John 10:40 tells us that after Jesus escaped the religious leaders’ attempt to murder Him, He left Jerusalem for the other side of the Jordan where John the Baptist had started baptizing people. We do not know how long Jesus remained on the other side of the Jordan River; but when we come to our study, we are told that Jesus was visiting one city after another as He moved back to Jerusalem. In our coming studies in Matthew 19:1-20:34; Mark 10:1-52; Luke 13:22-19:28 and John 11:1-54, we will discover what Christ did while He was away from Jerusalem. We will be given lessons on discipleship, watch Jesus comfort Martha and raise Lazarus from the dead, hear the Sanhedrin Council agree to murder Christ, learn about the healing of ten lepers and Bartimaeus, rejoice that Zaccheus was saved, be given a series of parables and receive instructions about the future, including the second coming of Christ. While outside of Jerusalem, Jesus accomplished much. This study is the first information about what Christ did while in Perea. Our study centers on a question someone asked, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” Jesus will answer the question with a parable. This study comes from Luke 13:22-30.
Just A Few Are Being Saved
Our first verse tells us that Jesus was moving from one city and village to another.
And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. Luke 13:22 (NASB)
The Greek word for “passing through” is diaporeuomai. The word has the sense of passing through an area extensively and throughly. This is an excellent example of Scripture not telling us everything. We do not know how many places He visited or how long He stayed in any of the cities and villages. All that the Holy Spirit has concluded to be important is that Jesus was serious about ministry. He was not lazy and He was thorough. We are told that He was teaching.
What did He teach? While we are not told, it is very likely that His teachings included many of the parables that we have already studied. We know that Jesus repeated the parable of the Mustard Seed and Leaven. Both parables are recorded in Christ’s sermon about the Parables of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:31-35) which were given in the early part of A.D. 32. It is now late A.D. 32. He has just recently repeated these two parables in Luke 13:19-21. How many other parables did He repeat? Did He repeat the Sermon on the Mount or the Olivet Discourse? The gospels do not tell us everything because they are focused on that which is important for us to know and understand. God never intended for us to spend all of our time speculating. Instead, He wants us to be preaching the good news about salvation, which is most likely what Jesus did in every city and village as He made His way back to Jerusalem.
Then we are told that someone wanted to know how many people were being saved.
And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” Luke 13:23a (NASB)
The word for “saved” is sozo. The word is a present, passive participle. The participle refers to continuing action which means they wanted to know how many would continue to be saved. It would be difficult for us to answer, but not for Jesus.
Narrow Door Is Hard To Enter
Jesus’ answer is similar to the parable of the Narrow and Wide Gates that is recorded in the Sermon on the Mount given about one year earlier in the last part of the year A.D. 31.
And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Luke 13:23b-24 (NASB)
On this occasion Jesus refers to a narrow door of a house and tells whoever asked the question that many will try to enter through the door. The Greek word for “strive” is an important word. It means more than the English word strive. The Greek word is agonizomai. We get our word “to agonize” from this word. The word was used to describe contests in the gymnastic games (1 Corinthians 9:25); to fight, a fight with adversaries (John 18:36; 2 Timothy 4:7) or to be involved in strenuous effort (Colossians 4:12). The picture that Jesus paints is of someone very seriously agonizing to get through the door of the house. The door is extremely narrow. Only a few are able to squeeze through.
We will discover soon that Jesus’ illustration is about how a person is saved and is able to go to heaven. It may surprise some Christians that throughout Jesus’ ministry, He repeatedly teaches that salvation is not easily obtained. Salvation requires serious effort. In the parable of the Narrow and Wide Roads (Matthew 7:13-14), He said that few find the narrow road that leads to eternal life. In John 6:27 Jesus tells us that we must work, ergamozai, in order to enter into eternal life. Hebrews 4:11 encourages us to give intense effort in order to obtain salvation. Jesus’ message was that gaining eternal life is not easy and simple. Not everyone is going to go to heaven and see God. Only a few will get there!
In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus said that he who loves father or mother more than Him “is not worthy of Me.” He did not mean that it was wrong to love our parents. His message is that He must be the priority in our lives. In verses 38-39 He added,
And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39 (NASB)
His message of self-denial is required. In Matthew 12:49-50 Jesus tells us that those who are true disciples are those who do “the will of the Father who is in heaven.” In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus repeated the same message when He said those who do not do the will of the Father in heaven are lawless and will not enter heaven. Again in Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus taught that we must deny ourselves if we want to go to heaven.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:24-26 (NASB)
The common theme to these statements about salvation is that self-denial and submission to Christ is required. This is the same message that Christ sent the rich, young ruler (Matthew 19:21-22). The man’s real problem was his unwillingness to submit and admit that he could not earn his way into heaven.
The phrase, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first,” makes the point that heaven is not for the proud but for the humble. In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus gave us an illustration of a tax-collector and a Pharisee. The Pharisee was proud, but the tax-collector was repentant and pleaded for forgiveness. Jesus said the tax-collector was justified because he had humbled himself.
In Romans 10:9 we are promised that if we confess Christ as our Lord and believe that He can and will forgive our sins, we will be saved. John 3:16 declares we must believe in Christ in order to have eternal life.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NASB)
It is important to notice that this verse is about humility too! Most people think that they must earn their way into heaven. In fact, most want to earn their way into heaven. Most people think they can earn their way into heaven because proudly they believe they are good people. Many when asked if they are going to heaven say, “Yes, because I am a good person.” But God tells us in Romans 3:10-12 that none of us are good. That is, none of us do anything “good” enough to earn heaven. In Mathew 5:3 Jesus tell us only the “poor in spirit” will go to heaven. That is, only those who humbly see themselves as spiritual beggars will go to heaven. The proud do not seek God, plead and beg. They think they are good enough to go to heaven. But humble people admit their sins and beg God to forgive them. Humility is the response of a person who sees his or her sins and understands they desperately need their sins to be forgiven. They respond this way because they believe only Christ can forgive them. They realize that unless God forgives them, they are going to suffer eternal punishment in hell. The proud do not see any such need to be forgiven. They are indifferent and comfortable in their condition.
Jesus is not telling us that we must do some work in order to go to heaven and be with God. Romans 4:3 and Ephesians 2:8-10 clearly teach that salvation is not by works. It is by God’s grace through faith that we are saved. Jesus repeatedly described the response of a believing heart which responds to the work of God in the hearts of men and women (John 6:65, 44, 37; Ephesians 1:4-6). Therefore, when Jesus said, “Strive to enter through the narrow door,” He was referring to the fact that true humility is rare! It is the work of God in the heart of men and women.
. . . Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Luke 13:23b-24 (NASB)
True humility is impossible without the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11). It is God’s work in the heart. This means that the humble, believing heart responds in true repentance and humble submission to Christ. The characteristic of the humbling work of the Holy Spirit is a true faith that involuntarily repents and submits. This is rare!
Yet, many will try to enter by their own works (Matthew 7:21-23). The proud are confident in themselves and what they can do. The proud do not see any need to pray, but the humble do. The rich, young ruler is a good example. He asked, “What must I do to obtain eternal life?” Many try to enter heaven by doing good works, but Jesus warns they will not be able to do it.
Parable About Who Enters The Kingdom
The parable now shifts to the end of the age and then takes a twist when He reveals that the parable is actually about them. He describes how they will respond in the future.
Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, “Lord, open up to us!” then He will answer and say to you, “I do not know where you are from.” Luke 13:25 (NASB)
We are told the door has been shut by the head of the house. The people who are hearing the parable are the ones who are standing outside. They will not be able to get in. The opportunity to enter heaven existed then. Jesus warned them that later they will want to enter the kingdom, but then it will be too late. 2 Corinthians 6:2 warns us that now, here in this life, is the time to believe in Christ and seek to have our sins forgiven.
Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION” 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NASB)
In the account of the beggar called Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31, we are told that after death no one can cross over from hell into heaven, or from heaven into hell. We are told that there is a great chasm and the distance is fixed. No one can change their destiny. If we fail to believe in Christ in this life, then we will dwell in hell for eternity. Hebrews 9:27 is a frightening verse.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment . . . Hebrews 9:27 (NASB)
The decision one makes in this life determines one’s destiny. We discovered in Luke 12:20, 40 and 58 that life is short and the decision we make must be made quickly. In verse 20 Jesus warned, “This very night your soul is required of you” and in verse 40, “You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”
But Jesus’ parable, which becomes real-life in Luke 13:22-30, tells us that when the door to the kingdom is shut, no one will be able to get in. Only Christians will enter the kingdom. Everyone else will be in hell. Then in verse 28, we discover that Jesus is describing those who enter the kingdom and those who will not be able to enter. Those who, because of pride, will try to squeeze through the door will find the door shut and then it is too late. Where are you? Do you believe in Christ and not yourself? If you have believed in Christ and not your good works for the forgiveness of your sins and entrance into heaven, then you have entered through the door. If you are thinking about trusting Christ, then pray that the door does not close.
Then Jesus says that after the door is shut, some of the very individuals listening to Him will ask to be allowed in. But He will reply, “I do not know where you are from!” Now notice that Jesus says, “Then you will begin to say . . .”
Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets”; and He will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.” Luke 13:26-27 (NASB)
This is very personal. He was talking directly to them when He said that some individuals in the crowd had shared a meal with Him and heard Him teach in the streets. They were just like some today who attend church and hear a wonderful sermon about Christ. But that did not make any of them a believer, a follower of Christ. Christ makes that clear when He said, “I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.” That stunning statement reveals that they were going to hell.
We are discovering an important truth that is missed sometimes from this passage. Notice these people had heard Jesus teach and they knew or believed Christ existed. Eventually, they knew He died on the cross, and some heard that He was resurrected, but they will still go to hell. This means it is not enough to believe that Christ lived, died, and was resurrected because Jesus will tell them at the judgment, “I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.” This reveals that good works do not save anyone.
Earlier in the year of A.D. 32, Jesus stated that at the judgment many will try to get into heaven by reviewing all the ministry that they performed in Christ’s name.
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.” Matthew 7:21-23 (NASB)
This illustration is the scariest statement in the Bible except for descriptions about hell. It is scary because these individuals thought they were Christians who were going to heaven. They may even be individuals who had dedicated their whole lives to God. At an annual, nationally well-known pastor’s conference, it is not uncommon for some pastors to discover that they are going to hell and choose to become a Christian for the first time. How many laymen think they are going to heaven because they said a prayer? They believed in Christ, but their faith was vain faith (1 Corinthians 15:2). Our study in Matthew 7:21-23 reveals that some who think they are Christians did not actually squeeze through the door and get into heaven. They never had real faith.
Consequences of Unbelief
Then Jesus declared the tragic consequences of empty faith in Christ.
In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. Luke 13:28 (NASB)
Jesus’ message is very clear. These individuals were not going to enter the kingdom. It is important to realize that at the Goat and Sheep Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus will tell us that only Christians will enter the kingdom. It is important to note that the passage helps identify a true Christian from those who are not Christians. Revelation 19:11-14 tells us that all the Christians since the cross will come with Christ at His Second Coming. The first part of Revelation 20:4 refers to “they sat on them, and judgment was given to them.” This refers to the Old Testament saints who will be resurrected and enter the kingdom.
Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. Revelation 20:4 (NASB)
Apparently Luke 13:28 describes both the Goat and Sheep Judgment and the anguish of those who will be in hell and see others going into the kingdom. In order to live in the eternal heaven (Revelation 21-22), a person must have lived in the kingdom.
Those who reject Christ, both Jews and Gentiles, end up in hell and truly suffer (Matthew 8:12, 22, 29; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Mark 9:43-44; James 3:6; 2 Peter 2:4). Hell is fiery torment day and night which will last forever.
Blessing of True Faith
Then Jesus describes those who came through the narrow door. As we have already discovered, these are those who humbly believed. The mark of true faith is humility which includes repentance and submission to Christ. They will eat and drink and celebrate in the kingdom.
And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. Luke 13:29 (NASB)
During the last supper that Christ had with the disciples, He said that they would all, except for Judas, eat and drink in the kingdom (Luke 22:16, 30). Prior to the last supper, He had spoken of eating and drinking in the kingdom (Matthew 8:11-12; Luke 14:15; 22:29-30: Revelation 19:9). The kingdom is real. Every Old and New Testament believer will celebrate Christ’s reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Christ’s closing comment is directed at the Jews who believed they were going to have eternal life because they were descendants of Abraham (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8; John 8:39-40). Earlier in Luke 3:8 Jesus warned them that they needed to repent if they wanted to go to heaven.
Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Luke 3:8 (NASB)
But the Pharisees officially rejected Christ. Therefore, Christ’s closing comment was that some who think they are first will be last. John 12:42 states that many of the rulers of Israel did believe in Christ. Consequently, He directed this at them.
And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last. Luke 13:30 (NASB)
Since some of the religious leaders or rulers failed to repent of their sins and believe in Christ, they were going to hell. That is, some who think they are first will actually be last.
Galatians 3:28-29 gives us the principle that among Christians, no one is first or last.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:28-29 (NASB)
But what a disappointment this would be to Jews at the time of Christ. All who believe in Christ are equal. Jews and Gentiles are equal in heaven and anyone who believes in Christ is a spiritual descendant of Abraham. We can praise the Lord that salvation is equally free to Jews and Gentiles.
How does one go to heaven? A person becomes a Christian when one truly understands that one is going to hell because they commit sins. They realize that only Christ can forgive their sins, and they want to be forgiven. True faith in Christ produces humility, which evidences itself in repentance and submission to Christ in response to understanding the Christ did everything necessary to forgive one’s sins. Are you going to heaven or hell?
This study is about Herod Antipas’ threat to murder Christ and a series of very significant statements from Christ. It is difficult to determine which is the most significant. Herod’s threat to murder Christ occurred because Jesus was in the region of Perea which Herod controlled. But Christ is not intimidated. On the other hand, Christ lamented over Jerusalem and displayed His passion for Jerusalem while also revealing the timing of His death and where He would die. This event and Christ’s statements revealed that the end of Christ’s ministry was near. In the midst of the drama, Jesus made an incredible statement that gives us another glimpse into the true nature of Christ. It is a comment that is easily and often missed. Our study immediately follows the preceding discussion in Luke 13:22-30 titled “Are Only A Few Being Saved?” This study comes from Luke 13:31-35.
Herod Said To Leave Perea
Luke 13:31 introduces a new event in the life of Christ that occurred on the same day when Jesus explained that only a minority of people would be saved.
Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.” Luke 13:31 (NASB)
We are told that some Pharisees approached Jesus and said that Herod wanted to kill or murder Him. The NASB says that this occurred “Just at that time.” A better translation of the phrase is “Just at the hour” since the Greek word that is translated as “time” is hora. Hora more accurately means “hour.” The meeting described in verses 31-35 occurred immediately after His teaching about how many people would go to heaven. Therefore as soon as Jesus finished teaching, these Pharisees came to Jesus and said that King Herod wanted to murder Him. We do not know if this occurred in the morning or afternoon; but whatever the time of day, it was dramatic.
There are three major views among theologians as to why the Pharisees told Jesus that Herod Antipas wanted to murder Him. One view is that some of the Pharisees were trying to protect Christ. This view says they encouraged Jesus to escape in order to save His life. This view can be supported by the fact that there were some Pharisees and leaders who did believe in Christ (John 3:1,10; 7:45-52; 12:42-43). Therefore, some were encouraging Christ to leave Perea in order to prevent His death. But this does not seem likely since John 12:42-43 states that those rulers who believed in Christ were fearful that the Pharisees would discover their faith in Jesus. Such an act could hardly go undiscovered.
The second view is that the Pharisees created the threat because they wanted Jesus to return to Jerusalem where they had greater authority and then they could have Him put to death. But if that had been true, then why did Jesus address His reply to Herod and not to the Pharisees (v. 32)? It will become clear that Christ knew the threat came from Herod.
The third view recognizes that the majority of the Pharisees wanted to murder Him and were relaying a message from Herod to Christ. The gospels repeatedly make it abundantly clear that the leadership of the Pharisees wanted Jesus to be murdered. Luke 11 records some of the more recent examples of the Pharisees’ hostility directed at Christ. Mark 3:6 and 12:13 tell us that the Pharisees were working with the Herodians in order to murder Jesus.
The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. Mark 3:6 (NASB)
Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. Mark 12:13 (NASB)
The Herodians were supporters of King Herod Antipas (4 B.C. to A.D. 39), who ruled over Galilee and Perea. Perea is where Jesus was ministering at this time in His ministry. Herod was of Jewish-Idumean descent. The Herodians were a political group who sought the favor of Herod Antipas in order to gain power. Therefore, we should not be surprised that King Herod sent a message through the Herodians to the Pharisees to Christ. The fact that Jesus knew the hearts of men (Luke 11:17) and directed His reply through the Pharisees to Herod also supports the conclusion that the Pharisees were working with the Herodians and Herod.
Since Luke 23:8 tells us that Herod wanted to see Jesus and have Him perform a sign, one might think that Herod did not want Him dead but alive in order to see some miracle or wonder. Matthew 14:3-5 and Mark 6:14-20 tell us that Herod hated John the Baptist and consequently killed him and then was afraid that John had been resurrected as Jesus Christ. Luke 9:9 adds that Herod wanted to meet Jesus, and Luke 23:8 reveals that Herod wanted Jesus to perform a sign for him. He wanted a “magic show.”
Now why did Herod want Jesus to leave Perea on this occasion? Did some people react negatively to Jesus’ ministry while He was in Perea and complain to Herod? Was Herod afraid of Jesus and also wanted to see some “magic” before putting Him to death? Or, is the correct conclusion that Herod wanted to drive Christ out of Perea? This seems to be the correct conclusion since Christ replied that He is leaving Perea, but not because of Herod’s threat.
Herod Was A Fox
Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees teaches us that He understood they were working with Herod. His reply to their statement, ““Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You” was a refusal to leave and He told them to tell that to Herod. This threat was not invented by the Pharisees. It was a real threat from Herod through the Herodians to the Pharisees.
And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’ Luke 13:32 (NASB)
Jesus called Herod a fox! Now we can be sure that some will believe that Jesus’ example here justifies our calling people names too! In Matthew 23:13, 15-17, 19, 23, 24-27, and 29 He referred to the Pharisees as blind guides, hypocrites, blind men and blind Pharisees. But this does not mean that we can. When Jesus made such comments, He was God who accurately described them. When we make such statements, we are usually angry and do not have God’s insight into the heart and character of men and women. That is why in Matthew 5:22 Jesus warns us to not be angry with someone and call them “You-good-for-nothing” or “You fool.” We are not to call people names in anger. Matthew 7:1-5 warns us to not be judgmental of others.
Foxes are mentioned twelve times in Scripture. Usually there is no significance to the term fox, but in Psalm 63:10; Song of Solomon 2:15 and Lamentations 5:18 foxes are characterized as destructive animals. In Ezekiel 13:4 the false prophets are characterized as being foxes because they are foolish and follow the impulses of their own hearts. They are liars who claim to speak for the Lord. They were to be rejected. This agrees with a proverb about foxes in the Mishnah.
Greet everybody first, and be a tail to lions. But do not be a head to foxes.
The message of the proverb is that it is better to be the tail of a lion, or last among royalty than to be the head first among scoundrels. In summary, the Jews regarded foxes as destructive and worthless. It also fits Herod Antipas’ behavior. He was a proud man and a foolish scoundrel. “He was the head of a fox.” Jesus described him accurately. Jesus knew the hearts of men and His statement was accurate and unbiased.
Jesus’ Reply To Herod
Then Jesus told the Pharisees to tell Herod, “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.” At first this seems to be a statement that says I am not intimidated by you. But Christ’s comment is more than that. His point is that He would be completing His planned ministry in three days and then return to Jerusalem. The Greek word that is translated as “goal” is teleioo. The word means “to make perfect, to complete or to accomplish.” Christ had planned His trip into the region called Perea. In three days His ministry goal would be accomplished and then He planned to leave Perea. He is not referring to how many people would be healed. He referred to the number of days in His plan. It is a good reminder that the results of one’s ministry must be left to God. We must plan and execute and it is God who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). Jesus had planned to return to Jerusalem. Herod must not think that he had intimidated Jesus into leaving nor that Jesus would be leaving because He was afraid. Christ was in control of what would happen to Him (John 10:18).
Jerusalem and The Prophets
The next verse simply tells us that Christ would continue ministering in Perea for the next two days and then leave for Jerusalem. But notice His comment about prophets perishing in Jerusalem.
Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem. Luke 13:33 (NASB)
The Greek word that is translated as “it cannot be that” is endechomai. It means “to be possible, to be thinkable.”[3,4] Jesus is not saying that all of the prophets died in the city of Jerusalem, but that “it cannot be thinkable” that any prophet would die some other place than in Jerusalem. Our English translations can mislead us into thinking that all of the prophets died in Jerusalem. The English Standard Version (ESV) captures the correct essence of verse 33,
Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem. Luke 13:33 (ESV)
The Holman Christian Standard Bible also captures the same sense.
Yet I must travel today, tomorrow, and the next day, because it is not possible for a prophet to perish outside of Jerusalem! Luke 13:33 (HCSB)
The fact that many of the prophets were not martyred in Jerusalem also supports this translation. While it is true that Moses did not die in Jerusalem but on Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 32:49-52), it is important to note that he was not martyred. He died a natural death. The following prophets also were not martyred either: Joshua died in Timnathserah in Ephraim (Joshua 24:29-30). Samuel died near Jerusalem in Ramah (1 Samuel 25:1). Tradition states that Jeremiah died in Egpyt, Ezekiel died in Babylon, and Daniel died in Babylon. Traditions about the deaths of other prophets are given in the Lives of the Prophets, a pseudepigraphal book.
But John the Baptist was a martyred prophet. He was martyred in Galilee and not in Jerusalem. One of the most notable prophets who died in Jerusalem was Isaiah. Hebrews 11:32-38 lists many prophets who had been murdered but not all of them were murdered in Jerusalem. When Hebrews 11:37 states that some prophets “were sawn in two” it is believed that this refers to the prophet Isaiah due to a tradition related in The Martyrdom Of Isaiah (2nd Century A.D.).[9,10] It is believed that he died near the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem.
A review of the historical accounts of martyred prophets reveals that every prophet did not die in Jerusalem. Yet, earlier in Luke 11:47-51 Jesus referred to “the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who were killed between the altar and the house of God.” When He said these words, He included Abel as a prophet even though Scripture never calls Abel a prophet. Therefore, it seems that Jesus is referring to prophets who were martyred in Jerusalem whom we may not know. Therefore, the correct translation supports the facts of history. Some prophets were martyred in Jerusalem, but not all. Christ’s point was the prophets who were murdered by the religious leaders should have died in Jerusalem, the location of the temple, the center of worship.
Christ alluded to the location of His own death. He also referred to Himself as a prophet. Moses had prophesied of His coming in Deuteronomy 18:15-18. John the Baptist had been asked if he, John, was the prophet mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:15-18 and he replied, “No” (John 1:21). When the people in Christ’s hometown of Nazareth rejected Him, He referred to Himself as a prophet (Matthew 13:57). Matthew 21:11 reports that at the time of the Triumphal Entry the people called Christ a prophet. Jesus was our Savior, Prophet, High Priest, King and God. Jesus was simply saying that His death, the death of a prophet, should occur in Jerusalem and not some other place. In fact, the greatest of all the prophets should be martyred in Jerusalem. No other city was more fitting.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem
Then Jesus lamented that the city of Jerusalem would kill prophets.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’” Luke 13:34-35 (NASB)
The repetition of the name Jerusalem adds emphasis. It was typical to repeat a word to add emphasis. Jesus said that Jerusalem had a habitual pattern of killing and stoning the prophets. The Greek tense for “kill” and “stones” are both present participles. That is, Jerusalem had killed and would continue to kill prophets. Jesus was soon to be the next prophet that Jerusalem would kill, but He would not die by stoning. He would die by crucifixion. Isaiah was sawed in half. Jerusalem did not care for its prophets. In Matthew 5:11-12 and Matthew 23:31, Jesus had said the prophets were killed by the religious leaders and His death would not be any different.
When Jesus said, “How often I wanted to gather your children together,” He referred to God’s repeated call to His people to return. We must remember that many of the Old Testament prophets called the people in Judah to repent and turn to God. But they refused. As a result, the Babylonian Army invaded Judah, conquered Jerusalem and deported its civilians. After the seventy years of captivity in Babylon, the Jews returned to Jerusalem. One would think they would have learned their lesson, but the book of Malachi reveals that they responded with indifference to God. It becomes apparent the priests did not love God, did not teach the law, husbands divorced their wives, and they did not give tithes to God. They were godless and self-centered. They were not interested in a relationship with God. This helps to explain Christ’s comment, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” God had called them to Himself through the Old Testament prophets, but they repeatedly refused the appeals of the prophets.
Notice that once again Christ reveals that He claimed to be God. He said, “I wanted to gather your children together.” Notice the word “I.” This is another claim to be the God of the Old Testament.
Jews Will Be Removed From Jerusalem
As a result Jesus said, “Your house is left to you desolate.” The Greek word for “left” is aphiemei. It is in a present passive which means this will happen to them. God would cause this to happen. Jesus referred to the future invasion of the Roman Army in A.D. 70. Later in Luke 21:20-24 Jesus provided more information about the destruction of Jerusalem and that the Jews would be removed from the city. The Roman Army annihilated every Jew and leveled the city walls. There was not one stone left upon another when the Roman army was finished with Jerusalem. In the years that followed, Jews were prevented from returning to the city. The city was truly emptied of Jews.
Prophesy Of The Triumphal Entry
Jesus’ final comment to this group of Pharisees is prophetic.
You will not see Me until the time comes when you say, “BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!” Luke 13:35
Jesus tells these religious leaders they will not see Him again until they hear the statement, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” When did they hear this statement again?
It occurred five months later during Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John state that the crowd shouted “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9; John 12:13). The gospel of Luke changes the statement slightly, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” When a crowd is shouting in excitement, it is common for variations of a statement to occur. It may be that Luke heard an alternate variation and that is the one he recorded. It is clear the statement is accurate. Christ was the King and He did come in the name of the Lord. He came to do the will of the Father (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 10:40; Mark 9:37; Luke 4:18; 10:16; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38-39, 57; 8:18; Hebrews 10:8-9).
Christ came to do the Father’s will. He came in the name of the Lord of Hosts. Herod’s threat reveals that God the Father was drawing the focus of the political and religious leaders to Jerusalem. Christ was finishing His ministry in Perea and then He would move to Jerusalem. That is where He would die. Jerusalem would soon be the focus of heaven, hell. Jerusalem would murder the Prophet prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15. The city that God loved would murder the Savior of the world.
In Joel 3:17 God declares that in the millennial kingdom Jerusalem will be different. It will be His city. He will reign as king over the city. It will be the capitol of the world. It will be holy!
Then you will know that I am the LORD your God,
Dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain.
So Jerusalem will be holy,
And strangers will pass through it no more.
Joel 3:17 (NASB)
Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them.
Zechariah 14:16-17 (NASB)
1. Josephus. The Antiquities of the Jews. book 14, chap 15, section 2.
2. Joel Neusner. The Mishnah. Yale University Press. 1988. Abot. 4.15., p. 683.
3. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. United Bible Societies. 1989, vol. 2 p. 668.
4. Moulton and Milligan. Vocabulary of the Greek Testament. Hendrickson Publishers. 1997. p. 212.
5. F. Godet. The Gospel of Luke. Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1887. p. 362.
6. Lives of the Prophets, 2.1. James H. Charlesworth, ed., “Testament of Benjamin.,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, trans. H. Andersen (Hendrickson, 2013), vol. 2., 386.
7. Ibid. Lives of the Prophets, 3.1, p. 388.
8. Ibid. Lives of the Prophets, 4.1, p. 390.
9. The Martyrdom Of Isaiah, 5.1-2. James H. Charlesworth, ed., “Testament of Benjamin.,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, trans. H. Andersen (Hendrickson, 2013), vol. 2., 163.
10. Ibid. Lives of the Prophets, 1.1-3, p. 385.
To The Glory of Christ
Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me . . . Jeremiah 9:23-24
Like The Master Ministries
P.O. Box 31976
Tucson, AZ 85751-1976
A non-profit, 501(c)3 corporation. Donations to this ministry are tax-deductible.