The Gospels

(Volume 5 of the Numerical Bible: The Fifth Pentateuch of the Bible)

F. W. Grant.


Division 2. (Mark 6 ― 10.)

The Service of a Rejected Master.

In the face of rejection and active opposition; the Lord now sends out His disciples into the world as a field of labor. They take their character of necessity from Him; and as we have in Him the perfect Servant, so here the servant-character is what is seen in them. This, evidently, is what the second part of Mark takes up and dwells upon; the Lord being seen as the Leader in "this, as in the Christian path all through. It gives us first of all the unity of this opposition; from the lowest to the highest, the truth awakening by its challenge of all the corruption in the world the united energies of the world against it. In the next place we see the religions opposition, the legal traditionalism of the day (and traditionalism is always legal) ignorant of man's true need, and therefore of the grace which alone can meet it, hostile really to Moses and to Christ alike. We have then the confession of Christ called for, with the cross as the present result, but the glory the final one. The moral principles involved in the path are then insisted on; essentially the creature put in his right place, and so God having His. While, finally, we have the results when; the creature being thus with God, the victory of God is seen over all that has marred and distorted in it the reflection of Himself.

Subdivision 1. (Mark 6.)

The unity of opposition and supremacy of divine grace.

With the unity of opposition; the supremacy of divine grace is seen: for, after all, God cannot be thwarted of His purpose of blessing, though His method of victory may be by a cross. Divine fullness pours itself out even in a wilderness, and though with contrary wind upon a stormy sea, Christ walks upon it, coming to them and the wind ceases; and on the farther shore all evil yields to Him and passes away.

1. (1) But first we see Him rejected by His own, to whom He comes with power which they needs must own, yet which though manifest in grace cannot win reception for Him. The pride of the natural heart is always the most stubborn opposer of the salvation of God, and cannot even discern the glory of that self-humiliation in Him who has drawn nigh to them. They stumble over the Stumbling-stone.

Yet in this decisive rejection of God's message, there is nothing exceptional, except in the greatness of the Messenger. The Lord speaks of it, as only the exemplification of a common rule, that a prophet is not without honor save in his own country and among his own kindred. Human nature is, alas, consistent enough in evil to warrant such general statements: for "as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man."

In the face of this, as Mark above all emphasizes, the Servant of divine love, able to do little because of an unbelief at which He marveled, patiently did this ― "laid His hands on a few infirm persons and healed them" ― and seeking yet the way to their hearts, "went round about their villages, teaching." How the perfect manhood of the Lord comes out, and is meant to come out, in this account. The divine glory that is His must not obscure the reality of that which appeals so powerfully to us in the tender human fashion in which the Son of God has come down to minister to men.

(2) He sends out now also the twelve, in extension of His personal testimony; two and two, the number of competent witness, and doubtless for mutual help. Mark emphasizes here as elsewhere the power over unclean spirits which is given them, over the dark and dreadful enemy of men; out of whose clutch they have to be rescued. They are sent forth in such a way as shall manifest in all this their absolute dependence upon Himself, ― without provision either of food or money. They are to be shod with sandals, not the more luxurious "shoes;" and not to wear two coats. They are to be content also with what accommodation they find in the first house opening its doors to them; while, on the other hand, judgment is denounced on every place that will not receive nor hearken to a testimony accredited by divine power.

With their message, and with this sanction put upon it, they accordingly go forth.

2. We are taken back now to see the death of the Lord's forerunner, in which His own is not obscurely intimated. Herod, indeed, we are told, alarmed by his guilty conscience, when he hears of the miracles wrought by Jesus, supposes him to be the Baptist, risen from the dead. Thereupon the awful story of lust and hate is given us with very little variation from what we have had in Matthew. It completes the rejection which Nazareth has shown us already, wedding the lusts of the flesh in unholy union with the pride of life. It binds together the world and its rulers in opposition to the throne of heaven; and its claims and grace alike. This is the world in which nevertheless God is to be glorified as nowhere else, and to reap a spiritual harvest which shall show forth the exceeding riches of His grace to the principalities and powers in heavenly places.

3. The Lord retires into the wilderness, the type of the world in the condition to which sin has reduced it, in the Old Testament as well as in the New. Here disciples, hands minister to the need of the multitude out of their own provision multiplying through His blessing on it. Five loaves and two fishes feed, and more than feed, five thousand men. The application is of the easiest, and made by Christians generally; and we have been through it in Matthew already: the fullness of its blessed meaning is as little to be exhausted, as the loaves were at the time here brought before us. It is one of those scenes, exceptional in the evangelic history, to which its four writers all contribute, while in John the Lord Himself develops from it His teaching as to the bread of life.

4. The passage across the sea of Galilee is also connected with the ministry in the wilderness in three of the Gospels, Luke alone omitting it. In each of these the Lord's walking upon the water is recited, and His coming to the disciples toiling in the contrary wind. The walk of Peter on the water to meet the Lord, characteristic as we have seen it to be in Matthew, is omitted in the other accounts; the numerical change being in harmony with this. The general significance of what is here before us cannot be mistaken. The ascent of Jesus into the mount to pray, leaving His disciples alone upon the sea until His coming again; shows us unmistakably the limits of the trial-time of faith, in which is experienced the opposition of the "course of this world." No doubt, apart from the great and final interference of the Lord on behalf of His people, there are abundance of lesser fulfillments in which He comes in and ends for a time the storm; and some too in which we do not discern for a time the familiar form, and are afraid; until the Voice says, "It is I;" and we wonder we could have failed for a moment to know it; and the storm for the time is over. And yet, how often do we find, when a new trial comes, that we are scarcely more prepared than before to recognize the One who comes afresh with it; and when He makes Himself known it is scarcely less a wonder.

5. But at last the sea is passed, as when He joins us in the end it will be, and then the blessing comes, even for the earth, when it shall "know," like the men of Gennesaret, the One upon whom all blessing depends, and the blight upon the whole frame of things shall pass, with the spiritual sickness it attends and indicates.

Subdivision 2. (Mark 7 — 8:9.)

The Opposition of Traditionalism and the Service of Love.

The next subdivision runs still, for the most part, side by side with Matthew. Luke omits it all. We have here in the first place the opposition of traditionalism to the ways of God, and therefore to the true service of man; whereas faith directly connects us with God, discerns and owns His way and is confirmed by Him, as with the Syro-phoenician woman. The healing of the deaf man following this is peculiar to Mark; and in this man's condition spiritually seems more fully imaged to us, with no ear to hear, and therefore speech failing. Here the Lord is specially oppressed by the condition, and His "Ephphatha" is uttered with a sigh. Then in another wilderness scene the divine mercy satisfies once more the poor with bread, which as a figure has been plainly interpreted for us; and with this the present subject ends.

1. The growth of traditionalism is not hard to trace. Truth itself from the source of truth, where ministered by man; necessarily accredits the one who brings it. So far this is well, or it would not be necessary; but how often it follows, and at no long interval, that the teacher comes to accredit the truth which first accredited him. We have gained confidence in the man, and begin to accept with less careful examination whatever comes to us from such a source. The interpreter begins to displace the Word that he interprets. For the next generation this is an easier process, and the rule of the rabbi is soon begun. There is soon (formally or informally) a body of doctrine growing up, which although confessedly human and theoretically fallible, is accepted for truth and attaches to itself the masses. Henceforth he who will learn from God has to break through a steadily increasing barrier to the end he would attain.

Traditional teaching is ever tending downwards. If it has a creed this will be a conservative element, no doubt, but a dead support at best, not a living principle. Being human, it will have gaps through which error will come in; if not error of its own; which will readily unite with further error. Immediate recourse to God is shut off by it, and the profit of His word "for correction, for reproof" is, at least, limited.

In Israel the scribes arose as a reaction from that departure from the law which had been the nation's ruin. They came forward as its defenders and vindicators, and in order to this its investigators and interpreters. Their zeal for its observance urged them to "make a hedge about it" of their own rules, which, while making it ever a heavier yoke, came naturally by degrees to displace what they were intended to enforce. The human came inevitably into conflict with the divine. As additions to it, they broke the law necessarily from the beginning; and the end could not but be still worse than the beginning.

But worse even than their conflicting ordinances was their total mistake as to the nature of the law itself, and of the disease for which it was the appointed remedy. With all their laborious enquiries as to it, they interpreted it superficially, and had no knowledge of its true working. They had not learned the lesson of experience as the apostle declares it, that "that which was ordained to life" he "found to be unto death." They tried therefore to remedy the failure under it by additional ordinances, instead of turning to that Saviour of whom the prophets with one voice testified. Their remedy was law, not grace; letter and not spirit. They would heal man's deep-seated disease from the outside, and if they suppressed the external signs, only aggravated to a fatal issue the internal disorder.

(1) Mark emphasizes beyond Matthew the religious scrupulosity which dealt with the outside, the ceremonial washings (or "baptisms") of hands, cups, vessels, couches; tedious in proportion to its vain unprofitableness. God, by Isaiah, had characterized it long since as mere externalism without heart, human commandments claiming divine authority: so essentially hollow that the Lord denounces it as hypocrisy.

(2) In fact, what God had commanded was set aside by it; and the breach of the "first commandment with promise" was only an example of many like things which they did.

(3) With such it was even vain to argue. The Lord turns, therefore, to the multitude to show them the simple underlying principle which justified to the conscience what He said. Nature had provided for the cleansing of impurities as to the body. Moral, spiritual defilement is, alas, from what comes out of the man; from the heart, and is native there. But how then shall the heart be cleansed?

2. For this they are not ready. He turns from them towards the Gentiles as hiding Himself from their unbelief, to find in one herself a Gentile, a conscious need of Him from which He could not hide Himself, and a discernment of faith which Israel's doctors lacked. This Syro-phoenician, content to take her true place as a dog before Him, could find her title in His grace to divine bounty, discerning what was impenetrable to the men of law. This faith on His part He recognizes and rejoices in. The power of Satan is quelled, and the soul satisfied.

3. But Israel had no ear to hear the Voice that spake to them: and this is indeed man's condition naturally, a condition symbolized in this deaf man brought to Christ, and who has a corresponding impediment in his speech: for the speech can only be right where the ear is open. The Lord is oppressed in spirit with this condition. He puts the finger which had touched the leper into his ears: for does not spiritual leprosy underlie such deafness spiritually? and in the cleansing of the leper the ear is the first part anointed. In this type the meaning is quite clear. The soul under the power of sin is deaf to the voice of God ― has lost even the power of hearing aright. That which cleanses the leper alone gives the ear to hear.

The Lord touches the tongue also; and then; lifting up His eyes to heaven, sighs and says, Ephphatha! "be opened." Immediately, his ears are opened, and the bond of his tongue loosed. He is here in Decapolis, a part of the land mainly Gentile and heathen, but the fame of this miracle goes far and wide.

4. The crowds follow Him; and the miracle of the loaves is repeated on their behalf. Here again we are in the track of Matthew's Gospel, and the difference between the two accounts is very slight. The healing of the multitudes, however, which Matthew records, is omitted here, and their glorifying the God of Israel. Instead of five loaves among five thousand men; as on the former occasion, with twelve baskets of fragments taken up (see p. 157, notes), we have now seven loaves with seven baskets, and four thousand men: the numbers of perfection and of the world at large. They remind us of the perfect sufficiency of divine blessing for all human need, and of all men without restriction being in God's desire participants in it. This fittingly closes what we have had before us.

Subdivision 3. (Mark 8:10 — 9:8.)

The Revelation of the Glory of Christ here and hereafter.

And now we come to the point at which the Lord, having in opposition to the general unbelief elicited from His disciples their faith in Him as the Christ, forbids them any more to speak of Him as that. The Son of man was to suffer and die and be raised from the dead, and come again in glory. The glory now hidden from the world and manifest to faith alone, will at last be revealed from heaven. But till then His disciples must accept the cross after the pattern of their Master. Here the shrinking of nature is at once evident; and in view of it the transfiguration of the Lord attests that they have followed no cunningly devised fables, confirming the word of prophecy by the display of that coming glory. This is Peter's own interpretation of what took place upon the "holy mount" (2 Peter 1:16-19).

1. We start here with the demand of the Pharisees of a sign from heaven, which shows only their own total and wilful blindness to His true glory. The "sign of the Son of man in heaven" will be seen at last; but too late then for His rejectors. The seeking for new proofs amid the profusion that had been given was but the seeking of justification for their unbelief; and to such no sign could be effectual: none, therefore, would be given. He leaves them and departs to the other side of the sea.

In fact their self-righteousness had no need of Him and was but a ferment of opposition in their hearts. This is what He presently calls it ― "leaven," "ferment": the pride and will of man aroused in rebellion against God; and this characterized them. Elsewhere He stamps it as "hypocrisy": for their minds were made up, and their arguments were but insincere, ― the dictates of will, not reason. Alas, in disciples also such leaven might be found: self-righteousness as in the Pharisees, worldliness as in the Herodians. Of this He warns them now, though at first they think but of the bread they have forgotten; and they have forgotten practically the bread that He had blessed!

2. Following this, the blind man at Bethsaida illustrates, as it would seem, the gradual breaking in of light with those who are in His hands for the cure of nature's blindness, ― hands that do not cease their work until the cure is complete. The hindrances to it have just been put before us, ― self-occupation, the world, the half-sincerity and lack of earnestness in our discipleship, and such like things. No wonder if the Lord must have us alone with Himself for cure, outside of Bethsaida, the "place of nets," which the world truly is. Then comes the touch of His hands; and if the sight produced be indistinct, we must still not deny that it is truly sight. Nor will He leave till it be perfected.

3. We have had the hindrances of faith, and its gradual development amid such hindrances; we now have that in which, where real, it ever manifests itself. It may see men but as trees walking; but it sees Christ and does not confound Him with other men. Those who said He was John the Baptist or Elias did not mean Him any dishonor, but they had not eyes to distinguish the glory of the Christ of God. The Lord tells them that they are not to make Him known as such: for it was now plain that Israel had no welcome for Him; and the Cross was now to be the only expectation that His followers were to entertain. Mark here omits some pregnant words in the confession of Peter, and the announcement both as to the Church and Kingdom with which the Lord answers it. Mark's abridgment of Matthew, if it were that, still follows the distinct purpose of his Gospel, omitting what is dispensational, and simply showing us what distinguishes true faith from all the wisdom or sentiment of man, and carries us on at once to see what man's unbelief involves as to the path of the true believer.

4. He begins therefore now to teach them that the Son of man ― speaking of Himself under that title which showed His connection with men at large and His own stooping to all implied in true humanity, ― "that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priest and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again."

Immediately the very one in whom faith has been foremost becomes foremost in opposition to it. "Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him"! But He turning round, and with His eyes upon them all, on His part rebukes this opposition as of Satan. Satan had before proposed to Him a way to the Kingdom without the Cross; and here amongst His own is the same voice now, exhorting Him to spare Himself. But these were not the purposes of God, but the weak human thoughts which could so easily oppose themselves to God. Not as seeking His own after such a sort could He be man's Saviour; and the path of His disciples also must be after the pattern of His own. He calls the multitude to Him with His disciples, that the conditions of discipleship to Him may be perfectly understood. He that will come after Him must follow on the same road: he must deny himself and take up his cross also, and follow Him.

He contrasts here the two ways, of one of which every one must make choice. To seek one's own is to lose all, ― to lose even oneself,* as it is put in Luke (9:25), and for ever. To lose one's life for Christ's sake and the gospel's is eternal gain. This in the spirit of it applies to all; today, as much as at any former time: and a solemn word it is. The confession of Christ still costs: that which does not is scarcely to be called confession. "For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him shall the Son of man also be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of the Father, with the holy angels."

{*The ambiguity of psuche, "soul" or "life," makes a difficulty in translating, not really in understanding, what is here said. Man being a living soul, his soul is often but a synonym for "himself," and so here. There is a present loss of oneself which is only gain, the laying down one's life for Christ's sake; while final loss is irretrievable ruin.}

5. The last words lead on to the transfiguration scene in which that coming of the Son of man is foreshown. We have already considered it in the notes on Matthew, with whose account Mark's is almost identical, except that it is shorter. These repetitions have, doubtless, even as such, their significance; and they differ as being connected with different lines of truth. But we need much more and deeper study to understand such things as these.

Subdivision 4. (Mark 9:9-50.)

God's way for us and our way.

We have now the way put before us in its moral features, along with that which experience does not permit us to make marvel of, the contrast of our own ways naturally. Two things are specially insisted on here, the second of which is involved in the first: faith, ― which, putting God in His place, puts me in mine; and lowliness, which is just the taking this creature-place before God. As a foundation principle of the path itself we find, what the disciples as yet could not enter into, and in the Gospels could not be much more than hinted at, ― resurrection; which is twice declared here as to the Lord Himself, but the application of it to disciples is left for us to make. This part closes with a most solemn affirmation of a day of recompense, ― the most emphatic, perhaps, that we find in Scripture.

1. As they come down with Him from the mount of transfiguration; the Lord charges the three who have been admitted to this wondrous sight to say nothing of it to any one until the Son of man is risen from among the dead. At this, though He has already plainly spoken of it, they are perplexed. A rising from among the dead is a thing strange to them, though resurrection itself was an accepted truth. This is now the Christian form of it, the Lord Himself being the firstfruits and pattern. No such application is as yet made of it however: only the Son of man is to arise alone on the third day. It is a foundation of our faith that He has done this.

But the disciples have a question they would fain put. How is it that the scribes say that Elias must come before Messiah's day? They know that here is Messiah. The Lord answers that indeed Elias must come first and restore all things. And how is it written; on the other hand, that the Son of man must suffer many things and be set at nought? That did not look like coming after all things were restored. And yet in fact there had been a coming of Elias, ― one who had come in such a spirit and power. But that light had gone out: they had done to him according to their will; and so the Son of man would suffer also.

Thus a world contrary, and power in the meantime with it, a path leading down to death, with resurrection as the answer of God beyond: these are the features of the way traveled by the Lord, and upon which His disciples follow Him.

2. The power of Satan has also to be reckoned with; but the enemy here is one already vanquished, and faith only is needed for full deliverance. Faith, alas, may be lacking so that power which has been given may not be available. The child brought to the Lord has been already in the hands of those who were expressly authorized to cast out demons; yet they have only shown their incompetency in this case to do anything. It is over these He groans as an unbelieving generation, though still there is a resource in Himself, however much disciples fail. Here, as He says to the father of the child, "all things are possible to him that believeth." Mark emphasizes the malignity of the demon and the long time of possession. After he is gone out, the child seems for the moment dead; but Jesus takes him by the hand and he rises up. To His disciples He says that so virulent a case could yield only to prayer and fasting. But how great is the encouragement in such an enemy so certainly to be vanquished. The demand for faith to be in energy is no abate, meat of the blessing.

3. Next we have once more the pressing of death and resurrection, possibly in a wider circle than before. There is no comment upon it, except that "they understood not and were afraid to ask Him." How many things we are disposed to shirk after this manner; and in doing so lose, as far as we can, our own best blessings. By and by, this death and resurrection will be the staple of the gospel that they everywhere proclaim; and beyond this still, new glories will develop in it: Christians will learn and rejoice to realize that they are dead and risen with Christ.

This repetition of the announcement of Christ's death may, as I have said, point to that which could not yet be uttered. As a principle of the walk, for us it is of primary importance. To "walk in Christ," involves of necessity the being risen with Him; and this is the only Christian standard.

4. Grace has put us in such a place, and only grace could do it. There is no possible room for the thought of merit in our gaining that which man in innocence could never have pretended to, and which makes our whole life henceforth but a thank-offering for it. Faith is that by which we regain what we had lost in the fall, the place of creature nothingness before God, with the sense also of our guilt in having lost it. Thus there should be for us no claim of greatness any more, while the glorious example before our eyes of One who became for us a servant in His love, self-humbled, poor, emptied of the glory proper to Him, should rid us of all desire of self-exaltation.

Yet, alas, the next thing that we read of after His announcement of the death to which He is going, is an unseemly strife among the disciples as to who should be the greater. The Lord meets it promptly. The desire to be first would only qualify one to be last, and servant of all. Then He takes a little child, young enough to be taken up in the arms, and tells them that He could link His Name with one like that. Nay, here was the type of what He could identify Himself with. He who received one such little child in His Name received Himself, and thus the Father also. Before God indeed, what is the man beyond the babe? Only the happy thing is to recognize it.

John thereupon tells Him, as inviting His judgment on it, how they had found one casting out demons in His Name and had forbidden him as not following them. Here, too, the spirit of meekness had been lacking. They who had but so lately failed (spite of having authority) to cast out a demon; should have known that one who could do so must have some title. Christ's name was not a thing that one could conjure with. There must have been some reverence for that name which could use it as a word of power against Satan. Such an one could not turn quickly round from this to speak evil of Christ. But among men there were only opposing ranks: he who was not against was for Him. And he who thought so of Christ's name as to give but a cup of water to one who belonged to Him, should not in any wise lose his reward.

5. The Lord passes from this to speak of recompense upon the other side in the same manner but with more emphasis than in Matthew. Every one must be salted with fire: for "our God is a consuming fire." This jealous holiness by its judgment of the evil would only preserve the good: for, when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. On the other hand, for the wicked the salting with fire applies to the awful judgment of Gehenna, "where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched." Here the holiness of God as pure wrath upon sin, eternal as His unchanging nature, unites with the undying worm of a remorseful conscience to torment the sinner. Ah, better surely to give up what may seem necessary as eye or hand or foot, live here in whatever maimed, imperfect way, and enter into life, than; having here the fulness of all good, pass on to the eternal fire!

But "every sacrifice shall be salted with salt:" that which is to be presented to God must answer to His nature; there must be "the salt of the covenant of thy God," as the law puts it, or what must be in all relationship with Him. Salt is the energy of devotedness to God which keeps out corruption: "salt," therefore, "is good," and if it lose its power, what shall replace it? Salt, therefore, we must have in ourselves. It will diffuse its savor round, of course: if it has any, it will surely do so. But this is ministering, not requiring. We must be jealous over ourselves ― careful, of course, to maintain this character in all our intercourse with others; but in peace ― so easily broken by a legal and exacting spirit: "have peace one with another."

Subdivision 5. (Mark 10:1-45.)

Results: Nature in its relation to God.

We have now, as again in Matthew, nature in its relation to God, a matter of great moment in the path of service: the institution of marriage, the relationship to Him of children, the state of man in his best naturally, sin having thrown its dark shadow over all; finally, we see nature thus deformed working in the servant of God himself and tending to destroy the whole character of service; but then the victory of God over it, and the perfect Servant setting the pattern for His people and moulding them after His own likeness.

As we have gone through this in Matthew, we shall add but little to it here; seeking mainly to note any points of difference, with a conviction at the same time of how slight and superficial our knowledge of these differences is, and how the word of God must suffer from our scanty knowledge of it.

1. In the question as to marriage we are taught by Christ to respect absolutely the Creator's ordinance at the beginning. According to that, man and wife are one flesh, and this is founded on the creative work itself which made them male and female, one man and one woman. God has joined them together: man must not put them asunder. Mark does not even notice the exceptional allowance of divorce, when the marriage tie has in fact been broken through.

2. As to the children, Mark notices the Lord's displeasure at the disciples' conduct, and gives here substantially what in Matthew is found elsewhere, that only those who received the Kingdom of God as a little child could enter therein (Matt. 18:3). Mark also shows a fuller answer on the Lord's part to a slighter request. He is asked to "touch" them; He takes them up in His arms, puts His hands on them, and blesses them.

3. In the ruler's case which follows, we find the heart manifested of one who is, as Paul says of himself when unconverted, "touching the righteousness which is of the law, blameless." There is really that on account of which it is said, (and in direct connection with his "Teacher, all these things have I kept from my youth,") that "Jesus looking upon him, loved him." There was that in him which was lovable. What he says of himself, he says with an honest conscience and conviction of its truth. Nor is he, as his question shows, merely engrossed with the present and without thought of God. He desires and seeks eternal life; and, attracted by what he hears or sees in Jesus, he comes to Him to learn the way to find this.

Mark emphasizes his running and kneeling to the Lord, his "Good Teacher," which from that mere human standpoint the Lord cannot accept. Goodness is in God alone: would that he had sought it only there! Nature is fully judged in the sweep of that assertion; and presently in his aching heart, as he turns, alas, from the One in whom his hope had been, he has to realize at least the bond that (one would fain hope, only for the present) holds him from the blessing that he seeks. But this bond a more than human power must sever. Nature in its fairest form is fallen away from God. Man's need is of a Saviour.

4. This is what the Lord now affirms. To the amazement of His disciples, He declares that 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. Those who, to make this less absolute than it seems, would apply it to an eastern city gate, should remember that the Lord affirms directly that that of which He is speaking is "to man impossible." On the other hand, Mark records for us the explanation that a rich man stands here for one that trusts in riches, which at the same time prevents the obvious mistake of a gross literalism, and extends the principle to the poorest in actual possessions. Really he only is in the sense intended "rich," who trusts in riches: and he may do that who never acquires them. In the divinely wrought hunger of soul, the things to which the worldling turns for help become as little valuable as gold to meet desert-thirst.

The disciples in their astonishment say one to another, "Who then can be saved?" But salvation is of God wholly. When men have learned their need of this, there is then no difficulty.

5. Nature in itself is then hopeless; and in the child of God still there abides that which because of its tendencies Scripture calls the flesh. "In me, that is in my flesh," says the man in the experience of the seventh of Romans, "dwelleth no good thing," Of the flesh self is the centre; and into the sphere of spiritual things the flesh will intrude, how easily. Self may claim that in which (in the sense in which we are speaking) it can have no part, and take pleasure in the thought of a foremost place there. Peter's "We have left all and followed Thee," is just such a claim, which the Lord meets in grace with a full assurance that nothing can be left for His sake without abundant recompense, both here and hereafter. But He guards this doubly from abuse such as the carnal mind might make of it: first, by the reminder that it must be done for His sake to be rewarded: not for self, to gain the reward. Secondly, and springing out of this, "many first shall be last, and the last first," which effectually forbids self-placing anywhere.

6. But we go on beyond this, to see the victory of God over all this spirit of strife and emulation. Again He begins to warn them of His coming death and comfort them with the thought of His speedy resurrection. There is no response: fear has already fallen upon them. But presently it is seen of how contrary a spirit they are by the request of the sons of Zebedee for the two places nearest Himself in the coming Kingdom. The Lord points out to them the way by which He reaches this. Can they drink of His cup and be baptized with His baptism? And immediately they assure Him that they can. He tells them that in these they shall in fact partake; but the places that they seek are only His to give to those for whom it is prepared of His Father.

This awakes the indignation of the other disciples, and shows a similar spirit to be in them all. And now He shows them their great and fundamental mistake. Heaven is to be no place for the ambition of men. The Son of man came not to be ministered to but to minister: love's mission among them sought only what love alone could count a recompense. And if, "beyond all controversy, the less is blessed of the better," our dependence on Him insures that this ministry of His to us will go on for ever. If love made Him take it up, love will make Him keep it too, as surely as He is Son of man for ever, although the toil and sorrow of His work be past.

If then with Him service is but the sign of a love unending, and so can never cease, can it be different with those whom He is bringing into the glory of likeness to Himself? Can they take up service to win lordship by it, and state and authority? That were surely impossible: nay, the greatest in heaven's Kingdom is he that humbleth himself as a little child (Matt. 18:4). In heaven's rule, Love rules; and therefore rule is service still, most valued because it is so.