The Gospels

(Volume 5 of the Numerical Bible: The Fifth Pentateuch of the Bible)

F. W. Grant.

Luke

Division 2. (Luke 4:14 — 18:34.)

Salvation.

The division of Mark and Luke is very similar. We shall find also that of John to correspond essentially. First, we have the Lord presented to us personally, in that character which the particular Gospel exhibits; then His work in active ministry among men; and finally the sacrificial work and its results. Here, as Man; and in the nearness implied by this, the former Gospels having shown us atonement in its full substitutionary character wrought out, as in the sin- and trespass-offering, we find in the second division the salvation so accomplished ministered to men in a way we could not have had before. Not that the fulness of what is in John is reached. The truths of new birth, eternal life, the gift of the Spirit, and other things, are lacking, as John (or the Lord in John's Gospel) shows them to us. There is an approach made to these; God and man meet together; the prodigal is in the Father's house; the fatted calf is on the table: things which have made some of old to suppose — with the known relationship of Luke to Paul — that it was this Gospel which Paul called his own (Rom. 16:25). This goes too far, but the doctrinal connection is yet evident. We shall have many opportunities of realizing this.

Subdivision 1. (Luke 4:14 ― 6:49.)

In sovereign grace, and divine power.

The sovereignty of grace in salvation is the very first thing presented here. God alone could have thought of it: from His heart alone it could have come. Even so, and with all the suitability there is in it to man's condition, it is naturally distasteful to him, for he believes in himself, and does not willingly own the truth of his condition. Hence God must act for Himself as is implied in new birth: for who was ever born of his own will? And Scripture directly negatives this as to spiritual birth (John 1:13).

But thus salvation being of God is effected from first to last in the power of God. How great a comfort for the soul convicted of its own evil, folly and feebleness? God "worketh in you the willing and the doing of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13, Gk.). The work in us is secured by the same grace that has accomplished the work for us, in the value of which we stand unchangeably. All is provided for equally, the covenant of promise being God's "I will" throughout.

1. (1) This part begins with a foreshadow at Nazareth of what is soon to be fulfilled in Israel's history. The Lord is seen in the place where He was brought, up and according to His custom He enters the synagogue on the sabbath day. There He stands up to read, and the book of Isaiah being given Him, He opens at the sixty-first chapter, and applies the words of the Man anointed with the Spirit of Jehovah to Himself. It is clear how accordant with the character of Luke the quotation is. It is the "Mediator between God and man; the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5), whose voice is heard here; and it is as come up out of Jordan; where He has pledged Himself to a baptism to death far different, that the Spirit has come upon Him for His work. He declares here in the first words of His ministry, as Luke gives it to us, the purport of that anointing. The preaching of glad tidings to the poor comes first, and gives character to all the rest. When man is in the place of need he can receive the gospel. When he is consciously a sinner, captive to the sin which he cannot, when he will, renounce, the gospel brings him release. The blind receive their sight. Those bruised in fetters liberty.* It is in fact "the acceptable year of the Lord"; the jubilee of God; fuller and more blessed than the law ever proclaimed in Israel.

{*This is not in Isa. 61, as the rest is, but inserted from Isa. 58:6. It is there found in very different connection, and here is so similar to what we have had already, that it would arouse suspicion as to its being really part of the text; but the copies are in agreement.}

Now in His Person this had come to them. He was the source of all, the spring of grace and salvation. Where the prophet goes on to "the day of vengeance of our God," the Lord stops short in the middle of the sentence: grace had hastened to anticipate the judgment; although for those who refuse the one there will at last be the other. But judgment lingers with reluctant feet, while those of grace are winged with desire.

(2) They heard and wondered: could not but own that these were gracious words. Would they receive them, then? That is a very different thing. They were not the poor, the captive, blind or fetter-bruised. They were wonderful words indeed of Joseph's son! How had He learned this wisdom? and how had He the boldness to take such a place as He was taking? After all, the question was of Him and not of them. Who was He? But they had heard of miracles wrought at Capernaum: let the physician heal himself; what they had heard of elsewhere let Him repeat in His own city, to which His wonders naturally belonged, and the fame of the prophet. For it had become a proverb that out of Galilee there arose none; and as to Nazareth it was a question, could any good be expected of it? Well, if He had such power, let Him exercise it there where there was need and the occasion called.

After all, with all the unbelief that might be in it, it seems natural to ask, why the Lord did not take this means of breaking down their unbelief; why, if He were doing miracles elsewhere, why not here?

But He, seeing more deeply, sees He is rejected. Even while they wonder at His gracious words, they have no need of them: and of what use were miracles, save to confirm that of which they had no need?

It was a case, too, coming under a rule which — so alike are men; so inveterate the evil in them — could be deemed invariable. "No prophet is acceptable in his own country." And this seems as if it were a comment upon their question; "Is not this the son of Joseph?" God acting in a son of Joseph! God speaking with so familiar a voice, and disguising Himself so in nature and common life! That seems impossible; self-contradictory even; startling too by bringing God so near; unwelcome, alas, in the same proportion.

But, however men judge of it, God will be as God, acting sovereignly as He pleases, while in goodness, because goodness is His nature, but not tied to show it according to any of the thoughts of men. What had their history shown as to this? In the awful times of Elijah, when for their sins famine swept through the land for three years and six months; — or in times succeeding, when Elisha was in Elijah's place: — who were they to whom it pleased God to show mercy? There were many widows in Israel, when Elijah was sent to the Sidonian widow! many lepers in Israel unhealed, when Naaman the Syrian was cleansed! Israel might in those days have said to Elijah, "Do these things in thine own country," while yet they had shown no desire after God, but had cast Him off; and now grace rejected might go out to others. There were the poor, the blind, the captives of sin elsewhere, — even among the Gentiles: men who had need of Him, if they had none; and who, finding that need met in Him, would realize in Him more than "the son of Joseph."

But the men of Nazareth are only roused into fury by such words. They seek to kill Him by hurling Him from the brow of the hill on which the city is built; but He passes through the midst of them and goes His way. How plain a foreshadow of the rejection that waited Him at the hands of the people, and of the way in which the death to which they destined Him availed nothing to hinder those purposes for which He stooped even to death also. And so grace went out to the Gentiles.

2. (1) We have had, then, Christ as the Source of blessing, and the character of the blessing which He is come to convey to men. But if blessing be thus prepared for him, the enemy in whose hand he is must be met and despoiled of his prey. This, therefore, is what we find next, the story which we have already had in Mark 1:21-28, of the demoniac in the synagogue at Capernaum. Very significant it is that the demon is not here in the tombs or in the mountains, but parading his victim in the midst of the concourse of men; and even in the synagogue, as if he would make good his title to him in the presence of God Himself. But under the power of the Word, which is the sword of the Spirit to expose and vanquish him, he is made to realize the Holy One of God, and quails as before his destroyer. He is silenced and made to come out, with one last expression of impotent rage, which only manifests the more the power over him; and amazement seizes upon the multitude who behold it, and spread His fame throughout the region round about.

(2) He enters into Simon Peter's house and the devil's power meets Him in another form. The mother-in-law of Simon is ill with a great fever. He rebukes it, and it leaves her; and immediately she is restored and able to minister to them.

(3) And now the crowds gather, bringing those sick with all manner of diseases; and the power of God is manifest in healing all without exception. Nothing is too hard for Him. The earth is ready to put on again its paradisaic garb, and the devil to be banished out of it: so at least it well might seem.

There is love also equal to the power displayed. The people, well content to have such an one among them, would fain prevent His leaving them; but it is not enough for Him that seekers should find Him, He must be the Seeker, and seek everywhere the sheep that are astray from their Shepherd. All the cities of Israel must hear the Voice of Him that is come after them. The Kingdom of God must be every where proclaimed. That which men most coveted, the miracles of healing, were but the attendant signs of divine authority once more ready to be openly established over a willing-hearted people. Thus alone could there be healing indeed.

3. Naturally we are led on in this way to the inward deliverance, the spiritual healing by which sanctification to God is attained. This we shall find commonly conveyed to us, as so often in the Gospels, in terms of the outward miracle, the clearest and most concise way, no doubt, in which it could be done in these cases. Figures though they are, the Christian understanding can hardly fail to realize their significance.

(1) The first story here, though from its conclusion surely coincident with the call of the first disciples in the previous Gospels, is yet in the main part peculiar to Luke, as it is surely in fullest harmony with its character. It is the record of a soul brought into the presence of God; at once drawn and searched out by the light of it. There is nothing in the nature of the miracle itself that is in the least calculated to terrify or produce any emotion of fear whatever, but the contrary. They who have toiled all night and caught nothing, find now, upon casting their nets once more at the Lord's bidding, a multitude of fish which fill their own and their partners, vessels till they are ready to sink with the weight. When Simon sees it he is amazed; and falling down at Jesus, knees, he cries, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man; O Lord."

It is the sense of the divine presence, revealed by the miracle, that has stricken through Simon Peter, and brought him to the consciousness of his condition. He cleaves to Him, even while he says, depart. Conscience and heart are at strife within him. But he does not flee: how should he flee from Him who is what he realizes Him to be — who has searched out the paths of the sea and his heart together? Nor does the Lord leave him in doubt as to the grace that can take up the sinful: "Fear not," He says to Simon; "from henceforth thou shalt catch men." The grace thus shown is not simply the reception of sinners. Christ thus known in the heart associates the redeemed with Himself in His message of mercy to men.

(2) In the two miracles following, the need that is to be ministered to is more fully exposed. The leper and the paralytic show us the corruption and impotence produced by sin; the former being the well-known type of sin in the Old Testament, in its subtle invasion; its certain spread, its contagion; its breaking up of human relations, its banishment from God (Lev. 13.) Man was powerless in the presence of this malignant scourge. The mere touch of one who had it was defilement. Every leper was known; and had to make himself known to all around him, that none might come in contact with him. Moreover the removal of it was one of the signs by which was proclaimed the God-sent deliverer of Israel from the oppression of the Egyptians.

Nowhere then could there be found a more suitable means for the manifestation of His power than in cleansing the leper; and here was one in that awful state of isolation, "a man full of leprosy." This is Luke's description; going beyond the former Gospels: it was not in mere incipiency, but revealing itself in all its terrible reality. But "when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and besought Him, saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean."

A sorrowful case when one who confesses the power of Jesus to heal him, can doubt His will; and yet, in the case of sin how common! But the Lord would have none question. He does not merely speak, He goes further, and with a touch at once breaks through the barrier of law, and removes that which the law could only brand, not remedy. "I will: be thou cleansed." And immediately the leprosy has departed from him. Now the very priest of the law must pronounce him clean; and Jesus sends the healed man to him for that purpose.

Leprosy speaks of the out-break of the flesh, — the nature of the unrenewed man; but which remains in the renewed man also, and may, alas, break out of him. This last is, in fact, what the type in Leviticus directly speaks of, while leprosy in itself may speak of either. Christ is, in either case, the only and all-sufficient remedy. In John 13 He takes our feet into His blessed hands to cleanse them from all the defilements of the way, and this is the touch of Jesus for the Christian. For the sinner also there is the touch of the Samaritan-Saviour, come where he is; of which Luke will tell us much at another time: a story which unites in some sense the leper with the paralytic in him who fell among the thieves. The aspects vary of that which is fundamentally the same: the meeting of divine power and love with human need and guilt. The experience of how many can interpret and apply a history like this.

(3) We pass on to the paralytic, in whom the impotence produced by sin is clearly shown us. The Lord, therefore, first assures him of forgiveness — "Thy sins are forgiven thee," and makes the power to "rise and walk" the token to others of the reality of what he has received. And this is the spiritual order.

Both this and the previous miracle we have had in the first two Gospels, and in Mark, as here, together. In Matthew they are separated, but with as distinct a purpose as to each. The divine glory of Christ in all this part is fully manifest.

4. We have now what with little variation is common to the three Synoptists, the dispensational change which this open display of divine grace involves. Matthew indeed puts an interval between that which takes place at Levi's house and the contention as to the Sabbath; while Mark and Luke present them in connection. The call of Matthew (or Levi) seems also historically to have been some time before the feast made by him. Each evangelist uses his material according to his purpose, rather than in mere chronological order. The connection between the Sabbath question and the displacement of the legal ritual which was impending is evident, and so it is that they are brought together here.

(1) The call of Levi to the apostleship must have been startling to a Jew. The tax-gatherer was hated as the symbol of foreign dominion; hated for his often unscrupulous exactions, and hated more than all if (as was here the case) it was a Jew who lent himself to what was considered the oppression of his own people. But "tax-gatherers and sinners," thus associated in the language of the multitude, followed the Baptist, while Pharisees and Sadducees turned away from him; and so was it now in the Lord's case. Levi follows Him with unhesitating promptitude, leaving all he had. And the feast that he makes Him is furnished with guests which show how fully he has entered into his Master's mind.

But the scribes and Pharisees as naturally murmur: why eat and drink, they ask, with such as these? The Lord's answer is as simple as can be, and as sufficient. He is a physician looking for the sick; and not, therefore, as disregarding the need men had of repentance, but to bring them to it. It is the goodness of God known that brings men to it.

(2) Then they raise a question about fasting. John's disciples fasted; as, with the message that he brought the people, well was there need. The Pharisees too had not been wrong in this, if only they had penetrated the true meaning of the law, which John had but emphasized. The voice in the wilderness had announced however the coming of One who would be the Bridegroom of His people (John 3:29): how unsuitable would be the voice of mourning then!

But of this the dead ritualism of the Pharisee knew nothing. Fasting was meritorious in itself according to their thought, and Christ in the truth of what He was had no place in them. Thus Israel's Bridegroom, already in their midst, would, as rejected, be taken from them; and then indeed would the sons of the bride-chamber fast.*

{*There is no thought of Christianity proper, or the Church, in all this. The Church is the heavenly bride, but of this the Baptist had no knowledge; nor did it form part of the Lord's teaching in the Gospels, but remained for the Spirit to bring out after His coming (John 16:12, 13). The Lord's words and those of the Baptist are in the line of Old Testament thought.}

But there was another thing, for the old covenant points beyond itself, and that which was peculiar to it was therefore destined to pass away and be replaced by the new. So opposite were these that the two could not agree. The garment of human righteousness according to the law, however incompetent it might be, could not be patched with the "righteousness which is of God through faith" (Phil. 3:9). The old wine-skins of the Jewish institutions could not confine the free expansive spirit of the new covenant which was already showing itself. But the opposition to it showed also that with man naturally the law was more to his taste: he who was still drinking of the old wine would not immediately desire the new.

(3) The two incidents which raise the question of the Sabbath are given in almost precisely the same way in the three Gospels. In Matthew they are in different connections from those in which they are found in Mark and Luke; but in all their purport is the same: Christ the Lord of the Sabbath being rejected, they can claim no Sabbath; just as when; David the anointed king of Israel being a fugitive from the wrath of Saul, the show-bread became common food. Alas, Israel in a little while would keep their Sabbath with the Lord of it, crucified at their hands, lying in His guarded grave!

And at all times had mere ritualism lost the spirit of the law while retaining the form of it. The love to man which the seventh day rest breathed had passed into a rigid exaction which rather slew than saved. In the story of the withered hand this is fully manifest, and in the miracle which is wrought, the Lord brings in the power of God to bear witness against it. But the Pharisees and scribes are only the more roused to madness, and commune one with another what they might do to Jesus.

5. Thus He is more distinctly than before rejected of Israel in the persons of their leaders, and takes His place as such. In answer to their attitude He gathers His disciples round Him, and chooses from them twelve as His "apostles," or "sent ones," to be the witnesses and heralds of the new Kingdom coming in. In their presence and that of a great multitude as well of His disciples as of those from all the country round about attracted by His power and grace, He declares the blessedness, responsibilities, and recompense of those that cleave to Him, the heirs of the Kingdom. They are in a scene characterized by His rejection, and sufferers for His sake, only thus the more blessed, not the less. The end would declare it.

What we have here is, no doubt, "the sermon on the mount," but with abridgment as well as additions, according to Luke's purpose. The remnant character of those that are with Him is very strongly emphasized.

(1) Christ is here the source of authority and the centre of power. As He had already told the people of Nazareth, grace will not be stopped in its outflow by the opposition of men. "The Man Christ Jesus," Himself the expression of eternal counsels, in the sweet dependence of perfect humanity, and the perfect intimacy of the Son with the Father, goes up to God upon the mountain; and continues there all night in prayer to God. It is the anticipation of the place He has now taken, and all that follows is the fruit of that intercession. But thus the wisdom of God which is in it appears in the form of human weakness. He names the twelve, and among them is a traitor. The rest are fishermen and what not; not a sign among them of what naturally we should take for power; and the three most prominent, frequently made so, as it would seem, by their lack of apprehension of His mind and fellowship with Him. We see plainly that without Him they can do nothing. He is all of wisdom to them, all of power. They, like the crowd that swarm to Him from the regions round, are joined to Him by their absolute need of Him, their entire dependence on Him. A Judas even must serve Him. How we see the Christianity that is to spring out of this! The whole of Christianity is Christ: "Christ is all and in all" (Col. 3:11).

(2) We see this strikingly in what follows here, in which His disciples are separated from all the world about them by this fact, that they are His. The world is in opposition to Him and to His. It hates them, separates them from it, casts out their name as evil for the Son of man's sake. Thus for them it has nothing. They are the "poor," the hungry, the weepers, the afflicted in it. Yet well may they rejoice: for their reward is great in heaven; on earth they but continue the line of the prophets rejected by the world from of old.

On the other hand, and for the same reason, those who are satisfied with it, and the world with them, have their part in the woes that are coming on the world. And He cannot leave this to inference, for He is the Saviour of sinners and His heart goes after them: in its very denunciations grace overflows. But this changes nothing as to the final end: rather does it assure us how fixed and unalterable that end must be.

(3) But the Lord goes on to speak of what the conduct of His disciples is to be in the midst of a world in opposition to them. To those whose ears are open to His words He says, "Love your enemies; do good to those that hate you; bless those that curse you; pray for those that despitefully use you." This rule of returning good for evil is that which He has so bountifully illustrated in His own person; and of which the Cross is the supreme example. The precept of non-resistance which follows it we have already remarked upon in going through Matthew. The bountiful spirit which becomes those who owe their all to the free gift of God is enforced in the words, "Give to every one that asketh thee," — words which surely require the wisdom inspired by divine love to guide in their application. This part closes with the general principle that "as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise."

(4) The way of the world is put in contrast with this, the world being quite capable of returning love for love, of doing good to those who do good to them, of lending with the hope of getting back as much. But to love and do good and lend without hope of return: this would be conduct suited to the sons of the Most High; because He is kind to the unthankful and the evil.

(5) Thus we are to be imitators of God as dear children; and under a Father's holy government also, according to which the measure meted will be measured out; and this as what both suits the nature of God, and the truest interests of His people also. It is evident, therefore, that rewards are not intended to be denied, nor yet disregarded: for that which God gives it cannot but be of God that it should have place in our thoughts and in our hearts. Seeing what we are, this needs and receives careful guarding. We find it so again and again: — guarded, but maintained in this very way (Matt. 19:27-30, Matt. 20:20-28, notes). He gains who for Christ's sake loses; but not for gain's sake.

(6) The "blind" are primarily, no doubt, the Jewish leaders; but the follower will not escape the ditch by being simply a follower: for the truth speaks for itself to him who has ears to hear. He who gives himself up to another's leadership absolutely, has his conscience not before God, but before man; and even the Lord bases His title to be heard upon the truth of what He spoke: "If I say the truth, why do ye not believe Me?" (John 8:46.) That to which a man yields himself necessarily moulds him. If then he surrenders himself to the teacher of error, he will not be above his teacher, but, if he is perfect, be only like him.

On the other hand, if evil be detected in another's eye — in his way of regarding things (and here the teacher of error seems still primarily pointed at) — one must take care that there be no lack of self-judgment as to one's own. Evil must first be judged within before it can be judged outside; and this will give tenderness and compassion; as well as clear sightedness. Judging without self-judgment is but hypocrisy.

And this self-judgment is always of the "beam" as compared with the "mote" in others. For what can we know of others compared with what we may and should know of ourselves? And then the evil fruit we find is but the sign of an evil tree: thorns grow no figs, nor brambles grapes. Thus true self-judgment sets aside self altogether. We do not judge to establish our own righteousness, nor as rejoicing in the evil, but as rejoicing with the good: we learn to "take forth the precious from the vile," because the good is "precious."

(7) Useless indeed is the profession of the lips, — the saying, "Lord, Lord," except the life confirm it. Not that the best life will justify before God, or save in the day when all that can be will be shaken. But it is evidence, nevertheless, that Christ is the foundation of the soul, — of a house built secure against all the storms that can assail it. Faith in Christ must, of course, be real; but the more real the faith in other things, the more complete is the delusion, the surer and more fatal the ruin that awaits one. "The ruin of that house is great."

Subdivision 2. (Luke 7 — 8:21.)

The Word as the Ministry of Salvation.

We have now the Word as that by which the ministry of salvation is effected; the language being still often; as that of the synoptic Gospels so much is, symbolic, and the healing of the body illustrative of that deeper spiritual healing which it is so well qualified to picture to us, and which is so in the mind of the Spirit to keep before us. This fuller blessing, without which there is none, comes moreover continually into more open view, and its features are revealed with growing fulness.

1. The two narratives with which this part opens show us in the most striking way the power of the divine Word as Christ utters it. The first is the story of the centurion in whom the Lord finds greater faith than He had found in Israel: a faith which owns the Lord's supremacy, whether present or absent, over all the powers of nature which are obedient to His will. The second is that of the raising of the widow's son at Nain, which shows that giving way to His word which is the stamp upon the fallen creature; the removal of which is the significant pledge of power come in able to deliver from the condition itself of which it is the stamp. Here then; is indeed a "word living and powerful," as the epistle to the Hebrews calls it (Heb. 4:12), and ready as well as competent to meet man's need.

(1) Matthew gives us the healing of the centurion's servant, but in another connection; and with certain differences, which have occasioned question. For Luke represents not only the elders of the Jews as first sent with prayer that Jesus would come and heal the sick man, but that, while He is upon the road, the friends of the centurion are sent with a second message, which excuses his not coming in person by his felt unworthiness. In Matthew we are told the centurion came; but his words are to the same effect as those of his friends in Luke. It seems, therefore, that the account in the former is to be explained by the latter: the Gentile Gospel taking care to show fully the humble place that the Gentile took, both in making use of the Jewish elders, and in not actually coming to the Lord Himself. The faith at which the Lord wonders is related in both; while the Jewish writer it is who gives, and in fullest accord with the dispensational character of his book, the warning to the Jews of the rejection of children of the Kingdom, while those of the nations should come in from every quarter to partake in its blessings with the patriarchs of Israel.

The Roman soldier sees everywhere in the world the law and order which Rome so emphasized. But he sees it to draw an argument from it for the absolute authority of Him whom his faith owns as having supreme power over all the powers of nature. He himself, only a man under authority, could speak and be obeyed; it needed not, then; the presence of Jesus — He needed not to put His own hand to the work, when all things served Him. We have only to compare the wonder of His disciples when He calmed the the sea of Galilee, to realize how indeed the faith of the Gentile surpassed that of the Lord's nearest and chosen followers.

(2) The story of Nain is found in Luke only. Nain means "pleasant," what the world was as God made it; what it is still naturally to the natural man. But at the gate of it, carried out, is a dead man, death being still the way out of the world, as it is the shadow over it. The widowed mother, whose only son he is, and the sympathetic crowd that follows, show in how many ways death affects the survivors. The consequences of it, which lie in another world, are not introduced into this picture, but man's conscience will not allow him to forget them: "the sting of death is sin," which threatens the soul with judgment.

Thus the pleasant world is become the "valley of death-shade," and as such Christ has come to it in His infinite compassion; as He comes here to Nain. To the sorrowing mother He says, "Weep not," and His is no fruitless sympathy. He touches the bier, as touch it Himself He must, by His death to give His word power over it. Then the word is spoken which abolishes it, and the dead man rises. He "sat up and began to speak; and He gave him to his mother."

Here, then, is man's need fully met, the judgment which is upon him, all that sin and death imply, has found a remedy. The people fear, and glorify God; and the word goes out throughout all Judea that a great prophet is risen up, and God hath visited His people: a testimony true indeed, but quite below the wondrous truth as to His Person who was there.

2. The twofold testimony of God which man needs and which God has provided is now shown us in John and the Lord: John the preacher of repentance, the witness to man's condition; the summing up of the Old Testament controversy with man; while pointing forward, as the Old Testament did, to Him who was to come; Christ the Bringer of salvation; the New Testament Voice, the Manifester of God to men; and who opens the way to God for men.

Repentance and faith are the double answer to this double testimony, though neither of these can exist without the other. They are the backward and forward glances of the soul, and which are at the same time its downward and upward ones. Or, conversion being the "turning round" of man, repentance is the back turned upon self, as faith is the face turned toward God in Christ. Repentance is as inseparable, therefore, from faith, as faith is from repentance.

The testimony of John and of Christ come in; then; in this place with perfect naturalness; and in the contrast between them their accord is manifest. In both, divine wisdom will be justified by her children; and the refusal of the one will be seen; as in Israel's case, to be the refusal of the other.

(1) But first we have to see the Baptist in his prison perplexed with doubt, as to which he sends two of his disciples to Christ, that He may satisfy it. "Art Thou the One that is coming?" is his question; "or wait we for another?" Honest doubt never stays away from Christ, but comes to Him for solution. The Lord points him to the works which at that very time He was doing, the power of God being manifested in various goodness, while the gospel-tidings were being given to the poor. Not wonders alone were evidence, but wonders that were "signs" — significant of the nature and power of Him from whom they proceeded. While all the time the sweet gospel invitation addressed itself to the needy, most Godlike in coming lowest down.

The Lord adds one gentle word for the conscience of His fore-runner: "And blessed is he who shall not be stumbled by Me." (See pp. 122, 123, notes.)

(2) The messengers departed with this, and now, when John may seem to have failed entirely in his witness, the Lord bears witness to him. Be it that he had failed, was it in vain that crowds had gone out into the wilderness after him? Was he then but a reed shaken with the wind? Was he a courtier of men; clothed in soft raiment? did they look for such in the wilderness, rather than in the courts of kings? Certainly, his whole life proved him far other than these. But what was it, then; that drew men after him? Was he a prophet? Yea, says the Lord, and more than a prophet: he was one of whom the prophet had spoken; as the messenger of God before Messiah's face, to prepare His way before Him.

Such then was John, the prepares for the Kingdom of God; as great in this position as any of women born; yet the one comparatively little, actually in the Kingdom thus announced, would be greater than he. (See pp. 123, 124, notes.)

But in fact John's message had been rejected by the leaders of the nation; the Pharisees and lawyers, while only those classed by these as "sinners" had heard and been baptized by him. These owned the righteousness of God in pressing upon them through John their need of repentance; but the others rejected for themselves the counsel of God, and were not baptized of him. Thus a remnant only of the people, and these the outcasts, were ready for the grace which now addressed itself to them. As to that generation at large, they could only be compared to children sitting in the market-place, triflers who would have had John dance to their piping, and the Lord and His disciples weep when they mourned. They understood not, for they were too careless to understand, either the one or the other. To them John was but a demoniac; Christ a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, to be judged according to the company He kept. The children of wisdom alone justified wisdom's ways: and who, then; were these children of wisdom? The answer to this is given us in what immediately follows now.

3. That which follows is one of those stories peculiar to Luke and characterizing it, the story of the woman in the Pharisee's house: the woman a "sinner;" the Pharisee one of those "ninety and nine just persons" of whom the Lord afterwards speaks, and whom He puts there in contrast with the "lost." Here it is the Pharisee who invites the contrast.

They had called Him the "Friend of sinners." We see here how truly He was that, and in what manner: what sinners gained from that wondrous friendship. We see a spiritual transformation wrought, and wisdom justified in a child of wisdom, a sinner transformed. We see how sanctification comes from salvation, or, indeed, is the internal part of it; and that there is nothing holier than the gospel grace.

Asked by a Pharisee to eat with him, Jesus enters the house and takes His place at table. And there it is — strange place for such a meeting — a woman in the city who is a sinner, having heard that He is in the house, draws near and stands behind Him weeping, her tears falling upon His feet. With the hairs of her head she wipes them off, and kissing His feet, anoints them with the ointment which she has brought with her.

Sinner she is, yet the knowledge of it does not keep her back; rather it gives her boldness to be there where of all places, perhaps, she would find the most unsparing judgment. But His shield shall be over her — the Friend of sinners: how differently does that sound to her, and to the Pharisee whose house she has entered!

Indeed he is already astir, his mind drawing its conclusion against One who can permit the familiarity that a woman like this is showing. But even He, he reasons, must be ignorant of her character. A prophet would have known; but a prophet could not have permitted defilement such as this. The Lord answers his unspoken thoughts and makes him judge of himself as compared with this woman whom he condemns; a sinner, truly, but a forgiven sinner. Surely, he too could not deny himself to be a sinner! and if so, did he not know for himself the sweet sanctifying power of forgiveness, — the outflow of heart to God who has forgiven? Perhaps, indeed, he had not sinned as she: could God then forgive the debt of fifty pence, but not the five hundred? And if to her the larger debt had been remitted, could he not recognize in these tears, this abandonment of ecstatic emotion, in contrast with his own cold treatment of the Guest he had invited, the sense of that larger debt which made her in a Pharisee's eyes a sinner indeed?

But remitted! Yes, it was the consciousness of that remission which had wrought in her after this manner. Even he should understand — could understand in the case of a common debtor; though himself having been forgiven little, he loved but little.

Thus the Pharisee is set in the light of God, and his inmost heart searched out, while He who reveals Himself in doing this, openly takes the place which the woman's faith before had given Him, and confirms to her that which she in her simplicity had appropriated already. "And He said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven." If they murmur at His words, only the more positively does He reiterate them: "And He said unto the woman; Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."

4. (1) We have seen; then, the power of the Word in the soul of one that receives it; all the more that, as we saw her first, she had as yet bad no word distinctly addressed to herself to assure her of the blessing which she grasps with such effect. We now go on to see how the fruits produced characterize the reception of it, — how the seed tests the soil. This is shown in that familiar parable of the Sower, which we have had already in the two previous Gospels, here given a slightly abbreviated form, and without the parables which accompany it in them. As an introduction to it, however, we are shown as fruit of the Word the company of disciples who now follow the Lord, and some of whom minister to Him of their substance. It is here first we find those faithful women who follow Him to the cross itself, and at the sepulchre greet Him first in resurrection. Their own deliverance has attached them to Him, and He on His part receives their services, emancipating them from the harsh restrictions of Rabbinism, which put the woman into a not merely inferior but a degraded place. The twelve are also with Him, and throughout all Galilee, with the testimony of word and work, goes also that of the new communion of faith and love which Christianity was fully and universally to establish.

(2, 3) People gather together to Him out of every city around; and in the midst of such a multitude it is that the Lord searches out the heart (as so commonly He does where the crowds follow Him) by the parable of the Sower.

No fruit is to be got from man for God, except as the word of God produces it; but with the same seed and the same Sower, how different are the results! The devil, the flesh, and the world are in triple league against God and His word, and man is traitor to himself in listening to them. All this, however, has been already dwelt upon. The closing verses are substantially as in Mark (4:22-25).

(4) The following verses are also in both the other Synoptists, though here somewhat briefer and in different connection. They complete, in the place in which they stand in Luke, G the view of the relation of the word of God to salvation and fruitfulness for God, and carry us on in principle to Christianity, which develops and manifests this.

Subdivision 3. (Luke 8:22 ― 9:36.)

The Fulness of Salvation.

The third subdivision also for the most part simply puts together in different connection what Matthew and Mark have already given us. Together the details show us the fulness of salvation which Christ has provided for us, and which the opposition of the world only brings into fuller prominence. There must be deliverance out of it also, only we must not expect here the full Christian deliverance of the epistle to the Galatians, but a moral one rather, from its spirit and ways, the rejection of Christ being that of every follower of His, and faith, therefore, giving victory over it.

1. We have, first, deliverance from the power of circumstances through identification with Him who is supreme over all. Thus for faith there is peace through whatever storms: although this does not mean that the hearts of disciples are always on the level of their privileges. Here on the sea of Galilee they were plainly not so. Jesus was with them, that they knew; but He was asleep, and the winds and waves seemed to have no regard for Him. In their fear they rouse Him, to find relief in His display of a power with which they had not credited Him, but to meet the sorrowful reproof on His part, "Where is your faith?" In truth our prayers in their very urgency often betray our unbelief, and would reproach the Lord on His side with a passivity which is but a sign of the confidence that He would fain repose in us as those who know His truth and steadfastness. "He that feareth is not perfected in love" — His love: he has not learned as yet the lesson of such entire trustworthiness as is to be found in Him.

Peace, then, at all times, is God's provision for us; the greeting with which Christ ever meets us; the legacy which His death has left us. All winds and waves yield alike to Him; all things good and evil serve Him, and therefore serve His people, through His abiding care.

2. We have next the story of the demoniac possessed with the "legion," the picture of whose condition is as full as that in Mark, fuller than Matthew. We see the awful power of Satan over him whom he has enslaved, in contrast with the same man "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind."

We see also the world preferring Satan to the Deliverer, begging Him to depart, while the delivered man beseeches Him that he may be with Him. Yet the Lord dismisses him to be a witness for Him at home of the divine compassion which has wrought in his behalf.

3. After this we have the twofold story of the daughter of Jairus raised from the dead, and the faith that touched the hem of His garment, and found the healing that it anticipated from the touch. In this we have seen already a parabolic meaning, the divine and human sides of salvation being given in these intertwined miracles: the dead hearing the voice of the Son of God and living, while faith draws from the Saviour the virtue that it needs. Matthew here is the briefest of the three Gospels, Mark's account somewhat the fullest; but of the differences we do not seem able to give a proper account.

4. (1) The Lord now sends out the twelve as messengers of His mercy in a needy world. They have authority over the power of Satan and disease, and are to preach the Kingdom of God, of which the miracles are signs and anticipants. This communicated authority is very significant: for as communicated it could not be supposed to be due to the character of those who were but the delegates of Another, yet as such clothed with power from God. Luke merely gives a partial outline of this commission; of which Matthew furnishes the full details. Here we have simply the breadth of their authority, the claim upon men which it carries with it, and the testimony against those who reject that claim. The evangelizing is in the forefront, but what hope for those who reject the precious grace of God? yet the denunciation is part of that grace, its last effort to rouse the consciences of men to respond to it.

(2) Herod himself is roused by all this, but partially, to a foreboding perplexity. He has beheaded John; and here is One exhibiting a power which John had not. Luke shows us the tyrant concluding in an opposite way to that which we find in the previous Gospels. Between the incredulity of a Sadducee and the terror of conscience which breaks out beyond the control of it, he vacillates evidently. But here is a problem that he cannot solve, and he is drawn by that which he fears, because he fears it: "he sought to see him." By and by we shall find how, misled by a carnal mind which cannot penetrate the mystery of the Cross, he is able to treat with awful mockery the object of his former fears; and so he disappears out of inspired history.

(3) The twelve return; and the Lord takes them apart privately into a desert place for needed rest. But the multitudes, hearing of it, follow and break in upon Him, and their various necessities call forth once more His compassion actively to minister to them. "He received them, and spake unto them of the Kingdom of God, and healed those that had need of healing." There ensues that first miracle of the multiplication of the loaves which is the only one recorded by Luke and John as well as the other evangelists. With John it is the text of the Lord's discourse upon the bread of life. Luke is somewhat briefer than any of the others, and omits entirely the scene upon the lake which follows it. As Jehovah, with a marvel of creative power, "He satisfies Israel's poor with bread." The need of the world, true wilderness as it is, is made to manifest the divine resources which are in the hand of Him who because of its misery has come into it. The Creator of it is the Redeemer for it: Christ, the Son of man, is both. The details of the miracle we have had before us in Matthew.

5. But the world is not only a place of want and misery, or of sin as lying at the root of these: it is a place into which the Redeemer has come and they know Him not, but reject and cast Him out. This, therefore, is what really characterizes the world for those who receive Him, and salvation must be a salvation out of it. Judgment awaits it; Christ is gone out: heaven receives whom the world has rejected; and for His followers also, if the earth be closed, heaven is opened. Thus the wonder of salvation is increased with the wonder of a rejected Saviour; grace descends lower to find its objects, (for we are all upon the world's dead level,) and places them where all the glory of it will be shown out: for "in the ages to come God will show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 5:7).

This is now beginning to be shown out to us, although for the full reality of it we must wait until Christ being ascended, the Holy Spirit shall have come down to make known all His glory and the fruit of His work. In the meanwhile, as His rejection becomes manifest, and the way of the cross is seen as the way of discipleship, there is permitted an anticipative vision of "the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," that His people may along the road "be strengthened with all might according to the power of His glory" (Col. 1:11) so displayed.

(1) Again we find Him in prayer. The unbelief of men; as we may infer from His question presently, is shadowing His soul with all its sorrow and its bitter fruits. He rises from it to ask His disciples, "Who do the multitudes say that I am?" He is not speaking of manifest rejectors, and their answer does not take its color from the enmity of the scribes and Pharisees. "John the Baptist," "Elias," a prophet of old time risen from the dead, are the conjectures of those who mean to do Him honor; but they are conjectures merely, and not faith, and none of them rise up to the reality: they all fail to apprehend the glory of His Person, and therefore the end for which He is come. The light of His glory who is among them has not shone into their souls; He is not their Saviour, — not the Christ: the Baptist had absolutely disclaimed it, and had declared of the One that was coming after him that He was too great for him to be worthy to undo the latchet of His shoes.

And the Lord questions His disciples: "But who do ye say that I am? Peter answers in behalf of them, The Christ of God." But He forbids them to declare it now, for if Israel had not faith to receive Him, He on His part was going on to fulfil the divine purpose in stooping to suffering and death at their hands; then, on the third day, to be raised up.

He adds nothing to this, the first open, literal announcement of what, even in this way, was too hard a saying for them to understand. The doctrine of the Cross, though found in all the Gospels, yet develops slowly there. The Old Testament types of it, to us so familiar, were to the disciples as yet like a fountain sealed, inaccessible; and thus much that we should look upon as plain language — as for instance, the Baptist's witness to the "Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" — would be to them a dark saying. Israel in general were looking for a conquering, not a suffering, Messiah. "We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever," they said in answer to one of His own declarations, "and Thou sayest, the Son of man must be lifted up: who is this Son of man?" (John 12:34). Thus the unwelcome truth struggled through the darkness, and those who confessed His Person were still, as to His work, in darkness like the rest. As a consequence, much of what was plainly announced remained as seed in the ground for a future harvest.

(2) The Lord goes on to declare the way of His followers to be that of the Cross, and here virtually therefore, as He had not yet, the manner of His own death. But He uses the word symbolically, as the expression "daily (only found in Luke) would convey to them. To follow Him they must sacrifice their life — themselves — in all that the world counts life; perhaps literally lay it down for Him. The life so lost for His sake would be saved, while he who would grasp the present must lose the future. It is a world hostile to Christ through which we pass, and the confession of Him will cost in such a scene. He gives no reason to expect that it will alter in its spirit essentially, but the reverse: the path He treads is, in this fact that it is His, the path for all His followers; and of those who are ashamed of Him and of His words, He will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory — this is only in Luke — and that of His Father, and of the holy angels.

All this, with the exceptions named, is found, and has been considered, in the previous Gospels. The Lord closes, as in them, with the assurance, that some standing there would in no wise taste of death until they should see the Kingdom of God.

(3) The reference to the transfiguration in this has been also considered. Luke links them more directly together than the other evangelists by his reference: "about eight days after these words." Matthew and Mark say "after six days." Luke's "eight" stamps it with that character of "newness" which attaches to the number. A new scene indeed for the old sin-stricken earth to witness; and the centre of all its glory a Man in prayer!

Such is the new Adam upon whom rests all the blessing of the new creation; and in this sign we read its permanence. Man is no more to lapse from God into a fancied but impossible independence; and the path of obedience is no more to be thought of as one of hard and servile drudgery when the Son of God has chosen it for His own. The glory that now alters the fashion of countenance and radiates from His very garments is His own proper glory, veiled in tenderness only to those to whom He has come to minister, that they might know Him better, as through a darkened glass we better see the sun.

But He is not alone: for where He is must be the fruit of His work and the companions of His love. Two men are with Him, and appear in glory also; but they with a glory which is not their own. Moses and Elias, the law-giver and the prophet, shine, as in fact they did, in His glory; and that of which they are speaking is that departure which He is to accomplish at Jerusalem, the very thing of which He has been speaking to His disciples without finding ears to hear.

Now, in fact, they are weighed down with sleep. As upon another, how different occasion, but when the same departure was before Him, He compassionately said of them, the spirit might be willing, but the flesh was weak. The heaviness of earth clung about them, and there was not power to rise above it. Only when they were fully awakened did they see His glory and the two that stood with Him. How much too of what we might see do we fail to see, not because of positive evil, and yet because of lack of energy to reach what is so near, yet so beyond us. But what might our lives be — what might they not be — if things were different with us!

So even when they are awake, they are dazed and confounded. As the two men are departing, Peter makes an effort to stay them by a proposal to build tabernacles for them, as also for the Lord. But then comes the Cloud and overshadows them; Moses and Elias disappear into the Cloud; and out of it the Father's voice once more as at the Jordan-baptism proclaims His Son. Let them hear Him. And Jesus is found alone.

Here is the end, then; anticipated, which is to strengthen for all the way. We have looked at it already in the previous Gospels, each of which has, no doubt, its differences, though we may be feeble in presenting these. We shall soon reach now what is peculiar to Luke.

Subdivision 4. (Luke 9:37-62.)

Testing in an evil World.

We have seen then what the world is, through which the disciple of Jesus is called to pass, and how the rejection of the Master characterizes it henceforth for the disciple. It is therefore an adverse stream that he is called to breast, and to meet the combined powers of evil in a warfare that never ends on this side heaven, — which, if it seem to do so, it is but the lure of the enemy replacing his open assault; while, as that which intensifies all the struggle, there is that within us constantly in league with the foe without, an enemy behind all our fortifications, a self against oneself.

Yet are we assured that "all things work together for good to them that love God; to those that are the called according to His purpose." It must be therefore that all this is working for good, this various strife, this enemy within also, all this that is the occasion of such and so keen distress, all this that seems so against us. Nay, there must be in all this a wisdom of God exhibited which when learned shall call forth our wonder and our praise, — a wisdom which has in view not time only but eternity.

And it is not hard to understand this: for if God's thoughts are fixed on bringing us into conformity with Himself, the discernment of good and evil must be a large part of this, we must have our senses exercised to this end. How much the manifestation of God Himself has been made in connection with His mastery over the evil! not in mere judgment of it, but much more in His grace. Must we not for the knowledge of Him, as He would have it, learn also what evil is, be tested by it, learn mastery over it? Thus the good of the trial is apparent, and why it should occupy the place it does here in connection with the fulness of salvation.

1. That failure in this conflict should be so much before us is sorrowful enough; yet even so are we most emphatically warned and guarded against it. The very first lesson is that of how to use the power with which we are entrusted; and the story is one which, for our need of it, is found in all three synoptic Gospels. Luke indeed does not dwell upon the details as the two others do, — Mark especially; nor have we even (what may seem stranger) the insistence upon the need of prayer and fasting which we find in the others. Rather do we find that the power is in Christ, and still available, whatever may be the failure of disciples. The actual display of it does not measure what is available, as long as Christ remains accessible, as He ever is, to the feeblest faith of the really needy. The simplicity and ease with which He acts seems most enforced here; and Christ as the resource, amid whatever failure on the part of His people is worthy of the first place in the lessons that are given here.

But the fact of His rejection by men abides, however much He may display His power; and though there may be astonishment at it, too, at times. Christ the crucified is the Master we follow, and this truth He would have sink down into our ears and abide with us. Alas, we are not beyond the need either of being warned by the disciples, want of comprehension of this, or even by their fear of being made to comprehend!

2. Two lessons as to humility follow: the first in which the Lord checks the anxiety to be greatest by identifying Himself with the littleness of a little child, and then by the assurance that the least of all among His followers would be great enough. For indeed, that which we have in common, and as the fruit of Christ's work, must be far greater, thank God, than our differences, which will be the result of our own.

The second lesson is in view of their having forbidden one who was casting out demons in Christ's name, but who was not in their company: as if the power that he displayed had been illegitimately acquired. The Lord here assures them that if he were not of their company, he must needs be on their side. For who could divorce the power of the Spirit from the Spirit of power? Self-appreciation here but slenderly covers itself with zeal for Christ; and how soon does it blind us as to plainest principles.

3. We next find the Lord on His way to Jerusalem, the days getting near for His being received up. For the Samaritans it is enough that His face is set toward Jerusalem: they do not receive the messengers sent before to prepare for Him. The spirit of the sons of Zebedee is aflame, and they would bring fire down from heaven after the manner of Elijah, to consume the churlish Samaritans. The pleading of Elijah's example seems to imply that they were already by no means sure that the Lord would be disposed to such a visitation of an offence like this. They could hardly have been with Him so long, without having learned as much as this of His long-suffering. But Elijah they had lately seen with Him, and his example they might quote with One who so completely maintained as He did the authority of Scripture. But He makes it no question of Scripture; it was they who knew not of what spirit they were. They were not of His: for the Son of man had not come to destroy men's lives but to save them.

The disciples here illustrate the danger in which we are in; seeking to reproduce the examples left us by the men of faith of old, even where most fully sanctioned by the word of God. Dispensations differ, and we must know well how to recognize the difference. Faith too is an individual thing which can only be exercised in one's own path with God; and the imitation of another, as that, necessarily takes us out of such a path. The carrying out of principles, or obedience to precepts, is, of course, an entirely different thing; only they must be the principles of the dispensation to which we belong. From want of understanding this the Church of God has been judaized, secularized, and carnalized; an earthly priesthood, law, the rule of kings, and how much else, have been introduced into it; it has usurped Israel's place and promises; and Scripture has been quoted for all this, and perverted to make it good. Here too, disciples, acting with honest enough meaning, have not known of what spirit they were.

{Verse 55. The first part here is doubtful; the last, according to the evidence of MSS., still more so. Yet the interpolation seems difficult to understand, and as to the first part must have been early, for it is found in most of the ancient versions, as well as in Marcion, Clement of Alexandria, and others. See the Am. Editor's note in Lange's Commentary.}

4. Finally in this section we have what Matthew (Matt. 8:19-22) puts in another connection; and doubtless in the order of time. Luke gives the moral connection and adds a third example of such testing of followers by the Lord, which we can suppose to be of no infrequent occurrence. In the first case there is the enthusiasm which looks well, but needs a more sober estimate of what is involved in following Christ. The second, on the other hand, is unready, and needs the rousing call to prompt obedience. The third, which is in Luke only, though very similar to the second, requires the renunciation of the claims of the living, as much as of the dead. He who has put his hand to the plow — the one-handled eastern plow, frail and easily overturned, is in question — must keep his eyes on it also, and not look back, or he is unfit for the Kingdom of God.

Subdivision 5. (Luke 10 ― 16.)

God with men; and the responsibility connected with it.

The transfiguration is a turning-point in all three of the synoptic Gospels. It follows the Lord's announcement of His rejection by the Jews, and the prohibition of His being proclaimed as Christ. Earth has rejected Him, but heaven opens to Him; and this gives character to that which follows.

In Luke especially is there the opening of heavenly things. It is only a glimpse indeed that we get into them. We must not expect the full opening that we have in Christianity, after Christ has gone in for us in the value of His accomplished work, and the Spirit is come out to enable us to enter in there. Still, in the peace-offering view that it presents, God and man are brought together, and we have the anticipation at least, of what is to be fully made known at a later time. Luke connects thus, as has been already said, with Paul's line of truth and Gentile revelation; he himself being a Gentile. It is the portion of Luke to which we have now come that has specially this character; and we shall soon hear of Satan fallen from heaven; though only anticipatively announced, and of those whose names are written there. With this we have the inscrutable glory of the Person of Christ, the tender revelation of man's blessed Neighbor, the fulness of the "good part" given to the saint, and the Spirit to be given to them that ask of God.

All this is found in —

Section 1. (Luke 10, 11:13.)

The divine provision.

the first section here, which speaks, therefore, of the divine provision which has been made for man; as the after ones will show us the opposition of Satan; the world, and the religion of the world, to God's blessed ways, to which afterwards we return to see how God Himself is manifested in them.

1. (1) The commission of the seventy seems at first sight to be but a partial repetition of that given to the twelve. But it is easily seen that this must necessarily be, in so far as they are sent out as the heralds of the same Master into the same world. The number of those sent shows the urgency of the mes sage, as the appended woe upon the cities of Israel implies the nearing judgment of the nation. All being practically (though not openly) decided, makes the result to be manifestly but the separation of a remnant from the self-doomed people. Yet the Kingdom of God is come nigh, and its glories are opening more than ever yet, if hid from eyes that have no care to see them.

(2) The return of the seventy with the joy of their success brings out the farther-sighted joy of their Lord, which plainly reaches on to where the "holy mount" has already carried us. They say exultingly, "Lord, even the demons are subjected to us by Thy Name;" and He replies, that He had beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven; the anticipation of that which Rev. 12 gives in its connection with still future history. It is when the man-child who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron is caught up to heaven; that Satan is cast down to earth. The man-child is surely Christ, as the woman of whom He is born is Israel; yet as soon as Satan is cast down; the three and a half years of the great tribulation begin; which immediately precede the Lord's appearing (See Matt. 24 notes). The present period is thus passed over, as it is in the Old Testament prophecy, or where Israel is in the foreground, and thus the ascension of Christ and the taking up of saints of the present and the past are seen as one: they are identified with Him who shares with them His "rod of iron" (Rev. 2:27).

To this time the Lord is looking on here, the beginning of that complete abolishing of Satan's power of which the casting out of demons by the seventy was an anticipation. He goes on to confirm and extend the authority He has given: "Behold," He says, "I have given you to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you." And then He adds, "Yet in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subjected to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Thus already they are assured of a more blessed place than among the earthly people. They are enregistered in heaven (see Heb. 12:23), as citizens of that "better country."

(3) Thus we are being led out beyond Israelitish hopes and promises, and we see along with the mission of the seventy the faint dawning of a new day. And here now we find in its true order of time, what Matthew for his purpose has connected differently, the Lord's declaration of the inscrutable glory of His Person, and of the Father having put all things into His hand; though this was hidden indeed from wise and prudent ones, and revealed to babes alone. What else are men to God? and how could He crown with the knowledge of Himself the wisdom of the world which it had gained in departure from Him? But now had come that which many prophets and kings had desired to see, and not seen; and blessed indeed were the eyes of those who as disciples of this grace had seen it.

2. There follows that story of him that was neighbor to him who fell among robbers, which shows on the one hand the powerlessness of law to furnish a ministry of grace, and on the other the heart of Him who, apart from law and in such a way as to incur reproach for it and indeed the penalty of the law itself, brought help and salvation to the dying sons of men.

It is given as a parable to one who being a lawyer, and thus a typical Jew of that day, would fain make trial of Him as to His relation to or conception of Moses, whose disciple it was his own boast to be. And yet he must have supposed it a difficult question that he was proposing for this end: "what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Was he beginning, perhaps, to realize the difficulty of it? When the Lord makes the law the measure of doing, and puts it to him to answer his own question; he answers like a man who is not resting in the mere outside of things, but takes love to God and one's neighbor as the very heart of the commandments, as indeed they were. In this, Christ emphatically approves his answer; let him do that, and he shall live.

But to answer the question aright is one thing; to satisfy his soul with it is another: and here is again; perhaps, a token for good, amid all that is evil in his case: there is at least no self-complacency. He seeks to justify himself; but who has accused him? Conscience, it is plain; is at work with him, and that Moses whose disciple he is has become his accuser. He resists it: how we have most of us resisted and resented that sentence of the law which brings us all down to that common level of guilt, — Jews and Gentiles alike "under sin"! The man here is fighting with himself, if in fact he does not discern it, nor even has come yet to realize that it is the heart and not the head merely, as he would fain put it, that is astray: he passes over the "first and great commandment of the law," which he has so clearly stated, to take up the second, and here to shelter himself under a question which he has no thought will turn; as it really does, so terribly against himself, "And who is my neighbor?"

We have heard that it was said by them of old time, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy." Here, then; there might be a matter for much nice discrimination: whether the Israelite alone was the neighbor; whether every one of these was so; whether there was a third class between the two; and then whether, when the classification was uncertain; the duty attaching might be left in suspense too. Casuistry of this kind might certainly be carried far, and men might, of course, let themselves off more or less easily. After all how much uncertainty would come in thus, and correspondingly affect the issue!

But the Lord goes beyond and deeper than all this, and with a searching appeal to the conscience of the questioner sets it all aside. He not only answers the question; He answers it in such a way as completely to expose him to himself, and show him (if he had candor to receive it) that it was but an unneighborly heart that could ask it. This man left half-dead upon the road: there is nothing to determine if he were Jew or Gentile; while it is certain that the priest and Levite were both Jews, and that the true neighbor was a Samaritan. It may be that it was their not having settled the lawyer's question that made the men of law so absolutely without help for an unknown stranger.

But the true neighbor of man is so depicted in this parable as to make us feel how the Lord had provided in it for the need of the one before Him (as for how many others since!) when once he had got into the place of need in which so many things become plain to us. Had he not heard what seems to have been no uncommon saying in the mouth of the people, and evidently from His attitude, as they considered it, toward Moses and the law, that He was a Samaritan (John 8:48)? How different the reproach would sound for one who had proved, as he, we may trust, was on his way to prove, the powerlessness of priest and Levite in his case! Commentaries are much given to warning us not to go too far in such application; but the danger of false interpretation is apt to be in the exact opposite direction. A picture out of which we may leave whatever features we please to consider of no use save for decoration; is surely that in which we are most liable to go astray. While the having to make every detail fit is just what will put bounds to the imagination when disposed to stray. The insisting upon as complete as possible agreement between the representation and what it represents is in the interests of exact interpretation every way.

How vividly man's natural course is set before us, in that down-hill, dangerous road, with the back upon the city of God and the face towards the place of curse, as which Jericho stands in the well-known history. The robbers may represent any of the many forms of evil that break in upon men and bring them to desolation; yet which God uses to make them realize their true state before Him. The stripping off of raiment is the loss of all with which we cover from ourselves the nakedness which from God we cannot hide. A wounded conscience, the consciousness of impotence — "ungodly and without strength" with the shadow of that death, which is awful banishment from the Life of life, stealing over the soul, — this is a picture true in every part of its tale of misery, the faithful representation of a convicted man.

Who shall be neighbor now to one in this condition? who is there with will and power to help? The Jew, Moses, disciple, is brought before us in two illustrative witnesses: "the testimony of two men is true;" and the priest and Levite are good representatives, if any are, of the help the ministers of law can give.

The priest is the first example; but one fatal phrase disqualifies him at the outset, — "By chance a certain priest went down that way." It is plain what such a word means upon the lips that are speaking here. It means that the Jewish priest was not the divinely provided minister for this condition. The message of law, "this do and thou shalt live," is no gospel for any who could be pictured by this helpless and dying man. True, it could say also, "When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive:" and here salvation is proposed, but a self-wrought one, still containing the fatal principle. And even the sacrifices, though they proclaimed a God who forgave iniquity, transgression, and sin; left untouched what He Himself had joined with this, "who can by no means clear the guilty." The old page might indeed be blotted out, but only that a new one might be turned, and the vain work begin again. Thus still the veil hung before the face of God: "None can see Me and live," was His own affirmation.

So the priest went by on the other side, and had no help. "Likewise also a Levite, when at the place, came and looked at him, and passed by on the other side."

The same inability, — the same chance visit, no divine messenger; only the Levite comes nearer, peers into the anguished eyes, for a moment lighted up with transient hope, and then he too passes by on the other side.

Thus the ministers of the law declare only the helplessness of the law for salvation; and to emphasize this the more the actual savior is pictured as a Samaritan, a man not merely most distasteful to the Jew as a schismatic, but actually under the condemnation of the law itself. This the true Saviour must needs be: for the curse of the law, denounced on sin; must be really taken for men; if the law is to be maintained in honor, and the sinner saved. And here the antitypical Samaritan is therefore the One who has heart for men and the Witness of what is in the Divine Heart towards them. It is this that is the glory of the gospel. The law cannot bring God nigh, for such as we are. The gospel exhibits Him as come down in His love to seek the lost. This, because of its infinite value for us, is afterwards developed at length in the three parables of the fifteenth chapter, where the whole Triune God is seen in the "joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." Here it is Christ whom we see in this Samaritan, who "as he journeyed, came where" the wounded man "was, and when he saw him, had compassion on him."

The details that follow are again clear and significant, and present the grace of Christ in the fullest way. Faith's appropriation of the blessing, true as it is from the human side, is not what we find here, but rather the appropriation is on the divine side, all the value of the work of Christ made over to the helpless and stricken soul. He is taken into tender hands, and his wounds closed or bound up by the authoritative Word of God: for it is the Word which binds the conscience, and here for healing, as when the sweet compelling utterance of "peace" from a Saviour's lips made rest but duty for those that heard it.

The oil and the wine follow for effectual healing: they are plain symbols of the joyful remembrance of Christ's work — of His precious blood — applied in the power of the Holy Spirit. And here there is such unmistakable plainness, as if no manner of doubt must be permitted upon so fundamental a point. And now he is ready for the road with his deliverer.

The tender care of the latter does not slacken. He lifts him up upon his own beast, — ktenos, not often used in the singular, as here, "acquirement," what he had got for himself. The power which supports and carries us on is indeed what Christ has acquired for Himself: it is living power, the "Spirit of Christ," which bare Him in His wondrous Manhood to our rescue, and who, that being effected, now bears us.

So "he brought him to an inn" — according to the blessed universality of the gospel offer, a "place of reception for all." This is what the Church as the house of God is; where still He "cares for" His own, — "takes charge of" them. How much is compressed in how little in these pregnant words!

Now we hear of His departure, though His care abides. And "as he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatever thou spendest more, when I come again; I will repay thee."

It is to the care of the Spirit that Christ has left His people in the world: here it is impossible to go astray as to the interpretation. But what, then; are we to see in the "two pence"? We may equally with Van Oosterzee, refuse as "trifling" the thought of two sacraments, and yet believe that there is meaning, here as elsewhere. The two pence are plainly recompense for care bestowed, and we may find perfect fitness if we will note that in parabolic figures, such as we have to do with here, the Spirit of God is identified with His work, or with the agents through whom He works. We shall find as to the last a very decisive example in the "woman" of the second parable of the fifteenth chapter; and here it should be easy to see that it is to those by whom the Spirit works in the care of Christ's people that the reward is given. Present reward: for "he that watereth shall be watered also himself;" and yet a future recompense also, when the departed Saviour shall return again. And thus the two pence (or denarii) may have the number of testimony, because the present reward is but the witness of that gracious remembrance of all that is done here for Him, which the future will exhibit in its full reality.

Thus, from first to last, the parable speaks with perfect clearness; and it is of Christ above all it speaks: not mainly to answer a lawyer's question; but beyond this to reveal Himself to the soul of a sinner, though, because of his condition, this cannot be done with the simplicity that would have welcomed need more fully confessed. In this way also it agrees with the place in which we find it, following the declaration of the personal glory of the Son of God with the revelation of His grace, and the full provision in it for the otherwise desperate state of man.

3. After this we are made to understand the full provision for a saint, and how it is to be acquired, and how earnestly the Lord longs to have His people acquire it, how thoroughly He will guard them in their possession of it. Here, for our better instruction; we have contrasted the conduct of two saints. Martha and Mary are again, and more largely spoken of in the Gospel of John; and in accordance with the different character in which they are presented here. As two sides of Christian character, they are both needful for its proper display, the worker and the listener, the servant and the one who, even because she better understands His real dignity, lets her Lord serve her.

It is easily to be seen that the latter is the fundamental necessity, and the higher blessedness. As sinners, as the previous parable has shown us, Christ must serve us first, or we should never find ability, nor have the heart to serve Him either. We would willingly reverse this order, but it cannot be. So too as saints we are prone to get our service out of place, and that because of the same root of self-sufficiency which troubled us as sinners. Served us, of course, He has; and now it is our part to serve Him; but how prone we are to do it after Martha's fashion. How little we realize the need we have of being served by Him all through, and the little need He has of us, save as the objects of His love, and as those in whom the exceeding riches of His grace are to be shown out through the ages.

Martha has received Christ into her house, and surely into her heart. If she is busy, she is busy serving Him; yet that does not prevent her being distracted by it. She is more: she is vexed and irritated. Mary her sister is sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus, listening to His word; and she blames even the Lord for permitting it, while she needs her help so much. But -the Lord asserts that Mary has chosen the good part, and it is moreover the only needful thing: it shall not be taken from her.

But is learning of Jesus, then; the one needful thing? Is activity nothing? is service nothing? We may be sure the Lord is very far from meaning that. But if a man brings me, let us say, an apple, I do not despise it when I say, "The one thing is the tree that bears the apples."

One may hear Christ's words and never hearken. There may be even an occupation with them which is little better than mere idleness. But to hear as Mary did, that implies service also, and the right kind of service, — wisdom and power for service; and a service which shall be in the sanctuary also, — worship in the heart of it.

For what fruit will not grow upon that seed sown in the heart — the Scripture able to furnish thoroughly the man of God unto all good works? And how else shall we be able to gain and maintain communion with God than by drinking in the thoughts of God? On the other hand, it is easy to see, and there is plenty of sad experience to show, how service unenlightened by the Word may carry us out of communion with God; and how the cares engendered by it may, as with those of common life, choke much of the good seed. Yet if it is to be feared that there are more Marthas than Maries in the Church today, is it not to be feared that there are more than both of these united, of those to whom the cares and pleasures of the world are, far more than any service of the Martha sort, the causes of distraction?

Shall we not covet more that good part which with the Lord's approbation Mary had chosen? Have we not the power today to choose where she did? The portions that men naturally covet pass away beyond recall; here is that which the Lord Himself emphatically pronounces "good," and which He seals with eternity of possession to him who has chosen it.

4. There follows now, in that order which we have seen to be so constant in Scripture, after the fulness of the blessing provided, that recognition of creature need which makes the living God so absolute a necessity. We must do more than know about Him; we must have the strength of His arm, a resource in Him ever available. And this is what prayer expresses, the cry to One who hears and who answers. "The fervent, effectual prayer of the righteous man availeth much." The need of it is pressed in an epistle like Ephesians, where we are at the topmost height of heavenly position: it there, perhaps, requiring most to be emphasized that we are not above it. "Praying always with all prayer, and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Eph. 6:18). There could be surely no more earnest exhortation, nor in a more suited place than where the height of all the blessing needs to be practically realized and maintained in daily walk.

The prayer that the Lord teaches His disciples here is that which we have in Matthew substantially, with certain omissions according to all recent editors, for which nevertheless it is hard to account. Certainly Luke it is who gives us the original form of the prayer, if the difference is to be maintained; as it is impossible to imagine the disciples asking to be taught to pray, if they already had been. Then in the sermon on the mount afterwards the Lord must have amplified the prayer by these added petitions, unless Luke can be supposed to have omitted part of what was first given; which again seems hard to believe. A reason for the omissions, if the larger form were first, is as hard to suggest. Nor, apart from all critical questions, can one well see the meaning of such a difference. It would be a bad argument to reason from one's ignorance; yet, on the whole we may be pardoned if we incline to the fuller form, (perfect as we realize it to be,) as found in Matthew. There it has already been before us, and there would be no profit in mere repetition.

{Vere 4. The shortened form of prayer, leaving out the bracketed portions, has its argument, not from any preponderance of manuscript authority, but from the fact that while those which do contain it are among the earliest known, the use of the prayer as a form by Christians would naturally affect all but the earliest. The omissions are on the other hand not easy to understand, if there had been but one form at the beginning. Even in Matthew the closing doxology, now generally omitted, was evidently introduced from the ecclesiastical usage. The editors generally give the text without the bracketed parts, though the great majority of MSS. have these, in accordance with Matthew. Even so the two cannot be made exactly the same, Matthew having "trespasses," "trespass against us," though the difference is slight.}

The Lord adds an encouragement to perseverance which at first sight looks strange enough, but which must have therefore a lesson in this strangeness. How many arguments does the devil use, and which our own hearts assent to for their plausibility, against the continuance of apparently unsuccessful petitions. Yet if there be no more than this against them we are taught here to urge them still. And striking it is that the parallel suggested between the success of importunity with man and with God is one which seems as little capable of full application, — seems as capable of having serious arguments against it, — as any that could be suggested in this line. Nay, the Lord Himself points to the difficulty, while He presses the argument as if there were none. "I say unto you, though he will not rise and give because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth." Can we apply this to God? Not the motive, surely: God does not give to get rid of the petitioner; spite of which the Lord goes on: "And I say unto you, Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you."

Thus the Lord shows us that we may seek continuously, seek importunately, seek, as one needy man from another; although it might be argued, You are forgetting the difference between God and man. Difference there is, indeed; but we are not to use it to check the pouring out of our full hearts to Him. Be it so that He knows all before we ask; be it that we may be tempted to say with Job, "He is of one mind, and who can turn Him?" let us not heed arguments that would shut us from all the comfort of knowing that we have for our necessity a living God that hears and answers prayer. Ask as if He would yield to mere importunity. Cling to Him as Jacob clung, and say, "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me." Ask until you hear Him say, "As a prince hast thou power with God . . . , and hast prevailed."

Then the Lord goes on to speak of the difference between God and man; but which is all in His favor. If men that are evil can be depended on to give good gifts to their children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?"

He guards against the abuse of the doctrine of importunity. He does not want us to think that we can by our importunity wring a gift out of our heavenly Father's hand that is not good. In madness sometimes, perhaps, we might desire it; only, surely, in madness. But how can He refuse to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?

Type of all good gifts this, the Holy Spirit. And John has told us that when the Lord was yet on earth, the "Holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified." We must look at what this implies in another place; but we know quite well that the work of the Spirit in enlightening, sanctifying, working all spiritual work in man; was needed then as now, and being needed, was found and enjoyed. And now that, in the Christian sense, the Spirit is given; we can still have, and are called to prove the way in which our Father will respond with fulness of spiritual blessing to the prayers of His people. How comforting is the Lord's assurance here! yet how it reproves us also! Here if we lack, "we have not because we ask not." Shall we be content to go without the fulness of what Christ our Lord has certified to us to be ours if only we value it enough to seek it from the blessed hand of God?

Section 2. (Luke 11:14 — 12.)

Confirmation in view of opposition.

The provision of God for His people having been shown; we have now the opposition on the part of the enemy, who is moreover the prince of this world. Thus the world becomes a scene of strife just so much the more because the Prince of peace has come into it. The Lord prepares His disciples for this, warning and confirming them, and setting them in view of His coming again, when winds and waves shall cease. A great deal in all this part is similar to what we have had before, — especially in Matthew; so that we shall notice it more briefly.

1. (1) The substance of what is here we find in Matt. 12:22-30. The man out of whom the demon is cast is there said to have been blind as well as dumb; and the multitudes ask, "Is this the Son of David?" But there is only wonder, and not conviction; and others refer the power over demons (which they cannot deny) to Beelzebul the prince of the demons. The Lord, addressing Himself to them, shows them that He has read their thoughts, and refutes them by the argument that then Satan would be against himself. But if this were the finger of God, then it was the Kingdom of God that had come upon them.

(2) The result in this case was the spoiling of Satan, whom it required power greater than his own to dispossess. And for Himself the Lord declares that He accepted no compromise, and allowed no indifference on the part of any to Him. It was simply for or against; and he that gathered not with Him was only scattering.

(3) But indeed there might be the case in which Satan had not been expelled, but merely left his house empty, to return when he pleased. As the Lord applies it in Matthew, it was indeed their own. Nationally they had reformed from their once constant idolatry, and were now swept clean and adorned, but hollow-hearted. God was not enshrined among them, as their empty temple witnessed. Satan then could come back, and bring with the old spirit of idolatry an intensity of wickedness never before known. The Lord does not say, as in Matthew, that it would be so with them; and the word is left for wider application.

2. We have now the competence of the testimony given asserted, and the reason assigned for its failure with them, in the lack of the spirit of obedience, the want of singleness of eye.

(1) A woman in the crowd that was listening to Him lifted up her voice, and said, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the breasts that Thou hast sucked." And He answers, "Yea, rather" — so it is, indeed, but there is a greater blessedness — "blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it."

It was in fact the central feature of Israel's condition; that with professed reverence for the word of God, they had crusted it over with their traditions, their "unwritten law," which they exalted above it, and so made it of no effect, as the Lord told them. This is a condition of things which, as we know, has once more come about in the history of the professing Church, human nature manifesting itself similarly in all generations. It is striking, and shows the prophetic character of Scripture, that the Lord here takes occasion by the woman's words, to guard against an error which has assumed of late, in that body which has, more than any other, adopted and developed the traditionalism of the Jews, the most colossal proportions. Romanism has exalted the mother of our Lord above all creatures, and into a perilous nearness to Deity itself. In its cruder forms it would, by virtue of this human relationship to Him, exalt her in some sense above Him to whom she owes this exaltation. The Lord declares here the blessedness of the spiritual tie above the natural, and most distinctly characterizes this blessedness as that of those who "hear the word of God and keep it;" which Rome, as far as lies in her, will not permit. Good reason she has, surely, not to permit it.

(2) The last incident is recorded by Luke alone; what follows is in Matthew also, with some difference. In it He contrasts the spirit of the very heathen at Nineveh, and that of the Arabian queen of Solomon's days, with the people then around Him. A greater than Jonah was then among them, and as Jonah had been a sign to the Ninevites so would He be in His death and resurrection a greater sign; but they would not repent. Nor could a wiser than Solomon attract them with His wisdom.

(3) Not signs were wanting, but the heart to interpret them. God had not done what man would not do: He had not lighted a lamp to hide it from men's eyes, but that all might see and rejoice in the light. But whatever the light might be outside, the light that illumined the man within was his eye: his eye must be single, without any veil there, or the light outside would not light the lamp that could alone be light to him. But the testimony given was not insufficient. If the light within them was not darkness, they would walk in the full brightness of the illuminating lamp.

3. The Pharisees and lawyers are now put in the light, and searched out by it: an exposure, indeed, scathingly severe, and which rouses them to the utmost. The denunciation so closely resembles that in Matt. 23, which took place at a later time, that Van Oosterzee* supposes that Luke has, in fact, borrowed from this, and interpolated what was actually now said with it. But besides the natural difficulty of accepting what we should certainly object to in an ordinary historian; there is no part of what is here that we might not imagine to be borrowed; to be sure, with some changes. If we confine ourselves to the unchanged parts, these can only be found in vers. 43 and 52: too small a debt to be worth while to incur. On the other hand, that Matthew borrowed from Luke of what was uttered at this time has similar difficulty, and is rejected by Van Oosterzee himself.

{*In Lange's Commentary.}

Why may we not accept it as the truth that the Lord in His final judgment of Pharisaism repeated much of what He had said at the earlier time recorded by Luke? Why may He not, at the end of His ministry in Israel, have deliberately reaffirmed His former judgment of those scribes and Pharisees whose characters were so well marked? a double testimony suited to the solemnity of it.

(1) To the Pharisee the Lord's words denounce the self-righteousness which was their prominent characteristic. This failed in its externalism, as if God had made the body, not the soul; — the form, but not breathed the spirit into it. Instead of the excessive scrupulosity which this engendered, let them only be ready to impart to the necessities of others, and all else would be clean to them.

Then their scrupulosity in these minutiae — tithes of mint and rue and every kind of herb — went with the great defects in things of great account, as judgment and the love of God.

With this, self-exaltation; which made them love the chief seat and public greeting.

While the hypocritical smooth outside, with the defilement underneath, made them like graves which rendered men unclean, without their being aware of them.

(2) The doctors of the law He rebukes for their well-known laying on of intolerable burdens (see p. 215), which they would not even put forth a finger to remove. They built also the sepulchres of the prophets whom their fathers had killed, and honored those whose living voices disturbed men's consciences no longer. Tested by new prophets, they would act as their fathers did, and bring upon themselves the gathering vengeance for all righteous blood from the beginning. Again, as professors of knowledge, they had taken away the very key of it, and, not entering in by it themselves, had only hindered those who were ready to enter.

4. What has been said with regard to the connection of the address to the Pharisees and lawyers with Matt. 23 may be and has been said as to the connection of the present chapter with the tenth and other parts of Matthew. That Luke does not always preserve the order of time or the historical connection of events or words may be freely admitted, nor does he here give as definitely as in the last case the time or times of these sayings of the Lord. After the most searching investigation that we can give to such matters, Van Oosterzee allows that definite certainty will, probably, be impossible. If it could be, we would have to ask, would there be any particular profit in such knowledge? It is hard to imagine what. We have the Gospels in the form the Spirit of God has been pleased to give them, and shall surely find divine wisdom in this as elsewhere in Scripture. When it leads commentators to talk of "heterogeneous elements of discourse," we can realize the dangers of too much theorizing in things unknown. We shall do well to take it as we find it, assured that none can mend what needs no mending, and that "to this man will I look," saith the Lord, "even to him that is lowly and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at My word" (Isa. 66:2).

In that which is now before us disciples are addressed, in view of such a condition of things as what has gone before implies. The multitudes are crowding after Him, so that they tread one upon another, and it was at just such times that the Lord's warning voice was almost certain to be heard, to break the spell of that seductive influence which apparent popularity was so apt to exert over the minds of His real followers. The multitudes were under the sway of the Pharisees, as we know, and their pretentious religiousness helped to maintain them in this place. The Lord warns them against "the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy," and puts them in the light of that coming day when all disguise will be stripped off, and what may have been spoken in privacy in the chamber will be proclaimed openly as on the house-tops.

But fear in the presence of the multitude might be as potent a governing principle as the love of power or applause. He exhorts them, therefore, not to be afraid of those whose power was confined at most to the body and the present life, but to fear Him who could not only kill the body, but cast afterwards into hell.

Then He reminds them of His care and tenderness, with whom not a sparrow is forgotten, and who numbers the hairs of their head. They need not fear, who were more to God than many sparrows.

Then He calls for confession of Himself before men, and they would be confessed by Him before the angels of God; but those who denied Him before men must look to be denied also before the angels. Yet a word spoken against the Son of man should be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit — as in the malevolent imputing of power that they could not deny to Satan, — that would not be forgiven. It was the sign of malignant enmity to God manifested openly as God.

On the other hand, in the presence of accusers and judges they were to expect the Spirit of God to give them a mouth and wisdom: they needed no anxiety with regard to that.

Evidently, the theme in all this is a world that they must neither court nor fear, but before which Christ must be held up, with the Spirit of Christ to hold up those who did this.

5. (1) He goes on to speak of those to whom the world was all: not persecutors necessarily, but quietly enjoying it; God and the life beyond forgotten. He pictures such an one making his count of long prosperity and suddenly turned out of it into the presence of Him he had made no account of, and leaving all he valued here to whom he knew not. Folly indeed, but how common a folly! the independence of a nature fallen away from God.

(2) On the other hand, the dependence of faith is the remedy for all care, in the consciousness of the care of Him whose presence and power all creation testifies. Seeking His Kingdom — the maintenance of His authority over what was but His own; and whom they could call, "Father," — the men of faith with their hearts in the unseen; would find the good of all else ministered to them.

All this is simple to us, thank God. We have listened to such words from childhood, and they are not difficult to apprehend, whether or not we have drunk in their blessedness.

6. The Lord carries us on to what is the limit of the life of faith; not death, but His own coming. Death might come, of course, but we must not, and cannot, confound, in such words as we have here, one thing with the other. The whole thought is different, the blessing of the whole Church, and of the earth, and the glory of Christ Himself being connected with His coming. It is not that we know either when He will come; for the injunction to watch implies the reverse of this. "Watch; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come."

(1) First of all, we have the assurance which permits the heart to go out freely after this. The gift of the Kingdom is assured to us as the Father's good pleasure; and this gift qualifies for giving, which, in fact, is but laying up treasure in it. There no possibility can be, of change or loss; and one's treasure being there, fixes the heart there also. (See p. 93 seq. notes.)

(2) The loins are to be girt up in readiness for removing, and the lamps burning, for it is night while Christ is absent. The whole attitude is governed by the fact that at any time He may return: His servants are to be as those waiting for their lord, when he shall return on occasion of the wedding, that when he cometh and knocketh they may immediately open to him. The common rendering here ("from the wedding") raises a difficulty unnecessarily: for all other passages represent the wedding as following the coming of the Lord, not preceding it, and it would only be possible to say either that the passage here applied to Jewish saints after the heavenly ones were already united to the Lord (Rev. 19:7); or that the figure was only in loose application to the facts. The last is not to be thought of: why introduce a difficulty so easy to be avoided? The former seems contrary to what is here; for we have seen that since the transfiguration the heavenly things have been more opening to us. Hence it is preferable to translate "on occasion of the wedding," which, while quite justifiable, removes every difficulty.

The blessing of those found in this expectant service is great indeed. The heart of Him who was amongst us "as one that serveth" is called forth in response; He will gird Himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. Blessed be His Name, He is the same in heaven as He was on earth. How easy should service be to Him!

"'Whether He come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, blessed are those servants." "The Romans divided the night," says Van Oosterzee, "into four night-watches, a division which the Jews had accepted from them. The opinion is entirely without ground that the Saviour here followed another division into only three night-watches. He says nothing of the fourth, simply for the reason that the disciples, from that, should note that His return was by no means to be expected as late as possible; even as He does not name the first, because it would weaken the whole representation of the watchful servants. The Parousia does not come so quickly as impatience, nor yet so late as carelessness supposes, but in the very middle of the night, when the temptation to fall asleep is great and therefore must be most vigorously combated. It may even tarry longer than the servants think; but, grant that it should not take place even till the third, or should come even in the second watch of the night, whosoever perseveres faithfully at his post shall in no wise lose his reward."

The Lord has a word on the other side, where the servant has somehow become "the master of the house," and the coming of the Son of man like the unwelcome visit of a thief. It would be needful for such to remember that the thief does not come at an hour expected, or perhaps the house would not have been dug through. "If he had known" only presses the fact that he does not know.

(3) Peter asks whether this parable is limited to the twelve, or applies to all. The Lord answers, not directly, but by giving, on the one side and on the other, the portion of the faithful and of the unfaithful steward. Responsibility attaches wherever there is trust; and proportionate to the reward of faithfulness is the recompense of unfaithfulness. The parables here, if we may call them such, are almost word for word those at the end of the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew; yet seem to have been given at another time, and the repetition of specially important lessons may surely have had its purpose in imprinting them the more on the minds of the disciples. (See p. 232, notes.)

(4) The only difference in the parable of the unfaithful servant is that instead of eating and drinking with the drunken; he is himself drunken; and the association with others is omitted. His portion is said also to be "with the unbelievers," as in Matthew "with the hypocrites."

(5) There is added here, as not in Matthew, the statement as to the gradation of penalty according to the measure of knowledge of his lord's will on the part of the servant. On the other hand, the want of knowledge, since it was capable of being obtained, does not secure the offender. Indeed the smiting of fellow-servants and the drinking until drunken could not be excused after that manner. The common conscience of men is sufficient to condemn the grossness of what is often done by professing Christians without apparent check from their religion.

7. The Lord closes now with putting the purpose of God in connection with its present effects among men. These in fact were very different. The Prince of peace had brought a sword. Israel, so long identified with the revelation of God to men, — from which salvation was to come for men, — was nevertheless to be set aside. Yet His purposes moved on; spite of all this, to their accomplishment, and the signs were already in the world, though they might be blind to them.

(1) Christ had come to cast fire upon earth. The holiness of God was to be manifested; nay, already the effects of it were showing themselves: the fire was being kindled among men. The grace in which it was displayed did not alter this, for grace in no wise means tolerance of sin. Alas, men could little bear the exposure of it: "The world hateth Me," said the divine Speaker here, "because I testify of it that its works are evil" (John 7:7). Thus the fire that would have purified, consumed.

And of Him holiness required the baptism of suffering that was before Him, before His full heart, otherwise straitened, could be poured out as He longed to pour it out. He Himself must satisfy this necessity of the divine nature. Thus on God's part there should be no hindrance to fullest blessing. According to the significance of baptism, these sufferings would put Him into a new place with God, a place of sanctification on account of His people (John 17:19), through which they would find a new and blessed place in Him.

(2) But what would be the result of this as to men at large? Peace among men, in the union of heart with heart in the acceptance of it? No; but everywhere division, and among the most intimate relations of life; a man's foes would be those of his own household. "The world would no more endure faith in the Saviour than it did the Saviour Himself, who was faith's object, and whom it confessed. It is well to note how the presence of the Saviour draws out the evil of the human heart. The state described here is in Micah, the description of the most dreadful state of evil conceivable (Micah 7:1-7)." (Synopsis.)

(3) Yet God had not left them without witness, plainly to be read as the face of the heavens which they were so skilful in discerning. It was hypocrisy to pretend they had not what only their unwillingness to see rendered obscure. Conscience only was needed, the discernment of what was right. The signs given of God are of moral character, and the right is what appeals to every man; yet the appeal may be none the less in vain.

(4) Israel had thus failed as the witness of God on earth. Their own law had pronounced upon them; Moses, in whom they trusted, was but their accuser; while they were refusing Him through whom they might have been reconciled to him. The Lord utters still His warning, but with the consciousness in His heart that their doom was at hand.

Section 3. (Luke 13 — 16.)

The Gospel as manifesting God to man.

We are approaching now the very heart of the Gospel; in which God is manifested in righteousness and love to man: His whole character is made apparent. But for this, man also must be manifested, in order that the suitability and necessity of God's grace may be seen. This is the theme of the first part here, therefore, that righteousness alone, man being what he is, can do nothing for him: judgment, and only judgment, is his portion. The second part (Luke 14) exhibits God and man in contrast to one another; men seeking their own things and without taste for the things of God; with the consequences of this for those that follow Christ. While, thirdly, in the fifteenth chapter, all the heart of God is seen as towards man when simply lost, rejoicing in his recovery. The sixteenth goes on to the practical life of the disciple, and to the recompense beyond.

1. The first part lays the basis of repentance, and shows how far man's judgment of himself must go, if it is to answer to the judgment of God with regard to him. Here we have —

(1) First, very precisely, Paul's doctrine of "no difference," with which he opens the way for the gospel in his epistle to the Romans. They tell the Lord about the Galileans whom Pilate had slain at the very altar, as they were drawing near to God. He probes the thought of their heart by the question: was this, then, a proof that they were greater sinners than others in the sight of God? and answers it Himself, that they were not, but that, except they repented, all would perish alike: there was not a possible one who could merit escape.

He adds another example, where the character of what took place might make it seem more like the special judgment of God Himself, — eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them: were these, at any rate, "debtors" to the justice of God beyond all else of the dwellers in Jerusalem? and again He will not leave it to others to answer, but answers it Himself in the same way as before. The number 18, which is 3x6, speaks of evil manifested in its highest uprise; and note that the Lord says not a word with regard to them to lessen the thought of evil in them: that is not the point. On the contrary, make of it as much as possible, the lesson is only deeper. For the question is, not, were they sinners beyond others? but does the hand of God upon them prove them to be that? had they not been such, could they have pleaded exemption from divine judgment on that account? And to this He answers, No: judgment from God, and even to perdition; will come upon all, except they repent. It is the owning the ruin in which we are alike, which casts us, as sinners, upon unfailing mercy and brings out from under judgment: this, and this alone.

(2) He strengthens this by showing that the delay of judgment does not at all mean escape from it, but only that God desires men to escape, and would leave them the possibility of it. The alternative still remains: "if not, thou shalt cut it down;" the fruit of repentance must be brought forth, or sooner or later (if in this life even never) judgment must take its course.

Even this respite comes, not from comparative betterness, but through a Mediator. It is not that there is some little fruit, but let it alone till all means are exhausted that may produce fruit. It is the plea of mercy only that could avail for any; and the fruit of repentance must at last be found.

(3) Here comes in the assurance of the resource that there is in God for all that so turn to Him, though it be "without strength" as well as "ungodly." A woman bowed together so that she could not lift up herself, for eighteen years! Notice, once more, that sinister eighteen. Yet with Him there is no difficulty. "Woman; thou art loosed from thine infirmity," He says; and then His hands make His words good. She was made straight immediately, and glorified God.

But this produces indignation in the synagogue: for it is the sabbath; and a man must not use the power of God upon the sabbath day! What! the Lord says: is it to preserve the rest of God unbroken, to keep a daughter of Abraham in bondage to Satan? Notice the emphasis He lays upon this, that she is a daughter of Abraham. How unseemly for one who inherits Abraham's faith to be kept bowed together; and this is, doubtless, how we are to take Christ's plea for her, as in the case of Zacchaeus afterwards (Luke 19:9). This perfects the picture: work there is none, but God's work, and the synagogue in vain would tie His hands. It was, in fact, but loud-voiced hypocrisy: for they had no difficulty in leading away their beasts to the water. They only prized man at less than the beast.

(4) With this, for the time, His adversaries are silenced, and the people rejoice at all His glorious works. But the Lord repeats here two significant parables whose meaning we have already seen; but which gain a new significance from their new position. They are parables of the Kingdom not then begun; and carry us beyond Judaism into that which would indeed seem to show His adversaries silenced, and the people rejoicing in His power established.

Alas, what it does show is the likeness of human nature in all dispensations, the revival of the synagogue in the professing Church of Christ, and the consequent degradation of the divine in human hands. For these parables show us the Kingdom of God itself administered by man, and the changed form which is the result of this. In the first it is seen like one of the kingdoms of the world, and the ministers of Satan finding shelter in it. In the second the professing Church itself is adulterating the bread from heaven, to adapt it to the tastes of the world; in the end the word being leavened. Such is man; and in no way, perhaps, could he be shown more hopeless in his evil. Hope can be in God alone.

The weakness even of the saint is shown in these pictures: for the evil goes on without ability on his part to overcome it. For himself he may; but he has lost control of that which was committed to him, and cannot recover it. His very separation from the evil, which faithfulness to God enjoins, has to be in confession of the general ruin.

Such then is man; and being such, all help, all hope, must be in God alone. "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?" (Isa. 2:22).

This judgment, seen and accepted in the Cross, is peace, holiness and happiness. Self is set aside by that which has made peace for us; and Christ abides as the One in whom we have acceptance with God, and the store-house, freely ours, of every blessing.

(5) But judgment yet abides for those that refuse His grace, and the door of salvation is even a narrow one, for the many who would gladly enter the Kingdom by some way more gratifying to their pride of heart, or freer to the careless foot of those who would have God as careless. Nor would that door be always open: the Master of the house would rise and shut it; and then there would be many left outside, even of those who could plead outward acquaintance with Him, but no practical inward knowledge, still the unsaved doers of unrighteousness. Then would be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when they would see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of God, but be themselves shut out and Gentiles too from all quarters would come and sit down there; the last being first, the first last: men's thoughts ever, naturally, the opposite of God's. But God's will stand.

(6) The Pharisees come now to the Lord with an apparently friendly suggestion, but which, from His answer to it, evidently proceeded from Herod himself. "That fox" was but seeking in a round-about way to get rid of One whom he feared as well as hated. It is easily to be understood from what we have read of him elsewhere, that he did not want more blood on his hands of such a character as had already stained them. Yet the reports of the marvels done in what was his own kingdom troubled and haunted a heart in which, as is so commonly the case, superstition and unbelief held sway together. If he did not want to commit himself to threatening which he might have to make good, he was more than willing that it should be done by others. The Lord shows him that He knew well his design; and that He was perfectly beyond the power of all that he could do. The power of God which was showing itself supreme over man's great enemy, and in tender assuagement of the misery which had evoked divine compassion in its behalf, could not submit to be thwarted or curbed by-aught that man could do. It would go "today and tomorrow," — the two days of testimony in the face of unbelief; .on the third day, He, the glorious Worker, would be perfected; and there is surely an enigmatic reference to resurrection. The mightiest miracle of all, not in power displayed only, but in its significance, would place Him for ever in manifest supremacy, with His work accomplished, all the power of the enemy but working out, spite of itself, the divine purpose.

For He knew whither He was going, not to escape Herod, but to meet the enmity of man where it had ever displayed itself most, where most God had, through the generations past, drawn near to men. Jerusalem had a fanaticism of hatred for the prophets which would be jealous of any perishing elsewhere. Then with a sob of anguish for His murderers: — "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth those that are sent unto her!" — He turns where His heart draws Him, to testify in face of the inevitable result following — "how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen her brood under her wings! and ye would not." So He and they must part, because they will: their house — no more God's house — is left to them; and say unto you, Ye shall not see Me, until ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."

2. The fourteenth chapter shows man; such as we have seen him, in contrast with God, and the rejection of His grace by man in consequence of the resulting estrangement of his heart from Him. The conditions of discipleship are therefore the readiness to abandon even the nearest relatives for His sake, and to take up one's cross to follow Him. The cost must be reckoned seriously in a world so adverse, and God's salt must not be allowed to lack its savor.

(1) Once more the sabbath question is brought up; and this time, by the Lord Himself. In it they would set God against Himself, and make His statutes prohibitory of the profit to men they were intended to secure. He takes this up therefore in the house of one of their rulers and a Pharisee. A man is there before Him who has the dropsy; and He asks the question which was not then for the first time asked, but which they had never answered, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?" But they are silent. Then He makes divine power give the answer, surely an unbribed one: He takes and heals him, and lets him go. God has decided.

The case He puts to them, He had put before; and He puts it to show that they themselves had virtually decided it also, and that to make even a doubt of it was mere hypocrisy on their part; they made none if it were ox or ass, or the worth of these. But good with God has constant prerogative: He never tied His own hands, that He should not bless, though man; if he could, would do so. They lacked sincerity; but how far were they from God, who dared to argue for Him so!

(2) He turns to the guests to press on them the wisdom of humility. Even in the world the man that exalts himself is often abased: but with God this is the constant rule. Man's way is that of self-exaltation: he cannot trust God nor see himself aright; he must be abased for blessing or abased in judgment. How the Speaker here in His own Person illustrates the contrast between God and man. How far He had come down! emptying Himself in a love that seeketh not her own; that divine fulness might be in Him for human need: a need which our pride forbids us to own; and would make the cross of Christ but foolishness.

(3) Now He has a word also for the entertainer, bidding him seek his recompense at the resurrection of the just. For this, he must not invite those who can repay him, but the poor, the maimed, the blind. To covet what is spiritual, and invisible except to faith: that is not only permitted but enjoined upon us, though the recompense is but mercy, and the Giver One who never mistakes, and whose rule in exaltation and abasement, Christ has just now given. We are safe, therefore, in waiting for His approval; while the sense of His grace encourages the weakest to send his heart on there.

(4) Now, when one of those at table hears these things, his heart is stirred to say that he is indeed blessed who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God: to which the Lord replies by a parable, to the effect that men do not think so, but when God opens to them the provision of His house, the invited guests begin all to make excuse. Their possessions, the relations upon which they have entered, these in themselves not evil, are made excuses for turning the back upon that to which as Israelites they had been invited, and where indeed they claimed to have a place. The Kingdom long looked for had come nigh at last, the blessed. Servant of Jehovah had appeared, to make known to the guests that the appointed time was arrived, and all things were now ready. Nothing needed but to come and partake of the free bounty of God, — of a grace which required nothing but man's acceptance of it.

The leaders of the nation; their self-claimed representatives, were those who had treated thus the heavenly message. Grace itself was forced to turn from them to the poor of the flock, those in the streets and lanes of the city, "the poor and the lame and the maimed, and the blind." Poor enough, and with plenty of defects, the very evils of their condition were such as took from them the excuses which had been made by the others. "The blind had no field to view, the lame could not go along behind his oxen, the maimed had no wife who could have hindered him from coming; only the feeling of poverty could have held them back; but this feeling also vanishes, since they must in a friendly way be led in by the Servant" (Van Oosterzee).

Thus the condition of the guests, which stumbled the Pharisees, is accounted for. The publican and the harlot went into the Kingdom of God before these: for their knowledge of themselves as sinners, and their despair of self-recovery, made the Saviour of the lost to be fully suited to them. Repentance and faith were in their case friendly associates which took them by both hands to lead them to Jesus.

But God's provision found not in this way sufficient guests in Israel: "Lord, it is done as Thou hast commanded, and yet there is room." Again; therefore, is the word issued, "Go out into the highways and hedges," — to the mere unsheltered wanderers, such as were, spiritually, the Gentiles, — "and compel them to come in," (love's sweet compulsion,) "that my house may be filled. For I
say unto you, that none of those men that were invited shall taste of my supper."

The last words, though speaking of the rejection on God's side of those who were rejecting His grace in Israel, their place given to the Gentiles, yet in principle remains true as to all rejectors, they shall not taste of God's supper. The invitation is now world-wide, and bears with it wherever it goes the responsibility attached.

(5) There follow, the world being such as all this shows it to be, the conditions of discipleship. It is just when crowds are going with Him, and to these, that the Lord declares them. He had spoken in the same way before, but the repetition intensities His utterance, and shows its exceeding importance. He who comes to Him must hate (in comparison with Him) all nearest and dearest to him, and his own life, too. He must bear his cross, and come after Him, or he cannot be His disciple.

Then He bids them count the cost of this, and draws two pictures: the first under the figure of building; the second, of a warfare.

A "tower" is something that is conspicuous and eminent as a building; and needs, on that account, a special solidity. It may be for defence; it nay be for overlooking what is round it. Our Christian discipleship should have all these characters.

It will be conspicuous, in a world like this, just as far as it is Christian. The world is not something of an inferior sort, but the total opposite of Christianity. The Christian is a light in the world, a light which shines in darkness, and cannot blend with it.

It will be eminent: little need to say that, with the Lord's conditions before our eyes. Even the world recognizes the moral height of devotedness and self-sacrifice; though it will make large reserve when it is estimating this in the case of a Christian.

Then as to defence, the character of the disciple fully maintained shields him from how much temptation which the waverer invites and succumbs to; while the suffering to which he is exposed as such causes the "Spirit of glory and of God" to rest upon him (1 Peter 4:14), power that is equal to every demand upon it

Finally, the disciple it is who as such acquires the ability to see, the single eye being in fact that of the disciple, to whom Christ is the touchstone of every thing.

But this is a tower that costs much to build, from the point of view from which it is seen by one outside it. It will cost him all that the world holds precious; how much he will gain he is not yet in the place to see. He who attempts it lightly will surely find it beyond his power to accomplish; and he who does not undertake it in strength far greater than his own.

The next picture of discipleship views it as a warfare. A king is going to an encounter with another king: for you must indeed be as a king to meet the forces that are against you in the world. Moreover these are not merely irregular, guerilla forces: they are organized under a king of their own; the dread "prince of this world," with more than the power of this world in his hand, and more than you are likely to be able to meet, high as you may rate your competence. Here, surely, if you come to reckoning, all is against you: the case is more strongly against you, the result of failure worse than in the former one. You may be scoffed at if you begin to build and are not able to finish; but here it will be worse: provoke the animosity of the world against you, and it is an enemy that does not easily forgive.

Thus the effect of reckoning may seem mere discouragement; and so it is meant to be, from all mere levity, and from all self-confidence: if you are setting out in either of these moods, you may as well give up at once. If, on the other hand, you are in serious earnest, the Lord's words are meant only to cast you upon resources better than your own; and all-sufficient.

But savorless salt, of what use is it? just as little is discipleship without reality. Israel had been; in God's thought for her, such a purifying salt for the nations of the earth. It had become savorless; and God's new evangel had not succeeded in imparting to it the quality which it had lost. It could only be cast out. And just such would be the case with those who should now have merely the label without the reality of discipleship.

3. We now come to the very heart of the Lord's teaching in this Gospel, and turn from man and what he is, to realize the love of God towards him, in spite of, or rather, in view of what he is, — the heart of God told out in seeking and saving that which is lost. The three parables of this chapter unite in this: in each case what has been lost is found; in each the joy is with the finder; and in heaven; before the angels, speaks conclusively of Whose joy it is that is presented. The three parables again; in this connection, naturally suggest the Trinity, the Shepherd and the Father being in manifest agreement also with such a thought. The Woman does not seem so, until we realize that the Spirit is often presented in Scripture in the agents and instruments through which He works. The Woman then will stand directly for the Church, but still as the vehicle of the Spirit, and all parts of the chapter will be in place. Father, Son, and Spirit are all occupied with man; and he it is through whom the angels themselves become adoring witnesses of the "exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus."

(1) All the tax-gatherers and sinners were drawing near to Him to hear Him: this was the occasion of the parables and shows us the application of them as not to wandering saints, but to sinners truly that: the "lost," a deeper word used by divine love here than the Pharisees themselves, as to men in this life, would have cared to utter. But these were murmuring, after their manner, at the Physician of sin-sick souls, for going after them. "This Man receiveth sinners," they say, "and eateth with them." It is then that in a parable He makes personal appeal to them. Was there any of them who if he lost but one sheep out of a hundred, would not leave all the rest and go and find it? Yet they wondered at the value of a human soul to Him! He was finding what He had lost: for they were His; He was Maker and owner of them indeed, become shepherd in His care for them; and He would not leave one such till He had got it back.

We see in this a character of these parables as an appeal to the different classes before Him: not meant therefore, to convey merely general truth but to specialize and apply it. The "lost" is not here characteristic of men in general, but meant to apply itself to those who in self-despair would take it as their description. The Pharisees would disclaim it as intended for them — would have resented it if so applied: they would discern readily enough for whom it was intended; while the poor outcast sinners, self-convicted, would find to their unutterable joy, that they were just those whom He, compassionate Saviour, could not suffer to be lost. All that followed was for them: the putting upon His shoulders, the bringing home with joy; His care too great to trust them any more to themselves for getting home. Then the reception, the gathering together of the friends, the angels, to bid them all rejoice with Him! He does not close without a word for the other class here: for, if the lost sheep was the sinner that repenteth, who then were these "ninety and nine just persons who needed no repentance?" Ah, there had been no joy like this in heaven over them! there never could be as long as they retained this character.

(2) The second parable is that of the woman, in Scripture the figure of the Church, the instrument of the Spirit. The lamp of the Word is in her hand, and she needs it in the darkness of the night, while Christ is absent. The "house" is the circle of natural ties and relationships; for it is not just a question of public preaching, but of that testimony upon which the success of the preacher after all so much depends, and for which the whole Church, and not any class or section of it, is responsible. Good it is to realize that every soul of man, covered with the dust of sin as he may be, and hidden in the darkness of the world, belongs of right to the King's treasury, and has the King's image stamped on him, though with sore disfigurement. Claim him we may, wherever we may find him, for God to whom he belongs. This general evangelism, we may learn from the parable here, is what is the mind of the Spirit for the Church indwelt of Him. Here too there must be friends and neighbors summoned to rejoice, — angelic onlookers who are in sympathy with Him who is always the glorious Seeker, and who sets in motion all the springs of love and pity that flow anywhere in unison with His own.

(3) The third parable shows us the dead alive again; the subjective side, therefore, of this recovery of the lost, which the first two were incompetent to express. The sheep is simply brought back; the piece of money is unchanged when restored; but the lost son returns to his father, and in heart, though under the pressure of famine at the first. The parabolic veil also is thinner, and permits the affections of the heart to manifest themselves with freedom. The two classes seen in the first parable, lost sight of in the second, reappear and come fully out in contrast here, the mirror being held up before the Pharisee as never before, in the elder son.

Sons they both are. This, which has led some astray as to the application; is intelligible in view of Israel's relationship to God, as in Deut. 14:1: "Sons ye are of Jehovah your God." This, of course, must not be understood as if involving the Spirit of adoption; which they had not, nor what would be implied by such language in the New Testament. It involved of necessity neither new birth nor salvation. An adoption they had; and the Lord says to the Syro-phenician woman, "It is not meet to take the children's bread and to cast it to dogs." Again in the parable which He spoke to the Jews after His solemn entry into Jerusalem, He speaks of Pharisees and publicans both as "sons," exactly as here. Those to whom He was now addressing Himself claimed this most unhesitatingly in their own behalf, and in a sense in which He could not allow it: "We be not born of fornication," they said indignantly: "we have one Father, even God" (John 8:41.)

This relationship, though it might be only external, furnishes the basis of appeal in the story before us. External only it was, at first, with the younger son; and to the end of it with the elder. The prodigal naturally is the younger son: the elders of Israel were with the Pharisees.

This younger son soon shows where his heart is. The "substance" that he gets and squanders is, of course, his portion in natural things, that which God has in fact divided among men to use as accountable to Him who gave it, or perhaps to abuse in utter forgetfulness of Him. The far-off country which he seeks classes him at once among the many whose backs are habitually turned on God. Here for awhile he enjoys himself after the fashion of those to whom transgression has its own delight, in the lusts which yet consume and never satisfy. An end must come, therefore, in which not only his own resources are at an end, but a famine comes upon all the sources of supply. He is in a land, too, where no man gives, but he joins himself to a citizen of that country, and is sent into the fields to feed swine. Sad picture of Satan's service, in ministering to men given up to their own lusts entirely, longing even to be as they are; thank God, (this is His mercy merely and the door of hope) thank God, in vain.

Now he comes to himself, and in his misery the thought of his father's house breaks in upon him. Alas, it is not yet his father; nor does he think aright of it either, if we realize of what it is the parable speaks. Bread there is there, to be sure, enough and to spare — abundance of bread in that Bethlehem, where our Christ was born, and whence He came to us: bread enough, but not for hired servants. No hired servant, as such, could eat the passover in Israel (Ex. 12:45.) God has all children in His house, and service but for the free hearts who know the constraint of love in serving Him.

The prodigal is not yet in place to know this, and fain would be one of those hirelings himself. All else is gone for him; but he will go back and confess the sin which he committed, which has deprived him of the son's place (never really known), and after the fashion of man's humility, which recognizes not the worthlessness of such labor nor the grace of God, he will say, "Make me as one of thy hired servants."

With all this, he is yet on his way to his father. The father's love anticipates and effectuates the son's endeavor. "When he was yet a long way off, his father saw him, and had compassion; and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him." Not a word of the confession intended has been uttered; not a question is put: "I said, I will confess my transgression to the Lord; and so Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." There is no reproof for the past, no stipulation as to the future, no condition in this free forgiveness. How it would spoil the revelation of the Father's heart which is to do the yet needed work in the soul of the returning prodigal, make the son a son, and deliver from all thought of that far country, save abhorrence of that which had carried him thither!

Now, in another spirit than that which dictated it, he can pour out his confession. "Make me a hired servant," he cannot say for shame. And the right acknowledgement of his unworthiness is cut short by the father's peremptory joy which bids, "Bring forth a robe, — the best, — and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and sandals on his feet." What he could not have pretended to as claim if he had never wandered is now his in the father's delight to have him back: Christ, the sinner's robe of wondrous righteousness, what can equal it in the apparel of the angels as they shine in heaven? Then the ring unites the working hand to God for ever; and the feet are shod for all the way, whatever it may be.

"And bring the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and make merry: for this my son was dead and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."

Death is the food of this new life, for which in fact, that it might be, life had to be given. Such is the ransom price by which the prodigal has to be redeemed from the bondage of sin. And henceforth death is not merely conquered, but becomes the minister to a life in which the shadow of death is passed for ever. The fatted calf — or young ox, not immature but in the first fresh vigor, — the type of the laborer for God, is here the peace-offering, that aspect of the Lord's work which the Gospel of Luke expresses. The prodigal is welcomed into the joy of reconciliation and communion with God; but it is the Father's joy, let us still remember, which is all through prominent: "This my son was dead and is alive again; was lost and is found."

Every way in contrast with this picture, we have now that of the elder son; and it would be impossible, surely, for any one to mistake for whom it is intended. He has not wandered, is no prodigal, has no need of repentance, has never transgressed his father's commandment, is still in the field when his brother comes home; and then finding how he has been received, breaks out in indignation. Then another side of his character comes out: he himself brings it out. Music and dancing in his father's house: these are strange things to him. Joy over him there never had been such. He had had no privileges, not even a kid to make merry — not, mark, with his father, but with his friends. Could the cold, cheerless life of a formal religionist be more clearly expressed? He too is in heart away from his father, has no sympathy with the yearning of God's love over a sinner, cannot eat and make merry over the return of such, though his father comes out and entreats him, will not go in. What is the end of a breach like this? That the Lord leaves to be decided by each one in his audience for himself. But God keeps — can they expect otherwise? — to His own thoughts: "It was meet that we should make merry and rejoice: for this thy brother was dead and is alive again: he was lost and is found."

There is one thing here, however, which spite of all the rest has been supposed to give countenance to the view that the elder son is the true picture of the child of God, or at least the consistent one. It is, that the father says, "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine." But to explain this we have only to go back to the beginning of the parable and to remember that the substance which the father had divided between them, and which the younger son had squandered in self-indulgence, could not be any figure of spiritual blessings, but, as already said, of earthly things. If, then; the prodigal had returned, that with all its spiritual gain did not reinstate him in the possession of what he had lost; it did not in itself restore the lost health, the forfeited possessions, the various good gifts of God which had passed away from him. On the other hand, the spiritual blessings which salvation brings do not become the possession of any by the careful or upright use of earthly things. And the witness of his own heart (in the case of the elder son) was that, spite of his own punctilious righteousness, the Father's house had made no music over him.

4. This leads on; however, to the next parable, in which, not the outside multitudes but disciples are taught how they may use even earthly things (even the mammon of unrighteousness) in such a way as that, when this fails, the "friends" they have made by it, may receive them into the eternal tabernacles. But here, notice, there is no parade of the righteousness of the one who acts after this manner. No, it is the very opposite: we have an unjust steward accused of wasting his master's goods, a thing which recalls to us the younger son of the parable before given; rather than the elder. And here is where we all begin naturally, although the Lord has something else to say of this before He closes.

But to begin with, all are stewards of God in the matter of those things with which we have been entrusted and not one of us can stand before God on the ground of righteousness in our stewardship. Death — and this is brought out in fullest emphasis by the law of Moses — is the turning of man out of the place for which he was originally created, as having failed in it: and who is not turned out? Self-righteousness is thus impossible if we will listen to the teaching of nature itself, and above all of that law under which the Pharisee so securely sheltered himself. The "publican," or tax-gatherer, become a disciple, had owned his sinnership before God, while the Pharisee had refused to recognize it: and thus in the only way possible for man; the repenting sinner had become comparatively righteous.

The parable here is not however of the reception of a penitent, but of stewardship: of one under sentence of dismissal for unrighteousness, and of what he can still do in view of the future.

He does not hope for reversal of his sentence, but seeks how best he may sub-serve his interest when this has taken effect. If death be this dismissal, as it most evidently is, then in the application this refers to what comes after death; and so the Lord Himself applies it.

The steward is a child of this age, and his wisdom is that of his generation. It is not commended for its righteousness, but for its adaptation to the end in view; and in this respect the children of this age are wiser than the children of light. They pursue their end with more clear-sighted consistency, while the children of light are often how strangely inconsistent. The unrighteous steward is unrighteous to the last, and no plea to the contrary is ever made for him; but his wisdom as to the future is set before us for our imitation; the unrighteousness of it being distinctly reprobated and set aside in the words that follow the parable: "for, if ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon; who will commit to your trust the true riches?"

His master's goods are still in the steward's hands; and these are all the means that he has, as his words plainly show. Yet his authority over them seems only now to extend so far as concerns the rendering that final account that has been required of him. He is no doubt under jealous oversight now, as to any further waste," such as has been charged against him; but, of course, if he is to render an account, he has authority to call in the accounts. Here he can do no harm.

So he calls in his lord's debtors to see how every one stands, and remits to each a portion of his debt, a thing which Edersheim remarks, was within his rights, though his motive in it was unrighteous. In mercy, and in his master's interests even; he might have done so; he did it in his own.* But the wisdom with which he made capital out of what was not in his hands is clear enough. The moral for disciples is, "Make yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles."

{* Van Oosterzee concludes that it was his own overcharge that he remitted, and thus that he made his account right with his master, while he gained credit with the tenants. But this introduces much that is conjectural; and it does not seem that he had hope of setting his account right.}

Certainly it is not meant that we can buy ourselves thus admission into heaven, or that God's grace is shown in permitting us to buy cheap. He gives, but does not sell; unless it be "without money and without price." And even as to rewards, love can reward only what is done from love. Yet love itself may desire, and must, the approval of Him towards whom it is felt, and so may covet the rewards of love; while grace permits us out of what is not our own to make "friends" that shall in this way welcome us in the habitations of eternity.

Thus to use what is so commonly as to be characteristically the "mammon of unrighteousness" is not unrighteous, but faithfulness in that which is Another's; and although it be in "that which is least," as such earthly things must be, yet even as that it may test and manifest the character with regard to what is the "true riches." A man's piety cannot be measured by his charities; but on the other hand it cannot exist without them, for "faith without works is dead." And he who seeks to satisfy himself with that which is not his own; but of which he is merely steward, will find the things that are his own proportionately unsatisfying. Even an Abraham, with his face toward Egypt, will find a famine in the land which God has promised and brought him into.

Thus the Lord deals with the side of righteousness; and He rules with a firm and steady hand. Grace does not relax the lines of government; and the throne of grace is a true and absolute throne. A servant may not be a son, but every son is a servant; and "no servant can serve two masters." God and Mammon are incompatible as that.

5. But that cuts deep; for the Pharisees are among His audience; and they, the zealous maintainers of law, are at the same time money-lovers. They deride Him therefore: for had not the law promised all temporal good to the man that kept it? From this it was easy for one that had never felt the hopelessness of man's condition upon that footing, to make the fruit of a man's own covetousness the token of his acceptance with God. They thus, as the Lord told them, justified themselves before men; but justification is not man's work, but God's: what human law allows one to judge his own case? when; alas, also, the world is in complete opposition to God, and what is esteemed most highly by it is with Him an abomination.

There was another thing. The dispensation of law was passing away. The law and the prophets were until John; and then the Kingdom of God was preached. Now every one was forcing his way into that, through the opposition of those like themselves who neither believed John; nor the One to whom he testified.

The passing of the dispensation did not mean that the law had failed. It could not fail: heaven and earth might pass rather than one tittle of it fail. It did not fail, when that to which it pointed came; nor when that was remedied. which Moses for the hardness of their hearts had permitted, and the new dispensation perfected what the law was unable to enforce.

He gives them an example, which the former Gospels have insisted on more fully. Pharisaism had taken advantage of the permission of divorce to give sanction to a license against which the whole spirit of the law bore witness. Now all this was to be remedied. He that should put away his wife and marry another would now commit adultery; and he likewise who should marry a divorced woman. The exception given in Matthew with regard to this, and which is found neither in Mark nor Luke, is not really an exception: for the divorce only affirms the breach of the law of marriage which sin had already made in the case excepted.

Thus the law had not failed, but was only perfected in the Kingdom of God.

The Lord goes back now to illustrate the fundamental mistake that they were making by the contrast of two men; perfect opposites of one another in life and after death, but in either case with the reversal after death of the condition in life.

He pictures a rich man; so rich as that if the Pharisaic idea were right, he should have been in fullest favor with God. He is clothed in purple and fine linen; and passes each day in uninterrupted enjoyment.

There is a poor man at his gate, so poor as to be in beggary and starvation. He longs for the crumbs (the broken pieces) from the rich man's table; and the dogs — unclean animals for the Jew — come and lick his sores.

No evil is recorded of the rich man further than this, that he enjoyed himself to the full. Even neglect of Lazarus is not urged against him. Perhaps Lazarus may have got the broken pieces. That he remained a beggar is true: but is it supposed that a rich man is to feed and care for every beggar at his door-step? Nor do we read of anything to the credit of this Lazarus. Providence seems to have decided against him, and the law to have condemned him: for where are the good things the law has promised to those that keep it?

The beggar dies, and there is a marvellous change. Without any means by which to make friends for himself to receive him into the everlasting tabernacles, he is carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. A beggar, with everything against him as that, according to the law, gets a place that the best Jew in the world might envy him for. What has caused this? Not law, we may be sure. Not any need of making up for that pitiable life on earth by the after condition. The testimony of the law settles this fully, and would settle it as well for any child of man. Nay, his name, Lazarus, Eleazar, "the Mighty One the Helper" gives us the only key to the explanation here. Spite of all else against him, God the Mighty One, acting apart from law, and so in grace, has lifted him from that degradation in which he was to the place in which now we find him. He who has chosen Jerusalem, Jacob, Abraham, any other name in this line that you please to name, has chosen to do this — to display Himself in it: and who shall say Him nay?

The rich man also dies, and is buried. Again a marvellous, but now dreadful change! In hades — it is not hell, gehenna — he lifts up his eyes being in torment, and sees Abraham from afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. "And he called and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame."

The language is, of course, as figurative here as on the other side is Abraham's bosom. All representations of what is beyond the present life seem to partake of the same figurative character, which is, however, all the more adapted to appeal strongly to the imagination. The final judgment is not yet come; the once rich man has, as we presently see, brothers upon earth who may be warned to escape that place of torment. Resurrection; therefore, has not come any more than judgment, but the wrath of God is already realized in suffering which can be most suitably conveyed to us in terms like this. The hope of relief, — of such slight relief as is requested here, is presently declared to be in vain; an impassable gulf (or chasm) unalterably fixed between the lost and saved, no crossing or mingling to be, even for a moment; no hope of condition changing after death, such as many entertain today, for a moment to be thought.

But the reason for the rich man's coming into that awful doom is what is evidently intended to be pressed upon us. The Lord has already declared to his disciples that whosoever loseth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal; and that, if a man come to Him, and hate not his own life, he cannot be His disciple. This, it is plain, the rich man had not done. This only it is that is affirmed against him: "Child, remember, that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things" — not "good things" simply, but "thy good things." He had chosen life on the wrong side of death, and lost it.

This loss is not merely that: for God cannot be simply passive with regard to sin, and the tormenting flame is the wrath of God upon it. Death is not extinction; nor, therefore, is the second death. All that we find in this picture is the very opposite of this: it is intense realization. And if the pang of remorse is the soul's judgment of itself, (such judgment as the lost may be capable of,) the judgment of God is other than this, and more.

Oh, then; for a voice to warn men! So thinks the poor sinner here. Companionship is no alleviation of this hopeless anguish. "I pray thee then; father," he says, "that thou wouldst send him to my father's house: for I have five brethren; so that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment." Even this hope fails: "They have Moses and the prophets," Abraham answers; "let them hear them." But he urges further: "Nay, father Abraham; but if one go to them from the dead, they will repent." But he said to him, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rise from the dead."

No fear that Moses should not receive due honor from the lips of Christ. These Pharisees with their strenuous seeking of a sign from heaven: these are they that dishonor Moses. "Take up, and read," disdainful Pharisee, and thou shalt see how Moses accuses thee of unbelief of all the signs that he has given, and which are fulfilled in Him that speaks to thee. Yet our hearts ache so often for something more, even with Scripture completed in our hands, and a greater than Moses speaking to us from it. Yet "all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink;" and out of all the host that did so, two men of those that came out of Egypt entered the land to which God was bringing them! So with the men that wanted a sign now, did they dream that when He whom they had devoted to death should come back from the dead, they would be found giving large money to the keepers of His tomb, to have it believed a lie that He was risen? So still, with their eyes tight shut, men cry for light.

Section 4. (Luke 17, 18:8.)

The Ways which result from the Experimental Knowledge of this manifestation, and from the world's rejection of it.

1. God then has manifested Himself: no lost soul from its far off place of misery shall ever be able to challenge Him in this respect. He swears it even: "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth."

But while His word remains to testify for Him, how often, alas, are even His people found false witnesses! And among the ranks of professing disciples how many causes of stumbling arise! The Lord goes on now to speak of these in a way that shows His earnestness to have all stumbling-blocks removed from before the feet of the least of all. Whom men despise for their littleness, of these His tender compassion would have special care, and this He presses now upon His disciples.

Occasions of stumbling will indeed come: these are sad certainties in so sad a world; but that does not make them less grave, or easier to be passed over: nay, "woe unto those through whom they come." Better were it for one of these to have a mill-stone hung about his neck, and so to be cast head first into the sea, than to be a stumbling to one of these little ones.

But whence do occasions of stumbling most arise? To answer that, must we not ask, to what, then; above all are we witnesses? Failure here will surely be the gravest, as it will be that also of which men will most take note, and which the arch-plotter will seek most of all to get us into. Scripture, then, teaches us that we are to "show forth," even "in the ages to come the exceeding riches of God's grace." Grace characterizes the dispensation; as in contrast with law, the rule of the schoolmaster which preceded this (Gal. 3:24, 25). What, then, can be so great a failure as to fail in grace? It is to this, then; that the Lord goes on with an emphatic "take heed to yourselves:" "If thy brother sin against thee, reprove him; and if he repent, forgive him." Some of the earliest MSS. omit "against thee," with several of the earliest versions; and yet it seems plain that it should be at least understood: for it is only a personal offence that we can individually forgive; and it is just these personal offences that we most betray inability to deal with aright.

Love is to act in the reproof; and this is cared for by the spirit of forgiveness enjoined; while the holiness of grace is seen in the condition of repentance. But if it were seven times a day he sinned, and seven times a day he turned, saying, I repent, he must be forgiven. This, of course, could not happen in a case of discipline in the assembly, where fitness for the table and the fellowship of the whole are involved, and where the authority of the Lord in the assembly is to be maintained. Individually we have no such authority over one another, and the service of love is the best constraint that can be used.

2. In view of the difficulties of the path which the certainty of such causes of stumbling would imply, the apostles — named as such, as those to represent the Lord in a special way as leaders of His people — ask Him to increase their faith. He replies that to faith, small as a grain of mustard-seed, the sycamine tree with its strong spreading roots would yield obediently, and plant itself in the sea. But they must be servants in all this, not masters, nor thinking to take their ease and satisfy themselves before their Master was fully served. Having done all, they were still to confess themselves those who had done no work of supererogation; but their duty only. And this is the way, in fact, in which increase of faith surely will be found. When we are doers of Christ's work, and not our own, — not valuing ourselves upon the doing it, but lowly in spirit — then will the needed faith for all the way be found: faith is for God's way and will: we cannot expect it for our own.

3. The story of the cleansed worshipper follows this. Ten lepers, standing afar off, beseech Him to have mercy. He bids them show themselves to the priests, and on their way they are cleansed. One, and one alone, turns back to glorify God and give thanks for his healing; and he is a stranger, a Samaritan. It is evident he is not hampered by the law that carries the others away from Christ, although belonging to a like system. But Christ has by the deliverance realized become an object for his heart: he returns to Him a worshipper; the others remain in the dead ritualism centering in an empty temple, while he obtains open recognition of a faith in which God is glorified.

In fact these cleansed worshippers, worshipping neither at Samaria nor Jerusalem, and not in temples made with hands, but in the presence of God revealed in the Man Christ Jesus, are typical of the new dispensation coming in; indeed the heart of it. The mere human priests are gone: there is access through grace by faith, — a faith owned of God openly, all distance done away. Of course, it is not meant that the cleansed leper knew all this; but he foreshadowed it, Gentile as he was also, the nine Israelites having turned their back on Christ. It is to these, as one may say, that we now turn; to a people that have rejected Him, and that are now in the evils springing out of that rejection.

4. He is asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God shall come. He tells them that it has in fact come, and without being perceived by them. It was there, presented to them in the Person of the King, in their midst.

But as rejected, He says no more to them of this; but turns to His disciples, to tell them of the days of His absence: not of Christian times, but carrying them on to when Israel's long night would be hastening to its close; days when there would be disciples longing to see one of the days of the Son of man, but not seeing it. Rumors there would be that He was here or there, but they were not to heed them. The Son of man would come, but manifestly to all, as when the lightning lightens the whole breadth of the heavens. But first He would have to suffer and be rejected.

Again He passes on to the time of the end, comparing it to the careless days before the flood, and the similar days before Sodom was destroyed. Judgment came sudden; sweeping, irresistible, and so it would be when the Son of man should be revealed. The warning to one upon the house-top not to come down into the house is given, as in Matthew 24:17, but not the events with which it is there connected. Only we see from the next admonition not to seek to save their lives that enemies are in question. The final judgment would be as discriminative as sudden: one man taken in bed, and his fellow left; one woman taken away by it at the mill, and another left. They ask, where? and He answers, wherever the carcase is, the eagles (or vultures) will assemble; wherever the corruption is, the judgment which is to purify the earth will find it out.

5. That judgment will be the complete settlement of the long reckoning for the persecuted saints who have been so long crying to God under it, and as yet without the full answer which will surely come. The Lord illustrates by the parable of the unjust judge the good of importunity with God, and presses on all under all circumstances that men should always pray and never faint. God's patience is not slowness nor indifference, as the event will show. Faith may count upon Him. In fact, when the Son of man comes, the darkness is such as to suggest the question; Will He find faith upon earth?

Section 5. (Luke 18:9-34.)

Man with God: the conditions and hindrances.

The last section here closes with the consideration of man's being with God, the moral conditions and the hindrances. It reviews in this way some things we have had before, but to emphasize some points of special importance in this particular interest, which for man is surely second to no other.

1. The first point here is that of righteousness; in which, however, the righteousness in which we stand before God is rather suggested than developed. Indeed, so much is this the case that the actual reference to it is passed over commonly, both in translations and commentaries. Here it surely supplies what would otherwise be a serious deficiency, when the object is to depict the true righteousness in opposition to the false.

The Pharisee and the publican; or tax-gatherer, furnish here, as so often; the contrast which He would present. He is speaking directly to "some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:" things which naturally go together. The two men in question are shown us going up into the temple to pray. The position that they take is taken before God, not man. As for the tax-gatherer, that is evident; no one would question it. But as for the Pharisee, though he compares himself with the other, yet he is not presented as seeking credit with men in any way: he is self-righteous, but not a hypocrite. That he prays, however, with himself, (or toward himself) shows how little in the presence of God he really is, even while he addresses himself to Him. His actual requests we do not hear; they are of no importance, even if we are to suppose he makes any. The whole of it that we hear is a thanksgiving for his own good condition; and here he forms a class by himself, in advance of those whom he vain-gloriously puts down as "the rest of men." They are "extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or like this publican," — of whom the less he knows, the more he can imagine. But that is only the negative side: positively, it is enough to say, "I fast twice in the week; I tithe all that I acquire" — all my profit. In either case he went quite beyond the law.

There is not a hint that he was insincere in this self-admiration. He was indeed but too thoroughly a believer in himself; and his conduct may have been all that he here claims for it. Outwardly correct, morally; ceremonially, going beyond what was legally required: that was what he honestly thought to be enough for God; and indeed enough to give him that unique place quite beyond others, which, as we see, he claimed. The law, in which he trusted would have told him differently; but when did a law-keeper for righteousness ever take his measure from the law? Nay, that was meant for the destruction of legality, and the "Oh wretched man that I am!" which men learn to cry under it, is at least far different from jubilant Pharisaism.

The man's picture is complete, and no comment upon it is needed further. No one believes in him except himself, just as he himself believes fully in no one else. Moses has given sentence against them all that "there is none righteous, no, not one," and we know that whatever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God."

Now we turn to look at the other man. The Pharisee lifts up his head, because he sees nothing. The tax-gatherer is in a Presence that he dares not approach, nor lift up his eyes to. Smiting upon his breast, as if his heart were viler than his life, he lays hold upon the horns of the altar with the cry, "God be propitiated towards me, the sinner."

That is certainly the full force of his words, and the prevalent objection to its being "pressed" is quite unaccountable. The common version gives "God be merciful" only; the revised puts "be propitiated" in the margin as an alternative, but keeps the other in the text. The "Variorum" Bible, with its clippings from every source, has not even a word with regard to it. Yet propitiation by sacrifice was, as must be acknowledged, one of the leading features of the temple ritual, that temple in which the speaker stood. Moreover it is the Lord, the One who could say of just this sacrificial system, "In the volume of the book it is written of Me" (Ps. 40:7), who gives us this parable. And the direct purpose of it is to show what is true righteousness before God in contrast with the righteousness in oneself in which men have ever trusted. Yet, says Van Oosterzee, "It is entirely unnecessary to press the word hilaskesthai in such a way as to see intimated in it the dogmatic conception of atonement"!

On the contrary, here is the very way of mercy which a sinner needs appealed to by one who realizes himself to be in as unique a way "the" sinner, as the Pharisee is in his own thoughts uniquely righteous. For such an, one no vague idea of God's mercy could satisfy the soul; least of all could the Lord allow it to be supposed that it could; and that where Jewish altars were proclaiming day by day, that "without shedding of blood is NO remission." How simple, how natural, to one taught of God, and in the representation of a divine Teacher, that a convicted soul should say, "Let that blood avail for me!"

"I tell you," says the Lord, "that this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other." Here again; a wrong use is made, surely, of the comparison between the two. It does not mean that the publican was justified more than the other, nor would such comparative justification be of much comfort to one in his condition. That which avails before God is the whole question; and as the Pharisee had decided as to himself, that he, rather than the tax-gatherer, would be found righteous before God, so the Lord decides that it will be the reverse of this, the tax-gatherer rather than the Pharisee. In each case this means, the one, and not the other. And it is to the one who in the most distinct way disclaims all righteousness, that righteousness is ascribed, or imputed; but not, surely, merely because he owns himself a sinner, but because there is provided for sinners that propitiation for sin to the value of which before God, even though feebly, his faith appeals.

Thus we see again, as we have seen elsewhere, how near to Paul's is the doctrine of Luke, although it brings us only to the threshold of it. Beyond this, still, there are things which cannot be opened to us until the Spirit of God is come from a glorified Christ in heaven, to reveal what neither eye has seen nor ear has heard.

2. The last verse in the previous part opens the way to the present one. The self-abased tax-gatherer has been exalted, the self-exalted Pharisee has been abased. And now they bring babes to Him that He may touch them, and the disciples (too much akin to the Pharisees in spirit) rebuke them for doing so. But Jesus declares that of such the Kingdom of God is, and that whoever would enter it must receive it in the spirit of a little child. Where God is known and rules, man must needs shrink into his native nothingness. Look at the earth from the sun. and what has become of its lofty peaks and granite ranges? The truly wise will own this from the heart: the pride of life, equally with the lusts of the flesh and of the eye, is not of the Father, but of the world.

3. The last portion has brought us fairly into the track of the previous Gospels, and to the end of this division we still pursue it. The story of the rich ruler shows us now the hindrance of worldly possessions, with one in other respects exemplary, and with an apparently earnest craving for eternal life. Yet he turns his back upon the Lord, — sorrowfully indeed, but none the less really; and the Lord's comment upon it generalizes so sad a case alarmingly. If it were as hard for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God as for a camel to go through a needle's eye, then who can be saved? ask the disciples. But salvation is of God; and all things are possible with Him. In fact, if a man has realized his need of salvation; God, it way be hoped, has begun that work in his soul which will make the far off country a place of intolerable famine to him, which lands or gold will be unable to satisfy. He can hardly be called "rich who has that famine-fever upon him.

4. The question of Peter thereupon shows doubtless a modified form of the rich man's trouble, so far as disciples may be affected by it. They bad left all, — little or much as it might be, — to follow Him: what would they have for it? It is evident that what they have given up has still some value for them, then: and what will be their compensation for it is a matter of concern. The Lord's answer seems one of encouragement, which has with it also a certain blending of reproof. They shall have what the rich man might well crave — eternal life; but in the present also — and had they not begun to taste that blessing yet? — "manifold more" than all that they had given up. Such is God's mercy towards those who, whatever they may have deemed themselves to have renounced for Christ, were in fact but bankrupt beggars when His grace laid hold of them!

5. Once more, therefore, He puts before them what was the way that was opening now before Himself. Here indeed was sacrifice — such as yet they prove unable even to comprehend. The end for Him is in resurrection, in which the life of service taken up once more, His joy is accomplished in what for them and us secures all blessing and the glory of God.