J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)
The character of Son of God as Man, as we in the new Man may be, is especially the subject of the revelation of Christ in this Gospel; first among Jews, but then brought out into its full character.
The Gentile character and style of this Gospel is manifest from the outset, but conversant with Jewish things; verse 5, et seq, is thus Jewish in character, which continues, at any rate, to the end of chapter 3:20.
We have already remarked the general scope of Luke's amongst the Gospels. I would remark also that this Gospel affords abundant information by the way in which the Spirit of our God has brought things together in it; thereby giving us opportunity of observing the true intent and purpose of this introduction, and being modelled not so much according to the order of time, when that was not of their substance, but according to the mind of the spiritual instruction they were meant to convey; thus affording its own commentary, and throwing infinite light, to those who seek it in simplicity, of the judgment of Christ on the workings of the human heart, and what the true way of one walking in His Spirit is. It is a sort of moral commentary on the circumstances related by the method of their juxtaposition.
Mary first has the promises revealed to her, i.e., their accomplishment. But as that is in Jesus, her question brings out more than that - the divine fact of the incarnation, and Son of God in manhood here. Mary has a more blessed position and tone than Zacharias. He fully speaks by the Holy Ghost of the accomplishment of promise, and all of course is true and blessed, and so they would be before God in righteousness - Mary, only of mercy, God's present favour, herself having the sense of grace. It is not said that she was filled with the Holy Ghost and prophesied; she spake from the fulness of grace in her heart, that by the Holy Ghost surely, but it was grace and not gift. It is what God is, and His power, and goes forth indeed to Israel, but her own heart is with God. One is blessed in the Lord God of Israel - quite right too, inspired; but Mary is: "My soul doth magnify the Lord." Note, too, as to Zacharias, how what objectively received is all delight, and ought to be, is in application a test and sorrow. Though John has celebrated, truly mourned, and they would not lament, truth that delights the Church, as Christ's coming, tests the soul when applied, for His coming takes away from and judges all that is on earth.
67 Note again in the angels, with the shepherds - first promises, read "the" people; but verse 14 necessarily comes out. Mary again is pondering things in her heart; so chapter 2:51. How all is in littleness, and a hidden people, but God come in. It is all behind the passing greatness of the world which only accomplishes it. For the beast shows his universal power to bring Jesus' birth to Bethlehem, but all are small and insignificant ones - Jesus, Mary, the shepherds. But we do not find God anywhere so near in all the history of Israel as in this most dark time of the people. Blessed truth! Nowhere such intimate communications of His grace - only it was in a hidden, but deeper and truer way, i.e., more of personal heart in it.
Simeon and Anna were old ones, passing away when the Christ comes in; the others vessels, nothing in themselves as even to bring in power, then passing away when He is brought in. Again, in Simeon we see that the light to reveal the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel, objectively looked at, is, in application, a sword through the soul. The revelation of God in Christ is necessarily a test to those who receive it, and of all in them, specially the hope of His coming to take them up by power. Simeon rests in what Christ is, Anna tells of Him to others.
It appears to me that, although their dependence upon the Spirit might have been perfect, yet in detail the evangelists wrote under a perfect direction of the Holy Spirit in the minutest details of meaning and purpose, though it might have operated, in a certain sense, imperceptibly to themselves, so as to leave them to, or determine them by actuating their ordinary judgment and feelings, as far as consistent with His holiness. And this seems to me the case with all the evangelists, and this seems to leave us the highest possible wisdom and testimony of the Spirit.
- 2. "They delivered them to us." It is generally considered that this makes Luke draw his information from others who were eye-witnesses. I do not see that this is proved by this. "To us" is quite distinct from "to me also," and corresponds with "among us." As many had taken in hand to set in order the account of what was surely believed amongst them according to the relation of them to them by those who were eye-witnesses, etc., it seemed to him too, and then he states his qualification. Luke is included in "to us," as a Christian, not specified as a writer; on the contrary, he also thought fit to do what others had done, according to the relation of eye-witnesses amongst the believers.
68 - 3. Compare 2 Timothy 3:10. "Thoroughly acquainted," "followed up," the same word as here translated "fully acquainted."
The term kathexes (in order) is used only and frequently in Luke; it signifies properly, 'in a regular series, one after another,' and sometimes simply 'following,' or 'next in order.' Liddell and Scott say that the more usual word is ephexes (in order [one] on the next) and on that word they remark it is less usually employed of time than of regular order of arrangement. On the whole, I see no sign whatever that Luke uses it for chronological order, nor has the word in itself that meaning, save as chronological order is one sort of order. The passages in Luke are, this verse; chapter 8:1; Acts 3:24; chapter 11:4; and chapter 18:23. Luke alone, as may be seen in the dictionary, uses hexes (next), see chapter 7:11 (morrow); chapter 9:37; Acts 21:1 (next day); chapter 25:17, the same; so chapter 27:18.
- 4. The general value of the Scriptures - by them we know the certainty of what we have been taught perhaps by other means.
Note the order and character of the Spirit's prophetic or other testimony in the beginning of Luke, which seems to me very remarkable. Before the Spirit enters on the revelation of Messiah, properly speaking, as born and taking the place of the second Adam - first, the angel's testimony to the child John (for all is Jewish in the part I refer to) he is presented in a Nazaritish character according to the spirit of Elias, full of the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb, not a prophet called, and used as a vessel at a given time, but separated to God, a Nazarite from the womb. He was to turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. Next, we have the Son of the Highest to whom the Lord God shall give the throne of His father David, born of the favoured one - He was to be as Man the Son of God withal. Elizabeth, as full of the Holy Ghost, answers to his mission who was in her womb, and bears testimony to Another. She owns the Lord in Mary's Child, and wonders His mother should come to her. Mary takes the great ground of grace to the lowly one in her own person, but as accomplishing of the mercy promised to Abraham, the unconditional promise in the help afforded to Israel.
69 - 5. How much more personal, and how much more personal communication with beings of another world all this is! This gives it a peculiar charm. It is the lovely closing scene of the Remnant of Israel. Christ must now gather round Himself, whatever His position.
- 6. The light of the promises under the law was the instrument of the Spirit in forming the faith of men, and their obedience of faith was ordered by the law; and, according to this light, there were saints and holy men of old, and such manifestation of God to the world as gave occasion to those, who by nature were strangers to the covenant, to acknowledge and serve the one true God. To them were these "glad tidings" as well as to us - persons who feared God, and wrought righteousness, and were accepted of Him, whom the Lord beheld with His countenance, and to whom the Gospel of salvation came as a blessing on their faithfulness to grace received in that system which yet made nothing perfect, and could not especially make the comers thereto perfect as concerning their conscience. We may compare Paul in Philippians 3. It shows that it was not a righteousness of debt, of acceptance in the sight of God, but that which is contrary to hypocrisy - righteousness in his walk in life in sincerity of purpose before God, integrity of conscience as Paul: "I know nothing by myself," "yet," he adds, "am I not hereby justified." But this is by faith, through grace, in a previous revelation, rather by faith in that promised then, now revealed.
- 9, 10. Is there not something significant in the place where this communication to Zacharias was made? He stood as the priestly remnant, but fruitless according to Jewish hopes, in the holy place; it was not like a prophecy put forth by an inspired man to the world. "Entering into the temple of the Lord," i.e., the holy place, answering to "the house," in Solomon's building or temple proper, which in other places is material; the rest, where the altar of burnt sacrifice even was, is called "without." The expression, particularly taking the circumstances into account, is distinct and illustrative.
- 13. This, we may suppose, was a long entertained supplication; but the Lord had a better purpose for Zacharias than his own, though it was indeed an answer to it.
70 - 14. Sometimes we are apt to think there are none, but there are many who rejoice to be changed, and hear of the new kingdom, though it be humbling, and something bitter in the way; and there is joy and gladness in this.
- 15. Some have said that "even" (eti) should be joined to "He shall drink no wine nor strong drink"; but this is simple nonsense, and merely unbelief in what is said. Tou kuriou (of the Lord) might be, but tou (of the) is better away; the whole being characteristic of John.
- 16. Note here again, not merely "Shall many rejoice," which some may be willing to do for a season, who are not turned, but many are actually turned; compare, too, Jeremiah 4: I. Note also genuine conversion may be by preaching repentance, and the declaration of the kingdom prior to the Gospel, preparatory to the preaching of the Gospel; and, though the Gospel be the more powerful instrument generally, where the one the other will be received.
- 17. "And he shall go before him." It seems, though I am not fully prepared to exhibit the meaning, to have a very peculiar force, and, I think, declares the moral character of John's mission. It was not merely a preparatory declaration, though it was such, but it was one which had much of the manifestation of the presence of the Lord. It was not merely that the King was coming, but here is the King. He was identified with the presence of the King, and accordingly his ministry partook, not as regards the world, but as regards personal righteousness, fully of the truth and character of the Lord's Kingdom. He is the God that maketh men to be of one mind in an house; the glory of Christ might raise opposition in the world, but "the fruit of righteousness is peace," and the conversion of heart is the power of John's ministry. The immediate object of this is doubtless personal conversion, but it is a principle of universal truth and operation, because conversion restores all to subjection to God, and sets all the dispositions of the heart in order - so restores all things, whether as to the one God over all, or our conversation one with another in our respective relations prepared for the Lord, i.e., for the manifestation of His glory. Such was the conception, so to speak, of the Lord's first coming; we are told its suspension in Romans 11. Such will be the preparation and power of His second coming. It was only to His people that He showed Himself in power, and it is only by the Spirit any now call Jesus Lord; then He will appear as Lord. Hence too, I think, we must conclude definitely that they err who confine conversion or repentance to the manifestation of the Gospel. I believe, indeed, that there is no repentance without hope and a drawing of divine favour, but this is short of receiving the reconciliation, or atonement; but we may remark much more decidedly than above, that where it is genuine it is ever in truth connected necessarily with the Gospel, and the difference flows from the difference of dispensation in its testimony, the one being ancillary to the other, and of its genuineness, further, this reception of Christ is the only definite test - the publicans and sinners believed, "being baptised with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptised of him," though they were "willing for a season to rejoice in his light" - and, indeed, its nature, when considered this is the necessary consequence. The Spirit of God works upon the judgment and purpose of the mind, though there are many convictions apparently similar, at least to persons not experienced in spiritual things, which may lead to nothing - a respect to the general privileges of the kingdom without any conversion of mind to conformity to its nature. We learn also what conversion is - a turning us from our own will of disobedience to the mind and purpose of the righteous.
71 As to the sentence itself, further we may remark that the Septuagint translation of Malachi particularly bears out the view taken above. The language of Luke seems rather to imply the turning the hearts of those who rested in the old ways, and were loth to give them up, to the new ways into which the children had freely received as not prejudiced by their own long-treasured, and self-appropriating systems. "Except ye be converted, and become as little children," says the Lord, "ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven," and it is peculiarly and justly expressed by converting the old men to the children, while it was natural that the children should derive their knowledge and judgment from the matured wisdom of their fathers, not so now - it was a new call of God who was about to make all things new, and knowledge after the flesh was contrary to this; the child, therefore, was him of whom it could be said: "Of such." The latter portion of the verse of Malachi is therefore not introduced, as not bearing upon the present revelation by the angel. The word "to" sufficiently represents the text, but acquaintance, I think, with the usage of Scripture will give us very appropriate force in epi (to). The Septuagint (Malachi 4:6), for "turning," has the same word translated "restore" all things, and has patros pros huion (of the father to the son) and anthropou pros ton plesion autou (of man to his neighbour); here the word is, 'to turn' in the way of conversion, "return to the Lord," "when thou art converted," and the like. Also, "to the wisdom" (en phronesei, to the thoughts) is as much as "by" as "to," though the sense is pretty adequate. It seems to give the character of the change, not its object or instrument. On the whole I still seek for information as to the force of this passage.
72 It seems to me contrast with John Baptist's ministry and Elias', as in its full sense, as in the latter day; compare the passages. The land was smitten now.
It seems clearly properly Jewish in application, as far as it goes. But while it takes up the promise as in grace, takes it up only in grace as in Abraham; compare Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 4:9, 10 and 6:7; Psalm 78:5, 6. But while it thus, from the circumstances of its dispensation, takes up what may be called Jewish grace, yet it adds what leaves room for a wider scene - "the disobedient to the wisdom of the just," applied to the ordinary condition of the Jew. But disobedience could be found elsewhere, though not so formally; but this holds the place of the expression in Malachi, "the children to the fathers" - this was a blessing connected with their holding the land, and their days being long in it in blessing - "the first commandment with promise," and that of continuance in the land. For this we have, substituted here by the Holy Ghost, a moral benefit and blessing; en phronesei dikaion (to the thoughts of the just) is the instrument and character of the conversion of the disobedient.
- 18. Zacharias' mind was fixed on his having a son, not exactly on the Lord's dealings; herein is much symptom of want of faith. Note, too, what he asked for was given him, though so as to mark and reprove the unbelief of the question. The Lord often makes the want of faith, and even the evil of individuals instrumental to our instruction, though we know not what blessing might have followed on the other.
73 - 19. Here "of God" (theou) has the article (tou, of the) properly. It was the actual place of Gabriel, not the character of His mission.
"To bring glad tidings" (euangelisasthai) does not scripturally mean the matter of the Gospel, but its character; so in Hebrews 4:2, a sentence, I think, often used to an extent which is not borne out by its language - it is "to us as well as to them," not "to them as well as to us," and in that is the force of his argument.
- 20. This savours strongly of a sentence on the Jewish people, even on the Remnant in that character; "in their time," "in their own season." John did not, as to dispensation, go at all out of Jewish position"; he, i.e., his office assumed the restorableness of the Jewish system - reputing its outward Pharisaism as righteousness, but there was a hint in it they were to be restored. So Elias in Malachi, and there, as what it is more definitely in the latter day, it is "Remember ye the law." It is not resurrection and a heavenly life, but repentance and a blessing. The birth of Christ stood on its own ground though He might come to the Jews.
Gabriel was one so employed in service in Daniel - a blessed service, yet now of toil. How deep and wonderful the occupation of these heavenly beings! What objects in service they were made privy to! But we as heirs of salvation! Service in righteousness has however its own proper joy.
A great deal of this has aspect to the latter days, but covertly, because in divine knowledge grace was to have another scope in heavenly things first. Note, as to this, it was Herod's time (Herod was an Edomite).
- 24. Elizabeth "hid herself." All this is characteristic of the circumstances in which she was placed. It was to take away her shame, and yet she was ashamed. But the Lord had so dealt with her, yet it was in circumstances calculated to humble where His hand alone could remedy.
- 27. Joseph was of the house of David.
- 28. This salutation seems to be peculiarly destructive of the honours paid by many to the Virgin Mary; so verse 30.
- 32. This character and title of Christ was Jewish clearly; even "Son of the Highest" is especially so.
- 33. This is plainer looked at in its accomplishment in a time yet future.
- 34. "How shall this be," admits the fact, and simply and humbly enquires the manner. This was not, as Zacharias, seeking sign by which he might believe the truth of the message, but a humble enquiry as to the Lord's ways, and so accordingly was the answer, exhibiting the liberty of heart too which simplicity gives. And it was made the instrument of our instruction in the mystery of the Incarnation. Note, Luke gives a fuller account of all this, or the Spirit by him, as being that in which the world was concerned. Although it was not to be passed over that the throne of David was His, it was more fully to be declared how He was, even in His conception into the world, the Son of God. Although other grounds of claim to that title might be revealed, yet that, in His entrance into the world, He should appear such as He was in truth, other grounds having aspect to other necessities of human infirmity.
74 - 35. This is still all Jewish, not the Christian aspect of the title "Son of God."
- 37. "Her that was called barren"; note this.
- 38. See verse 45.
- 42. The reality of these things is deeply to be weighed. I look upon Elizabeth as the mother, not of the Remnant returned with Zerubbabel from Babylon, but as the prophetic mother of Israel, as the Priest's wife. She brought the prophet who summons to blessing on the principle of priest and prophet of present restoration and repentant return in blessing to God. Mary is the mother of the mighty Man from God, which had its source in blessing to, but was not the power of the return of Israel; compare the case of Naomi and Ruth, not the same, for they merge in one, but closely connected with this subject. Elizabeth was not a virgin Remnant as Mary - a "favoured one" (kecharitomene) taken out by anticipation, as it were, from the hands of her husband - but was barren, though to rejoice after her long and unfruitful sorrow. Elizabeth believed nothing; it came by purpose, but in the ordinary channel, and that in spite of much unbelief. Here (v. 45) it is: "Blessed is she that has believed, for there shall be a fulfilment of the things spoken to her from the Lord." Elizabeth therefore again prophesies and blesses here, and she rejoices as one delivered, and in salvation, and the wonderful dealings of the Lord with her, Mary. The thanksgiving therefore of Mary is all of things accomplished and done. It is the proper celebration of Israel's joy in the gift of Christ, the Blessed One, as a fresh gift. She had known herself lowly (not righteous) and received it in unexpected grace, not in reply to long-sought blessing after a Jewish form. Still, as the exhibition of faithful mercy, mercy which endured for ever, but of mercy, not under law, as Zacharias and Elizabeth, but of promises to Abraham, it is power acting in grace to Israel, raising the lowly.
75 - 51-53. This is strongly characterised with the matter and truths exhibited in the Word as the Object of faith, and connects itself with the prophetic Word. It is anticipative, I conceive, of the deliverance of Israel out of the low estate in which he was under the proud; compare verse 54, which applies it, as often in prophecy. It was the old looked-for mercy she now thought come - "We thought that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel"; so Acts 1:6, 7, which is the answer. The counsels of God with their wonderful order had no place as to the simple truth which her faith by the Spirit laid hold upon, that it was He who should redeem Israel.
- 55. "To Abraham," certainly seems to hang upon "to remember mercy," which the "for ever" appears to confirm, though the whole sentence hangs together in unity of idea, for His mercy was much in the promise.
- 63. Note, the immediate occasion of his recovering his speech was the exercise of his faith and obedience, and acting upon this faith in the divine appointment and message of goodness, of the possibility of whose accomplishment he had before doubted. It was also highly calculated (though we should bear in mind the remark in verse 18) to promote the purpose for which John was sent, and to designate him as one in whom God had a special public purpose.
- 65. This feeling of fear is worthy of great observation; we do not now refer to its source, but as the way in which any signal interventions of God affect the mind until it be brought to see in peace His counsels and way in them. Though perhaps they are indeed mercy, it is the ignorance of unbelief which toes not yet know God as a Friend; see 1 Thessalonians 5, and so in other portions of those two Epistles. He meets it in chapter 5:9, by showing that it was the act of God's love towards them, and how they should feel about it. But if we do not see revealed love in it, we, as we are, must be troubled at any coming in of God, as it were. "And in the whole hill country." This is very like the truth - nothing forced.
76 - 68, et seq. "Blessed be the Lord" (Jehovah) "the God of Israel."
The character of the Song is entirely and peculiarly Jewish. It displays, with wonderful enlargement and accuracy the promised mercies, and celebrates their fulfilment. This, says he (rather the Spirit testifies by him), is the horn of salvation in the house of David, the answer of all the hopes raised by the declarations of the prophets - the salvation, the looked-for "deliverance from enemies" and "those that hate us." The performance of the "mercy spoken of to the fathers" in God's mindfulness of "His holy covenant," and "the oath to Abraham our Father, to give us," I conceive expresses the general result as looked for in a pious mind. This is the salvation. Then, as to John himself, a separate subject - "And thou, child," etc., this is what is testified about him. The result in office, "To give the knowledge" of this in its true character, and as ministering to Him that should come after.
- 72. It is not merely mercy promised to, but mercy made their portion, but not fulfilled to them.
There is nothing in this Song, nor in that of Mary (if inspired) which leads us out of the ground of the hope of the Jews; on the contrary, it is manifest that thus far we are presented with the faith of these holy persons in Jesus (for upon Him mainly, after all, is the mind of Zacharias set, though not before him) as the dayspring that was arisen upon the ancient people and their depressed hopes as the promised deliverance of their God. So even the angel (as to John Baptist), "Many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God." In a word, the Spirit of God as yet (before the birth of Jesus, observe), leads the mind of the evangelist to exhibit the Saviour in His primary character as to dispensation and personal mission, according to the hope of the promises made to the fathers, and this by the faith of those who were looking to them as Jews, and to whom Jesus was not yet presented in the flesh, and therefore not the subject of the Spirit's direct testimony as come for a Ransom for all, "The testimony [to be rendered] in its own times," but "to his people," all through.
It is to be much noticed how mercy is laid as the ground of Israel here. We, acquainted with the Psalms, will have been familiar with it; so Paul leaves them on this, "In order that they also may be objects of mercy." All this is the true and full ground of Israel's restoration in the latter day, and casts great light on it. It is altogether Abraham, not Sinai nor even Jacob nor Israel, but a present fulfilment of promise and covenant to Abraham by mercy, and that mercy from on high.
77 - 77. Note this verse, and compare Isaiah 53, which, I think, has primary reference to this point, i.e., the taking away the iniquities of the Jews, by which they were hindered from the glory of the kingdom. And so, when they look on Him whom they have pierced, will it be fulfilled in its direct and glorious meaning, for they above all were of the travail of His soul. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem," etc. "He came unto his own," etc. So Peter in his first address. It does indeed fully, in offering of atonement apply to the Gentile, as Paul was commissioned specially to declare, i.e., the power of it, but in specialty of promise it belonged to the Jew, whose (see Romans) "the promises" were, and the "oracles of God," and "of whom, as concerning the flesh; Christ came," as here particularly set forth. Nor is this ever departed from in Scripture; "It was necessary that the Word of God should have been first preached unto you, but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so," etc., which was his special office; so here, where the general truth of Christ's mission, and the principles of divine truth exhibited in Christ, and to the Gentiles - in a word, what we are wont to call the Gospel - was to be set forth for the Church, as applicable to men, the larger scope of these promises, "a light to lighten the Gentiles, the glory of God's people Israel" was not forgotten. But this gospel, specially written to exhibit Him as a light to the Gentiles peculiarly, begins with setting Him forth as the fulfilment to the Jewish Remnant of their faith and hopes, and with this view, as this song of Zacharias directly testifies, is so distinct an account given of the birth of John the forerunner of the Messiah, and so expected among them. We may remark even John's words, when declaring our Lord's mission in the flesh, whose gospel rises peculiarly into the abstract consideration of the Person of Christ: "He was in the world," etc. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not."
- 79. He treads on the verge of general evangelism yet keeps strictly within it; see note previously. Here the prophetic and mere Jewish character closes, and Christ, though born among the Jews, at once introduces joy from heaven on the earth; this does not come forth till verses 13, 14 of chapter 2.
78 This portion is then justly comprised in this preliminary chapter, for such it is according to the mind of the Spirit.
- 2. I am inclined to construe it: "The taxing itself" (haute) "first took place"; but at any rate I do not see that it is Greek for "This first taxing," it would certainly be he prote. How this accords with history, I do not bear in mind, nor do I determine the force of prote egeneto (first took place). It might perhaps be this taxing was the first in Cyrenius' government, but the natural construing of the Greek is the first above. The verb egeneto (took place) may perhaps destroy the article, but it must, I think, have it if construed with apographe (taxing). I should not wonder if it were a marginal note.
If we read the phrase thus: "The taxing itself first took place when Cyrenius had the government of Syria" (haute he apographe prote egeneto hegemoneuontos tes Surias Kureniou), it cannot be: 'This first census,' for clearly it would be he prote apographe or he apographe he prote. It cannot be 'of Cyrenius, governor,' not because the participle does not bear it - Lardner has given clear cases of such use - but because, as others have observed, there ought to be tou before hegemoneuontos. As it stands, it must be read: "This census first took effect when Cyrenius was governor," or "The census itself first was made when," etc., which I should certainly rather be disposed to believe the mind of the writer, the census not having been given effect to at the time Mary and Joseph went up. They went "to be registered," but it does not appear they ever were. Perhaps they took the oath to be well-disposed to Augustus and the interest of Herod, mentioned in Josephus, and nothing more was done, i.e., not only no tax levied, but the regular census not taken, for Luke does not say it was. The decree went forth, and they went to their cities, but it is very possible and probable it was interrupted in its execution in Herod's territories.
It is to be noted that Cod: Vat: 1209, as also one or two others, reads haute apographe prote egeneto (the taxing itself first took place). Without egeneto (took place) this would be: 'This was the first taxing'; with egeneto, it is hardly genuine, but it would be: 'This first taxing was while,' etc. But I do not see that we should receive this against other testimony which admits the he (the). As to oikoumenen (the habitable world) I see no proof at all it is ever used for Palestine, in spite of learned men; they only give wrong interpretations of Luke. I believe it to be the Roman world. Perhaps the Septuagint has so used it, Isaiah 10:23, and chap. 24:1; but in general it is the whole world there, not only when it is used for tevel (the fruitful, habitable earth) but also when it is used for eretz (the earth, contrasted with the heavens).
79 - 6. This is not in Matthew.
- 7. In this verse is complete Jewish rejection. Here too note chapter 2:13. Such was the Saviour's place in the world; see verse 12, "This is the sign."
- 8. "Keeping watch by night"; night watchers.
- 9. "Was there by them" (epeste); it is always a present thing as a circumstance to us. "Came upon them," is well; compare 2 Thessalonians 2:2, "Is present."
- 10. "To all the people." Is not this the Jewish people? There cannot be a doubt of it. "I am not sent," said the Lord Himself, "but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel": compare here Matthew 11, from verse 20 and onwards, and indeed from verse 16 with Isaiah 49:4-6.
The salutation is heavenly, and then afterwards (vv. 25, 38), a Jewish Remnant own Him for the fall and rising in Isaiah 8, and "to them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." In Matthew, Gentiles come to own the King of the Jews. But the secret of their whole condition is shown. "The king" (for man had set one up) "and all Jerusalem with him." Moreover it was news, by the Gentiles to the Jews, that a Son was born to them.
- 11. This was wonderful news: "A Saviour who is Christ the Lord."
- 14. "Good pleasure in man" is stronger than "Good will towards men"; it is "good pleasure" in them - the interest of His affection was placed there. It is the same word as "In whom I am well pleased" applied to Christ. It is a very important verse. This was proper heavenly joy. It was not the announcement that had been made, but true joy announces often a great deal. This was angelic joy, goodwill with men, or to men, or in men; peace on the earth, and above; glory to God in the highest place of His essential blessedness. They had no sorrow that grace flowed forth. It was new to them. The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day, and this, and peace and good pleasure necessarily go together. There can be no rest to the believer's soul till indeed it be so. Note eudokia is not merely purpose but "goodwill," "pleasure," "delight," as in chapter 3:22, "I have found my delight."
80 This seems to go into the general power of Christ's mission. It was a song which became angels deeply interested in the glory of God, the reconciliation, and peace of the earth, for the fulness of the restitution of all things depended on it, and the good pleasure of God fully restored to men. Perhaps "peace on earth" may rather mean what properly belongs to itself in itself, as "Glory in the highest" does to God, as it is said: 'Peace shall flourish out of the earth'; the effect of righteousness is peace, so too James. "Good pleasure in man," the words are few, but they evidently contain a distinct statement of all this truth contained in the counsel of God in its several parts, and are a distinct heavenly enunciation of it in its full results and purpose. The message of the single angel was the special grace; the heavenly choir rejoice in, and celebrate the universal purpose. The order and enunciation of this to us by the Spirit is matter of much instruction. Still we find, while the excellency and fulness of the universal purpose, as that in which heaven's joy and universal song was engaged, is fully exhibited, the faithfulness to His despised and disobedient people holds its constant and primary place, and, as the exhibition of it was preliminary to the general setting Him forth to the Gentile world in the gospel, so, in this heavenly announcement and song at His birth, the same order is preserved. Luke seems to have been directed as evangelist of the Gentiles, and with whom therefore the lines of dispensation, as with Paul, were to be distinctly kept, lest they should be high-minded and wise in their own conceits, and count Jews but as a dry tree, as bearing what was indeed the root, to very clear record of what should stand forth in full and unsuspected weight, in the others not so necessary. So I read: "Just and Justifier," i.e., faithful to His promise, and yet the Justifier of everyone that believed, "the Jew first, and also the Greek," which need not here be further gone into.
These words indeed contain the expression of the perfected work, and we are to look for this, not in the hindrance of human unbelief, but evidently in the final super-eminence after victory over evil. The expression, "good pleasure in men," is very full of peace and glory, for once indeed, "It repented the Lord that he had made him, and it grieved him at his heart." And after indeed He placed His name in a too unworthy people of His holiness, whether of the Jew or of the Gentile, yet there, while they would suffer Him would He dwell, for He had a delight therein. But now all the evil which made a Remnant necessary is passed away, and God's delight has free scope amongst men. "The tabernacle," says the voice, "of God is with men . . . and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them," and then be "their God." But this is only the prophetic announcement of the act which should accomplish, for own encouragement, what is here displayed in forethought, in holy exercise and display. These things are ever true in Christ, but now hindered, obstructed, opposed, so as indeed He sendeth not "peace on the earth but a sword"; nevertheless they are true, in the power of grace and the energy of hope, to the believer, and all that is now overcome by them will be so put away as to give the perfect liberty of holiness and peace. It is beyond perfect reconciliation.
81 These sentences cannot be too much weighed, as the heavenly statement of what is in Christ in power and prophetically, and when the prophetic word shall have passed away. We may weigh too, as to its prophetic import, the force of that expression: "Think ye that I have come to give peace in the earth? I tell you nay, but rather division," or as otherwhere, "not peace but a sword." We look then surely to some other revelation of Christ yet in the earth, and by Him, yet not of His first coming, for that brought division, yet flowing from it, for His birth was celebrated as the dayspring of it. The end, as to this, of His coming was peace; the fruit of His first coming was, by virtue of it, division. But this rests only in dispensation, and, though we may be exercised in that, we cannot dwell too much on the simple weight of these words which are beyond the fruit of all dispensation, and imbibe the Spirit of them, that we may be ourselves of that day, when the restitution of all things shall be; yea, of that day now, in the spirit of our minds, already restored to God. We shall find doubtless, practically, its present place on earth, but blessed are we if we find it. We may measure our portion in eternity by our apprehension of these words. Oh! who can tell what the praising presence of God will be? We may say: "It is good for us to be here." Why, this is already effected! If peace were not wrought, why should the angels of God be celebrating it here on earth? So here we are with angels celebrating peace and reconciliation We say: "What hath God wrought?" O wondrous and surpassing love! Enlarging itself on every side, beyond our thought, yet ever carrying it on through infinitude, so that we can only be silent before it!
82 The first angel clearly announced the Jewish blessing, and humiliation of Jesus. The moment this was given as the sign, heaven takes it up. Here was "A Saviour, Christ the Lord, in David's city," and the sign was a Babe in a manger - no room for Him in the inn. This may seem a strange association, but if this were the order, then infinite grace, heaven, and heavenly glory at once came in, if the Saviour, Christ the Lord, was in a manger, in the city of David. It at once forced out the heavenly praise. This great, wide principle of blessing, of which indeed the gospel is the witness, began with heaven. From this out, we shall see therefore Gentiles and man introduced. The grace which brought Him down was "Glory to God in the highest" - not merely glory to Him in the temple, or any earthly people in their righteousness. This grace of His coming in this character, and His personal presence in grace, was peace on earth; and "Good pleasure," not merely in Jews or any special ones, but "in men." When Jesus comes in as King, then it is from earth by the disciples: "Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest"; for then it was not the simple flowing down of grace accomplishing blessing, but the results of full victory. Heaven was at peace - the result of this great controversy with evil, and glory effectually resulting (as wrought and obtained) in the highest. It was not mere character and grace. But the commencement in heaven, and the result consequently taking in the Gentiles is specially to be noted. "Good pleasure in men" is very blessed and distinct. If there was peace on earth, the Prince of peace must necessarily reign in His own city of choice - Jerusalem, the vision of peace. But here it is taken up in its heavenly character, not in its manner of accomplishment. We may remark, from being thus abstract about objects, affirmations of the effects of a fact; there is no article in the whole sentence. This coming of Christ is, etc. - this is its meaning. But this was but a gleam; and when the angels went from them into heaven after this first intercourse with men upon the yet unrejected though humbled Saviour, the men, the shepherds, went to see it in its way of accomplishment here below, and to own Him who was the Object and power of it. There it was Mary and Joseph and the Infant, and this we have to follow now.
83 - 15. We may remark the contrast of "the angels" and "the men, the shepherds," as presenting the reality of the scene.
I think too we ought to remark the coming in of the angels; first, as bringing in the First-begotten into the world; secondly, as interested in the reconciliation which, it is to be observed, is peculiarly the office of Luke's gospel. The first angel was a messenger - these celebrate the glorious consequences of the bringing in the First-begotten into the world; and as being thus brought into the world also is Luke's peculiar evangelical office, as we have observed. The whole of this is full of glory, the glorious gospel of the blessed God, whereby He reconciles "all things to himself, whether the things on the earth or the things in the heavens."
The shepherds' interest was in the message. We carry but little in our minds the amazing extent of evidence this people had of the glory of Jesus. The shepherds' praise was upon finding, with thankful hearts, the accomplishment of the word.
- 24. Certainly the simple poverty of the Lord is not to be forgotten, nor the calm subjection to the law by the parents.
- 25. This was the bringing out (all that could be in this gospel; compare John's testimony) of a Remnant in Israel.
The righteous and pious man, and waiting the consolation of Israel - to him by divine grace, while the common hope was the same, the present accomplishment of this hope was revealed. The Daystar was risen in his heart.
In all this the law is distinctly kept in sight - prophecy might then carry Him into a further position - but there He was as a Child under it.
- 31. "Of all the people," i.e., all the ammim, the peoples brought into association by the coming of Shiloh. The glory of Israel, to whom and of whom Christ was, as concerning the flesh, "a light for revelation of the Gentiles," had no limit on the earth. It found nothing associate, but brought them out to light on earth. This all shall be by the personal presence of Christ. This was the great purpose; the present effect of the revelation of men's hearts is in verse 34. Verses 29-32 are his thoughts before God as to His purpose and thoughts. Mary stood as His mother in nature; all that fell, even if it rose again
84 - 33. "Joseph" or "father," is in this so far immaterial, because He was legally looked at as his Heir under the law - very likely therefore "father"; compare verse 41.
There is something exquisitely beautiful and holy in this certainly. How far can we enter into this righteous man's spirit, "waiting for the consolation of Israel"? We wait in patience, according to our assurance; so he - it was revealed to him that "he should not see death before he should see the Lord's Christ." He waited in holiness, and found it in peace. Note also, his perfect satisfaction arose from the full accomplishment of his faith, and to this faith he lived, but his faith was ordered by the revealed promises of God as to its Object. The peculiar accomplishment was specially to himself. So it may be now. It was kept to himself, had no previous operation on the mass, at least as a testimony. It might influence his manner of conversation amongst them. Yet was it not without purpose; see note on chapter 1:6. The general hope was the same; it was no hope but the common one of the Remnant.
- 34. The "rising again" is not of those who had fallen. It would suffice to say: "The fall and rising of."
How fully Luke brings forward the testimonies to the appearing of Christ, as exhibited to Jew, and indeed to Gentile, as indeed come into the world! This song of Simeon takes very high ground, and is very full of the Spirit of glory; I mean as to the office of Christ in the world. It is to be observed that he makes both one in universal salvation, prepared (ordered) before the face of all people, though the glory be of Israel as God's people. It was prepared, to wit salvation in Christ, before all people, "A light for the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory" (depending also upon eis (for) perhaps) "of thy people Israel." Christ was a Light (phos) for these two purposes. "Taking thee," or "choosing thee," or "bringing thee," "out from among the people, and the nations, to whom," i.e., to the Gentiles, "now I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive remission of sins and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me." This was the revelation of the Gentiles, their discovery in darkness by the Light come in, and admission to an inheritance among them that are sanctified, to wit, by faith in Christ. "What God has cleansed, do not thou make common." This was the revelation of the Gentiles. "Then hath God also granted to the nations repentance unto life." This was the revelation of the Gentiles; compare Isaiah 49. Such is the uniform sense of apokalupsin (revelation; in A.V., "to lighten") as far as I find it.
85 But neither parts of this song are as yet fulfilled; nay, when we compare it with Isaiah 49, we shall see, I think, that this glory must be after, and indeed yet to come. He is not as yet salvation to the ends of the earth, neither does Israel yet know, except the Remnant, as their glory; compare Paul, Romans 9-11, particularly the latter, where I would note that though "the fulness" (pleroma) of the Gentiles is spoken of as to come in before the removal of the blindness of Israel, it by no means follows, nor does it mean, that the earth shall be universally a redeemed people, but until the complete Gentile Church had been gathered. The thorough understanding of Isaiah 49 seems to be necessary for this, which see; and compare the language with this.
- 34, 35. The searching of hearts, which the proposal of Christ in His genuine character would produce, is very fully described here. I suppose "the fall" (ptosin) is consequent upon His character. They were identified with Him in His humiliation, so to lose all place and station. In the professing Church it would be to have their names cast out as vile, men separating them from their company, but so also in His glory: "The glory which thou hast given me I have given them" - glory in the mediatorial kingdom set up after His death, much more in the regeneration. Even she could not receive it without the same moral change and humiliation; she must be born again, be humbled in all her hopes, and die to all her natural, her mental thoughts about it, before she saw or had any share in the glory; yea, see her Son die. Alas! we have too much discussion, too little simple apprehension of the glory of Christ. The general character, as it must have been practically, is of Jewish hope, though there be a declaration by the angels, and the Spirit through Simeon, of the great purpose and the full operation of dispensation.
86 I am inclined to think that in these two verses, I have been unduly led by the authorised English translation, as though "rising again" and "fall," applied to the same individuals; but I take it they are spoken absolutely. It would be a savour of death unto death, and a savour of life unto life. It operates separatively, being, though in the perfect manifestation of the holiness and excellency of God, yet manifested in humiliation as to all the expectations and glory of man. It is therefore "A Stone, A tried Stone, A precious Corner-stone," "A corner-stone, elect, precious," so as that many should rise into the glory of the Kingdom by it, but for "a Stone of stumbling and Rock of offence," and for "a sign to be spoken against," so that "for" with this "that" connects.
- 35. Whatever the reading in verse 33 may be, whether "Joseph" or "father" - very probably, as corrected - the address to Mary alone in this verse is so marked, and yet with so little purpose, or apparent evidence to be drawn from it, that it is very much stronger than any change of "Joseph" or "father."
- 36. "Of the tribe of Asher." We are still quite in Jewish associations as to facts.
- 38. "She coming up" (epistasa). There is a time of patience in God's kingdom, when "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint," and from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is no whole part in it, when it is the part of the Remnant to hope and patiently wait for the salvation of God; redemption is all, though faithful, they now can look for, and the coming of their God; compare Isaiah.
- 40. We still walk with Christ as in Jewish hopes, i.e., as a Man the grace or favour of God was upon Him. It is the Holy Thing, the Child born of the Virgin Mary which is spoken of, and it is in that character, in this gospel, He is spoken of as Son of God - His generation by the Holy Ghost, not His being Son with the Father before the world was. He is a Man, and in such sort spoken of; and they walk within the limits of His manhood, and therefore as a Jew, according to their place. It is: "His parents," and "According to the law," and "The custom of the feast."
87 - 43, 44. The evidence of something further begins to discover itself, and this is just the character of this gospel. In their hands it was "law" and "custom"; He speaks of and supposes they should wist He was about His Father's business.
- 48 et seq. She still said: "Thy father"; but He, as a matter of plain understanding in His soul, "My Father's," with far different purport. Still, He bows as yet, for the full time was not come. It is His mother, however, who is presented by the Holy Ghost as holding this place of intercourse with Him. She would treat Him as Joseph's son, and indeed their thoughts ran in an accustomed and habitual worldly channel; still she kept these things in her heart. But even in this claim Jesus is fully looked at as a Man, and specially presented as such, body and mind; He grew in wisdom, and stature, and in favour with God (for God took complacency in His perfection as Man), and with man, for the grace of God was on Him in all personally attractive grace, for testimony against the world was not in question yet here. Indeed these passages singularly instruct us in the consciousness of a principle of action entirely beyond ordinary claims, the most cogent, but the orderly and gracious subjection to those claims which cannot recognise that principle when it does not call out in responsibility of service to Him to whom it refers. Jesus is subject to Joseph as His father, though He had a ground of conduct altogether out of reach of this, but never as a matter of feeling, when the claim was in exercise for His service as sent and come into the world in grace. It could not be so in fact with us now. Grace will always clearly make the distinction rightly; Christ made it on either side - subjection to, and rejection of the claim in its right place. Indeed, Joseph disappears before He comes out into action. In this respect this passage, which almost alone touches on this part of the subject is of vast importance. Christ is a Man here distinctly, and therefore to the flesh a Jew, and so always, for indeed Jewish principles are the perfection of the flesh as it can be in the hands of man, and many things thus enforced, but Christ called and sent, takes out of the sphere altogether when so called.
His mother would speak to Him upon the common principle of the appearance of things - but she pondered it. Thus it was His own distinct consciousness, showing His Person, in which He was acting; nevertheless, as yet He was obedient as His place of service, to her and Joseph.
88 - 49. I think it is evident our Lord spoke this in the unconsciousness of the Spirit. These various circumstances of the manifestation of our Lord in the flesh Luke is full of. They are very important, as presenting Him to us in His Person as Son of God, which, be it observed, He calls Himself, at least says, "My Father's business" here. It is evident the Spirit of God meant to exhibit the Lord to us here as passing through all the preliminary advances to perfection, which relatively man would go through, not as to Person for that is distinctly ascertained previously, but as to exhibition of faculty, so that we might fully see Him as Man; and note the manner of expression, and bringing it in.
Indeed we may remark that it is a primary exhibition of Him in contrast with His supposed place. His mother says to Him: "Why hast thou dealt thus with us? Behold, Thy father and I have sought thee distressed." His answer is: "Why is it that ye have sought me? Did ye not know that I ought to be about my Father's business?" putting His true character in contrast with her question, and the error theirs in contrast with the supposed owing. Yet, note, the energies of the Spirit are subjected to direct apparent claims when it is not a call of the Spirit from those claims. We may also remark how little the occupation of present circumstances applies, or really entertains in its mind, the knowledge which even it has, so that the assertion is unintelligible, because it does not connect itself with present circumstances, as to which ordinary associations fill the mind.
Although in the fullest sense Jesus speaks here of His Father, yet still, I apprehend, we are introduced into apprehension of what He was as a Man in this world in this character, and thus it is He is presented in this gospel - the Fulfiller of Jewish hopes, and divine glory brought into the position of a Man, a Child, and so showing the Son of God in human nature, as walking in the Holy Ghost. "That Holy Thing . . . born of thee, shall be called Son of God." This was through the operation of the Holy Ghost; united with Him in resurrection this new nature is to be manifested in us. He is the form and pattern of it here below.