In this chapter we have,
I. Christ confirming the doctrine he had preached in the former
chapter, with two glorious miracles--the curing of one at a distance,
and that was the centurion's servant
and the raising of one to life that was dead, the widow's son at Nain,
II. Christ confirming the faith of John who was now in prison, and of
some of his disciples, by sending him a short account of the miracles
he wrought, in answer to a question he received from him
to which he adds an honourable testimony concerning John, and a just
reproof to the men of that generation for the contempt they put upon
him and his doctrine,
III. Christ comforting a poor penitent that applied herself to him, all
in tears of godly sorrow for sin, assuring her that her sins were
pardoned, and justifying himself in the favour he showed her against
the cavils of a proud Pharisee,
The Healing of the Centurion's Servant.
1 Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the
people, he entered into Capernaum.
2 And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear unto him, was
sick, and ready to die.
3 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.
4 And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly,
saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:
5 For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.
6 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:
7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee:
but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.
8 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
9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled 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.
10 And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the
servant whole that had been sick.
Some difference there is between this story of the cure of the
centurion's servant as it is related here and as we had it in
&c. There it was said that the centurion came to Christ; here it is
said that he sent to him first some of the elders of the Jews
and afterwards some other friends,
But it is a rule that we are said to do that which we do by
another--Quod facimus per alium, id ipsum facere judicamur. The
centurion might be said to do that which he did by his proxies; as a
man takes possession by his attorney. But it is probable that the
centurion himself came at last, when Christ said to him
As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.
This miracle is here said to have been wrought by our Lord Jesus
when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people,
What Christ said he said publicly; whoever would might come and
hear him: In secret have I said nothing,
Now, to give an undeniable proof of the authority of his
preaching word, he here gives an incontestable proof of the
power and efficacy of his healing word. He that
had such a commanding empire in the kingdom of nature as that he could
command away diseases, no doubt has such a sovereignty in the kingdom
of grace as to enjoin duties displeasing to flesh and blood, and bind,
under the highest penalties, to the observance of them. This miracle
was wrought in Capernaum, where most of Christ's mighty works were
I. The centurion's servant that was sick was dear to his master,
It was the praise of the servant that by his diligence and
faithfulness, and a manifest concern for his master and his interest,
as for himself and for his own, he recommended himself to his master's
esteem and love. Servants should study to endear themselves to
their masters. It was likewise the praise of the master that, when he
had a good servant, he knew how to value him. Many masters, that are
haughty and imperious, think it favour enough to the best servants they
have not to rate them, and beat them, and be cruel to them, whereas
they ought to be kind to them, and tender of them, and solicitous for
their welfare and comfort.
II. The master, when he heard of Jesus, was for making
application to him,
Masters ought to take particular care of their servants when they are
sick, and not to neglect them then. This centurion begged that
Christ would come and heal his servant. We may now, by faithful
and fervent prayer, apply ourselves to Christ in heaven, and ought to
do so, when sickness is in our families; for Christ is still the great
III. He sent some of the elders of the Jews to Christ, to
represent the case, and solicit for him, thinking that a greater piece
of respect to Christ than if he had come himself, because he was an
uncircumcised Gentile, whom he thought Christ, being a prophet, would
not care for conversing with. For that reason he sent Jews, whom he
acknowledged to be favourites of Heaven, and not ordinary Jews neither,
but elders of the Jews, persons in authority, that the dignity
of the messengers might give honour to him to whom they were sent.
Balak sent princes to Balaam.
IV. The elders of the Jews were hearty intercessors for the centurion:
They besought him instantly
were very urgent with him, pleading for the centurion that which he
would never have pleaded for himself, that he was worthy for whom he
should do this. If any Gentile was qualified to receive such a
favour, surely he was. The centurion said, I am not so much as
worthy of a visit
but the elders of the Jews thought him worthy of the cure; thus
honour shall uphold the humble in spirit. Let another man praise
thee, and not thy own mouth. But that which they insisted upon in
particular was, that, though he was a Gentile, yet he was a hearty
well-wisher to the Jewish nation and religion,
They thought there needed as much with Christ as there did with them to
remove the prejudices against him as a Gentile, a Roman, and an officer
of the army, and therefore mention this,
1. That he was well-affected to the people of the Jews: He loveth
our nation (which few of the Gentile did). Probably he had read the
Old Testament, whence it was easy to advance to a very high esteem of
the Jewish nation, as favoured by Heaven above all people. Note, Even
conquerors, and those in power, ought to keep up an affection
for the conquered, and those they have power over.
2. That he was well-affected to their worship: He built them a
new synagogue at Capernaum, finding that what they had was
either gone to decay or not large enough to contain the people, and
that the inhabitants were not of ability to build one for themselves.
Hereby he testified his veneration for the God of Israel, his belief of
his being the one only living and true God, and his desire, like that
of Darius, to have an interest in the prayers of God's Israel,
This centurion built a synagogue at his own proper costs and charges,
and probably employed his soldiers that were in garrison there in the
building, to keep them from idleness. Note, Building places of meeting
for religious worship is a very good work, is an instance of
love to God and his people; and those who do good works of that kind
are worthy of double honour.
V. Jesus Christ was very ready to show kindness to the centurion. He
presently went with them
though he was a Gentile; for is he the Saviour of the Jews only? Is
he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also,
The centurion did not think himself worthy to visit Christ
yet Christ thought him worthy to be visited by him; for those that
humble themselves shall be exalted.
VI. The centurion, when he heard that Christ was doing him the honour
to come to his house, gave further proofs both of his humility and of
his faith. Thus the graces of the saints are quickened by Christ's
approaches towards them. When he was now not far from the house,
and the centurion had notice of it, instead of setting his house in
order for his reception, he sends friends to meet him with fresh
1. Of his humility: "Lord, trouble not thyself, for I am
unworthy of such an honour, because I am a Gentile." This bespeaks not
only his low thoughts of himself notwithstanding the greatness of his
figure; but his high thoughts of Christ, notwithstanding the meanness
of his figure in the world. He knew how to honour a prophet of God,
though he was despised and rejected of men.
2. Of his faith: "Lord, trouble not thyself, for I know
there is no occasion; thou canst cure my servant without coming
under my roof, by that almighty power from which no thought
can be withholden. Say, in a word, and my servant shall be healed:"
so far was this centurion from Namaan's fancy, that he should come to
him, and stand, and strike his hand over the patient, and so
2 Kings 5:11.
He illustrates this faith of his by a comparison taken from his own
profession, and is confident that Christ can as easily command away the
distemper as he can command any of his soldiers, can as easily send an
angel with commission to cure this servant of his as he can send a
soldier on an errand,
Christ has a sovereign power over all the creatures and all their
actions, and can change the course of nature as he pleases, can rectify
its disorders and repair its decays in human bodies; for all power
is given to him.
VII. Our Lord Jesus was wonderfully well pleased with the faith of the
centurion, and the more surprised at it because he was a Gentile; and,
the centurion's faith having thus honoured Christ, see how he honoured
He turned him about, as one amazed, and said to the people
that followed him, I have not found so great faith, no not in
Israel. Note, Christ will have those that follow him to observe and
take notice of the great examples of faith that are sometimes set
before them--especially when any such are found among those that do not
follow Christ so closely as they do in profession--that we may be
shamed by the strength of their faith out of the weakness and waverings
VIII. The cure was presently and perfectly wrought
They that were sent knew they had their errand, and therefore
went back, and found the servant well, and under no remains at all of
his distemper. Christ will take cognizance of the distressed case of
poor servants, and be ready to relieve them; for there is no respect
of persons with him. Nor are the Gentiles excluded from the benefit
of his grace; nay, this was a specimen of that much greater faith which
would be found among the Gentiles, when the gospel should be published,
than among the Jews.
The Widow of Nain.
11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city
called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much
12 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.
13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and
said unto her, Weep not.
14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him
stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he
delivered him to his mother.
16 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.
17 And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judæa, and
throughout all the region round about.
18 And the disciples of John showed him of all these things.
We have here the story of Christ's raising to life a widow's son at
Nain, that was dead and in the carrying out to be buried, which Matthew
and Mark had made no mention of; only, in the general, Matthew had
recorded it, in Christ's answer to the disciples of John, that the
dead were raised up,
I. Where, and when, this miracle was wrought. It was the next day
after he had cured the centurion's servant,
Christ was doing good every day, and never had cause to complain
that he had lost a day. It was done at the gate of a small city,
or town, called Nain, not far from Capernaum, probably the same
with a city called Nais, which Jerome speaks of.
II. Who were the witnesses of it. It is as well attested as can be, for
it was done in the sight of two crowds that met in or near the gate of
the city. There was a crowd of disciples and other people
and a crowd of relations and neighbours attending the funeral of the
Thus there was a sufficient number to attest the truth of this miracle,
which furnished greater proof of Christ's divine authority than his
healing diseases; for by no power of nature, or any means, can the dead
III. How it was wrought by our Lord Jesus.
1. The person raised to life was a young man, cut off by death
in the beginning of his days--a common case; man comes forth like a
flower and is cut down. That he was really dead was universally
agreed. There could be no collusion in the case; for Christ was
entering into the town, and had not seen him till now that he
met him upon the bier. He was carried out of the city; for the
Jews' burying-places were without their cities, and at some distance
from them. This young man was the only son of his mother, and
she a widow. She depended upon him to be the staff of her old
age, but he proves a broken reed; every man at his best estate is so.
How numerous, how various, how very calamitous, are the afflictions of
the afflicted in this world! What a vale of tears is it! What a Bochim,
a place of weepers! We may well think how deep the sorrow of
this poor mother was for her only son (such sorrowing is
referred to as expressive of the greatest grief,--
Zech. xii. 10),
and it was the deeper in that she was a widow, broken with
breach upon breach, and a full end made of her comforts. Much people
of the city was with her, condoling with her loss, to
2. Christ showed both his pity and his power in raising
him to life, that he might give a specimen of both, which shine so
brightly in man's redemption.
(1.) See how tender his compassions are towards the
When the Lord saw the poor widow following her son to the grave,
he had compassion on her. Here was not application made to him
for her, not so much as that he would speak some words of comfort to
her, but, ex mero motu--purely from the goodness of his nature,
he was troubled for her. The case was piteous, and he looked upon it
with pity. His eye affected his heart; and he said unto her, Weep
not. Note, Christ has a concern for the mourners, for the
miserable, and often prevents them with the blessing of his
goodness. He undertook the work of our redemption and salvation,
in his love and in his pity,
What a pleasing idea does this give us of the compassions of the Lord
Jesus, and the multitude of his tender mercies, which may be
very comfortable to us when at any time we are in sorrow! Let poor
widows comfort themselves in their sorrows with this, that Christ
pities them and knows their souls in adversity; and, if others
despise their grief, he does not. Christ said, Weep not; and he
could give her a reason for it which no one else could: "Weep not for a
dead son, for he shall presently become a living one."
This was a reason peculiar to her case; yet there is a reason common to
all that sleep in Jesus, which is of equal force against inordinate and
excessive grief for their death--that they shall rise again, shall
rise in glory; and therefore we must not sorrow as those that have
1 Thessalonians 4:13.
Let Rachel, that weeps for her children, refrain her eyes from
tears, for there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy
children shall come again to their own border,
And let our passion at such a time be checked and claimed by the
consideration of Christ's compassion.
(2.) See how triumphant his commands are over even death
He came, and touched the bier, or coffin, in or upon which the
dead body lay; for to him it would be no pollution. Hereby he
intimated to the bearers that they should not proceed; he had something
to say to the dead young man. Deliver him from going down to the
pit; I have found a ransom,
Hereupon they that bore him stood still, and probably let down
the bier from their shoulders to the ground, and opened the coffin, it
if was closed up; and then with solemnity, as one that had authority,
and to whom belonged the issues from death, he said, Young man, I
say unto thee, Arise. The young man was dead, and could not
arise by any power of his own (no more can those that are spiritually
dead in trespasses and sins); yet it was no absurdity at all for Christ
to bid him arise, when a power went along with that word to
put life into him. The gospel call to all people, to young
people particularly, is, "Arise, arise from the dead, and Christ
shall give you light and life." Christ's dominion over death was
evidenced by the immediate effect of his word
He that was dead sat up. Have we grace from Christ? Let us show
it. Another evidence of life was that he began to speak; for
whenever Christ gives us spiritual life he opens the lips in
prayer and praise. And, lastly, he would not oblige this young
man, to whom he had given a new life, to go along with him as his
disciple, to minister to him (though he owed him even his own self),
much less as a trophy or show to get honour by him, but delivered
him to his mother, to attend her as became a dutiful son; for
Christ's miracles were miracles of mercy, and a great act of mercy this
was to this widow; now she was comforted, according to the time
in which she had been afflicted and much more, for she could now look
upon this son as a particular favourite of Heaven, with more pleasure
than if he had not died.
IV. What influence it had upon the people
There came a fear on all; it frightened them all, to see a dead
man start up alive out of his coffin in the open street, at the command
of a man; they were all struck with wonder at his miracle, and
glorified God. The Lord and his goodness, as well as the Lord
and his greatness, are to be feared. The inference they drew from it
was, "A great prophet is risen up among us, the great prophet
that we have been long looking for; doubtless, he is one divinely
inspired who can thus breathe life into the dead, and in him God
hath visited his people, to redeem them, as was expected,"
This would be life from the dead indeed to all them that waited
for the consolation of Israel. When dead souls are thus raised to
spiritual life, by a divine power going along with the gospel, we must
glorify God, and look upon it as a gracious visit to his people. The
report of this miracle was carried,
1. In general, all the country over
This rumour of him, that he was the great prophet, went
forth upon the wings of fame through all Judea, which lay a
great way off, and throughout all Galilee, which was the region
round about. Most had this notice of him, yet few believed in him,
and gave up themselves to him. Many have the rumour of Christ's
gospel in their ears that have not the savour and relish
of it in their souls.
2. In particular, it was carefully brought to John Baptist, who was now
His disciples came, and gave him an account of all things, that
he might know that though he was bound yet the word of the
Lord was not bound; God's work was going on, though he was laid
John's Message to Jesus; The Ministry of John and of Christ.
19 And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them
to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for
20 When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist
hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or
look we for another?
21 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.
22 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 preached.
23 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
24 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?
25 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft
raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live
delicately, are in kings' courts.
26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto
you, and much more than a prophet.
27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my
messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before
28 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.
29 And all the people that heard him, and the publicans,
justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.
30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God
against themselves, being not baptized of him.
31 And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of
this generation? and to what are they like?
32 They are like unto 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.
33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking
wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say,
Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans
35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.
All this discourse concerning John Baptist, occasioned by his sending
to ask whether he was the Messiah or no, we had, much as it is here
I. We have here the message John Baptist sent to Christ, and the return
he made to it. Observe,
1. The great thing we are to enquire concerning Christ is whether he be
he that should come to redeem and save sinners, or whether we are to
look for another,
We are sure that God has promised that a Saviour shall come, an
anointed Saviour; we are as sure that what he has promised he will
perform in its season. If this Jesus be that promised Messiah, we will
receive him, and will look for no other; but, if not, we will continue
our expectations, and, though he tarry, will wait for him.
2. The faith of John Baptist himself, or at least of his disciples,
wanted to be confirmed in this matter; for Christ had not yet
publicly declared himself to be indeed the Christ, nay, he would not
have his disciples, who knew him to be so, to speak of it, till the
proofs of his being so were completed in his resurrection. The great
men of the Jewish church had not owned him, nor had he gained any
interest that was likely to set him upon the throne of his father
David. Nothing of that power and grandeur was to be seen about him in
which it was expected that the Messiah would appear; and therefore it
is not strange that they should ask, Art thou the Messiah? not
doubting but that, if he was not, he would direct them what
other to look for.
3. Christ left it to his own works to praise him in the gates, to tell
what he was and to prove it. While John's messengers were with him, he
wrought many miraculous cures, in that same hour, which perhaps
intimates that they staid but an hour with him; and what a deal
of work did Christ do in a little time!
He cured many of their infirmities and plagues in body, and of
evil spirits that affected the mind either with frenzy or
melancholy, and unto many that were blind he gave sight. He
multiplied the cures, that there might be no ground left to suspect a
fraud; and then
he bade them go and tell John what they had seen. And he and
they might easily argue, as even the common people did
When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this
man hath done? These cures, which they saw him work, were not only
confirmations of his commission, but explications of it. The Messiah
must come to cure a diseased world, to give light and sight to them
that sit in darkness, and to restrain and conquer evil spirits. You see
that Jesus does this to the bodies of people, and therefore must
conclude this is he that should come to do it to the souls of people,
and you are to look for no other. To his miracles in the kingdom
of nature he adds this in the kingdom of grace
To the poor the gospel is preached, which they knew was to be
done by the Messiah; for he was anointed to preach the gospel to the
and to save the souls of the poor and needy,
Judge, therefore, whether you can look for any other that will more
fully answer the characters of the Messiah and the great intentions of
4. He gave them an intimation of the danger people were in of being
prejudiced against him, notwithstanding these evident proofs of his
being the Messiah
Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me, or
scandalized at me. We are here in a state of trial and
probation; and it is agreeable to such a state that, as there are
sufficient arguments to confirm the truth to those that are
honest and impartial in searching after it, and have
their minds prepared to receive it, so there should be also objections,
to cloud the truth to those that are careless, worldly, and
sensual. Christ's education at Nazareth, his residence at Galilee, the
meanness of his family and relations, his poverty, and the
despicableness of his followers--these and the like were
stumbling-blocks to many, which all the miracles he wrought could not
help them over. He is blessed, for he is wise, humble, and well
disposed, that is not overcome by these prejudices. It is a sign that
God has blessed him, for it is by his grace that he is helped
over these stumbling-stones; and he shall be blessed indeed,
blessed in Christ.
II. We have here the high encomium which Christ gave of John Baptist;
not while his messengers were present (lest he should seem to flatter
him), but when they were departed
to make the people sensible of the advantages they had enjoyed in
John's ministry, and were deprived of by his imprisonment. Let them now
consider what they went out into the wilderness to see, who that
was about whom there had been so much talk and such a great and general
amazement. "Come," saith Christ, "I will tell you."
1. He was a man of unshaken self-consistence, a man of
steadiness and constancy. He was not a reed shaken with the
wind, first in one direction and then in another, shifting with
every wind; he was firm as a rock, not fickle as a
reed. If he could have bowed like a reed to Herod, and
have complied with the court, he might have been a favourite there; but
none of these things moved him.
2. He was a man of unparalleled self-denial, a great example of
mortification and contempt of the world. He was not a man clothed in
soft raiment, nor did he live delicately
but, on the contrary, he lived in a wilderness and was clad and fed
accordingly. Instead of adorning and pampering the body, he brought it
under, and kept it in subjection.
3. He was a prophet, had his commission and instructions
immediately from God, and not of man or by man. He was by birth a
priest, but that is never taken notice of; for his glory, as a
prophet, eclipsed the honour of his priesthood. Nay, he was
more, he was much more than a prophet
than any of the prophets of the Old Testament; for they spoke of Christ
as at a distance, he spoke of him as at the door.
4. He was the harbinger and forerunner of the Messiah, and was himself
prophesied of in the Old Testament
This is he of whom it is written
Behold, I send my messenger before thy face. Before he sent the
Master himself, he sent a messenger, to give notice of his coming, and
prepare people to receive him. Had the Messiah been to appear as a
temporal prince, under which character the carnal Jews expected
him, his messenger would have appeared either in the pomp
of a general or the gaiety of a herald at arms;
but it was a previous indication, plain enough, of the
spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom, that the messenger he sent
before him to prepare his way did it by preaching repentance and
reformation of men's hearts and lives. Certainly that kingdom was not
of this world which was thus ushered in.
5. He was, upon this account, so great, that really there was not a
greater prophet than he. Prophets were the
greatest that were born of women, more honourable than
kings and princes, and John was the greatest of all the
prophets. The country was not sensible what a valuable,
what an invaluable, man it had in it, when John Baptist went
about preaching and baptizing. And yet he that is least in the
kingdom of God is greater than he. The least gospel minister, that
has obtained mercy of the Lord to be skilful and faithful
in his work, or the meanest of the apostles and first preachers
of the gospel, being employed under a more excellent
dispensation, are in a more honourable office than John Baptist. The
meanest of those that follow the Lamb far excel the greatest of
those that went before him. Those therefore who live under the gospel
dispensation have so much the more to answer for.
III. We have here the just censure of the men of that generation, who
were not wrought upon by the ministry either of John Baptist or of
Jesus Christ himself.
1. Christ here shows what contempt was put upon John Baptist, while he
was preaching and baptizing.
(1.) Those who did show him any respect were but the common ordinary
sort of people, who, in the eye of the gay part of mankind, were rather
a disgrace to him than a credit,
The people indeed, the vulgar herd, of whom it was said, This
people, who know not the law, are cursed
and the publicans, men of ill fame, as being generally men of bad
morals, or taken to be so, these were baptized with his baptism,
and became his disciples; and these, though glorious monuments of
divine grace, yet did not magnify John in the eye of the world;
but by their repentance and reformation they justified God,
justified his conduct and the wisdom of it in appointing such a one as
John Baptist to be the forerunner of the Messiah: they hereby made it
to appear that it was the best method that could be taken, for it was
not in vain to them whatever it was to others.
(2.) The great men of their church and nation, the polite and
the politicians, that would have done him some credit in the eye
of the world, did him all the dishonour they could; they heard him
indeed, but they were not baptized of him,
The Pharisees, who were most in reputation for religion and devotion,
and the lawyers, who were celebrated for their learning, especially
their knowledge of the scriptures, rejected the counsel of God
against themselves; they frustrated it, they received the
grace of God, by the baptism of John, in vain. God in
sending that messenger among them had a kind purpose of
good to them, designed their salvation by it, and, if they had
closed with the counsel of God, it had been for themselves, they
had been made for ever; but they rejected it, would not comply
with it, and it was against themselves, it was to their own
ruin; they came short of the benefit intended them, and not only so,
but forfeited the grace of God, put a bar in their own door, and, by
refusing that discipline which was to fit them for the kingdom of the
Messiah, shut themselves out of it, and they not only excluded
themselves, but hindered others, and stood in their way.
2. He here shows the strange perverseness of the men of that
generation, in their cavils both against John and Christ, and the
prejudices they conceived against them.
(1.) They made but a jesting matter of the methods God took to do them
"Whereunto shall I liken the men of this generation? What can I
think of absurd enough to represent them by? They are, then, like
children sitting in the market-place, that mind nothing that is
serious, but are as full of play as they can hold. As if God were but
in jest with them, in all the methods he takes to do them good, as
children are with one another in the market-place
they turn it all off with a banter, and are not more affected with it
than with a piece of pageantry." This is the ruin of multitudes, they
can never persuade themselves to be serious in the concerns of
their souls. Old men, sitting in the sanhedrim, were but as children
sitting in the market-place, and no more affected with the things
that belonged to their everlasting peace than people are with
children's play. O the amazing stupidity and vanity of the blind and
ungodly world! The Lord awaken them out of their security.
(2.) They still found something or other to carp at.
[1.] John Baptist was a reserved austere man, lived much in solitude,
and ought to have been admired for being such a humble, sober,
self-denying man, and hearkened to as a man of thought and
contemplation; but this, which was his praise, was turned to his
reproach. Because he came neither eating nor drinking, so
freely, plentifully, and cheerfully, as others did, you say, "He has
a devil; he is a melancholy man, he is possessed, as the demoniac
whose dwelling was among the tombs, though he be not quite so
[2.] Our Lord Jesus was of a more free and open conversation; he
came eating and drinking,
He would go and dine with Pharisees, though he knew they did not care
for him; and with publicans, though he knew they were no credit to him;
yet, in hopes of doing good both to the one and the other, he conversed
familiarly with them. By this it appears that the ministers of Christ
may be of very different tempers and dispositions, very different ways
of preaching and living, and yet all good and useful; diversity of
gifts, but each given to profit withal. Therefore none must
make themselves a standard to all others, nor judge hardly of those
that do not do just as they do. John Baptist bore witness to Christ,
and Christ applauded John Baptist, though they were the reverse of each
other in their way of living. But the common enemies of them both
reproached them both. The very same men that had represented John as
crazed in his intellects, because he came neither eating nor
drinking, represented our Lord Jesus as corrupt in his
morals, because he came eating and drinking; he is a gluttonous
man, and a wine-bibber. Ill-will never speaks well. See the malice
of wicked people, and how they put the worst construction upon every
thing they meet with in the gospel, and in the preachers and professors
of it; and hereby they think to depreciate them, but really
3. He shows that, notwithstanding this, God will be glorified in the
salvation of a chosen remnant
Wisdom is justified of all her children. There are those who are
given to wisdom as her children, and they shall be brought by
the grace of God to submit to wisdom's conduct and government, and
thereby to justify wisdom in the ways she takes for bringing them to
that submission; for to them they are effectual, and thereby appear
well chosen. Wisdom's children are herein unanimous, one and all, they
have all a complacency in the methods of grace which divine wisdom
takes, and think never the worse of them for their being ridiculed by
Christ in the House of the Pharisee.
36 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.
37 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,
38 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
39 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.
40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to
say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one
owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them
both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he
forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
44 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.
45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came
in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath
anointed my feet with ointment.
47 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.
48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within
themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in
When and where this passage of story happened does not appear; this
evangelist does not observe order of time in his narrative so much as
the other evangelists do; but it comes in here, upon occasion of
Christ's being reproached as a friend to publicans and sinners,
to show that it was only for their good, and to bring them to
repentance, that he conversed with them; and that those whom he
admitted hear him were reformed, or in a hopeful way to be so. Who this
woman was that here testified so great an affection to Christ does not
appear; it is commonly said to be Mary Magdalene, but I find no ground
in scripture for it: she is described
to be one out of whom Christ had cast seven devils; but that is
not mentioned here, and therefore it is probable that it was not she.
Now observe here,
I. The civil entertainment which a Pharisee gave to Christ, and his
gracious acceptance of that entertainment
One of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him,
either because he thought it would be a reputation to him to have such
a guest at his table or because his company would be an entertainment
to him and his family and friends. It appears that this Pharisee did
not believe in Christ, for he will not own him to be a prophet
and yet our Lord Jesus accepted his invitation, went into his house,
and sat down to meat, that they might see he took the same liberty
with Pharisees that he did with publicans, in hopes of doing them
good. And those may venture further into the society of such as are
prejudiced against Christ, and his religion, who have wisdom and grace
sufficient to instruct and argue with them, than others may.
II. The great respect which a poor penitent sinner showed him, when he
was at meat in the Pharisee's house. It was a woman in the city that
was a sinner, a Gentile, a harlot, I doubt, known to be so,
and infamous. She knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's
house, and, having been converted from her wicked course of life by
his preaching, she came to acknowledge her obligations to him, having
no opportunity of doing it in any other way than by washing his
feet, and anointing them with some sweet ointment that she brought with
her for that purpose. The way of sitting at table then was such that
their feet were partly behind them. Now this woman did not look
Christ in the face, but came behind him, and did the part of a
maid-servant, whose office it was to wash the feet of the
(1 Samuel 25:41)
and to prepare the ointments.
Now in what this good woman did, we may observe,
1. Her deep humiliation for sin. She stood behind him
weeping; her eyes had been the inlets and outlets of sin, and
now she makes them fountains of tears. Her face is now foul with
weeping, which perhaps used to be covered with paints. Her hair now
made a towel of, which before had been plaited and adorned. We have
reason to think that she had before sorrowed for sin; but, now that she
had an opportunity of coming into the presence of Christ, the wound
bled afresh and her sorrow was renewed. Note, It well becomes
penitents, upon all their approaches to Christ, to renew their godly
sorrow and shame for sin, when he is pacified,
2. Her strong affection to the Lord Jesus. This was what our
Lord Jesus took special notice of, that she loved much,
She washed his feet, in token of her ready submission to the
meanest office in which she might do him honour. Nay, she washed
them with her tears, tears of joy; she was in a transport, to
find herself so near her Saviour, whom her soul loved. She kissed
his feet, as one unworthy of the kisses of his mouth, which the
Song of Solomon 1:2.
It was a kiss of adoration as well as affection. She wiped them with
her hair, as one entirely devoted to his honour. Her eyes shall
yield water to wash them, and her hair be a towel to wipe them; and she
anointed his feet with the ointment, owning him hereby to
be the Messiah, the Anointed. She anointed his feet in token of
her consent to God's design in anointing his head with the oil of
gladness. Note, All true penitents have a dear love to the Lord
III. The offence which the Pharisee took at Christ, for admitting the
respect which this poor penitent paid him
He said within himself (little thinking that Christ knew what he
thought), This man, if he were a prophet, would then have so
much knowledge as to perceive that this woman is a
sinner, is a Gentile, is a woman of ill fame, and so much
sanctity as therefore not to suffer her to come so near
him; for can one of such a character approach a prophet, and his heart
not rise at it? See how apt proud and narrow souls are to think that
others should be as haughty and censorious as themselves. Simon, if she
had touched him, would have said, Stand by thyself, come not near
me, for I am holier than thou
and he thought Christ should say so too.
IV. Christ's justification of the woman in what she did to him, and of
himself in admitting it. Christ knew what the Pharisee spoke within
himself, and made answer to it: Simon, I have something to say
Though he was kindly entertained at his table, yet even there he
reproved him for what he saw amiss in him, and would not suffer sin
upon him. Those whom Christ hath something against he hath
something to say to, for his Spirit shall reprove.
Simon is willing to give him the hearing: He saith, Master, say
on. Though he could not believe him to be a prophet (because he was
not so nice and precise as he was), yet he can compliment him with the
title of Master, among those that cry Lord, Lord, but
do not the things which he saith. Now Christ, in his answer to
the Pharisee, reasons thus:--It is true this woman has been a sinner:
he knows it; but she is a pardoned sinner, which supposes her to
be a penitent sinner. What she did to him was an expression of
her great love to her Saviour, by whom her sins were forgiven.
If she was pardoned, who had been so great a sinner, it might
reasonably be expected that she should love her Saviour more than
others, and should give greater proofs of it than others; and if this
was the fruit of her love, and flowing from a sense of the pardon of
her sin, it became him to accept of it, and it ill became the Pharisee
to be offended at it. Now Christ has a further intention in this. The
Pharisee doubted whether he was a prophet or no, nay, he did in
effect deny it; but Christ shows that he was more than a prophet, for
he is one that has power on earth to forgive sins, and to whom
are due the affections and thankful acknowledgments of penitent
pardoned sinners. Now, in his answer,
1. He by a parable forces Simon to acknowledge that the greater sinner
this woman had been the greater love she ought to show to Jesus Christ
when her sins were pardoned,
A man had two debtors that were both insolvent, but one of them
owed him ten times more than the other. He very freely
forgave them both, and did not take the advantage of the law
against them, did not order them and their children to be sold, or
deliver them to the tormentors. Now they were both sensible of
the great kindness they had received; but which of them will love
him most? Certainly, saith the Pharisee, he to whom he forgave
most; and herein he rightly judged. Now we, being obliged to
forgive, as we are and hope to be forgiven, may hence
learn the duty between debtor and creditor.
(1.) The debtor, if he have any thing to pay, ought to
make satisfaction to his creditor. No man can reckon any thing
his own or have any comfortable enjoyment of it, but that which
is so when all his debts are paid.
(2.) If God in his providence have disabled the debtor to pay his debt,
the creditor ought not to be severe with him, nor to go to the utmost
rigour of the law with him, but freely to forgive him. Summum jus
est summa injuria--The law stretched into rigour becomes unjust. Let
the unmerciful creditor read that parable,
&c., and tremble; for they shall have judgment without mercy
that show no mercy.
(3.) The debtor that has found his creditors merciful ought to be very
grateful to them; and, if he cannot otherwise recompense them, ought to
love them. Some insolvent debtors, instead of being grateful,
are spiteful, to their creditors that lose by them, and cannot
give them a good word, only because they complain, whereas losers may
have leave to speak. But this parable speaks of God as the Creator (or
rather of the Lord Jesus himself, for he it is that forgives, and is
beloved by, the debtor) and sinners are the debtors: and so we may
[1.] That sin is a debt, and sinners are debtors to God
Almighty. As creatures, we owe a debt, a debt of obedience to the
precept of the law, and, for non-payment of that, as sinners, we become
liable to the penalty. We have not paid our rent; nay, we have wasted
our Lord's goods, and so we become debtors. God has an action against
us for the injury we have done him, and the omission of our duty to
[2.] That some are deeper in debt to God, by reason of sin, than others
are: One owed five hundred pence and the other fifty. The
Pharisee was the less debtor, yet he a debtor too, which was more than
he thought himself, but rather that God was his debtor,
This woman, that had been a scandalous notorious sinner, was the
greater debtor. Some sinners are in themselves greater debtors
than others, and some sinners, by reason of divers aggravating
circumstances, greater debtors; as those that have sinned most openly
and scandalously, that have sinned against greater light and knowledge,
more convictions and warnings, and more mercies and means.
[3.] That, whether our debt be more or less, it is more than we
are able to pay: They had nothing to pay, nothing at all to make
a composition with; for the debt is great, and we have nothing at all
to pay it with. Silver and gold will not pay our debt, nor will
sacrifice and offering, no, not thousands of rams. No
righteousness of our own will pay it, no, not our repentance and
obedience for the future; for it is what we are already bound to, and
it is God that works it within us.
[4.] That the God of heaven is ready to forgive, frankly
to forgive, poor sinners, upon gospel terms, though their debt
be ever so great. If we repent, and believe in Christ, our iniquity
shall not be our ruin, it shall not be laid to our charge. God has
proclaimed his name gracious and merciful, and ready to forgive sin;
and, his Son having purchased pardon for penitent believers, his gospel
promises it to them, and his Spirit seals it and gives them the comfort
[5.] That those who have their sins pardoned are obliged to
love him that pardoned them; and the more is forgiven them, the
more they should love him. The greater sinners any have been
before their conversion, the greater saints they should be
after, the more they should study to do for God, and the more their
hearts should be enlarged in obedience. When a persecuting Saul
became a preaching Paul he laboured more abundantly.
2. He applies this parable to the different temper and conduct of the
Pharisee and the sinner towards Christ. Though the Pharisee would not
allow Christ to be a prophet, Christ seems ready to allow him to be in
a justified state, and that he was one forgiven, though to him
less was forgiven. He did indeed show some love to Christ, in
inviting him to his house, but nothing to what this poor woman showed.
"Observe," saith Christ to him, "she is one that has much forgiven her,
and therefore, according to thine own judgment, it might be expected
that she should love much more than thou dost, and so it appears.
Seest thou this woman?
Thou lookest upon her with contempt, but consider how much kinder a
friend she is to me than thou art; should I then accept thy kindness,
and refuse hers?"
(1.) "Thou didst not so much as order a basin of water to be brought,
to wash my feet in, when I came in, wearied and dirtied with my walk,
which would have been some refreshment to me; but she has done much
more: she has washed my feet with tears, tears of affection to
me, tears of affliction for sin, and has wiped them with the hairs
of her head, in token of her great love to me."
(2.) "Thou didst not so much as kiss my cheek" (which was a usual
expression of a hearty and affectionate welcome to a friend); "but
this woman has not ceased to kiss my feet
thereby expressing both a humble and an affectionate love."
(3.) "Thou didst not provide me a little common oil, as usual, to
anoint my head with; but she has bestowed a box of precious
ointment upon my feet
so far has she outdone thee." The reason why some people blame the
pains and expense of zealous Christians, in religion, is because they
are not willing themselves to come up to it, but resolve to rest in a
cheap and easy religion.
3. He silenced the Pharisee's cavil: I say unto thee, Simon,
her sins, which are many, are forgiven,
He owns that she had been guilty of many sins: "But they are
forgiven her, and therefore it is no way unbecoming in me to
accept her kindness. They are forgiven, for she loved much." It
should be rendered, therefore she loved much; for it is plain,
by the tenour of Christ's discourse, that the loving much was not the
cause, but the effect, of her pardon, and of her
comfortable sense of it; for we love God because he first
loved us; he did not forgive us because we first loved him. "But
to whom little is forgiven, as is to thee, the same loveth
little, as thou dost." Hereby he intimates to the Pharisee that his
love to Christ was so little that he had reason to question whether he
loved him at all in sincerity; and, consequently, whether indeed his
sin, though comparatively little, were forgiven him. Instead of
grudging greater sinners the mercy they find with Christ, upon their
repentance, we should be stirred up by their example to examine
ourselves whether we be indeed forgiven, and do love Christ.
4. He silenced her fears, who probably was discouraged by the
Pharisee's conduct, and yet would not so far yield to the
discouragement as to fly off.
(1.) Christ said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven,
Note, The more we express our sorrow for sin, and our love to Christ,
the clearer evidence we have of the forgiveness of our sins; for it is
by the experience of a work of grace wrought in us that
we obtain the assurance of an act of grace wrought for
us. How well was she paid for her pains and cost, when she was
dismissed with this word from Christ, Thy sins are forgiven! and
what an effectual prevention would this be of her return to sin again!
(2.) Though there were those present who quarrelled with Christ, in
their own minds, for presuming to forgive sin, and to pronounce sinners
as those had done
yet he stood to what he had said; for as he had there proved
that he had power to forgive sin, by curing the man sick of the
palsy, and therefore would not here take notice of the cavil, so he
would now show that he had pleasure in forgiving sin, and it was
his delight; he loves to speak pardon and peace to penitents: He
said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee,
This would confirm and double her comfort in the forgiveness of her
sin, that she was justified by her faith. All these expressions
of sorrow for sin, and love to Christ, were the effects and products of
faith; and therefore, as faith of all graces doth most honour God, so
Christ doth of all graces put most honour upon faith. Note, They who
know that their faith hath saved them may go in peace, may go on their
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Luke' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".