by W. Kelly.
Edited with annotations, by E. E. Whitfield.
(The reference figures, relate to the notes respectively so numbered in the Appendix.)
LUKE 10:38 - 11:54.*
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 321-328.
We here enter upon a new section of the Gospel. The Spirit of God sets before us, speaking now generally, two things: first, the unspeakable value of the Word of God, and more particularly of the Word of Jesus; secondly, as we shall see another time, the place and exceeding importance for the soul of prayer. But then there are many things to be considered in connection with each of these topics, of which we shall only now look at the first. There is a moral comparison between the two sisters who loved the Lord. She who chose the better portion was the one whose heart clung most to the Word as a link between the soul and God. As we all know, it is by the Word of truth that any are begotten of God, for it is the seed of incorruptible life, that Word which lives and abides for ever. But then it is much more than that. It is the means of growth, of cleansing the way, of enjoying God, and consequently of spiritual blessing day by day. This was made very apparent in the difference between Martha and Mary. They were sisters in the flesh, believers both of them, loved of Jesus. Nevertheless, difference there was; and the main cause and evidence of it between the two was the superior value that Mary had for the Word of Jesus. The Word of God has a formative power over the mind and affections, and she is proved to be the one who most prizes the Lord, and who most really and in the truest communion serves Him, who has the deepest value for His Word. This we find as a general principle elsewhere in Scripture ("This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" 1 John 5:3), and particularly in John 14:23, "If a man love me, he will keep my word"; but here it comes out practically in the case of Martha and Mary. "A certain woman named Martha received him into her house." She fully owned Him to be the Messiah. There was faith of God's giving in Martha's heart; but it saw no more in Him than simply the Messiah. Her faith did not go farther. "And she had a sister called Mary, who also, having sat down at Jesus'* feet, was listening to his word."
*"Jesus": so ACcorr, later uncials, almost all cursives, with Syrsin, but Revv., as Edd., adopt "the Lord," after ℵDLΞ Syrcu, most Old Lat. Memph. Aeth. Arm.
Mary is not characterised by such a reception of the Lord, by loving attentions and hospitality, though founded, no doubt, upon a growing out of faith. "Mary sat at Jesus' feet and listened to his word." Some might suppose this to be a far less proof of love; but to Jesus it was incomparably the more acceptable of the two. Martha did honour to Jesus as a believing, righteous Jew might; she owned herself subject, Himself as King, and was as happy as her faith would admit of in thus receiving the Lord to her house in the day of His humiliation; but her sister sat at His feet and heard His Word. In her case it was not so much what she did for the Lord; but she had such a sense of His greatness, and love that her one point was to sit at His feet (an attitude of far deeper humiliation than Martha ever took) with the consciousness of the Divine fulness there was in Him for her. She heard His Word; but Martha "was distracted with much serving." How many there are who are fond of serving the Lord, but are much more full of their own doings for Him than of what He is to them as well as in Himself! This deceives many. They measure faith by their round of bustle and activity. But in truth this always has a great deal of self in it. When true humility animates, there may be much done, but there is little noise. Mary sat at Jesus' feet and heard His Word.278
"But Martha was distracted with much serving, and, coming up, she said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? speak to her therefore that she may help me." Thus not only was there a large spice of self-importance in Martha, but she felt herself constantly slighted and incommoded by others. The spirit of egoism measures by itself, and cannot appreciate a love which is deeper than its own, and which issues in ways and forms which have no beauty in its eyes. Therefore Mary, instead of being an object of complacency to Martha, troubled her: Why did Mary not help her? Martha's thoughts circled round herself. Had she been thinking of Jesus, she would not have dictated to Him any more than have complained of Mary. "Lord, dost thou not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? speak to her therefore that she may help me." What want of love and lowliness! She does not even leave it to the Lord to direct. Self is always captious as well as important, and as swift to impute to others as to arrogate to itself what is unbecoming. "Speak to her therefore that she may help me." She forgets that she was but the servant of the Lord. Who was she to wish to control Him? Martha was full of zeal, but of her own ways (not to say her own will) in serving Christ.
Jesus,* however, answers with the dignity that was proper to Him, and the love that always sees true to its mark (for there is nothing that gives such a single eye as genuine affection), but which at the same time vindicates the true-hearted before those who misunderstand them. He loved them both, indeed, and says in reply, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things." He deals first of all with herself. She ought not to have been thus anxious and careworn. Martha did not know what Paul knew so well: "This one thing I do." (Phil. 3:13.) There was never a man with such multitudinous occupations as the apostle; there was never another with such a heart for the Church. And yet he could happily employ his hands in making tents, because he would not be burdensome, though he had a right to be so as an apostle of Christ. What was it that carried him through all his unexampled toil and suffering, undistracted and happy? The reason was that one person, the only worthy Object, filled and governed his heart. This made him thoroughly happy in the midst of the deepest afflictions. This "one thing" is precisely what is needful for the child of God, and the very thing that Martha practically had not.279 It was not that she did not believe in the Lord; but she had her own thoughts too. Nature was strong. Jewish feeling and tradition held their ground; all these things wrought actively in her mind; and to such a person receiving the Lord Jesus was not only a question of doing Him honour, but of receiving honour herself too. In such cases self always, more or less, mingles even with the desire to show present respect to Jesus.
*In verse 41, "Jesus" has the support of ACDE and all later uncials, most cursives (1, 69), Syrr. including sin., with Old Lat. and Memph.; but Revv., as Edd., have adopted "the Lord," following ℵBpm L, Old Lat. and Amiat.
"But there is need of one; and* Mary has chosen the good part, such as shall not be taken from her." There is nothing like it. That good part is prizing Christ and His Word, not thinking what Mary could do for the Lord, but what the Lord could do for Mary. To receive all for her soul from the Lord, instead of receiving Him into her house, was before Mary's soul. This was the one thing needful — it was Christ Himself. He is all, and Mary felt this. That "good part, such as shall not be taken from her" — it is eternal. Martha's honours passed away; they were shortly about to end, for soon Jesus would not be known after the flesh, but must be known, if at all, in a higher glory than that of the Messiah. Soon, therefore, the possibility of receiving Him with a hospitable heart could not be Martha's portion; for at His cross it would necessarily be cut short and disappear. But Mary's position of lowly faith in hearing His Word could be always. Even in heaven the essence of it will not be lost. Communion with Jesus, delight in Jesus, humility of heart before Jesus, will always be true; it is the part of real devotedness and of the deepest love. Great as faith and hope may be (and their value cannot be over-estimated on earth), still, after all, love is that which abides for ever and love now is in proportion to the power of faith and hope. All these things were incomparably richer and stronger in Mary's heart than in Martha's, and this because Christ filled her heart — this one thing that is needful.
*Blass omits all after second "Martha" as far as "and" (Revv. "for"), after Syrsin and some copies of Old Latin. D contains "thou art troubled." The words reproduced are sustained by the mass of authority recognized by other Edd.; but there is a question as to "There is need of one," which is the reading of ACpm, most later uncials with cursives, Syrrcu and some Old Lat. (Tisch. Treg.). W. H. and Weiss adopt "Few things are needful or one," as in ℵBCcorr L, 1, 33, Memph. Aeth. and Origen. But see Scrivener, ii., p. 349f. The "and" (Treg.) is in AC, etc. Revv., as most Edd., "for," after ℵBL, 1, 69.
But blessed as receiving Jesus by faith may be, and sitting at His feet in the delight of love to hear from Him more and more, prayer must not be forgotten. It has an incalculable value for us here below. It is in this world that we pray. Worship is the outgoing of the heart in heaven. Not that worship for us now is not true, for it is the greatest privilege into which the Christian is brought while on earth. A Christian thus anticipates the mind and employment of heaven. He will still be a worshipper when glorified; but he is a worshipper here, for the hour "now is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeks such to worship him." John 4:23.
Nevertheless, before the soul can worship in anything that could be said to be the power of the Spirit, prayer is the early and habitual resource day by day; and after Christian worship, is entered into, real prayer abides and always must be for our wants and desires here below.
The disciples felt their need of prayer. They were stirred up to it by the fact that John taught his disciples to pray — They were born of God; but for all that, they lacked power for prayer, their souls were feeble in it. "And it came to pass, as he was in a certain place praying." No one was so prayerful, so dependent on His God and Father, as Jesus; nor does any Evangelist present this so much as Luke, nor, consequently, under so many different circumstances. "When he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray,280 even as John also taught his disciples. And he said to them, When ye pray, say, Father,* Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.† Give us our needed bread for each day; and forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation."‡
*"Father": so Edd., after ℵBL, 1, Syrsin Amiat., Arm., Origen, Tertullian. ACDE, etc., most cursives (69), Syrcupesch hcl; most Old Latin, Memph. Aeth. add "Our . . . who art in the heavens" (from Matthew).
†Here ℵACD, etc., nearly all cursives, Syrrpesch hcl. Old Latin, Memph. Aeth. insert "Thy will be done as in heaven, also on the earth." Edd. omit, as BL, 1, Syrrcu sin, Amiat. Arm. Orig., etc. (from Matthew). Instead of, "Thy kingdom come," Blass, after Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor, and Marcion (Tert.), reads "May thy Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us," as to which see W. H., App., p. 60. Such a reading is absolutely unknown to any but the Western text.
‡At the end of verse 4, ACD, etc., most cursives, Syrrcu pesch hcl Old Lat. Memph. Aeth. add 1, "but deliver us from the evil one." Edd. omit, after ℵpm BL, 1, Syrsin Arm. Origen, etc.
I fully believe that this is the same prayer substantially that we have in Matthew, at the very same time and place. Luke does not adhere to the mere historic sequence of events any more than Matthew. But there is this difference in the way in which Luke and Matthew relate facts or instructions of the Lord: Matthew puts what our Lord says in a certain dispensational order, leaving out the occasions that drew them forth; Luke puts His instructions in their moral order with the facts they illustrate. Thus Luke introduces prayer at this point, after hearing the Word of Jesus; because the Divine Word is what brings the knowledge of Jesus into the soul, as prayer is the outgoing of the heart to Him Who has given and shown us mercy and revealed it to us in His Word. A man must believe before he prays. "How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?" (Rom. 10:14.) None can believe without the Word of God; but when one has received the Word of God, if it be only to plough up the conscience and attract the heart, one prays.
Thus, the disciples at this time feel their need of prayer, and the Lord teaches them how to pray. The Lord did not give them prayers suitable to the new position and circumstances they would be brought into after redemption. If He had descanted on prayer about the Church, the body of Christ, or the working of the Spirit by the members of that body, it would have been utterly unintelligible to them. The prayers that we have of Paul afterwards could not have suited the condition of the disciples then, because they were not yet in any such standing. The conduct that would suit a married woman with her husband, etc., would be unbecoming in one who was still unmarried. For a woman who is only affianced to be praying about the children she is going to have when she may never have any, or about the household when the wedding-day may never come, would be most evidently out of season. The Lord Jesus perfectly suited what He said to the condition and circumstances of those whom He addressed. The disciples had not received, though quickened of the Holy Ghost, the indwelling Spirit in the way they were going to have Him; consequently they could not pray as on that ground. It is a blunder to suppose that the gift of the Holy Ghost is conversion. When the Lord Jesus went to heaven, He sent down the Holy Ghost. The saints of the Old Testament were converted, but they had not the Holy Ghost as all have who rest on redemption since Pentecost. The disciples wanted to know how to pray, and the Lord gave them a prayer suited to their then circumstances. Only the Spirit of God has given a difference between the form in Matthew and in Luke. One is as Divinely inspired as the other; nothing can be more perfect than both are. The Gospels are absolutely perfect, each for its own object, and we need them all. The difference of their design affects the prayer, as it does everything else.
Our Lord then directs the disciples to their Father. This is the first and very significant word of the prayer. When believers in addressing God now use the titles of Jehovah or Almighty God, do they not forget that they are Christians? When God was intelligently addressed as Almighty, it was in the days of Abraham and the patriarchs. They were the days of promise. Afterwards, when the nation of Israel was called out and put under law, it was as Jehovah-God that He was known. Now it is as Father that the Christian knows Him. (2 Cor. 6:18.) Luke says simply, "Father" (not "Our Father which art in heaven," as Matthew has it).281
The first petition is, "Hallowed be thy name." The desire is that in every case the heart might make God its object; as we hear in James, "the wisdom that comes down from above is first pure, then peaceable." (James 3:17.) It first judges by God, and seeks the glory of God. "Hallowed be thy name." Such is, and ought to be, the prime desire of the renewed mind, that the Father's name should be sanctified in everything. All else must yield to this. "Hallowed be thy name."
The next petition is that His kingdom should come. It is not the kingdom of the Son of man, the kingdom of Christ, that is spoken of here, but the Father's kingdom. It is not "my kingdom come," but "thy kingdom come." The Father's kingdom is distinguished from the Son of man's kingdom. It is the sphere in which the heavenly saints will shine as the sun. The Son of man's kingdom is the sphere in which all people, nations, and languages shall serve Him, and out of which the angels of His power shall cast all things that offend. (Matt. 13:41.) Heaven and earth will both be put under the Lord Jesus when He comes, and both will constitute the kingdom of God. But the Father's kingdom is the upper department, and the Son of man's kingdom is the lower one. (Compare John 3:3, 12.) The Lord teaches them to pray for the Father's kingdom. This is blessed and perfect. The Son would teach the children of the Father to wait with reverence and delight for the Father's glory. This was the animating spring of every thought and feeling of His own heart. But the Father's kingdom is not all the scene of glory.
Hence He adds elsewhere, "Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth." Though left out of Luke by excellent authority, it is undoubtedly read in the Gospel of Matthew, because the future kingdom will bring in the earth as well as heaven. This confirms the distinction between the Father's kingdom and the Son's. Not merely shall heaven be blessed, but the earth. All is to be made subject in fact, as all is put under His feet in title. The will of God is that all should bow to the Son, and that the crucified One should be exalted. The Son loved to exalt and did exalt the Father at all cost; the Father will accomplish His purpose that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:10f.)282
Then comes a petition expressive of dependence on God for our ordinary need. "Give us our needed bread for each day." It takes up the pure and simple need of the body. The word "daily" is a very imperfect expression in English of the original term. Ἐπιούσιος really means our "sufficient" bread (seemingly a word expressly formed for this idea in contrast with superfluity). One cannot without slighting the wisdom of the Lord ask for more than sufficiency. One ought not to look for more, even from the Lord of heaven and earth. He bids me ask for bread enough for each day's wants.283 Yet it is thoroughly the spirit of the One Who, after He had fed five thousand men with the five loaves and the two fishes, bade the disciples gather up the fragments which remained, that nothing might be lost. And then and thus twelve baskets were in fact filled. How easy it might have seemed for Him by Whom all was supplied to have exerted His power afresh! He would not have an atom to be thrown away because He had unlimited power. What a lesson for us!
Next comes the need of the soul. "Forgive us our sins." It is not merely "our debts" (as in Matthew 6): a Jew would understand this but Luke, writing particularly for Gentiles, tells the disciples to say, "Forgive us our sins." This does not refer to a sinner's forgiveness, when he first comes to the knowledge of the Lord, but to the disciple under the daily government of his Father. How misleading, then, it is to make an unconverted person take the ground of asking forgiveness like a child of God! Under the Gospel the way for the unconverted to receive the remission of sins is by faith in the blood of Jesus, by receiving the Gospel itself.284 The common use of it is to confound all truth by mixing up all, the world and children of God, as if they were alike disciples drawing near and asking forgiveness for their daily sins. The forgiveness of a child is all that is spoken of here, the removal of what hinders communion; not that which the Gospel publishes to the most guilty that believe in the Saviour and Lord, but the daily pardon which the believer needs. It is, therefore, the habitual need of the soul, just as the daily bread was that of the body. "For we also forgive every one indebted to us." This is remarkable, because it evidently supposes one who has a forgiving spirit already, and no one really has this except he who is forgiven by the grace of God. And God does hold His children to this. How can a man who does not forgive another pretend to enjoy the forgiveness of his own sins before God? There is a righteous government on our Father's part, and the particular sin which grieves the Lord is not forgiven till we confess it to Him. "If ye do not forgive," says our Lord in Mark 11:26, "neither will your Father who is in the heavens forgive your offences." It is the cherishing a spirit entirely antagonistic to the Spirit of the Lord. If there were a child in a family going on in a course of self-will, there would be a bar for the time to mutual good feeling. So with God our Father; if there were a persistently bad spirit towards another, so long the Father does not forgive as a question of communion and of daily intercourse with Himself. It ruins the intelligence of Scripture to make it all a question of eternity. In the Epistles of the New Testament the remedy or duty in such circumstances takes the form, not so much of asking forgiveness as of confession, which goes far deeper. To ask for forgiveness is easy enough, and quickly done (as you may learn from your child); to confess one's fault in all its gravity is a very humiliating process, and if not with a view to forgiveness and the restoration of communion, it is a mockery of God. To confess, to judge oneself, is therefore far beyond asking forgiveness.
The last clause here should be, "and lead us not into temptation." The heart, knowing its own weakness, does spread its desire before the Lord; it feels the need of being kept, not of being put to the proof. "Deliver us from evil" is left out in the most ancient copies. The only right and true way of understanding the mind of God, and the best homage to Scripture, is always and only to cleave to that which is undoubtedly of Himself. This is not to take away anything from Scripture; it is to lay aside what is not Scripture. We have these words quite rightly in Matthew besides: we gain by their omission here instead of losing. The question arises, Why should it be given in Matthew and omitted here? "Deliver us from evil" refers, I believe, to the evil one and the exhibition of his power, which a Jew ought always to have before him, that tremendous hour which will be allowed as a final retribution on the nation, before they are delivered for the reign of Christ. As Luke had the Gentiles in view, this was naturally and wisely left out. Deliverance from this scourge would have been less felt by them, and hardly intelligible, as the earthly millennial portion disappears for a similar reason. What is general and moral abides here.285
The Lord here enforces prayer, and this on considerations drawn (as often in Luke) from the human heart, as showing still more powerfully what God feels in answer to the earnestness of men.
"He said to them, Who among you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight and say unto him, Friend, let me have three loaves; since a friend of mine on a journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? and he within answering should say, Do not disturb me; the door is already shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise up to give [it] thee. I say unto you, although he will not rise up and give [them] to him because he is his friend, because of his shamelessness, at any rate, he will rise up and give him as many as he wants." The time may seem ever so inopportune, but although a man may not for friendship's sake listen to him who requests the loan of bread, he would rather rise and give than expose himself to trouble. Every one knows that this is apt to be the way of a man with the neighbour who is bold enough to press. He might be ever so much annoyed at the importunate suitor, but still to avoid the trouble of a continued appeal at his door, he yields. At least, such is an ordinary case: "Because of his shamelessness he will rise and give him as many as he wants."286
If such is the way of selfish, ease-loving man, how much more will the God of all grace hearken to those who cry to Him! He is not weary; He never slumbers nor sleeps; He is full of goodness and compassionate care. "I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you"287 — an evident climax, all tending to urgency of supplication before God: not as if God needed it, but man does; and God values the earnestness of man's heart, although His own is open to the cry of want or distress from the very first. But we know that there are hindrances from other causes, and that the Lord has Himself told us of a kind (speaking of evil spirits) that goes not forth but by prayer and fasting. There we have the highest degree of the soul's abstraction from all else, giving itself up to God's power in order to defeat the devil. "For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it will be opened." There is always in Luke, not only an appeal to the feelings of the heart, and man's own concession of what even he would do in order to illustrate the ways of God, infinitely more admirable and excellent, but there is also a comprehensiveness which goes far beyond the narrow bounds of Israel. "Every one that asks receives." Thus we have here the call to importunity of prayer, and the certainty of God's answer.287a
But this is again enforced on the ground of the relationship of a child with a father. "Of whom of you that is a father shall a son ask bread, and [the father] shall give288 him a stone? or also* a fish, and instead of a fish shall give him a serpent? or if also he shall ask an egg, shall give him a scorpion?" How contrary to the feelings of a parent, to mock when he affects to give! to give what is injurious instead of what is good! Impossible that a father, speaking now ordinarily of any father, would be guilty of such ways. "If, therefore, ye, being289 evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will the Father who [is] of heaven290 give [the] Holy Spirit291 to them that ask him." In the Gospel of Matthew it is "give good things to them that ask him."291a
*"Bread . . . or also." These words, read by Tischendorf, are questioned by Treg., relegated to marg. by W. H., and rejected by Weiss and Blass, after B Sah. Arm. Origen (from Matthew).
But Luke goes farther, and shows us, not, it is true, the person of the Comforter, as in the Gospel of John, but certainly the Holy Spirit as characterising the gift of the Father's love to those who ask Him. For we must remember that the disciples had not yet the Holy Spirit. They were born of the Spirit, but this is a very different thing from enjoying the gift of the Spirit. To have the Holy Ghost given is over and above conversion or new birth; it is not life, but power; a privilege superadded to the possession of the new nature, and the chief or only means of enjoying God according to all the instincts of that nature, and consequently of entering into His wisdom in the Word of God. This is the richest distinctive gift of Christianity on earth, as Christ on high, the Head to Whom we are united as His body, is the main heavenly characteristic. Neither of these privileges was true as yet; no one had ever enjoyed them since the beginning of the world. The disciples were told then and encouraged to ask their heavenly Father, Who would surely give the Holy Spirit to those who asked Him. The disciples accordingly continued in prayer, as we know from Acts 1:14; so that even after the Lord died and rose they had not received the Holy Spirit according to this word; they were still expecting. Yet they had received the Spirit as life more abundantly, as the power of His resurrection life; but the gift of the Spirit was something more. It was the indwelling of the Spirit of God, Who would also act in various gifts in the members, and, above all, in baptizing them into one body. All this was accomplished, but not before Pentecost. They were therefore to ask their heavenly Father, and so they did; and the Holy Spirit of promise was given according to the Saviour's word.*
*Cf. "Lectures on Matthew," p. 183f. (2nd ed.)
There may be cases still, I cannot but think, where it would be right thus to ask our Father. This would be souls who are, like the disciples, converted, but who have not yet submitted to the righteousness of God - who do not yet consciously rest on redemption. In such a state it would be hazardous to say they had received the Holy Ghost while they do not enjoy peace with God. When there is a simple rest by faith on the great work of the Lord Jesus, and not merely faith in His person, then the Holy Ghost is given. Where the blood was put the oil followed, according to the types of Leviticus.
Matt. 12:22-30; Mark 3:22-27.
There is great care in this Gospel to show the connection of Satan with men, just as we have seen the privilege of the believer in the possession of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of God is the power of communion for the new man, for those who are born of God. So Satan is pleased to fill with the power of the demon the old nature of man, in certain cases where God permits him; and the Lord shows the link between the demon and the sickness, weakness, or other malady of body or mind, as we find here in the case of the dumb man: "And he was casting out a demon, and it was dumb; and it came to pass, the demon having gone out, the dumb [man] spoke. And the crowds wondered." It is evident from this that what produced the lack of speech was not physical infirmity, but the demon that dwelt in the man. Directly the demon left he that had been dumb spoke. What the Lord was occupied with here below was in giving a specimen of that which will characterise the world to come. The powers that He exercised, as others afterwards in virtue of His name, were "the powers of the world [or age] to come," as they are called in Heb. 6:5. The millennial age will thus afford a full display of the defeat of Satan, to the glory of God, and this in and by man. The Lord's curing of bodily diseases, and casting out of demons, was a partial exhibition of what will be public and universal in that day.
"The crowds wondered" on this occasion; but the spirit of unbelief is stronger than the power of evidences. Hence, "some from among them said, By Beelzebub,293 the prince of the demons, casts he out demons." We must distinguish between the instruments of Satan's power and the devil himself. The word "devils" confounds the two things. It is to say "demons." "By Beelzebub, the prince of the demons, casts he out demons." Others did not go quite so far as this; but still, "tempting [him], sought from him a sign out of heaven." Satan does not lead all in the same way, but he suits his action to the flesh of each. Some men are violent in their unbelief, while others are more religious. Some "tempting [him], sought from him a sign out of heaven." They were not content with what God had given, though there could be no external proof more convincing than the expulsion of Satan's power. Hence this was strongly marked at the starting-point of the Lord's ministry in this Gospel as well as Mark's. So it was throughout. The Lord, answering their unbelieving thoughts, says, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house set against a house falls." It would be suicidal for Satan to undermine his own influence. If also Satan is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom subsist? ye say that I cast out demons by Beelzebub."
But there is more to be noticed. God had before this occasionally given power to Jews to cast out demons. Faith is always honoured of God; and on the darkest day the Lord did not fall to keep up as it were the holy fire, that His light should not absolutely go out on the earth. "But if I* by Beelzebub cast out demons, your sons — by whom do they cast [them] out? For this reason they shall be your judges." No unbelief on their part ever irritated the Lord. Far from this, He could calmly acknowledge what had been of God among them, though this in no way hindered them from denying God Himself present among men.294 "But if by the finger of God295 I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God is come upon you."
*Weiss retains the emphatic I (ἐγώ) of D here also.
This is an expression of no small importance, "the kingdom of God is come upon you." In another sense it might be said that the kingdom of God was nigh. Here it is said to be come, because Christ was there. Christ brought, as it were, the kingdom of God in His own person. All others require the kingdom of God to come for them to be in the kingdom; but Christ, being a Divine Person, brought that kingdom in Himself, displaying it by His own power, manifested by the overthrow of Satan, by casting out demons. And yet man was blind, more guiltily so than the poor soul before us was, who could not through his dumbness speak the praises of God. For here, when God had proved His power, they were as blind as ever, they could not see God in it, or rather in Jesus.
When the kingdom of heaven is spoken of, it is never said to be come. It could not be said according to Scripture phrase, "The kingdom of heaven is come unto you." Thus "the kingdom of heaven" and "the kingdom of God" are not quite identical. They agree so far that what in one Gospel is called the kingdom of heaven is called in another Gospel the kingdom of God. Matthew alone speaks of "the kingdom of heaven," as Mark, Luke, and John do of "the kingdom of God." But what is in Matthew called "kingdom of heaven," is called in the other Gospels "kingdom of God," of which last Matthew himself speaks in a few passages. The difference is this: that the kingdom of heaven always supposes a change of dispensation consequent on the Saviour's having taken His place above. He may by and by bring His power below, but He must have come from heaven to bring in the kingdom of heaven. Hence in the future, to establish it in power and glory, it is the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven Who receives that kingdom, and makes it good over all the earth.
The kingdom of heaven never means heaven itself; but rather the rule of the heavens over the earth. When the actual departure on high of the Lord Jesus is spoken of, it is always said to be into heaven, and not into the kingdom of heaven. When the Lord, then, was here below, and manifested His power over Satan, it was the Kingdom of God: it could be so called because the King — the power of God — was there. So here in this place He, by the power of God casting out demons, proved that the kingdom of God was come. What better proof could be asked? Man was totally insufficient for such a work; others might have done so in special answer to prayer. God is always superior to the devil, and it was important that He should prove this from time to time in expelling demons by the sons of Israel who possessed the place of relationship to God that no other people had. But in the Lord's case it was not occasional, exceptional, or partial, but uniform and universal: even where the disciples themselves, using His name, failed to cast them out, He always did it with a word. The Kingdom of God, therefore, was come as a witness of His power, not yet as a state and sphere of manifestation. Both morally and in power, the kingdom of God was come in Him Who bound the strong man and stripped him of his goods.
And this leads me to another remark. The apostle Paul frequently speaks of the kingdom of God, not as a dispensation but as a moral display. He says that "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Rom. 14:17.) He says, too, that "the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." (1 Cor. 4:20.) You could not say "the kingdom of heaven" in these cases. Thus we see the reason why Luke particularly can speak of the kingdom of God, for he is the Evangelist who dwells on the moral side more than any other. Hence, too, there is a stronger link between his language and that of St. Paul than between any other two writers of the New Testament.296
Then the Lord introduces a remarkable figure: "When the strong [man] armed keeps his own house [court], his goods are in peace; but when the stronger than he coming upon [him], overcomes him, he takes away his panoply297 in which he trusted, and he will divide the spoil [he has taken] from him." This was going on then. If Satan was the strong man in the figure, Jesus was now stripping him of his goods and dividing his spoils. The whole ministry of Jesus was the evidence of a power superior to Satan in the world. It is true that this did not finally deliver, because it did not touch the judgment of God. It was present and not eternal deliverance. It was the overthrow of Satan, nor, the satisfaction of God. Sin could not yet have been abolished, and judgment must still have remained. No grace, nor power, nor ministry can take away sin, nothing but the sacrifice of Himself.298 That infinitely deeper question was behind, and was settled, not in the life of Jesus, but in His atoning death on the cross. Here He merely speaks of the power then present by a living Christ, which did deliver men from the oppression of Satan, as far as this life was concerned in the world; but not for eternity, not before God. This side of the truth, the victorious power of Christ over Satan in this life, for the earth, has been greatly forgotten in Christendom; and the more so because they bring in the living power of Christ to supplement His death for righteousness and atonement. They have made both life and death necessary for settling the question of a guilty soul for eternity. Consequently they have in practice seen little more than this, forgetting the power of Satan on the one hand, and the power of the Spirit on the other, except in a superstitious way, which only brings the truth into disrepute. These antagonistic realities have been lost sight of; and the grand witness is overlooked that the Lord was giving of a future deliverance of man from Satan's power, when His kingdom will be, not merely in the Spirit's power, but in manifestation. All this has well-nigh dropped out of Christendom. The Jews were feeble about eternal deliverance, but held fast the hope of the kingdom, of blessing in the earth and world by the Messiah, when the power of the serpent would be evidently broken.
Then we find a most solemn principle in verse 23. "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathers not with me scatters." The presence of Christ brought this out, and more particularly when He was being rejected. When Christ was acceptable, there was no moral test; but when public opinion was universally against Him, and it was evident that to follow Christ was to be slighted by the great and wise, then it proved the strongest criterion. So the Lord now says, "He that is not with me is against me." If I am not with Him I am against Him. The more He is rejected, the more I must throw in my lot with Him. And this is a test, not only for one's person, but also for one's work, as it is added here, "He that gathers not with me scatters." The first is more particularly true for the unconverted man, and the second for the converted who is worldly in his work. A man might himself be really with Christ, but yet in his labours he might build or prop up what is of the world. Such a person, no matter what the apparent effects may be, may become the most popular of preachers, and produce widespread effects, philanthropic and religious; but "he that gathers not with me scatters," says the Lord. There is no scattering so real in the sight of God as the gathering of Christians on false principles. It is worse than if they were not gathered at all. There is a deeper hindrance to the truth, because there is a spirit of party and denomination that is necessarily hostile to Christ. A false gathering-point substitutes another centre for Christ, and consequently makes greater confusion. "He that gathers not with me scatters."299
Then we find the picture of the unclean spirit — that is, the spirit of idolatry. It had once possessed the Jewish nation; but here it is applied in the case, not merely of a nation, but of an individual. It acquires a more moral shape than in the Gospel of Matthew, where it is dispensational. "When the unclean spirit has gone out of the man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and not finding any, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out." A person might, through evidence and convictions of one sort or another, profess to follow Christ, and be outwardly with Him. But the mere absence of outward evil will never bring a soul to God. God Himself must be known, and Jesus Himself received, not merely the unclean spirit be gone out. A man may leave off evil of a gross kind, he may give up false religion, or, as in this case, idolatry; but all this does not consecrate a man. It is the presence of God in possession of a soul — it is the having a new nature, and not merely the absence of this or that evil — that determines the matter. The unclean spirit can return to the house unless it is already occupied by the power of God's Spirit, which alone effectually shuts Satan out. "And having come, he finds it swept and adorned." No doubt, as compared with heathenism, there is the absence of much that is abominable and offensive Christian truth is owned; and the unclean spirit, therefore, finds the house, when he returns, swept and garnished. This will be true in Christendom, as it may be also in an individual. After a person has through the outward influence of Christ laid aside evil, the power of Satan gathers fresh fuel; and the man falls into worse evil than if he had never professed His name at all. It is not a simple return to what he was, not merely that the old evil re-asserts its energy, but there is a fresh and complete torrent of evil, a new and worse power of the enemy that takes possession of the soul; and "the last, condition of that man becomes worse than the first."300 An apostate is the most hopeless of all evil men. So it will be with the Jew and so with Christendom; it is the same thing with any man at any time in these circumstances. There is nothing for any one except cleaving to the name of the Lord. Nor is it only a question of glorifying the Lord, but of positive necessity for his own soul.301
The power that delivers a man's body, in this respect breaking the thraldom of Satan, however true, is eclipsed by that which is still more precious. Nevertheless, men could not but feel the homage that was due to power, and this so beneficent. "And it came to pass as he spake these things, a certain woman, lifting up her voice, out of the crowd said to him, Blessed is the womb that has borne thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked." This gave the Lord occasion to show what was far better. "But he said, Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep [it]." Without denying the value of Divine power in such a world as this, yet, said our Lord, "rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep [it]." The goodness of God sown in nature, for which (though not alone) the Jews were called to wait, would give place to a superior order of blessing. The very badness of the world's state and of men upon it is the occasion for God to bring in what never passes away, and is destined to endure when the world is gone. There is nothing here below that introduces the eternal like the Word of God. Power, even were it as great as that which Jesus wielded over man or the enemy, is but for a time in its effects; but "he that does the will of God abides for ever." (1 John 2:17.) And "he that believes has everlasting life." (John 3:36.) "Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep [it]." The Word of God is the link between man on earth and God above; it is the seed of incorruptible life, "which lives and abides for ever." (1 Peter 1:25.)
Accordingly here again man is put to the proof. He had been already tested by power, and he who could impute that which cast out Satan to Satan himself was self-condemned, It would make Satan more foolish than the most foolish man, for it is a universal principle that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Can it be thought that Satan deliberately destroys his own kingdom and himself? Is he really suicidal? The Jews then showed to what they were fallen when they imputed to Satan the power that cast out demons.
And now what became of the Jews who heard the Word of God and did not keep it? Nothing more terrible.
"But as the crowds thronged together, he began to say, This generation is a wicked generation: it seeks a sign; and a sign shall not be given to it but the sign of Jonas."* Instead of keeping the Word of God, they were seeking outward tokens. They wanted something visible to their senses, an object tangible in their midst, not only present but earthly and suited to the world. "But there shall no sign be given it but the sign of Jonas the prophet." The allusion is to one who prophesied in Israel, but who was sent to the Gentiles — to the Ninevites.303 "For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, thus shall also the Son of man be to this generation." He, too, the rejected Messiah, would take the place of Son of man, despised and rejected of men.
*"Jonas": here AC and later uncials, most cursives, - etc., add "the prophet," which Edd. reject, following ℵBDL, Amiat., etc. (from Matthew).
But more than this: "a queen of the south" and "men, of Nineveh" are brought before us in another way to condemn the Jews of that day.
"A queen304 of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and shall condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, more than Solomon is here." This showed her earnestness of purpose to hear the wisdom of Solomon. The wise and wealthy son of David was not the vessel of the Word of God in his ordinary speech as the Lord Jesus was: yet she came without a single miracle to attract her, without a sign to guide or confirm, and heard the wisdom of Solomon: "and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here." Then, again, men of Nineveh themselves, that great city which had been given up to destruction at last — "men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation and shall condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonas."305 They were willing to own their own evil, their sinfulness, their forgetful ignorance of God, and this at the preaching of Jonas — a prophet comparatively unfaithful, who strove to escape from the mission on which God sent him, "and, behold, more than Jonas is here." But where were the men of this generation, and what? Did they repent? No more did they repent than they showed what was seen in a queen of the south — earnestness of heart in listening to the wise man of her day. Thus there was a double testimony against them; Gentiles, high or low, at one time or another, rose up to condemn the men of Jerusalem.
Then the Lord brings out another truth, namely, that the fault lay not in the want of signs any more than in the display of power (for we have seen the contrary), but in the state of the heart. That is the only reason why man does not rejoice in or keep the Word of God; it is because his heart is not right with God. No person would prefer darkness to light or pleasure to the Word of God unless the heart were wrong. "No one having lighted a lamp sets it secret,306 nor under the corn-measure, but on the lamp-stand, that they who enter in may see the light." So it was with the ways of God. There was no defect in his presentation.
The Light was come and God set it in a due and commanding position that all who saw it might be profited. Never was there one who held forth the light of God as Jesus did. He never wavered, for He was the Holy One, the Undefiled, separate from sinners. There was no fault therefore to be found with the Medium; Jesus not only showed perfect light in what He said, but was the Light Himself. All His perfection on Him; yet how had men treated it? Alas! there are other conditions necessary. "The lamp of the* body is thine† eye [therefore] when‡ thine eye is single, thy whole body also is light; but when it is wicked, thy body also is dark." Here we reach so far what man is. It is not here as in John, that Christ is the Light; there we see His personal glory.307
*"The body": so most authorities. D, with most Old Lat., has "thy b."
†"Thine eye": so ℵpm ABCD, etc., Old Lat. (Edd.). EG, etc., most cursives, Syrrcu sin Arm. have "the eye."
‡AC and later uncials, nearly all cursives, Syrrcu sin, read "therefore" besides "when," which Edd. omit, after ℵBDLΔ, Old Lat. Memph.
But Luke always brings in man's state, or moral condition. "The lamp of the body is thine eye." Light alone outside does not enable a man to see. If the eye, physically, is powerless, the light makes no impression. As in John, the light may be ever so true, but, according to Luke, the eye also enters the account; and by nature it is evil and only so. It is not only Christ as Light that is wanted. Eyes to see must be given; its actual state must be considered. "[Therefore] when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is light." It is a question here of moral purpose. If there be no object to divide the heart's attention, if Christ fills the field of vision, the whole body is light. "But when it is wicked, thy body also is dark." And is there not evil in looking to other objects from Christ, in turning away from the only One Who is worthy? "When it is evil thy body also is dark. See, therefore, that the light which is in thee be not darkness." What darkness is comparable to it? This is moral darkness, and fatal to the soul which can see nothing in Christ, or if it seem to see, is evidently indifferent to Christ, indifferent not to one's own soul alone, but to the eternal truth of God. The eye is evil, the body, therefore, is dark indeed.
"See, therefore, that the light which is in thee be not darkness." Such is the end of a carelessness and unfaithfulness to truth. This was becoming the confirmed history of Israel. They had, as compared with the Gentiles, possessed Divine light; but "See that the light which is in thee be not darkness." It was to the last degree becoming their fixed state. They were first indifferent to Christ; finally, they would reject Him to the uttermost — then it would be the darkness of death. "If, therefore, the whole body is light, not having any part dark, it shall be all light, as when the lamp lights thee with its brightness."* Thus when one has light for oneself, it becomes the means of light for others. In Divine things you cannot separate power for others from testimony to the glory of God.
*Blass, but here again alone, follows D with some copies of Old Latin, in omitting this verse.
What follows is of a very different character from that which we had before. It is not now the setting aside of Jewish expectations for the Word of God, which the Holy Spirit makes efficacious by judging self, and thus the eye is made single and the whole body full of light. There is no substitution here of God's Word and spiritual blessing for the Messiah, and all the natural mercies and external glory that Israel looked for then and shall look for by and by. Now it is the moral judgment of Israel in their present state; and for this occasion was given, by a certain Pharisee asking the Lord to dine308 with him. He goes at once. He in noway chooses what was pleasing to Himself. As He entered into the house of a tax-gatherer, and refused none of the company there, so also He declines not to seat Himself at table with a Pharisee. When He went into the tax-gatherer's house, the wonder was how He could eat with sinners; the wonder with the Pharisee now is, "that he had not first washed before dinner." Such was their religion.309 Yet the truth, on the face of things, is that washing is for those who are unclean: He Who was pure and holy did not need it. The Pharisee therefore condemns himself doubly. There is a vague consciousness that he needed cleansing. He shows also his blindness to the personal glory of the Lord Jesus, the only One Who needed nothing from without — the Holy One of Israel, the Holy One of God.
The Lord takes this accordingly as the ground of appeal. He "said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish; but your inward [parts] are full of plunder and wickedness." Their religion, all protest to the contrary notwithstanding,310 was essentially of the outside; and, far from being clean, they were full of plunder and wickedness, plundering others and wicked themselves. Although they had the highest reputation among the people, the Lord pronounces them fools; and what His Word censures now His judgment will act on by and by. The judgment of God is always according to the Word of God. What is condemned by the Word of God now will certainly be condemned by the Lord Jesus when He takes the judicial throne. But it was the same God Who made both the outside and the inside. "Fools, has not he who has made the outside made the inside also?" They had forgotten Him; they were anxious only for what was seen of men. The Lord looks upon the heart. They did not think of this. Unbelief is always blind, and fixes, if there be a difference, on things the least important. The reason is manifest: it seeks the praise of men and not that of God. The Lord Jesus, however, bids them "rather give alms of what ye have311: and, behold, all things are clean unto you." He knew well that a Pharisee would do nothing less than this — that intense selfishness characterised the whole party. They were faithless and covetous. Him Whom God gave they despised; what they had they kept for themselves. All things therefore were unclean to them.
But there is much more than this. The Lord pronounces successive woes upon them for their zeal about trifles, their love of religious distinction, and their hypocrisy.312 "Woe unto you, Pharisees! for [beginning with that which was seemingly the least evil] ye tithe the mint and the rue and every herb, and pass by the judgment and the love of God: these ye ought to have done, and not have left those aside." It was really the same root of self, fallen human nature under a religious veil. Why did they thus seek to be distinguished from others? Others gave tithes honestly due to God; the Pharisees laid hold of the most minute points which did not cost much and gave themselves credit in the eyes of men not wiser than themselves, but they slighted judgment and the love of God. Righteousness is a due sense of our relationship to God and man; of it they had no adequate measure whatever before them. The love of God was the last thing that came before or from their hearts.313 "These ye ought to have done, and not have left those aside." Let them value their infinitesimals if they would, but let them not neglect the greatest duties.
But it was not merely this God-dishonouring pettiness. "Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the first seat in the synagogues, and salutations in the market-places." Now we come, not so much to personal conduct and pretension to the strictest conscientiousness, but to their love of public reputation for sanctity and of honour in the religious world.
Another ground detected was lower still. "Woe unto you, [scribes, and Pharisees, hypocrites] * for ye are as the sepulchres which appear not, and the men walking over them do not know [it]." Now they are put with the scribes — people learned in the law, who had the character of being the most punctilious in their conduct: both are alike treated as hypocrites — as sepulchres which appear not. Unremoved death, all uncleanness and corruption, was under these fair-seeming religionists.
*After "you," AD (but without "hypocrites"), E, etc., most cursives (69), some Syrr. add "scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites." Edd. omit, as ℵBCL, etc., 1. 33, Syrrcu sin, Amiat. Memph. Arm.
One of the lawyers was offended "and said to him, Teacher, in saying these things thou insultest us also." Then the Lord answers them: "Woe unto you also, doctors of the law! for ye lay upon men burdens heavy to bear, and yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers." They were notorious for their contempt of the very people from whom they derived their importance.314 It is an easy thing to lay burdens upon others; it is hard to bear them. Christianity is the exact opposite of this. Christ comes down first of all and takes the sorest of all burdens, the judgment of our sin and guilt, our condemnation from God; then He leaves us under the Gospel, without that burden. It is true that, till He comes again, we are groaning in the body, waiting not uncertainly but in confidence for Christ to change us even into the likeness of His glorious body. Hence it is that the practical exercise of Christianity is in liberty and joy. No doubt grace brings with it the highest obligations, but they are those of men who are free and who use their liberty for the One whom they love. It was not so with these doctors of the law. They laid burdens upon men that were grievous to be borne, but they themselves did not touch the burdens with one of their fingers. It is only grace that enables one to manifest what the law requires. The doctors of the law were precisely those who showed the least conscience. They thundered the law at others; they did not subject themselves to any of its precepts, except where it suited them. It is grace which purifies the conscience by faith and strengthens it in the will of God.
But if they did not touch any of the burdens that they laid on others, they built the sepulchres of the prophets. This sounded well and holy. What could be more laudable than that they should honour the ancient sufferers and prophets by building their sepulchres? It was really the spirit of the world. First of all they proved that they were the successors of those who killed them, not the successors of the martyrs but of their murderers. Although it seemed the opposite of what their fathers had done, it was the same love of the world which slew the martyrs in that day, and now led men to build their sepulchres in order to make religious capital out of this pious honour. They would fain have the halo that surrounded those men of God thereby to shine upon themselves. It was the love of the world that made the fathers slay them; and the love of the world it was that led their sons to build these sepulchres over them. There was of course nothing of Christ in those who persecuted the martyrs. Was there a whit more in these men bent on empty self-glorification under cover of the righteous victims of old? Therefore says the Lord, "Ye bear witness then and consent to the works of your fathers: for they killed them, and ye build [their sepulchres]."* And to prove that they were the lineal successors of the murderers of the old martyrs, the Lord adds, "For this reason also the wisdom of God has said, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of these they shall kill and drive out by persecution."315 It is expressly put as the wisdom of God, because it is not what would appear to man. The builders of the sepulchres of the sufferers might seem to be the farthest removed from the persecuting violence of the fathers; but not so. The contrary would soon appear. God would test them soon by sending prophets and apostles, some of whom they would slay, and some they would persecute, getting rid of them all in one way or another. "That the blood of all the prophets, which has been poured out from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, who perished between the altar and the temple; yea, I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation." This is a searching and solemn principle. Man fails from the first, and God pronounces on it. But it is always the last who is the most guilty, because the cases of former slaying of the prophets ought to have aroused their consciences. Their building of sepulchres for the saints whom their fathers slew proved that they knew how wrong it was. But the heart was unchanged; and hence a similar testimony produced no less results, but more evil. God's testimony at the present day arouses quite as much hatred as His warnings of old. Hence, little as the Jews thought it (for they had been long without prophets), now that the truth was sent out in power, the same murderous spirit would be manifested, and God would hold the people guilty of all the blood that had been shed from the foundation of the world. Instead of using the example of their fathers to deter them, they followed their guilty footsteps. They were more guilty, because they despised so, solemn a warning.
*["Their sepulchres"]: ACE, etc., 33, Syrr. Amiat. Memph., have these words, which Edd. omit, after ℵBDL.
So it will be in the latter day. There will be a violent outbreak against the witnesses of Jesus, whose blood will be shed like water — a persecution all the more guilty because men will have known it beforehand; they will have owned the guilt of those who did it, and yet they will fall into the same rut themselves. Alas! unbelief is most of all blind to self.
The Lord pronounces finally one more woe. "Woe unto you, the doctors of the law, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge;316 yourselves have entered in and those who were entering in ye have hindered." So they were doing then as others at this present time. Wisdom was there, truth was there, Christ was there: all that the doctors of the law did was to hinder people from profiting by it, in order to maintain their own importance.
"And as he said these things to them,* the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him vehemently, and to make him speak317 of many things." They wanted Him to commit Himself — that the Lord might utter something for which they could drag Him to their tribunal, "watching him [and seeking]† to catch something out of his mouth [that they might accuse him]."‡ Their hearts were filled, not only with plunder, but with wickedness that would take the shape of violence against the truth and those who bore it, just like their fathers. The first Adam is never changed for the better: he is only evil continually: the more good is shown him, the more evil he proves himself to be.
*"As he said these things to them": so Lachm., followed by Blass, after AD, etc., 1, Syrr. Amiat.; Blass adding "before the people," which is in DX, Old Lat. Syrrcu sin. Treg., W. H., and Weiss adopt, "And as he went out thence," after ℵBCL, 33, Memph.
†["And seeking"]: these words are in ACD, later uncials, most cursives, Old Lat., etc.; but Edd. reject them, after ℵBL, Memph. Aeth.
‡["That they might accuse him"]: as ACD, Syrrcu sin; but Edd. omit, as ℵBL, Memph. Aeth. This affords instance of "conflation" (note 3).
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 328-333.
Matt. 10:26-33, 19-20; Matt. 12:32 Mark. 3:28f.
We have seen the favoured nation set aside, and judgment awaiting "this generation," not glory, and the woes upon those classes among them that stood highest in public estimation, who indeed were now the manifest adversaries of the Messiah. Our chapter opens with the Lord's warning to the multitude who were crowding around Him, to beware of the leaven319 of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
Accordingly we find the Lord showing that a new testimony was to be formed, not governed by law, but by the light of God. "For there is nothing covered up which shall not be revealed, nor secret that shall not be known." And this testimony, as it was in the light, so also it was to be spread abroad. There was to be nothing hidden, nothing kept silent now. With this entirely falls in the teaching of the Apostle Paul — that now, on the rejection of Israel, God has brought to light the "mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints." (Col. 1:26.) The same thing is true morally. The heart is laid bare, nature is judged, all now is brought into the light of God. "Therefore, whatsoever ye have said in the darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in chambers shall be proclaimed upon the housetops."320
This is of all-importance, and extremely solemn. Even now God is forming souls in the light; as that which puts them to the test. His own moral nature that detects everything inconsistent with itself. This shows us what a wonderful character Christianity has morally as well as doctrinally. Under the law it was not so; there were many things allowed because of the hardness of their hearts. The veil was not yet rent. God had not brought out His own absolute nature made relative in Christ to judge man by. There was no proper revelation of God Himself under the law, though many revelations from Him. There were commands, there were promises, there were prophecies when things failed; but Jesus is the manifestation of God. Even as He is the only-begotten Son, He is the true Light that now shines; and such also is the atmosphere which the Christian breathes. We walk in the light even as God is in the light. This was altogether new doctrine, especially for the Pharisees to hear. They were characterised by a fair appearance before men, which was hypocrisy in the sight of God. The multitude were warned that an end was coming to all this. Not only will the day of judgment make it manifest, but faith anticipates that day. And now faith is come. Christianity is not of law but of faith; and Christianity alone, both as a question of light and of love, goes forth energetically. Everywhere is the Gospel to be preached, to every creature. Christ's Word is to be proclaimed to all nations — the law was given to Israel.
But there is another consideration also, that now it is not the intervention of present earthly judgments, but the fear of God, Whose eternal judgment is revealed for those who despise His Word. "I say unto you, my friends,321 Fear not those who kill the body, and after this have no more that they can do." The law displayed earthly dealings: now wrath is revealed from Heaven, and this wrath has eternal consequences. It is not merely the setting aside of man's wrath, nor the instructive lesson of all in a chosen nation on the earth, but the certainty that body and soul must be cast into hell. This will be proved true presently for those who are found alive in opposition to God and rejection of His final testimony; and it will be true also at the close of the Kingdom for those who had died in their sins since the world began. Then God will show how truly He is the One to be feared; for the hypocrisy of the Pharisees had its root in the fear of man. They did not fear God. They would stand well with men, especially in the way of religious reputation: is this the true fear of God? "Fear not those who kill the body, and after this have no more that they can do." By redemption we are brought to God. Christianity essentially supposes the putting the soul in the presence of the unseen and eternal. "I will show you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, who after he has killed has power to cast into hell322; yea, I say unto you, Fear him."
But then the Lord brings in motives of comfort, as these were of warning. The present light of God and the future judgment of God were solemn considerations for any soul of man; but now comes in the comfort of His present care and future reward. "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings (assaria),323 and not one of them is forgotten before God?" What infinite care of God that can descend to the least thing, that man despises most! How much more, then, His care for those who are His witnesses! For now, on the setting aside of the Jewish nation, a fresh body of men to testify for Christ was to be formed, the very hairs of whose head would be numbered. There is nothing that more strengthens one who is bearing witness for the truth than the consciousness of God's love, and that the least one or thing that pertains to him is of interest to God. "But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.324 Fear not therefore*: ye are better than many sparrows."
*"Therefore": so ℵADE, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrr. Amiat. Edd. omit, after BLR, some Latt. Memph.
No present consciousness, however, of goodness would be sufficient to maintain a soul now in presence of evil. And God does not set aside the evil, but gives spiritual power to endure; He sends a testimony that utterly condemns the evil, and vouchsafes power to bear. Power is now in suffering for righteousness' or Christ's sake, not in reforming the world; it does not consist in judgment of the world's evil. God alone is competent for this, and He will set aside and judge finally instead of reforming. But, besides all that, the soul needs the comfort of the time when it shall be completely taken out of the power of evil; and the future prospect is bright before us. "But I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, the Son of man325 will confess him also before the angels of God; but he that shall have denied me before men shall be denied before the angels of God." Both faithfulness and unfaithfulness bear their consequences in the day of glory. "And whoever shall say a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but unto him that speaks injuriously against the Holy Spirit it shall not be forgiven." This had been proved. Who spoke more against Him than Saul of Tarsus? Who was a more blessed proof and witness of forgiveness than he was? So it will be even with the nation. If "this generation" must suffer, are suffering them now, and are yet to suffer them, still the nation will be forgiven in the end. "But unto him that speaks injuriously against the Holy Spirit it shall not be forgiven." Such is the fate of "this generation." They would reject not only Christ Himself, but the further testimony which, we have seen, it is the object of the Spirit of God to bring before us in this chapter. Now we have a most important element in this new thing. Not only was there light and truthfulness, not only the energy that went out in proclamation and the preservative care of God now, with future reward by-and-by; but, besides all, there is the power of the Holy Ghost. This makes it unspeakably grave. "Unto him that blasphemes against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven." What an issue! On the other hand, to the believer what a gracious support! What earnestness also and exercise of love in giving their message must there be in realising that, in a certain sense, it is worse to reject the testimony now that the Holy Ghost is given than when even the Lord Himself was here below! For the Holy Ghost bears witness, not only of Christ, but of His accomplished redemption and His Cross. Then he who rejects the fullest mercy of God, when He has completely put away sin by the sacrifice of His Son, shows himself utterly insensible both to his sin and to God's grace as well as to the glory of Christ. All this the Holy Ghost now brings out without a cloud. Hence to blaspheme Him is unpardonable. "Unto him that blasphemes against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven."326
But the Holy Ghost does not merely act in thus putting so solemn a seal on the testimony; He is also a positive power for him who is engaged in the testimony. "But when they bring you before the synagogues,327 and rulers and the authorities, be not careful how or what ye shall answer, or what ye shall say; for the Holy Spirit shall teach you in the hour itself what should be said." For when the Spirit should be given, there would be no setting aside the evil in the world: this as we know becomes worse and worse. Accordingly, when they should be brought before the powers of the world, "Be not careful," the Lord says unto them, "how or what ye shall answer, or what ye shall say." The spirit of absolute dependence upon God is shown us here. "The Holy Spirit shall teach you in the hour itself what should be said." This completes the first part of the chapter and shows us. the power of the testimony, and thus the danger of those who reject it, and the encouragement of those who are rendering it.
The rejection of Christ leads to an important change, both in His position and in what men would find in and from Him. A Jew would naturally have looked to the Messiah as the Judge of every vexed question. Even he who valued the Lord Jesus for His unblemished ways and holy conversation might well seek His aid. But it is here shown that His rejection by man changes everything. One cannot reason abstractedly therefore from what the Messiah was as such; we must take into account the fact of the state of man towards Him and God's action thereon. The Cross of Christ, which was to be the fruit and measure of the rejection of the Lord, would have in its train consequences immense, and of all possible difference from what had gone before; and this not only on man's part, but on God's.
Hence, when one of the company said to Him, "Teacher, speak to my brother, to divide the inheritance with me," the Lord answers, "Man, who established me [as] a judge or a divider329 over you?" He was not come to judge. The rejection of Christ leads into that infinite salvation He has wrought, in view of which He declines the settlement of human disputes, He was not come for earthly purposes, but for heavenly. Had He been received by men, He would undoubtedly have divided inheritances here below; but, as they were, He was no judge or divider over men or their affairs here below. But Luke, as is his manner and habit, presents the Lord immediately looking at the moral side of the matter, as indeed the rejection of Christ does lead into the deepest manifestation and understanding of the heart.
The Lord therefore addresses the company on a broader ground. "He said to them, Take heed and keep yourselves from all* covetousness, for [it is] not because a man is in abundance [that] his life is in his possessions." This anxiety for Christ's help to settle questions flows from the heart's desire of something that one has not here below. Maintenance of position is here judged, eagerness after earthly righteousness is exposed — "beware of covetousness." The rejection of Christ and the revelation of heavenly things led into the true path of faith, of confiding in God for whatever He gives, of trusting, not man but Him, for all difficulties, of contentedness with such things as we have. God arranges all to faith. Nor is this the whole matter. The heart has to be watched. "Keep yourselves from all covetousness, for it is not because a man is in abundance [that] his life is in his possessions."330 And this too He illustrates, as well as its awful end. There is exceeding selfishness, folly, and danger in what might seem to be earthly prudence. Hear the next words of the Lord. "He spoke a parable to them, saying, The land of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully; and he reasoned within himself, saying, What shall I do, for I have not [a place] where I shall lay up my fruits?" Clearly this man counted that the prime good lay in the abundance of the things that he possessed. His desire was to employ what he had so as to get and keep more of present things.
*"All": so Edd., following ℵABD, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrr. Old Lat. Memph. EFG, etc., and most cursives omit.
Systematic selfishness was there, not the reckoning of faith either in its self-sacrifices of suffering or in its active and generous devotedness. There was no eye upon the future outside this world. All was in the present life. It is not that the rich fool made a bad use of what he had according to human judgment, not that he was immoral, but his action did not go beyond gratifying his desire of over-growing abundance. "He said, This will I do; I will take away my granaries, and build greater; and there I will lay up all my produce* and My330a good things."
*"Produce": so Tisch. after ℵAD and most later uncials. Other Edd. (W. H. "conflation") adopt "corn," following BLX, Sah. Memph. Aeth.
This conduct stands in marked contrast with what the Lord afterwards brings into prominence in Luke 16, where is seen the sacrifice of the present for the future, and that such only are received into everlasting habitations. It is not the means of deliverance from hell, but the character of all who go to heaven. So far they resemble the steward in the parable, whom the lord commended, not for his injustice but for his wisdom. He sacrificed present interests, his master's goods, in order to secure the future. The rich proprietor here, on the contrary, is ever casting down his barns and building greater, in order the better to secure all his fruits and increase his goods. His sole and entire thought was for this present life which, he assumed, would go on unchangeably. The steward looked out for the reverse that was at hand, and acted accordingly. May we feel ourselves stewards in what men would call our own, and act with no less prudence! It was not so with him who said to himself, "Soul, thou hast much good things laid up for many years; repose thyself; eat, drink, be merry." There was both self-satisfaction in what he possessed, and withal the desire for a long enjoyment of present ease. It was the practical Sadduceeism of unbelief.331 "But God said unto him, Fool, this night thy soul shall be required332 of thee; and whose shall be what thou hast prepared?"
He never considered this. God was not in all his thoughts. He had reduced his soul to the merest slavery of the body, instead of keeping under the body, that it might be the servant of the soul, and God the master of both. But no: God was in none of his thoughts; yet God said to him, "Fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee; and whose shall be what thou hast prepared?" He had looked onward for an uninterrupted prosperity in the world. "This night!" Little did he think it. "This night thy soul shall be required of thee . . . Thus is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich333 toward God." Riches before God cannot be without what men short-sightedly count impoverishment of self, using what we have, not for ourselves, but for others. Only such are rich toward God, be their means great or small. If their means are small, they are nevertheless large enough to let them think of others in love and provide for wants greater than their own: if their means are great, their responsibilities are so much the greater. But in every case the gathering up is not for self, but for the service of grace; and this can only be by bringing God into the matter. Such only are rich toward God. Laying up treasure for oneself is the hard labour of self, and the unbelief that reserves for a long dream of enjoyment which the Lord suddenly interrupts.
Then the disciples are addressed, and the Lord accordingly rises in the character of His appeal. The other was a warning for men, but for the disciples there was a new path opening. "And he said to his disciples, For this cause I say unto you, Be not careful for life,* what ye shall eat; nor for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than food, and the body than raiment." That is, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what put on. This was a great advance in the instruction given to souls — a guard against anxiety, which depends on faith in God. The Lord gives them an instance from the birds around them. "Consider the ravens, that they sow not nor reap; which have neither storehouse nor granary; and God feeds them." God's care condescended to watch over even an unclean bird like a raven. "How much better are ye than the birds?"335
*"For life": so Edd. after ℵABD, etc., 1, Amiat. EΔ, etc., 33, 69. Sirrcu pesch sin Memph. add "Your."
But we have more than this: the utter powerlessness of man, in what most nearly concerns him, is brought out with matchless beauty and truth. "Which of you, by being careful, can add to his stature one* cubit? If therefore ye cannot [do] even what is least, why are ye careful about the rest?" What concerns the body is least. "Why take ye thought for the rest" "Then we are given a still more graphic instance from the flowers of the field. "Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin." God's care of the vegetable, no less than the animal, world affords striking and familiar proofs which cannot be gainsaid. "They neither toil nor spin." The ravens might seem to do somewhat; but as to the lilies, what can they do? "They neither toil nor spin; but I say unto you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of these." This was not said as to the ravens. "But if God thus clothe the grass, which today is in the field,† and tomorrow is cast into [the] oven" — the meanest thing as it were that He has made in the vegetable kingdom, that which is both common and transient — "how much rather you, O ye of little faith?" The one, therefore, the ravens, rebuked their care for their food, and the lilies their care for their clothing. "If God thus clothe the grass . . . how much rather you, O ye of little faith?" Hence they were to beware of resembling the nations of the world, which know not God. "Seek not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, and be not in anxiety.336 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after." They were without God. "And your Father [not only God, but your Father] knows that ye have need of these things." He advances now until He puts the disciples into the enjoyment of their own relationship with a Father Who cared perfectly for them, and could fail in nothing towards them. The God Who watched over the ravens and the lilies — their Father — would surely care for them. He knows that we have need of these things, and should be trusted by us.
*"One": ℵpmBD, Memph. omit (Edd.); ℵcorr AL, etc., with Syrsin insert.
†"The grass, which today is in the f.": so AE and most of the later uncials, besides cursives and Syrsin. Edd. (Revv.) adopt "If God so clothe the grass in [the] field," after ℵBL, etc.
The instruction previously given was rather negative — motives to avoid the ways and objects of the Gentiles, because of their confiding in their Father's care. And now we have more directly positive instruction. "But seek His kingdom;*337 and [all]† these things shall be added unto you." As usual, Luke gives us the moral force of things. "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink," as the apostle says, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Rom. 14:17.) They were to desire and pursue what God Himself was about to bring in, that which manifests His power in contrast with man's weakness. And so seeking, all other things — all that is needed for this life — all the things that man makes to be so important, should be added unto them. God assuredly takes care of His own. If we seek His things, He does not forget ours; He could not, would not, overlook our need day by day.
*"His": so Edd. following ℵBDL, Memph. AE, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrr. Amiat. have "kingdom of God."
†["All"]: so AD, etc., 1, 33, 69, Amiat. Memph.; but Edd. reject after ℵBQΔ, etc.
Cf. Matt. 6:20f.
Further (verse 32), they are not to fear, although a little flock. Their strength did not at all rest on numbers or resources of an earthly kind, but on a most simple and blessed principle it was their Father's good pleasure to give them the kingdom. He had delight in it, it was His complacency. This could not fail: why should they fear? Far from it, they were told to sell what they had: "Sell that which ye possess, and give alms." All that would manifest love flowing out to the needy became them. It was their Father's way with them who were once poor indeed, and they were to keep up the family character. They might, it is true, provide bags; but they were to be such as waxed not old, such as heavenly treasure demands. They were not to be of an earthly kind, but rich toward God, "a treasure which doth not fail in the heavens, where thief doth not draw near, nor moth destroy."338 There is nothing forgotten: "God is not unrighteous to forget your work of faith and labour of love"; and what is of importance, too, there is no disappointment with the treasure: no thief approaches it on the one hand, no moth corrupts on the other, "for where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." The object was, that their heart should be settled on things above, and it would be so if their treasure were there. A man is always determined by what he seeks, by his objects. If he sets his heart upon a degrading object, he is degraded; if upon that which is noble and generous, his character is morally elevated. If therefore he is attracted by Christ Who is at the right hand of God, if heavenly treasure is before his eyes, his heart follows his treasure, he is taken entirely above the power of present things, which cannot more drag him down.
Is it too much to say that there is nothing of such moment for the disciple? If he has Christ, it is of all consequence he should see Christ where He is, and the things of Christ, where He sits at the right hand of God. Only to look at Christ on earth would falsify a Christian. Assuredly He is and must be an infinitely blessed Object wherever He is, nor is it that there would be no worthy effect of thus looking at Christ. But we must bear in mind that Christ here below was under law, and connected with Judaism, with its temple, rites, and priesthood; that as yet the great question of redemption was not decided, sin was not judged, evil was not put away; that the world was not given up as hopelessly bad, nor, consequently, was man. Whoever therefore merely looks at Christ as He was here below, shuts himself out from the great truth that all these things are questions already decided; that the world is judged before God, the earth under sentence, heaven opened, redemption accomplished, and sin put away. The soul that only looks at Christ on earth is not merely shut out from all the distinctive truths of Christianity, but is plunged into a state of uncertainty; whereas all under the Gospel ought to be clearly seen and settled. The mighty work of redemption does not remain to be accomplished. This is one reason why the mass of Christians who look at Christ thus are necessarily of doubtful mind, and count assurance to be presumption. The spiritual character is formed accordingly. But our Lord Himself tells us to have "a treasure which doth not fail in the heavens," "for where your treasure is, there also will your heart be." He wished to have them heavenly; and in practice there is no other way than seeing, and knowing, and possessing, in the true sense, our treasure in the heavens. If so, the heart is there also.
But there is another thing too. It is good to have before us the object that is before God. It is good to have an object, a true object, that calls one out into a state of patience and expectation. We cannot do without the power of hope; if we have not the true object, we shall have false ones. "Let your loins," therefore, He says, "be girded about, and lamps burning; and ye like men who wait for their lord, whenever he may leave the wedding, that when he comes and knocks, they may open unto him immediately." I do not take this expression about returning from the wedding as prophetic, but rather as moral, in accordance with the habitual style of Luke. It is certainly intended to present no aspect of judgment, but of joy, and it is therefore an allusion to the well-known facts constantly before their eyes, a figure taken from them. They were to be waiting for their Lord, not in a judicial sense, but as to One Who returns from a wedding, that when He comes and knocks they may open unto Him immediately. This is another grand point, not only that He is associated with joy, but that they should be free from all earthly encumbrance, so that the moment the Lord knocks, according to the figure, they may open to Him immediately — without distraction or having to get ready. Their hearts are waiting for Him, for their Lord; they love Him, they are waiting for Him. He knocks, and they open to Him immediately. Such is the normal position of the Christian, as waiting for Christ, the only true Object of hope. "Blessed are those bondmen whom the lord [on] coming shall find watching; verily, I say unto you that he will gird himself, and make them recline at table, and coming up will serve them."340 Here their blessing as waiting for Him is shown. We shall find another blessing a little later on; but the blessing here is the watching — not so much working as watching. That is, it is not so much occupation with others as watching for Him, and assuredly this is of some importance to feel. Watching takes precedence even of working. There is no doubt that working has no small value, and that the Lord will remember it and reward it, but watching is far more bound up with His person and with His love. Hence it is said, "Blessed are those bondmen whom their lord on coming shall find watching; verily, I say unto you that he will gird himself, and make them recline at table, and coming up will serve them." All the activity of His love is shown, and His gracious condescension. "And if he come in the second watch, and come in the third watch,* and find [them] thus, blessed are those [bondmen]."† There is intentness therefore upon it. It is not vague; it is sustained; it is carried through the night. They are looking for Him from first to last Blessed are those [bondmen]. But this know, that if the master of the house had known in what hour the thief was coming, he would have watched,‡ and not have suffered his house to be digged through. And ye, therefore,§ be ye ready;341 for in the hour in which ye do not think [it] the Son of man comes." It is not the Messiah taking the throne of His father David, but the rejected Son of man Who is. coming in glory; and blessed are those who are thus waiting and watching for Him. "And ye, therefore, be ye ready."
*Edd. (Revv.) follow ℵBL, etc., 33, "And if in the second and in the third watch, he come": the "come" and "watch" each occur only once in these texts.
†"Those [bondmen]": so AE, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrr. and Amiat. Tisch. after ℵpm omits both words; other Edd. follow BDL, Syrsin, which have "those" but not "bondmen."
‡"Would have watched": Edd. questioning the words as from Matthew.
§"Therefore": so AE, etc., 1, 33, 69. Edd. omit, after ℵBLQT, Old Lat. Memph.
Our Lord presented His coming as claiming the affections of the saints, and dealing with their moral state. Their loins were to be girded about, their lights burning, themselves like unto men waiting for their Lord. For, their treasure being in the heavens, their hearts would be there also. This connects itself, too, with immediate readiness in receiving Himself, that "when he comes and knocks, they may open unto him immediately." It is the blessedness of watching for Christ, with its infinite joy in result. "Verily I say unto you, that he will gird himself, and make them recline at table, and coming up will serve them."
If He does tarry, and the heart that loves Him finds it long and has need of patience, it is well worth waiting for Him, whatever the delay. "And if he come in the second watch, and come in the third watch, and find [them] thus, blessed are those [bondmen]." At the same time, it is important to add the aspect of His coming for the conscience. The return from the wedding does not present this. "But this know, that if the master of the house had known in what hour the thief was coming, he would have watched,. and not have suffered his house to be digged through." Present ease and unwatchfulness in such a world as this always make the return of the Lord to be more or less unwelcome. The only right attitude for love or conscience is the attitude of watching for Him. "And ye, therefore, be ye ready, for in the hour in which ye do not think [it] the Son of man comes."342
"And Peter said to him,* Lord, sayest thou this parable unto us, or also to all? And the Lord said, Who then is the faithful and prudent steward, whom his lord will set over his household to give the measure of corn in season?" Now here again appears another aspect. It is the position of one called to be faithful and wise as a steward. It is one whose duty it is, ruling over the master's household, to give their meat in due season, a grave and honourable work. Still, it has not necessarily the intimacy of personal affection which the continual watching for Him supposes. Man, no doubt, thinks very differently; but we are hearing the Word of the Lord, and His Word ever judges, and was meant to judge, the thoughts of men. Accordingly there is a difference in the result. "Blessed is that bondman whom his lord [on] coming shall find doing thus. Verily I say unto you, that he will set him ruler over all that he possesses" (verses 42-44).343 It is not the return of His love so much as the post of honour in His kingdom. "Blessed" indeed are both; but the heart ought to need little light to discern which is the better of the two. May we answer His love and be true to His trust, and know this two-fold blessedness as our portion when He comes again!
*"To him": so Tisch. with ℵAPQT, Syrrsin cu. Other Edd. omit following BDLRX 33, Old Lat.
Undoubtedly much was left here, as elsewhere, to be filled up by the Spirit of God. Our Lord had many things to say, but His disciples could not bear them all then. The accomplishment of redemption, the fall of Israel definitively for the time, the call of the Gentiles, and above all, the revelation of "the mystery," had an immense influence in giving development to the truth of the Lord's return. Nevertheless, it is deeply interesting to notice how admirably the words of the Lord on this occasion present that truth in its two main aspects of grace and responsibility. On these, however, I do not dwell, because the Scripture before us does not enter into detail. It is enough to point out the general truth — a truth, be assured, of great importance to seize in its principles and in its practical consequences.
The Lord next looks at the vast scene of profession, and shows us in a few solemn words how it will be affected by His return. Christendom and man at large will assuredly be judged then, for we are not here looking at the judgment of the great white throne; it is the judgment of the quick, not yet of the dead — a judgment too much forgotten, not only by the careless but by those who exercise the largest influence in the religious world. Judaism always tended to swamp the final judgment by bringing into exclusive prominence the judgment of the world when the nations shall be put down, and Israel, humbled by grace, at length shall be exalted to their promised supremacy under Messiah and the new covenant. But Christendom forgets the judgment of the quick, and its forgetfulness of it is no small part of Satan's device to ruin the testimony of Christ. Not only is the truth of His coming lost as a practical joy for the heart, and as a solemn test for the work, but the bare fact itself is disallowed by confounding that day with the judgment of the dead.
The unbelief of man, however, will not nullify but rather prove the value of the warning of the Lord: "But if that bondman should say in his heart, My lord delays his coming; and begin to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and to drink and to be drunken, the lord of that bondman shall come in a day when he doth not expect it, and in an hour he knows not of, and shall cut him in two, and appoint his portion with the unbelievers.344 But that bondman who knew his own lord's will, and had not prepared [himself], nor done his will, shall be beaten with many [stripes]. But he who knew [it] not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few. And to every one to whom much is given, much shall be required from him: and to whom [men] have committed much, they will ask from him the more (verses 45-48).
How exact the sketch, save, indeed, that the ruins of Christendom have brought out added horrors to those depicted here, no less than the epistles furnished the fuller display of the truth of Christ's coming! And these horrors are given us at length in such Scriptures as 2 Thessalonians; 1 and 2 Timothy; Revelation 17, 19.
We see that Christendom, having taken the place of Christian privilege, will be judged accordingly. It is "that bondman." Having no heart nor faith in Christ's coming, men were willing that it should be deferred. The heart was rather relieved than made sick through a hope deferred that was no hope. They said in their heart, "My lord delays his coming." The wish was parent to the thought; and in such a state of feeling circumstances will readily be found to justify it. But the moral consequences are soon seen. With Christ's coming no longer before the eye, that servant ere long began "to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and to drink and to be drunken." The spirit of haughty assumption and intolerance was developed on the one hand, and a demoralising intercourse with the world on the other. But "the lord of that bondman shall come in a day when he doth not expect it, and in an hour he knows not of. and shall cut him in two, and appoint his portion with the unbelievers." Whatever its profession, the heart of Christendom in that day will be proved to be infidel. No disguises of creed or rite, no activity, nor zeal, will shield it from the just judgment of the Lord at His coming.344a
Nevertheless the Lord is always just, and in that day there will be a marked difference in His dealings with the quick, as He says here. For the servant who "knew his own lord's will, and had not prepared [himself], nor done his will, shall be beaten with many [stripes]"; whereas he who knew it not yet was guilty, though he will not escape, will be beaten with few stripes. The less favoured heathen therefore will not fare so ill in that day as she who sits as a queen with a vain presumption that she will see no sorrow. "Therefore shall her plagues come in one day; death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God Who judges her." (Rev. 18:8.) For it is a fixed thing with Him that where much has been given much shall be required, as even man's conscience and practice confess every day. "To whom [men] have committed much, they will ask from him the more."344b
We have seen the Lord's coming as the Object of their heart's affection, and consequent expectation as the rewarder of service. As the judge of those who have wrought on earth He will deal righteously according to their respective privileges.
But the Lord now speaks of the effect of His actual presence then: "I have come to cast a fire on the earth; and what will I, if already it has been kindled?" This is in no way the purpose of His love, but the effect of His presence. He could not but deal as a Discoverer of man's state. Fire is the constant symbol of Divine judgment, and this was morally true even then. He came to save; but, if rejected, it was really the kindling of a fire. This in no way contradicts the great truth of His intrinsic grace. He says, "But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until shall have been accomplished!" He Himself was about to go through the deepest suffering, and this because of the necessary antagonism of God's character to sin, which was not yet judged. It was about to be judged in the person of Christ, absolutely without sin, yet made sin by God on the cross. In devoted love, glorifying God, He would be a sacrifice for sin. This was the baptism with which He was to be baptized, and till this was done, the Lord, as He says here, was straitened. Whatever might be His love, it could not yet flow out in all its fullness. There were barriers among men, and there was beyond all these a hindrance on the side of God's glory. His character, amply displayed for good during Christ's life, had not yet been vindicated as to evil. But in and from His death we find no limits to the proclamation of Divine love. Before that it was more promise within the limits of Israel, not without hints of mercy beyond it. God would be true and faithful to His word, whatever the state of Israel, but He could not send out freely to the Samaritans, and to the world in general, before the Cross. After the Cross this is exactly what He does. The Lord therefore was straitened till this was accomplished.345
Hence, again, they must not be surprised if, man being what he is, Christ's presence produced conflict, opposition, if men were stirred up into jealousies and envies, hatred and enmity. All these things became manifest in those in whom it had not been seen before. People might have gone on quietly; but Jesus always puts the heart to the test; and if there be not faith, no man knows what he may not do whenever the Truth (as Jesus is) puts him to the proof. "Think ye that I have come to give peace in the earth?" Undoubtedly such will be the effect of His reign by and by, but it is far from being the case now, where good has to make its way and show itself in the midst of evil which is in power. We must always remember that this is an essential characteristic of the time when Jesus was on earth; and it is so still. As far as the world is concerned, evil is in power: good therefore has to maintain itself by faith in conflict with it and superiority over it. It is not that good loves conflict, but that evil will oppose what is good, and, consequently, suffering there must be. "Think ye that I have come to give peace in the earth? Nay, I say unto you; but rather division;346 for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided: three shall be divided against two, and two against three."
This state of moral rupture is simply the result of Christ's coming to the world, as it is man in a state of alienation and opposition, more particularly man with religious privileges, who cannot bear to have all his imaginary good sentenced to death. Therefore the Jews were ever more hostile than Gentiles. The latter could not but see their vanities judged by that which carried its own evidence of light and love along with it; but the Jews had what was really of God, only preparatory, however, and pointing onward to Him, Who was now come, and Whom they would not have, but rejected utterly. In that rejection the baptism spoken of was accomplished, and sin was judged, and God now can be righteous in justifying him who believes, and this solely on the ground of atonement for proved, convicted sin. This, alas! was the last thing a Jew was willing to admit. He would not own that he needed redemption as much as a Gentile, and that a Jew no less than a Gentile must enter the kingdom by being born again. Hence division in families, in no way because the grace of Christ in itself promotes discord, but because man's evil fights against the truth which puts it in the light, and man's hatred refuses the love of which it does not feel the need.
Hence, we come to yet fuller particulars: "the father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."347 The nearest relationships, sex, age, or youth, made no difference. As grace works freely according to the sovereign will of God, so man's hatred is indiscriminate, and in the most unlikely quarters. The Lord is alluding to the prophecy of Micah, who describes in similar terms the worst evil of the last days (Micah 7:6). It is solemn to find, therefore, that, before the days spoken of by the prophet arrive, the evil was itself now come, and that the presence of Divine love in the person of Jesus provokes it. This could not be if men were not thoroughly bad; but Jesus is the Truth, and therefore brings all things to a head.
In the next verses He appeals to the people, and convicts them of the greatest moral blindness: "He said also to the crowds, When ye see a* cloud rising out of the west, straightway ye say, There comes a shower; and it happens so. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat, and it happens. Hypocrites, ye know how to judge of the appearance of the earth and of the heaven; how [is it then that] ye do, not discern† this time?" - Men were good enough judges of the signs of the weather; they were sufficiently shrewd in forming a judgment as to the present in what they saw; but they utterly failed in what most of all becomes a man — judgment of what is morally above him, judgment of what touches him most closely in his relationship to God, judgment in what concerns his eternal future. In these things they utterly failed, they were hypocrites. Their love of evil, cloaked with a veil of fair religious appearance, made them blind; their love of their own interests made them sharp in discerning and practised in the pursuit of present things. They utterly failed in conscience; and so the Lord goes on to reproach them. It was not only that they were blind as to the signs that God gave outside, themselves; but why did they not even of themselves, as it is said here, judge what was right? This is peculiar to Luke. Matthew speaks of the external signs God was pleased to give them, but they had no eyes for them. Luke alone speaks of the responsibility of judging from themselves, and not merely from what was vouchsafed outside them. The truth is that all was internally wrong with themselves: therefore they did not judge what was right.348
*"A cloud": so Edd. after ℵABL, etc., 1, 33, 69. DE, etc., have "the c."
†"Ye do not discern": so ADΓΔΠ, later uncials, most cursives and Old Lat. Syrr. Edd. (Revv.) adopt "ye do not know how to discern," according to ℵBL, 33, Sahid. Memph. Aeth.
The Lord hence concludes this part of His discourse with a warning of their actual position: "For as thou goest with thine adversary before a magistrate, strive in the way to be reconciled with him; lest he drag thee away to the judge, and the judge shall deliver* thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.349 I say unto thee, thou shalt in no wise come out thence, until thou hast paid the very last mite."350 Israel were on their trial now, they were in the way. There was an opportunity of being delivered: would they refuse? Would they throw all away? They might depend upon it, if there was not diligence to avail themselves of what God was now granting them, in the presence of Jesus, justice must take its course; and if so, they must be dragged to the judge, and the judge most assuredly would deliver them to the officer, and the officer would cast them into prison. The result would be that they should in nowise depart thence till they had paid the very last mite. And such in point of fact has been the history of the Jews. They are in prison still, and out of this condition they will not be delivered until the whole debt is paid in the retributive dealings of God, when the Lord will say that Jerusalem has received from His hand double for all her sins. He will not allow her therefore to suffer more. (Isa. 40:2.) His mercy will undertake her cause in the last day, His hand accomplishing at length what His mouth promised from the first.
*"Shall deliver": so Edd. after ℵABDT 69. ELXΔ, etc., 1, 33, Syrsin Old Lat. have "(lest the j.) deliver."
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 333-336.
The Lord pursues what occupied Him at the close of the last chapter. He is laying bare before them the crisis that was now approaching for Israel. He was the Truth, manifesting the reality of things on earth — for instance, of the Jewish people in the sight of God underneath all religious forms. Nothing eluded Him, and He reveals all that was needful to man. It has not the high character of the truth in John as the revelation of what was in Himself, what God was as displayed in the Word made flesh; but it is equally necessary in its place. According to the general tone of Luke, there is moral dealing with men, and here with Israel.
"There were present352 some at that season who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with that of their sacrifices." The cruel and hard-hearted governor had dealt with excessive brutality and had shown his contempt of the Galileans. This furnished a subject for conversation: it was a judgment. They could more easily speak of it as it was a question of Galileans, whom the men of Jerusalem were apt to despise. But the Lord answers them, showing that the time for the kind of discriminative dealing which was in their minds has not really arrived. It will do in the millennium, but it had not and could not come while the Messiah was in humiliation, a Sufferer, sent to die by the same governor who so unworthily used those Galileans — yea, by those highest in Jerusalem whose sin was yet greater; sent, not to have His blood mingled with sacrifices, but to be Himself the Sacrifice for sinners, in the infinite grace of God to all, beginning with Jerusalem. "And he* answering said to them, Think ye that these Galileans were sinners beyond all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? No, I say to you, but, if ye repent not, ye shall all perish in like manner." The Lord makes it an appeal to their own conscience, and shows that *the light of Himself on earth reveals the deplorable state of all men Without exception, and, if there be a difference, the exceeding guilt of the Jew in particular. They should all perish except they repented.352a
*He": so Edd. after ℵBLT, Amiat. ADE, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrr. have "Jesus."
He does not here speak of believing, though no doubt it is implied and goes along with faith; but repenting brings in the thought of their sin and their want of all right moral judgment of it. On this He insists, but He does more: He brings forward a case calculated to arrest and search their consciences. They had spoken of Galileans; He reminds them of some nearer home in like case — men of Jerusalem, eighteen of whom had some time ago perished from a tower in Siloam that fell upon them. The Lord accordingly asks them, "Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, think ye that they* were debtors beyond all the men† who dwell in Jerusalem? No, I say to you: but, if ye repent not, ye shall all perish in like manner." It is not so grave before God, nor so near to man's danger or best interests that a special disaster had occurred to Galileans, or to men of Jerusalem. What Jesus shows is the inevitable ruin of all who do not repent. This is characteristic of Christianity. It is the most separative of all things. It severs even out of Israel to God by the judgment of sin as it is and the knowledge of His grace; but at the same time it is the most comprehensive testimony possible. Not only does it go out to all nations to gather from them and put believers on equal privileges whether Jew or Gentile; but it is no less profound than universal, inasmuch as it shows both what God is towards every child of man, and what He is to none but His own children. Indeed, it is a revelation of God in Christ, both for the Church and in His connection with the whole universe. He is the God and Father of all, "Who is above all and through all and in you all" (Eph. 4:6); though this will in no way hinder the destruction of all men who do not repent. Christ, come in humiliation to redeem from sin to God, alone reveals things as they are.
*"They" (αὐτοί): so Edd. after ℵAB, etc., 33, 69, Syrsin Amiat. EΓΔ, etc., 1, Memph., have "these" (οὗτοι).
†"The men": so Edd. after ℵABDL, etc., 69. E, etc., 33, omit.
Cf. Matt. 21:19; Mark 11:13.
The Lord adds a parable also "A certain [man] had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit upon it, and did not find [any], and he said to the vine-dresser, Behold, [these] three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree and find none: cut it down: why doth it also render the ground useless? But he answering saith unto him, Sir, let it alone for this year also, until I shall dig about it, and put dung: and if it shall bear fruit,—, but, if not, after that thou shalt cut it down."* This manifests, on a still larger scale, a similar truth; it adds the grounds on which they were so peculiarly responsible. The fig-tree was planted in his vineyard and he came and sought fruit on it and found none, and he said, "Cut it down: why doth it also render the ground useless?" So far from security, nothing could be more critical than the condition of Israel now. It was not for them to be coolly speculating about Galileans and forgetting men of Jerusalem; for the thought's of men are always partial and self-deceptive. The Lord, then, does not merely bring in counter-facts, but shows in a parabolic form their moral history and what was impending from God. It was only through His intervention and intercession that God was willing to bear with Israel. "Behold [these] three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree and find none." There was the most ample testimony rendered — more than enough — these three years.353 "Cut it down: why doth it also render the ground useless? And he answering saith unto him, Sir, let it alone for this year also, until I shall dig about it, and put dung:354 and if it shall bear fruit,—, and if not, after that355 thou shalt cut it down." This was what awaited Israel. The Lord was giving them a last opportunity, as far as His ministry was concerned. We know well that, whatever His pains, whatever the means used, all was vain for the time and that generation. They did not bear fruit; they rejected Himself. "After that thou shalt cut it down." And so it was. Israel has disappeared from its place of testimony: the fig-tree, the emblem of their national existence, is cut down, and withered away. Not that God cannot renew them on a different principle. Grace will interfere and bring in this Messiah for the generation to come; but their national position under the law, even in the feeble condition of a remnant from Babylon, is completely blotted out from their land. The fig-tree is cut down; so the Lord told them it would be, and so it is.
*Such is the order of words in AD and later uncials, most cursives, Old Lat. Syrr.; but Edd. (as Revv.) read "and if it bear fruit after that (thenceforth)..." as it is in ℵBL, 33, 69, Sah. Memph., etc. Syrsin has "next year thou shalt cut it down."
Although the Lord showed the impending fate of the Jews because of their uselessly cumbering the ground, He did not the less teach in their synagogues on the Sabbath day. It was still the term of patience; and further, grace was in no way hindered from acting individually. "And lo, [there was]* a woman, having a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent together, and wholly356 unable to lift her head up." She did not seek the gracious power of Jesus, but when He saw her, "he called to [her], and said to her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity." Not satisfied with this, He laid His hands upon her. There was far more grace in acting thus than in simply curing her by a word. He could have done the one as easily as the other.
*["There was"]: so AE, etc., 1, 69, Syrrcu pesch sin; but Edd. omit, as ℵBL, etc., 33 Old Lat. Memph.
But grace, though it tenderly stoops to the wretched, does not accommodate itself to the obstinate unbelief of men, more particularly of men who make a show of their religion but who have nothing real in the sight of God. Christ cured her on the Sabbath and in face of the congregation, knowing it would provoke the enmity of the ruler of the synagogue. There is no use in striving to keep fair terms with men who profess to be friends, but are really the enemies, of God. "And immediately she was made straight and glorified God.357 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day." Now had he for a moment reflected, he would have seen the folly and wickedness of his affectedly pious indignation; he would have seen that he was fighting against God. But passion in religious matters never reflects; and, being wholly apart from true faith, it is apt to be governed by present interests. So this man, little suspecting that he was carrying on war with God to his own eternal ruin, turns to the people with the words, There are six days in which [people] ought to work; in these* therefore come and be healed and not on the sabbath day." Vain and wicked man, that presumed to lay down the law to God! He was far from keeping the law himself, yet ventured to give law to Him who was not more truly man than God. God is not to work on His own Sabbath day! But as the Lord told the Jews in the Gospel of John, it is a folly to suppose that God, in the presence of such a world, of man and Israel as they are, is keeping the Sabbath. Morally speaking, He could not do so. His love would not permit Him to rest when the earth and human kind are full of sin, wickedness, and misery. Accordingly grace led both the Father and the Son to work for poor guilty man: "My Father works hitherto and I work." (John 5:17.) The Jews might be keeping their Sabbaths in pride; but God was working for man! Alas! the world has as little sense of the holiness as of the love of God; and so the Lord here answers the ruler with stern rebuke: "Hypocrite,† doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the manger and leading [it] away, water [it]?" He does not take His text from the Father, as in the Gospel of John, but from men's own acknowledged ways, what even natural conscience feels to be right, what no legalism can blot out from the heart of man. Luke is the great moralist of the Gospels. It would be cruel towards the poor brute to withhold its necessary provender or drink because of the Sabbath day; and if it would be a mistake of God's mind so to treat one's ox or ass to keep it from what is necessary to its refreshment in natural life, how much more was it not worthy of God to relieve in grace a victim of Satan's power! "And this [woman] who is a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo [these] eighteen years, ought she not to be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?" He puts it on the double ground of relationship to Abraham, God's friend, and of subjection to the insulting power of the enemy. A daughter of Abraham, she ought surely to have in their eyes an additional claim, and no less because Satan had bound her for so long a time.358 It was plain therefore that the ruler, under the pretence of high respect for God's institutions, was in truth a satellite of Satan. If true-hearted, he would have rejoiced at the expulsion of that spirit of infirmity by which the woman had been so long bound. The people felt the truth of what Jesus said as well as the grace of His deed. "And as he said these things, all who were opposed to him were ashamed, and all the crowd rejoiced at all the glorious things which were being done by him." Even the open opposers, if not won, were ashamed; but all the people rejoiced, for they at least had a sense of their need and were more free to acknowledge what was good and true. There may not have been power, and there is not without faith, to receive the truth in the love of it (for the heart is alienated from God); but they hailed with joy the Divine power that rescued the miserable. Where there is Divinely given faith, I doubt that the first action of the Spirit of God is joy. The entrance of the Word gives light, and discovers what is within of sin, and guilt, and ruin. But, even without being converted, people who have no particular animosity against the truth presented in Christ and who feel the value of light nowhere else to be seen, may well rejoice. They are not broken down in the sense of their own evil, they are not brought to God, but they rejoice in what is come to men, owning the evident and excellent hand of God, and feeling the difference between Christ, however little seen, and the parchment divinity of the ruler of a synagogue. "All the crowd rejoiced at all the glorious things which were being done by him."
*"These": so D, etc., Latt. Syrr.; but Edd. adopt "them," according to ℵABL, 1, 69.
†"Hypocrites": so most Edd. with ℵABEL, etc., later uncials, numerous cursives (69), Old Lat. Amiat., Sah. Memph. Blass upholds T.R., "thou hypocrite," which is in DVX, many cursives (1), and Syrr. So all English versions before R.V.
Matt. 13:31-33; Mark 4:30-32.
Then the Lord is brought in by our Evangelist, as comparing the kingdom of God to "a grain of mustard [seed] which a man took and cast into his garden."359 The kingdom of God was not yet coming in that power and glory in which all adversaries should be destroyed. The essential feature of it, evident to every eye which beheld Christ as its actual witness, was the power of God in lowliness displayed in His own humiliation; it was in no way a king governing with external majesty, but a man who takes a grain of mustard seed, a very little germ indeed, and casts it into his garden, where it grows and waxes a great* tree, so that the fowls of the air lodge in its branches. The Lord has before His eye the rising up of a vast worldly power which Christendom should become from the very little beginning planted by Himself then present. Such is the first view that is here given by our Lord. People were premature in rejoicing for all the glorious things that were done by Him, if they counted on a mighty deliverance and kingdom just yet. This would be the result in due time at His coming again, and man would try to found it on what He had already done. No doubt there would be deeper things underneath; but He speaks now of what would be before all the people, before men's eyes. It is Christendom commencing as a little seed in the world and becoming such a power that even the very adversaries themselves should find grateful shelter there. But it is not yet the time for the kingdom of God to come in power and glory. There is Divine power dealing by the Spirit with individual souls, but not at all in the direct public government of the world. Christianity would grow into an outward system of power, but not such as to expel scandals and those who practise lawlessness. Far different is the state of things now. Christendom is become a worldly system, just as much as Mahomedanism or Judaism. It is become an active worldly power in the centre of civilisation, and not a few among those of chief influence in nominal Christianity are the enemies of God and His truth.
*"Great": so A and later uncials, most cursives, Syrrpesch Memph. Aeth., but Edd. reject, following ℵBDLT, Syrrcu hier Arm.
But, besides the outward power, our Lord compares the kingdom to "leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal until the whole was leavened." The man is the figure of the agent in what is done publicly, the woman of the resulting condition of what is done hiddenly. Hence Babylon is compared to the woman in Revelation. There is the spread of doctrine, of creed, of a mere verbal confession which does not suppose faith. It is not only that there is that which, rising from the least beginning, becomes a great and towering power in the earth; but there is also a doctrinal system spread over a defined space (Christendom) which affects men's minds and feelings. This is compared to leaven, and leaven in Scripture is never the symbol of what is good. The leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees was their doctrine, which differed in each, but was far from good.
Here the leaven was hid in the three measures of meal till the whole was leavened. It does not mean all the world becoming Christian — a vain and groundless inference, opposed to many plain Scriptures which treat of this subject expressly. There is a very small part of the world even nominally Christian; a very much larger part consists of Buddhism, Mahomedanism, and of heathenism. We hear of "three measures," a certain definite space of the world which God has permitted to be influenced by nominally Christian doctrine — a witness even more than enough.
Thus the spread of Christendom, as a political power, is set forth by the tree, and the spread of the doctrine of Christian dogma is shown by the leavening of these three measures. Both these things have taken place, and there is nothing in either to hinder the coming of the Lord on the plea that these Scriptures have not been fulfilled. Christendom has long become a great power in the earth, and has spread its doctrine within extensive limits. What sort of doctrine it is, and what sort of power, Scripture elsewhere at least does not leave doubtful; but the object here is not so much to show the character of its power or the quality of its doctrine, as to imply the height of pride to which it would grow, and its prevalence over a defined space. The fact is, that from a little beginning it becomes great in the earth, and is also accompanied by a certain spread of doctrine over a limited area. There is no trace whatever in these parables of the coming millennium, or reign of righteousness, where evil is put down. It is rather this age where evil insinuates itself and reaches the highest places under the protection of Christendom along with the spread of a mere creed without life or the power of the Spirit. How truly both have been and are before all eyes!360
Those who had the chief place and power in Israel the Lord had convicted, under pretence of jealousy for law, of utter hypocrisy and hatred of grace even to the seed of Abraham. Under the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven, He had shown what would be the outward form of the kingdom during His rejection. But this does not hinder His going on for the present with His labour of love: "He went through one city and village after another, teaching, and journeying to Jerusalem." He knew right well what was to befall Him there, as indeed is expressly stated at the end of this chapter. One now says to Him, "Sir, are such as are to be saved361 few in number?" Are those that shall be saved (the remnant and those destined to salvation) few? The Lord does not gratify such curiosity, but at once speaks to the conscience of him who inquired: Take care that you stand right with God. "Strive with earnestness to enter in through the narrow door,* for many, I say unto you, will endeavour to enter in and will not be able." (Cf. Matt. 7:13f.) It is not, as is sometimes thought, so much a question between "seeking" and "striving."362 This would throw the stress upon man, and the difference of his state; though it is true that conversion means a mighty change, and that where the Spirit of God works in grace there must needs be a real earnestness of purpose given. But the true point is that people must "strive to enter in through the strait gate." The strait gate means conversion to God through faith and repentance. It is a person who is not content with being an Israelite, but feels the need of being born again, and so looks to God, who uses the Lord Jesus as the Way. This is to "strive to enter in through the narrow door." "There are many," He says, "who will endeavour to enter in and will not be able," This does not mean that they would seek to enter in by the narrow door; for, if they did so, it would be all right. But they seek to get the blessing of the Kingdom without being born of God; they would like to have all the privileges promised to Israel without being born of water and of the Spirit. This is impossible: "Many will endeavour to enter in, and will not be able." For if they enter, it must be through the narrow door of being born anew.
*"Door": so Edd. after ℵBDL, 1, Arm.; whilst AE and later uncials 33, 69, have "gate."
"From the time that the master of the house shall have risen up, and shall have shut the door, and ye shall begin to stand without and to knock at the door, saying, Lord,* open to us; and he answering shall say unto you, I know you† not whence ye are." (Cf. Matt. 25:11f.) The Lord takes this position outside them through His rejection; they rejected Him and He has no alternative but for the time to reject them, unless God would be a party to the dishonour of His own Son. But whatever be His grace (and He will be most gracious), God shows His complacency in Christ and His resentment at those who, though taking the highest ground of their own merits, proved their unrighteousness, and unbelief, and rebellion against God when He displayed Himself in love and goodness in the Lord Jesus.
*"Lord" (once): so Edd. after ℵBL, Amiat., Memph. ADE, etc., 1, 33, 69, most Syrr. repeat "Lord" (from Matthew). Syrsin has "our Lord."
†"You": so ℵAΔ, Syrsin; but Edd. omit, after BLRT and cursives. Blass reads "you," but omits "whence ye are," as D.
"From the time that the master of the house shall have risen up, and shall have shut the door" — it would be quite unavailing for the Jews to plead that Jesus had come into their midst, that the Messiah had been in their streets, that "they had eaten and drunk in his presence," and He "had taught in their streets." (Cf. Matt. 7:22f.) This was what most evidenced their guilt. He had been there, and they would not have Him. He had taught in their streets, but they had despised and rejected Him even more than the Gentiles. They had insisted upon His crucifixion when the most hard-hearted of Gentile governors had wished His acquittal.
It is always so. Religious privilege, when misused and abandoned, leaves those who enjoy it worse than before, worse than those who have never enjoyed it. Messiah therefore shall say to them, "I tell you, I do not know you whence ye are; depart from me, all [ye] workers of iniquity."363 God could not have mere forms: there must be what suits His nature. This is invariably proved true, when the light of God shines. The Gospel does not mean that God now sanctions what is contrary to Himself. Even in remitting sin through faith He meets what is opposed to Himself, but produces what is according to Himself by His own grace. But He always holds to His own principle, that it is those who "by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honour, and incorruptibility," that have eternal life, and none others. (Rom. 2:7.) Those "who by patient continuance in well-doing" please Him are to be with Him, and none but they. How this patient continuance in well-doing is produced is another matter, and how souls are awakened to seek after it. Certainly it is not from themselves, but from God. Conversion essentially consists in distrust of self and turning to God. This the Jews had not, and, in spite of all their high pretensions to religion, they were only workers of iniquity. (Cf. Matt. 8:11f.) "There" — not among the heathen — "shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves cast out." But this is not all — the picture would not be complete if they did not see others brought in too. It is not only the Jews shut out from their fathers when the time of glory comes; but others "shall come from east and west, and from north and south" — that is, the widest ingathering of the Gentiles — "and shall lie down at table in the kingdom of God."364 Thus it was manifest that "there are last which shall be first." Such were the Gentiles; they were called by grace to be first. And "there are first which shall be last." Such were the Jews. They had held the earliest and chief place in the calling of God; but they renounced it for self-righteousness and rejected their Messiah accordingly. The Gentiles would now hear, when the natural children, we may say, of the Kingdom should be thrust out. Grace would conquer where flesh and law had utterly failed, reaping woe to themselves as much as dishonouring God.
Scripture is very careful to press the respect and obedience which are due to authority, but it is not a Christian's work to occupy himself with settling questions of the earth. He has nothing to do with the ways and means whereby kings or other governors have reached their place of authority. There may have been wars, and revolutions, and all sorts of questionable means for them to arrive at such exaltation. What he has to do is to obey, as a matter of fact, those who are in authority. "Let every soul be subject unto higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God." (Rom. 13:1.) Scripture does not demand obedience to the powers that ought to be, but to "the powers that be." No doubt this may expose to danger where a revolutionary leader usurps authority for a season; but God will care for results, and the duty of the Christian remains simple and sure. He obeys the powers that be. Notwithstanding, all obedience in man has its limits. There are cases where the Christian is bound, I do not say to be disobedient, still less to set up his own authority (which is never his duty), but "to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29.) Where earthly authority demands sin against God, for instance where a Government interferes with and forbids the stewardship of the believer in proclaiming the name of Christ, it is evident that it is a question of a lower authority setting aside the highest. Consequently the principle of obedience to which the Christian is bound forbids his being swayed by what is of man to abandon what he knows to be the will of God.
Take, again, a peremptory call on a Christian to fight the battles of his country. If he knows his calling, can he join Christ's name with such unholy strife? If right for one side, it is right for another, or the Christian becomes a judge instead of a pilgrim, and the name of the Lord would be thus compromised by brethren on opposite sides, each bound to imbrue their hands in one another's blood, each instruments of hurrying to perdition souls ripening in sins. Is this of Christ? Is it of grace? It may suit the flesh and the world; but it is in vain to plead the Word of God to justify a Christian's finding himself engaged in such work. Will any one dare to call human butchery, at the command of the powers that be, Christ's service? The true reason, why people fail to see here is, either a fleshly mind or an unworthy shrinking from the consequences. They prefer to kill another to please the world, rather than to be killed themselves to please Christ. But they should not ask or expect Christian sympathy with their unbelief or worldly-mindedness. To sympathise, with such is to share their failure in testimony to Christ. To deplore the thing while doing it does not mend matters, but is rather an unwitting testimony of our own lips against our own ways.
In short, the Divine rule is what our Lord Himself laid down with admirable wisdom and perfect truth: "Render unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's" (Luke 20:25). This alone gives us the true standard of the path of Christ through a world of evil and snares. He Himself seems to act on the same principle here. "The same hour* certain Pharisees came up, saying to him, Get out and go hence, for Herod is desirous to kill thee." The Lord knew better. He knew that, bad as Herod might be, the Pharisees were no better, and that their profession of interest in caring for His person was hypocritical. Whether Herod had made use of this or not, He was not going to be influenced by any such suggestions, direct or indirect, from the enemy. He had His work to do for His Father. As the child, we have seen in this Gospel, He must he about His Father's business. It was not otherwise when the anxiety of His mother was expressed to Him at a later day before His public work. So now the Lord said to the Pharisees, "Go, tell that fox."
*"The same hour": so Edd. following ℵABDLXΔ and some other later uncials, most cursives, Old Lat. Sah. Memph. Arm. Aeth. have "the same day."
There is no hiding the truth of things where there is an attempt at interference with the will of God. The cunning that wrought to hinder the Lord's testimony for God was vain. He saw through it all and did not scruple to speak plainly out: "Go, tell that fox, Behold, I cast out demons, and I do cures365 today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected." The Lord was then evidently the vessel of the power of God on earth. The gracious work which He was doing showed man's folly in seeking to hinder God. "Behold, I cast out demons." Not all the power or authority of the world could have done such deeds as these. This was paramount to every consideration: He was here to do the will of God and finish His work.
It was in vain therefore for Pharisees or Herod, under false pretensions, to draw Him aside and thus interrupt the execution of His task. He was obeying God rather than men. He came to do the will of Him who sent Him, and at all cost this must be done. "I accomplish cures today and tomorrow, and the third [day] I am perfected." The work was in hand and assuredly should be done. The Lord, having finished His course, entered into a new position for man through death and resurrection into heavenly glory. "But I must needs walk today, and tomorrow, and the [day] following." He knew better, too, than that any power of man would be permitted to stop Him till His work was completed. He knew beforehand and thoroughly that Jerusalem was the place where He must suffer, and that Pharisees were to play a far more important part in His suffering unto death than even Herod. Man does not know himself. Christ the Truth declares what he is, and shows that it was all known to Him. There is nothing like a single eye, even in man, to see clearly; and Christ was the true Light that made all things manifest.
"It must not be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem." Their anxiety, therefore, was a mere pretence. The Lord has His work to do, and devotes Himself to it till it is done. From the beginning and all through He shows clearly as here that He knew where His rejection was to be. We gather this clearly from a previous chapter, where we are told that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and this, too, when the time was come that He should be received up. He looked onward to His being perfected. He knew right well the pathway through which this lay: it was through death and resurrection. So here; it might be the perishing of the great prophet in Jerusalem, but it was the receiving up of the Lord of glory, now man, after accomplishing redemption, into that glory from which He came. The Lord, therefore, remains perfectly master of the position.
But there is more than this: He was free in His love. Not all the cunning of Herod, nor all the hypocrisy of the Pharisees could turn aside the grace that filled His heart — grace even to those who loved Him not. If His servant could say that, though the more abundantly he loved the less he was loved, (2 Cor. 12:15) how much more fully true was it of the Master! The disciple was like his Master; but the Master was infinitely perfect. And so love fills His heart as now He utters these solemn words over Jerusalem, guilty of all the blood of the witnesses of God from Abel downwards. He has His own cross before Him; yet He says: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the [city] that kills the prophets, and stones those that are sent unto her; how often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen her brood under her wings,366 and ye would not." (Cf. Matt. 23:37-39.) He was then more than a prophet — the Lord Jehovah. He was one competent to gather; and He had a love that proved its Divine spring, source, and character by His willingness often to have gathered the children of Jerusalem together. He could have been their Shield and exceeding great Reward, but they would not. There is no blessing that the will of man cannot shut its eyes to and reject. Flesh can never see aright, because it is always selfish; it does not see God, and consequently misses all that is really good for itself. Man is most of all his own enemy when he is God's enemy; but of all enemies, which are so deadly as religious enemies — as those whose hearts are far from God, though they draw near with their lips and have the place of the highest religious privilege? Such was Jerusalem. They had had the prophets, but they killed them. They had had messengers sent from God to them unweariedly, but they stoned them. And now that He who was the great prophet, Messiah, Jehovah Himself, was in their midst in Divine love, what would they not do to Him! There was no death too ignominious for Him. "Behold, your house is left unto you."* It was their own ruin, when they thought and meant it to be His. But love rises over every hindrance. It is impossible that grace should be defeated in the end for its own purposes. And He adds: "I say unto you, that ye shall not see me [this was judgment, 'Ye shall not see me'], until it come that ye say, Blessed [is] he that comes in the name of [the] LORD" — this is grace. He comes in glory, but in the perfect display of that love which had suffered for them and from them and which will not fail in the end by this very suffering to ensure their eternal blessing.
*After "you," DXΔ, etc., 33, Syrr. Aeth. add "desolate" (Syrsin "forsaken"). Edd. omit, after ABKL, etc., Amiat., 1, 69, Sah. Arm. See note 367 in Appendix.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 336-339.
The last chapter had closed with the setting aside of the Jew and the judgment of Jerusalem. We have now the moral principles involved set forth in Luke 14. The Lord was asked to "the house of one of the rulers [who was] of the Pharisees to eat bread on [the] sabbath." One might have expected, if there were anything holy or any appreciation of grace, now was the time for it. But not so. They were watching Him. They, ignorant of God, looked for evil, desired evil. God was in none of their thoughts, nor His grace. Yet these were the men who most of all piqued themselves upon their nice observance of the Sabbath day.
But grace will not stay its work or withhold the truth to please men: Jesus was there to make known God and do His will. "And behold, there was a certain dropsical [man] before Him." No religious forms can shut out the ruin that is in the world through sin, and our Lord, filled with the good that was in His heart, answers their thoughts before they uttered them, speaking to the lawyers and Pharisees with the question, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?* His question was an answer to their evil judgments. It was impossible to deny it. Hardened as man was and habituated to evil, he could not say that it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath day. Yet they really wished that it should be so, and, as we know, made it repeatedly a ground of the most serious accusation against the Lord. However, here He challenges those who were ostensibly the wisest and most righteous in Israel, the lawyers and Pharisees; but "they were silent." The Lord then takes the dropsical man, heals him, and lets him go. Then He answers them further by the question: "Of which of you shall an ass† or an ox fall into a well and he doth not straightway pull him up on the sabbath day?" (Cf. Matt. 12:11.) This is a little different from His reply to the ruler of the synagogue in the chapter before. There it was more the need of the animal, the ordinary supply of his wants. But here it is a more urgent case. It was not simply that the animal needed watering and must be led to it, but "of which of you shall an ass or an ox fall into a well and he doth not straightway pull him up on the sabbath day?" It was lawful, therefore, to look after the good of an animal on that day. They proved it where their own interests were concerned. God had His interests and love: therefore was Jesus in this world, therefore was He in the Pharisee's house. He had meat to eat that they knew not of. It was not the Pharisee's bread, but to do the will of His Father. In healing the dropsical man He was glorifying His Father. He was boldly acting upon that which even they durst not deny — the right of healing on the Sabbath day. If they could relieve on that day their animals from their pain or danger, what title had they to dispute God's right to heal the miserable among men, among Israel?
*"On the sabbath." Edd. here add "or not," following ℵBDL, 1, 69, Syrcu Memph. The words are not in AEXΔ, etc., cursives in general (33), Syrsin Amiat. Arm., etc. They are attested by some Old Lat. and not by others.
†"An ass": so ℵKLXΠ, etc., 1, 33, Syrrsin hier (sin.: "ox or ass"), Memph. Arm. Aeth. D: πρόβατον (as Matthew). Edd. adopt "a son," after ABEGH and later uncials, many cursives, Syrrcu pesch hcl Sah. Cyril. Alex. The balance of Latt. favours "ass." — D has "sheep." See W.H., App., p. 62, also note 368 in Part II. of this volume.
"And they were not able to answer him to these things." How unanswerably good is the grace and truth of God! (See Matt. 22:46.)
But it is plain that the heart of Israel was sick and that this very scene showed how much they needed to be healed. But they knew it not. They were hardened against the Holy One Who could do them good. They were maliciously watching Him, instead of presenting themselves in their misery that He might heal them.
But the Lord in the next scene puts forth "a parable to those that were invited, remarking how they chose out the first places." It is not only that there is a hindrance of good to others, on the part of those who have no sense of need themselves, but there is a universal desire of self-exaltation. The law does not hinder this: it can only condemn, and that, too, for the most part, what the natural conscience condemns. But Christ here brings in the light of God's grace, of Divine love in an evil world as contrasted with human selfishness. He marked how those that were guests chose out the chief rooms. They sought for themselves; they sought the best. But "when thou art invited," says He who was Himself the perfect Pattern of love and humility — "when thou art invited by anyone to a wedding, do not lay thyself down in the first place at table, lest, perhaps, a more honourable than thee be invited by him. And he who invited thee and him come and say to thee, Give place to this [man]; and thou begin with shame to take the last place." Assuredly it would be so with Israel themselves. They had had the outward call of God, they had chosen the chief seats, and now they were going to lose all place and nation. Jesus was in the fullest contrast with them. He went down to the lowest room, He took it in love for God's glory; and certainly there is One Who will say for Him, Give this man place. Clearly, however, it is an exhortation for every heart and more particularly for those who heed the call of God.
Then comes a more positive word: "When thou hast been invited, go and put thyself down in the lowest place" - He had done so Himself - "that when he who has invited thee comes, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher." He took the form of a servant, was found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. "Wherefore God also has highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name." (Phil. 2:9.) As He says here, "Then shalt thou have honour before all* that are lying at table with thee. For every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that abases himself shall be exalted." (Cf. Matt. 23:12.) They are universal principles of God: the one true of Christ and of all that are Christ's, as the other is of the spirit of man. The first Adam sought to exalt himself, but only fell through the deceit of Satan. The Second Man humbled Himself and is set above all principality, and power, and might.
*"All": so most Edd., as ℵABLX, 1, 33, 69, Syrcu Sah. Memph. Aeth. Blass, after DΓΔ, etc., most cursives, Syrsin Old Lat. Goth. Arm. omits.
Then we find, further, it is not a question only of guests but of a host: He has a word for every man. God looks for love in this world, and this, too, apart from nature. His love is not for one's friends or family alone; it is not on this principle at all. "When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsfolk, nor rich neighbours, lest it may be they also should invite thee in return and a recompense be made thee." A witness for Christ is marked by that which is supernatural. There is no testimony to His name in merely natural kindness or family affection, but where there is love without a human motive or any hope of recompense, there is a testimony to Him. It is exactly so that God is doing now in the Gospel, and we are called to be imitators of God. It is not meant to be merely in making a feast or a supper, but that grace should stamp its character on all our Christian life. The whole time of the Gospel call, as we shall see farther on, is compared to a feast to which the activity of love is gathering in from the miserable of this world.
Hence, the Lord adds, "When thou makest a feast, call poor, crippled, lame, blind,369 and thou shalt be blessed; for they have not [the means] to recompense thee." How Divinely fine, yet how different from the world and its social order out of which the Christian is called! If we thus act in unselfish self-sacrificing love, God will surely recompense according to all His resources and His nature. This will be at the resurrection of the just, the great and final scene when all that are severed from the world will be seen apart from it, when human selfishness will have disappeared for ever, when they that are Christ's will reign in life by one, Christ Jesus. Anything short of this is not the exercise of the life of Christ, but of our nature in this world; and this is precisely what has no place at the resurrection of the just.
The Lord speaks here of a special resurrection, in which the unjust have no part. Not that these too do not come forth from their graves; for indeed they must rise for judgment. But our text speaks of the resurrection of life in which none can share but those who are just by the grace of God — justified, no doubt, but also just — those that practised the good things, in contrast with those that did the evil. Other Scriptures prove that these two resurrections differ in time as decidedly as in character; and the great New Testament prophecy determines that more than a thousand years separate the one from the other, though the effects for each never pass away. It is manifest also that only the resurrection of the just admits of recompense. For the unjust there can be but righteous retribution.370
It was an unwonted sound to man. The evidently Divine grace of the Lord acted on the spirit of one of those who were lying at table with Him, who, hearing that which was far more suitable to heaven than ever was as yet seen carried out on earth, said "Blessed [is] he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God."371 Our Lord then proves that this is a great mistake as far as concerns man's readiness to answer the grace of God. Hence He puts the case in the following parable: "A certain man372 made a great supper and invited many." There was no lack of condescension and goodness to win man on God's part. His heart went out to any. He invited according to His own largeness of mercy and grace. "And he sent his bondman at the hour of supper to say to those who were invited, Come, for already all things are ready." This Gospel, like Paul's epistles, shows that God even in His grace does not forsake, in the first instance, prescribed order. So Paul, when he went to any place, went first to the synagogue; and in explaining the Gospel in the epistle to the Romans, says, "To the Jew first, and also to the Gentile." (Rom. 2:10.)
Though God has no respect of persons, He nevertheless does heed the ways that He has Himself established. This makes so much the less excusable the lack of faith on the part of the Jew. God never fails — man always. Favoured man only makes the greater show of his own unbelief. Here the message to them that were bidden was, "Come, for already all things are ready." Such is the invitation of grace. The law makes man the prominent and responsible agent; it is man that is to do this, and, yet more, man that must not do that. Man therein is commanded to love God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength, and with all his mind. But the commandment, just as it is, is wholly unavailing, because in this case man is a sinner and loveless. No law ever produced or called out love. It may demand but cannot create love; it is not within the nature or power of law to do so. God knew this perfectly; and in the gospel He becomes Himself the Great Agent. It is He that loves, and who gives according to the strength of that love in sending His only begotten Son with eternal life in Him — yea, also to die in expiation for sin. Law demonstrated that man, though responsible, had no power to perform. He was incapable of doing God's will because of sin; but his pride was such that he did not, would not, feel his own incapability, or its cause. Were he willing to confess it, God would have shown him grace. But man felt no need of grace any more than his own guilt and powerlessness to meet law. So he slights the call to come, though all things are now ready,
"And all" (says the Lord Jesus) "without exception began to excuse themselves." No doubt these were the Jews — the persons who were bidden. "The first said unto him, I have bought land and I must go out and see it; I pray thee hold me for excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee hold me for excused." Not that these things were in themselves wrong; they are the ordinary duties of men. It is not a person who is too drunk to come, or one living in misery in consequence of his grossness, like the prodigal son; but these might be decent, respectable men. They were engrossed in their own things, they had no time for the supper of grace. God invited them, having prepared all things for them; but they were each so preoccupied that none had heart or care for God's invitation. Is not this a true picture of the condition of man — yea, of man who has the Bible, of Christendom no less than Judea? It is an unbelieving excuse founded on alleged duties, certainly on present material interests. But what blindness! Does eternity raise no questions? Not to speak of judgment and its awful issues, has heaven no interest in man's eyes? If Christ or God be nothing, is it nothing to be lost or to be saved?
These are evidently serious questions, but man goes off without the moral courage to seek an answer from God. Here those bidden despised His mercy and grace, as they felt no need of it for their own souls. They lived only for the present. They blotted out all that is really admirable in man according to God's grace. They were living only for nature in its lowest wants — the providing what is necessary for food or for pleasure. The commonest creature of God, a bird or a fly, does as much; the meanest insect not only provides food, but also enjoys itself. Does boastful man by sin degrade himself to be in profession no better than a butterfly, in practice far worse? "Another said, I have married a wife, and on this account I cannot come." He did not even say, "I pray thee hold me for excused." His wife was an excellent reason in his eyes for refusing God's invitation.373 It was a question of a family in this world, not of God hereafter. It is clear that the real root of all unbelief is the absence of sense of sin, and no glory given to God. There is no sense of what God is, either in His claims or in His grace.
Again, "The* bondman came up and brought back word of these things to his lord. Then the master of the house in anger said to his bondman, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring here the poor and crippled, and blind, and lame."374 Such is the urgent message of grace, when the proud refuse and God presses it on the most despised. Still we have before us the streets and lanes of the city. I think the Lord had Jerusalem as yet in view, though not put forward distinctly. At any rate, it was that which was orderly and settled in the world: only the despised and the wretched are now the express objects of the invitation. The busy great had slighted it; the lawyers and scribes, the teachers and Pharisees, were indifferent if not opposed. Henceforth it became a question of publicans and sinners, or anybody that was willing, however wretched. "And the bondman said, Sir, it is done as thou hast commanded, and there is still room." Then comes a third message. "The lord said to the bondman, Go out into the ways and fences, and compel to come in, that my house may be filled." Thus we have the clear progress of the Gospel among the Gentiles; and this too with the strong earnestness of Divine mercy.375 "For I say unto you, that not one of those men who were invited" (none of those who had the promises, but trifled with them when they were accomplished) "shall taste of my supper."
*"The": so Edd. following ℵABD, etc., 1, 69, Old Lat. Memph. Aeth. Arm. EXΓΔ, etc., Syrr. have "that."
Thus the whole case is brought before us, but with remarkable differences from the view given in Matt. 22. There it is much more dispensational. Hence it is "the kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king which made a marriage for his son." All savours of this: the king, the king's son, the marriage feast — not merely a feast, and again the messages and his action attest it. The first mission there represents the call during Christ's ministry on earth; the second was when the fatlings were killed — that is, the work was done. This is followed by the judgment that fell upon those who despised the Gospel message and maltreated the servants. "The king was wroth and sent forth his armies and destroyed those murderers and burned up their cities." There is not a word about this in Luke. It was well that it should be brought forward in the Gospel that was intended for the warning as well as the winning of the Jew. And there only was it written. The destruction of Jerusalem befell the Jews because of their rejection of Christ and of the Holy Ghost in the preaching of the apostles finally. Again, it is only in Matthew that we have the case of the man who was present without a wedding garment, setting forth the advantage that an unbelieving man would take of the Gospel in Christendom, where we have the corruption of those who bear the name of the Lord, and their presumptuous pretension to be Christians without the slightest reality, without a real putting on of Christ. Need I say how common that is in Christendom? All this is left out in Luke, who confines himself to the moral dealings of God.
On the Lord's departure great multitudes go with Him, to whom He turns with the words, "If any man come to me, and shall not hate377 his own father, and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters; yea and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple." They might have thought that at any rate they would treat the Lord better than His message — so little does man know of himself. The Lord would not permit that the multitude then following Him should flatter themselves that they at least were willing to partake of the supper, that they were incapable of treating God with the contempt described in the parable. So the Lord tells them what following Himself involves. The disciple must follow Christ so simply and decidedly that it would seem to other eyes a complete neglect of natural ties, and an indifference to the nearest and strongest claims of kin. Not that the Lord calls for want of affection; but so it might and must look to those who are left behind in His name. The attractive power of grace must be greater than all natural fetters, or any other claims of whatsoever kind, over him who would be His disciple. And more than this: it is a question of carrying one's cross and going after Him. "Whoever does not carry his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." It is not enough to come to Him at first, but we must follow Him day by day. Whoever does not this cannot be His disciple. Thus in verse 26 we see the forsaking of all for Christ, and in verse 27 the following Christ with pain and suffering and going on in it.377a
Again, the Lord does not hide the difficulties of the way, but sets them out in two comparisons. The first is of a man intending to build a tower, who had not the wisdom to count the cost before beginning. So it would be with souls now. Undoubtedly it is a great thing to follow Jesus to heaven, but then, it costs something in this world.378 It, is not all joy; but it is well and wise to look at the other side also. Then the Lord gives a further comparison. It is like a king going to war with one who has twice as many forces. Unless I am well backed up, it is impossible for me to resist him who comes against me with twice my array; much less can I make head against him. The inevitable consequence of not having God for us is, that when the enemy is a great way off, we have to send an ambassage and desire conditions of peace. But is it not peace with Satan, and everlasting ruin? "Thus, then, every one of you who forsakes not all his own possessions cannot be my disciple." A man should be prepared for the worst that man and Satan can do. It is always true, though not always apparent; but Scripture cannot be broken, and in the course of a disciple's experience a time comes when he is thus tried one way or another. It is well therefore to look all thoroughly in the face; but then to refuse Jesus and His call to follow, not to be His disciple, is to be lost for ever.379
Matt. 5:13; Mark 9:50.
The Lord closes all with another familiar allusion of everyday life. "Salt [then]* is good; but if the salt also† has become savourless, wherewith shall it be seasoned?"379a There is shown the danger of what begins well turning out ill. What is there in the world so useless as salt when it has lost the one property for which it is valued? "It is proper neither for land, nor for dung; it is cast out." It is worse than useless for any other purpose. So with the disciple who ceases to be Christ's disciple. He is not suited for the world's purposes, and he has forsaken God's. He has too much light or knowledge for entering into the vanities and sins of the world, and he has no enjoyment of grace and truth to keep him in the path of Christ. The expression "men cast it out" is perhaps too precise. It has a virtually indefinite meaning: "they cast it out" — i.e., it is cast out, without saying by whom. Savourless salt becomes an object of contempt and judgment. "He that has ears to hear let him hear": (Matt. 11:15.) how solemn the call to conscience!
*["Then"]: so Tisch. following ℵBLX, 69, Memph. Treg. brackets. Other Edd. omit, as ADERΔ, etc., 1, 33, Syrr. Amiat.,
†"Also": so ℵBDLX Syrrcu pesch. It is omitted in AERΓΔ, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrsin Memph.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 339-345.
In the latter part of Luke 14 we saw the Lord's terms, if I may so say, to the multitude that was following Him. There He laid down that, except a man came to Him hating father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he could not be His disciple. "And whosoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." Thus first He insists on a thorough break with nature, and next that this shall continue. Hence in His illustrations He sets forth the need of purpose and the danger of undertaking such a business. A man is sure, otherwise, to leave the work undone. And how would it fare if a king with double your forces should come against you? The moral of all this is that man is insufficient, and that God alone can enable a man to quit the world for Christ and to keep following after Christ. The worst of all is to renounce Him after bearing such a name — salt that has lost its savour.
Nevertheless His words drew to Him the outcast and degraded, too wretched not to feel and own their need. The tax-gatherers and sinners, instead of bearing a repulse, were coming near, immensely attracted, to hear what they felt to be the truth, and what conscience bowed to, though they had never heard it before. They heard, indeed, that which they could not but perceive levelled the pretensions of proud men. For the Pharisees and scribes had no notion of following Jesus any more than of coming to Him. They deified self in the name of God. It was their own tradition they valued; and if they seemed to make much of the law, it was not because it was of God, but because it was given to their fathers and identified with their system. Their religion was a settled setting up of self — this was their idol. Hence they murmured at the grace of Christ toward the wretched. For the ways of Christ, like His doctrine, levelled all and showed, according to the subsequent language of St. Paul, that there is no difference. No doubt the man who is in quest of his own passions and pleasures will neither go to Christ nor follow after Him: still less will he who has got a religion of his own on which he plumes himself. Grace goes down to the common level of ruin that sin has already made. It addresses man according to the truth; and the truth is that all is lost. And where is the sense of talking of differences if people are lost? How blind to be classifying among those who are cast into perdition! To be there at all is the awful thing — not the shades of distinction in ways or character that may be found among those who are there. The tremendous fact is that, having all equally sinned against God and lost heaven, they are all equally consigned to hell.
But there is that also in the sayings of the Pharisees and scribes which shows that they, too, felt the point of the truth, and what they resented most was grace. For they murmured saying, "This [man] receives sinners380a and eats with them." Indeed He does; it is His boast. It is the going out of Divine love to receive sinners. And it was His grace as a man that deigned to eat with them. Had He not done so, with whom could He have eaten at all? But in truth, if He deigned to eat with men, He did not choose His company. He had come down and been manifested in the flesh expressly to manifest the grace of God; and, if so, He received sinners and ate with them.
The Lord answers in a parable — indeed, in three. But the first of them is that which we will look at now. He puts the case of a man — of themselves — having a hundred sheep. "if he loses one of them, doth he not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness381 and go after that which is lost until he find it?" He appeals to them: not one of them but would go after his lost sheep and seek to recover it. With us, indeed, it is not a question here of our going in quest of Christ, but of the man Christ Jesus, the good Shepherd, going after us — that which was lost. Supposing a man has ninety-nine that did not so urgently call on his energetic efforts, he can leave the sheep that abide in comparative safety. The one that is in danger is that which draws out his love until he finds it. "And having found382 it, he lays it upon his own shoulders rejoicing." It is evidently the work of the Lord Jesus that is set forth here. Who can fail to recognize in it the mighty manifestation of Divine love which characterized Jesus? It was He Who came, He Who undertook the labour; it was His to endure the suffering unto death, even the death of the cross; it was He Who found and saves the lost sheep; it is He Who lays it on His shoulders rejoicing. Whose joy can be compared with His? No doubt the sheep does reap the benefit; yet assuredly it was not the sheep that sought the Shepherd, but the Shepherd the sheep. It was not the sheep that clambered on His shoulders, but He that laid it there with His own hand. And who shall pluck it thence? It was all, all His work. It was the sheep that strayed; and, the longer it was left to itself, the farther it got away from the Shepherd. It was the work of the Lord Jesus, then, both to seek and to save.
But further, He has His joy in it, though it goes forth far beyond the object of His care. "And having come to the house, he calls together the friends and the neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep." It is altogether to forget the fullness of love that there is in God and in Christ Jesus our Lord, to suppose that it is merely a question of the sinner's need to be saved or his joy when he is. There is a far deeper joy; and this is the foundation of all proper worship. In fact, our joy is not the mere sense of our own personal deliverance, but our appreciation of His delight in delivering us, His joy in our salvation. This is communion, and there can be no worship in the Spirit without it. And such seems to be the bearing of what is figuratively set forth in the parable as described at the close. "He calls together the friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost sheep."
Thus the heart of man that feels the comfort of recovering what belongs to him could apprehend in some measure how God has joy in saving the lost. At any rate, Christ appeals to the one to vindicate the other. "I say unto you, that thus there shall be joy in heaven for one repenting sinner,382a [more] than over ninety and nine righteous, such as have no need of repentance." But man as such does not rejoice when his fellow turns in sorrow and self-judgment to God. This is not the feeling of the earth where sin and selfishness reign; but assuredly it is the mind of heaven. What joy there is over the repenting sinner! Angels [rejoiced] at the good news of grace to Israel and to man above all. And so do they rejoice still, as we may fairly gather from the later words of our Lord Jesus. Here it is more general. The manifold wisdom of God in the Church is the continual object and witness to the principalities and powers in heavenly places; the Lord here gives us the assurance that a repentant sinner gives the keynote of joy on high. There are no murmurers there; it is universal delight in love. Is it so with us? Yet we have a new nature not less but more capable of appreciating the joy of grace, not to seek of ourselves, knowing the need of a sinner and the mercy of God's deliverance in Christ as no angel can.
Remark in the last place that it is joy "for one repenting sinner," not exactly over his salvation. It is joy over a soul brought to confess its sin and judge itself and vindicate God. We are apt to be more occupied with the deliverance from imminent danger. In short, we are apt to feel for the human side far more than we enter into God's moral glory or His grace. The joy in heaven is over the repenting sinner.
To my mind it is impossible to avoid the conviction that these parables have a root in God Himself as well as a reference to His operations on the heart of man. As we saw that the first is a most clear prefiguration of Christ's work (the Shepherd being the well-known figure that He Himself adopted to set forth His interest and His grace for those that need Him), so also in the last parable there cannot be a question that the father sets forth God Himself in the relationship that He establishes by grace with the returning prodigal. There is also another sense of that relationship with the elder son, whose self-righteousness was so much the more glaring because of his want of respect and love for such a father, though known, no doubt, on a lower ground.
But if this be so, how can we avoid the conviction that the intermediate parable has a similar connection and that the woman has a propriety and a peculiar fitness, just as much as the shepherd and the father? If, therefore, the shepherd represents the work of the Son of God come as Son of man to seek and to save that which was lost, and if the father shows the relationship in which God reveals Himself to him who is brought back to Him and who learns His love within the house, we cannot doubt that the woman must set forth the ways of God working by His Spirit.383 We know that the Spirit now particularly deigns, not only to act in man, but also in the Church, and this may account for the fact of the figure of the woman, a woman being habitually used to set forth the Church of God. However this may be, that in some form or another under the woman is set forth the activity of the Spirit of God cannot be questioned. So we shall find that all the details of the parable fit in with this view.
"Or, what woman having ten drachmas, if she lose one drachma,384 doth not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek carefully till she find it?" Now we find the lost creature is represented, not by a sheep, which, if it has life of a certain sort, has it only to go astray; not by a man, who is at last, after having perverted all that God gave him, brought into intelligent enjoyment of God; but in this parable the lost piece of money is an inanimate thing, and this is most fitted to express what a lost sinner is in the mind of the Spirit of God. He not only slipped aside, though capable of being the object of a new action by grace outside self to find him; but meanwhile the soul is but a dead thing spiritually, with no more power to return than the missing piece of silver. The propriety, therefore, of this coin being used to represent the sinner where there is evidently not the slightest power to go back to God, where it is utterly helpless, where only the Holy Ghost can avail, is manifest. But the woman does not so easily reconcile herself to the loss of her piece of silver. She lights a lamp, sweeps the house, and seeks diligently till she finds it. The lamp clearly sets forth the testimony of the Word of God; and this it is particularly in the use of the Spirit of God. The Lord Jesus Himself and God as such are thus spoken of. But it is the Spirit alone who, as we know, brings it home to the heart in conscience or peace, when we are brought to God. The Spirit has the character of agency very peculiarly, and in this agency employs the word. The lamp, therefore, is said here to be lit. But that is not all. The woman sweeps the house and searches diligently till she finds it. There is painstaking love, the removal of obstacles, minute working and searching. Do we not know that this is pre-eminently the part God's Spirit is wont to take? Do we not remember when truth was powerless to reach us? The Lord Jesus is rather the suffering Saviour; His mighty work assumes that form. The Holy Spirit of God is the active agent in the soul. The Father freely gave according to His infinite love and counsels. Having in Himself the deep enjoyment of love, He would bring others, in spite of their sins, to be righteously without them, in order to make themselves happy in the enjoyment of Himself. But the Spirit of God, just as beautifully, engages Himself in activity of effort and ceaseless painstaking, till the lost thing is found.
"And having found it, she calls together the friends and neighbours, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma, which I had lost." In every case, whether it be the Son, or the Father, or the Holy Ghost, there is communion. We know that our communion is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ; but it cannot be less familiar to the believer that there is the communion of the Holy Ghost. This is what appears to be set forth here at the close of the second parable: the spreading of universal joy among those who enter into the mind of God. "She calls together the friends and neighbours, saying, Rejoice with me." Thus on all sides is real delight, every person of the Godhead having His own appropriate place and part in the wonderful work of redemption, but, further, deep Divine joy in the result of redemption. "Thus I say unto you, There is joy before the angels of God for one repenting sinner." It is not here generally in heaven, but joy in the presence of the angels of God. They enter into it. They may not have the same immediate concern in it, but it is in their presence; and they delight in it ungrudgingly and unjealously without being the parties to derive direct or personal results from it. Their joy is in what God delights in, and hence in what He is to the creatures of God. What a new scene of enjoyment, too — joy among those who had been lost to God, and enemies to God! "There is joy before the angels of God for one repenting sinner."
We have seen the Lord Jesus in His work set forth by the shepherd, and the more hidden but at the same time the active, painstaking operation of the Spirit of God, no less necessary in order to bring home the work to men in both giving the light to see and also searching them out. Now we have in the third parable the effect produced; for the work is not merely conversion or pardon, and therefore nothing that is done in this way would suffice unless there was the full bringing of the soul to God and also into fellowship with Him, the new and intimate relationship of a son by grace. This is what the third parable accordingly sets forth. And hence it is no longer a sheep or a piece of money, but a man. It is there that we find intelligence and conscience, and so much the more guilt. Such is man's case. The first Adam had a certain relationship to God. When he was formed out of the dust, God dealt with him in tender mercy and gave him special advantages in Eden, privileges of every suited sort. But man fell from God, as the prodigal here left his father's house.
In a general way this is represented by a certain man who had two sons. "And the younger of them said to the father, Father, give to me the share of the property that falls [to me]. And he divided unto them his living." There was the point of departure, the first and main step of evil. There is scarce anything in which men are apt more to mistake than in what the true nature of sin consists. They measure sin by themselves instead of by God. Now the desire to have one's own way at a distance from God is positive sin and the root of all other sin. Sin against man is sure to follow; but sin against God is the mainspring. What more evident denial of Him in works than to prefer one's own will to His?
The younger son then (which makes the case the more glaring) said to his parent, "Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me." He wished to go away from his father. Man would be at a distance from God, and this in order to be the more at ease to do what he likes. "And he divided unto them his living." Man is tried — he is responsible; but, in fact, he is not hindered from having his way, God only keeping the upper hand for the accomplishment of His own gracious purposes. Still, as far as appearances go, God allows a man to do what he pleases. This alone will tell what sin means, what the heart seeks, what man is with all his pretensions, and the worse the more he pretends.
"And after not many days the younger son gathering all together went away into a country a long way off, and there dissipated his property, living in debauchery." There was eagerness to get away from his father. It was, as far as his will was concerned, a complete abandoning of his father to do his own pleasure. He wished to be so thoroughly at a distance as to act according to his own heart without restraint. There, in a far country, he wastes his substance with riotous living. It is the picture of a man left to himself, doing his own will in this world, with its ruinous consequences for the next as well as this. "But when he had spent all, there arose a violent famine throughout that country, and he began to be in want." Such, again, is the picture, not only of the active course of sin but of its bitter issues. Sin indulged in brings misery and want. There is a void that nothing can satisfy, and the selfish waste of all means only makes this to be more felt in the end.
So, in the extremity of distress, "he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine." Now we find the sinner's degradation; for love is not there, but self is. The citizen does not treat him as a fellow-citizen, but as a slave. There is no slavery so deep or degrading as that of our own lusts. He is treated accordingly; and what must this sound to a Jewish ear? He is sent into the fields to feed swine. "And he longed to fill his belly with the husks386 which the swine were eating; and no one gave unto him." He is reduced to the lowest degree of want and wretchedness; yet no man gives to him. God is the giver, man grudgingly pays his debts, if he pays them: never to God, only half-heartedly to man. But no man gives: so the prodigal found.
Now we begin the work of God's goodness. He comes to himself, before he comes to God.387 "And coming to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have abundance of bread and I perish here* by famine." It is God giving him the conviction of his state. Hence his feeling is that even those who have the lowest place in his father's house are well and even amply provided for compared with him.
*"Here": so Edd., after ℵBDL, some cursives (1), Syrr. Old Lat. Vulg. Memph. The word is not in APX, etc., nor in most cursives (as 33, 69).
His mind was made up. "I will rise up and go to my father, and I will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven388 and before thee;* I am no longer worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants." The last words betray the usual legal state. It is one who conceives that God must act according to his condition. This grace never does. He had wronged his father, he had been guilty of folly, excess, and lewdness; and he could not conceive of his father doing more for him at best than putting him in the lowest place before him, if he received him at all. He felt that he deserved humiliation. Had he judged more justly, he would have gathered that he deserved much worse; that the more favoured he was, seeing that he was so guilty, he must be put away — not merely go away, but be put into outer darkness where should be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.
*Before "I am no longer," EG, etc., most cursives, Syrr. have "and," which Edd. omit, after ℵABDK. etc., 1, Old Lat. Sah. Memph.
But although there was this wrong reasoning, at bottom there was at least a real sense, however feeble, of his sin, and, what was more and better, a real sense of love in God the Father. If he could only see Him, hear Him, be with Him! He rises accordingly and comes to his father, "but while he was yet a long way of, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell upon his neck and covered him with kisses."
It is not the son who runs; but, even though a long way off, the father saw him. It was the father ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. The son would not have dared to have done so, still less would he have expected his father to do so. But grace always surprises the thoughts of men, and therefore reason can never find it out, but rather denies and opposes and enfeebles it, qualifying it, putting clogs and fetters on it, which only dishonour God, and do not alter the truth, but most surely injure the man. The father, then ran389 and fell on his neck and kissed him. Not a word about his wicked ways! and yet the father it was who had wrought secretly, producing the conviction of his own evil and the yearning after his own presence.
Further, it was the father who deepened all that was of himself in his own soul immensely, now that the prodigal was come to him. It is not true, therefore, that by not putting forward the evil in this case our Lord implied that the father was indifferent to the evil, or that the prodigal son was not to feel his outbreaks or his fleshly nature.389a Surely it should be so much the more, because it was allowed him to judge himself and the past in the light of unspeakable grace. "And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee: I am* no more worthy to be called thy son." He cannot say more. It was impossible in the presence of the father to say "Make me as one of thy hired servants."†390 It was well, as far as it went, to acknowledge that he was no more worthy to be called his son. It was unqualifiedly right to say, "I have sinned against heaven and before thee"; but it would have been still better if he had said not a word about anything of which he could be worthy or unworthy. The sad truth was, that he was worthy of nothing but bonds or death. He deserved to be banished for ever — to be driven out from the presence of his father.
*E, etc., 33, 69, Syrr. have "and I am n. l.," which Edd. reject, after ℵABD, etc., Old Lat. Memph.
†W. H. add these words in brackets: after ℵBD, etc., Syrhcl Aeth., which Tisch. and Treg., both of whom cite Augustine, followed by Weiss and Blass, reject as interpolation from verse 19. They are supported by ALΔ, etc., Latt. Syrrsin pesch hier. See further, note 390, in Appendix.
Grace, however, does not give according to what man deserves, but according to Christ. Grace is the outflow of love that is in God, which He feels even towards His enemies. For this reason He sent His Son, and He acts Himself. All must now be of the very best, because it must be in accordance with the grace of God and the gift of Christ. "Bring out* the best robe, and clothe him in [it], and put a ring on his hand, and sandals on his feet,391 and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry." The younger son had never worn the best robe before; the elder son never did wear the best robe at all. The best robe was kept for the display of grace.
*"Bring out" so APQ and other later uncials, all cursives, Sah. Syrr. Recent Edd. adopt "Quickly b. o.," as ℵBDLX, Syrsin Old Lat. Goth. Memph. Arm. Aeth. This addition Treg. brackets.
The two sons, therefore (of course, the prodigal before his return), do not represent children of God in the sense of grace, but such as have merely the place of sons of God by nature. Thus Adam is said to be so (Luke 3). All men are spoken of similarly in that sense — even the heathen — in Acts 17:28, as being endowed with a reasonable soul as men, and as having direct personal responsibility to God in presence of His favours and mercy. It is also doctrinally affirmed in "one God and Father of all" (Eph. 4:6).
But then, sin has completely separated men from God, as we have seen in this very parable. Grace brings into the nearer and better relationship of "sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:26.) The prodigal only enters this state when he at length comes back to his father, confessing his sins and casting himself upon Divine grace.391a The best robe, the ring on his hand, the shoes on his feet, the fatted calf, all these belong, and belong solely, to the relationship of grace, to him who is born of God by believing in the name of Jesus. It is God magnifying Himself to the lost. "For this my son was dead,392 and has come to life, — was lost, and has been found. And they began to be merry."
It is important to note this common joy. It is not only that there is personal blessing for the heart that is brought back to God, but there is the joy of communion, which takes its rise in and its strength from God, whose joy in love is as much deeper than ours as He above us. Nor is it now only in heaven as we saw before, but there is the effect produced on earth, both individually and also in other hearts; and the great power of it all is, after all, communion with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, which the Holy Ghost sheds abroad — His love shed abroad in the heart, no doubt, but issuing also in communion with one another. "They began to be merry."
But here we have a farther picture,393 "And his elder son was in the field; and as, coming up, he drew nigh to the house "he heard music and dancing." The joy of true Christian worship, of living fellowship in grace, is unintelligible to the natural heart. This was what struck repugnantly the ears of the elder son. "And having called one of the servants, he inquired what these things might be." He could have understood debt, he could have urged right, he could see and pronounce on failure; but he did not scruple to judge God Himself, as we shall see. The servant "said unto him, Thy brother is come, and thy father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and well." But he became angry, and would not go in. "And* his father went out and besought394 him." His heart was outside the home of his father, nor did he breathe the spirit of the love that was being shown to the returned prodigal. He was a stranger to grace, so he had no part in all this joy. He was pursuing his own things. No doubt he was active and intelligent "in the field," in the world, away from the scene of Divine mercy and spiritual joy.
*"And": so Edd., after ℵABDL, etc., 1, 33, Old Lat. Goth. Memph. Arm. E and most of the later uncials, nearly all cursives (69), Syrr. Amiat. and Vulg. have "therefore."
When, therefore, the servant told him that his brother had come, and of the way the father had received him, he showed his aversion on the spot, and yet more the more he heard what made the others happy. Grace was to him most irksome and even hateful. Doubtless he took the ground of righteousness, though he had none — plenty of talk and theory, but nothing real. His father comes out in the fullness of love and entreats him. "And he, answering, said to his* father," with that kind of pious, or rather impious, indignation against Divine love which belongs to and does not shock the natural mind, "Behold, these many years I serve thee [hollow and wretched service!]395 and never have I transgressed a commandment of thine [the unhappy sinner had no sense of sin!] and to me thou hast never given a kid, that I might make merry with my friends." Thus he was bold enough to judge the father as the self-righteous shrinks not from judging God. To the thought of the unbeliever He is hard and exacting. There is utter blindness as to all the favours of God, total insensibility of heart as well as conscience. "But when this thy son, who has devoured thy living with harlots, is come, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf." There is manifest dislike of grace and its ways. He does not call the prodigal his brother,395a but tauntingly "thy son." And though it was what the father had given, he calls it "thy living," in every case putting the worst aspect forward.
*"His": so Treg., W. H., after ABDG, etc., 69, Syrsin. Tisch.: "the," after ℵQ, Goth. Memph. Arm.
Truly the patience of God is as wondrous as His love. Hence the father perseveres: "But he said unto him, Child [for nothing can exceed the tender mercy of the father, even to the unthankful and the evil, the ungrateful and rebellious son],396 thou art ever with me, and all that is mine is thine." It was just the place of the Jew under the law. But it is the same position that every unconverted man in Christendom takes who is endeavouring to walk after the flesh religiously. It is just so that the natural man in these lands thinks and speaks. And no doubt the Jews had the chief place, and indeed the only place, that God claimed in this earth. All other countries God had given to the children of men, but His land He had reserved for Israel. He had brought them to Himself through redemption of an outward sort and put them under law. The same principle is true of any self-righteous man who is in his way endeavouring to be good and serve God, but insensible to the truth that it is mercy that he wants and delivering grace. "It was right to make merry and rejoice." Wonderful thought! God Himself delighting in the joy of grace and putting Himself in it along with others. "Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ."
Notice again, "Because this thy brother was dead and has come to life again, and was lost and has been found." "Thy brother" is to be observed. God is not in any way disposed to allow the denial of proper relationship. Hence one of the sins that will draw out the last judgments of the Jews is not merely their base ingratitude toward God, but also their hatred of the grace He is showing to the poor Gentiles in their wretchedness and sin. This we find strongly put by the Apostle Paul: "Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost" (1 Thess. 2:16). They cannot endure that others, dogs of the Gentiles, should hear the Gospel of grace, which their pride of law induced them to despise for themselves.397
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 345-348.
The Lord here addresses His disciples.399
The last chapter consisted of parables spoken to the publicans and sinners that drew near to hear Him in the presence of the murmuring Pharisees and scribes. They had for their object to show how the sovereign grace of God makes the lost to be saved, and in this the mind and temper of Heaven in contrast with the self-righteous of the earth.
Now we have a weighty instruction for disciples. It is no longer sinners shown the way to God, but disciples taught the ways which become them before God, and this in view of the judgment of the world, more particularly of the elect nation. The Jews were now losing their special place. The peculiar privileges of Israel had wrought no deliverance for themselves or for the earth. Contrariwise they had caused the name of God to be blasphemed among the nations. They had been untrue to God; they had been ungracious and even unrighteous to man. The Lord accordingly sets forth in a parable the only wisdom which suits and adorns those who understand the present critical condition of the world.
"There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and he was accused unto him as wasting his possessions." This had been done by man, of course, in general, but by the Jew especially, as being the most favoured and therefore under a more stringent responsibility. He was not only a man, but a steward. There was a trust reposed in the Jew beyond all others; and most justly was he accused of wasting his master's goods. What had he done for God? He ought to have been a light in the earth; he ought to have been a guide of the blind; he ought to have been a witness of the true God. But he fell into idolatry when God was displaying Himself in the temple in the Shekinah; and now he was about to reject God Himself in the person of the Messiah, His Son — a still more profound and gracious display of God. Thus he had altogether lost his opportunities, and wasted the goods of his Master. He had brought shame on the law of God, and the living oracles into contempt through his own vanity and pride.
Hence, in the parable, the master called the steward, and said to him, "What [is] this that400 I hear of thee? Give the reckoning of thy stewardship, for thou canst be no longer steward." The Jew was about to sink down into the level of all other nations, just as in the Old Testament times we hear that God had pronounced him Lo-ammi as set forth in Hosea. Then the last hope was gone, when not only Israel was swept away, but Judah became faithless to the true God. This was confirmed when the returned remnant in the days of Christ proved no better — rather worse. There was a feeble body which represented the Jews who returned from Babylon, and, it might have been a nucleus for the nation; but, instead of this, they were more and more hardened against God, till all ended in their rejecting the Messiah and the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.
"And the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord is taking the stewardship from me; I am not able to dig; I am ashamed to beg." He had no power; for the law rather provokes evil ways than gives good. "But what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." (Rom. 8:3f.) On the other hand, the Jew was ashamed to beg. He was unwilling to take the place of a lost, good-for-nothing sinner, entirely dependent on God, looking up that God might do and give what he could not. Alas! the indomitable pride of the Jew rose up in rebellion against God's sentence of his impotence.
"I know401 What I will do, that when I shall have been removed from the stewardship I may be received401a into their houses." This was prudent, and the precise point of earthly wisdom in the parable which the Lord commends for our admonition. Well for the Jew had he adopted it! "He called each of his own lord's debtors, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord! And he said, A hundred measures [baths] of oil.402 And he said unto him, Take thy bill and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then he said to another, And thou, how much owest thou? And he said, A hundred measures (cors)403 of wheat. And* he said unto him, Take thy bill and write eighty."
*Before "he says," ADP and some versions have "and." Edd. omit, after BLR, 13, 69, Amiat., Memph.
Thus plainly the steward assumes the title to sacrifice the present in view of the future. He acts with the utmost liberality with his master's goods. No doubt it cost him little or nothing. Nor is it the honesty of the step but its prudence which his master commends. He reduced the debt of the first one half, of the second considerably. He thus bound by his favour and leniency these debtors to himself; that, when he was turned out of his place, they might receive him into their houses. There is no ground to suppose that the parable makes light of his dishonesty. He is especially branded as the "unjust steward." Such really was the position and character of the Jew; they were all unrighteous in the sight of God. But had they done what the steward does when about to be discharged? No! He looked forward to the future, and acted at once upon the conviction. Were they not, on the contrary, absorbed in the present? Is not this the great snare of men, and of the Jew as much as others, to sacrifice the future for the present, not the present for the future?
"And the lord404 praised the unrighteous steward, because he had done prudently. For the sons of this age404a are in respect of their own generation404b more prudent than the sons of light." They look onward, though it be only on the earth, for they have a keen sense of their best earthly interests; but for the soul, for heaven, for Christ's love, for God's nature and will, men are apt to allow the smallest of present advantages to blot out all just thought of the future. This is an important consideration for our hearts as disciples. What the Lord is insisting upon is that the present — so fugitive and fallacious — is not the real prize for us; that the future — the eternal future — is the thing to consider, and that it should govern the present. For we cannot walk rightly as disciples unless filled with the sense of what is to be, not carried away by what is. What is it that spoils the testimony of disciples now? That they are living chiefly for the present moment. If circumstances guide, what can such be but as governed only by what is wished? This ruins, not merely the sinner as such, but the disciple, because he is only living for himself and the circumstances of this life. It is impossible to glorify the Lord thus. Let us hear His will and wisdom in this parable.
The unjust steward, as here portrayed, though bad in other respects, was wise in this, that he looked out steadily for the future; so that, when he lost his stewardship, he might be received kindly by the men whom he had befriended. For this it matters not that the goods were his master's rather than his own; indeed, we may see the deepest wisdom in the parable as it is, when we come to the application to our own practical conduct. For the only means whereby we can thus look out for the future is by reckoning what people — what self — would call ours, the resources of our master. We have nothing whereby to secure the future, except we use all as belonging to God. But this is the victory of faith, that instead of looking with a natural eye at the present moment, we resolutely contemplate the future, and act accordingly. Then, instead of seeking to hold fast what we have for ourselves, we learn to use all freely as in truth belonging to God. So assuredly those do who gain that which is future and eternal. Hence we find the Lord applies the illustration thus: "And I say unto you,405 make to yourselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness,405a that, when it fails,* ye may be received into everlasting habitations."405b Are you thus making to yourselves friends with the mammon of unrighteousness? Instead of keeping money as something precious, treat it as what it really is.
*"It fails": so Edd. after ℵpm ABpm DL, etc., Syrrsin pesch Memph. Arm. Aeth. Cyr. Alex. It has beyond doubt preponderant authority over "ye fail" [T.R. after ℵcorr EP, etc., Vulg. Clem. Alex.]; but it is difficult to see its superior force or even propriety (B.T.).
Observe that the Lord gives here an ignominious name to the objects man covets — money, property, and everything of the kind. He calls it, not only mammon, in itself a word of ill omen, but "the mammon of unrighteousness." He heaps plentiful disdain upon it; just as the apostle Paul counts all that man values most, even religiously as the vilest refuse which should be kept or thrust out of doors. This is a great point; for Saul of Tarsus had not always been disposed thus to sacrifice the present in view of the future. His place as a Jew, his tribe, his family, his earthly thoughts and feelings, his personal advantages, he once estimated as much every way to cherish. But when he viewed them in the light of Christ and of that glory to which he was hastening, he counted them but dung. (Phil. 3:8.) Who would ever think the earth at its best an object to look back on, when they have the glory before their eyes? Who would talk of getting rid of dung as a great sacrifice? Certainly everything, yet in religion too, of which men are apt most to boast, Paul calls dung; such he counted it, and so to the last, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. Was not this really to act in the wisdom of the steward, not in his injustice, but in his looking out and onward? In Paul's case it was heavenly wisdom; and the love of Christ was its source and spring.
The meaning of the words "that they may receive you" is simply "that ye may be received into everlasting habitations." Just so the apostle says: "That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from the dead." (Ibid., verse 10f.) This answers to being received into everlasting habitations when all that is of earth fails. To be received there is what should be of concern to the heart that loves the Lord and His will. There is no stress to be laid on the form of the phrase "they may receive you." This has misled not a few. Literally this might hold good on earth, as we see in verse 4, but spiritually it simply means "that ye may be received." Compare Luke 6:38, Luke 12:20; the first wrongly rendered in the Authorised Version, the last rightly. God alone receives into heaven: no one else has a title to receive there. The expression alludes to the parable, but is used with the utmost vagueness. It is a virtual impersonal — "that reception may be given you into the everlasting tabernacles."
Let us not over-estimate these sacrifices of the present, but imitate the apostle who shows how little he values the best things that earth honours. So our Lord Jesus here says, "He that is faithful in the least is faithful also in much."405c (Cf. Matt. 25:21, 23.) The smallest thing affords a sphere in which one can glorify God; but there must be the disregard of the present in the light of the future. It is something to be generous in money matters; it is very much more to love the Church, and be devoted to the Master, suffering with Him and for Him. But there are countless ways in which He may be magnified. "He that is unrighteous in the least is unrighteous also in much." Yet, as all know, little things constantly test our reality. Many a man might not be dishonest about a thing of great value, but he might make too free in what is petty. There cannot be a greater fallacy than decrying a severe judgment formed about moral failure in matters of little pecuniary value, as it were making much ado about nothing, whereas it is in small things often that a man's true character is best known.
"If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who shall entrust to you the true?" The true riches cannot be entrusted where the heart has been false in that which is so trifling in the Lord's eyes as "the unrighteous mammon."406 Nor is it only that present honour and riches are not "the true," but the mere counters of the hour. There is the further consideration: "If ye have not been faithful in that which is another's, who shall give unto you your*407 own?" Present property is not strictly one's own. The whole course of the Christian here is really that of one acting for another, even Christ. We are servants in trust for the Lord. The Christian ought to regard his time, his money, his abilities, his property, as the goods of his Master; and his business is to serve his Master, faithfully carrying out His will. This is of immense importance; because covetousness consists in endeavouring to make earthly things which God has not given your own. The wisdom of the disciple is to count what appears to belong to him as really his Master's.
*"Your own": so Blass, with ℵAD, etc., all cursives, the Latt. Syrrpesch hcl hier Memph. Goth. Arm. Aeth. Hort, followed by Weiss, favours "our own," the reading of B and L. See, further, note 407 in Appendix.
Now, it is easy to be generous with another's money. Count your riches another's and act with all possible liberality in faith of the future. We should thus judge by faith what we have to be Christ's, and then be as free with it as the unjust steward was with his master's goods. Those who enter heaven are not men hard and grasping, as if by possessing more than is needed, a man's life consists of his substance. No doubt the natural spirit of man cleaves to what it counts its own (and perhaps particularly of the Jew), as if the present moment were of all importance. But the true wisdom is to be like the steward in his steady resolve to secure the future by acting freely with what belonged to his lord. When the glory comes, we shall have what is our own. What a wonderful truth, that the wide scene of Christ's glory in which we shall reign with Him will be ours! Then we shall bear power and glory without abusing it; now we can only safely use what we have by counting it Christ's and using it according to His will.
"No servant can serve two masters." If I have not Christ for my Master, I shall make myself so; and the moment we set up our own will, we find ourselves in Satan's service, for the fallen will is Satan's slave. "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and will love the other, or he will cleave to the one and despise the other." In the first we find the stronger case. With a man warm in his feelings everything is apt to be extreme. The other case supposes a person of feeble character. But in one way or another, whatever the character, to attempt this double service is fatal. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt. 6:24.) Alas! mammon is the real ecumenical idol; it is the object of widest homage — not only in the world, but, grievous to add, in Christendom. By its own confession (witness the popular prize of that title) mammon now reigns supreme in the hearts of men generally throughout these lands professing the name of the Crucified, who most of all despised and denounced it.408
Next the Pharisees, not the disciples, come before us. They are characterised here as covetous.409 It is not their forms or their legalism but their love of money which was touched by the doctrine of the Lord to the disciples; for after they had "heard all these things," they "sneered at him." The evil against which the disciples were warned was at work in the Pharisees without a check. This state was not less corrupt than haughty.
"And he said unto them, Ye are they who justify themselves before men; but God knows your hearts; for that which amongst men is highly thought of410 is an abomination before God." Not so those who are justified before God by faith. Such do not justify themselves before men any more than before God, unless so far as they allow nature, and slip from their own ground of faith. Nevertheless, they are not free from the snare of covetousness; so far as they are influenced by the thoughts of men, they are exposed. "Men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself." (Ps. 49:18.) The intense selfishness of the heart naturally prefers its own care to that of God: thence is a link of worldly sympathy with the men of this age. Let us therefore beware, for "that which among men is highly thought of, is an abomination before God." No evil more common in the religious world of our own day as truly as in our Lord's. Ease, honour, influence, and position are as highly valued as ever, to the infinite disparagement of the truth. Any one can see how strongly the word of God rejects all these conditions of fallen Adam, and how incongruous they are with the cross of Christ. And they are only a worse abomination where men essay to join such worldliness with heavenly truth.
The Lord next insists upon the crisis that was come. For this, too, adds its emphasis to His rebuke. What is morally true may become more urgently a duty, and such is the fact in the case before us. The religion of the world always takes the ground of Pharisaism; it assumes more or less the present favour of God, and that worldly rank and prosperity are to be taken as a sign of it. Faith looks away from present things since sin came into the world, and each successive step in God's ways is but afresh confirmation of faith. "The law and the prophets [were] until John: from that time the glad tidings of the kingdom of God are preached,411 and every one forces his way into it." It was in vain, therefore, to rest all upon the law and its rewards to faithfulness. In fact, they had broken the law; and because of this, indeed, were given the prophets, who reproved their iniquities, laid bare the actual state of ruin, and bore witness of a wholly new condition, which would end the present by judgment and introduce a new state, never to pass away. John Baptist, as the immediate herald of the Messiah, insisted on repentance in view of the immediate advent of Christ. This sweeps away all the self-righteousness of man. It is not that the law is not good; the defect lay not there, but in those who, being sinful, felt it not, but assumed to make out a righteousness of their own under law. "Since John's time," says our Lord, "the glad tidings of the kingdom of God are preached." It is not here as in Matthew 11:12: "The kingdom of the heavens is taken by violence and the violent seize on it." There it is a question of the true hope of Israel, and the necessity of breaking through all that opposes faith. But here it is much more ground opened to man if he believed. "The kingdom of God is preached, and every one forces his way into it." "Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also; seeing it is one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through their faith. Do we then make law void through faith? Far be it. Yea, we establish law." (Rom. 3:29f.) Thus the great apostle. So here the Lord says, "And it is easier that the heaven and the earth should pass away than that one tittle of the law should fail." (Matt. 5:18.) Neither the truth nor faith enfeebles the law; rather do they maintain its authority over all that are under it as well as its intrinsic righteousness. Certainly our Lord not only honoured it to the highest degree, but gave it the weightiest sanction;412 for He obeyed it perfectly in His life and was made a curse according to it in His death.
But those who while under it hope to stand on that ground before God do really destroy its authority, without intending or even knowing it. For they hope to be saved under law, though they know they have broken it and that it calls for their condemnation. And even those who, "being justified by faith," take the law as their rule of life at the least impair its authority and so put dishonour upon it. For what does the law denounce on those who fail to do the things that it demands? Does it not threaten death on God's part? And have they not failed to keep it? It is in vain therefore to plead that they are justified persons: the law knows no such distinction. Justified or not, if they fail, do they not enfeeble its solemn threats?
How, then, does the truth set forth the deliverance and maintain the holy walk of the believer? Not by the notion most erroneously taught in the common text of Romans 7:6: "But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held." For the law is not dead. if so, the words of our Lord would be falsified; and not only one tittle of the law but the whole of it would have failed before heaven and earth pass away. But this is notoriously inexact, not only in the Authorised Version, but in the received Greek text, where one letter makes the difference between truth and error. The English margin is right. It is we who are dead to the law, not the law to any. The believer is shown to be dead with Christ, in Romans 6, to sin, and in Romans 7, to the law, "that we should serve in newness of spirit and not in oldness of letter." "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God." The truth, therefore, is that, even had we been Jews, we are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, instead of living under it as our rule. And the very argument of the apostle is founded upon, or at least illustrated by, the principle that one cannot belong to two husbands at the same time without adultery. "If, while her husband lives, she be married to another man she shall be called an adulteress"; if death come in, she is no adulteress though she belong to another man. And so it is with the Christian, for we now belong to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. Deliverance from law is essential to true Christian holiness. Excellent as the law is, its rule is to curse the lawless and disobedient; it "is not made for the righteous man" (1 Tim. 1:9) which every believer is; it is a rule of death for the bad, not of life for the good. Christ only is Life and the Light of life for the believer.
And does it not seem most striking that in the very next verse our Lord uses the same allusion on which the apostle reasons in the beginning of Romans 7? "Every one who puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery; and every one that marries one put away from her husband commits adultery." (Matt. 5:32; Matt. 19:9 Mark 10:11f.) Undoubtedly both principles apply to the literal fact most truly and in the letter. But can one doubt the connection with the verse before and the context? If so connected, it is a striking instance of the one Spirit throughout Scripture; if not so, it is exceedingly hard to understand why such a statement should close the Lord's words on this subject.413 No doubt the Jews allowed divorce for frivolous causes and marriage after such a divorce, and in both encouraged adultery.414 I cannot but think there is more in the connection here.
We have seen the conclusion of the earthly state of things; the Jew, who had wasted his master's goods, losing his stewardship; the character of those who receive heavenly things; the close of all the earthly testimony and the necessity of a new one; the kingdom of God preached, which alone was gain (that or nothing); the attempt to keep the old thing being exposed as altogether evil in the sight of God.
This is followed up by the rich man and Lazarus — I was going to say by the parable, but the Lord does not so say, though it has this character, as it seems to me. It puts in a most vivid manner the condition of the soul viewed in the light of the future, not yet of Gehenna, but of torment in Hades. The light, therefore, of the future even before the judgment is let fall upon present things to judge them. "There was a rich man and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, making good cheer in splendour every day." According to a Jew's notion a good fortune, as men say, was happiness. The Jews regarded such prosperity as a mark of God's favour. His name was not to the Lord's mind worth recording, the beggar's was. The rich man had all that heart, or, rather, really flesh, could desire; and he gratified it. But it was all selfish enjoyment: God was not in it, nor was there even care for man. All centred in self. This was put to the proof and made evident by "a poor man named Lazarus,416 [who] lay at his gateway full of sores, and desiring to be filled with the crumbs which fell* from the table of the rich man."416a For him it was little more than desire. The rich man cared not for him, but for himself; the dogs were more considerate, and rendered him better favour than their master. They came and licked his sores.
Such was man, such the Jew in present life, according to his thoughts of earthly good; but when death comes, when that stands revealed which was beyond the grave, the difference at once appears in all its solemnity. Then we have things in their true light. "And it came to pass that the poor man died." And how different! There is not a word of his burial: perhaps, indeed, he was not buried; but he "was carried away by the angels into Abraham's bosom,"417 the place of especial blessedness according to a Jew, in the unseen world, with the most honourable of God's servants waiting on him.
*"With the crumbs which fell": so ℵcorr APXΓΔ, etc., nearly all cursives (1, 33, 69), Syrr. Amiat., Memph. Goth. Aeth. Edd. follow ℵpm BL, Sah.: "with what fell."
"The rich man also died, and was buried." Here there might be splendour of retinue and ample show of grief in the eyes of men. But "in Hades418 lifting up his eyes, being in torments, he sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." This is not a picture of the final state of judgment, but of a certain condition after death. This is of great importance. Luke gives us both, confirming what is seen in the Old Testament* and even adding to it. He gives its full prominence to the resurrection elsewhere; but here it was of consequence to know what would be even now for man's profit here below. In Hades, then, "lifting up his eyes, being in torments, he sees Abraham afar off." We are not judges, save so far as Scripture speaks and we are subject to it, of what is entirely outside our experience. How far those who are lost can have the knowledge of the condition of those who are saved, it is not for as to pronounce on. Scripture is plain as to the distance between them. There is no mingling of the two together. But what would be incredibly distant to man living on the earth may be simply far off to those in the separate state, and the difference between them mutually known. Lazarus, then, according to the Word, was seen in Abraham's bosom by him who was in torment. "And he, crying out, said, Father Abraham, have compassion on me: and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering in this flame."
*I lay no stress on the bare fact or statement that man became "a living soul," but on the momentous difference of the way in which man alone, according to the Scripture, became such. What purpose had Jehovah Elohim in breathing into the nostrils the breath of life? To say that the fallen child of Adam derives the immortality of his soul. from Christ as distinct from this, or in any way but this, does not to me seem sound doctrine; it rather approaches the crochet of the learned but eccentric H. Dodwell. (B.T.)
Thus we have clear proof that, even before the judgment, the wicked man is in torment.419 Figures no doubt are employed, but these founded on that which would be most intelligible to us. It is through the body that we feel the world. From this the Lord takes figures in order to be understood by those whom He addresses in presenting according to His own wisdom the case of the unseen world. There at least the departed rich man has the sense of the need of mercy. It is well to see that this man does not in any way take the place of an infidel. There is no faith in him assuredly, but still he talks of "Father Abraham"; and though he has never looked to God for mercy, he sees that there at any rate the richest mercy was enjoyed in Abraham's bosom. He asks him, therefore, to send Lazarus that he might dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue. What a very small favour this had been once! utterly despicable — a drop of water, and above all, sent by such as Lazarus! it would have been detestable to him on earth. But the truth appears when man has left this life. Do we, then, hear while on the earth what the Lord says?
"I am suffering in this flame." He who tells us this is Jesus; and we know that He is truth, and that these are true sayings of God. Abraham's answer, too, is most noteworthy. "Child" (says he, for he does not repudiate the connection after the flesh), "remember that thou* hast fully received thy good things in thy lifetime, likewise Lazarus evil things; but now here† he is comforted, and thou art in suffering." He who was of Satan had good things on earth; he who was born of God received evil things here. The earth as it is gives no measure for the judgments of God: when Jesus comes, and the Kingdom is set up, it will be different. But the Jew and men in general have to learn that it is not so now, and that, before He comes, there is still the solemn truth that men show by their ways here how little they believe such words of God as these. But when they die, they will surely prove the truth of what they refused to hear in this world. "Now he is comforted here, and thou art in suffering."
*"Thou": so EXΔ, etc., 1, 33, have the emphatic σύ, which Edd. omit, after ℵBDL, etc.
†"Here": so Edd., following ABD, etc., Syrr. Memph. Sah. Arm. Aeth. The omission in T.R. is supported by a few minuscules (1) only.
It is not the day of Messiah's public Kingdom. Luke lets us see what is deeper even than it, both in good and ill, the unseen portion of the righteous, as well as that of the unjust.420 "And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm is fixed, so that those who desire to pass hence to you cannot, nor do they [who desire to cross] from there pass over unto us." The severance between the good and evil in the intermediate state is incalculably great and fixed. There is no passing from one to the other. The notion of possible mercy in the separate condition is absolutely excluded by Scripture. It is the mere dream of men who wish to cling to evil as long as they can, or at least to enjoy themselves in this world, who therefore despise the warnings of God, being bent on holding fast or acquiring good things here, and utterly careless of the solemn lesson furnished by the rich man and Lazarus. "Between us and you a great chasm is fixed," says Abraham — between the departed righteous and those who die in their sins the separation is complete — "so that* they who desire to pass hence to you cannot." Still less can any pass to Abraham that would come from beyond the gulf. In every way such change is impossible.421
*Dean Alford here as elsewhere renders ὅπως as if it were exactly like "in order that." I believe this to be a mistake in fact; and philologically it is a false principle that two words radically distinct in the same tongue ever mean precisely the same thing. (B.T.)
Thus, as no possibility of change remains for himself, he turns his attention to his family — "And he said, I beseech thee then, father, that thou wouldst send him to the house of my father, for I have five brothers, so that he may earnestly testify unto them, that they also may not come to this place of torment."422 But the answer of Abraham brings out another grand truth from the Lord's mind — the all-importance of the Word of God, and this, too, even in its lower forms. The New Testament undoubtedly has fuller and perfect light; but the Old is no less inspired. "But* Abraham saith to him,† They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them." Still he pleads: "Nay,423 father Abraham, but if one from the dead should go unto them they will repent." The answer of Abraham is decisive: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, not even if one rise from among [the] dead will they be persuaded."
*"But": so Edd., after ℵABDF, etc., Amiat. Memph. It is omitted by E and 69.
†"To him": so Blass, with AD, Latt. Syrr. Memph. Other Edd. reject, as ℵBL.
There is no proof that can succeed for eternity where the Word of God is rejected. Such is the testimony from the unseen world. I do not deny that, for this world, there may be conviction pressed by crushing judgments of God; but the tale before us is in view of present things before the Kingdom comes, and during this state of things there is no conviction so profound, no proof so deep, as that which is rendered by the Word of God. In fact also our Lord's own resurrection seals the truth of His words. For what so evident proof of the total failure of any other means to arouse man? Though He rose from the dead, out of the midst of a band of armed men set to watch as we know, men were not persuaded, least of all the Jewish priests and elders, who only hardened themselves more completely. As one portion of the people set themselves against the Lord during His life, the rest were equally chagrined by the truth of His resurrection. Thus all the people manifested their unbelief. It was bad to prove their want of sympathy with the only righteous One here below; it was, if possible, worse to refuse the testimony of grace which had raised Him from the dead and sent the message of salvation in His name. This Israel did.
But there was even more than this, and sooner. A Lazarus did proceed from the dead not long after at the call of Jesus, and many of the rich man's brethren came to see him when so raised. But, far from repenting, the chiefs at least, yea the chief priests, consulted together that they might put Lazarus also to death, as well as Him whose resurrection power only provoked their deadly hatred, instead of persuading them to hear Moses and the prophets.424
Hence the rich man who had departed, careless of the truth before man during his life, had no doubt received the due reward of his deeds; but those who rejected the testimony of Christ risen from the dead fall into a still greater gulf. Thus all the people are judged. The only light for the benighted soul, the only testimony that brings eternal life to the dead sinner, is the Word of God, received by faith.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 349-355.
The chapter opens with instruction which follows from what we have already seen. The Jewish system was judged. It was to be left entirely behind. Present favour and earthly prosperity were no test's of God's estimate. That which is unseen will entirely reverse the actual condition of things. Lazarus quits the world for Abraham's bosom, the rich man is afterwards tormented in hell; but from both the infinite moment of the Word of God is seen for every soul.
Here the Lord lets the disciples425 know the certainty of stumbling-blocks in such a world as this, and the awful doom of those who cause them. "It would be more profitable426 for him if a millstone* were hanged about his neck and he were cast into the sea," (Cf. Matt. 18:6f.) says the Lord about any one so offending others. Hence we have to take heed to ourselves, as His disciples; and while guarding against being caused to stumble by others, we have to cherish the grace of God which is as essential to Christianity as the law was to the Jews as their rule. "Take heed to yourselves; if thy brother should sin, rebuke him; and if he should repent, forgive him." (Matt. 18:15.) It supposes that there is an evil course and current in the world, which may affect every one's brother; but grace is never intended to weaken the moral reprobation of what is evil. "If thy brother should sin, rebuke him; and if he should repent, forgive him."
*"Millstone": so Edd. after ℵBDL, 1, 69, Old Lat. Memph. Arm. In Matt. 18:6, and Mark 9:42, it is "millstone turned by an ass," as here in A, etc., Syrr..
Repentance is a great word, altogether contrary to the bent of human will. Man may make efforts, but will never repent. Only grace gives real repentance, which, when used in its proper sense, means simply and invariably the judgment of self. Now, this man will never bend to. Amends he may offer, he may endeavour to do good, and repair the evil: but to own self thoroughly wrong without qualification, reserve, or endeavouring to throw the blame on others, is never the nature of man, but the result of the working of Divine grace, and true, therefore, of every soul that is truly renewed. It is impossible for a sinner to be brought to God without repentance. Faith, no doubt, is the spring of all; it alone gives power by the revelation of grace in the person and work of Christ; but repentance is the invariable consequence or concomitant. And so it is in particular cases, as here in trespass, as, "If he should repent, forgive him." This was more especially needful to urge on a Jew, accustomed as he was to severity. And further, grace would hinder one from being wearied any more by ill-doing in others than in well-doing on our part. "If he should sin against thee* seven times in the day, and seven times† should return to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him." (Matt. 18:21f.) It is seven times as showing the failure complete, and in a day, too, as adding to the trial. To men's minds this would indicate the hopelessness of any good in forgiveness. But it is so that God deals with us: He is unwearied in His grace. If it were not so, it would be all over with us, not only when in our sins but even as believers.426a
*"Sin." DXΓΔ, etc., most cursives (33, 69), add "against thee," which Edd. omit, following ℵABL, 1, Syrr. Amiat. Memph.
†"Seven times (second time). AGD, etc., most cursives, Syrr. Amiat. Aeth. add "in the day"; rejected by Edd. after ℵBDLX, most Old Lat. Memph. Arm.
Cf. Mark 10:24.
Nevertheless the apostles (for so it is expressed here for our instruction) — "the apostles said to the Lord, Give more faith to us." They felt that such a demand was entirely beyond them.426b "But the Lord said, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard [seed] ye had said unto this sycamine tree,427 Be thou rooted up, and be thou planted in the sea; and it would have obeyed you." (Matt. 17:20; Matt. 21:21 Mark 11:23.) Thus faith works what is impossible to man, to nature; and this, too, wherever there is a grain of reality, be it over so small. For whether faith be little or strong, if real, it brings in God; and God is the same God in answer to little faith as to great. There may be a great difference as regards the result for sensible enjoyment; but God answers in His grace the feeblest exercise of faith in Him. "If ye have* faith as a grain of mustard [seed], ye had said unto this sycamine tree, Be thou rooted up, and be thou planted in the sea [an entire contrariety to the course of nature], and it would have obeyed you." We must always hold, as believers, the superiority of God to all circumstances.
*"Have": so Edd. as ℵABFL, etc., 1, 33, 69. DEGH, Old Lat. "had."
At the same time, we have a place of duty here; and the Lord reminds us, therefore, not only of the power of faith above every obstacle, but of the tone of conduct that becomes us in doing our duties, or rather when we have done them. "But which of you [is there] who, having a bondman ploughing or shepherding, when he comes out of the field will say,* Come and lie down immediately to table? But will he not say unto him, Prepare what I shall sup on, and gird thyself and serve me that I may eat and drink; and after that thou shalt eat and drink?428 Is he thankful to the† bondman because he has done what was ordered?‡ I judge not."§ Grace in no way weakens the duty that we owe. There are certain proprieties which we must never give up, and of which the Lord here reminds His apostles. The master in such a case does not thank the servant; it is but his obligation, the discharge of the service he undertakes, what he cannot, therefore, forget or omit without wrong.429 "Thus ye, also, when ye shall have done all things that have been ordered you, say, We are unprofitable bondmen; we have done|| that which it was our duty to do."
*"Will say." Edd. (Revv.) add "unto him," following ℵBDLX, 1, 69, Syrr. Old Lat. Memph. Blass, with A, etc., Goth. omits.
†"The": so Edd. after ℵcorr ABDLX, Memph. EΔ, etc., have "that."
‡"Ordered." DX, 69, Amiat. Memph. add "him," which Edd. reject, after ABELΔ, etc., 1.
§"I judge not": so Weiss, after Meyer, with AΓ, etc., most cursives, most Old Lat. (33, 69), Syrr. Amiat. Goth. Other Edd., with Alford and Milligan, omit, following BLX, 1, Memph. Arm. Aeth.
||"We h. d." EXΔ, etc., have "for w. h. d." Text, as Edd., after ℵABDL, 1, Old Lat. Memph.
People are sometimes apt to think that the proper owning of our unprofitable service is when we do not the things commanded; so at least they speak. But the Lord teaches us to feel that we are but unprofitable servants when we have done all the things that are commanded. Not to do our duty is a real wrong to the Master; but when we have done all, it becomes us to say, "We are unprofitable bondmen, we have done that which it was our duty to do." All we are commanded is short of that which Christ deserves; and we have to do with the Christ of God. When we have done that which was our duty to do, is love satisfied? It would go further. Christ loved to obey, ever doing what was enjoined, and hence suffered to the utmost in grace to us and to the glory of God. So love is the fulfilling of the law; and in it we are now called to walk as Christ also loved us and gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. We are indeed unprofitable servants; yet how rich is the place into which grace brings us even now!430
The incident that is here recorded completely falls in with what we have seen. The Spirit of God is indicating not only the break-up of Judaism but the introduction of better things, and very particularly of the liberty of grace. By and by we shall have the liberty of glory; but the saints of God are now entitled to the liberty of grace. Creation will never know this; it "will be delivered from the bondage of corruption to the liberty of the glory of the children of God." (Romans 8:21.)
"And it came to pass, as he was going up to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst431 of Samaria and Galilee." The scene lay in the despised quarters of the land. "And as he entered into a certain village, ten leprous men met him, who stood afar off."432 This is a remarkable miracle, peculiar to our Evangelist, who brings before us several incidents of similar character, that are given nowhere else. The selection of the Spirit of God, to carry forward the object He had in view in so inspiring Luke, is thereby manifest. "And they lifted up [their] voice, saying, Jesus, Master, have compassion on us. And seeing [them] he said to them, Go, show yourselves unto the priests." The Lord thereby exercised the faith of those addressed, while at the same time He maintained the order of the law for those who are under it. It was a requisition under the law that, if a man was cured, without saying how the cure could be, if the plague of leprosy was healed, the man must present himself to the priest and be cleansed. This was laid down with particular care and detail in Leviticus 14. It was an important requirement in this way, for it became a testimony to the power of God that now wrought on earth. For the question would naturally arise: How came these lepers to be cured? This would at once draw attention to the fact that Jesus was there, and that He was really the vessel of God's power in grace.
Hence, too, the Lord sometimes, as we read elsewhere, touched the leper. But here these men stood afar off. It was not that there was not grace enough in Christ to touch them, but their feeling according to the law was to stand afar off. It was perhaps right in them that it should be so, as it was certainly the grace of His heart that made Him touch the leper who prostrated himself at His feet. So we see in Mark 1:41. These men, however, standing afar off, lifted up their voice and prayed for His mercy; and His answer was, as with a leper always, "Go show yourselves unto the priests."
But there was another notable feature brought out in the present case, if there was no touch as the sign of the power that removed the leprosy without contracting defilement, which could only therefore be the power of God, which was above the law, even while He maintained the law. In this case there was a trial of faith, so much the more because they were afar off, and they were bidden to go and show themselves to the priests, without such words as "Be ye cleansed." The Lord did not use that expression in every case, as far as Scripture records. Hence it was, as they went, they were cleansed. They had to go first. They felt nothing the moment they were bidden to go. It was "as they were going they were cleansed."
"And one of them, seeing that he was cured" — for this could not be hid — "turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice." Surely this is highly remarkable, though given here only. The lepers were told to go and show themselves to the priests: one of them, and one alone, turned back, when he saw that he was healed, "glorifying God with a loud voice, and fell on [his] face at his feet, giving him thanks. And he was a Samaritan."432a We have grace therefore in this place for the worst. But the lowest object of grace is very often the one who enters most into the fullness of grace in God. He may be the neediest among men; but the very depth of his need shows what God is; and hence grace is often seen and enjoyed more simply by a long way than by others who might boast of much better privileges. Certainly it was so here. This Samaritan was far more simple in his thoughts of God, and at once concluded what Jesus must be, not perhaps definitely and distinctly as to His personal glory. At least, he was quite sure that Jesus was the best Representative of God's power and grace in that land. If, therefore, he was to show himself to any one, he would go to Him; if he was to glorify God, it must surely be at the feet of Jesus. He, consequently, who was the farthest removed from the formality of the law and ritual, could all the more readily go straight to Jesus.
"And Jesus answering said, Were not the ten cleansed? but* the nine, where are they! There have not been found to return and give glory to God, save this stranger." Now, this is most worthy of our consideration. The Lord Jesus accepts the thanksgiving of this man as being the peculiar token of his faith. The others had equally received a blessing; it was not that they were not thankful, but this man alone had returned to give glory to God, this stranger. The others might show themselves to the priests, carrying out the letter of the word of Jesus; but this stranger's heart was right and his spiritual instinct was of faith. There is nothing good for the soul without the sense of the glory of God. The Samaritan might not have been able to explain, but his heart was thoroughly true and Divinely guided. He was therefore far more right than others who seemed to reason better. The other nine might plead that he was presumptuous, disobedient, and not, like them, acting on the word of the Lord; for Jesus had distinctly told them they must go and show themselves to the priests; whereas he without any express command had turned back to show himself to Jesus, and give thanks at His feet. And appearances favour unbelief.
*"But": so ℵBLX, etc.; AD omit, as Nestle after Tisch., W. H., who questioned it.
But Jesus vindicated him in coming and approved the boldness of his faith, which acted at once on what he instinctively felt to be due to the Lord Jesus. What is still more striking, the Lord says to him, "Rise up and go thy way: thy faith has made thee whole." There is not a word of showing himself to the priest now. He had found God in his soul. He, in the healing of his leprosy, had proved the gracious power of God, he recognised it in Jesus, and so gave Him glory.
When a soul is thus brought to God, there is no question of showing oneself to priests on earth. Priests had their place once for those who were under the law. But when grace delivered from it (in principle only then, for it was not yet the precise time to break down the wall of partition for all), the delivered soul could not possibly be left, still less put, under the law. Therefore says the Lord, "Rise up, and go thy way: thy faith has made thee whole." It is a striking prefiguration of the Gentile who is not under law like the Jew (never was, indeed), and who, when brought to God by His grace now and cleansed from all his defilements, is certainly not put under law. As the apostle says, "Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:14.) He was to go his way in liberty of heart. This is the calling of a Christian. Christ does not call to the bondage of law. He makes us His freemen, though no doubt also bondmen to Himself. This is a very different thing from being under law, which the Christian is not, even if he had once been a Jew.
The kingdom of God was the national hope of Israel. It was before the minds of all who looked for good from God. It was bound up with the Messiah's presence. Such is the way in which the Kingdom is presented in the Old Testament. Nor does the New Testament in any way set this aside, but confirms the expectation only it discloses the Kingdom in another shape before it is introduced in power when the Lord returns in glory.
Of this, however, the Pharisees knew nothing. They demanded of Him when the kingdom of God should come, thinking only of that which is to be manifest when the Jews shall be brought back from all their wanderings, and restored in their full nationality to the land under the Messiah, and the new covenant. The Lord, as throughout Luke, shows something more and deeper, something that demanded faith, before the establishment of the Kingdom in power. He answers them therefore, "The kingdom of God doth not come with observation." This was what was morally important to know now. The Kingdom would surely come as they looked for it in its own day, and the Lord distinctly lets us see this afterwards. But first of all He insists, as was most according to God, on that which they knew not, and which it most concerned them to know: "The kingdom of God doth not come with observation," (Matt. 24:23) or outward show.434 "Nor shall they say, Lo here, or, Lo* there; for lo, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." Of this they were wholly ignorant, and this ignorance is fatal: for it was not to know God's king, when He manifested the true power of the Kingdom in victory over Satan, and over all the results of man's subjection to infirmity in this world — when He manifested it positively in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, the dependent and obedient Man, but in the unfailing power of God which wrought by Him. To all this they were blind; they valued it not, because they valued not God. They did desire as a nation that which would elevate them, and overthrow their enemies; they did not desire that which exalts God and humbles man.
*"Lo" (Treg. text) is attested by AD and all later uncials and cursives (1, 33, 69), Amiat.; but other Edd. omit, as ℵBL.
The Lord, therefore, in this His answer, first meets the moral need of the Pharisees, and shows that in the most important sense now, from the time of His rejection till His return in glory, it is no question of "Lo here, and lo there," but of faith to own the glory of His person, and to recognise that the power which wrought is God's. "The kingdom of God is in the midst of you." It was in their midst and they saw it not, because they saw not Him. They thought little of Jesus. This is ruin to every soul who hears but refuses the testimony.435
It will be observed that it is the kingdom of God, not of heaven. It is never said, while Jesus was here, that the kingdom of heaven was come; but Matthew confirms this report in Luke, were that needed, and represents the Lord as saying (Matthew 12:28), "If I by [the] Spirit of God cast out the demons, then, indeed, the kingdom of God is come upon you." The character of the power proclaimed God's kingdom. He was victor of Satan, and cast out his emissaries: none but the Seed of the woman, the Son of David, could do this. It was reserved for Him. (Matt. 28:18.) Others might, as God's servants, but He, as the Beloved, in whom His soul delighted. Those who cast the devil out, by God's gracious use of them, were their judges. Satan is not against Satan: else his kingdom would fall. But Messiah was there then, the King of God's kingdom, yet the Jews recognised it not. They rejected Him and He accepts His own rejection, but is exalted in heaven. Thence the kingdom of heaven begins, the rule of the heavens over the earth, now only known really to faith, the responsibility for those who are baptized to walk accordingly. Indeed, thus comes what is commonly called Christendom, the great field where not only wheat but tares grow together. It is, of course, also called the kingdom of God, as always in Luke. Matthew alone speaks of the kingdom of heaven, but he never speaks of the kingdom of heaven save as preached or promised, until the Lord left the earth. In short the kingdom of God was there when Christ was there, the conqueror over Satan, and exhibiting in every direction morally the power of the Spirit. But the kingdom of heaven was not there till from heaven He introduced His rule over the earth.436 When He returns in glory, it will be still the kingdom of heaven: the rule of the heavens will never be lost, certainly not when the Kingdom comes in power and glory.
Luke 17:22-24. Matt. 24:23f.
But the Lord next addresses the disciples, and says, "Days are coming when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see [it]."437 Here He can speak freely of the future form of the Kingdom, of which alone the Pharisees thought. The disciples had received the Lord by faith; and, however little intelligent they might be, they apprehended the kingdom of God among them. Hence the Lord could give them Divine light as to the future, when He should establish the Kingdom visibly. "Days are coming when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see [it]." He opens to them His rejection, as well as the efforts of Satan during his rejection. "And they will say unto you, Lo here; or, Lo there. Go not nor follow [them]." (Verse 23.) False Christs should arise; but they were forewarned. "For as the lightning which lightening from [one end] under heaven shines to [the other end] under heaven, thus* shall the Son of man be in his day."† There will be no question of "Lo here, or, Lo there when Christ comes again any more than when He was here. It was unbelief to say, See here, and See there, when Christ was present in the power that revealed Who He must be and was. It will be unbelief by and by to say, See here, and See there; for the Kingdom will be established in power. They were not to follow such rumours but to heed His Word. He returns not merely as the rejected Messiah, but as the Son of man, the exalted ruler of all nations, peoples, and tongues. His Kingdom shall be manifested under the whole heaven as He comes from heaven.438
*"Thus." D, with some minuscules, adds "also," which Edd. reject, after ℵABL, etc., 1, 69, Syrr. Amiat. Memph.
†"In his day": so ℵAL, later uncials, most cursives and versions (Syrrcu sin: "the day of the S. of m."). Blass omits, following BD, Old Lat.
Matt. 24:37-39; Mark 8:31.
"But first he must suffer many things and be rejected of this generation." This was in principle going on then; the Cross would be its consummation. The moral order is thoroughly according to God: first must He suffer. So we read in 1 Peter 1:11 of the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow. It must be so in a sinful world for one who seeks not his own glory, but God's, and the real and eternal good of man. It would be impossible to take the Kingdom when man is in a state of sin and rebellion. In grace, then, He accepts the rejection which was inexcusable on their part: and in His rejection He accomplishes atonement. Hence God can righteously introduce the Kingdom with many a rebel pardoned. Only this goes on now whilst He is gathering out the Church, before the Kingdom is set up in visible power. "First he must suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation." The Christ-rejecting generation was then and continues right through. In the crisis of the latter day, at the end of the age, this generation will still be there. "This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled." In the millennial age there will be a new generation who shall praise the Lord and glorify Him for His mercy. But "this generation" is a perverse one, children in whom is no faith. Such were and are the Jews; and such will they abide, till judgment shall have dealt with the mass, who will have fallen into an apostate state and have accepted the Antichrist, leaving only the true remnant - who shall become a strong nation, the "all Israel" - who "shall be saved" in that day.439
The Lord next refers to the days of Noah: so should it be in His own days when He comes as the Son of man. It is no question either of receiving the Church or of judging the dead, though the latter will follow at the end, as the former precedes. Here it is distinctly the judgment of the quick on the earth, a truth which has very generally passed out of the mind of Christendom. "They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all [of them]." This cannot refer to any but those alive upon the earth surprised by the deluge. "And in like manner as took place in the days of Lot; they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded." There was progress in the world; civilisation had advanced, but was it better morally? "But in the day that Lot went out from Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all [of them]." Men too easily forget that a judgment incomparably more comprehensive, but after the pattern of these two Divine interventions, awaits the world, and more particularly that part of it which has been favoured with the testimony of God. There can be no delusion more ruinous than the notion that because there is much good in the midst of Christendom its doom will not come. The Lord lingers in order to save souls. Such is His long-suffering and grace, but He "is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness." (2 Peter 3:9.) When His own are gathered out, judgment will proceed so much the more sternly because His grace was seen, its fruits manifested, and His warnings given in vain. As it was then in the days of Noah and in the days of Lot, - "after this [manner] shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed." For the Lord speaks only of His revelation from heaven in the judgment of the world, not at all of translating the saints to be with Himself in the Father's house.440
"In that day, he who shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not go down to take it away; and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back." It is no question of the destruction of Jerusalem,441 any more than that of the final judgment; and it is absurd to apply it to death. But the mind of man is fertile in expedients to parry the blows of the truth. It is a testimony which keeps the advent of the Lord Jesus to judge the habitable world ever hanging over the heads of careless men.
"Remember Lot's wife." This is a moral touch for those who might seem safer than others, but are not saved. It is peculiar to Luke, and a most searching word for every one whose face and heart are not steadily fixed on the Lord, for she was very near to Lot and seemed to have passed out of all reach of judgment. But her heart was in the city to which she looked back, and she heeded not the admonition of God's messengers, but in her destruction proved the truth of the word which she believed not.442 "Whosoever shall seek to save* his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose it shall preserve it."443 There is no security any more than real happiness save in faith, and faith is ever obedient to the Word of the Lord.
*"To Save" (σῶσαι): so ℵARXΓΔΛΠ and yet later uncials, most cursives, Vulg. — Blass reads "to preserve" (ζωογονῆσαι) with D. Other Edd.: "to acquire," as BL and some Old Lat.
"I say unto you, in that night there shall be two [men] upon one bed* one shall be taken444 and the other let go. Two [women] shall be grinding together; the one † shall be taken and the other let go." Here again the proof is complete and palpable, that it is no question of the Romans dealing with Jerusalem and the Jews, for the conqueror made no such discrimination among the conquered, nor is it any other providential judgment executed by man, for he is incapable of thus distinguishing. But it is not so with the Son of man, who will thus judge between cattle and cattle whether among the Jews or among the Gentiles.
*"One bed": so most copies. BC omit "one." "One" (Treg.) Blass retains "the one" of T.R., with ℵB, 1, 69.
†"The one": so Elzevir (1624) with ℵcorr. BDR, 1, 69 (Edd.).
Judged by the witnesses, verse 36 would appear to have no sufficient authority in our Gospel, but seems plainly to have been imported from the Gospel of Matthew, where it finds its just place.*
*Cf. the uncials DU alone, the Syrr. (including sin.) and most Old Lat. have this verse (Elzevir), Edd. in general reject (from Matthew).
"And answering they say to him, Where, Lord? And he said to them, Where the body [is], there* the eagles will be gathered together." The executors of God's judgment will not fail to find themselves where an object demands it in that day. Power and righteousness are then together, and a wisdom adequate even to that great occasion. It is the day of Jehovah for the world. The area of judgment is not limited to Judea as in Matthew 24, where a similar but stronger phrase appears — and indeed there is much in common between the two passages. That the Jews may be before the Lord here, too, as the prominent persons warned, is very possible. It is always so where the dealings of God with man and the earth are found; for Israel is Jehovah's son, His firstborn. When the Church or Christians are in view it is not so; for there the distinctions of the Jew or Gentile disappear before Him whom we have put on, and in whom is neither Jew nor Greek. The attempt to apply the passages to the Lord's coming for us, or at least not to distinguish between this and His appearing for the judgment of man, Jew or Gentile, is, that people construe "the eagles" as "the saints"! from Ambrose and Chrysostom, etc., down to Luther and Calvin, etc., and even to Burgon and Wordsworth in our days. They are still more perplexed as to "the body," some taking it as "Christ!" others as the "Church," no less than "the eagles others as "the Lord's supper"; some as "the judgment"; others as "heaven"; and none really knowing anything rightly about the matter. Most moderns take "the eagles" as "the Romans," and "the body" as Jerusalem and the Jews. This is nearer the truth, but inadequate when simply applied to the past. M. Henry thinks that "the eagles" may mean both "the saints" and "the Romans"; and Ryle thinks it very probable that all the interpretations hitherto proposed will prove at last incorrect! I have given not nearly all the opinions: but my readers will agree that I have given at least enough, and that miserable comforters are they all, especially such as think that the truth remains to be discovered only at the Second Advent. There is not much living faith in such thoughts. What a descent from our Lord's promise, in John 16:13, now fulfilled: "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all the truth . . . and he will show you things to come."
*After "there," Edd. add "also," after ℵBL, etc., 69, Memph.
NOTE. - Quotation marks agree with the author's article in "Bible Treasury," October, 1871, approved by himself, and were possibly intended to emphasise the number of conflicting interpretations.
* Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 355-363.
Whether the parable of the importunate widow was uttered as the sequel to the preceding discourse, I am not prepared to say; but this at least is plain, that the parable connects itself very naturally with what had just gone before, though there seems to me a more general form of the truth also (as is common with our Evangelist) so as to fit in admirably with what follows. It forms, therefore, a pendant as well as a transition.
But the connection with Luke 17 is of importance if it were only to guard from the unfounded idea that its direct application is ecclesiastical, that the widow is the Church, and the judge her God and Father in heaven. Such notions are as far as possible from the context, as well as the contents of the parable; and the error lies incomparably deeper than missing the scope of the Scripture before us. It is of the deepest moment to understand as a Divine truth, in our estimate of relationship with God, that Israel was in the position of the married wife (Jeremiah 2; Ezekiel 16) with Jehovah; whereas the marriage-supper of the Lamb is not celebrated till after the saints, changed into His likeness, are translated to heaven, and Babylon has been judged under the last vial of God's wrath. (Revelation 19.) Hence, whatever the anticipative power of faith in realising our place as the bride before the consummation, and whatever the closeness of exhortation founded on Christ's relation to the Church, the apostle speaks of betrothing us to one man or husband to present as a chaste virgin to Christ. So, on the other hand, the specific form of Israel's unfaithfulness was adultery, as we hear so often in the prophets. But it is not so in Christendom, where the grievous corruption is designated under the figure of a great harlot, not an adulteress. (Revelation 17.) The assumption that we are like Israel, the married wife, falsifies our attitude both toward our Lord Jesus and toward the world. it Judaises the Church instead of leaving her in her proper place of waiting for Christ in holy separateness from the world.
Babylon the great, who falsely arrogates this place to herself, naturally follows it up by saying in her heart, "I sit a queen and I am no widow" (as poor Zion is) "and shall see no sorrow"; and so she has glorified herself and lives deliciously. "Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death and mourning and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her." (Rev. 18:7f.) But here have we no continuing city, though we seek one to come; and in this world we look for tribulation, and through much tribulation to enter the kingdom, being content, yea joyful, to show Christ's rejection where He was put to shame and death, and assured of appearing with Him when He appears in glory. Hence, though we suffer meanwhile with Christ, and glory in affliction, distress, and insult for His name's sake, it is not as orphans or as widowed; for we enjoy the adoption of sons to our God and Father, and are one spirit with the Lord; but for this very reason we are in the secret of the Divine counsels, and await His coming who is on high, not of the world as He is not, till the day arrives for Him to take the world-kingdom and for us to reign with Him. Thus we "reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us." (Rom. 8:18.) Refusing to assume the air of the wife in rest and possession of His inheritance, we feel that our sorrow here is joined with the communion of His love before He comes to receive us to Himself and to display us with Himself before the world.
In short, then, the parable touches the godly Jewish Remnant rather than the Christian when we come to the exact application of the widow; and this falls in aptly with those saints involved in the judgment of the quick described just before, where one shall be taken and the other left — an earthly scene, it is plain, without a word implying translation to heaven. Still, the Holy Spirit gives the exhortation a more general bearing and with the moral purpose we have so often remarked in our Evangelist. Every saint should profit by it.
"And he spoke also* a parable to them, to the purport that they† should always pray, and not faint, saying, There was a judge in a city, not fearing God, and not respecting man. And there was a widow in that city, and she came445 to him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary; and he would not for a time; but afterwards he said within himself, If even I fear not God, and respect not man,446 at any rate because this widow annoys me, I will avenge her, that she may not by perpetual coming completely harass447 me."
*The καί "also" [in AD, etc.] is omitted by some of the best authorities [ℵBLM, some cursive manuscripts [13, 69, etc.], besides Old Lat.]. But, without it the reference or address is certainly to the disciples (αὐτοῖς and αὐτούς), not about other men, as in the A.V. (B.T.)
†"They": so Edd., following ℵABKL, etc., 69, Memph. Arm. It is omitted in DEG, etc., and many cursives (as 1).
The reflection which the, Lord adds as its second part and application makes all plain to the instructed ear. "And the lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God at all avenge his elect, who cry to him day and night, and he bears* long as to them.448 "I say unto you that he will avenge them speedily. But when the Son of man comes, shall he indeed find faith on the earth?" It is an à fortiori analogy, which no more views the unjust judge as God than the unjust steward449 in Luke 16 means the disciple. In the two cases it is a powerful or a consolatory appeal. Jesus would encourage one always to pray without fainting if the answer seem to tarry and evil to abound. Even the unrighteous judge would rather see to the right of the most friendless and feeble than be ever stunned with appeals. How much more shall not God interfere on behalf of His elect against their enemies! It is true that He bears long as to His own; but he will avenge them soon, as all will own when the blow falls.
*"And he bears": so Edd., after ℵABDL, etc., 1, Syrrcu sin Arm., although "bearing" (T.R.) is found in ΓΔΛR, 69.
The attentive reader will note that the deliverance as well as the prayers are Jewish in character,* not patient grace like the Christians. It is not by their going up to meet the Lord, but by Divine judgment on their foes. Still, there is real faith in thus crying day and night to God, Who, if He delay, is not slack concerning His promises, but is bringing souls to, repentance that they too might be saved. And there is perseverance till the answer is given. When the Lord comes, there are elect saints already glorified with Him (Revelation 17:14; 19:14); but here they are on earth crying to God till He takes vengeance on those who wronged them. It would seem also, from the question which the Lord puts and does not answer, that faith will be rare then as in the days of Noah and Lot, when few were saved and some nearest to the saved were lost — so feeble and fluctuating the faith, too, that only He could find it.450
*I cannot agree with Mr. [Bp. J. C.] Ryle (who seems to follow, in this, "Trench on the Parables"), that Irenaeus and Hippolytus were far astray in seeing earthly Jerusalem in the widow, though it is hard to say why the unjust judge is Antichrist in particular [see note 449 in App.]. Vitringa's notion that the early Church is the widow, and the Roman Emperors the judge, is in my opinion not only more fanciful, but unsound in principle for reasons already given. There can be no doubt that the parable is meant only to encourage individuals in persevering prayer at any time.
The next section of our Gospel sets forth, first by a parable, then by facts, lastly by the words which passed between the Lord and the twelve, the characteristics which suit the kingdom of God. The connection is with this as we know it now, rather than with its display when the Son of man comes in judgment of the quick as in the preceding parable. Indeed, the exceeding breadth of the lesson about to be taught we learn in the words with which the Evangelist opens: "And he spoke also to some, who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and made nothing of all the rest [of them], this parable." It is no dispensational picture of the Divine ways with Jews and Gentiles; it is a moral delineation which tells us how God regards those who plume themselves on their correctness of ways as a ground of confidence with Him, and what His estimate is of those who are broken before Him because of their conscious and now to themselves loathsome sinfulness.
"Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee, standing, prayed thus to himself: God, I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men, rapacious, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax-gatherer. I fast twice in the week, I tithe every thing that I acquire.* And the tax-gatherer, standing afar off, would not lift up even his eyes to heaven, but was striking upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me the sinner. I say unto you, this [man] went down to his house† justified rather than that [other]; for every one who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he that humbles himself shall be exalted."
*"Possess" is the force of the perfect. Here it is rather "to come into possession of" (κτῶμαι). (B.T.)
†"To his house": so most Edd. with mass of authority. Blass omits, as D and Sah.
The Pharisee represents the religious world in its most respectable shape; the tax-gatherer, such as had no character to lose, but whatever he may have been, now truly penitent and looking to God's compassion in self-judgment. How different are the thoughts of God from those of men! A delicate difference is implied in the two forms of the word which we translate "standing" in each case. With the Pharisee the form (σταθείς) implies a stand taken, a putting himself in position, such as one might naturally do in addressing a speech to an assembly. With the tax-gatherer it is the ordinary expression for standing in contradistinction to sitting (ἑστώς).451
Again, the essence of the Pharisee's prayer, if prayer it can be called, is not a confession of sin nor an expression of need even, but a thanksgiving; and this, not for what God had done and been for him, but for what he himself was. He was not, like the rest of men, violent and corrupt, nor even as the tax-gatherer, of whom he cannot speak without a tinge of contempt — "this tax-gatherer." He finally displays his own habits of fasting452 and of religious punctiliousness. Not that he laid false claims; not that he excluded God, but he trusted, as a ground for acceptance, to his righteousness, and he made nothing of others'. He never saw his own sins in the sight of God.
The tax-gatherer, on the contrary, is filled with shame and contrition. He stands afar off with not even his eyes raised to heaven, and beats withal on his breast, saying, "God be compassionate to me, the sinner if ever there was one."453 There is no solid reason to infer that he pleads the Atonement in the word ἱλάσθητι. No doubt the idea of propitiating is expressed by the verb; but it is used far more widely, like its kindred word in Matthew 16:22, where no one could suppose such an allusion. Whatever the origin or usage of the word, we are not to suppose that the tax-gatherer in employing it thought of the day of atonement, or of the mercy-seat in the holiest; still less are we warranted to attribute to him an intelligence of the mighty work of redemption which Jesus was soon about to accomplish. The word might allude to propitiation; but that he did so in his crying to God thus is another matter altogether. We easily transfer to souls before the death of Christ a knowledge which, however simple and clear to us since the Cross, could not be possessed before.
And this misapprehension has led to another, that the Lord was here pronouncing the tax-gatherer justified as we are who believe in the Lord Jesus and His blood. But this is not the teaching of the passage. The strong assertion of Archbishop Trench that it is, and the fact that Roman Catholic theologians deny it, need neither allure nor deter. It is in vain to say that the sentence of our Lord is that the publican was justified by faith at the time when he is described as going down to his house. There is a distinct comparison with the Pharisee, and it is affirmed that the tax-gatherer went down justified rather than the former. Had justification by faith been meant as in Romans 3-5, no such statement could have been made. There are no degrees in the justification of which Paul speaks
the Lord implies that there are in what He speaks of. Besides the form of the word differs. He is said to have gone down, not dikaiwqeiv" absolutely, but dedikaiwmevno" . . . garj ejkei'non.*454 I do not doubt that this is the true text.†
*The perfect is used as to the state of the Christian viewed as dead with Christ to sin — discharged or cleared from it in God's sight (Rom. 6:7). (B.T.)
† "Rather than" (ἤ): so A and all the later uncials. W.H., after Treg., adopt the neutral text γαῤ ἐκεῖνον, above or beside that (other), in ℵBL, Old Lat. Sah. Memph. Blass adds μᾶλλον, as D. See, further, note 454, in App.
The common English version seems quite correct, though founded, no doubt, on the vulgarly received text, ἢ ἐκεῖνος. The great mass of uncials and cursives join in giving the strange reading ἢ γὰρ ἐκεῖνος, followed even in his eighth edition by Tischendorf, spite of the Sinai MS. which casts its weight into the scale of the Vatican (B) and Parisian 62 (L), not to speak of D with its not infrequent additions, and some few other authorities.
Dean Alford shows us the danger of misapplying the case to justification, which is his own view, by the remark he adds: "Therefore, he who would seek justification before God must seek it by humility and not by self-righteousness." It is the more to be regretted that this glaring error should have been made by one who had just confessed that we are not to find any doctrinal meanings in ἱλάσθητι. It would have been more consistent not to have pressed δεδικαιωμένος similarly.455
Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16.
From the homily on lowliness in view of our sins we are now to receive another, lowliness because of our insignificance. "And they brought to him also infants that he might touch them; but the disciples when they saw [it rebuked them. But Jesus calling them to [him] said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter into it."457 (Matt. 18:3.) The babes were of great price in the eyes of Jesus, not of the disciples, who, if not rabbis themselves, would have lowered their Master to the level of such an one in contempt of little ones. But this could not be suffered, for it was not the truth. Neither the Son nor the Father so feel toward the weak and evidently dependent. Nor is this. all: "of such is the kingdom of God." Those who enter into His kingdom must by grace receive the Saviour and His word as a child that of its, parents. Self-reliance is excluded and replaced by dependence on God in the sense of our own nothingness.
Matt. 19:16-29; Mark 10:17-30.
Next comes the young and rich ruler, who went away sorrowfully from Christ rather than give up the self-importance attached to his manifold possessions. "And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Teacher, having done what shall I inherit life eternal? 457a And Jesus said to him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, God.*458 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honour thy father and thy mother.458a And he said, All these things have I kept from my† youth. And Jesus on hearing [this]‡ said to him, One thing is lacking to thee yet: sell all that thou hast and distribute to poor [men], and thou shalt have treasure in the heavens§; and come, follow me. But he on hearing these things became very sorrowful, for he was exceedingly rich. And Jesus having seen him [become very sorrowful]|| said, How difficult shall those who have riches enter¶ into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to enter through a needle's eye than for a rich [man] to enter into the kingdom of God."
*"One, God": so most authorities (versions and MSS.), as AD, etc., Syrr., etc., followed by Edd. in text. ℵ and Bpm omit "΄ο" and thus read "one God."
†"My": so ℵA, etc., Syrsin Latt., etc. Recent Edd. omit, as BD Syrcu.
‡["This"]: so A, etc.; but Edd. omit, following ℵBDL, 1, 33, 69, Syrrcu sin pesch Memph.
§"The heavens": so Edd. after BD, Memph. (ℵALR having "heavens" without the article: so Tisch.). "Heaven" is the reading of PX, etc., Old Lat. Amiat.
||"Having seen him [become very sorrowful]": so ADΓΔ, etc., most cursives, Syrr. Old Lat. Edd. adopt "Seeing him, said," following ℵBL, 1, Memph.
¶"Shall . . . enter": so ℵADR, and later uncials in general, most cursives, Syrr. Old Lat. Edd. "do . . . enter," after BL.
The case is plain. The young ruler had no sense of sin, no faith in Christ as a Saviour, still less did he believe that a Divine person was there, which indeed He must be to save sinners. He appealed to Jesus as the best expression of goodness in man, the highest in the class in which he counted himself no mean scholar. The Lord answers him on the ground of his question. Did he ask the Lord as the good master or teacher, what thing doing he should inherit eternal life? He took his stand on his own doing; he saw not that he was lost and needed salvation. It had never occurred to him that man as such was out of the way, none good, no, not one. That Jesus was the Son of God and Son of man sent to save was a truth to him unknown. The Lord brings in the commandments of the second table: but his conscience was untouched: "All these things have I kept from my youth."458b "One thing is lacking to thee yet," said Jesus to the self-satisfied yet dissatisfied ruler, conscious that he had not eternal life and that he had no solid security for the future — "Sell all that thou hast, and distribute to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me." The conscience which had resisted the test of law fell at the first touch of Jesus. "And hearing this he became very sorrowful, for he was exceedingly rich."459
Yet how infinitely did the demand fall short of what we know and have in the Master, good indeed, God indeed, who never laid on others a burden which He had not borne,460 who bore one immeasurably greater and under circumstances peculiar to Himself, and for ends redounding to the glory of God, and with the result to every sinful creature on earth of a testimony of grace without limit, and of a blessing without stint where He is received! To the ruler it was overwhelming, impossible, the annihilation of all he valued; for indeed now it was evident that he loved his riches, money, mammon, a thing he had never suspected in himself before; but there it had been all along, discovered now in presence of and by Him Who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. 2 Cor. 8:9. The ruler valued his position and his property, and could not bear to have nothing and be nothing. Oh, what a contrast with Him who "counted it not a matter of robbery to be on equality with God, but emptied Himself, taking a bondsman's form, born in likeness of men; and who, when found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself by becoming obedient as far as death, yea death of the cross." Phil. 2:6ff.
How plain, too, that worldly prosperity or wealth, fruit of fidelity according to the law, is a danger of the first magnitude for the soul, for eternity! And Jesus did not fail to draw the searching moral for the disciples, ever slow, through unjudged selfishness, to learn it. They knew not yet to what Christians are called, even to be imitators of God as dear children, and to walk in love according to the pattern of Christ. (Eph. 5:1f.) It is all but impossible, it is impossible, as far as man is concerned, for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.461 "And who can be saved?" is the remark of those who heard a sentence so counter to their secret desires.462 Jesus replied, "The things that are impossible with men are possible with God."462a There, is no other hope of salvation. It is of God, not of man. Yet to save cost God everything, yea His own Son. And "if the righteous are with difficulty saved, where shall the impious and the sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:18.) And why wonder at the danger to a rich man through the unrighteous mammon? None can serve two masters. Happy he who through grace makes wealth to be only for Christ's service, looking to have the true riches his own in everlasting glory
Matt. 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34.
"And Peter said, Behold we have left all* things and have followed thee. And he said to them, Verily I say unto you, There is no one who has left home, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who shall not get manifold more at this time, and in the age that is coming life eternal."463 But if Peter was thus prompt to speak of their losses for Christ, who certainly repays as God only can both now and through eternity according to the riches of His grace, "he taking the twelve to [him] said to them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all the things written by the prophets of the Son of man shall be accomplished; for he shall be delivered up to the nations and shall be mocked, and insulted, and spit upon; and when they have scourged him they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again." Again, what a contrast even with the thoughts and hopes of disciples! Alas! "they understood none of these things; and this word [or matter] was hidden from them, and they did not know what was said." So it ever is where the eye is not single. By faith we understand. Where nature is still valued by saints, the plainest words of Jesus are riddles even to such.465
*"All (πάντα) and": so Treg. (text) following ℵAPRXΔΛΠ, etc., most minuscules (33), Goth. Some excellent authorities [BDL, 1, etc., most Old Lat. Amiat. Memph.] have τὰ ἴδια, "our own" (so most Edd. and the Revv.). (B.T.)
Matt. 20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52.
The final scene approaches. Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem and to present Himself in the flesh to the Jews for the last time. Our Evangelist slowly traces this journey (Luke 9:51; Luke 13:22, 31, 33; Luke 17:11; Luke 18:31; Luke 19:28, 29, 37, 41), with the infinite consequences which flow from that cross which, to human eyes, was His rejection, but which faith knows to be the glorifying of God for ever, as well as the only possible ground of salvation for sinners.
Jericho held a remarkable place as the way to Jerusalem from the Jordan, and of old, when it stood in its might, the key of the position. Hence its solemn destruction under Joshua; hence the curse pronounced on him who should dare to rebuild it. But there Elisha, after the translation of Elijah and his own crossing through the miraculously parted river, healed the waters. So here the Lord, drawing towards the close of His long and last journey, after the transfiguration, performs a miracle of mercy on the blind man. It was an especial sign of His Messiahship; and rightly, therefore, led of God, did the blind man call on Him as Son of David: so the three synoptic Gospels carefully record.
It is to be observed, however, that not Mark nor Luke, but Matthew records the fact that two blind men were healed at this time. Further, Mark, who as usual adds details of the most graphic description, lets us know that the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus, was thus healed as the Lord was going out of Jericho, Matthew also intimating that it was on leaving, not entering, the place. Luke, on the other hand, has been generally supposed to say that the miracle was performed on entering Jericho. So all the old English translations, Wickliff, Tyndale, Geneva, Cranmer, the Rhemish, as well as the Authorised: so the Latin, Syriac, and other ancient versions, with most moderns.
But it appears to me that the Greek phrase is so constructed as to avoid any such conclusion, and that the genuine, unforced meaning is "while he was near to Jericho." According to the usage of the New Testament there might have been ground for the objection raised, if Luke had employed the genitive absolute. In strict grammatical nicety there is nothing to tie the sense to the entry into Jericho; it means equally well, as far as language is concerned, while the Lord was in the neighbourhood.
I cannot doubt that what weighed with translators in general is the fact that Luke 19 opens with the Lord's entering and passing through Jericho. Hence it was assumed that the previously mentioned circumstance must have preceded this in time. And it must be owned if Luke, as a rule, adhered to the order of occurrence in his account, it would be most natural to translate Luke 18:35 as in the Authorised Version. But it has been shown throughout our Gospel that he adopts another and deeper order than the mere sequence of events, and habitually groups the words, works, and ways of our Lord in moral connection, whenever it is needful to this end, putting together what may have been far apart in time.
In the present case it seems to have been in the mind of the Spirit that all three who dwell on the Galilean ministry of Christ should mark Jericho and the healing of the blind there as a common starting-point before His formal appearance in Jerusalem. We can understand, therefore, why Luke, even if the incident of Zacchaeus occurred after the miracle, should, according to his manner, postpone his account of it till he had told us of the blind man healed. But there seems to have been a yet stronger reason of a similar character in the fact that, if the healing had been introduced after Zacchaeus, when (I have no doubt) it really took place, adherence to the mere chronology of the facts would have spoilt the very impressive order actually adopted, in which we see the tale of Zacchaeus, with salvation brought to his house though a chief tax-gatherer, followed at once by the parable of the pounds, which together beautifully set forth the general character and differing objects of the two advents of the Lord, who was about to suffer as the Ground of righteousness and salvation for the lost, instead of at once establishing His throne in Zion as others fondly thought. If this were the design of the inspiring Spirit, as I conceive it certainly to be, gathered from the special character traceable throughout its course, it does not seem possible to suggest any other order so admirably calculated to convey it as that which is pursued. Hence the point in verse 35 was to choose a phrase which, while not breaking the thread of the narrative, and, of course, in words thoroughly consistent with the exact truth, should nevertheless convey the thought of a time or state during which the particular act related took place. This, in my opinion, has been done perfectly in the language of Luke: so much so that, granting the aim to be as I suppose, no man can desire better words to combine what is intimated, or to avoid a false inference for all aware of that design. If, on the contrary, men, however learned, assume a bare order of fact, this naturally would influence their translation; and so I think we may fairly account for the common mistake.
Accordingly there is no need of resorting to any of the various methods of reconciling Luke's account with Matthew and Mark. We are not driven to the harsh supposition that Luke's blind man was healed before entering Jericho, and that the news of this reached Mark's blind man, Bartimaeus, so that he went through a similar process of appeal on the Lord's exit, as Origen and Augustine supposed in early days, Greswell, etc., in our own time. Nor is it necessary (though undoubtedly quite legitimate, and the fact elsewhere) to suppose that Matthew combined the two instances in one summary. Less reasonable is the view of Euthymius, who will have it that all three instances were distinct, and, therefore, that four blind men were healed at this time near Jericho. Nor is there any substantial ground to argue, as men have done from Calvin to Wordsworth, that the blind man began crying as our Lord approached Jericho, but was not healed till another joined him outside, and both received sight as Jesus left the place. Still more violent are the hypotheses of Markland and of Macknight. The truth is that there is nothing in this to reconcile, all that being evidently harmonious, when the language of Luke is seen to be such as falls in with the time and place described more precisely by Matthew and Mark. It may be well, however, to add that Matthew elsewhere names two where Mark and Luke as here speak only of one, as in the case of the demoniacs. (Compare Matthew 8:28-34 with Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39.) See also Matthew 9:27-31. This was all right, when the fact (as here) warranted it, in one writing especially for Jews, with whom it was a maxim to demand at least two witnesses. The other Evangelists were each led to dwell only on the one that best suited the design of his own Gospel.
It is striking also to note that as there was a reason why Matthew, and not Mark nor Luke, should record pairs which were healed, so there is the strongest indirect evidence in this against the very poor theory that the omissions of the first Evangelist were supplied in measure by the second, and yet more by the third and so on. For it was the earliest who in these instances speaks of the two; which is irreconcilable, on the supplementary theory,466 with the second and third mentioning but one. The Holy Spirit made them by His power the vessels for setting forth the various glories of Jesus the Son of God on the earth. Each had his own line given and perfectly carried out, and facts or sayings are recorded by each, whether reported by the others or not, as they bore on his proper objects.
"And it came to pass when he was in the neighbourhood of Jericho, a certain blind man was sitting by the wayside begging;467 and when he heard the crowd passing, he asked what this might be. And they told him that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by, and he called aloud, saying, Jesus, Son of David, pity me. And those in advance rebuked him that he should be silent; but he kept crying much more, Son of David, pity me. And Jesus stopped and ordered him to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, What wilt thou that I should do for thee? And he said, Lord, that I should receive my sight. And Jesus said, Receive sight: thy faith has healed thee. And immediately he received sight, and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people saw, and gave praise to God."
The Lord was still the rejected One, not understood even by His disciples, yet with a heart towards the most lowly and wretched in Israel who cried to Him in faith. The blind man near Jericho was one of them, and seized the moment of His presence, made known to his sightless eyes by the heedless noise of those who seeing saw not. Blindness in part had happened to Israel in good sooth, blindness most of all to such of them as least acknowledged it. Here was one who, near the city of the curse, dared to confess Him to be the Messiah Whom the religious chiefs had long desired to destroy, and sooner than they hoped were to be allowed to do so, and yet they dared to ask of Him that sign of opening the eyes of the blind peculiar to the Son of David, as even rabbinical tradition confessed. The story of His gracious power was not lost on the blind man. Now was his opportunity: might it not be the last? He called aloud; and the more rebuked, the more by far he cried. If to others Jesus was but the Nazarene, to him none other than David's Son. "Son of David, pity me." And never in vain goes forth the appeal of distress to Him. How pleasant in His ears the persistent call on His name! Jesus stops, commands him to be brought, inquires into his want, and gives all he asks. So will He in the day of His power when Israel (the remnant becoming the people) shall be made willing, shall call on Him and find sight, salvation, and every other good thing to the praise and glory of God.468
But it was still the day of His humiliation, of Israel's blind and wilful unbelief; and Jesus steadily pursued His sorrowful path to the Holy City about to perpetrate the most unhallowed deed of this world's sad history.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 363-368.
The account of Zacchaeus is one of those peculiar to Luke; and we may readily see how strikingly it furthers the moral aim of the Spirit in this Gospel. Its collocation too may be at once explained on the same principle, supposing, as I do, that the facts occurred while the Lord was passing through Jericho, whereas the blind man Bartimaeus did not receive sight till He was on His way outside. But it seemed good to the Holy Ghost here, as often similarly elsewhere, to bring the narrative of Zacchaeus into such a position with the parable that follows as to illustrate by them the general character, not only of His first advent but of His second, thereby correcting many a mistaken thought into which men, yea disciples, were apt to slip then and since.
"And he entered and was passing through Jericho; and behold a man by name called Zacchaeus,469 and he was chief tax-gatherer and he was rich. And he was seeking to see Jesus who he was, and could not for the crowd, because he was little in stature. And he ran on before and got up a sycamore469a that he might see him, because he was going to pass that [way]. And when he came to the place, Jesus looking up saw him and said to him, Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for today I must469b abide in thy house. And making haste he came down and received him joyfully."
The Lord had already in parables set forth Divine grace to the lost sinner as such, above all in the prodigal son. We have now the actual history of a publican, a chief tax-gatherer, and a rich man, to whom grace sent salvation that very day. But here it is well to distinguish what is often overlooked. Some allege that Zacchaeus was a man without the fear of God, and unconverted; others compare him with Simeon in the temple. We should not forget that salvation is more than new birth, that it could only then be pronounced by the Messiah, and that it is now in virtue of redemption proclaimed far and wide through faith in His name. It is the primary Christian blessing that a soul needs and receives in a dead and risen Christ; but it should never be confounded with that awakening which accompanies quickening by the Spirit. As the due understanding of this clears up many difficulties created by the confusion prevalent in Christendom from the days of the "fathers" till our own time, so it will be found helpful here. The Lord vindicated the grace of God toward one in the worst possible position, the loathing of the proud Pharisee. He who struggled against the many obstructions in the way, who hesitated not to cast off all conceit of dignity and to brave all ridicule in order to see Jesus, heard with astonishment the voice of the Good Shepherd call His sheep by name and invite Himself to remain at his house. Certainly He was none other than the Messiah, who could thus tell all things and would thus meet the desire of a heart that dared not hope for such an honour. What a wonder, yet no wonder! — He who knew all knew Zacchaeus; He who asked a drink from the Samaritan woman whose life He read asked Himself to the house of the chief tax-gatherer. It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God; so that they who heard said, "Who then can be saved?" Now He proves what He then answered, that the things which are impossible with men are possible with God; for assuredly He entered the house, not to get but to give.
But nothing is so unintelligible to a man as God's grace. "And when they saw [it] they all murmured,470 Saying that he had turned into lodge with a sinful man." How blessed that so He could, and so He would! How hopeless the blank for us if it were not so! It suits His love so to deal with those who have not the smallest claim.
"And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have by false accusation exacted anything of any man, I restore fourfold.471 And Jesus said to him, Today salvation is come472 to this house, inasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham:* for the Son of man came to seek and to save that which is lost."473 It is not that the Lord discredited the chief tax-gatherer's account of his feelings and ways. Such was his character, such his habits, in a sorrowful position doubtless, with a delicate if not scrupulous conscience. But why this before One Who had already proved that all was known to a heart that could not misjudge? Why talk even of what the Spirit had produced in presence of the salvation — bringing grace of God? The Lord denies not, spite of his occupation, that he too was a son of Abraham; but if He Himself were the Messiah, and at this very time presenting Himself as such for the last time on earth, beginning at Jericho, He was the Son of man in grace and humiliation on the way to death, yea, the death of the cross; the Son of man come to save what is lost. What else was worth speaking of? This day salvation was come to his house.
*Cyprian, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and others regard Zacchaeus as a Gentile. But this is manifestly unsound and inconsistent, even with the letter here, as it is a misconception of the ground of Jewish hatred against tax-gatherers. It was because they, being Jews, yet under cover of their Gentile lords bore hardly on their brethren, and often dishonestly. (B.T.)
Matt. 25:14-30; Matt. 24:47.
As this affecting incident maintains the activity of grace according to God's aim in the first advent of the Lord, even while He was testing them for the last time as the Messiah, so the following parable was uttered to dispel the wrong expectations which filled their minds who so soon had forgotten that first He must suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation, and that the introduction of the Lord's world-kingdom must await His second advent. Those who were on the stretch for the immediate setting up of that kingdom were self-deceived. If He was near Jerusalem, He was near the cross, not the manifestation of His kingdom yet. "But as they were hearing these things, he in addition spoke474 parable because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and they thought that the kingdom of God was about to be manifested 475 immediately. He said therefore, A certain high-born man went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.476 And he called ten of his own bondmen and delivered them ten minas,477 and said unto them, Trade while I am coming."*478 It is obvious that this is quite distinct from a similar parable in the last prophetic discourse on Olivet, and this not less certainly distinct in internal marks, as we shall see throughout. There the lord exercises his rights and gives as he pleases according to his knowledge of the varying capacities of his servants. Here all receive the same at starting, and their respective use of the deposit in business (figuratively) is the main point — the responsibility of the servants in the one, the sovereignty of the master in the other. Equally in contrast is the result in each: the good and faithful bondmen in Matthew alike enter into the joy of their lord, while in Luke each receives authority according to his labour and its fruit.
*"While I am coming": so Edd. after ℵABD, etc. The T.R. "till I come" is the reading of ΓΔΛ, and most of the later uncials, with nearly all minuscules (69).
Again, there are weighty moral instructions connected with this parable, but distinct from what we find later in Matthew. For here we read that, "His citizens hated him and sent a message after him, saying, We will not that this [man] should reign over us."479 Such was the spirit of the Jews, who not only rejected the Messiah, but, as another has well said, sent a message after Him as it were in the martyrs they slew, refusing Him glorified no less than in humiliation.
"And it came to pass on his return, having received the kingdom,480 that he desired his bondmen to whom he gave the money to be called to him in order that he might know what each had gained by trading. And the first came up saying, Lord, thy mina has produced ten minas. And he said to him, Well [done] thou good bondman, because thou hast been faithful in that which is least, be thou in authority over ten cities. And the second came saying, Lord, thy mina has made five minas. And he said also to this one, And thou, be over five cities. And the other came, saying, Lord, behold thy mina which I kept laid up in a napkin. For I feared thee, because thou art a harsh man: thou takest up what thou layedst not down, and reapest what thou didst not sow. He says* to him, Out of thy mouth I will judge thee, wicked bondman. Thou knewest that I am a harsh man, taking up what I laid not down, and reaping what I did not sow.481 And why gavest thou not my money into a† bank, and at my coming I should have received482 it with interest? And he said to those that stood by, Take from him the mina and give [it] to him that has ten. And they said to him, Lord, he has ten minas.‡ I say unto you, that to every one that has shall be given, and from him that has not that even which he has shall be taken."483 Here we have the responsible service of Christians till Jesus returns, with His judgment then of their service meanwhile. It is not that the faithless bondman will not suffer the results of his unbelief, like the elder brother who despised his father and scorned his brother. But our Evangelist tells the tale of grace, without describing the awful doom of those who corrupt or turn from it. It is In the earthly accompaniment that we hear of Divine vengeance. Thus the picture is made still more complete; for we have also the public execution of judgment on the guilty citizens, the Jews, at His appearing. "Moreover, those mine enemies who would not [have] me to reign over them, bring them here and slay [them] before me."484 The judgment of the habitable world is a truth which practically has dropped out of the life, if not the creeds, of Christendom.
*Before "He says," AFΔ, etc., 33, add "And." Blass, as D: ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, "And He said." Other Edd. omit, - is ℵBG, etc., 1, 69, Syrr. Amiat. Memph.
†K and a considerable. number of cursives, Syrsin have "the." Edd. omit, after ABD, etc., 1, 33, 69.
‡Blass omits verse 25, as D, 69, Syrrcu sin. Οther Edd. accept it.
Matt. 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; John 12:12-16.
Next follows the approach to Jerusalem.485 The Messiah indeed, but Son of man, presents Himself according to the prophecies going before even when they are not formally cited, with the fullest parabolic instruction just given that the opposition to Him was deliberately wilful and conclusive, for it was not only that His citizens (the Jews) despised Him, coming as He did in humiliation for the deepest purposes of Divine love, but they "hated" Him and sent a message after Him, saying, "We will not have this man to reign over us." Awful to hear from His lips, those were His "enemies," above all others, who would not that He should reign over them. His heavenly glory was at least as repugnant to them as His earthly abasement. They appreciated neither the grace which brought Him down nor the glory to which as man He was exalted. What could He say then but "Bring them here and slay [them] before me"? As ever, the moral springs are laid bare in our Gospel, and, if evil, judged.
"And when he had said these things, he went on before, going up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass when he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, towards the mountain called Olivet, he sent two of his disciples, saying, Go away into the village over against you; in which as ye enter ye shall find a colt tied, on which not one of men ever sat: loose and bring it. And if any one ask you, Why do ye loose [it]? thus shall ye say unto him, Because* the Lord has need of it. And they that were sent, having gone away, found even as he had said to them. And as they were loosing the colt, its owners said to them, Why loose ye the colt? And they said, Because the Lord486 has need of it. And they brought it to Jesus; and, having cast their garments on the colt, they set Jesus thereon;487 and, as he went, they strewed their garments in the way."
*"Because": so Edd. with ℵABD, etc., 69, Syrr. Amiat. Memph. ERΔ, etc., 1, 33, Syrsin omit.
The labour of ancients and moderns to find in this remarkable incident a type of the Gentiles obedient to the Gospel, as the Lord received and rode on the colt, seems to me far from intelligent. Rather was it very simply the evidence of His Divine knowledge and the assertion among the Jews of His claim as. Jehovah Messiah, verified by facts and by the proved subjection of human hearts where God was pleased to produce it to the honour of His Son. Hence the minuteness with which the words which passed and the accomplishment of all He said are noted by the Spirit. Doubtless, as in all the Gospels, so here it was in meekness and lowliness He entered; still, it was as the King according to the revealed mind of God. It was not yet the day of trouble when Jehovah will hear His Christ with the saying strength of His right hand; nor was yet the time come for the Jew to glory in the name of Jehovah. He alas! as indeed the Gentiles who knew not God, manifested his hostility to the Christ of God. But One was there who for them and us in all the degradation and selfishness and guilt of the fallen race was willing to bear the uttermost rejection of man, the forsaking of God Himself crowning it, that we might be brought to God, owning our sinfulness and resting on the grace which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
But the power of God, which wrought in hearts prepared by grace as a suitable testimony to Jesus at that moment, was still more pointedly marked in what Luke next records, and Luke only as it is characteristic of the Holy Ghost's design in his account. "And as he was drawing near, already at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began with rejoicing to praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen, saying, Blessed the King that comes in Jehovah's name*: in heaven peace, and glory in [the] highest.488 And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to him, Teacher, rebuke thy disciples. And answering he said, I say unto you that, if these shall be silent, the stones will cry out."
It is not merely the crowds or those who went before and followed as in Matthew and Mark; nor is it the cries of the children in the temple, saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David," as in the first Gospel most appropriately. Here we are told of the whole multitude of the disciples, and hence of words only befitting their lips, though surely given of God with a wisdom reaching far beyond their measure, as is known not seldom among the witnesses of Christ. "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest" looks to things higher and more immediate than the preceding words cited from Psalm 118 and common to all four Evangelists.
*"Blessed the King that comes in Jehovah's name": so ℵcorr ALRΓΔ and later uncials, with nearly all cursives, Syrrcu sin Vulg. Goth. B: "the coming One, the King." D and Old Lat.: "He that comes." ℵpm and Origen omit "that comes": so Tisch. followed by Blass, who also rejects "in the name of [the] LORD," but this capriciously.
It is a striking change even from the announcement of another multitude, near the beginning of this Gospel, who suddenly appeared with the angelic herald of the Saviour's birth, and praised God, saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, in men good pleasure." Such was the suited celebration of the Son now incarnate, that marvellous and mighty fact which introduced God Himself into the most touching relations with humanity, and laid the basis for the manifestation of the Father in the person of Christ, as well as for the accomplishment of the infinite work of redemption, on which hangs the righteous vindication of God, and the gracious deliverance of the elect, and the reconciliation of all things in heaven and on earth to His own everlasting glory. And the heavenly host speak of the grand result as then invisibly enshrined in Him just born, a babe in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger in Bethlehem. God was pleased to manifest His good pleasure in men, not in angels, and so to fill the highest seats with glory to Himself, and earth with peace.
But, in fact, Jesus was, as the prophets had fully and distinctly foreshown He must be, despised and rejected of men. This postponed in Divine wisdom, though it could not frustrate, the purpose of God. Rather did it make room for a new and higher display of what was hidden in God from ages and generations, and now made known in the Church to the principalities and powers in heavenly places. However this be, the disciples in their outburst of praise (now that the Lord was rejected and with Him meanwhile peace for the earth gone, and division and a sword the consequence of the struggle between light and darkness) do nevertheless anticipate "peace in heaven and glory in the highest." If the former proclaimed the general purpose of God, the latter revealed His ways even when the enemy might seem on the point of triumphing. If earth disown and cast out the Saviour, if the Jews refuse the Messiah because He is incomparably more than the Son of David and come to bring about incomparably deeper and larger purposes, it is but for a season a transfer of the seat of blessing to heaven for the brightest and fullest accomplishment of God's will and mind. The kingdom itself became manifestly of heaven thereby, and the exaltation of the rejected Lord is to sit down meanwhile on the right hand of the Majesty on high, Satan being utterly defeated by man in the person of the woman's Seed on the throne of the highest; and the kingdom over the earth will follow the moment that it pleases the Father, Who is meanwhile forming a people united to Christ His Son, His body, His bride, to be with Him where He is at His coming. Peace is in heaven, because He was going there victoriously, having made peace by the blood of the Cross, Himself our peace now, whether we have been Jews or Greeks.
If Pharisees, insensible to His glory, complained of the praises of the disciples, the Lord could not but tell them that they were more obdurate than the stones beneath and around them.
Observe further that instead of the dispensational lesson of the fig-tree cursed as in Matthew, and in Mark with yet minuter details for instruction in service, we have the grace of the Lord in His weeping over the guilty and doomed city. "And when he drew near, on seeing the city, he wept489 over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least* in this thy† day, the things for thy‡ peace: but now they are hid490 from thine eyes. For days shall come upon thee that thine enemies shall make a rampart about thee and compass thee round and keep thee in on every side, and level thee with the ground and thy children in thee; and not leave in thee stone upon stone; because thou knewest not the season of thy visitation."491 Every word of the warning was punctually fulfilled in the siege of Titus; but what grace shone out of that heart surcharged with grief for the people so blindly to their own ruin refusing Himself Who wept over them in a love thus truly Divine and perfectly human!
*"At least": so Tisch. and Blass, after AR, etc., Syrrcu sin Vulg. Arm. Other Edd. omit, as ℵBDL, Memph. Goth. Aeth.
†"This thy day": so Lachm. and Tisch. after ΔM, etc., Syrsin. Other Edd. (as Revv.) omit "thy," with ℵABDL, Syrcu Old Lat. Origen, etc.
‡"Thy": so Tisch. with AΔM, etc., Syrrcu sin Vulg. Cyril. Other Edd. omit, following ℵBL, Memph, Aeth. Arm.
Matt. 21:12f.; Mark 15ff.
It was Matthew's office to bring out the woes He solemnly pronounced over the holy city now so unholy, not their civil destruction, but rather the sanctuary once His Father's house, now their house left to them desolate, yet not hopelessly. "For" as He said then, "ye shall not see me till ye shall say, Blessed is he that comes in the name of Jehovah." All that is left out in this part of our Gospel, and the more remarkably, as we find the cleansing of the temple afterwards. "And entering into the temple he began to cast out those that sold,* saying to them, It is written, And my house shall be† a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of robbers."492 Without agreeing with Jerome, who saw in the act of our Lord the greatest miracle He ever wrought, one may note profitably how, even at such a moment when irresistible energy accompanied His indignant rebuke of their profanity and cast such unworthy traffic outside the sacred precincts, He employs as ever the written Word as His ground and warrant.
*"Sold." There is great difference in the readings here, some adding "in the temple" or "in it" [AD, etc., most minuscules, Syrr. Old Lat.]: some adding "and those that bought," and some both. So it was in the days of Origen (ed. de la Rue IV. 193), who notices all three forms. It seems probable that the addition grew from the parallel passages in Matthew and Mark. (B.T.) Edd. have simply "sold," as ℵBCL 1, 69, Syrsin Memph. Arm.
†"Shall be": so Edd. after ℵcorr BLR, Arm. Origen. ACDΔ, etc., most minuscules, Syrcu Old Lat. have "is."
Luke 19:47f. Ibid.
In harmony with this we read that "he was teaching day by day in the temple; and the chief priests and the scribes and the principal men493 of the people sought to destroy him, and did not find what they could do, for all the people hung on him while hearing." The Word of God from His lips especially told on the consciences of men. The religious leaders, having long rejected Him, not only lost all right feeling but were given up to a murderous hatred soon to be satisfied. Such ever proves the world when confronted with the light of God; and withal the perfect love of God in Christ only provoked it the more.
Matt. 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 369-372.
The Lord is now seen in contact with the various classes of officials and religious and political bodies among the Jews, who successively present themselves in the hope of perplexing and inveigling Him, but in effect to their own confusion. Essaying to judge Him, they expose themselves and are judged by the truth from His lips on their own evidence one after another.
"And it came to pass on one of the* days494 as he was teaching the people in the temple and evangelizing, the chief† priests and the scribes, with the elders, came up, and spoke to him, saying, Tell us by what authority thou doest these things; or who is it that has given thee this authority."
†The common addition of ἐκείνων, "those" [ACE, etc., 33, 69], seems to be a correction from not seeing the connection with Luke 19:47. ℵBD and Q, at least ten cursives and most of the more ancient versions [Old Lat. Syrrcu pesch Memph.] give the shorter reading. (B.T.)
‡"Chief": so most Edd., following ℵBCDLMQR, 1, 33, 69. Tisch. reads "priests" with AEFG, etc.
It is ever apt to be thus in an evil day. Worldly religion assumes the sanction of God for that which exists, its permanence, and its future triumph. It was so in Israel; and it is so, in Christendom. Prophets then held up the fate of Shiloh to the religious chiefs who reasoned from the promises of guaranteed perpetuity for the temple, its ordinances, its ministers, its devotees, and its system in general; and those who warned like Jeremiah found bitter results in the taunts and persecutions of such as had the world's ear. They denied God's title to tell them the truth. And now a greater than Jeremiah was here; and those who stood on their successional office, and those who claimed special knowledge of the Scriptures, and those of leading influence in the counsels and conduct of the people, demanded His right to act as He did and its source. No wonder they felt the solemn testimony of approaching ruin to all that in which they had their importance; but there was no faith, no conscience toward God. They therefore turned away from the consideration of their own ways and responsibility to the question of His title.494a
The Lord meets them by putting, another question. "And he answering said to them, I also will ask you a [or, one*] word [thing], and tell me: The baptism of John, was it of heaven, or of men? And they reasoned among themselves, saying, If we should say, Of heaven, he will say, Why† have ye not believed him? but if we should say, Of men, the whole people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet. And they answered that they did not know whence [it was]."
*"[One] word": ℵBLR, a few cursives [1, 33, 69] and versions [e.g., Memph.] omit ἕνα [ACDE, etc.], which may be imported from Mark. (B.T.). Revv.: "something" (λόγον).
†The weight of evidence [ℵBEL, etc., 69, Memph.] seems clearly against "then" [ACD, etc., 1, 33, Amiat.]. (B.T.)
The wisdom of the Lord's procedure is worthy of all heed. He Who alone could have taken His stand on personal dignity, and the nearest relationship, and the highest mission, pleads none of these things. He probes their consciences; and, in their desire to escape from the consequences of answering truly, they are compelled to confess their incapacity both to guide others and even to act aright themselves in a matter of the deepest and most general concern to all Israel of that day. "The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and at his mouth should they seek the law, for he is the messenger of Jehovah of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, said Jehovah of hosts." So said Malachi, (Mal. 2:7ff.) and so the Lord proved now. "And I also have made you contemptible and base before all the people, because ye have not kept my ways, but have respect of persons in the law." They could not deny, yet refused to profit by, the moral power of John, Who bore witness to Jesus as Messiah and to Israel's need of repentance. To own, therefore, the baptism of John, a new institution, as of Heaven, without the least appearance of traditional sanctity or claim of antiquity or connection with the priesthood or the temple, was of the most serious import to men who derived all their consequence from the regular course of the law and its ordinances. Besides, it at once decided the question of the Messiah, for John in the strongest and most solemn way declared that Jesus was the Christ. To disown John and his baptism would have been fatal to their credit, for all the people were persuaded that John was a prophet. It was to them a mere question of policy, and hence they shirked answering under cover of a lie. They could not afford to be truthful; they said they knew not whence John's baptism was. They were as void of faith as the heathen.495 He who read their dark hearts wound up with the reply, "Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things." It was useless to inform unbelief. Long before the Lord had forbidden His disciples to tell any man that He was the Christ; for He was going to suffer on the cross. "When ye shall have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am [be], and from myself I do nothing, but even as the Father taught me, these things I speak." (John 8.)
Here we have no special application to the Jews in order to let them know that the most despised men and corrupt women go into the kingdom of God before the heads honoured by the people. This has its appropriate place in the Gospel of Matthew. But we have the parable of the vineyard let out to husbandmen in all three Synoptic accounts, each with its own special shades of truth.
Matt. 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12.
"And he began to speak to the people this parable: A* man planted a vineyard and let it out to husbandmen, and left the country for a long time. And in the season he sent to the 3 husbandmen a bondman that they might give to him of the fruit of the vineyard; but the husbandmen having beaten him sent [him] away empty. And again he sent another bond. man; but they having beaten him also, and cast insult upon him sent [him] away empty. And again he sent a third, and they having wounded him also, cast [him] out. And the lord of the vineyard said, What shall I do.497 I will send my beloved son: perhaps when they see†* they will respect [him]. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir;‡ let us kill him, that the inheritance may become ours. And having cast him forth out of the vineyard they killed [him]. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do to them? He will come498 and destroy those husbandmen, and will give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it they said, May it never be! But he looking at them said, What then is this that is written? The stone which they that builded rejected, this has become the corner stone. Every one falling on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall crush him to powder."
*"A": so Edd. with ℵBCDEL, etc., 1, 33, Old Lat. Memph. A, 69, Syrr. have "a certain."
†"When they see": so ARΓΔΛΠ, later uncials, most cursives, Syrrpesch. Edd. omit, following ℵBCDLQ, 1, 33, Syrcu Memph. Arm.
‡ ℵCDLR, most cursives (33, 69), Syrrcu pesch Memph. add "come". Edd. omit, as ABKMQΠ, 1, most Old Latt, Amiat., Goth. Arm.
On the truth common to all it is not needful to speak now. But the reader in comparing may notice the greater fullness of detail in Matthew and Mark than in Luke as to the dealings with Israel, as also the greater minuteness in Mark of the reception the servants and son received. So also observe on the other hand that Mark and Luke speak simply of giving the vineyard to others, Matthew on letting it out to other husbandmen such as shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Responsibility is thus most maintained in Matthew, grace in Luke, both being true and of capital moment. Again, in Matthew it is "he that falls," in Luke "Every one," etc. There is breadth in judgment as in grace. Mark has not the verse at all, as not bearing on service, the theme of the Spirit by him.
"And the scribes and the chief priests that very hour sought to lay hands on him, and they feared the people; for they knew that he had spoken this parable of (against) them." Again does the Holy Spirit notice their bad conscience, their hatred of Jesus, and their fear of the people. God was in none of their thoughts, else had they repented and believed in Jesus. What a comment on the parable was their desire to lay hands on Him! Thus were they soon to fulfil the voice of the prophets and the parable of the great Prophet Himself.
Matt. 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17.
And having watched [him] they sent suborned persons pretending to be righteous that they might lay hold of his language so as to deliver him to the power and the authority of the governor. And they asked him, saying, Teacher, we know that thou rightly sayest and teachest and acceptest no [man's] person, but in truth teachest the way500 of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar or not? But perceiving their deceit he said to them,* Show me a denarius [penny].†500a Whose image and title has it? And answering they said, Caesar's. And he said to them, Therefore render the things of Caesar to Caesar, and the things of God to God." The moral depravity of all concerned is here very marked, whether of suborners or suborned. Simplicity of purpose detects and exposes the crafty. Jesus sacrifices no duty.501 Let Caesar have what is his, and God His own. The world-panderers and the zealots were alike foiled, who set one duty against another, doing neither aright because each was seeking self. "And they were not able to lay hold of his word before the people, and wondering at his answer were silent."
*ACD, etc., most cursives, Old Lat. add "Why do ye tempt me?" which Edd. reject, after ℵBL, 1, Syrr. Memph. Goth. Arm. (from Mark).
†After "denarius," ℵCL, 1, 33, 69, Memph., etc., add "and they showed it to Him and He said." Syrsin has "and they showed it to Him" after the question. Edd., however, adhere to ABD, etc., most cursives and Old Lat., Syrcu and Goth.
Matt. 22:23-33, 46; Mark 12:18-27, 34.
And some of the Sadducees who deny that there is any resurrection502 came up, and demanded of him, saying, Teacher, Moses wrote503 to us, If any one's brother having a wife die and he be* childless, that his brother take the wife, and raise up seed to his brother. There were then seven brothers, and the first having taken a wife, died childless; and the second† and the third, took her; and likewise also the seven left no children and died; and lastly the woman died. In the resurrection therefore, of which of them does the woman become wife? For the seven had her as wife. And Jesus‡ said to them, The sons of this age504 marry and are given in marriage; but those deemed worthy to obtain that age and the resurrection from among [the] dead 505 neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they can die no more, for they are equal to angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.506 But that the dead rise even Moses showed [in the section] on the bush when he called Jehovah the God of Abraham, and God of Isaac, and God of Jacob.507 But He is not God of dead but of living, for all live to Him."508
*"Be (ῃ)": so most Edd., according to ℵBLP, 1, 33, Syrcu, most Old Lat. Memph. Arm. Aeth. Blass: "die" (ἀποθάνῃ) after AΓΔΛΠ, later uncials, nearly all cursives, Syrsin and Goth.
†Blass retains here "took the woman and he died childless," after APΔΛΠ, etc., most cursives (1, 33, 69), Syrrcu sin Old Lat. Amiat. Other Edd. omit the words, as ℵBDL,
‡Before "said," AEΔ, etc., have "answering," which is rejected by Edd. with ℵBDL, Old Lat. Memph.
We need not combat here men like Dr. Campbell, ably as he wrote on the Gospels, or Dwight, who contend that the point is a future life rather than the resurrection of the body. Not so. The proposed case could hardly have risen but as a difficulty in the ways of a risen body, though it is doubtless true that the Sadducees went further and denied angels and spirits.
Our Gospel, it is of interest to observe here, furnishes several distinct truths beyond what is found in Matthew and Mark. Resurrection from among the dead (not resurrection as such) has its own proper age, a time of special blessedness which the resurrection of the unjust cannot be said to be. It was after this resurrection the apostle longed so ardently, minding no sufferings if by any means he might attain to that. The resurrection of the wicked is for the second death. The resurrection from among the dead is for the righteous who die no more, being equal to angels and sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. The resurrection of the unjust is the awful condition of eternal judgment, as they had rejected Christ and eternal life in Him. God is Abraham's God and will raise the dead to enjoy the promises not yet fulfilled; He is not God of dead men but of living; for to Him all live, even before the resurrection comes as well as when it does come. Thus Luke above all the Evangelists gives us a full glimpse of the separate state, besides the certainty of resurrection and glory. "And some of the scribes answering said, Teacher, thou hast well said. For* they did not dare any more to ask him anything." We shall see that the Lord's turn is come to question them.
*The "and" of T.R. is in ADE, etc., 1, 69, Old Lat. Syrr., and is retained by Blass (as by Hahn and Godet in their expositions). Very ancient authorities (ℵBLR) and a few cursives (1, 33) support γάρ, "for." (B.T.) So W. H.
Matt. 22:41-45; Mark 12:35-37.
As the various parties, the leaders of religions thought in Israel, did not dare any more to ask the Lord anything, He put the crucial question to them; not of course to tempt like them, but to convince them that the Pharisees had no more real faith than the Sadducees, and that the scribes had no more understanding of the Divine Word than the crowd who knew not the law. His, indeed, was a probe to conscience and an appeal to the Scriptures, if peradventure they might hear and live. Alas! they had ears but heard not, and their own Messiah's highest glory they denied, to their own perdition and God's dishonour. And this is no peculiarity of the Jews in that day; it applies as really now, and even more conspicuously among Protestants than among Papists. At bottom, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, earthly religion slights Christ: sometimes by open antagonism, as when His Deity is opposed and His sacrifice set aside; at other times by setting up rival mediators, the virgin, saints, angels, priests, etc., who usurp that which belongs exclusively to Him. To us, then, there is but one Lord, even Jesus Christ; and as we cannot serve two masters, so we cannot have two Saviours; but either men hate the one, and love the other, or else they hold to the one, and despise the other.
"And he said to them, How do they say that the Christ is David's son; and David himself* saith in the book of Psalms, Jehovah said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put thine enemies [as] footstool of thy feet? David therefore calls him Lord; and how is he his son?"
*"And . . . himself": so Blass, after Lachmann, with ADP, Syrr. Vulg. Goth. Others read "for," with ℵBLR, 33, etc.
There is and could be but one answer. The Messiah, David's son, must have been a Divine Person in order to be David's Lord, the everlasting enigma of unbelief, now as then the stumbling-stone to the Jew. Yet is it as certainly if not as clearly and continually presented in the Old Testament as in the New; and as it is essential to His proper dignity and enhances incalculably the grace of God, so it is indispensable that there should be an irrefragable rock of salvation, whether for an Israelite or for any other. Without the Godhead of Jesus, however truly man as He is, Christianity is a delusion, an imposture, and an impossibility, as Judaism was an unmeaning child's play. To Him, God and man in one person, do the law and the prophets bear their unequivocal witness, not more surely to God's righteousness without law than to the Christ's glory above law, however He might deign to be born of woman, born under law, in order to redeem those who were in this position. (Galatians 4.)
But man fears to face the truth till he is born anew. It annihilates his pride, it exposes his vanity in every sense, as well as his guilt and ruin; it makes God the only hope and Saviour. Man does not like what grinds his self-importance to powder, and, unless grace intervene savingly, will risk everlasting destruction rather than yield to the testimony of God. But the truth erects a judgment-seat in the conscience of each believer, who now owns himself lost that he may be saved, and saved exclusively by His grace Who will be the judge, to their endless misery and shame, of all who despise His glory and His mercy now.
To the believer no truth is simpler, none more precious, than the Christ a man yet God, son of David yet David's Lord, the root and the offspring of David, Who came to die, but withal the living and eternal God. On the intrinsic dignity of His person hang the grace of His humiliation and the value of His atonement, and the glory to God of the kingdom He will take and display as Son of man. He is now the Centre to faith of all who are brought to God reconciled by the blood of His Cross; as He will be of all things that are in heaven and that are on earth reconciled by Him; but if not God, equally with the Father, such a place of centre in grace or glory must be a deadly blow at that honour which is due to the only God, because it would be giving to a creature, however exalted, the homage proper to Him alone. His Godhead therefore is essential to His character of the model man; the denial of it logically implies the horrible libel and lie that He is no better than the most fraudulent and successful of impostors. This may serve to prove what the guilt of discrediting the Son of God really is; this explains why whoever denies the Son has not the Father, while he who confesses the Son has the Father also. He who honours not the Son honours not the Father Who sent Him.
Therefore is judgment given only to the Son; because He alone in infinite love stooped to become a man and to die for men, yea for the guiltiest of sinners, who alas! repaid His love by the deepest dishonour, rejecting Him when He came in grace, as they reject Him preached in grace still, Who will judge them as Son of man in that nature because of the assumption of which they despised Him and denied His Godhead. Thus will God compel all, even the proudest unbeliever, to honour the Son as they honour the Father. But this will be to their judgment, not salvation. Eternal life is in hearing Christ's Word now and believing Him Who sent His Son in love; otherwise nothing remains but a resurrection of judgment in vindication of His injured name, the rejection of the Father in the Son.
We need not dwell on other truths wrapped up in the citation from Psalm 110, though of the deepest interest and elsewhere applied in the New Testament. Here the object is as simple as it is fundamental, an inextricable riddle to the incredulous, Jews or Gentiles. But it is especially the former who have ever stopped short there, silenced but not subdued. As for such Gentiles as professed to receive the only solution in His person, the enemy finds other ways to nullify the truth wherever they are unrenewed by grace. False friends are no better than open enemies, but rather worse — ungodly men turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Master and our Lord Jesus Christ, Whose judgment is just and sure, as we see in the solemn epistle of Jude.
Matt. 23:1, 5-7, 14; Mark 12:38-40.
"And as all the people were listening, he said to the* disciples: Beware of the scribes, who like to walk about in long robes, and love salutations in the market-places, and first seats in the synagogues and first places at the feasts,510 who devour the houses of widows, and as a pretext make long prayers. These shall receive more abundant (severer) judgment."
*"The": so Edd. with BD. "His" is read in ℵAL, etc., Syrsin.
The difference in the object of the Holy Spirit's writing by Matthew and Luke, as well as Mark, comes out here in a striking way. For the former devotes a considerable chapter to their position, their utter failure, and the stern judgment awaiting such hollow formalists from God. Mark and Luke touch the question only, the one as a falsifying of service, the other on moral ground, for the instruction of disciples. What is specially Jewish, either in title or in forms and habits, disappears; what Mark and Luke record is not loving service but selfishness and hypocrisy, the more fatal because of the profanation of God's name.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 372-375, and "Elements of Prophecy," chapter ix.
Luke again is with Mark in giving the story of the widow poor but rich, and this doubtless for reasons analogous to their report of the exposure of the proud and empty scribes; Matthew has it not at all. For far different was the Israel of the then day, and with this he is occupied, the judgment coming on Jerusalem, rich but poor, with which the Lord concludes His denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees.
And he looked up and saw the rich casting their gifts into the treasury, but he saw also a certain poor widow casting into it two mites. And he said, Verily I say unto you, that this poor woman has cast in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have cast into the gifts,* but she out of her need has cast in all the living which she had." It is a lovely picture of devotedness in the widow; how much lovelier to behold Him, who gave her the faith and drew out her love, admiring and so richly appreciating the fruit of His own grace! May He have so to speak of our wealth toward God in the day that approaches, when mammon and every false estimate shall have disappeared for ever!511
*After "gifts," ADGΓΔΛΠ, nearly, all cursives (33, 69), Syrrpesch Old Lat. add "of God," which Edd. omit, as BLX, 1, Syrrcu sin hier Memph.
Matt. 24:1f.; Mark 13:1f.
Luke alone of the Evangelists notices the fact that the disciples spoke to the Lord about the votive offerings with which the temple was adorned; all three speak of its goodly stones or buildings. But this does not warrant the inference that the prophetic discourse which follows512 belongs to those in the temple, rather than those on the Mount of Olives. It has been properly remarked that the questions are distinct from the Lord's solemn answer to the admiration expressed, and may well have been to the chosen four on retiring thither as we are told He did by night at the end of our chapter.
"And as some512a spoke of the temple that it was adorned with goodly stones and consecrated offerings, he said, [As for] these things which ye are beholding, days are coming in which stone shall not be left upon stone which shall not be thrown down." On the other hand, it is surely without justification to assume that Luke could not have omitted the change of scene and auditory if aware of it. On both sides such reasoning leaves out the Spirit of God, and His having a purpose by each which alone accounts for differences on the basis of His own perfect knowledge of all, not of the writer's ignorance.
Matt. 24:3-6; Mark 13:3-7.
"And they asked him saying, Teacher, when then shall these things be? and what [is] the sign when these things are going to take place? And he said, See that ye be not misled. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am [he]; and the time is drawn nigh: go ye not* after them. And when ye shall hear of wars and tumults be not terrified; for these things must first take place,513 but the end [is] not immediately." It will be observed that the Holy Spirit inspired the writer to drop the question respecting the coming of the Son of man and the completion of the age. As with Mark, they ask when the destruction of the temple shall be, and the sign of its commencement. The Lord fully replies, but as usual gives much more. But there is neither the completeness of dispensational information right through, nor details as to the consummation of the age, found in the Gospel of Matthew. On the other hand, here only are we given distinct light on the coming siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Romans, here only its subsequent ignominious subjection till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Other peculiarities of Luke we may see as we proceed through the chapter. The question of the disciples goes no farther than the demolition the Lord spoke of, the Spirit having reserved for Matthew the parabolic history of the course, conduct, and judgment of Christendom as well as the special account of the Jews at the end of the age, and of all the Gentiles gathered before the throne of the Son of man when He is come. The early warning that follows the inquiry here refers to what soon ensued. There may be analogous deceits in the last days; but I apprehend that here we are in view of what has been. If it were the closing scenes, where would be the propriety of assuring the disciples that the end is not immediately? Matthew may take in what soon followed; but the characteristic feature with him is the end of the age, first in general, then specifically, with its shadows before.
*AΓΔΛΠ, etc., most cursives (1, 33, 69), Amiat., here add "therefore." Edd. omit, according to BDLX, Syrrcu sin Old Lat. Aeth. Arm.
Matt. 24:7-13; Mark 13:8f. 11-13.
"Then said he to them,* Nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: there shrill be both great earthquakes in different places and pestilences and famines,† and there shall be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. But before all these things514 they shall lay their hands upon you and persecute you, delivering up to synagogues and prisons, bringing before kings and governors on account of my name; but it shall turn out515 to you for a testimony. Settle therefore in your hearts not to meditate beforehand [your] defence; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist or reply unto.‡515a Moreover ye will be delivered up even by parents and brethren and relations and friends, and they shall put to death [some] from among you, and ye will be hated by all516 on account of my name; and a hair of your head shall in no wise perish. (See above.) By your patient endurance gain§ your souls." The strict application of all this to the state of things, whether in the world or among the disciples, before the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans must be evident to every unprejudiced mind. Luke alone sets forth the grace of the Lord in giving His own a mouth and wisdom beyond the craft and power of all adversaries. In Mark they are to speak "whatsoever shall be given you; for not ye are the speakers but the Holy Spirit." Luke also puts in broad terms the consequences of their testimony, which would true in the highest sense for heaven if they were slain.517
*"Then said he to them." These words, omitted by Blass (as in D with some Latt. Syrrcu sin), are retained by other Edd.
†The critical text connects "in different places" with "famines" — "and in different places famines."
‡"To resist or reply unto": such is the order of the verbs in ℵBL, 69 (Edd.), instead of "gainsay or resist."
§"Gain": after Tisch., from ℵDLRXΓ, etc. Other Edd. (Revv.) adopt κτήσεσθε "ye shall gain," as in AB, Syrrcu pesch hcl Latt. Aeth. Arm. Tertullian, Origen. A reading at least questionable. AΒ are but slender authority for a difference of only one letter. (B.T.)
Next we have a graphic picture of the crisis for Jerusalem under Titus. "But when ye see Jerusalem encompassed with armies, then know that its desolation 518 is drawn nigh. Then let those who are in Judea flee unto the mountains,519 and those in the midst of it depart out, and those in the fields not enter into it. For these are days of vengeance,520 that all the things written may be accomplished. Woe* to them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days; for there shall be great distress521 upon the land and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by [the] nations522 until [the] times of [the] nations522a be fulfilled." Here there can be no misunderstanding unless for a preoccupied mind. The siege with its consequences described by our Lord cannot be a future event because it is followed by the humiliating possession of the Jewish capital by one nation after another till the allotted seasons of Gentile supremacy terminate. This is peculiar to our Evangelist, who accordingly speaks of armies encompassing the city, which was true then, not like Matthew and Mark of the abomination of desolation, which can only be verified in its closing throes. Hence, too, the reader may notice that, in spite of a considerable measure of analogy (for there will be a future siege, and even a twofold attack, one of which will be partially successful, the other to the ruin of their enemies, as we learn from Isaiah 28, Isaiah 29, and Zechariah 14), there are the strangest contrasts in the issue; for the future siege will be closed by Jehovah's deliverance and reign, as the past was in the capture and destruction of the people dispersed ever since till the times of the Gentiles are full. Accordingly we hear nothing in this Gospel of the abomination of desolation, nor of the time of tribulation beyond all that was or shall be; we hear of both in Matthew and Mark, where the Spirit contemplates the last days. Here we are told of great distress on the land and wrath on the Jewish people, as indeed there was. The notion that Luke's variation is designed as a paraphrase of Matthew and Mark, a simpler expression in his Gospel for one more obscure in theirs, is most unworthy of the Holy Ghost and destructive of the truth in the first two Gospels if not in the third. There is fresh truth, and not a sacred comment on what the others said.
*"But" before this "woe," is in ℵAC, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrrcu sin Memph. It is not in BDL or most Old Latin and is rejected by Edd.
Matt. 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27.
In verse 25 and onward we are naturally carried on to the conclusion of the Gentile times. "And there shall be signs523 in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity, for at the roar* of the sea and rolling waves, men ready to die through fear and expectation of the things coming on the habitable earth; for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming524 in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws nigh." It is Luke only who mentions the moral signs of men's anguish spite of the deceits and pretensions of that day. No doubt there will be strong delusion and the belief of falsehood; but for this very reason there is no rest nor contentment, for only the grace and truth of God in Christ can give peaceful enjoyment with a good conscience. Hence God will know how to trouble men's dreams and to break up Satan's ease, their horror culminating at the sight of the rejected Lord, the Son of man, coming in a cloud with power and glory. But there will be those then on earth, disciples tried by the evils of that day, for whom even the beginning of these troubles and the tokens of change for the world will be the sure harbinger of deliverance.
*"In perplexity . . . roar": so Tisch., W. H., etc., with ℵABCLM, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrrpesch hcl. Old Lat. Memph. Arm. (Edd.). The text underlying A,V. has the support of DΓΔΛΠ, etc., most cursives, Old Lat. Blass reads: "in perplexity, roar (ἦχος) as (ώς) of, etc." So Syrrcu sin, the latter without "as" (i.e. "the voice of the sea and shaking").
Matt. 24:32-51; Mark 13:28-37.
"And he spoke a parable to them, Behold the fig-tree and all the trees: when they already sprout, by looking ye know of your own selves that already summer is near. So also ye, when ye see these things take place, know that the kingdom of God is near.525 Verily I say unto you that this generation shall in no wise pass away until all come to pass. The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but my words shall in no wise pass away. But take heed to yourselves lest possibly your hearts be weighed down with surfeiting and drunkenness and cares of life, and that day come upon you suddenly unawares, for as a snare* it will come upon all that are settled down upon the face of the whole earth. But watch,† at every season praying that ye may be deemed worthy‡ to escape all these things that are about to come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." We have here an instance of the exceeding accuracy of Scripture even in figures. Who but God could have thought of giving only the fig-tree in Matthew, speaking of Israel, the fig-tree and all the trees in Luke where the Gentiles are mixed up with the troubles of Israel?
*"That day come upon you suddenly; for as a snare": so Blass, as Wordsworth, Milligan, McClellan, after AC, later uncials and most cursives, Syrrcu pesch hcl hier Arm. (Euseb. Basil). Other Edd. (Alford and Revv.) follow ℵBDL, Old Lat. Memph.: "come upon you suddenly as a snare; for it shall come."
†"But watch": as Edd. with ℵBD. "Watch therefore" of T.R. is as ACRL, etc., Syrcu Amiat., Aeth. Memph. Arm.
‡"May be deemed worthy": so Blass, with ACDR and all later uncials, most cursives, Syrr. Old Lat.. Arm. Tertullian. Tisch., W. H., etc., adopt "may have strength" (R.V. "prevail"), following ℵBLX, 1, 33, Memph.
But, this is not the only point of interest in this appendix to the prophecy. For the Lord has given us the positive proof. by the way in which verse 32 stands here, that "this generation" cannot mean a mere chronological space of thirty or even one hundred years, for it is brought in after the running out of Gentile times and the coming of the Son of man with power and glory, events still unfulfilled. Its force is moral; not exactly the nation of Israel but that Christ-rejecting race which then refused their Messiah as they do still. This will go on till all these solemn threats of judgment are accomplished. It is profitable to remark that here, not in doctrine or in practice only, but in these unfoldings of the future, the Lord pledges the impossibility of failing in His words. The Lord does not say that this generation "shall not pass away till the temple is destroyed or the city taken, but till all be fulfilled. Now, He had introduced the subsequent treading down of Jerusalem to the end of Israel's trials at His appearing, and He declares that this generation shall not pass away till then; as indeed it is only then grace will form a new generation, the generation to come. The more we hold fast the continuity of the stream of the prophecy, as distinguished from the crisis in Matthew and Mark, the greater will be seen to be the importance of this remark.526
Notice the strongly moral tone in which the dangers and snares of the days before the Son of man appears are touched by the Lord, an often recurring characteristic of our Evangelist.527
The concluding verses are a summary of our Lord's manner or habit at this time, the nights spent on the Mount of Olivet, and by day teaching in the temple, whither all the people came early to hear Him. It was this which led several copyists to insert here the paragraph from John 7:53 to 8:11; but there is no real ground for such a transposition, any more than for denying it to be the genuine writing of the last Evangelist, in spite of alleged difficulties.
Matt. 26:1-5; Mark 14:1f.
The end approaches, with all its solemn and momentous issues, which our Evangelist relates after his wonted manner, adhering to moral connection rather than illustrating dispensational change, or the series of facts in His ministry, or the glory of His person.
Matt. 26:14-16; Mark 14:10f.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 375-387.
"Now the feast of unleavened [bread] which [is] called passover was drawing nigh,528 and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might kill him, for they were afraid of the people. And Satan entered into Judas Who is called* Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve; and he went away and spoke with the chief priests and captains529 as to how he should deliver him up to them. And they rejoiced and engaged to give him money; and he agreed fully,530 Was seeking an opportunity to deliver him up to them away from [the] crowd." When the will is thus engaged on the one side and on the other nearness to the Lord was enjoyed without self-judgment, nay, in conscious hypocrisy and the habitual yielding to covetousness; Satan readily found means to, effect his own designs, as a liar and murderer, against the Son of God. Yet how reassuring it is to observe that both man and the devil were powerless till the due moment came for the execution of God's purposes, which their malice even then only subserved, unconsciously and in a way which they counted most sure to hinder and nullify them. But He catches the wise in their own craftiness.
*"Called": so ℵBDLX, 69, Memph. Arm. "Surnamed" is found in ACPR, etc., Syrsin.
It may be well here to note that the English Version misleads if it be inferred from verse 3 that it was at this time Satan entered into Judas; for we know from John 13:27 that it was only after the sop, the latter Gospel also distinguishing this full action of the enemy from the earlier occasion when he had put it into the betrayer's heart. The truth is that Luke has no expression of time here, using only a particle of transition, and therefore contents himself with the broad fact without entering into the detail of its successive stages, which found their fitting place with him whose task of love was to linger on the person of the Lord.
Matt 26:17-29; Mark 14:12-25.
"And the day of unleavened [bread]531 came, in which the passover was to be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare the passover for us, that we may eat. But they said to him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? And he said to them, Behold when ye have entered into the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water;532 follow him into the house where he goes in; and ye shall say to the master of the house, The Teacher saith to thee, Where is the guest-chamber where I may eat the passover with my disciples? And he will show you a large upper room furnished; there make ready. And they went away and found as he had said to them; and they prepared the Passover."533 There is no ground of difficulty here for him who believes the Word of God. He who beforehand could describe thus minutely the person, place, time, and circumstances was in communion with the Divine power and grace which controlled the heart of the Jewish householder, even though a stranger hitherto, and made him heartily acquiesce in the Lord's using it for the paschal feast with His disciples. That God should thus order all in honour of His Son for the last Passover seems to me beautifully in keeping as a testimony in Jerusalem where the religious chiefs, and even a disciple, with the mass were hardening themselves to their destruction in His rejection and death.
"And when the hour was come, he took his place, and the* apostles with him.534 And he said to them, With desire I desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer, for I say unto you that I will not any more† at all eat it until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And having received a‡ cup, he gave thanks and said, Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say unto you, I will in no wise drink535 henceforth§ of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God536 come." What an expression of tender love for the disciples! For the last time He would eat it with them, not at all more. As to the cup of the Passover,537 they were to take and divide it among themselves, not He with them. The Passover was to be fulfilled in the kingdom of God; and of the fruit of the vine He would in no wise drink henceforth till the kingdom of God come. It is the sign of the passing away of the old system.
*Before "apostles" T.R. has "twelve," from ACEPRΔ, etc., Amiat. Memph. Edd. omit, after ℵBD, Syrsin Old Lat.
†"Not . . . any more" (οὐκέτι): so Weiss and Blass, after Ccorr DP, etc., Syrrcu sin Aeth. Arm. W. H. omit οὐκέτι after ℵABCpm HL. It can scarcely, however, have been added from Mark (Meyer, Weiss).
‡"A": so Edd. with ℵBCEGH, etc., most cursives. AD, etc., have "the."
§"Henceforth": so Edd. after ℵBDGKLMΠ, 1, Syrcu Egyptians, Arm. Omitted in AC, etc., most cursives, and Old Lat.
Next, the Lord institutes the new thing538 in a foundation sign of it. "And having taken a loaf with thanksgiving he broke and gave [it] to them, saying, This is my body which is given539 for you;* this do in remembrance of me.540 In like manner also the cup, after having supped, saying, This cup [is] the new covenant in my blood541 which is poured out for you."* It was a better deliverance on an infinitely better ground, as the cup Was the new covenant in His blood, not the old legal one guarded by penal sanction in the blood of accompanying victims. What immeasurable love breathes in "my body, Which is given for you," "the new covenant in my blood," etc.!542 It will be observed that Luke presents a more personal bearing of the Lord's words here, as in the great discourse of Luke 6. Matthew gives rather the dispensational change in consequence of a rejected Messiah.
*"Which is given for you . . . poured out for you." These words, accepted by Lachm. Tisch. Treg. and Alford, no less than by Wordsworth, as being in all uncials except D, the whole of the cursives and versions except Old Lat. and Syrcu, which last omits verse 20 (in Syrsin it is merely a question of arrangement), are on the "one cup" theory, discredited by W. H. (preceded by Dean Blakesley), Weiss and Blass. The English critics' case against this alleged "interpolation" (from 1 Cor. 11:24f.) would be found stated in W. H., Vol. II., App., p. 63f. In defence of the title of the words to a place in Luke's text, see Scrivener, Vol. II., p. 351ff., and Expositor, March-April, 1908. See, further, note 539 in Part II. of this volume.
Matt. 20:5-27; Mark 10:42-44.
"But, behold, the hand of him that delivers me up [is] with me on the table; and* the Son of man indeed goes according to that which is determined, but woe unto that man by whom he is delivered up! And they began to question together among themselves who then it could be of them who was about to do this. And there was also a strife (and emulation) among them which of them should be accounted greater. But he said to them, The kings of the nations rule over them, and they that exercise authority over them are called benefactors.544 But ye [shall] not [be] so; but let the greater among you be as the younger, and the leader as he that serves. Luke 22:27-30. — For which [is] greater, he that is at table, or he that serves? [Is] not he that is at table? But I am among you as he that serves. But ye are they who have persevered with me in my temptations.545 And I appoint unto you as my Father appointed unto me, a kingdom, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom546 and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The Lord announces the betrayer's presence at that last feast of love. How perfect the grace which knew but never once by behaviour made known the guilty soul! How consummate the guile of him who had so long heartlessly companied with such a Master! Now when His death in all its ineffable fragrance and power for them is before Him, and as a sign little then appreciated by them, He tells out the sad secret which lay on His heart, a bitter burden He felt for him who as yet felt it not at all. And the disciples question who it could be, but none the less strive for the greater place. How humbling for the twelve, especially at such a moment in presence of Him, of the supper before them, and of the cup before Him alone! But such is flesh, in saints of God most of all offensive when allowed to work. No good thing dwells in it. Tenderly but in faithful love the Lord contrasts the way of men with that which He would cultivate and sanction in His own. The condescension of patronage is too low for saints. It is of earth for Nature's great ones. He would have them to serve as Himself. In a ruined, wretched world what can the love that seeks not its own do but serve? The greatest is he that goes down the lowest in service. It is Christ: may we be near Him! Then He turns to what they had been in view of His disposal of the Kingdom according to the Father's mind, and puts the highest value on all they had done. Matchless love surely this. which could thus interpret His calling and keeping them as their continuing with Him in His temptations ' But such is Jesus to us as to them, while in the day of glory each will have his place, yet all according to the same rich, unjealous grace.
*"And": so A, etc., Syrcu sin and Vulg. Edd. follow ℵBDLT, Memph. "for."
Matt. 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; John 13:36-38.
But the Lord* makes a special appeal to one while warning all of a common danger. "Simon, Simon, behold Satan has begged.547 for† you to sift as wheat, but I have besought for thee that thy faith fail not, and thou, when once turned back 548‡ establish (confirm) thy brethren.549 And he said to him, Lord, with thee I am ready to go both to prison and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter,550 [the] cock shall not crow today before that thou hast thrice denied that thou knowest me." Love not only brings into what itself possesses, but holds out and provides against the greatest possible strain where every appearance must condemn the object loved. Yet it was no lack of love that exposed Peter to the sin of denying his Master, but his self-confidence made shipwreck of his faithfulness. Through grace alone his faith failed not utterly. We see it not only in the tears of bitter self-reproach, but yet more in the earnest ardour after the Lord which went into the tomb whither John had outrun him. But we see the grace of the Lord, which here supplicated beforehand, still shining after all in the message to "the disciples and Peter," in His early appearing to him by himself, and in his later more than re-instatement when all his failure was traced and judged to the root. What can we express but our shame and sorrow that such is nature even in the most zealous, when put to the test, and above all when the Word of the Lord is practically slighted? If we believe not His admonition of our own weakness, we are on the point of proving its truth, perhaps to the uttermost.
*The words "And the Lord said," are in ℵADQ. Edd. omit, following BLT, Syrsin and Egyptian versions. A precarious omission with no more than three uncials. (B.T.)
†"Has begged for." It is a mistake that ἐξαιτέομαι means always "to have prevailed," though it sometimes bears this force. But it is often no more than begging off, or to have in one's power, as here. "Obtain by asking" (Alford) is clean contrary to the context, and, indeed, to the truth generally. (B.T.)
‡"When once turned back." The verb επιστρέφω is used both for the first turning to the Lord, and for turning back if one have wandered, as here. (B.T.) See, further, note 548 at end of this volume.
The Lord now prepares the disciples for the great change at hand. He contrasts their past experience with that which was coming. "And he said to them, When I sent you without purse and wallet551 and sandals, did ye lack anything? And they said Nothing. He said therefore to them, But now he that has a purse [pouch], let him take [it] and likewise his wallet, and he that has none, let him sell his garment and buy a sword. For I say unto you, that this which is written must yet* be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among lawless. [men]: for also the things concerning me have an end."552 Thus the changes to them depended on Him. Jesus was about to be given up into the hands of wicked men; the protection thrown around Him, as around them, was now to be withdrawn. Clearly this is no question of atonement, though of suffering and rejection in which others could have communion, as the apostle expressly teaches in Philippians 3:10. Jesus was despised and rejected of men, yea, given up to it finally of God; besides He "who knew no sin" was about to be "made sin" for us.
*"Yet": so Blass (omitting ὅτι, that), with ΔΛΠ, Syrcu Vulg. Arm. Other Edd. omit, after ℵABDHL, etc., 1, Memph.
Little did the disciples understand their Master. Indeed, flesh and blood can never relish suffering, more especially suffering such as His, where man proves his vileness and opposition to God to the uttermost. Even saints are slow to enter in. They necessarily feel the value of atonement; for otherwise they have no standing-place, not even a well-grounded hope of escape as sinners before God. "And they said, Lord, behold here [are] two swords. And he said to them, It is enough"553 — a correction of their thought, however mild. For had it been a question of the literal use of the sword in self-defence, two must have proved a wholly inadequate means of protection. The Lord had employed the sword, purse, and wallet as symbolic of ordinary means on which the disciples would henceforward be thrown, but certainly not to abandon personally the ground of grace in presence of evil, even to the last degree of insult and injury, on which He had insisted at the beginning of their call and charge as apostles. No more, however, is said; the true sense is left for that day when the Holy Spirit being given would lead them into all the truth. Alas! Christendom has lost the faith of the Spirit's presence as well as the certainty of the truth, into which grace alone has been leading back a feeble remnant as they wait for the return of the Lord Jesus. Truths such as this cannot be appreciated unless we go forth unto Him without the camp bearing His reproach.
Matt. 26:30, 36-46; Mark 14:26, 32-42.
But now we approach what is still more solemn and sacred ground. "And going out he proceeded according to his custom to the Mount of Olives, and the* disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said to them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and, having knelt down, he prayed, saying, Father,555 if thou wilt, remove this cup from me, but then, not my will but thine be done." It was, indeed, no wonted occasion even for Him, but the awful moment of the enemy's return, who had departed for a season after his old defeat in the wilderness. But this garden was to behold an equally decisive defeat of the enemy as became the Second man, the Lord from heaven. It was no longer Satan seeking to draw away from the path of obedience by what was desirable in the world. He sought now, if he could not drag Jesus out of the path of obedience, to fill Him with alarm and to kill Him in it. But Jesus shrank from no suffering and weighed before God all that was before Him. He watched and prayed and suffered, being tempted. The disciples failed to pray and entered into temptation, so that nothing but grace delivered them.
*"The": so Edd., following ℵABDL, etc., Amiat. "His" (T.R.) is the reading of EQΔpm, etc., 69, Syrrcu sin pesch.
The Holy Spirit does not give us the detail of the three prayers of the Lord as in Matthew, but rather a summary of all in one. In both we see His dependence in prayer and His tried but perfect submission to the will of His Father. Here, however, we have what is characteristic of our Evangelist, both in the angelic succour which was sent Him, and in the bloody sweat that accompanied His conflict. It is well known that many Fathers, Greek and Latin, have cast a doubt upon verses 43 and 44. "And an angel appeared to him from heaven strengthening him. And being in conflict he prayed more intently, and his sweat became as clots of blood falling down upon the earth." Several of the more ancient MSS. indeed also omit them, as the Alexandrian, Vatican, and others, beside ancient versions; but they are amply verified by external witnesses, and the truth taught has the closest affinity to the line which Luke was given to take up.* The true humanity and the holy suffering of the Lord Jesus stand out here in the fullest evidence.556
*Cf. "Lectures on Gospels," p. 383f. Besides All, ℵcorrRT, and Akhmim MS., the Sinaitic Syriac omits these verses; whilst ℵpm DFGHKLM, etc., most cursives, Syrrcu pesch hcl hier, ancient Armenian attest them, as do Old Lat. also Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Gregory Nazianzen, Jerome, Augustine, etc. After Lachmann, W. H. (see their App., p. 64ff.) and Weiss question; but Blass, after Treg. Tisch. Meyer, Alford, etc., upholds them. Cf. Scrivener, Vol. II., p. 353ff., and see note 557 in App. Their omission is explicable from lectionary arrangements.
Here again, however, observe that the suffering differs essentially from atonement. For not only does He speak out of the full consciousness of His relationship with the Father but He has also the angelic help which would have been wholly out of season when forsaken of God because of sin-bearing. All was most real. It is not meant that His sweat fell merely like great drops of blood, but that it became this as it were; that is, the sweat was so tinged with blood which exuded from Him in His conflict that it might have seemed pure blood.557 "And rising up from his prayer, he came to the* disciples and found them sleeping from grief. And he said to them, Why sleep558 ye? Rise up and pray that ye enter not into temptation." We shall see presently the result of their sleeping instead of praying. Not only did the absent Judas betray, but all forsook, and even the most prominent of the three chosen to be nearest the Lord denied Him with oaths, denied Him thrice before the cock crew. They entered into temptation and utterly failed. We can only be kept by watching and prayer. Evil is not judged aright save in the presence of God. There the light detects and His grace is sufficient, even for us. But man has no strength against Satan. It must be His light and His grace; without the power of His might we enter only to dishonour our Master, Leaning upon Him, the weakest of saints is more than conqueror. Thus only is the devil resisted and he flees from us.
*"The": so Edd. after ℵBDQRT, Arm. The "his" of T.R. (Elzevir) came from 1, Latt. Syrrcu sin Memph. Aeth.
Matt. 25:47-56; Mark 14:43-50; John 18:3-11.
"As* He was yet speaking, behold, a crowd and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went on before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss him. And Jesus said to him, Judas, deliverest thou up the Son of man with a kiss?"558a How gracious, but how terrible the words of Jesus to him who knew his Master and his Master's haunts enough to deliver Him thus to His enemies! "And those around him, seeing what was about to happen, said,† Lord, shall we smite with [the] sword? And a certain one from among them smote the bondman of the high priest and took off his right ear.558b And Jesus answering said, Suffer thus far; and having touched the ear, he healed him."‡ He could still work miraculously by the Holy Ghost. Indeed, we know from John 18: that He could and did cast them all down to the ground by the power of His name; but here it is the witness of His grace to man, even at such a moment, rather than of His own personal majesty, which was about to be east off and to suffer on the cross. Each incident is of the deepest interest and eminently suited to the Gospel in which it occurs.
*"As," etc.: DE, etc., have "But as." Edd., however, reject the δέ, following ℵABLRTX, etc., 1, 69, Amiat.
†"Said": AERΔ, etc., 1, 69, Syrr. Amiat. add "to him," which Edd. omit, according to ℵBLTX, Memph.
‡Blass follows D: "And stretching forth his hand, he touched him, and his ear was restored."
"And Jesus said to the chief priests559 and captains of the temple and elders, who had come against him, Have ye come out as against* a robber with swords and sticks? When I was day by day with you in the temple, ye did not stretch out your hands against me; but this is your hour and the power of darkness." God was giving up the Lord Jesus to men before He was forsaken in accomplishing the work of redemption.
*"Against": so most Edd., with ℵBDL, etc. Tisch.: "to," as ℵGH, etc.
Matt. 26:57f., 69-75; Mark 14:53f., 66-72; John 18:12-18, 25-27.
"And having apprehended him, they led and introduced* [him]† into the house of the high priest. And Peter followed afar off. And having lit a fire in the midst of the court, and sat down together, Peter sat among them. And a certain maid, having seen him sitting by the light fixed her eyes upon him and said, And this [man] was with him. But be denied [him],‡ saying, Woman, I do not know him. And after a short while another561 seeing him, said, And thou art of them. But Peter said, Man, I am not. And after the lapse of about one hour, another stoutly maintained, saying, In truth this [man] also was with him, for he is a Galilean too. But Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he was yet speaking, a§ cock crew. And the Lord turned round and looked upon Peter562 and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he said to him, Before [the] cock crows today,|| thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter, going forth without, wept563 bitterly."¶ We see here the worthlessness of natural courage in the saint and the weakness of one's own love when relied on. Only God can sustain, and this, too, in exercised distrust of self, when the Word is received by faith and the heart abides in dependence on God. A servant-girl frightens an apostle, and the first false step involves others deeper and farther, if possible, from God; for what is our consistency if we be not consistent with the Cross? The unbelief which refuses the humiliating warning of the Lord works out the accomplishment of His Word. But the Lord never fails, and as He had not in faithfulness beforehand, so, after the fact, He does not hide His face from Peter, but turns round and looks at him. His own sufferings did not preoccupy the Lord to the extent of forgetting Peter, and Peter's guilt and shame in no way turned the Lord from him, but rather drew His look towards him. "and Peter remembered the word of the Lord," and his sorrow worked repentance, though the Lord carried it farther still, as we know, after He rose from the dead; for the root of evil must be judged as well as the fruit, if we are to be fully blessed and would know how to hell,) others, as Peter was called to do and did.
*"Introduced": so most of the authorities. Blass follows DT, Syrrcu sin, and some Old Lat. with Aeth. in the omission of εἰσήγαγον.
†["Him"]: so EXΔ, etc., 69, Memph. Edd. omit, as ℵABDKLM, etc., Old Lat.
‡["Him"]: so ADpm EGH, etc., most cursives (69), Amiat. Edd. omit, as ℵBKLM, etc., Syrrcu sin pesch, most Old Lat. and the Egyptian versions.
§"A": so all authorities, except a few of the minuscules, Syrsin and Sah., which have "the."
||"Today": so most Edd., after ℵBKLMT, Syrsin Aeth. Blass omits, as ADΓΔΛ, nearly all cursives, and copies of Old Lat. Syrcu Arm.
¶ Verse 62, which W. H. bracket, Blass omits entirely because the verse is absent from some copies of the Old Lat. and he supposes was inserted from Matthew. It is in Syrsin as in all Greek MS., "Peter": so A, etc., Syrr. Vulg. Aeth. Edd. omit, as ℵBDKLM, etc., Syrrcu sin Memph. Arm.
Matt. 26:67f.; Mark 14:65.
Then follows the sad tale of men's insolence and blasphemy towards the Lord. "And the men who held him,* mocked him, beating him, and covering him up,† asked him, saying, Prophesy who is it that struck thee? And many other things they were saying blasphemously to Him." Such was the rude evil of the underlings. The chiefs might act with more seeming decorum, but with no less unbelief and scorn of His claims.
Matt. 26:59-66; Mark 14:55-64.
"And when it was day, the elderhood of the people, both chief priests and scribes, were gathered together, and led him into their‡ council, saying, If thou art the Christ,565 tell us. And he said to them, If I tell you, you will not at all believe; and if I should ask, ye would not at all answer.§ But|| henceforth shall the Son of Man be sitting on the right hand of the power of God. And they all said, Thou, then, art the Son of God? And He said to them, Ye, say that I am. And they said, What need have we of witness further? For we have ourselves heard from his mouth." There was lying testimony brought against Jesus; but it failed. He was condemned for the truth, which man believed not. He declined to speak of His Messianic dignity, which was already rejected by man, and was about to be replaced by His position as Son of man on the right hand of the power of God. If they all infer that He is the Son of God, say it or gainsay it whoever will, He acknowledges and denies not, but acknowledges that truth which is eternal life to every believer.
*"Him": so Edd., with ℵBDLM, etc., Syrsin Old Lat. Memph. "Jesus" is the reading of AEXΔ, etc., 1, 69, the other Syrr.
†After "covering him up," AXΓΔΛ, etc., most cursives, Amiat., add "smote his face and," which Edd. omit, after ℵBKLM, Syrrcu sin and Egyptians.
‡After "their," ΔΛ, 1, 69, add "own," which is omitted by Edd. as not in ℵBDLT, etc.
§AD, all later uncials, most cursives. Syrr. (including sin.) Old Lat. here add "nor let me go," which Edd. omit, as ℵBLT, Memph.
||"But": so Edd. with ℵABDLTX, Old Lat. ED, etc., omit. Syrrcu sin have "for."
Matt. 27:2, 11-31; Mark 15:1-20; John 18:28-19:16.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 387-395.
We have next the scene before the Roman governor. Heartless as he was and with little conscience, still wilfulness characterized the Jews. "And the whole multitude of them rose up and led him to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this [man] perverting our* nation and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ, a king." Thus they who were really impatient under the Roman yoke, breaking out from time to time into turbulent opposition, were here forward in the pretence of loyalty. But this was a little thing compared with the blindness of unbelief - which denied their own Messiah. Nor could any charge be more false. He had departed from them when they wished to make Him a king. He had only just before expressly enjoined that they should render to Caesar the things that were Caesar's, no less than to God the things of God.
*"Our": so Edd. after ℵBDH, etc., 69, Syrr. Old Lat. Memph. Sah. Aeth. Blass, with AEG, etc., and most cursives, adheres to "the."
It will be observed that when "Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? he answering said to him, Thou sayest." The Lord acknowledged the authority that was ordained of God, however He might suffer it. This is the true safeguard of faith, let the authority be ever so faithless. We are called to walk in His steps. We are not of the world even as He is not of the world. By and by we shall reign with Him and shall judge the world; we shall judge even angels. The more are we called above the world in spirit to be subject to God's authority in it: only we must obey God rather than man and therefore suffer where His will and the world's authority come into collision. So the Lord here witnesses a good confession,566 and submits to all the consequences.
But it is striking to observe that the Lord's confession of the truth (for indeed He was the King of the Jews) did not damage His cause before the Roman governor, but with His own people, blinded against the truth. On the contrary, "Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, I find567 no fault in this man. But they insisted, saying, He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee568 as far as this." Satan was pushing the incredulity of Israel to the last extremity. It is always so finally with his victims. Christ, in the fulness of His grace and truth, thoroughly brings out what is in man, because He brings in God.
"But Pilate having heard of Galilee,* demanded if the man were a Galilean. And having learnt that he was of Herod's jurisdiction, he remitted him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem in those days. And when Herod saw Jesus he rejoiced exceedingly, for he was wishing for a long time to see him, because of hearing [much]† of him. And he hoped to see some sign done by him, and questioned him in many words. but he answered him nothing."569 The silence of the Lord was a very solemn condemnation of Herod, while it gave the fullest opportunity for the rude insolence of his followers as well as of the accusers. "And the chief priests and the scribes stood and vehemently accused him. And Herod with his troops set him at nought and mocked him, and having arrayed [him] with a splendid570 robe, sent him back to Pilate."571 The Spirit of God does not fail to notice here the moral peculiarity of the transaction. There had been a feud between the Governor and the King, but "Pilate and Herod became friends with one another that very day, for they had been previously at enmity with each other."572 Thus it is against Christ that Satan contrives to make his union in the world, as the grace of God does by Him and for Him.
*"of Galilee": so ADRXΓΔΛΠ, later uncials, in cursives, Syrr. Old Lat. Sah. Edd. omit, as ℵBLT, Memph.
†["Much"]: so ARXΓΔΛ, later uncials, most minuscules, Syrr. Old Lat. Edd. omit, following ℵBDKLMΠ, 1, Syrrcu sin Sah. Memph. The word is in AERXΓΔΛ, etc., 13, 69, other Syrr. Old Lat.
The closing hour approaches, "And Pilate having called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people said to them, Ye have brought to me this man as turning away the people, and behold I, having made examination in your presence, have found no fault in this man, as to the things of which ye accuse him; nay, nor yet Herod, for I remitted you to him,* and behold, nothing deserving of death is done by him. Having chastised him therefore, I will release him." Such was the boasted equity of the Roman empire, of man. There was no doubt of the innocence of Jesus. The charges of the people had been proved to be fictitious. The hardened judge could. not condemn, but acquit as a matter of justice. He was willing to concede something to please the people, but he was anxious to release the Prisoner. Whether the 17th verse be genuine or not, there can be no doubt from what follows that it was the custom to release a prisoner at this time. Several excellent authorities omit the verse, as the Alexandrian, the Vatican, the Parisian uncials (62 and 63), with several very ancient versions, whilst others change its position. Nevertheless the Sinai, with the mass of MSS. and some of the best versions, contains it. On the whole the balance seems in its favour, as it also would be harsh to act upon an unexplained custom.† "Now he was obliged to release one for them at [the] feast. But they cried in full crowd, saying, Away with this [man] and release Barabbas for us; one who for a certain tumult made in the city and murder had been cast into prison." Such was the choice of man, such the value of their loyalty to Caesar, such their care for God's respect for the life of a fellow-creature made in His image. A rebel and a murderer preferred to Jesus!
*"I remitted (ἀνέπεμψα) you to him": so Lachm., Treg., Meyer, Alford, etc., with ADXΓΔΛM, later uncials, nearly all cursives, Syrhcl (txt), most Old Lat. (Cf. verse 10.) Most Syrr. (including sin.) have "I sent him to him." Tisch., W. H. (Revv.), Blass and Weiss adopt "He sent him back (ἀνέπεμψε) to us," following ℵBKLM, etc., the Egyptians and Aeth.
†The versions omitting are the Egyptians and one copy of Old Lat. The uncials containing it, besides ℵ, are XΓΔΛM, etc.; all the cursives show it, besides several copies of Old Lat., with Amiat. of Vulg. The Syrr. have it, only that Cureton's and the Sinaitic, as Cod. D., place it after verse 19. Treg., Tisch., Meyer, W. H., Weiss (as from Matthew or Mark) discredit, but Blass (as Wordsworth and Milligan) retains the verse; this critic being of opinion that the omission arose from confusion of the two initial ἀνάγκην δέ and ἀνέκραξαν (verse 18) δέ, and he observed that ἀνάγκην εἶχε is Lucan (xi v. 18).
"Again therefore* Pilate addressed them, wishing to release Jesus. But they kept calling in reply, Crucify, crucify him! And he said the third time573 to them, Why, what evil has this [man] done? I have found no cause of death in him. Having chastised him therefore, I will release [him]. But they were urgent with loud voices begging that he might be crucified; and their voices [and those of the high priests]† prevailed.574 And Pilate gave sentence that what they begged should take place, and released‡ him who, for tumult and murder, had been cast into prison, for whom they begged, and Jesus he delivered up to their will."575
*"Again therefore": so X, etc. Edd. read "and (δέ) again," as ℵABDLT, Syrsin Latt. Memph.
†"And of the high priests": so ADTXΔΛΠ, later uncials, all cursives, Syrr. (including sin.). Blass brackets. Other Edd. omit, as ℵBL, most Old Lat., Amiat., Sah.
‡After "released," KMΠ, 1, 69, Syrr. Amiat., add "to them." Edd. omit, with ℵABD, etc.
Thus all the world was proved guilty before God, but none were so deeply involved as those whom it least became. The people who had the law fell under its curse, not merely because they were disobedient to its requirements, but, worst of all, because they were resolutely bent on the rejection of their own Messiah to death, and this when the heathen sought to let Him go. Such was what the world was proved to be, where the reality came out through Him who alone was real, the Holy and the True. No room for boasting more: there never was, in truth, but now it is evident and impossible to be denied by him who rightly reads the Word of God.*
*Dean Alford remarks that Luke omits the scourging and mocking of Jesus. It is just _possible that he might have omitted the mocking, because he had related a similar incident before Herod; but how shall we say this of the scourging, if he had seen any narrative which contained it? The break between verses 25 and 26 is harsh in the extreme, and if Luke had any materials wherewith to fill it up, I have no doubt he would have done so. Truly, unbelief is not confined to unbelievers, and is to my mind more grievous, as it is less consistent, in the believer. The reasoning is as feeble as the presumption is inexcusable, even if verses 16 and 23 did not prove that scourging is distinctly implied on the part of Pilate. Inspiration does not give all that was known, but the Holy Spirit selects facts and words according to the Divine design in each writer. We know expressly from the last of the Evangelists that much more was known than was recorded (John 20:30, 31). The nature of the design in Luke excludes the detail of Gentile iniquity,575 and accounts by moral purpose of the Spirit for that omission which was so unworthily, and I will add unintelligently, imputed to the writer's ignorance. To call a break "harsh in the extreme" which is due to the Holy Spirit I must leave every pious reader to characterise. (B.T.)
Matt. 27:52; Mark 15:21.
Nevertheless the Spirit of God gives us more. "And as they led him away, they laid hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian,576 coming from [the] country, and put on him the cross to bear [it] after Jesus." There was no restraint now, but if man were lawless, God remembered Simon another day, and his sons are not forgotten in the record of life. (Compare Mark 15:21 and Romans 16:13.) It may be a terrible truth that God looks down from heaven and beholds the children of men, and sees none so worthy of reprobation as those who misuse selfishly the highest privileges of His mercy; but when we know Him, or rather, are known of Him, it is not the least of our comforts that God takes account of everything, and knows how to reply in His grace to those who have power and not on the side of the oppressor.
It is not that man lacks feeling: but feeling without faith comes to nothing, no less than mind, or authority, or position, were it the highest in the religious world. The affections of nature may be sweet, but never can be trusted to stand firm to Christ, however moved for a season. "And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who* wailed and lamented him. And Jesus turning to them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over me, but weep over yourselves and over your children; for behold, clays are coming in which they will say, Blessed the barren and wombs which bear not and breasts which suckled not. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall upon us, and to the hills, Cover us.577 For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall take place in the dry? "Jesus knew what was in man, despised not the feelings of the women, but trusted Himself to none. Tenderly He warns them of that which man believes not till it comes, for it is a part of man's wisdom to suppose the future uncertain in the words of God, because it is uncertain to man. Fools and slow of heart to believe what the Lord said no less than their own prophets! Had they believed them, they had not refused Him. Had they received Him, days of heaven had dawned upon the earth, on Israel especially, and all the glorious visions of His reign had been accomplished. But Israel was ruined and guilty, man fallen and lost, and all in such a state reject Jesus. Therefore God works out deeper counsels by the Cross of Jesus in heaven and for heaven, now testified by the Holy Ghost sent down here below. These are the counsels and the ways of His grace, but His warnings stand equally, and His Word must be accomplished to the letter. Soon had they an accomplishment, though I do not say that there may not be more in store at the end of the age, when those who refused the true Christ that came in His Father's name shall receive the Antichrist coming in his own. And the overflowing scourge shall pass through and the apostate Jews be trodden down by it. The Messiah was the green tree, the Jews the dry.578 If He because of their wickedness came into such sorrow, what was not reserved to them for their own? For, whatever His grace, God judges righteously.
*After "who," Ccorr EPΔ, etc., 1, add "also," which Edd. reject, after ABCpm DEX, 33, Old Lat. Memph.
Matt. 27:33-56; Mark 15:22-41; John 19:17-30.
"And two others, malefactors, were led with him to be put to death."579 Jesus was spared no insult. As He was the song of the drunkard, so He made His grave with the wicked. "And when they came* to the place called Skull,580 there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand and the other on the left. And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."†581 It is not here, as in Matthew and Mark, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It is the expression of His grace towards sinners, not of His abandonment by God in accomplishing the work of atonement; and it is of the deepest interest to see that, as the answer to the one came in resurrection-power and heavenly glory, so of the other in the proclamation of forgiveness by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.582 Therefore Peter could preach (Acts 3:17ff.), "And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as also your rulers. But those things which God had showed by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he has so fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted for the blotting out of your sins, so that times of refreshing way come from the presence of the Lord," etc. But here again we have to wait. The message of forgiveness was refused. A remnant, indeed, believed, received forgiveness, and rose into better blessings; but the mass have pursued their heedless unbelief to this day, and will sink into deeper darkness. Yet assuredly light shall spring up in the darkest hour, and the remnant of that day shall be brought out of their sins and ignorance alike to be made the strong nation when He appears to reign in glory.
*"Came": so most Edd., after ℵBCDLQ, 33, 69, Syrrcu sin pesch old Lat. Tisch.: "Had gone," as T.R., from AEXΔ, etc.
†After Lachm. W. H. (see their App. p. 67f.) and Weiss discredit this verse as far as "do," on the strength of ℵcorr BDpm and Akhmîm MS., three cursives, Syrrsin and the Coptic versions. The words are attested by ℵpm ACDcorr QXΓΔΛΠ, etc., nearly all cursives, including 1, 33, 69, Syrrcu pesch hcl hier, several Old Lat., Arm. Aeth., and are accepted by Blass, following Tisch. Treg. Alford, etc.
The horrors of the crucifixion in its detail come before us. "And, parting his garments, they cast lots. And the people stood beholding, and the rulers also* [with them]† sneered, saying, He saved others, let him save himself if this is the Christ, the chosen of God.‡ And the soldiers also were mocking him, coming up§ offering him vinegar, and saying, If thou art the king of the Jews, save thyself. And there was also an inscription over him,|| This is the king of the Jews."583 In every respect the Word of God was accomplished, and the ways of men laid bare. It was no question of a class and its peculiar habits. High and low, the governed and the governors, civil and military, all played their part; and the part of all was enmity against God revealing His love and goodness in His Christ. The folly, too, of man was apparent no less than grace in presence of his wickedness. It was because He was the King of the Jews, as none other had been or can be besides, that He saved not Himself, and can therefore send out the message of salvation now and bring salvation by and by. Little did man, in that day, weigh the import of that which was written over Him in Greek and Roman and Hebrew letters, "This is the king of the Jews." If man wrote it in scorn, God will give it all its own force — God Who overrules the will and the wrath of man to praise Him. Through the Crucified, God will bless the world by and by, Jew and Gentile, high and low, even as His grace gathers out from it now.
*"Also": as ABC, with all other uncials and the mass of cursives. The word is omitted by Tisch., after ℵD and five minuscules.
†"With them": so AΓΔΛΠ, all later uncials, and most cursives, Syrrcu sin hcl. Edd. omit, as ℵBCDL, etc., 33,69, several Old Lat. Memph.
‡Influenced by W. H., the revisers have taken τοῦ θεοῦ as preceding "chosen," and so "God" with a comma after it. Syrsin, however, sustains the earlier punctuation.
§The "and" of T.R. after "coming up," which is in Ccorr EQXΔ, etc., 1, 33, 69, most Syrr. Amiat., Edd. omit, following ℵABCpm L, etc.
||Between "inscription" and "the king," Lachm., with ℵpm ACcorr DXΔM, etc., all cursives, Syrrpesch hcl, most Old Lat. Arm. Aeth., reads "in Greek and Roman and Hebrew letters." (Cf. John 19:20.) All later Edd. omit these words, after ℵcorr BCpm L, Syrrcu sin and Egyptian versions. Syrsin has "And an inscription was written and placed over him, This is the king of the Jews."
Here God would give a testimony of His grace to man, suited to His Son and suited to the Cross. Hence He was pleased to choose the most hopeless circumstances in the view of nature, and even while delivering a soul, up to this steeped in guilt and degradation, in the agonies of death, and with the forebodings of a judgment incomparably more solemn, even as it is eternal, to secure in the fullest way His own immutable character, and to manifest in practical righteousness the ungodly one whom His grace had justified by faith. All this and much more may be seen in the history which our Evangelist alone gives of the converted robber.
"Now one of the hanged malefactors reviled him.* Art not thou the Christ? Save thyself and us. But the other in answer rebuking him said, Dost not even thou fear God, because thou art in the same judgment? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due requital for what we have done, but this [man] has done nothing amiss. And he said to Jesus, Remember me† when thou shalt come in‡ thy kingdom.584 And he§ said to him, Verily, I say unto thee,|| Today585 shalt thou be with me in paradise."
*"Saying" is here added by ℵACQR, etc. Edd. omit, as BDL. Most Edd. reproduce as above the reading of ℵBCpm L, etc., Syrrcu sin Sah. Memph. Arm. Aeth. Blass follows D in omission of all after "him." The T.R. has, "If thou art," etc., from ACcorr and all later uncials, all cursives, the other Syrr. and Amiat. The Old Lat. copies are divided.
†Here ℵcorr ACcorr, all the later uncials and the minuscules, Syrrcu sin Old Lat. Aeth. add "Lord." Some few, 'but of the highest authority (ℵBCL, the Sahidic and Coptic versions and Origen sometimes) read, "Jesus, remember me," etc. (B.T.). So W. H. and Weiss.
‡"In" before "thy kingdom" is the reading of ℵACΔM, for which BL, Syrsin have "into": so W. H., Treg. and Revv. in marg. and Weiss. Blass, after D, reads the verse thus: "And turning to the Lord, he said to him, Remember me in the day of thy coming (ἐλεύσεως)." See notes in Part II.
§"He": so Edd., as ℵBL, Sah. "Jesus" is read in ACEQRXΔ, etc., Syrr (including sin.).
||Before "today," Blass introduces "Take courage (θάρσει)," as D.
There is no sufficient reason to suppose that the robber was converted before he was crucified, or even before he had joined his fellow in reviling the Lord. The earlier Gospels give us ground to believe that both were thus guilty, that the rejected Jesus was exposed to this as well as to every other draught of the bitter cup. I am aware that general phrases may be used, but I see no sufficient ground to doubt that each of the robbers did thus join in insulting the Lord of glory. Why should we hesitate? Is it because the conversion of one of them might seem too sudden? — a reason in my judgment wholly insufficient. Conversion is usually, if not always, sudden, though the manifestation of it may not be. The entrance of the soul into enjoyed peace may be lone, delayed and may demand the removal of many hindrances. This is rarely done in a very short time; but it is wholly distinct from conversion, and the two things should not be confounded as they too often are. Conversion is the soul's turning to God through a believing reception of the Lord Jesus; the enjoyment of peace depends on the soul's submission to the righteousness of God when the redemption-work of the Lord Jesus is seen by faith. Hence there are many souls who are truly converted because they have bowed to Jesus, who nevertheless are often cast down and unhappy and burdened, because they do not equally see peace made by the blood of His Cross. Where there is the simple reception of the Gospel the converted soul passes so soon into peace that one can well understand how the two things get confounded in the minds of many; as many others, on the contrary, confound them, because, unconsciously slighting conversion, which frequently plunges the soul in deep exercise and trouble of conscience before God, they only take into account that complete relief and peace which the Gospel ministers.
Certain it is that the malefactor was now converted who rebuked the sin of him, who persisted in reviling the Lord. On the other hand, there may be the surest reviling of the Saviour without one word which man as such would consider blasphemous. In this very instance the impenitent robber simply said, "Art not thou the Christ? Save thyself and us." It was a thought, it was language not unnatural to man's mind under such circumstances. It was blasphemy to the mind of the Spirit. That the promised centre and medium of every blessedness for the earth, for man, and for God here below, should die upon a cross did seem beyond measure strange; that He Who had all power to save others, not to speak of Himself, should be pleased so to die, was naturally incredible. Man does not understand the depth of the humiliation of Jesus any more than the grace of God, or of his own utter need as measured and met by both.
But it is deeply interesting to see that a new-born soul discerns according to God, and this instinctively in virtue of the new nature where no formal teaching had been given or received. The converted robber at once warns his impenitent fellow of his sin, sets before him his danger, confesses his own natural state, his own life, his own ways no less evil than the other's, and in the most serious and feeling way vindicates the glory of the Lord Jesus. "Dost not even thou," said he in a reply of rebuke, "fear God?" The death which was before his spirit gave the gravest tone to it and made him speak out with evident anxiety, and this not so much for himself personally as in compassion for the reviler, however he might feel his sin. There they were, "in the same judgment," as a fact, but how different in God's eyes!
And faith gave him to estimate this aright — the crucifixion of a malefactor unrepentant, of another repentant, and of Him Whose grace drew out the repentance of the latter and hardened the former to the uttermost because he believed not. There is no true fear of God apart from faith; but faith produces not only hope and confidence in God, but also the only genuine sense of what it is to be a sinful man in His sight, and hence the only real humility. Such was the present state of this converted robber. Nothing shows it better than that he should so forget himself as practically to preach to the reviler, to set before him his sin and his danger, to hold up Jesus Christ the righteous. He does not stop to think of the singularity of such words from his own mouth, that be, a wretched, guilty, degraded malefactor, should appear to presume to speak of God to man, to rebuke a fellow-sinner, to maintain unsullied the name of Him Whom the highest authorities had just condemned to die on the cross. This in truth is the humility of faith, not the mere human lowliness of trying to think as ill of ourselves as we can, but the Divinely given sense that we are too bad to think of ourselves at all, because of the perfection we have seen in the Saviour, the Son of God, the man Christ Jesus.
Not that this self-forgetfulness produces the smallest unwillingness to confess our own sins, but on the contrary makes us free to acknowledge them fully, as we see in the words "And we indeed justly, for we receive the just requital for what we have done, but this [man] has done nothing amiss." The converted man owns himself as bad and as justly condemned as the unconverted one, but he takes all care to exempt Jesus from the common character of fallen man. "this [man] has done nothing amiss." How had he learnt it? We know not that he had ever listened to or ever seen Him before; but we may be certain that never before had he such a knowledge as would warrant such language. Was he rash, then? He was taught of God, he had beheld the Lamb of God. On the cross he had seen enough, heard enough, to be certain that there was hanged beside him the long-expected Messiah Who should save His people from their sins and blot out their iniquities as a thick cloud, Who should make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness. As for himself, his wicked life was ending, the forfeit of his crimes, due to the outraged majesty of the laws he had broken. But if there was a just sentence of man in his case, there was forgiveness with God that He might be feared; and the spotless dying Lamb had given him to realise both his own sins and God's holiness as never before.
Without a particle of highmindedness, he felt that the opinion, yea the solemn judgment of man was nothing in Divine things. The high priest had treated the claim of Jesus as blasphemy; the Roman governor had given him up, knowing he was innocent, but afraid of displeasing Caesar, to the murderous will of the Jews. But grace had made single the eye of the converted robber; and his whole body was full of light. He could answer for Jesus as one who was known thoroughly. "This [man] has done nothing amiss." It was contrary to all man's experience, not only to what he knew of himself and of others known to him, but to all ever reported since the world began. Yet it was not more sure that others were sinners than that Jesus was not. It was faith, and exactly such a confession of Jesus as glorified Him at that moment when in the eyes of the world at the lowest point, despised and rejected of men. No angel was here to comfort, no apostle to confess Who He the Son of man was. If all else had forsaken Jesus and fled, the converted robber from the cross was there to confess the crucified Lord, in terms hardly heard before but truly adapted in the wisdom of God to give the lie to unbelief. The God Who opened the lips of babes and sucklings a few days before to set forth His praise wrought in the hanged robber with yet greater power now.
"And he said to Jesus, Remember me when thou shalt come in thy kingdom." An admirable prayer and in beautiful keeping with the whole truth of the position. It is not what we might have thought at first sight suitable to such a case. The Lord described a poor publican as saying acceptably to God, Have mercy upon me, the sinner that I am. The converted robber here has no doubt of the Lord's mercy. He does not ask for a part in His kingdom, but to be remembered by Jesus then. What! He, a robber, to be remembered by the King of kings and Lord of lords? Even so. He was right, and those who would judge him as wrong are so themselves. They enter not, as he did, into the glory of Jesus, Who, as He calls His own sheep by name now, will not forget the last any more than the first then in the perfection of His love. He prays to be remembered when Jesus should come in His kingdom, for he at least believes in the kingdom of the Son of man. Others might set up the inscription without faith over the Crucified, but the name and kingdom of the Crucified were, inscribed on the converted robber's heart.
Remark also how he was guided of the Spirit, not more concerning Christ and His ways and character than about His kingdom. Truly he was taught of God. Some looked only for the kingdom of Messiah here, others since conceive that Jesus is gone into a kingdom far away. He prays to be remembered when Jesus shall come in His kingdom; for, as our Evangelist shows in the parable (Luke 19:11, etc.), He is gone to a far country to receive for Himself a kingdom and to return. He will be invested with the kingdom on high, as also is shown by the prophet Daniel; but He will surely come in His kingdom instead of merely closing all things here below. Not so will He come in His kingdom. He shall reign over all peoples and tribes and tongues. Yet it is no mere earthly realm, but the kingdom of God, consisting of heavenly things as well as of earthly (John 3:12); nor is it a kingdom of the Spirit, though the Spirit makes it good now in those who believe, but a real personal kingdom of Jesus; and the converted robber, with all saints, will be remembered when He shall come in His kingdom. The once robber will surely have his place in that. day. He knew Whom he had believed and was persuaded that He is able to keep what he had committed to Him against that day.
But the prayer of, faith, while it surely has its answer according to the measure of our soul's confidence in Divine love according to the Word, has its answer also according to the depths of Divine grace and truth far beyond our measure. So it was now. "And he said to him, Verily, I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." If the prayer of the robber was admirable, much more was the reply of Jesus, a reply ushered in with special emphasis, not for him only to whom it was said, but for us also who believe in Him Who died and rose again for us. The blessings of accomplished redemption are not deferred till that day. They are true now, whether we live or die. We are the Lord's, and we know it; we are bought with a price; we are washed from our sins in His blood. By Him the Father has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Such is the position, such the standing, such the assured, known privilege of the believer by virtue of redemption. The converted robber was the first soul to taste of this rich and fresh mercy. The Lord assures him, not merely of His remembrance in the kingdom, but of being that very day with Himself in paradise. What a testimony to the all-overcoming and immediate power of His redemption! A robber so purged by His blood as to be that very day with the Son of God, and this, not in heaven only, but in its brightest, highest seats! For such is paradise.
Believer, heed not those who may say that the Lord, separate from the body, abode in gloom till His resurrection. Not so. His spirit was shut up in no prison, but commended by Himself to the Father; and where He is, there too are His saints. Doubtless He had not yet ascended; for ascension, like, resurrection, is predicated of the body; but His spirit went to paradise, and as Adam's paradise of old was the choicest spot of an unfallen earth where all was very good, so is the paradise of God the choicest of heaven. Hence St. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12, connects it with the third heaven; and St: John holds it out as the promised scene of glory where the overcomer shall by and by eat of the tree of life. No believer can conceive that this will be a place of dimness and doubt and restraint, but of Divine and everlasting glory through the Second man, the last Adam.
In this paradise, then, the Lord declares that the converted malefactor should be with Him "today," so completely were his sins blotted out by blood, so rendered capable himself, by and in that new nature which grace gives the believer. Instruction most weighty for us, and a hope full of glory, for it is the present fruit of redemption and the gift of grace to every believer. It was not assuredly his own act of dying which had this virtue for the malefactor, but the death of the Lord; and this is as free and full for every Christian as for him to whose faith it was then made known. To us now it is proclaimed in the Gospel. Shame on those who profess to believe the Gospel, but deny its most precious and eternal blessings. Nor is it merely the dark and queen-like Circe who cheats her victims and destroys them with poisoned cup, and will surely find her plagues from God in one day. How few among those who have cast off her thraldom enjoy the liberty wherewith Christ has set us free! How many with an open Bible overlook the plainest lessons where there is no veil, but man stands immediately confronted with the light of God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ! Anything short of this is not the true grace of God, is not the Gospel of the glory of Christ, but the darkening effect of that unbelief, so prevalent in Christendom, which has, is it were, sewn up the veil again with God at a distance within, and man without, wistfully looking for a deliverance as if the Deliverer had not already come and finished the work of redemption. For the soul salvation is come: for the body, no doubt, it waits till Jesus come again. But this is another matter on which we need not inquire more now.
Nor did God permit that so stupendous an event as the death of His Son should leave unaffected that world which He had made, or that legal system which He had set up by Moses In the midst of His earthly people. "And it was now* about [the] sixth hour, and there came darkness over the whole land till [the] ninth hour. And the sun was darkened,†586 and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, Father, into thy hands I commend‡ my spirit; and, having said this, he expired."587 And the testimony was not without immediate effect on the officer in command at the crucifixion. "Now the centurion, seeing what took place, glorified God, saying, Certainly this [man] was righteous." But the mass were filled with the sense of having committed themselves to they knew not what. "And all the crowds that came together for that sight, having beheld§ the things done, returned beating [their] breasts." Not that some were not there who prized His ministry and were attached to His person, but far off in that day of man's shame and guilt and of Satan's power. "And all those who knew him stood afar off, and women who had accompanied him from Galilee, seeing these things."
*"Now": so BCpm L, Memph., followed by most Edd. Blass omits, as ℵACcorr DQRXΓΔΛΠ, all later uncials, all cursives, Syrr. Old Latt. Sah. Arm.
†"And the sun was darkened": so Lachm., Treg., Meyer, and Blass after Acorr DQRXΓΔΛMΠ, all later uncials, most cursives, all Syrr. Tisch., W. H. have "the sun being eclipsed" (Revv. "the sun's light failing"), τοῦ ἡλίου ἐκλείποντος (Weiss, Nestle: ἐκλίποντος), as in BCpm L and Egyptians.
‡"Commend": so Edd., following ℵABCKM, etc., 33, Syrrcu sin T.R. "will commend" is the reading of ELΔ, etc.
§"Having beheld": so Edd. with ℵBCDL, etc., 33, Syrr. EPQΔ, etc., 69, read "beholding."
Matt 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; John 19:38-42.
But God used that very day and His grace who was thus put to death to bring out to distinct association with His name a good and righteous man. If Jesus in His life of rejection had not Joseph openly in His train, the death of the cross made him bold while others fled or stood aloof. "And behold, a man named Joseph, being a councillor and a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their counsel and deed), from Arimathea a city of the Jews, who waited for the kingdom of God, himself went to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus; and, having taken down, wrapped in fine linen and placed him* in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. And it was preparation day, and sabbath dusk† was drawing on."588; On their affection, not without darkness, a brighter day was soon to dawn.
*"Him": so Edd., following ℵBCD and most Old Lat. "It" is the reading of AELPXGDLP, all later uncials, and most cursives (33).
†It was evening, not morning, though learned men have forgotten Jewish modes of expressing the day no less than the ignorant. Any one who takes the trouble may soon see how this mistake has embroiled the harmonies, especially as to the details of the death and the resurrection of Christ in point of time. (B.T.: Cf. Wellhausen ad loc.)
Matt. 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; John 20:1-13.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 395-407.
The Sabbath day had interrupted the loving labours of the women with their spices. "On the first [day] of the week, very early [at deep dawn] in the morning" they* returned.590 Love is usually quick-sighted; it might have the sense of coming danger where others were dull; it might have the presentiment of death where others saw triumph and the effect of burning zeal for God and His house. None but God could anticipate the resurrection. Their labour was bootless, as far as their own object was concerned, whatever might be the reckoning of grace. In these scenes of profoundest interest Jesus alone is perfection.
*After "prepared," in the rest of the verse, Blass, with Acorr DXΓΠΔ and all later uncials, nearly all minuscules, Syrr. Sah. Arm. and Eusebius, adds "and some others with them." Other Edd. omit, as ℵBCpm L, 33, most Old Lat. Memph.
And they found the stone rolled away591 from the sepulchre; and entering in they found not the body of the Lord Jesus.*592 And it came to pass, in their perplexity about it, that behold, two men593 stood by them in shining raiment. And as they were fearful and bending their faces to the ground, they said to them, Why seek ye the living One among the dead? He is not here, but is risen:† remember how he spoke to you, being yet in Galilee,594 saying, That the Son of man.595 must be delivered up to the hands of sinners, and be crucified, and rise the third day." But men, and even saints, are dull to appreciate the resurrection; it brings God too near to them, for of all things none is more characteristic of Him than raising the dead, and most of all resurrection from among the dead must be learnt by Divine teaching as only He could reveal it of His grace. For this breaks in upon the whole course of the world and displays a power superior to nature, triumphant over Satan, which delivers even from Divine judgment. Here it was the Deliverer Himself: often had He told the disciples of it; He had named even the third day. Yet those who were most faithful, as they understood not at the time, so remembered not afterwards till the fact had taken place and heavenly messengers recalled His words to them afresh. "And they remembered his words; and, returning from the sepulchre,‡ related596 all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene,597 and Joanna, and Mary the [mother] of James, and the rest with them, who§ told these things to the apostles. And these words appeared in their eyes as an idle tale, and they disbelieved them."598
*"Of the Lord Jesus": so Weiss, with some earlier Edd., after ℵABCL, all other uncials but one, all cursives, Syrr. other than Cureton's and Sinai, Memph. Arm. Aeth. Blass omits the words, which W. H., exceptionally following D and Old Latt., discredits. Cf. R.V. marg. and see, further, note 592 in App.
†"He is not here, but is risen": so all authorities except D and Itala. Nevertheless, W. H., Blass, and Weiss agree in treating the words as no part of the primitive text.
‡"From the sepulchre": retained by Weiss, as in all authorities but those mentioned in last note, with Memph. and Arm. W. H. brackets; Blass omits.
§"Who": so ℵcorr X, etc., Syrr. Memph. Arm. Edd. (Revv.) reject, as ℵpm ABDEFGH, etc., Old Lat. Sah. Aeth., according to which there would be two sentences in the verse; the first ending either with "James" (W. H.) or with "them" (Weiss). Blass omits all after "them."
The resurrection of the Saviour is the foundation of the Gospel; but it is the writers of the Gospels themselves who let us know both the ignorance and the obstinate unbelief of those who were afterwards to be such devoted and honoured witnesses of Jesus. Nor need the believer wonder. For if the Gospel be the revelation of God's grace in Christ, it supposes the utter ruin and good-for-nothingness of man. Doubtless it is humbling, but this is wholesome and needed; no sinner can be too much humbled, no saint too humble; but no humiliation should weaken for a moment our sense of the perfect grace of God. The lesson must be learnt by us in both ways; but of the two the sense of what we are as saints is far more profound than of sinners when just awakening to feel our real state before God. And this is one of the great differences between evangelicalism and the Gospel of God. Evangelicalism owns the fallen and bad estate of man as well as the mercy of God in the Lord Jesus Christ; but it is altogether short when compared with God's standard, death and resurrection. It owns that no power but that of Jesus. can avail; but it is rather a remedy for the sick man than life in resurrection from the dead. It is the same reason which hinders saints now from appreciating themselves dead and risen with Jesus that made the disciples so slow to comprehend the words of Jesus beforehand, and even to receive the fact of His own death and resurrection when accomplished.
We may observe, too, how little flesh could glory in what we have here before us. Out of weakness truly the women were made strong, while they who ought to have been pillars were. weakness itself or worse. The words of the witnesses of the great truth seemed in their eyes a delirious dream, and they who were afterwards to call men to the faith know by their own experience, even as believers, what it is to disbelieve the resurrection. How this would enhance their estimate. of Divine grace! how call out patience no less than burning zeal in proclaiming the risen One to incredulous man! He who had so borne with them could bless any by Him Who died for all.
"But Peter, rising up, ran to the sepulchre, and stooping down he sees the linen clothes lying alone, and went away home,* wondering at what had happened."†599 It is to John we are indebted for telling his part and God's analysis of his own inner man. "Then entered in therefore the other disciple also who came first to the tomb, and he saw and believed. For they had not yet known the scripture that he must rise from the dead." "He saw and believed." It was accepted on evidence: he no longer doubted that Jesus was risen; but it was founded upon his own sight merely of indisputable fact, not on God's Word. "For as yet they knew not the scripture that he must rise from among the dead." Still less was there any intelligent entrance into God's counsels about resurrection, any adequate understanding of its necessary and glorious place in the whole scope of the truth.
*Such is the true connection and rendering of πρὸς ἑαυτόν with ἀπῆλθε, not with θαυμάζων, as in the Authorised Version and many others. (B.T.)
†This verse is retained by Lachm. and Treg., but rejected by Tisch. and Blass, and discredited by W. H. and Weiss, who suppose that it was drawn from John 20:4. It is, however, attested by ℵAB, 1, Syrrcu sin. The Syrr., with ℵcorr and B, omit (as Revv.) κείμενα, "lying (laid)," whilst. ℵpm AKΠ have not μόνα, "alone (by themselves). "
Next our Evangelist gives us fully and with the most touching detail that appearing of the risen Lord which the Gospel of Mark sums up in a single verse: "After that he was manifested in another form to two of them as they walked going into the country."
Here I cannot doubt that it is a testimony to the walk of faith to which the Lord, no longer known after the flesh, would lead on His own. It is of no consequence who the unnamed one may have been. They were disciples staggered by the crucifixion of the Messiah, whom grace would comfort, founding their faith on the Word and giving the saints to see Jesus unseen, Whom they knew not while they looked on with natural eyes. One of the ancients, Epiphanius, conjectured the companion of Cleopas to be Nathaniel; among moderns the learned Lightfoot is confident that he was Peter. We may rest assured that both were mistaken, and that he could not have been an apostle; for on returning to Jerusalem the two found "the eleven" among those gathered together. (Verse 33.) The grand point of moment is the Lord's grace in leading them out of human thoughts to Himself as the Object of all the Scriptures, and this, too, as first suffering, then entering His glory.
"And behold, two of them were going on the same day to a village, distant sixty* stadia from Jerusalem, called Emmaus; and they conversed with one another about all these things which had taken place. And it came to pass while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus himself drawing nigh went with them. But their eyes were holden so as not to know him. And he said to them, What words [are] these which ye interchange with one another as ye walk and are downcast?†601 And one [of them], named Cleopas,602 answering said to him, Dost thou sojourn alone in Jerusalem and knowest not602a the things come to pass in it in these days? And he said to them, What things? And they said to him, The things concerning Jesus the Nazarean,‡ who was603 a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people; and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to [the] judgment of death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was [the one] about to redeem604 Israel; but then also§ with all these things, this is the third day since these things came to pass. And withal, certain women from among us astonished us, having been early at the sepulchre, and, not having found his body, came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who say that he is alive. And some of those with us went to the sepulchre, and found even as the women also had said; but him they saw not."605
*"Sixty": so Edd., after ABDL, etc. "One hundred and sixty" is in ℵ[Kpm Npm Π, etc., and Old Lat.
†The reading of the Sinaitic, Alexandrian (first hand it would seem), Vatican, Parisian (L. ἔστησαν), confirmed by some excellent ancient versions [Egyptian], is ἐστάθησαν [R.V. "stood still"], the effect of which would be to close the Lord's question with "as ye walk," and to present the words "and they stood downcast" as the consequence before Cleopas answers. This appears to me as remarkably graphic as it is according to the manner of Luke. (B.T.) So Tisch., Treg., W. H., and Weiss. Blass, following D, omits περιπατοῦντες καὶ ἔστε, and also rejects ἐστάθη αν.
‡"Nazarean": so Blass, after ADN, etc. Edd. "Nazarene," with ℵBL.
§"Also": so Edd. with ℵBDL, 1, 33, and Arm. It is not in ANP, etc.
How blessedly we see the way of the Lord Jesus drawing the hearts of men of God with the cords of a man! In resurrection He is still truly man, "the same yesterday, today, and for over," and adapts Himself to the heart, even though, as Mark lets us know in the verse already cited, their eyes were holden so that they should not recognize their Master: He had appeared "in another form." But He drew out their thoughts to lead them into the truth, in order that the very sorrows of His rejection, which seemed so inexplicable to them and inconsistent with their expectations, might be seen to be required by the Divine Word, and thus be a confirmation, not perilous, to their faith. They had looked for redemption by power; they now learn in His suffering to the uttermost, the Just for the unjust, redemption by blood; and not this only, but a new life out of death, and superior to it, witnessed and established and given us in Him, Satan's power in sin and its consequences being vanquished for ever, though for the present only a matter of testimony to the world and of enjoyment by the Holy Ghost to the believer.
"And he said to them, O senseless and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!606 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter607 into his glory? And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets,608 he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."
Such is the real secret of unbelief in believers. They fail because they do not believe all. Having but a partial view of Divine truth, they easily exaggerate here or there; and the rather as, not reading Christ throughout Scripture, they are apt to shirk that rejection in the world now which disciples must accept or at least experience if they follow the Master, as surely as they will share His glory by and by. In the world, as it is, Christ could not but suffer; and everyone who is perfected shall be as He. It is morally inevitable as due to the Divine nature, as well as required by the Word. It could not be otherwise, God being what He is, and man a sinner in thraldom to the enemy. But now He was dead and risen; and they must know Him thus, no longer according to their old and Jewish thoughts. We have Christ's own word for it, that He was in the mind of the Spirit in all the Scriptures; and they are blind or blinded who see Him not in every part of the Bible. He is the truth, but it is only by the Holy Ghost we can find Him even there.
A great lesson was taught during the walk to Emmaus. The accuracy and light of the Scriptures showed where men, and even believers, had overlooked much. The Jews had contented themselves with their general testimony to the hopes of the nation and the glory of the kingdom; but they had passed by, as the Lord proved, what was really deeper and now of the most essential importance — the sufferings of Christ, no less than the higher and heavenly part, at any rate, of the glories which should follow. The Lord condescended to draw the evidence from the written Word of the Old Testament, rather than to take His stand upon present facts alone, or His own fresh revelations. But more was needed than the value of Scripture thus proved, and this He supplies.
"And they drew near to the village where they were going, and he made* as though he would go farther. And they forced him, saying, Stay609 with us, because it is towards evening and the day is sunk low. And he went in to abide with them. And it came to pass as he was at table with them, having taken the bread, he blessed, and, having broken, gave [it] to them.610 And their eyes were opened thoroughly, and they recognised him, and he disappeared from them."
*Blass reads, as T.R., the imperfect (προσεποιειτο, "he was for m.") with PX, etc.; other Edd., the aorist (προσεποιήσατο), as ℵABDL, 1.
Not that the occasion was the Eucharist, but that He chose the act of breaking the bread, which He had previously made the symbol of His death for us, to be the moment and means of making Himself known to the two disciples. Thus was He to be known henceforward, no longer after the flesh, but dead and risen. Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new, and all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.
Hence, too, the moment he was recognised He vanished from them. It is no longer a visible Messiah, any more than a living one after the flesh. He is only rightly seen by the Christian when unseen, yet He must have come and accomplished the mighty work of redemption first. For this purpose He had died, having glorified His Father on the earth and finished the work given Him to do. But this done, He does not yet take His ' old and predicted place on the throne of David. This awaits the day when Israel shall be brought back repentant and blessed in their own land, under His glorious reign, and all the earth shall reap the fruits to the praise and glory of God the Father. But, for the present, new things have come in. The Redeemer is gone to heaven, not come to Zion, and on earth He is known by His own disciples in the breaking of bread, His presence being exclusively known to faith.
"And they said to one another, Was not our heart burning in us, as he spoke to us on the way,* as he opened to us the scriptures? And having risen up that hour, they returned to Jerusalem and found assembled the eleven and those with them saying, The Lord is indeed risen and has appeared to Simon.611 And they related the things on the way, and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread." As the angel had expressly said, "Go, tell his disciples and Peter" (Mark 16:7), so He appeared to Cephas (1 Corinthians 15:5), then to the twelve.
*AEPXΔ, etc., 1, 69, Amiat. put "and" before the second "as." This the Edd. omit, with ℵBDL, 33, Memph.
Mark 16:14-18; John 20:19-23.
And so it is taught us here, "And while they were talking these things, he himself* stood in their midst, and says to them peace to you.612 But confounded and being frightened, they supposed they beheld a spirit."613 And he said to them, Why are ye troubled, and wherefore do reasonings613a rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet that it is I myself; handle me and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones even as ye see me have. And having said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.† And while they were yet unbelieving for joy and wondering, he said to them, Have ye anything to eat here? And they gave him part of a broiled fish [and of a honeycomb].‡ And having taken, he ate before them." It is the Lord Himself, risen from the dead, but a real man, with hands and feet, capable of being handled and seen, not a spirit, but a spiritual body. Of this He gave the fullest proof by proceeding to eat in their presence. As having a body He could eat; as having a spiritual body He did not need to eat.614 Thus the resurrection of the body had its glorious attestation in His own person, the needed and weightiest possible support of their faith. Christianity gives an immensely enlarged scope to the body as well as the soul; for our bodies are now the temple of the Holy Ghost as surely as we are. bought with a price, and exhortations to Christian holiness are founded on this one wondrous fact. Christ was the great Exemplar of man; His body was the temple of God. We are only fitted for it through His redemption.615
*"He himself": so Edd., as ℵBDL, Syrrcu sin Sah. "Jesus himself" is the reading of AEG, with later uncials and most minuscules (1, 33, 69) and Memph. The words, "and says to them, Peace to you," although accepted by Lachm. and Treg., are questioned by most of the Edd., because of absence from D and copies of Old Lat. See John 20:19. They are in all other MSS. and versions.
†Verse 40 (cf. verse 12) is doubted by most Edd. from its omission in D, the Syrrcu sin and Old Lat., also because of likeness to John 20:20. It is in ℵAB, all later uncials but Beza's, in the cursives, the other Syrr. and the Egyptians, and is upheld by Lachm. and Treg.
‡["And a honeycomb"]: so EHKM and the other later uncials, the cursives 1, 33, 69, most Syrr. and Old Lat., Memph. Aeth. Arm. Edd. omit, following ℵABDLΠ, Syrsin.
But, further, there is a message. "And he said unto them, These [are] the* words which I spake unto you, while being yet with you, that all that must be fulfilled that is written in the law of Moses and prophets and psalms concerning me. Then he thoroughly opened their understanding to understand the scriptures, and said to them, Thus it is written† that the Christ should suffer and arise from [the] dead the third day;616 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all the Gentiles beginning at Jerusalem.617 Ye are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but do ye settle in the city,‡ until ye be endued with power from on high." It was no new thing for the Lord to disclose His death and resurrection. He had been intimating it from before the transfiguration with increasing plainness; but they had heeded little a truth the need of which they did not feel for themselves and the moral glory of which for God they could not yet see. It was impossible to affirm with truth that it was a surprise to Jesus, or that law, psalms, and prophets had overlooked it, for on this truth of His death and resurrection hang the types as a whole, and this is the deepest burden of the prophets and of the psalmist. But now the suffering Christ was risen from among the dead, and repentance and remission of sins must be preached in His name to all the nations with Jerusalem as the starting-point. What wondrous grace! The nations had slain Him at Jerusalem's instigation, but God is active in His love above all the evil of man or of His own people.
*"The": so, Blass, as T.R., from ℵ, etc., Syrr. and Latt. Other Edd. follow ABDKL, etc., 33, and Aeth., which have "my."
†"Thus it is written," etc.: so Edd. after ℵBCpm DL, Memph. Aeth. "Thus it behoved" is the reading of ACcorr N, etc., most cursives (1, 33, 69), Syrr. and Vulg.
‡After "city," ACcorr XΓΛΠ, all later uncials, all cursives, Syrr. Arm. Aeth., add "of Jerusalem," which Edd. omit, following ℵBCpm DL, most Old Lat. and Memph.
It is well to note, however, that repentance is preached with remission of sins; nor can we exaggerate its importance if we do not misuse it to depreciate God's work of grace by Jesus Christ our Lord. Many, no doubt, misuse it, and more misunderstand it; but repentance abides a necessity for every soul which looks out of its sins to the Saviour. He has finished the work by which comes remission of sins to the believer; but it is not the faith of God's elect where the soul overlooks its sinfulness, where the Holy Spirit does not produce self-judgment by the Word of God applied to the conscience. Faith, without such a recognition and self-loathing and confession of our sins and state, is only intellectual, and will leave us to lie down in sorrow when we most need solid ground and peace with God. Repentance, on the other hand, Is no preparation for faith, but the accompaniment of it, and is alone real where faith is of God. It is deepened, too, as faith sees more clearly.
It is well to note also that the promise of the Father is distinct from repentance and remission of sins, as it is, again, from the opening of the understanding to understand the Scriptures. These the disciples had already; they had to wait for the promise of the Father. Till the descent of the Spirit they were not endued with power from on high. Then the Holy Ghost, sent down from heaven, wrought variously to the glory of the Lord.
"And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, be blessed them. And it came to pass, while he was blessing them, he was separated 619 from them, and was carried up into heaven.* And they having done him homage,† returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God."‡ To that spot outside Jerusalem Jesus had often gone. There was the family that He loved; thither He leads the disciples for the last time on earth, and thence, in the act of blessing, with uplifted hands, He parts from them and is borne up into heaven — the risen Man, the Lord from heaven. What a contrast with him who fell, and all the earth through him, transmitting the curse to his sad descendants! Here it is not the first Adam, but the Last; and "as is the heavenly, such are they also who are heavenly." Filled with peace and joy, what could they do but continually praise and bless God, Who had in the second Man accomplished His own will, though at infinite cost, and perfected them that were sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. They were, and are, perfected in perpetuity: no less a result than this satisfies God's estimate of the sacrifice of His Son. But assuredly the promise of the Father, when fulfilled, did not make the joy less or the praise more scanty. For He is not only power for testimony, but also for the soul, the One Who gives us now the full taste of fellowship, and causes worship to ascend to our God and Father in spirit and in truth. But of this the sequel of Luke, commonly called the Acts of the Apostles, is the due and full witness, and there, if the Lord will, we may enter into the detailed account which the Spirit has given us of His work, whether in individuals or in the Church, to the glory of the Lord Jesus.§ Truly our fellowship is with the Father and With His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
*"And was carried up into heaven": so Lachm., after ABCLXMΛΠ, etc., later uncials, all minuscules, most Syrr. Vulg. Memph., Cyril and Augustine. Other Edd. discredit it, following ℵpm, D, Syrsin, some Old Lat. See W. H., App., p. 73.
†"Having done him homage": so Lachm. and Treg., after all MSS. except Beza's, and versions except most of Old Lat., which other Edd. follow for the bracketing or omission (Tisch.) of these words.
‡"Praising and blessing": so Lachm. and Treg. (text), after ℵcorr XΔM, etc., all cursives, some Old Lat., Amiat., etc. W. H. and Weiss omit "praising and," with ℵBCpm L, Syrrsin hier; Tisch. and Blass omit "and blessing," with D and some Latt. Memph. and Augustine. It may be a "conflation." At end, ABCcorr XΔ, etc., 69, Syrr. Amiat. add "Amen," which Edd. omit, as ℵCpm DLΠ, 1, 33, Syrsin, several Old Lat. Memph.
§See "The Acts of the Apostles, with a New Version of a Corrected Text, Expounded," 2 vols. (1895).