J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)
In this chapter we have gathering by the display of Himself, and man's sinfulness, fear being taken away by grace. Then Jehovah, goodness in Man. Jehovah alone healed the lepers, but here He touched the leper - which would have defiled another. This is God, manifest, too, in grace in life. In the paralytic, He takes up Psalm 103, but here it is not goodness but forgiveness brought down to earth as a present thing in Man, and proved by power. The two great parts of Christ's coming - what He was in life, and what He obtained for us by death - but here according to the place He was then in. In what follows He shows He calls sinners, but the new wine cannot be put into old bottles. As far as it went, it was so in what preceded. It was grace, but grace must form its own framework. Withal He is the consciously dependent Man, verse 16. In chapter 4, after binding the strong man, He visits His people in grace, but to be rejected, but shows His power over Satan, and the disease, and misery of man; not coming to have a following but to serve. In chapter 6, the Sabbath question is raised. The whole is a very distinct picture of what the Lord was on earth, but still within the precincts of Judaism, but showing it could not be so, as chapter 4:24-28, and chapter 5:36-39. Divine power in Man in goodness could not be restricted to it. That, and what the divine power was, is the main point here. The Sabbath, or seal of the old covenant, could not stand in the way of it, i.e., of God in goodness towards man; the Son of man was Lord of it. God judged of things, and must as manifest in flesh, according to goodness. The whole portion of chapters 4, 5 and beginning of 6, is very instructive in this point of view.
114 The instructions that follow connect themselves with this position of His disciples, i.e., with the position made for them by these principles, i.e., in the end of chapter 6, He gathers disciples in contrast with the nation. The first two chapters show the lovely picture of the Remnant, and how God could visit and keep them for Himself, when Satan ruled on high, but it was not yet Himself. The Holy Ghost was working in them, and in divine affections, but from chapter 4 it is Himself. We find indeed the Lord Himself wonderfully revealed to man in chapter 2, but it is simply as an Object, not as Himself acting and presenting Himself in the power of the Spirit to men. His mission is spoken of by others and His Person revealed, and knowing that His relationship with the Father was not for Himself from the Spirit given to Him, but in His Person, though He acted by the Spirit that we as men might have all the benefit of it. He is ministerially in the midst of Israel to chapter 6, though in a character which cannot be confined to it. Chapter 7 takes Him to other ground - a Gentile with more faith than in Israel, so that faith is blessed wherever it may be. He and John Baptist are rejected, and the vilest sinner goes saved and in peace through faith. Then the Sower. Remark here how differently this is introduced in Matthew. Here, it is Christ acting in grace, but justified only by the children of wisdom, and acting on a principle which must go beyond Jews, though "To the Jews first." He is Son of man in grace. This, which the nation cannot own, but He sows and will reap. In Matthew, where He presents Himself formally to Israel as Jehovah the Fulfiller of promise, it is the full rejection and condemnation of Israel (chap. 12:41, to the end) which gives occasion to the Sower. Here it is grace which Israel indeed will not have, but which then widens out to any sinners, and which, even in Israel was of a character which could not be confined to it.
- 5. We may observe the mixture of unbelief and faith shown in this answer of Peter's, and how truly real it is "the Lord accepts such." Obedience of action leads to apprehension of glory, apprehension of glory to the full mind of repentance. This is met by gracious assurance, and forms the introduction into the Lord's service.
115 It is a wonderful thing to consider the Lord's unknown passage through the world, considering who He was, all the multitudes being drawn to Him by the miracles which He did.
"At thy word." This was long after Peter had known the Lord, but antecedent to his being called to follow Him separately as a disciple. He "abode with him that day" was all when they followed Him from John; John was now cast into prison.
- 8. This also gives a vivid picture of the effect of the revelation of the Lord's glory, the conviction of the impropriety of the Lord's having anything to say to us, of the incompatibility of our state with His presence, and yet attracted to Him. Note, too, as to circumstance, this was after the attraction of Peter to the Lord; it was the effect of the revelation of glory on the conscience.
Grace acting sovereignly in the deep to gather where man could toil all night and find none - the ground on which a sinner, confessedly so, was called to be a fisherman, is very distinctly marked in this passage. It was not merely what Jesus was, and presented Himself as, and did, but choice, work on conscience, and mission. His own Person, as filled with the Spirit, and the principles of God's dealings in grace, had been brought forward hitherto; now, His acting, the full time being come, and this proposed, on these principles. That had been to Israel, but still what Israel really needed as sinners - sovereign grace. This also includes the power and competency of the present operations and effectual workings of grace in Him. Yet, however, Jesus might present Himself as a Man, glorifying His Father, when He acted with sovereign tide and competency as Jehovah really, He hides it and Himself, for this was not the point He sought as Man, but His glory that sent Him. "See thou tell no man," and He was retiring in the deserts and praying. The testimony was really the greater. It is beautiful to see the divine nature thus breaking through the Manhood when grace demanded it, and, we may add, faith, for He was without honour as in His own country as a Prophet, but individual faith called out all His divine grace and power. I will (thelo) is righteously only Jehovah's power, yet clearly a word of pure graciousness, willingness, as well as His goodwill. It was the doubtful point; power was manifest, but was the powerful One, God the Almighty (for so really it was) willing to have to do with the unclean? The answer was, He was - to make clean.
116 - 8-11. We may note here the operation of the breaking in of light upon an ardent and now awakened mind. The fact does not lead merely to itself but to Jesus, and judgment of one's self thereby. We may note its particular characters, immediate recurrence to Jesus in confession, with the sense of the impossibility of having a part with Him, from the new apprehension of our own sinfulness brought by the shining in of the only true criterion of divine glory, but primarily rather in the power of divine glory than in the plenitude of divine grace. Yet was it not peace nor rest as to Himself, nay, left there it would have been misery, or sunk back into carelessness. Astonishment (thambos) had taken hold on him and them. The peace was a further revelation of Christ, yet the other was such a manifestation of Christ in glory in contrast with his own state as led him to Him where he found peace.
Such then is the first ministration. Christ is a Saviour. The revelation of the divine glory in Him is the great instrument of awakening souls to come to Him. The suitableness of the method must be obvious; the way in which it operates may be here learned, but need not be commented on. But note the operation is by grace, different on Peter and the rest, and so distinguished by the Lord. Note also the necessary result is leaving all, and following Jesus thus known, quod nota; no difference in this. The peculiar operation on Peter, and what it was as distinguished from others, as connected with special place and suitableness for service in the Church, may be adverted to, and the Lord's address to him holds out a light to us as to this. We may note special apprehension of the glory, peculiarly deep convictions of sin, and a peculiar testimony, and moral designation by the Lord thereupon, and arising out of it as to occasion of its manifestation. For, indeed, it is upon this we preach, and only according to this in power, i.e., conviction and belief, for thus the testimony operates, i.e., upon us as subjects. It is not in power in man a mere abstract apprehension, but something in which he is himself vitally concerned - as to its general moral character and operation, it is as to all alike - no man follows Jesus rightly who does not leave all, nor, in the nature of things, can any leave all, though he may one for another, except for the Lord Jesus, and by His constraining power.
117 Thus the Lord knows those whom He has chosen.
The circumstances of this account, compared with John 21, and Peter, are that there are moral truths and mysteries or prophetic revelations contained in them; particularly the account in John 21 is to be weighed in all its bearings. There seems to be, in some particulars, a careful opposition between them, while many of the ulterior circumstances in John, I am led to think, are of vast importance. That this relates typically to ministry is certain; that there was in it the exercise of a much more obscure faith is also plain. The total failure without the Lord is also here strongly marked; the results also are accordant; both the net brake and the ships were sinking. Note also, they, having filled their ships with them, left the ships with no further to say to the fishes; both their ships were filled, they having called the assistance of their partners.
- 12. Our Lord now begins to show in detail the effectual operation of grace (in Him as come of God, being indeed God manifest in the flesh) as to the necessities of repudiated man. Grace had been shown. This had drawn out the exercise of hope in those whom the law of righteousness had righteously cast out. "A man full of leprosy" was clear as to the power of Jesus; he had seen its efficacy and believed it. The point was grace, i.e., in this case, willingness to do it on his need and request. Divine power we know alone did this; the priest was merely witness. Grace, however, was the great point, and this brought near in man - manifest in the flesh, for grace is God's prerogative, divine prerogative clearly, let it be in man or where it may, for "Who can forgive?" But this was shown in the effectual word: "I will, be thou clean." He came to exercise power, to save. That was what God was, for in Him He was to be learnt in way and character, and yet in all the grace and nearness of Man bringing the comfort of restoring sympathising love - sympathy with him in his evil though not partaking of it. "He touched him, saying, I will"; these two words convey all. It was that which drew nigh and touched the evil in others, did not the least shrink (as in law men were bound to do) from it, but touch it to dispel, not receive its sorrow and defilement. It was in Man, and as Man he did this properly and wholly, and yet He could say: "I will," for He ever answers the faith of man, though He may hide His glory, and reveal His Father's. But here it was human grace and divine power unfolding itself, in the efficacy of the Person of Jesus, to the hopeless need and sorrow of man. Still, as we have seen, He was not propagating but hiding His own glory, though indeed it could not be hid, for there was a boundless heart in Him to do good, and power to help: "The report concerning him was spread abroad still more." It was a glorious testimony to divine intervention and supremacy, that God was come in humbleness to help, for touching was a supreme act of love. But He desires him to go and offer, hiding Himself, but thereby showing it divine and He had done it, and He was a Man. Many were attracted, but He retired into the wilderness and was praying, casting Himself as Man upon God, i.e., the Father, quod nota, for He never departs from this character here, let what would of divine power be disclosed. And this was just the blessed and unspeakable mystery.
118 - 13, 14. His divine nature, and its acknowledgment by implicit faith is, I think, strongly manifested here. It is sad to the believer to speak of proofs, yet the Lord has condescended to give them, and at least to condemn men by them, that they might have no cloak for their sin. We are too accustomed to read of these things.
So ever as unknown and yet well known, the manifestations of divine power in us in works done in secret (I am not speaking here merely of individual grace) are often the most effectual testimonies to that glory in the world, and it is marked perhaps by the same unwillingness to be the objects of it ourselves. We speak, even here, of Jesus as a Pattern to us. Nay! I am persuaded there is more opportunity for a full display of the divine glory in us thus privately, where our souls may find vent through the faith of a humble and seeking soul than in other cases, according to the faith and grace that is in us. It supposes too, observe, a disposition to yield oneself in love to the despised necessities of the outcast poor, and to value that more than a manifestation of anything that is in us. Of such Spirit was the Lord of all glory, power and might. The circumstances have been often observed upon. The conduct and word is of Him who said: "I will; be thou clean." Who was this? How does the divine Lord shine through every action of His life! We shall do well also to compare this and the preceding account. Note also much His conduct when the rumour of Him did spread.
119 - 16. "And he withdrew himself, and was about in the desert [places] a praying." Oh, for this Spirit of holy purpose in every measure! Man would say He ought to come forward, but He indeed kept thus close to His work in perfectness of purpose, and, while intent upon the necessities of men, indifferent at their interest in Him, as to the purpose of His own soul. This separation in purpose is very singularly marked all through our Lord's life, as is its calmness. It was indeed suitable to His present work that He should rest it distinctly upon moral discovery, and not otherwise make Himself known.
- 17. "I say, Have they not heard?" For the Jews would have made Him a king upon their own grounds, but He must be received as the Son of man or not at all. We have in this verse evidence how in this gospel events are morally brought together. As before we had cleansing grace drawn near to defilement, so here we have complete forgiveness demonstrated to power. "The power of the Lord was present to heal." Both these circumstances were Jewish in form and referred to the presence of the Son of man upon earth, the incarnate Jehovah, but showing that the power had drawn near in Man. This refers to Psalm 103, Jehovah's dealings praised by Messiah. The former to the law of leprosy. They were strict teachers of the law, but power was present, the power of the Lord; still He presents Himself as Son of man.
- 20. Faith sometimes shows itself in disregard of circumstances, not being turned aside by their apparent necessity, because the mind is fuller of the necessity of the other. The forgiveness is brought now, to wit, to His people, and by faith, for the body and the world are not yet manifested to be redeemed, though known to be so by the believer. Accordingly herein the supremacy of God is known, to wit, His necessary dominion, namely by the forgiveness of sins on the earth (epi tes ges) through faith by grace. And herein, too, observe, acknowledged; therefore he says to obedience of faith, and the like, and that in Christ Jesus.
Note also it brings the remedy where the ruin was overreaching it, by the supremacy of God through faith, and prevailing against the enemy where he had prevailed, and casting him out, quod nota.
- 21. Note also the strange foolishness of man.
- 22. Does "knowing" (epignous) imply divine perception of, or when He knew, i.e., in this instance? "In your hearts" seems to imply the former, and that in asking the question He gave the most convincing proof of the divinity they were questioning.
120 God's forgiveness on earth is precisely what is made known in Christ, and is applied to everyone on his reception into His Body the Church by faith. As to the ministrations of this grace (whether baptism or the prayer of faith mentioned by James and John) I would observe on the nature and purpose of the Christian ordinances. It is to keep the doctrine of forgiveness by faith distinct and unimpeachable - it is not only given but made known in Christ, "To declare, I say," and again, "Be it known unto you," and is the ministration of effectual and possessed peace. It is of present power and ministration. "The Son of man hath power on earth." God has it in that He is God. If we know there is God, we know that He has power to forgive sins, but the other is matter of faith and revelation, and "That ye may know," and declaration, as we have seen, and in which the point of the gospel and Christian faith, as to dispensation, begins; compare Acts 13:38, 39. Apparently, and in se according to the inductive right judgment of men, as Son of man He has no such power. It is a thing which rests either on the knowledge of His office as revealed in His Person as connected with the prominent facts of the gospel, or else evidenced by an adequate exhibition of power which, by the word of truth, we can recognise as of God, connected with the exercise of the assumed power, and this is indeed but testimonial of the other unknown in an external way to the thoughts of men, and rightly commanding his inductive judgment: "Believe me that I am, or else believe me," etc. Is there then any exercise of this power? We say: Always in the Name of the Son of God preached according to faith, and the calling of God to minister that word as Acts 13:38, 39, and this is the primary article of faith in the dispensation of the grace of the gospel or Christianity in testifying to the Son of man as to personal power, merely dependent on the power of discriminating absolutely them that believe on Him, that manifest themselves to be sanctified out of the world by faith that is in Him, according to the gift of God in anyone, and exercisable only when Church order is practicable. And inasmuch as we judge justly that it is not of man, and none have it by eternal mediation as Christ had witnessed, only by testimony suitable to the claim, as Christ Himself afforded it as justly necessary, i.e., given to the weakness of man, who could not see the brightness of His Person, and conclusive against mistake on so important a point: "If I had not done among them" (although they ought to have known His Person) "the works which none other man did, they had not had sin, but now have they," etc., "sin because they believe not on me." But inasmuch as it rests by (in that He is indeed the Heir of the world) office in Him, those who may be entrusted with this power for the purposes of gathering souls out of the world, have it only to the ministration of His glory, and can only minister it to faith in His Name, and in His Name, and the doing it otherwise at once evidences that it is false, and the highest of all sins against God, resulting in denial of forgiveness at all, and thus upsetting the very instrument by which souls are gathered out of this world to the Father. Accordingly the apostles were entrusted with this as not an intrinsic, as in Him, but a deposited power, exercisable according to the measure given to them, to wit, of an apostle: "As my Father sent me, even so send I you." We say that the doctrine they taught they could select faithful men to minister in, but the apostles themselves could have no power of sending others with the same authority, for it must flow from One who had it intrinsically or by office. They had it by gift as deputed; they could pray, and lay hands on believers that they might receive, but they could not breathe and say, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." God may give it afresh to whomsoever He will but in order to its exercise he must approve himself possessed of it as Christ Himself did, and His apostles, and he must receive it immediately from God as they did. So the ground of peace lessened not at all, for the testimony of Christ is unchangeable, which, i.e., on the footing of which and faith in it, they themselves exercised it, and it is merely evidence of the truth of that doctrine when sent. On the whole, it rests in faith in the Person of the Son of man, being founded absolutely in the Person of the Son of God communicated solely in Him, and therefore communicable only by and to faith in His name; and unbelief in this barred an apostle, nay, Christ Himself in the flesh (Matt. 13:58) from the exercise of His office. And that Name it turns about as its centre, and all the ministration of it is ordered accordingly, and that which is otherwise is but vain delusion, for this is the connecting ordinance of God to Himself, to wit, forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus And here one main deceit of falsehood lies. God, by forgiveness, wins the soul to guilelessness and confession, and towards Him who alone can reach and satisfy the conscience, and try the reins and the heart so as to convert them to holiness, for He is the only end of holiness, and, through forgiveness, brought very near to us in Jesus Christ, God becomes the Object of the soul in a way a sinner can receive Him with his whole heart, and love Him with his whole heart because he is a sinner. In a word, in Christ Jesus, God is manifested to the sinner as the absorbing Object of his soul in the way of grace and holiness now favourable towards him. On this hinge of forgiveness in Christ turns the whole restoration of the soul to God, even the God of love, who is Love, and so only can be justly known, or could the sinner receive as such; see Psalms 32 and 139. But in any other forgiveness, other than in Christ's Name, the conscience is not searched to the bottom, the heart is not consequently restored to God, nor purged, nor purified, but the sinner left precisely where he was or worse, by the supposed healing of his conscience.
122 The doctrine of the restoration of the soul to God by absolute personal forgiveness, the covenant of infinite grace applied to sin, and making God known to the sinner in Jesus Christ is indeed the great all-important truth. The sinner cannot know God otherwise, for there is a breach between him and God, and while sin remains, one and all, upon his conscience he cannot know love, nor have communion with Him; he needs reconciliation, and this is given so as to set up God in holy love again to his soul by grace when it comes from Himself. Therefore, "How much more shall the blood of Christ who," etc., "purge your conscience . . . to serve," etc. But it is not in philosophical views of these things that their power rests, but in the plain truths of it. In conclusion, that which is here is the evidence of the Person of Jesus Christ, and this is the hinge on which the whole force of the passage rests, and the more its force, bearings and consequences be examined, the more will the truth of this appear, and its weight be found. This testified of it, and all ministrations of forgiveness are but of this, and when this is known as revealed, the other is possessed as declared in that. "Forgiveness of sins" was to "be preached in his name," so the commission runs, "beginning," etc. The seal of it was by discriminating ministration; and, note, this keeps the soul of the minister of it also in its right place of dependence.
123 There is another point of great interest which I had not before noticed in Luke. After His baptism and temptation taking His place as Man (second Adam) and victory over Satan, instead of failing like the first, Christ begins by presenting Himself as the Fulfiller or Fulfilment of promise in grace, but looks for rejection as Joseph's Son (grace went beyond Israel and brought out their enmity) and proves His power, so that the demons own Him to be that One promised to Israel, as in Psalm 89, of the chasadim (mercies) of the Lord. "Thou spakest in vision of thy Holy One (chasid). I have laid help on Him that is mighty. I have exalted One chosen out of the people." So all the evils Satan has inflicted on man disappear before His word, and hereon He is recognised in two other parts of His Jewish titles and name - Son of God and the Christ, as in Psalm 2, and He preaches the Kingdom of God. But He must preach the word of God, not remain for mere earthly comfort of man, nor His own. In chapter 5, He convicts of sin by revealing Himself to the conscience as the Lord, but removes fear, and gathers round Himself. We have not the fulfilment of promise and the Holy One, but a divine Person, and One revealing Himself as such and bringing in new things in grace. He acts as Jehovah to the leper, yet comes nearer than man could by right - He touched him; others were defiled thus. He came touching man in sin, but driving away the defilement. So He forgives sins, and proves His Jehovah title to do so, according to Psalm 103.
Here then He is not the Holy One of God, but a divine Person. So He calls in grace Himself, does not merely recite the history of Naaman and the woman of Sarepta. They are offended at divine grace, and the question is raised as to the old way. They could not mourn with the Bridegroom there; He would be taken away before the wedding, then they would. But there was more than this - new wine could not be put in old bottles, and no one having drank old straightway desires new. He announces that the divine display of grace could not be put into the old Jewish system; and they would not have it Before they reject when He is there as Man, only, by divine protection and as a divine Person, He passes through them; here when He has acted as a divine Person, He tells what must take place. Then follows the Sabbath, the seal of their covenant, but He Lord of it, and that as Son of man and according to grace.
124 Thus chapter 4 is the Holy One, fulfilment of promises (He who is the Man-overcomer of Satan). In chapter 5 He is Jehovah, but present in grace as Man, and, because Jehovah, untouched by defilement, touching in grace the defilement of man, i.e., in others; but shows then His dependence as Man - He withdrew Himself into the wilderness and prayed. Hence what was simply Jehovah convincing of sin, and cleansing, now comes out as the power of the Son of man, for from verse 17 it is forgiveness and grace to sinners in the hands of the Son of man. Thus we have had the Prophets and Psalms fulfilled, Jehovah present in grace, the Son of man with power on earth to forgive sins - all in this divine Person, Jehovah present in Manhood, the Word made flesh, the Son of God.
The notice of the Sabbath connects itself with the last part. It was the seal of the covenant, the very mark of God's people. What place would it hold in respect of this Person, now thus coming in? There seem to me three principles introduced connected with it. At the time the Jews were allowed to eat the corn, the first fruits having been offered, the disciples, the very first Sabbath day, I apprehend, after it was allowed, rub the corn and eat it owning the new blessing. The Lord's answer is, I apprehend, this, The rejected Son of David is as free as the rejected David. He whom God owns is cast out, and grace is free. Next, He declares the Son of man, His full and larger title when rejected, to be the Lord of the Sabbath - an immensely important point. Thirdly, God is free, grace is free to do good on the Sabbath or any day; His nature is above His imposed rest. This He asserts, in spite of Pharisees. Blessed be God, it is so!
What follows shows the disciples separated out to Himself from the nation, so that really all is settled. It does not give principles merely, showing what kind of persons can have the kingdom, but addresses the disciples as those to whom it belongs. It was, however, the time of sorrow as to it, for as fulfilling the promises He was rejected, the tribulation and patience of the kingdom, but woe to those at ease, for judgment was coming. This as to promises and the kingdom. But further as to those who heard, they were to imitate God in His ways of grace, they were to be children of the Highest. The Jewish leaders were only the blind leading the blind into the ditch, and personal purification, not moralising for others, was alone truth of heart, and hearing Christ, even among them indeed, was only delusion without obedience. This, therefore, was more an epoch than the Sermon on the Mount, not that I count it different, but what the Holy Ghost there presents to the nation as principles, is here spoken of as actually distinguishing the disciples, and the double character of promise, and the manifestation of God in grace is distinctly brought out. The Remnant are called. Hence we have not "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way," though that was yet true. But the distinction is morally made.
125 A little more precision as to chapters 4-6. He comes as fulfilling prophecy in grace, is rejected by man, the devils own Him as the Holy One of God (the chasid of Psalm 89), the Christ, the Son of God, of Psalm 2, but He does not receive their testimony. He reveals God in reaching conscience, cleansing the leper, forgiving sins, calling sinners in grace. But this new wine cannot be put into old bottles. Of these old bottles of Judaism, the Sabbath was the keystone, i.e., rest connected with law in creation. He meets the accusation of breaking it by the liberty of the seed of promise whom God owned when rejected (David and the shewbread) He was the rejected Christ. Being such, He takes the place of the Son of man, as everywhere, but as such He is Lord of the Sabbath. Thirdly, divine goodness would act for itself in grace in the midst of misery, and not be confined by legal hindrance, and a yoke of bondage. Thus all the characters of Christ as here revealed are brought into the question. But then note that the rejection by man through self-will, when the devils owned Him, does not hinder His developing, in chapter 5, His divine title of doing good. He goes on to this, only He shows this new wine must be put into new bottles, but this does not hinder His carrying it out, only it cannot be, from the nature of things, in Judaism; nor do the strongest sanctions of law, as a system of ordinances, bar grace.
No circumstance or situation in which the Lord speaking ministerially does not detect and call out grace, i.e., call out His own more strictly! So the gospel in the power of the Spirit.
- 26. Here was the great basis laid of Jehovah-power come in in grace, and that in Man. "They glorified God," but it is not said they owned Him; they had seen paradoxes in such assertion of forgiveness and title in a Man, and power proving it, and this was to be developed. Jews not learned, and Galileans the Lord had already called to be His companions. Having proved the divine authority of grace in Man so come amongst them, He was now to call and become the Companion of publicans. The two points noticed were of great importance, as the supreme exercise of Jehovah-power in Man - thus prerogatively in real manifestation of His Person, rising over Israel's ruin, because the leprosy was cleansed, and the sins forgiven, and the man healed. One showing the supreme power of Jehovah in mercy as to evil amongst them, and the other the accomplishment of latter day, Jehovah-forgiving, blessings, as in Psalm 103, restoring the full blessing of the nation after their sinful state. This was clearly prerogative mercy, but amongst Jews, and applying to them. It was mercy come amongst them as Man feeling all the evil but in power. Thence it reaches on to those who did not come within what a Jew would recognise of prerogative to a Jew; it might go to a Gentile. Having asserted these two great prerogative mercies which, identifying the Lord with the Jehovah of Israel, whatever His humiliation and service, as Man, might be - mercies connected with grace to Israel in its helpless defilement which Jehovah alone could remove, and the spotless Saviour alone approach to, and approach, too, undefilable and forgiving all - He passes on to the power of this in receiving rejected outcasts according to the graciousness of His own prerogative. He called Levi, and sat down to eat with a multitude of publicans and others. It was bad company - company for Messiah, and one who had a character - the Scribes and Pharisees murmured; this not to Jesus in enquiry, but to His disciples as slurring Him. Why did He eat with publicans and sinners? But the Lord's eye caught their complaints. What does His eye slight, or not see for His disciples? The answer was the answer of simple grace: "They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I am not come to call the righteous but sinners." The Lord then added the joy of the disciples by His being there. The Bridegroom was with them. Faith could not act on the ignorance, no more than grace on the dark selfish self-righteousness of the Pharisee. But a change was further about to take place. They could not then act on the Jews' darkness, but soon the Bridegroom would be gone, and then they would have occasion to feel thus the form of the dispensation which would be altered. The power of the new life, and the Spirit of Christ flowing from His resurrection, and manifesting His exaltation in glory could not be put in the old bottles of Jewish forms. It was not then merely that supreme grace had been manifested amongst Jews, but that this grace, coming forth in the power of the exalted Saviour, was incompatible with the character and contractedness of old Jewish forms and habits. These were the two things - supreme grace, and then the vessel that was to contain it. The latter was a parable as yet, the time was not yet full come. It was not expected that those accustomed to the old would like the new. Still power, the new wine and the new cloth were in it. Thus far, from the case of the leper, the operation of the principles of grace for man and in the dispensation, are brought out, but the last part necessarily brought out the signs of covenant associations, and into this then in this gospel the Spirit next conducts us. The whole of this is a touching development of the position in which all these parties stood.
127 - 32. Note also our Lord was just now entering on His ministry, or however we have Him thus exhibited by Luke, and the observations of the people on it, for He had now begun to have disciples of whom He was looked upon, as here, as a sort of leader.
Note then accordingly, in chapter 4:14, we are given the full announcement of His Person and mission, with the accompanying exhibition of its acceptance in the world, and the declaration of the election of grace as against the presumptuous claim of men, together with the judgment and supremacy of God, and the anger of man at it, showing only his wicked opposition to God. I think also there are other typical hints in that place on which we need not enter here. Chapter 4:31-44, the general manifestation of His power over Satan; chapter 5 to verse 11, His connecting glory, and receiving disciples thereby. In the account of the leper we have Him who could touch sin so as to put it away, being undefiled and separate from sinners, His healing sinners, and more largely His authoritative power in forgiveness, against all question, in what follows. Then here, we have opened to them that have understanding, the moral character and ministration of His mission; I mean down to verse 39. These are but hints which may be opened in reading the passages, and doubtless much more.
128 Luke 6
- 1. "On the second first Sabbath" (sabbato deuteroproto), i.e., just after the beginning of first-fruits, i.e., of corn, to wit, first day of unleavened bread.
If the above statement be correct, there would be, I think, allusion in the particular Sabbath; at any rate it was the corn freshly ripe. It was in them a passing act, no labour of gathering, but the Lord's reply has, in the reference to David, a great deal of bearing on the circumstances. David was the king raised up in grace, but hidden and an outcast, and grace acts on the will of God in mercy to it; if the king be reduced to such a condition, the shewbread, and order of God's house is, in a manner, common. The Lord accordingly asserts in that His title over the Sabbath. "The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath." This was an important point. The Son of man forgave sins, and touched the leper, and by His will cleansed him. Thus grace was introduced. If, on the now avowed impossibility of putting new cloth on an old garment, Pharisees found fault with liberty, while Israel's rejection of its King made its own restoration privileges common, the Son of man must declare His title as such as paramount to the obligation in its original force. Their failure and His title as Son of man concurred in opening the door for grace, and breaking down the restriction that had confined privilege to themselves. Such the double force, in its principle put, of this passage. If the twelve loaves of shewbread were the expression of the Lord's association with Israel, the force of the allusion would be stronger still. At any rate, David was king in grace, on the failure of Israel; see Psalm 78, and was then outcast, as Jesus was. The second point takes even a higher ground; the "those with him," beautifully brings in grace, associating them with Him. The next case, as the healing the man whose forgiveness He had pronounced, introduces the grand evidence of divine beneficent power proving His title, and forcing them, if they would not own it, to oppose God's working in grace. God had not a Sabbath while sin and where sin and sorrow were, nor did He come to this earth to find or to have a Sabbath here, nor to make one, but by the redemption which gave it in another life. Here it was giving power where withered, not finding rest where there was ruin. This grace, as they could not gainsay (and it mortified their pride, proving their impotency) they opposed, and were mad at. This was the result of grace in divine power passing over every obstacle, manifested before them, and this closed this immediate division of the account.
129 - 4. A saint is not an instance of laxity of conduct in breaking through principles, but his conduct being of faith may show a principle which may have been covered, under any given rite, from circumstances.
- 6. Illustrative of the way in which Luke brings things together by subjects, showing what was the main subject matter. Note this subject of the Sabbath was circumstantially worthy of a distinct place, for it had become a pledge of the separating covenant; it is manifest to me that the Lord dissolves its obligation, not its object. If a man be not under grace, I do not say but he may be obliged by the Sabbath, but so also by the whole law, and should be circumcised. But the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath, and it is lawful to do good on it, and I do not know what else it is lawful for a Christian to do at any time. Indeed, it seems to me to weaken the results of Christ's resurrection, to suppose that the Gentile Church is subject to the Jewish Sabbath; however, let a man be fully persuaded in his own mind, and consider him who might be led into sin by it. It is of the old things, and men like them, and they are connected here in consequence, however excellent the object.
- 10. The Lord gave them no occasion of cavilling, for He neither did anything Himself, nor did the other but stretch forth his hand, and showing His power and mission to save, without giving them even handle to accuse. They were filled with distraction of mind. And it was done very publicly, and drawing expressly the attention of all, and He looking around on them all so as to fix their attention on Himself.
- 12, et seq. The Lord having taken this place and had disciples with Him in His manifestation of it, now associates others with Him in the testimony of it. But here again we see the Lord setting about it, whatever His authority, as an independent Man as to men - a dependent Man as to God. He was all night in prayer to God, so I take it, and afterwards, when the day came, called His disciples, and having chosen, etc. How blessed and most gracious is this expression in the Lord, of dependence, and reference to His Father! It is most lovely. There is nothing puts the Lord in such a place of gracious leading to us, for I speak not of atonement here.
130 The principles of our Lord's own mission having been exhibited, we find others then chosen to be witnesses of it. I speak of course of the gospel. Christ named them "apostles." Their character was definitely assigned them, as sent out from Him; they had been companions with Him.
Are not "having chosen" (eklexamenos) and "descending" (katabas) dependent on "He stood" (este) as the only verb of the sentence? We have now not Jesus teaching in the synagogue and grace, and the setting aside of the old covenant system alluded to, but the multitudes coming to Jesus when He has assumed the prerogative, still as Man, but the Lord of sending out missionaries from Himself as the Centre-Power shown towards them all so coming, and then the principles in which He viewed the world, morally communicated to His disciples in the audience of the people.
There is difference in Matthew 5, etc., and this discourse, that Matthew is the introduction of the Father's Name, and the principles, regenerate principles of Christ's kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, into the Jewish state and circumstances, showing who, and on what principle they would be accepted. Here, on the contrary, Christ is become the Centre, grace having been spoken of, forgiveness and cleansing, from which He sends out witnesses for testimony. Consequently, we have His estimate of things contrasted with the world's thoughts, into which they were really going (even if Judaea was the momentary name it had) and what became a disciple so going out. They are looked at either as apostles of Christ, His judgment and will being declared before the people, or connected with the principles on which He was sending them out, not the mere introducing a new principle into the presence of the Jewish nation, as that which morally connected them with the Father, and with the kingdom of heaven, when it should come, in the principles of the children in Messiah's kingdom. In this we have contrast with the world - not a contrast with sayings (dicta) to those of old time.
- 16. It seems to be marked as characteristic.
- 17, et seq. I am disposed to think the same as Matthew 5. "On a level place," is not the plain, but a meaning expressly distinct from it. The place from which the multitudes came is, in fact, in both cases, the land of Israel from one end to the other. Such parts of the discourse as peculiarly affected their place in the world, are by the Spirit put forward here, such as showed conformity to Christ, the Second Adam, and nonconformity to the world which crucified Him. In Matthew we are presented with it in its bearings on the old system, and them as elected amongst it, and the principles of the new dispensation of which He appeared as the Founder, but it has thus a narrower character of manifestation, though of the same root, though there is enough the same to lead us into this instructive comparison. Thus the "Now" (nun) is of characteristic force in this passage of Luke, and the whole will be found a detection of, or pronouncing on worldly principles - the present and that which is to come, brought into juxtaposition. And in this view compare the note on Matthew 5:25, and the place which it holds in Luke, confirming that much. But all Matthew is addressed to them as members of the new system - this, as children of God, and so Christians in the world. So compare verse 22 here with Matthew 5:11, etc., as there too it is introduced on His first collecting disciples, and public preaching, exhibiting the character of the new dispensation. So here, after the historical introduction as to the acknowledgment of Him in childhood, and the exhibition of His Person ministerially, as we have seen, we have here the moral character of the hope of the everlasting gospel contrasted with "this age" - generally, we may say, its moral character. The time of the history points it out as the same discourse.
131 They are general principles. "I say to you which hear" comes afterwards. His disciples were, however, "the poor." Note they were not blessed because they were poor, but because theirs was the kingdom of God. Therefore the Lord says "When" (hotan). And whereas we may rejoice in that day, 'tis in that day we may rejoice, not beforehand, thinking highly of ourselves above that which we ought to think.
All the moral characters of this are very strong, and their personal application gives them great force.
- 27. "To you that hear" is a peculiar character - those who are His followers indeed. And note, therefore, in wisdom while we may desire the increase of faith for others, it is to those "that hear," to whom it is of any avail to say these things, not to despise the rest (for there is no difference) but it is not for profit. Yet this is the Spirit of Christ.
132 - 30. "What is thine" (ta sa) that of which you can say: "It is mine."
- 35. The reason, it is of faith, for all perfectness is of faith, and faith only perfects. "And your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Highest"; a reason which is its own reason, and which a man must have in order to be of any weight, for the conduct and the result here mentioned are apprehended together, for the apprehension of it in God is its power in us.
- 37. I think here general principles are resumed as, in one sense, they run through it.
- 38. "Shall be given" is a generic expression with Luke. "And shall men give" misleads from the sense.
These two verses pursue the analogy of the divine character in this dispensation. Then comes the human relation and sense of the thing. There is moral blindness. Then judging after the flesh, and they cannot lead the blind. The flesh cannot guide the flesh; it cannot see its own evil. But the tree is known by its own fruits, not by its judgment of the fruits of others; see Romans 2. This is traced to the root. What comes forth from the man is the plain evidence of the root from which it springs. Thus, in the new man, the old nature is judged, i.e., so far as that, oneself. The plain power of practice is then adverted to. Thus, having laid grace, cleansing forgiving grace as the basis, and the old bottles worthless, the principles of the kingdom, as contrasted with the world, and of the children, are stated, and thereon the grace to, and recognition of Gentiles in faith openly brought in.
There is another blessed point brought in here, the flesh cannot lead the flesh, and make it better; they would both fall into the ditch. The taught cannot be above his master (and the Jew was a teacher in the flesh), but then comes the revelation that every one that is perfected shall be as His master. The disciple is to be conformed to Christ. This is indeed a leading principle of this, if I may so call it, missionary discourse, i.e., on which the blessed Lord sent His disciples forth, not every Christian here, but every disciple that is perfected (katertismenos). The instruction of the Master was of His own principles and standard. It was not salvation, but discipleship was in question here. It was what He expressed was to be learnt, and the blessed privilege of the disciple was, to be conformed to his Master. The teaching was the expression of the truth of His character. For our sakes He has sanctified Himself. The Lord then goes on to show it was not judgment, but the evidence of what was within by their acts, which showed the stability of their assumed condition, for indeed then there was a new nature.
133 - 39. "Both" is an anxious word. God may give gifts, but when he who ought to be a disciple is the master, there is no teaching at all, and the blind lead the blind. But discipular place is according to the gift of knowledge. A man who is wiser than his teacher, through the knowledge of God's law, cannot be the disciple of such in truth. On the other hand, he who really apprehends in principle all that his master teaches is as his master - one with him. There may be other principles connected with this, not to be passed over, but these things are true. Note, too, it is "shall be" (estai), but a disciple cannot learn or have more than his master has to teach. But what were stated above are the principles of Christ's teaching. The blind cannot lead the blind, but those to whom it is given are to manifest that which they have, that others may, having it also, be so far as themselves, and they that have ears to hear shall hear and understand and be as the teacher.
- 40. A form we have to note here is pas (every one) with a participle; pas katertismenos (every one that is perfected), here it is in that character, en tant que (in so far as). This use of it is common in other cases. Romans 12:1. Thusian zosan (living sacrifice), as a living sacrifice; and so in many places. So 1 Timothy 2: 6, ho dous heauton antilutron (who gave Himself a ransom); to marturion (the testimony), where note the difference - He did not give Himself as a witness, the witness was for its own times. As to participles again, 1 Corinthians 11:4, 5; on the other hand Luke 6:47, pas ho erchomenos (every one that comes). Here the individual; so Matthew 5:22, pas ho orgizomenos (every one that is angry), and elsewhere - the individual fact, not the characteristic case. As to the case of some nouns; without the article, they are clearly characteristic. All nouns are by themselves - "table" answers to what is that object. Only we do not so speak in English; so Matthew 5:14, polis keimene (a city situated), such a thing, not that thing. Exceptions are nothing; "gone to town," in England would be to London or some very large city in the thoughts.
134 There is also a promise in this word "perfected, shall be," etc.
- 41. This verse needs little comment. It is a moral defect, and truth itself will always be wandering without grace.
- 42. "To thy brother." There is not the spirit of love in it. One cannot say "brother" sincerely in doing it, for indeed there is pleasure in seeing the fault, a spirit of comparison. The Christian spirit of teaching is delight of soul in the holy things of God there, and in spirit communicating them to others in love, and so even in finding fault. No man ought to find fault until he be able to say "Brother," in the spirit of, and because he loves him; see accordingly, the directions if a brother trespass against us. As to others, we resist not evil, but bear all things. Men may rebuke sin if they have authority. "Perceivest not"; it may be forgetfulness, but surely there is the very moral fault in this - we see our neighbour's and not our own. Not so the repentant man, he is full, until cleared, of his own sins, and then can speak in the spirit of love which knows forgiveness. Therefore He says elsewhere: "Thou hypocrite," for it shows our mind is not changed as to the thing, yet we find fault with it in another; therefore evidently not of love, nor indeed have we right in this to say: "Brother"; so Psalm 51, which see - you are bad enough yourself, and therefore it is impossible you can have a right moral judgment to direct others.
- 46. This is a reproach, yet instruction is treasured up in it.
- 48. The rock which was under the surface. The power of eternal life is not in the audience of the words, pleasant as they may be, and seemly in profession, but in a fruit-producing change of mind, which no floods can affect, for it is within, it unites us to God which the great waterfloods cannot come nigh as to its stability.
- 49. And the higher and nobler, the greater the ruin.