J. N. Darby.


(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)

Luke  13

- 1. This verse marks the connection, as indeed is plain, of this instruction of repentance with what goes before in its moral application. The Spirit of God takes occasion through another circumstance, occurring about the same time, to give further of the Lord's testimony directly on the same subject. A like judgment would come on the whole nation as on the victims of Pilate's wrath, or the judgment of God in the tower of Siloam. Unless they repented, they should "All perish in like manner." He adds the parable of the fig-tree. It seems to me that this includes the work of the Holy Ghost by the twelve apostles up to Stephen, as well as the Lord's, it was the ministry of the blessed Spirit, the "This year also" afforded by the intercession of Jesus. The Lord looked for fruit three years, and there was none. It only cumbered the ground, rendered the ground useless, and unprofitable, and inactive. God could do nothing with it, nor man, for so is a fruitless, nominal people of God, unjudged. It turns to nothing neither the accomplishment of providence, nor the manifestation of grace. Judgment was pronounced upon: "Why does it also render the ground useless?" But the Vinedresser, the Lord Jesus, intercedes that He may use all means. If these failed: "After that." It is not merely "Then." It was given up to judgment as the Lord: "Let there be never more fruit of thee for ever." For it was by a new covenant, and a new name that Israel is introduced to blossom, and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. Now it was to be cut down. Such was the judgment of God, the issue of His patient long suffering and mercy.

241  - 10. The Sabbath was the sign of the old covenant. But hypocrisy, which always takes form instead of holiness and power, had taken possession of the nation and its rulers, and the Lord pursues His way of power in mercy despite their forms, putting forward, though righteously always as in mercy and asserting the reality of the privileges in grace, the breaking down these signs, and impliedly their existing relationship with God, while He confirmed the basis which really they despised; they loosed their ox and their ass. Satan had bound a daughter of Abraham; should not He loose her? Note here with what condemnatory authority in the matter the Lord now speaks. He introduces power in deliverance in favour of Abraham's children, but He slights the form in which it stood, and denouncingly condemns those who now held it in that shape. In that sense this is very important. It had a strong active transition character.

- 11. Christ shows the hypocrisy of their maintenance of the old covenant, and thereon shows the new character of the kingdom, the King not being there, as a great power and dissemination of doctrine. On the question if the Remnant was numerous, shows the cross-character of the path - people must count the cost of building and overcoming; the multitudes who had taken up with Him He would not own when Abraham and Gentiles from all parts would be in the kingdom. He was in the hands of God till His time came, but a prophet could not perish out of Jerusalem; the guilt was all found there; her house was desolate, and she would not see Him till she repented in the last day, according to Psalm 118. But the Jehovah who had loved her bewailed her self-earned doom.

Evidently equally the setting aside Israel all would perish, the fig-tree be removed after every effort - hypocrisy in ceremonial observances contrasted with the power of God. The kingdom not now in power but as a mustard seed and leaven. The Remnant marked by earnest effort to enter at the strait gate, workers of iniquity rejected (no peace to the wicked) and the Gentiles let into the kingdom. But it was not in Galilee by man's power and wickedness, but in judgment on Jerusalem that the Lord would now be perfected, nor see Him again who had visited it in love until they through grace repented, and were ready to receive Him coming in the name of Jehovah - till Psalm 118.

- 20. My impression is that when the dative is used for time it is always as one whole, point, or object, when the accusative it is a space during which. Thus, taking the common reading, Judges characterised the period of 450 years; He nourished them during forty years - He was going on doing it all the time. So "For a long time" (hikano chrono, Acts 8:11); so Romans 16:25. Thus trite hemera ("the third day," dative) and triten hemeran ("the third day," accusative) would not have the same force, though in result the sense would be the same. In the first I should think of that one day. so characterised; with triten I think of two days elapsed before. In a word, the accusative is duration, the dative epoch, though in sense they often run into one another. Thus according to the common reading, the statement would not be "during 450 years," but 'up to,' 'as far as,' i.e., counting from the end of Desert. So that Joshua, Elders, and Cushanrishathaim, would have to be deducted, say some 45 years. I have supposed in computing, 48 and 402 to Saul. So that the chronology is in no way changed. I hold clearly that the building the temple dates from the settlement in the land, as if I said: 'In England from the time the Saxons came from Germany, they have had elective kings.' This would certainly mean as to since the settlement in England. 402 supposes each period given to be a whole year, which is surely not to be so taken, and to make up the 480, there are 84 - Saul 40, David 40, Solomon 4. So that the ten years allowed to Elders in the 45 may well be cut down to next to nothing. But I suspect the 25 given by Josephus to Joshua is too short.

242  - 17. "And all the crowd." How remarkable and uniform a circumstance this is.

- 18-21. These two paragraphs are, as it were, supplemental paragraphs to the long paragraph which we have been considering.

This appears to me our Lord's instructions as to the place the Sabbath bore in His kingdom as manifested. But there is another point in it, the way in which love overlooks circumstances which superstition and unbelief looks to take its credit from. Therefore our Lord shows the reality of the thing by showing that they did the same things, or worse, as to the day when selfishness was concerned, and the only difference was He did it out of love. In verse 16 the contrast in moral rectitude and their own principles is perfectly strongly put. There is then the contrast between false and true religion in this - with their formal character and detected character - true needs no detection, it stands before the world such as it is, and has no object to act for but to show its principles by using them. This action of truth the people will generally receive. The moral estimate of things is a great criterion of true and false religion. False religion can have nothing but what is competent to those who have none. True consists in what none but those who have it can have, for it is of God. The rest is acquiesced in as occasion requires. Wherever forms have the place of mercy, there we may be assured there is no true religion. The importance of that which has not moral communion with God, and seeks its own importance, is lost when form is lost of which it is the head, and things are estimated as they affect God and man. The real character of the gospel is developed then in this. The character of its progress is next marked.

243  - 19. I suspect myself that it is stated under two characters, as planted amongst the Jews, and yet the very heathen kings finding their repose under its influence, no matter how; and this as a tree. Secondly, in its general pervasion of that, into which it was put, as a system according to the purpose of God, as the leaven leavens all, but all is not leaven, or indeed then there is none at all; but here merely its pervading the limits assigned to it by God, i.e., filling generally the (Gentile) Church in its ordinary sense.

Thereon the Lord pursues what the dispensation and His labour results into. It is not a kingdom set up in power in the midst of the people who were children of the kingdom, but a seed Sower. Still the Jewish people were God's own garden; He has His own right whatever men may have done there. It was "Like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and cast into his own garden," and it increased so that other powers and strangers came and lodged in the branches. Such its formal character. Sown, then it became a great tree, a public power of influence in the world. Next, it was a doctrinal influence not having any relation to Israel, but which, by the ministration of the service of the Church, would spread itself in the given measure of God's assigned providence. Such would the dispensation be. The internal character and judgment was not in question here, but the replacing of the old economy by this - and how? Not by the Son of man in power then.

244 The Lord, in what follows, still pursues this subject in this change. If this be true in Israel, are the Remnant to be saved few? He was on His way to the final catastrophe of the nation in the rejection of Him at Jerusalem. The question therefore came to be important, perhaps put in curiosity not with intelligence, but on the vague traditions drawn, without application, from the prophets. But the Lord, as so timely ordered, answers it in its full power, still His rejection in view, for He was naturally in the way then.

- 24. "Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in" (not at the strait gate) "and shall not be able"; but so it will be. "When once" (and now He proceeds to give it direct application) "the Master is risen up and shut to the door." Then from verse 26, the Lord gives it its full and direct application to them and their circumstances, and the judgment of the nation, and the introduction of the Gentiles in general terms, and full accomplishment yet of all the promises to the saints. They should come from East, and West, and North, and South, and sit down in the kingdom of God. But it was on new principles, and under order of supreme righteousness - there would be last first, and first last. Meanwhile those who claimed local association with Him lost all title: "I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, workers of iniquity." It was moral association now, and the power of the kingdom new and heavenly. As this was grace, the Lord says here: "There are last who shall be first." The rejected Remnant, cast out as evil and rebellious, became followers of the mind of God and of Jesus the despised and rejected of men from whom the nation hid their face.

- 31, et seq. But Jerusalem must accomplish her iniquity though judgment was to be passed on all. For the Lord now speaks in plain terms as to what they were. It is not the gentleness which conciliates the most opposed, but the plain denouncement of the ungodly. As He had denounced those who held the form of power in the synagogue, and declared the ruler hypocrite before the congregation, so now the Lord speaks equally plain as to him who, not as son of David nor according to God, possessed the throne of Israel nominally. The Lord now went to His death, and had only to give it its full character and form. He denounces this false shepherd who held the flock, but it is not he who is to kill Him. He was perfectly safe, for the full accomplishment of the counsels of God, and of the guilt of His beloved Jerusalem. When it was the iniquity of another, the Pharisees could easily use the form of interest and kindness, but the Lord passes it by as He judges Herod, and rests in the sureness of divine counsels. He feared not the one, the other was needless. They might return and communicate to Herod the real course and mind of God. It was the full expression of the now ripened counsel of God. If wickedness was on this side, and rejection had now reached its height, it was merely that the counsels of God had now come to the full, and in blessed assurance and calmness of Spirit Jesus pursued His course till they were accomplished, till He was "perfected" (teleioumai). It was not Herod's enmity nor the Pharisees' care which could destroy or preserve him. He was safe in the centre of divine purposes to be perfected for the centre of fuller glory than fallen Israel could afford, even the perfect glory of all the divine counsels. He entered into these now. The mind of God rested not on Herod; he was nought in the question - a fox pursuing his own interests in the flock of God; nor on the hypocritical pretences and favour of reckless Pharisees. His mind, and heart, and eye were on Jerusalem, the beloved city, now to accomplish her unfaithfulness. Till this moment came Jesus walked in the security of the divine counsels. Blessed calmness! He who feels deeply is always calm, as viewing things in the Lord. It is not the eager obtrusion of circumstances which affect his mind; he sees deeper, he is more deeply occupied with things as they are before the Lord. What depth in the expression: "But I must needs walk to-day!" My course of mercy will proceed without the Lord's regarding Herod, till beloved Jerusalem, beloved in spite of all, have accomplished her guilt. Then the scene is closed; all is closed here below, no more room for this work on the earth where her guilt is to the full. "I shall be perfected," for other counsels, and for deeper joys, joys which in persevering mercy and purpose shall rise upon Jerusalem, beloved Jerusalem herself, in spite of and in pardon of the sins - What a heart had the Lord! How divine then for us! Indeed we have God's heart and ways, and brought into all our circumstances and sins.

245 The great object of this passage is the distinctive judgment of Jerusalem. In this the Lord reveals Himself as Jehovah, her of old time Protector and Cherisher - her whom He had now at last visited in this extraordinary care and condescension of grace, trying all things but in vain. It was man, and man favoured, and therefore man rebellious and scornful. She would now be left to the effects of her ways till they owned Him, saying, as in Psalm 118, in the latter day: "Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Their house was left to them till then, as they would not have Him. The whole of this chapter 13 is a distinct and definite comment, and application to Jerusalem of the question raised on His rejection in chapter 12, and the parabolic exposition of their circumstances at the close of it. The Lord here resumes, in the general train of circumstances, one or two great principles connected with His rejection, and the moral principles involved therein, of which this gospel is so full, and then passes on to the gospel as contrasted with their state and principles. Repeating, under another parabolic form, the rejection of the nation, not here under the form of seeking fruit but of rejected grace which was a further step, the refusal of invited guests. Israel sinned in this double character - she bore no fruit to Him by whom she was dressed, and they refused the invitation to the kingdom of God.

246 Luke  14

This chapter pursues some details as to the principles involved in the break-up of Judaism. We have Sabbath-breaking, and their hypocrisy proved, and they reduced to silence. Entire self-abasement the way of being exalted; Christ the blessed Witness of it. Grace to mark our spirit, the result in another world in resurrection - a resurrection which belonged to the just only. The remark of one then brings out what was going on as to the kingdom. A supper made, Jews would not come, the wretched ones of them called, and then the Gentiles, and the Jews as such excluded. Multitudes might follow Him then, but to do so really there must be breaking with all, the Cross. The cost had better be counted, and, if all cannot be given up, not to pretend to follow Him. Salt must be salt, or it is nothing and good for nothing. Then in chapters 15 and 16 the dealings and effects of grace, and the opening of another world with the curtain drawn, are fully given.

- 1, et seq. Again, the Lord before the Pharisees, judging the hypocrisy of their conduct, substitutes grace for law in that which formed not the moral requirement but the sign of the covenant connecting them by the law with the rest of God. They watched Him then on this point because, as we have seen, an observance which cost them no lust and hindered them from no sin in this unregenerate state ministered to pride and not to holiness. Here the Lord does not await their judgment, but circumstances, as He now was in view of the crisis of Jerusalem's lot, and His own leaving them. He puts Himself forward, for now He was seeking nothing of them, but showing them the truth, and asks them: "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?" They would not commit themselves, and they understood not grace. They were silent, and He wanted not their approval, and again silences them by an appeal to their own conduct where their own interest was concerned. He would not be hindered in grace by the judgment of hypocrisy, nor take a form of piety at the expense of grace. He then proposes two great principles of the new man, exactly opposite to Pharisaism and formal self-righteousness - true, unfeigned self-abasement as the only means of real exaltation, and the principle and way of charity which looks only to the resurrection of the just as the time when its principles and objects are recognised, and recognised of the Most High. He does it, moreover, not in abstract principles but in plain intelligible application to facts, not addressed in nubibus as an exalted doctrine, but in present judgment on those amongst whom He was, and by whom He was invited, for true and full morality always judges the world. But consequent on the grace which sets aside the mere legal ceremonial sign, or shows it passing away as under law, entire humiliation and humbleness in it, and separation from the world in the exercises of charity, and relinquishing the habits of owning the world to be owned, are distinctly set forth as cardinal principles now in the kingdom of God. The mention of the moment, the resurrection of the just, when the result of these principles display themselves, gave occasion to a sort of suitable remark for the character of Jesus by one of the other guests: "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." The Lord takes occasion to show that they had rejected the invitation of God, the leaders, and instructors, and guides, and that God would seek, and fill His house from the poor of the flock, and from among the Gentiles - shows the door of grace (associated as grace must be with a much higher standard of morality, for it is nearer to God and the display of His character) opened, on the rejection of favour and kindness first shown to them.

248 It seems to me that chapter 13 attaches itself much more to law, i.e., to what Christ had title to expect and find among them, and to existing privilege and their state under this, and chapter 14 to grace and favour shown to them in His coming. And He indeed had humbled Himself and sought the poor and needy for the feast of His Father's house, though He teaches others therein, for He is the perfection of His own teaching, the Light Himself, for indeed in Him was life. They were dead and bore no fruit if He sought it from them; but He the life shown in the darkness, "The life was the light of men."

- 15. From this verse the Lord depicts the result of His invitations in grace, as before on seeking fruit, for there He was Intercessor for the fig-tree He had dressed when fruit was required, here He invites in grace, and on rejection of grace allows none to come in. As we have said, it was a further step. That which is marked accordingly here is not evil or sin but indifference to grace. The common (lawful, if you please) things of life were preferred to the invitation, and this, above all things, marked the insensibility and evil of the human heart, and of this nation in particular, treated thus as the friends of the Most High and of His Son. He came to seek fruit - there was none; He prolonged mercy in intercession. He invites in grace to His Kingdom, and they ALL make excuse; their farm, merchandise, natural inclinations, all preferred to the favour and invitation of the Lord.

- 18. We have the value of "I must" here. It means simply: I prefer all to God - my inclination and every thing of which I am the centre to that of which He is. This was the answer to the topical remark on the blessedness of eating bread in the kingdom, which negligently assumed, as usual, that somebody or other would be there, and nobody was to be judged. All were, by the Lord. Awful word! Both in righteousness, and proffered grace. But this provokes the Lord to abounding mercy, manifesting even in their rejection the riches of the grace they had despised, and, if passing by the despisers, all that had apparent claim as friends, using it as the occasion to open the door wider to the worst, worthless and claimless, because the most needy that could be found, that grace might be displayed fully even in judgment, for He wrought and came in grace, and was not to be stayed in it.

249  - 24. This is the full judgment on the Jews properly so called, i.e., the Jewish leaders of the nation who stood as chief in the way of God, and represented them. The streets and lanes need hardly be said to be the despised of the Jews, Galileans, the poor of the flock, and the like. In the highways and hedges doubtless the Gentiles are included, but it is the great principle which is proposed, the active, mystic, and laborious (and it was needful) exercise of grace to fill the house of God - scattered Israel, not unmanifested Gentiles. Hence glorifying itself the more, and active because rejected, that the refusal of man might exalt instead of disappoint it. "Compel them to come in that my house may be filled." This was the consequence of Jewish rejection. Such the sovereignty of God (in exercise)! It is a blessed picture. But the power, riches of grace did not alter the necessity of entering in at the strait gate - renunciation of all of self, and of devotedness.

- 25. But, as we have seen, the abounding and activity of grace, so this induces necessarily conflict; as the rejection of Jesus involved rejection, the activity of goodness involved the sacrifice of all in a world in possession of the enemy - the cost of all that tied us to it, and the opposition of the prince of it. If one made inroads in his kingdom one could not keep its outward blessing if one made war upon him. Of this Jesus warns the multitudes. They followed Him as an easy thing, interested and attracted, but not knowing whither He went or whither it led them. He tells them plainly: You cannot follow Me without sacrificing all, life and all. There is the principle of the new dispensation and its grace; the world is all gone wrong. It is the introduction of an extraordinary power into it, this very grace. The world is adverse. These things are links to it by which Satan will hinder in the war - the heart's hostages in his hands; there must be entire and simple devotedness in the war. So it was in Jesus in the exercise of grace. Such was discipleship to Him, for discipleship, though every Christian is a disciple, and every disciple is a Christian, is more than a Christian. It takes up the Christian in his learning from and following of Jesus in His life and service. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be my disciples," for He had borne much fruit. So far as His disciples in this service and following Him, this would be the result or the necessity, and at the commencement that His work and its efficacy might be presented in power and force, it actually involved all this. It always does in the service to which this applies. So far as that service goes the warfare always involves the same consequences, "So then," says the apostle, "death worketh in us but life in you." He was carrying about in his body the dying (nekrosin) of the Lord Jesus, that His life might be manifest in his mortal body; he could not follow Jesus in his service otherwise. Such was his advice to Timothy. No man goeth a warfare at any time, etc.; and whoever did not carry his cross, set out on a constant course of humiliation, shame, and self-denial, cannot be His disciple.

250 Another case is supposed in Mark - a hundredfold here in consequence, even the things here, lands, houses, etc., all, as we have noted there, unless wife, with persecution. It is the second stage of the Church, the consequence of labour when a new state of things is arisen, a society formed by it apart from, and to which the world is adverse. It has its joys infinitely greater even in its social intercourse within, but it suffers persecution from without, God's remedy against their effect, their necessary consequence, when held in opposition to the world. Thus far God's providence provides. Alas! the next step is sinking into them, and not receiving from God, and the heart being estranged, corrupt doctrine and practice, and Satan's power, as over those who mix with the world and are far from the Master, comes in. But here the Lord contrasts with rejected Judaism and grace the great master principle. He would have none but faithful followers, and, as Messiah, His followers would have enjoyed the fat of the land, and abundance of corn and wine. He puts the new dispensation fully on its right footing. It was not to inherit the earth, but to be the salt of it, fulfil a moral service, having a separate, distinct savour from a power not of it or in it as such at all. They were at war, on adverse terms, they must count the cost, and the cost was unmingled, unhesitating devotedness - quit all and follow, or not follow at all. They had a distinct and special service. They were to be not of the world, but to bring a new thing, a new power and positive principle into the world. That was their one distinctive and only reason for existence as such. Salt was good, but good only because it was salt, and for its saltness. No man would put salt to anything but for its saltness. Moreover if salt was unsavoury, what should salt it? There was nothing salt but salt, and this not being so was good for nothing. So with Christians, with those who profess His Name - it is addressed to us. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." So the Lord says, "They cast it out"; that is all that comes of it. Here the Lord closes this part of His comparison, and enters at once, as the Holy Ghost thus presents it in order to us, on the character and principle of the grace of the new dispensation in its application to the gospel, and consequently to the Gentiles, and sinners in general.