Lenski Quote on John 9

One is surprised at the strange ideas that have been connected with this proceeding of Jesus. One is that spittle was considered medicinal; but Jesus uses mud. Another is that Jesus wished to create a delay in order to let the crowd scatter: but no crowd is at hand. Still another is that Jesus meant to give the eyes time to develop sight, since this was a case where the man was born blind; but what about the man born with deformed limbs in Acts 3:2, etc.? Finally, we are told that plastering the man’s eyes with mud was symbolical, adding an artificial to his natural blindness by making him close his mud-plastered eyelids over his sightless eyeballs. This is to symbolize that men, who are by nature spiritually blind, are to be brought to a realization of their sad spiritual condition. Preachers thus often allegorize the miracles of Jesus, because they have no other way of getting anything out of them for their hearers. To turn simple facts, infinitely weighthy as facts, into pictures and allegory is illegitimate in preaching and even worse in exegesis.

R.C.H. Lenski ‘The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel’ p. 680

*Emphasis mine.



Lenski on Satan’s third temptation in the wilderness

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Matthew 4:8-9

“The whole proposition intends to appeal to the human nature of Jesus. Like a god Jesus can rule at once. There is no need to face shame, agony, and ignominious death. Instead of the bitter cup only a single obeisance. Satan would place himself in harmony with God by making Jesus the King. Yet the whole proposition is false from beginning to end. Satan does not bow before God in worship as Jesus is to bow before Satan. Satan has not received the kingdoms from God, he rules them as the enemy of God, as a rebel against God, as a usurper whom God is dethroning through Jesus. By the one act of worship Jesus would also become a rebel against God and at the same time a tool of Satan. The kingdoms and their glory, promised to Jesus by Satan, would remain Satan’s. The transfer would be an illusion. Instead of being a King, Jesus would be a slave of Satan. The way in which Satan tried to buy Jesus is the way in which he bought Eve: “Ye shall be as gods.” Thus he bought Judas, but the price was the trivial thirty pieces of silver. Ever he still buys men in this way, but never at a price so great as the offered Jesus. It may seem foolish on Satan’s part to offer such a temptation to Jesus and to think that Jesus might be caught thus. But after succeeding with his proffers to other men in thousands of instances, Satan felt that this man Jesus would certainly succumb to an offer that was more magnificent than any he had ever made. The author of all evil lies most completely under the blinding power of evil. As men, when they are submerged in sin, lose all moral judgment, so by his fall Satan lost all sense of righteousness and truth and moves only in absolute, moral darkness.”

The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, R. C. H. Lenski p 155-156


Lenski Quote of the Day

Matthew 11:4-6 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers [fn] are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

“‘Report to John,’ says Jesus. This answers the view that John had no doubts and perplexities, that these existed only in the minds of his disciples; that not on his own account but on their account John sent them to Jesus. This view casts reflection on the integrity of John as though he were asking a question when in reality it was being asked by his disciples. It also reflects on the integrity of Jesus who says, ‘Report to John,’ and thus continues the pretence as though John were in doubt. In trying to save the doubt, the honor of both John and Jesus is sacrificed”

R. C. H. Lenski “The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel”
pages 427

Lenski quote of the Day

Matthew 11:2-3 “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
Saint John the Baptist in Prison (1565-70), Juan Fernandez de Navarrette, Oil on canvas, The Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
“John’s question and the unindicated reason for sending a commission to get an answer to it have perplexed many interpreters. The discussion centers about the question as to whether John doubted, and if he did so, in what way and to what degree he doubted. … The fact that John sends to Jesus for an answer proves John’s faith in Jesus. This answers those who think that John had lost confidence in Jesus and doubted as some moderns doubt – in disbelief. In that case John would not have directed his question to Jesus, nor would Jesus have sent an answer, and least of all the answer he did send. John’s question was prompted by a difficulty that his faith encountered. God had pointed out that Jesus was the Messiah, John 1:33, 34. Jesus then was to do all the great Messianic works, both of grace (3:11) and those of judgment (3:12)… Thus John believed, preached, expected. But as Jesus carried on his work, it seemed to be nothing but grace without one single act of judgment. This is what perplexed the Baptist ‘when he heard in the prison the works of the Christ.’ Where were the works of judgment, the swinging of the fan, the crushing blows of the axe? They were not being done. How, then, was this to be explained? Would another One follow, another who would perform these works of judgment? For we must remember that throughout the prophecies, just as in the Baptist’s proclamation concerning Jesus, one feature is not revealed by God: the interval of time between the first coming with grace and mercy and the second coming with judgment. The prophetic picture is without perspective as to time; grace and judgment are simply predicated, and the point of time when they will occur is left with God (Acts 1:7).”
R. C. H. Lenski “The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel”
pages 424-425

Lenski on Luke 18:1-8

Verse 1

p. 892 “But the new thought is that, until the end comes, the disciple’s must always keep praying and never lose heart (to be kakovvs, inferior, good-for-nothing in this matter). “
Verse 2
p. 892-893 “The point of the parable is missed when the wickedness of this judge is reduced in any way, for the force of the parable lies in the contrast between this judge and the just and righteous God; wherefore also this wickedness of the judge is again emphasized in v. 4. He feared not God in the conduct of his high office nor all the dire threats of God against unjust and conscienceless judges. Nor did he have ‘it’s poor and miserable substitute’ (Trench), regard for man, for the opinion of the world which holds many a man and an otherwise conscienceless judge in line.”
Verse 4
p. 893 “But this conscienceless judge ‘would not for a time.’ The law of God and of man was on the widow’s side, and that fact the judge saw; yet because she was only a lone widow, this judge would not act. But she had one weapon that made even this judge succumb. In the parable he is made to acknowledge it himself. Parables are built like that – the wicked are made to state their wicked thoughts outright in so many words.”
Verse 5
p. 894 “Parevcein kovpon is idiomatic, ‘to furnish or make trouble’; and u;pwpiavzw, literally, ‘to hit under the eye,’ ‘to give a black eye,’ is strong even when it is used metaphorically: ‘lest finally by coming she be knocking me out.’ … He (the judge) sees that he cannot hold out forever, and so in order to have no more bother and to avoid yielding in the end he resolves then and there: ‘I will vindicate her.’ The moment we see that God acts in the very opposite way, the disgraceful conduct of this judge will appear in its proper light. We should also remember that Jesus paints an Oriental judge, to whom the aggrieved go without the legal red tape and the lawyers who are required in modern courts.”
Verse 6
p. 894-895 “The whole parable centers in what the judge ‘says,’ vivid present tense; all else is subsidiary. He is called ‘the judge of unrighteousness,’ which characterizes him by a qualitative genitive (which is stronger than an adjective), it is like the ‘steward of unrighteousness’ and the ‘mammon of unrighteousness’ occurring in 16:8-9.”


Verse 7

p. 895 “Because this contrast culminates in the judge of unrighteousness and the God of all righteousness, it runs though the entire parable. Thus, over against the widow, in whom the judge has no interest, there are set the elect, in whom the God has supreme interest… The widow is not heard for a time; over against that short period there is set the long period that God waits before he acts. Over against the utterly base and selfish yielding of the judge there is set the holy, righteous, loving deed of God which he resolved to do from the start. So the contrast runs clear through.”
p. 895 “Nothing in the parable represents the reality save the vindication – there is vindication alike in the parable and in reality; all else is opposite, and the whole force and the argument lie in this cumulative opposition. Even the widow is understood wrongly if, amid these opposites, she is made like the elect, they being poor and helpless as she is. The elect are supremely precious to God, the widow, just because she was poor and helpless as such, is just nothing to the judge even when he at last vindicates her.”
Verse 8
p. 897 “Jesus declares with all his authority that God’s vindication of his elect will come ejn tavcei, ‘with speed,’ the stress being on this phrase. Because of this assurance of speed the second question about God’s delaying was added – had to be added. This is the very problem that is faced by the elect of all ages: God seems to delay and delay their final vindication whereas they are told that the vindication is coming with speed. Jesus answers that problem by once more asserting the fact of speed. So Peter, too, understood him when he asserted in 2 Peter 3:8-9 that God is not slack as some men count slackness; he delays in longsuffering in order to save as many as possible; and with him a thousand years are as one day. Peter’s commentary satisfies fully.”
p. 897 “The point is not that he will then find some believers, some of the elect, still among the living; for it is self-evident that God would not let the world continue without there being believers among men. The point is in regard to ‘the‘ faith that ceases not to cry by day and by night.”

R. C. H. Lenski “Interpretation of the Gospel of St. Luke” pages 892-897

Lenski on Luke 17:11-19

R. C. H. Lenski “The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel” p. 873-880
Verse 12:
p. 874-875 “They (the lepers) came from the side toward the road that entered the village, for they had to live outside of the village in such huts or dwellings as they could construct for themselves and avoid all contact with people who were not leprous like themselves. These ten, one of them being even a Samaritan, had congregated to aid each other. Their misery had overcome national and religious antipathy. Being unclean (Lev. 13:46), they stood afar off lest they render other unclean also.”
Verse 14:
p. 875-876 “Image their (the lepers) situation. They must have stood and looked at each other and then started to debate this command. They had surely expected something else. If they had news other lepers whom Jesus had healed (5:12, etc.) they knew that Jesus had never merely order lepers to go to Jerusalem as if they were healed when they were not. Should they go? They decided to do so, for they told each other and, indeed, rightly that this command involved a promise, the promise that they were to be healed. The command of Jesus is terse, but it means the same as it did in 5:14 where the details of the priests’ duties in reinstating healed lepers are described. Cases occurred that eventually turned out not to be leprosy.”
p. 877 “Commentators like to call this a trial of faith to which Jesus put these men. ‘Trial’ is not the proper word. They were not tested as to the strength of their faith, their faith was given the word that it needed to give it more strength. But the word is like a food, only by eating it will give us strength; so only by trusting Jesus’ word and thus trustfully acting on it will faith grow and increase in strength.”
Verse 15:
p. 878: “Whatever outward arguments this one had with the nine, the decisions were due to something inward. In the heart of the one, out of the faith that made him, too, cry to Jesus for mercy, and out of the word of Jesus that had healed him, something was born that was not born in the hearts of the others, something that drew him back to Jesus in spite of the decision of the nice to go on, something that could not draw the others because it was not born in them because they grasped only at the healing and not also at the Healer.”


Verse 16
p. 878-879: “So he (the Samaritan) lay at Jesus’ feet and thanked him with all his soul. The nine had the same greatness to impress their hearts, owed the same response of prostration and gratitude to Jesus, but their hearts did not, would not respond. Whatever faith in Jesus’ power had made them cry for mercy advanced not one step to something better in spite of what Jesus had given that faith. Like a promising bud it stopped growth, then began to wilt, and finally died. They never went back to Jesus, not even after they had been to the priests; the record would have mentioned such a return, one that was made late but was vastly better than no return.”
Verse 18
p. 879 “The Samaritans were of Gentile extraction, not even partly of Jewish blood as is often supposed. The personal work of Jesus was intended for the Jews (Matt. 15:24), but here nine Jews take his blessing, and the one Samaritan who was with them breaks away from them and returns alone.”
Verse 19
p. 879-880: “Jesus now tells this man to get up and to be going (durative present imperative) on the journey to the priests to be legally pronounced clean and to be reinstated in the society of men. But Jesus adds what was so vital: ‘They faith has saved thee,’ the perfect tense as well as the verb itself refer to his saved condition into which one act of saving or rescue had placed him. In this and in other such statements of Jesus faith is not the causa efficiens, the saving power that caused the healing from leprosy, but the causa instrumentalis, the subjective means that connect the leper with the power of Jesus. This man was healed by trusting Jesus and by trustfully crying out to him. So, indeed, were the nine. But their faith produced nothing but that cry, then faded out even as they were now far from Jesus and remained away from him. But this man’s trust remained, brought the fruit of gratitude as described, and was thus on the way to still more. That is why Jesus reminds this man of his faith. It is as though he told him: ‘See what they faith in me and my power has done for thee! Keep that faith and see what it will yet do for thee!'”

Lenski on Luke 17:1-10

1. Moreover he said to his disciples: Impossible it is for fatal traps not to come; nevertheless, woe through whom they come! 2. It is profitable for him if a millstone has been placed around his neck and he has been pitched into the sea rather than that he fatally entrap one of these little ones. 3. Take heed to yourselves — if thy brother commit a sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, remit it for him! 4. And if he commit sin against thee seven times during the day and seven times turn to thee, saying, I am repentant! thou shalt dismiss it for him. 5. And the apostles said to the Lord, Add to us faith! 6. But the Lord said, If you have faith as a kernel of mustard, you would say to this mulberry tree, Be uprooted and be planted in the sea! and it would have obeyed you. 7. Moreover, who of you is there, having a slave plowing or shepherding, who on his coming in form the field will say to him, At once, having come along, recline at table! 8. On the contrary, will he not say, Make ready what I shall dine on and, after having girded thyself, keep serving me until I finish eating and drinking, and after that then thyself shall eat and drink? 9. Does he thank the slave because he did the things he was ordered to do? 10. Thus also you yourselves, when you shall finish doing all the things ordered for you, be saying, Slaves unprofitable are we; what we were under obligation to do we have done.

verse 1
p 863 “Wicked men will always set deathtraps, especially for inexperience believers, and will bait these traps in all kinds of ways; and some believers will be caught. Jesus knows this and therefore pronounces this woe.”  


p 863 “Plhvn means that in spite of the fact that deathtraps will be set, woe is ‘nevertheless’ on him through whom they are set. This ‘woe’ is neither an accusation nor a mere exclamation of sorrow. Exactly like the ‘blessed’ in the Beatitudes, these ‘woes’ are verdicts, and these verdicts will be carried out inexorably.”

verse 3

p 865 “‘Remit it to him,’ pronounce absolution upon him in Jesus; name… Luther has often spoken of this great and blessed function of the royal priesthood, this delivering a brother from him sin by getting him to repent of that sin and giving him God’s pardon to relieve his conscience. The fact that the pardon is not pronounced by a pastor but by an ordinary brother makes no difference whatever if only the brother truly knows what he is about and acts as though he were in the sight of God. This is the first place in Luke’s Gospel where ‘brother’ is used to indicate the relation of one disciple to another. This word of Jesus is also spoken for the sinning brother; he is to know what Jesus orders to others to do for him, and what his Lord expects of him, namely prompt and genuine repentance.”
verse 5
p 866 “‘Add to us faith!’ is a petition for more and thus stronger faith. The apostles felt that they must have far greater faith than they had at present to beware of skandala or deathtraps and to help each other and their other brethren as Jesus had just directed. They felt this as apostles who were to warn and to correct each other and others.”
verse 6
p 867 “The answer of Jesus is frequently misunderstood. It is thought that he is speaking of charismatic faith (1 Cor. 13:2; 12:9), as if he said that they ought to have such faith. We are also told that the apostles ought to have answered their own prayer. But who of us would have thought that the apostles asked for charismatic faith, or that this kind of faith was needed for what Jesus had just said?”

p. 868-869 on talking to the mulberry tree to move itself into the ocean: “Exactly this very thing the apostles would soon do over and over again, for at their word the kingdom would be transplanted, root and branch, from Israel into the Gentile world in congregation after congregation – into territory in which no man would have thought the kingdom could grow and flourish; the Jews were sure that it could not. No charismatic faith was necessary for this, for the gospel was not spread through the world by anything but the ordinary faith of its bearers. All it needs to do is to act, and in its testing of the promise concerning the gospel that faith will grow and grow. And for that reason Jesus carefully adds the promise right here: ‘and it would have obeyed you.’ So Jesus answers the prayer. Faith is living trust in the gospel, and that trust grows as it witnesses and experiences the gospel’s power.”  

verse. 10
p 872 “Jesus himself interprets the parable, and we should at once see that it is intended for us, for our proper attitude toward our Lord, and is not intended to bring in what he does or ought to do toward us… However much our faith is increased and is able to do and actually does do in the Lord’s work, let no false claims or merit enter our minds… We need not discuss the question as to whether any servant of Jesus did all that commanded him, without omission whatever. The Lord cites a case that is perfect in this respect. Even Paul feels constrained to say that, although he knows nothing against himself, he is thereby not justified (1 Cor. 4:4).”


p. 873 “But when he so rewards, this is altogether and absolutely due to his abounding grace and generosity. It is because of himself  and not because of us and our work. One for all learn: if we think we ought to receive recognition at the Lord’s hands for our service, which is imperfect and poor at best and not to be compared with that of the slave in the parable, we are doing an outrageous and utterly presumptuous thing. We are then turning his whole undeserved grace, his glorious generosity, which is so glorious just because he gives it without the least merit on our part, into nothing more than a mere payment that is coming to us by right and justice. Can the Lord consent to such a double lie?”

“Interpretation on the Gospel of St. Luke” by R. C. H. Lenski, from Augsburg Fortress Press