.

Luke 13:35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" 

NEB:  "Look, look!"  It is a strong interjection which must always translated by context.

Arndt: God will forsake it, you yourselves will have to furnish protection, and you will not be able to do it. The emphasis then lies on them. The Messiah would like to be their Helper, but they reject Him, so they have to ward off the enemies themselves.

This is a prophecy and clearly shows Jesus' divinity. "I tell you" always denotes Jesus' divine authority. "Will not" is the emphatic negative:  "You definitely will not see Me." It is remarkable that after Jesus' crucifixion and death none of His enemies saw Him. Only believers saw the Risen Christ.

The quotation from Psalm 118:26, a Messianic Psalm, has been given three applications by commentators:

  1. Luke 19:38, at the time when Jesus entered Jerusalem. That can't be. Jesus' enemies are not speaking there;

  2. The final judgment, when both friends and foes will have to acknowledge Him as Lord. Very unlikely;

  3. The conversion of individual Jews throughout the centuries. Thus Arndt, Ylvisaker and Lenski. These notes agree with this.

By the way, the millennialists say that the New Covenant does not apply to the Jews until the supposed mass conversion of the Jews, Romans 11:26. But that is wrong. Pentecost meant that the Gospel was to be preached to all, Jews and Gentiles. That is borne out in Acts. Furthermore, Romans 11:1ff clearly says that God has not cast the Jews aside and Romans 11:26, contextually, means that all the elect, both among Jews and Gentiles, will be saved.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A Matthew-John Sundays After Pentecost Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1981, pp. 89-90. Used with permission.

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