Notes and Comments Vol. 6.
J. N. Darby.
The structure of Luke, though not so systematic in form as Matthew, is yet quite peculiar. We have first the lovely picture of the Jewish Remnant, on to the ministry of John, and the baptism and anointing of the blessed Lord.
Note in Luke when He is baptised, all the people had been baptised. He joins them in this path of God to be with them. When He puts forth His own sheep, He goes before them. We have the distinct difference of associating Himself with the godly Remnant in their divine path however lowly a one, and His taking His sheep as the divine Shepherd, whose own they were, clean out of the fold, going before them. Then His genealogy is traced up to Adam (read: "Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years old [being as was supposed the Son of Joseph] son of Heli, etc.) so, as before, Son of God, and so owned. Luke 3:23 in Authorised Version is clearly wrong. It should be (being as was supposed Son of Joseph) tou Eli (of Heli). The list begins with Heli not with Joseph. "Which was" is not in the text. He now comes out Son of man. All this is very noteworthy, and, note, full of the Holy Ghost.
Then as such He is tempted and overcomes, and returns to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. But while announcing Himself as the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy, in grace in the midst of Israel, the Spirit of Jehovah upon Him, yet He shows Jehovah's consideration of the Gentiles, so that they would have destroyed Him. He sets aside the demon's power, and heals Simon's wife's mother and, the Sabbath being ended, all manner of diseases, but leaves to preach everywhere. He calls His chief disciples, and Simon, through full conviction of sin, though attracting him by grace; touches a man full of leprosy, and, with a will the leper was not sure of, heals him - grace that came to touch the defiled and banish the defilement. He withdraws and prays, and then, in presence of all, manifests the title to forgive, as a present thing, in the power of healing (Psalm 103). Eats with publicans and sinners, come "not to call the righteous but sinners." The Bridegroom was there - they were not fasting days - He would soon be taken away from the disciples, and then would be fasting days. Besides, the power of His new doctrine could not be put into the old forms of Judaism. But man loves the old things he has drunk of. Tradition is his false delight, not the truth. This brings in the Sabbath, the sign of the covenant with Israel. All is common if the Son of David be rejected, and the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath.
356 Again, the hatred of the Jews is called forth. All this is the setting aside of Judaism, and the revelation of the Son of man for sinners, and Gentiles, and all oppressed of the devil. Again, He passes all night in prayer (for praying distinguishes Him in Luke) and chooses the twelve as a company belonging to Himself. There was the company of His disciples, and a great multitude. He does good to all, but distinguishes the disciples formally here. "Blessed are ye poor"; we get the moral instructions that belong to His own. Though still going with the Jews, and giving heed to them, He owns the Gentile, has "not found such faith, no, not in Israel," and raises the dead far away above all promises to Israel as such, or their thoughts in the promised Messiah, though intimations of it are found in the prophets. This awakens universal rumour, and John himself is put upon the ground of faith by what Jesus did in power and grace, being fully owned in his ministry, though the least in God's kingdom was greater than he. The repentant justified God - a remarkable expression; the self-righteous despised the grace. "Wisdom" was "justified of all her children" both in confession of sin, in John's ministry, and confidence in the grace come in Christ's Person. The striking example of this in the account that follows is deeply touching. We have the Pharisee's heart in utter blindness, God's heart, and the convinced and confiding sinner's heart, which just meets exactly the revelation of God's as that did it, the answer of forgiveness, salvation and peace being added Thus the whole moral condition of things is fully brought out.
Note, I see three principles in Luke 5 and Luke 6. First, change of mind instead receiving the righteousness, for here, I suppose, repentance is genuine. "I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." Next, power brought in which could not adapt itself to the old system. Spiritual power, the new wine, could not be put into old bottles. Thirdly, grace, mercy contrasted with forms and sacrifice. The Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath. In the sermon following, the difference between it and Matthew is, it is less specially dealing with Judaism, giving great general principles in themselves. Matthew is in contrast, "To the ancients" (tois archaiois). But then Luke goes on to full following Christ in His motives and walk; Luke 6:40. In general in chapters 8 and 9, in Luke, you have the change from Messiah there to the time of the end, and Son of man.
357 Luke 8 stands a little by itself. It is transitional. The disciples are formally distinguished as to the mysteries of the kingdom, which are opened to them; to the rest in parables, that they seeing might not see, and hearing not understand. They were a judged people. With this testimony as to the Word individually received or not, He warns His disciples that He did not light up the truth to put it under a bushel. They were responsible for all they heard, and, if realised, more would be given. But everything would be made manifest. But with this He rejects His natural associations with Israel, and owns those who hear the Word of God and do it. But accompanying Him they would find storms, and He to man's eye seem asleep and indifferent. But they were in the same boat with Him; it was only want of faith that feared. In what follows, we have the, so to speak, public and private state of what was going on. The Remnant delivered, whatever the power of Satan, the rest as unclean swine hurried to destruction, the delivered desiring to be with Him when the world turned Him out, but he was to go and be a witness of the deliverance he had experienced. When Jesus came back to the people they were waiting for Him. Then the private account. He was in the crowd of Israel to heal them as sick, but they were found in the place of death, but, for Jesus, only sleeping. Meanwhile, where, on His way through the crowd one touched Him with faith, she was perfectly healed.
Luke 9 is the turning point of the whole gospel. He sends out the twelve for the announcement of the kingdom everywhere, giving them power divinely to heal, but it was, as a general testimony, final. They were to shake off the dust of their feet if not received, and He, as Emmanuel in Israel, provided for them. The rumour reached too the king through that it had awakened among all, and his conscience even trembled. He takes the disciples apart, but the multitude come, and again He shows Himself to be Jehovah in Israel, satisfying the poor with bread. Again, alone praying, He draws from the disciples the current rumours as to Himself, and their own faith that He was the Christ of God, and forbids them to say it any more, for the Son of man was to be slain, and blessing was to be in resurrection; they too must take up the cross. But not only would the Son of man come in His own glory, i.e., as Son of man, His Father's, i.e., as Son of God, and Jehovah's with the holy angels, but He shows them the kingdom to be set up in all its parts as to man. Mortals on earth, saints with and like Him in glory, and saints within the cloud whence the Father's voice came, and Jesus was now alone to be listened to. Alas! the disciples were asleep as in Gethsemane. Still the incapacity to use His present power (which they had exercised when sent out) makes Him say His departure was at hand, though still Himself perfect in grace and power, but He returns to the point of taking up the Cross. He judges self in all its shapes therewith. He, at any rate, was going to be now received up. He warns others, there must be no looking back. He is on His way up to Jerusalem, and sends seventy on before Him where He was coming, but now avowedly as sheep among wolves, carrying peace, telling them with demonstration of power and goodness that the kingdom of God was come nigh, and, if rejected, to shake off the dust of their feet, but leaving the solemn word that the kingdom of God was come nigh. They returned with joy, but though these powers (miracles) of the world to come prognosticated the fall of Satan, they were rather to rejoice in another thing, that their names were written in heaven where all tended now. He then contemplates the whole scene before His Father, and His own true place in the matter. Blessed those whose eyes were opened to see what was even then there in His Person!
358 Luke 10:18-24, gives a wonderfully full revelation of all that was in Christ's heart at that moment when He was going away, "Names written in heaven," revelation "to babes," the Son too glorious to be known, which was His true character, the Father known to Him only, and to those He revealed Him to - the then blessing of those whose eyes had been opened to see what they saw by His presence. The rest turns the perfection of law and so of Judaism into grace. Verses 38-42 give the preciousness of the Word of Christ, but goes rather with what follows. But see the exquisite sweetness of the outgoing of Christ's heart in verses 18-24. They were to rejoice having their names written in heaven where He was now going, registered there, though the powers they wielded were those of the world to come, when Satan, fallen from heaven, would be fully bound. Jesus rejoiced in Spirit over the blessing conferred on them by the Father whose good pleasure had been in revealing to these simple ones these things. And then in full love to them, and what they could understand who had received Him as Messiah the Son of God, pronounces blessed those to whom He withal as Son had revealed the Father. It is an exquisite expression of Christ's heart when passing from this world to the Father.
359 Then the Word, His Word and prayer, its blessing, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then the open Spirit-blaspheming enmity of the nation, and Himself the only Centre; he who was not with Him was against Him. All was brought to a point now. Yet blessing was not in natural relationship to Him, but in hearing the Word of God and keeping it. The generation was judged. The Ninevites and a queen of the South would be a witness against them. The testimony was to go abroad, but singleness of eye gave reception and fulness of light. The Pharisees and scribes and lawyers are then judged. How fully the moral question is raised here, though in the Person of Jesus! The whole of what follows to Luke 18:34, gives the moral discussion of their state, and all that was in question in His going away, only that Luke 15 and Luke 16 give the fulness and ways of grace that were coming in. From chapter 18:34, the last events are recorded.
Luke 12 brings the whole state of His disciples, when He had left them, fully out. It was a path of faith, but all would come out, death might come for them as for Him; they were not to fear it but God. The Holy Ghost would be with them to answer when called upon in persecution. He had not come to set things right in the world. Riches were only deceit; where would the soul go? The disciples were not to be careful but to trust. They were a people separate from the nations of the world, but it was the Father's good pleasure to give them the kingdom; they need not fear. But they were to wait for Him to come again; meanwhile to watch and serve, and blessing from Him in rest with Him, and the inheritance would be theirs. Judgment would come on the servant who acted as if the Lord delayed coming. The Lord had come to bring division and trial on the earth, still His baptism (death) would open the floodgates of love. The people were warned that there was plenty to show the time they were in. If they did not agree with Jehovah still in the way with them, they would be delivered up to judgment (and so they have been) till the time comes. Verses 58, 59, are the then judgment of the Jews; verses 45, 46, of the professing Church; verse 48 makes the difference of those who knew His rule.
360 Luke 13 continues the setting aside of Judaism. If they did not repent they would be destroyed as those they spoke of to the Lord. Then the Sabbath, seal and sign of the old covenant, rest of the first Creation, is dealt with, and the character of the kingdom of heaven, as coming in, shown forth. From verse 22 to the end, the matter is brought directly to a point. Nor would restoration come till there was repentance, according to Psalm 118. All this is on the way up to Jerusalem.
As often remarked we have much more the moral development in Luke than dispensational, and so the present time, but the Lord continues to show the setting aside the Jewish system. The Sabbath comes up again, and Jewish hypocrisy is again made manifest, and the Lord acts in divine grace; mercy overrides law. Then the real principles of the kingdom, lowliness and gracious love, in contrast with the spirit of the world; the resurrection of the just would bring the true reward. Lowliness and grace go together. Then we get the invitation to the kingdom-supper, on the remark of one who sat at meat. The Jews (men) would all make excuse (save what grace called) and not taste of it. But the Lord would have His house filled, first from the poor Remnant, then from those outside, the Gentiles. It was grace. Those who would follow Him must break with all for Him, and take up their cross. They must count the cost, and even then, if the salt lost its savour it is good for nothing; chapters 15 and 16 are grace seeking, grace receiving. Man (Israel) a steward out of place, wisdom was to use his Lord's goods for the future, not for the present. The Israelitish system of prosperity being a sign of divine favour was all over, it belonged to a direct government of this world. The Lord opens the other to our view, as telling the true tale.
In Luke 17 the Lord continues the principles which affect the conduct of the disciples, in view of the utter passing away of the system in which they were. First, stumbling blocks would come, as the salt might lose its savour, but woe to him by whom they came. Then with brethren there should be the most constant forgiveness if they turned repenting to them. The least faith would remove the tree by its roots, and plant it elsewhere, for it was faith in all power. But after all, if they had done everything they had just done their duty. But the revelation of God, and goodness in power, centred in Him now, though He still recognised Judaism. But grace reached a Samaritan, and a Samaritan, finding where grace and power was, had no need to go to Jerusalem and the priest. The kingdom was there in His Person. The disciples would desire to see one of those days soon, but the Son of man would finally come as the lightning. It would be as the days of Noe and Lot. All this is the earthly coming, but not wholly Jewish in form as in Matthew. We know Jerusalem is the centre of all then, and the passage applies to the judgment of that people. But wherever the carcase was, there would the judgment fall. But God would surely avenge His elect who should be crying day and night to Him; but what faith would the Son of man find when He came? But He was going first to suffer.
361 We have then the moral question of righteousness, goodness in man, where a lovely character and upright law-keeping were found, and the heart judged in its state instead, and what the world is, and all it has, in view of God's kingdom. With man salvation is impossible, not with God. But if all is forsaken for Christ, there is a hundredfold, and everlasting life. Finally, the Lord takes the twelve to Him to declare plainly to them what was about to take place, in clear and unmistakable terms, resting all, as ever, on His resurrection. Blessing was to be there, not in the living Christ here, precious as that life was and is to us. But they understood nothing of it, such is the power of false religious ideas.
In Luke, as in all three, the last events begin with the blind man of Jericho, and Christ here formally takes the character of Son of David. But there is this peculiar to Luke, that Zacchaeus' story is introduced with Son of man and grace, the case of the blind man being related first, with a very general expression of the neighbourhood of Jericho. It is, as ever in Luke, the moral character of Son of man, not given up though taking, as a last test, the place of Son of David, and Lord. Here we have not the general truth that the humbled publican was justified rather than the pretentious Pharisee, nor no man good, the heart being tested where outwardly the law had been kept; but upright thought and feeling seeking to approve itself to God, dealt with on the ground that the Lord had to do with the lost. The people still go on the ground of their own righteousness, and murmur at His going to a publican's. Christ recognises Zacchaeus' title according to promise; he was a son of Abraham, but salvation was come to his house that day. Promise was true and to be fulfilled, but as taking up sinners. Zacchaeus, who, to approve himself to the Lord, happy at His coming in to him (ill-seen as he was) declares to Him the moral rectitude with which he acted. The Lord passes it all over. He knew no righteousness in Jews, but He did own promise. But that day salvation was come there. The Son of man, that was His real character as a Saviour, was come to seek and to save what was lost. Hence He goes to a publican's and that close to Jerusalem; son of Abraham he was, as other Jews, upright too as other Jews were not, but salvation came to him then as lost. It is a very peculiar case, coming in here. He then brings in responsibility to an absent Lord in His servants, and the destruction or judgment of Jerusalem (His enemies who rejected Him) when He returned. Son of David He was, but He was going to receive the kingdom from the Father on high. Then, as in all the gospels, He formally takes the character of "The Lord." Matthew and Mark never say "The Lord," only "Jesus," but then also, in this place, the Lord says it of Himself, takes formally this character in entering into the city. Luke, speaking more from the present Gentilised, Christian aspect, I think, of the gospel when He was gone, more than once in narration says: "The Lord." John once in Luke 4, when He left Judea to labour, as rejected, in Galilee. In the Acts it is habitually "The Lord," and "Lord Jesus." And owned He must be, if the stones should do it. But, as we have heretofore seen, it is in Luke celebrated as founded on heaven being cleared, and peace there, i.e., after Michael's war. He announces with tears the present destruction of Jerusalem, but, with the authority of Lord, clears the temple. He is less as Son of David, and more as Lord here; Matthew is more on the earth, with what belonged to Him there. The difference in the prophecy is striking; the present interval is there clearly stated. In the answer to the Sadducees, the present state of departed souls, all of them, is given, and the whole tone is different; so Luke 22:16-19, is present fulfilment.