Jesus' divine court ruling
Aug 29, 2014
The word “blessed” in Luke 13:35 is the Greek word eulogio, which means to pronounce a blessing upon someone. It is not the same word that is used in the Beatitudes, which is makarios, “to be already in a blessed condition.” Hence, the force of Jesus’ statement shows that they would not see Christ until they actively blessed Him. Such blessing implied acceptance of His word, ministry, and calling.
Lightfoot tells us that the rabbis used Psalm 118:25 and 26 as a responsive recitation, with the leader saying one phrase and the people responding with the next phrase. Verse 25 was thus spoken:
Men of Jerusalem: O Lord, do save, we beseech Thee!
Men of Judea outside Jerusalem: O Lord, we beseech Thee, do send prosperity!
It is interesting that the men of Jerusalem were appealing to God to save them--and Jerusalem itself. Their prayer was indeed answered when Jesus was sent to Jerusalem, for His Hebrew name Yeshua, means "salvation." It is ironic, then, that in spite of the countless times they had prayed this prayer, they ended up rejecting the very "salvation" that they desired for Jerusalem. As for verse 26…
Rabbis standing in the synagogue: Blessed is the one who comes.
People standing in the synagogue: In the name of the Lord.
Lightfoot expresses bewilderment over the separation of these phrases, which tends to change the original meaning of the verse. He says,
“I will not confidently assert that these men had any ill design when they thus mangled this famous clause; but surely there is at least some ground of suspicion that they hardly refer the words to the right object.” (Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Vol. III, p. 148)
He explains the phrase “blessed is one who comes,” saying that to come is often equated with teaching. In other words, men come to teach. Lightfoot continues,
“Those doctors did not come and teach in the name of the Lord, but either in their own name, or in the name of some father of the traditions. Hence nothing more familiar with them, than “R.N. in the name of R.N. saith:” as every leaf, I may say almost every line of their writings witnesses. If, therefore, by cutting short this clause, they would be appropriating to themselves the blessing of the people, whom they had taught to say, Blessed be he that cometh, letting that slip, or omitting what follows, In the name of the Lord; they do indeed like themselves cunningly lying at catch, and hunting after fame and vainglory.” (Commentary, pp. 148, 149)
Lightfoot is telling us that many rabbis and doctors of the law would come to teach in their own name or to transmit the teaching of some “father of the traditions” that they had studied. They came to teach, apparently pronouncing a blessing upon themselves, saying, “Blessed is he who comes (to teach).” Then they expected the people to respond with “in the name of the Lord,” perhaps using this as a pledge or vow to receive what the rabbi was saying.
So when Jesus said, “You shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” He may mean that the people must recognize that Jesus came in the name of the Lord, rather than in His own name or in the name of some traditional rabbi.
Jesus’ Authority as the Divine Judge
Jesus’ warning in Luke 12 and 13 opened a new line of thought in the next few chapters, where Jesus distinguishes between those having genuine faith and those with hypocritical claims to faith. He distinguishes these two kinds of people by a series of teachings, many of which are in the form of parables.
First, however, Jesus asserts His authority as the divine Judge by issuing a divine court ruling in regard to healing on the Sabbath. Luke 14:1-3 says,
1 And it came about when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, that they were watching Him closely. 2 And there, in front of Him was a certain man suffering from dropsy. 3 And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?
Perhaps the key to understanding this situation is in the fact that Jesus not only “spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees,” but He actually “answered” them. Luke tells us that Jesus went to the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees for dinner, but he records no conversation prior to when He “answered” them. In fact, it does not say that Jesus asked them, nor did He even propose a question, but rather that He “answered” them.
The Greek word translated “answered” is apokrinomai. The main part of the word is krino, the Greek word for Judgment. Gesenius Lexicon tells us that it means “to begin to speak, but always where something has preceded (either said or done) to which the remarks refer.”
In the expanded definition on the same page, it says that the word means “to part, separate,” and “to give sentence against one.” In other words, Jesus was rendering the divine court’s decision (krino, “judgment”) to the legal question of Sabbath healing.
The question of Sabbath healing had already been raised and was on people’s minds in previous situations. In Luke 6:8-11, Jesus healed on the Sabbath but gave no divine court ruling. He merely posed the question of whether or not it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath, and then He enraged the Pharisees by healing the man with the withered hand.
In Luke 13:15, after healing the woman who had been bent double for eighteen years, Jesus “answered” the objection of the synagogue official from verse 14. In this case the answer was an immediate response in a localized setting. Even though He answered it with reference to the divine law, it was not strictly a divine court ruling, but only a personal ruling in an individual case.
Jesus answer in Luke 14:3 should be translated, not as a question, but as an assertion of fact. The Greek language at that time had no punctuation, so the translators must decide if a statement is a question or not. In this case it should read, “It is lawful to heal on the Sabbath day.” The final words in the NASB, “or not,” were added by the translators, who had assumed that Jesus was posing a question.
The healed man had been suffering from dropsy. The Greek word is hydropikos, “looking watery, or appearing to have water retention.” Dr. Luke was using the medical term of his day. Inasmuch as one of Luke’s purposes was to heal breaches, this miracle of healing resulted in a divine court ruling that was meant to settle this issue and to bring unity and clarity to the law and men’s way of life.
The problem, of course, is that men do not always agree with God or His sentences in the divine court. A divine court ruling calls for sinners to repent. Those who disagree with God ought to change their opinions to align with the mind of Christ. Often, however, sinners refuse to agree with the divine court, even as so many disagree with judges in our earthly courts.
Jesus’ ruling was designed to assert the rights of the sick to obtain divine healing on the Sabbath. It was not simply about Jesus’ right to heal. When the Pharisees denied people that right, they violated the rights of the sick and thereby caused a breach—an injustice—that needed to be healed. The lawyers and Pharisees remained silent at Jesus’ ruling in the divine court, but Jesus then addressed them in Luke 14:5, 6,
5 And He said to them, “Which one of you shall have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?” 6 And they could make no reply to this.
This is similar to a previous question Jesus posed in Luke 13:15,
15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall, and lead him away to water him?”
In both cases, Jesus referred to the law in Deuteronomy 22:4, which commanded us to help a neighbor’s donkey or ox that may have “fallen down.” Apparently, it was well established already that this law referred to animals that had fallen into a well or pit, rather than simply collapsing by the road under the weight of a load.
The main difference between the two references in Luke is that in Luke 13:15 Jesus spoke of a man’s “ox and his donkey,” whereas in Luke 14:5 Jesus spoke of “a son or an ox.” It is plain that Jesus believed that helping animals was part of the same law of love that mandated helping one’s own son. The letter of the law spoke only of animals, but the spirit of the law applied also to people.
This is the seventy-seventh part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones