on whom the tower in Siloam fell: To make his point, Jesus here draws from a recent tragedy or, at least, one that was still alive in common memory. The tower in Siloam was evidently near the pool of Siloam in the SE sector of Jerusalem.—See App. B12, map “Jerusalem and Surrounding Area.”
a fig tree planted in his vineyard: It was common to plant both fig and olive trees in vineyards. In that way, even if the vines suffered a bad year, the figs and olives might still yield some income.
three years: New trees grown from cuttings usually produce at least a few figs within two or three years. When Jesus gave this illustration, his ministry had lasted about three years, which is evidently parallel with the three years mentioned in the illustration. For some three years, Jesus had been trying to cultivate faith among the Jews. Yet, relatively few became disciples and could be considered the fruitage of his labor. Now, in the fourth year of his ministry, he intensifies his efforts. By preaching and teaching in Judea and Perea, it is as if Jesus were digging up the ground and putting fertilizer on the figurative fig tree, representing the Jewish nation. However, only a small number of Jews responded to his efforts, putting the nation as a whole in line for destruction.
a spirit of weakness: Or “a disabling spirit.” This evidently refers to a demon who was causing this woman’s disability. At Lu 13:16, Jesus speaks of her as being “held bound” by Satan.
mustard grain: Several kinds of mustard plants are found growing wild in Israel. Black mustard (Brassica nigra) is the variety commonly cultivated. The relatively small seed, 1 to 1.6 mm (0.039 to 0.063 in.) in diameter and weighing 1 mg (0.000035 oz), produces a treelike plant. Some varieties of the mustard plant attain a height of up to 4.5 m (15 ft). The mustard grain, called “the tiniest of all the seeds” at Mt 13:32 and Mr 4:31, was used in ancient Jewish writings as a figure of speech for the very smallest measure of size. Although there are smaller seeds known today, it was evidently the tiniest of seeds gathered and sown by Israelite farmers in Jesus’ day.
are those being saved few?: One hotly debated topic among the Jewish religious leaders in ancient times was the number of those who would ultimately be saved. In later times, there even came to be some mystical sects who sought to determine the exact number by assigning numerical values to each letter in various sacred texts. While the question regarding God’s judgment is broad and speculative, Jesus’ answer pointed to the personal responsibility of each individual.
Exert yourselves vigorously: Or “Keep on struggling.” Jesus’ admonition emphasizes the need for taking whole-souled action in order to get in through the narrow door. For this context, various reference works have suggested such renderings as “Exert maximum effort; Make every effort.” The Greek verb a·go·niʹzo·mai is related to the Greek noun a·gonʹ, which was often used to refer to athletic contests. At Heb 12:1, this noun is used figuratively for the Christian “race” for life. It is also used in the more general sense of a “struggle” (Php 1:30; Col 2:1) or a “fight” (1Ti 6:12; 2Ti 4:7). Forms of the Greek verb used at Lu 13:24 are rendered “competing in a contest” (1Co 9:25), “exerting [oneself]” (Col 1:29; 4:12; 1Ti 4:10), and “fight” (1Ti 6:12). Because the background of this expression is connected with competition in the athletic games, some have suggested that the effort Jesus encouraged may be compared to an athlete’s exerting himself vigorously with all his power to win the prize, straining every nerve, as it were.
main streets: Or “broad streets.” The Greek term used here refers to the main streets of a city that broadened at central locations and that served as public squares. Such “main streets” were in contrast with the narrow and winding lanes that were typical of cities and towns in the first century.
gnashing of your teeth: Or “grinding (clenching) your teeth.” The expression can include the idea of anguish, despair, and anger, possibly accompanied by bitter words and violent action.
from east and west and from north and south: By listing the four directions, Jesus embraces the whole earth. In other words, this privilege would be open to people from all nations.
recline at the table: Or “dine.” In Bible times, couches were often placed around a table at banquets or large meals. Those partaking of the meal reclined on a couch with their head toward the table, often resting their left elbow on a cushion. Food was usually taken with the right hand. To recline at a table with someone indicated close fellowship with that person. Jews at that time would normally never have done so with non-Jews.
Herod: That is, Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great.—See Glossary.
that fox: This animal is well-known for its craftiness or slyness, and Jesus may have been alluding to those traits when he called Herod a fox. Some scholars feel that Jesus may have combined the concepts of slyness, weakness, and insignificance in calling Herod a fox. In Jewish literature, the fox was used metaphorically of relatively weak (compare Ne 4:3) but cunning and opportunistic men, in contrast with the powerful lion, which represented a confident ruler of power and greatness. (Compare Pr 28:1; Jer 50:17; Eze 32:2.) Such a view, if valid, would amount to calling Herod a cunning, self-important ruler who was insignificant in God’s eyes. Jesus was likely passing through Herod’s territory of Perea on his way to Jerusalem when the Pharisees told Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him. It may be that Herod started this rumor, slyly hoping to cause Jesus to flee out of the territory in fear. Herod seems to have been disturbed by Jesus and his ministry. Earlier, Herod had been manipulated by his wife into executing John the Baptist, and he may have been afraid to kill another prophet of God.—Mt 14:1, 2; Mr 6:16.
today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will be finished: Jesus’ expression about time is not to be understood literally. Rather, he was indicating that little time remained before he would depart for Jerusalem, where he would die. His words may also show that the course of his Messianic ministry was set and would not be abbreviated, controlled, or altered by the political aims of any secular ruler.
it cannot be: Or “it is inconceivable (unthinkable).” While no Bible prophecy explicitly states that the Messiah would die in Jerusalem, this idea may be inferred from Da 9:24-26. Additionally, it would be expected that if the Jews were to kill a prophet, and especially the Messiah, it would be in that city. The 71-member Sanhedrin, the high court, met in Jerusalem, so those accused of being false prophets would be tried there. Jesus may also have had in mind that Jerusalem was where the regular sacrifices were offered to God and where the Passover lamb was slaughtered. As things worked out, Jesus’ words came true. He was brought before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem and condemned. And it was in Jerusalem, just beyond the city walls, that he died as the “Passover lamb.”—1Co 5:7.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem: According to Mt 23:37, Jesus made a very similar statement in Jerusalem on Nisan 11 during the last week of his earthly ministry. Here, however, reference is made to an earlier occasion when Jesus was in Perea.—See App. A7.
These photos show both sides of a copper alloy coin that was minted about the time that Jesus was engaged in his ministry. The coin was commissioned by Herod Antipas, who was tetrarch, or district ruler, of Galilee and Perea. Jesus was likely passing through Herod’s territory of Perea on his way to Jerusalem when the Pharisees told Jesus that Herod wanted to kill him. Jesus responded by calling Herod “that fox.” (See study note on Lu 13:32.) Since most of Herod’s subjects were Jewish, the coins he made depicted such emblems as a palm branch (1) and a wreath (2), images that would not offend the Jews.
Jesus painted a touching word picture, likening his concern for the people of Jerusalem to the protectiveness of a hen that is sheltering her young with her wings. This illustration, as well as Jesus’ reference to a son who asks his father for an egg (Lu 11:11, 12), indicates that the domestic hen was common in first-century Israel. Though the Greek word orʹnis, used at Mt 23:37 and Lu 13:34, could refer to any bird, wild or domesticated, in this context it is understood to refer to a hen, the most common and useful of the domestic fowl.