The scribes and Pharisees had found fault with the disciples for eating bread with unwashen hands, complaining that they did not walk according to the tradition of the elders. (vv. 2 - 5.) To this the Lord gave a threefold answer: first, He charged the Pharisees with hypocrisy, inasmuch as they were satisfied with honouring God with their lips, while their hearts were far from Him; secondly, He declared that worship which was regulated by man's commandments was vain; and thirdly, He told them that they had rejected the commandments of God in order to maintain their own tradition. As an illustration of the last point He cites a special case, and it is in connection with this that the word "Corban" occurs. First, then, the Lord adduces the law of Moses, the word of God - "Honour thy father and thy mother." This command plainly made it obligatory upon the Jews to maintain their parents, if necessary. (See Proverbs 3:9, for a similar use of the word "honour.") But they desired to escape this responsibility, and they devised a pious pretext for doing so. They taught that, if a man devoted his property to God for His service, they were released from the duty of honouring their parents; and consequently they said, "It is Corban" - that is, a gift, or a thing devoted to sacred uses - to excuse themselves from their responsibility. They thus set aside the word of God, through their own tradition, and made the word of God of no effect. Truly, in every age, it is necessary to proclaim that to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams; and that no greater dishonour can be done to God than by the substitution of man's teachings in the place of His commandments.
The question has been raised whether our blessed Lord's learning obedience by the things which He suffered, is not confined to what He endured in Gethsemane. There is no possible doubt that v. 7 refers to His experience in the garden; and it is remarkable that the statement in v. 8 should be found between it and His resurrection. Still, the subject which the apostle is here unfolding has to be borne in mind. He is dealing with the qualifications of Christ for the priestly office; and he points out, first, that He had been divinely designated to it; and, secondly, that He possessed the personal qualifications for its exercise. And, as we understand it, Gethsemane is cited, in connection with the latter point, as showing how fully and completely He had gone through human suffering and anguish in doing the will of God. As another has written, "His glory (although it gives Him His place in honour before God, and consequent on redemption, so that He can undertake the people's cause before God according to His will) does not bring Him near to the miseries of men. It is His history on earth which makes us feel how truly able He is to take part in them." "In the days of His flesh," that is, here below, He went into all the anguish of death in dependence on God, making His request to Him who was able to save Him from it ("out of" it, that is, in resurrection.) For, being here in order to obey and to suffer, He did not save Himself. He submitted to everything, obeyed in everything, and depended on God for everything." But this equally applied to His whole life, as seen, for example, in His temptation by Satan in the wilderness. For He came to do the will of God; and this entailed upon Him suffering at every step; and we conclude therefore that He learned obedience by the things which He suffered throughout the whole of His life upon earth, but that Gethsemane is referred to as the climax of His suffering because it was connected with the pressure of death upon His soul.
Matthew 25:14, 15; Ephesians 4:8.
The question put is really whether the "talents" in Matthew are the same as the "gifts" in Ephesians. The answer, we apprehend, must be determined by the special character of the respective scriptures. In Matthew it concerns the kingdom of heaven, in Ephesians the church is in view; in Matthew, it is what is entrusted to His servants during the absence of the King; in Ephesians, while it is said, He gave gifts unto men, it is, as v. 11 shows, the men themselves who are the gifts, men however endowed with different aptitudes for service. There is yet another difference to be noted. In Matthew it is sovereignty in the bestowal of the talents, but it raises the question of the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of those who had received them; and this is to be dealt with on the Lord's return. In Ephesians there is also the sovereignty of grace in giving the gifts (v. 7), but fidelity in their use is not touched upon, only the object of their bestowal, which is "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." In Matthew therefore the servants are to labour in the prospect of the reckoning when their Lord shall return; in Ephesians they are to labour in communion with the Lord's own heart in His love to, and care for, His body, the church. Remembering these distinctions, it may be safely said that in principle the talents are the same as the gifts, as the ability for the special service to which the Lord calls His servants proceeds, in both cases, from Himself, and from Himself on His departure from this world. Thus, as another has written, it is not "natural gifts (in Matthew), however responsible we may be for the use of them; it is what Christ gave to His own servants when He went away." We are therefore reminded that we are wholly debtors to His grace, if He has in any way qualified us to serve; that we are entirely dependent upon Him for power to exercise His gifts, and that He holds us responsible for their use.
"Jesus creates, in His own position as man, the place into which He introduces us by redemption."