J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 4.)
- 1. The more one weighs this verse, the more one sees the Gospel characterised by it. It is the Heir of promise. Promise sustaining royalty, restoring favour and power, all failed in the flesh, as Christ proved.
- 16. The legal title to the house of David was clearly in Joseph; so Luke 1:27.
Compare here Romans 1:3. Yea, as to even this also, we may say Romans 4:1, for all this ends in death. It is not the declaration of the life in which He lives, though His actual life is spoken of here, but in such terms - it is "of whom was born" (ex hes egennethe).
- 17. Note there is an entire break at the captivity; the computation begins afresh after it, and does not go through continuously as with David. It is from the carrying away captive into Babylon, not from Josias; compare verses 11, 12.
- 18, 19. All this provision is remarkable. It is interesting thus to be let in behind the scenes.
- 20. "Appeared to him by dream" (kat' onar). The end of this verse is a wonderful fact.
- 1. It should read, "But Jesus having been born in the days of Herod the king"; this would indeed leave the time purposely vague.
- 13. It is the present tense, "appears"; see also verse 19 "appears," and chapter 3:1, "comes."
- 21. Eis gen Israel (into the land of Israel). All the Lord's history here is as of Israel, the manner of deliverance and all, but of Israel fallen, but in verse 22 it meets the detail of ruin as well as knows the hope; gen (land) has no article here, because Israel, the proper name, is the subject. 'Israel would be a genitive, and the sense different, if it were ten gen Israel. Ten gen ten Israel would not be sense, for separated from gen, and in apposition, Israel is a man's name.
282 Matthew 3
- 3. "A Voice" rather than "The Voice." But it is immaterial, it is a sudden arrest - to the voice heard.
- 7. Pharisees and Sadducees are here thrown together as one unrighteous class. "Generations," or "progenies," but is it not individuals, each a gennema (offspring, product)? "Generation" does not convey it.
- 9. Sovereignty of grace and real righteousness go together - fleshly privilege and the want of it; but "already" (v. 10) .
- 11. "To repentance" - "To the Name of Jesus." Was baptism on ascertained faith, or on profession? Manifest hypocrisy prevented it.
- 12. There is a difference between the axe and the fan. "Already" (ede) the axe was at the root of the useless trees, but the good ones, it might be supposed, would be left there. But when the Lord came, He would thoroughly purge His floor. The floor was dealt with, so to speak, the wheat gathered into a garner of His own, and the chaff burned with unquenchable fire. It cleared the floor, and disposed otherwise of its contents.
- 16, 17. The way in which the blessed Lord, having gone with His poor humbled ones in their first right step, then is owned with an opened heaven in the accepted place which He has obtained for us, I have noted elsewhere. I add here that, on His entering into it as Man in grace, the whole Trinity is revealed in it, the Son Himself in Manhood. It is a wonderful scene, and then in our conflict overcoming for us!
I think it is a mistake to think that the synoptical Gospels only take a year, and John three. The transfiguration is the turning point - we are historically going on to the close which begins with the blind man at Jericho, i.e., Matthew 16 and 17, Mark 9, and Luke 9. Luke thence to chapter 17 having a mass of unchronological, morally connected instruction. But they all go up from the temptation, with Galilaean work, but undefined dates; the end of Matthew 9 giving a whole lengthened series in three verses, and then events leading to rejection - as mission of the disciples, parables, etc. - then apprising His disciples of what was now coming. There are several points which divide, as to subject, the synoptical Gospels, and all of them, though there be characteristic differences. The blind man at Jericho, I have already noticed. This is in all. The transfiguration is in all. But more particularly there is first the birth of Christ wanting in Mark. The ministrations in Galilee, including the Sermon on the Mount (wanting in Mark) a characteristic part of three Gospels, with, in each, as to details, certain acts characterising His coming. This goes on to practical rejection by the heads, scribes and others being called Beelzebub. The parable of the sower then continuing mercy to the people, and the Transfiguration, which occasions His forbidding them to say He was the Christ. The parable and this make two distinct landmarks. After the Transfiguration it is more instruction to His disciples, only in Luke we have, with additional instruction as to the position of His disciples in the world, the parables which bring out the Gospel for all, and heaven, just as the genealogy was to Adam, after a beautiful, strictly Jewish part, showing the Remnant among them, and this part leads us on to the blind man at Jericho, where His Son of David Emmanuel character is brought out at the end, with the Jews, as at the beginning, and then resurrection. From Luke 9 to 18:31, we have unchronological bringing out of principles. In John the Jews are treated as reprobates, from chapter 1, and the manifestation of God in the Son amongst men in His various characters, and then in the Holy Ghost, form the subject of the Gospel; chapters 1-3 being preface, and chapter 4 transitive. Matthew 4:12 and Mark 1:14 coincide, and then Matthew 8:14 and Mark 11:29; Mark giving us first what happened in the synagogue. Matthew 8:1-4 comes after in Mark. I hold Mark, in general (and Luke) to have the historical order.
283 - 1. Anechthe (was carried up) - led by the thought and energy of One as bearing Him on - borne there in energy; see Romans 8:14, agontai (are led).
Note in the temptation of Jesus, besides the great and blessed moral instruction of His victory as Second Adam, where the first had failed, of His identification with us in temptation and sorrow, and the means and manner - to wit, the Word, and entire humiliation and obedience - of maintaining His place, not abandoning the place with God of acknowledged Son, but persevering, in the presence of Satan, in that of self-emptying obedience and humiliation, though He were Son - besides all this, and, I doubt not, much more, there is, in what is special in its character in this Gospel, something to learn in His association with the Jews. The order is not the same as in Luke, because He pursues it in a moral progression - natural need - worldly covetousness - and spiritual, false appropriation of promise, or, really rather, distrust of God, and therefore departure from the path of lowly obedience. Here it is not the general moral instruction. He is on Jewish ground introducing the kingdom. He wants Him to show His power, to please Himself. The first answer of the Lord, entire dependence, and therefore confidence and obedience, places Him in Israel's entire dependence in the desert; see Deuteronomy 8 - entire dependence on God, as His people, in exercise (and even in the results of unfaithfulness, for such Deuteronomy considers them).
284 Secondly the promises made to Messiah, but which, while pretending to use, He would have really doubted had He followed the suggestion of Satan. He answers again from Deuteronomy, "Ye shall not put the Lord to the test, as if it was uncertain if He was amongst us." It was really perfect faith, though taking the lowly place of waiting entirely on the Lord - obedient in self-humiliation, just where Israel failed. Nature, and promise, and spiritual pride, alike failing, he offers Him what belongs indeed to the Son of Man, sparing all the suffering of acquiring it, but then as open apostasy, not as cheating Him out of His position by naturally allowable or promised blessings. "All shall be thine, if thou wilt worship me." The Lord takes the place unqualifiedly of man's, of a Jew's obedience, and faithfulness as a Man in owning nothing but the Lord His God. Satan thus baffled in gaining the Faithful One by his devices, He is now to go on in testimony to gather, but, as yet, this faithfulness is proved, but in reality all is gone for Satan by this, for Man thus faithful is indeed the Son of God. Satan's power is broken; he no longer holds captive, as from Eve; man is emancipated from his thrall. He turns to raise the professors of the kingdom against the Faithful. He makes John to be cast into prison. Jesus submits in quiet patience, and retires from the manifestation of the evil. Thus the blessed Spirit often conducts us. He becomes thus the Centre of all the hopes, and light of Israel in its darkest, and most terrible times, according to Isaiah 8 and 9, and commences His own separate testimony, and gathers around Himself a Remnant in blessing; compare the passage in Isaiah - He and the children which God has given Him.
285 The wisdom of the Spirit, in calm holiness, is thus often identified with submission.
The tendency here was to bind up the law among His disciples whom He begins to call to Himself, and, the testimony to the kingdom being fully given, so as to spread His renown all around, He begins to bind up the testimony. But then I find in the sermon on the Mount, not only in the Beatitudes, blessing or perfection reflected and showing forth in the Person of Christ here below, but, in principles as to the whole sermon, Himself in the two great features noticed heretofore - the perfection of the Law written for He was born under it, and the perfection of His Father shown forth in Him - as He tells us that hatred was murder, and to be perfect as our Father was perfect. Thus the testimony given to His disciples, but before all, of the principles of the kingdom, left from the outset, on its true moral ground, its rejection or reception, and, at the same time, was full instruction to His disciples, as receiving the kingdom, and that in its patience. And note here how the character of the service of the testimony of the kingdom may run on, and inlock itself into a further testimony, and yet not be it, though there may be a mediate ground. The same remark applies to chapters 10 and 24. Here it is seen thus.
The sermon supposes the reception, the possibility of the reception of the kingdom. The Adversary was likewise still in the way, and addresses Himself to the disciples, and supposes the case of the reception by some, and of its rejection by the mass, and therefore the suffering of the faithful for righteousness sake, and for love of Him. He presents, consequently, without going out of the testimony of the kingdom, the case of persons whose reward would be great in the heavens, not only of the faithful who should inherit the earth. He unites them, consequently, together as in one single class. Now those who suffered thus in fact would begin by the testimony, but they were the commencement of the Church, yet still at the beginning in connection with Israel, compare Acts 3, the last verses. At length, the Jews having definitely rejected the testimony, and the testimony to the unity of the Body of Christ having been brought out through Paul, all those who, being the Church, had borne witness to the Jews and to the return of Christ upon their repentance, entered into the simple position of members of His Body, for the Church was such - there, there was neither Jew nor Gentile. This helps us to see how one can be made to leave one thing, and to bear a special testimony or the reverse. Finally John Baptist, the friend of the Bridegroom became His disciple (chapter 11) by faith. Remark also how the Lord associated the disciples with the Prophets before them, and in chapter 23 He says: "I send you Prophets, and wise men, and scribes," and does not speak of the evangelist character of those He sent, but remains always within the sphere of Jewish thoughts.
286 However abidingly true the blessed moral principles of these chapters may be, there is no real understanding them without taking them as addressed to the Remnant in the time in which the Lord spoke to them, and as applied to their position at that time.
- 5-19. These verses are introductory principles.
- 16. To this verse, it is the character and witness of those who belong to the kingdom - then its principles.
- 17. As regards my note, in the New Translation, to this verse, Romans 13:8 and Galatians 5:14 may be quoted, not as showing it wrong as to verse 17, but as to its never meaning mere obedience. But I do not think they contradict but rather confirm the thought, for this one commandment itself amounts to a keeping the whole law - filling up the measure of its requirements. It is not, "He who has done this, has obeyed this as law," but "He who has done this, has, in every respect, done all that the law proposes to obtain," just so that a man need be under it. The whole dikaioma of it is accomplished.
- 20-37. Evil done.
- 21, 22. Self subjugation as to impatient violence, passions, and tongue; then in enduring, going into grace, like their Father.
- 37-48. Evil suffered, and character of grace added, as like the Father.
It seems to me clearer and clearer that the teaching of this chapter, whatever the instruction be for us, and it is precious and great, is, in its direct application, simply the characteristics of what those, amongst whom He then came, must possess to have a part, and what part in the kingdom. It would serve for the Remnant in the last day, as verses 5, 11 and 12 for the slain Remnant. Its application in the Lord's time is evident, consequent on His rejection, that is. Verse 20, as long ago remarked, is clear as to the ground it goes upon. All the law and prophets led to was going to be effectuated (genetai, A.V. fulfilled) and carried out into more perfect and full force. Hence, those who set them aside (one of the commandments thus sanctioned by the Lord) was destroying so far what Christ came to make good. It puts no man under the law after Messiah, but it maintains its divine authority up to Him, and He came to fulfil it and the Prophets. A great deal of the law was de facto set aside, but set aside in fulfilling, as sacrifices, etc., circumcision. He was setting up - going to do it - the kingdom of heaven. It was not breakers of the law who would have a part in it.
287 After the first statement of character suited to the kingdom, I think we have clearly the two great principles noted elsewhere - the judgment of what is in man (claim on him for what he ought to be) and then the outgoing of a new nature answering to and manifesting the relationship revealed. Thus, verse 21, violence - verse 27, corruption - verse 33, subduedness of spirit within, the "yea, yea," etc., yielding to wrong without. Then, in verses 43-48, the manifestation of the Father's character in active love. Chapter 6 takes up consequent religious duties, almsgiving, praying, fasting, etc. - they must be with God - to the end of verse 18.
It is evident to me that chapters 5-7 give the character required for entrance into the kingdom, the character which was to mark the accepted Remnant - Jehovah being now on the way with the nation to the Judge; and that chapters 8 and 9 give the other side, grace and goodness come in - God manifest, His character and actings - the new thing which could not be really put into old bottles. Still goodness (in power) but rejected - the Son of Man (not Messiah) who had not where to lay His head. But chapter 8 gives present, temporal goodness, only in new power in exercise - chapter 9, what I may call religious, though the dealing of this goodness with Israel is brought out in signs. As goodness, it goes, in chapter 9, beyond Israel, as it deals in grace with what was excluded in Israel - the leper. It includes sickness, and Satan's power, the elements, all sickness, and that in taking the burden on Himself. But, in conscious rejection, verses 17-20 give Isaiah 53:3, and the beginning of verse 4; verses 21, 22, the absoluteness of His position, and the state of things, calling for the same in following Him. Storms (with Him in the ship), and Satan's power cast out with a word, and the world, of which he is the prince, rejecting Him, that is the consequence.
288 How evidently, in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord speaks of those in the midst of evil, and who in fact had a heavenly, divine mind in the midst of it! This is comfort. Yet, though it has its place in such a scene, it cannot have the pride of it. "Poor in spirit" is intrinsic, yet another scene belongs to them. Indeed all refers to another scene, till we come to verse 6. Then we have righteousness, purity, mercy, goodness. Note, the "poor in spirit" have the same place as the "persecuted for righteousness' sake." But it was in the midst of the then evil. But if those so-called were the salt of the earth, what is it all become? What a judgment on the now professing Church!
This chapter is subjective service, outward life; reference to others follows.
The motives on which to act when doing good or engaged in acts of piety, down to verse 18.
- 18. Good done, referring to the Lord only therein.
- 19. The spring or motive of conduct as to what the heart is set on; confidence in a Father.
- 19-34. Through singleness of eye, and so just motives; confidence in God.
This chapter may, not only to verse 18, but all be considered as a question of our religious state, for it is seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness in contrast with worldly objects and cares.
Feelings in relationship with others. More particular instructions to them as His disciples, with the consequence of observing His directions.
- 7. Earnestness in seeking, and of purpose, down to verse 14.
289 - 15. Guarded from evil and self-deception by practical fruits; but the tree must be good.
This chapter gives the character of service and relationship to others, the strait gate and fruits showing the truth of heart - all refer to service.
This chapter gives the whole intercourse of the Lord with Israel up to the end, and its result. Remark, consequently, that we have nothing of the delivered ones here.
First. Divine power in cleansing the leper. Jehovah's goodwill shown, and Judaism recognised - therefore within Israel.
Second. Grace admitting strangers to sit down with Abraham and the heirs of promise. Faith the ground greater than Israel's, "As thou hast believed be it done."
Third. He enters into and sympathises with their position, the infirmities of His own people.
Fourth. Goes elsewhere, having, as Son of Man, nowhere to lay His head.
Fifth. In the troubles of His own disciples, the Remnant, seems asleep, leaving them thus in the storm, but, on their cry, calms it.
Sixth. The unclean spirits driven down furiously to destruction. The unclean, power in grace having delivered very maniacs, ignorantly sink in bondage.
In this chapter there seems to me more rising of grace above the evil. It is not merely Jehovah's grace to heal, but after all the children of the kingdom cast out, but forgiveness, healing being the proof. He calls sinners - heals faith on the way - raises the dead when they are so - opens the eyes to see - and, in spite of the blasphemy of the Pharisees, has compassion on the multitude, those sheep without a shepherd. It does not end in rushing down to destruction. Hence it leads on to His disciples being spent for Israel, till the return of Christ, if Israel was in the Land. This is clearly sovereign grace. It was not merely present power in Israel; so that these chapters give a double character of His ways with them.
290 He forgives - calls public sinners to follow Him - has done with the old bottles - goes to raise the dead, for such is His journey - heals on the way there also, by faith, those who could not be healed as Israel viewed as of God - raises the dead, for she was not so in God's purpose - opens the blind eyes and unstops the deaf ears. But, in the midst of all this for the people, Israel reject Him. But He sees in the multitude the poor shepherdless sheep, and looks only at the greatness of the harvest, and will have other labourers called forth from the Lord of the harvest into His harvest. In chapter 10 He sends them forth.
In this chapter, we have to do with sins, sinners (in the same goodness in power) but it could not, i.e., His religious ways could not be put into old bottles. Verse 18 to the end is the true working and character of this in Israel. For, though divine goodness reached beyond, as in this chapter, it was still working in; so, in chapter 10, the disciples are sent only to Israel.
Here the means of grace are carried on for the Remnant that had ears to hear, and that to the end. Chapter 8 was His then present grace, and its results then, though still only in blessing to the Remnant in rejection, but this makes chapters 9 and 10 very interesting. Grace rises over the sin, and forgives, but, as present service, there must be new bottles, the sick Remnant healed on the way, and Israel raised from the dead, and (chapter 10) grace would use the means. In chapter 11, the thing is discussed as we know, and the ground of the change shown. In chapter 10, the whole rejection itself brought out in its full character - the Sabbath and Son of Man, the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost not forgiven, sign of Jonas, and testimony, the unclean spirit, His disciples - not His mother - His owned relationship.
- 20. Here we have the Spirit's work associated with the testimony, going on in grace that rises above present rejection as a nation; quod nota bene. The present rejection is found on the blasphemy in chapter 12:31, et seq. In Luke this rejection is the ground, and the blasphemy will be found in the disciples' rejection, to encourage them (comp: on 9), and see Luke 11:15, etc., and chapter 12. Hence, in Luke it is generalised to the state and condition of the world, man, and the saints of the present time.
291 This chapter is extremely remarkable. I think there is a division at verse 15. Up to that is the then present mission. From verse 16 we have more general reflections on their mission looked at as a whole on to the end. Evidently it goes out beyond their then present service. A practical difference is noticed in Luke 22:35, and we have the same time after His rejection in Matthew 24:1-14. Compare, for the present service, Luke 10. The Spirit of their Father speaking in them is not more than would take place then. The Father's Name was revealed by Christ to them, and the Spirit would be here, not the seal but the Spirit of prophecy. But the whole passage looks further out beyond their relationship with Israel, but that relationship developed afterwards where Christ was rejected. It is now in view of His rejection - they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub; but grace is working to gather the Remnant.
This chapter really ends the direct instruction of the Gospel. The Law and Prophets were till John - He was Elias (the kingdom of heaven not come but preached) the lamenting and piping had taken place. Wisdom was justified of her children.
The Lord reproaches the cities where most of His mighty works were done, because they repented not, and told them their judgment, and, seeing the Father's way, and good pleasure, and His own glory, far away and beyond that present scene, as Son, substitutes His own revelation of the Father, as Son whom no man knew, for the past system, and the lowly obedience which characterised the rejected One as the path of peace. What follows is contrast and controversy with the system around, the mysteries of the kingdom, patient grace with the Remnant, the Church He was going to build, the kingdom and that in glory. But in chapters 14 and 15 deeper principles also come in.
- 27. I do not think when alla (but) is used substantially in the sense of ei me (but, except) that it is the same. Ei me supposes already that there is that one of the kind to which the negation generally applies - it is an exception; alla retains its adversative force as to the whole, but something modifies it, in result not the same as. In this verse there is One who knows - "No one else except." So in chapter 12:4, "But for the priests only" - no one else except. Thus in chapter 17:8, "They saw no one but" or "except." But in Mark 9, "And suddenly having looked around, they saw no longer any one but" (alla). Here the scene had disappeared, but they saw Jesus alone with themselves. In Matthew 20:23, it is "Is not mine to give," i.e., all that is desired, only modified by "but" (alla) "to those for whom," etc. He does not give it at all as His will, His patronage, but to those for whom, etc. So Mark 10:40. In the three, we have "none good but" (ei me) "One." Naturally, mere goodness before His mind, He excludes all but God.
292 Matthew 12
This chapter brings out the final controversy with, or judgment of Israel, uncommonly clearly. They are delivered to the Judge. The old things pass away in the Sabbath by grace, and true liberty. We have first Messiah, like the rejected David, then One greater than the Temple, Jehovah - then present - but grace and mercy come in, and the Son of Man, Lord of the Sabbath, and grace, the power of God in goodness, draws out the opposition of the Pharisees, and Jesus keeps His lowly meek place in Israel, and then the Gentiles trust in Him. Power over Satan is, however, shown, and the Pharisees commit blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. This closes the question as to that generation. They are bad trees, and cannot bring forth good fruit. Such is flesh! Words show the man. As a sign they would only have His death and resurrection, for that generation too late, but the Ninevites and the queen of the South would both be witness against them. The prophet, and the wisdom of God in the King, the Son of David, were both there in a greater than Jonas or Solomon, but no repentance ensued. Then comes the final judgment on the unrepentant nation, to be completely fulfilled in the time of the Antichrist, though largely then. And finally He substitutes His disciples for His natural ties with Israel.
Note the parable of the Sower comes before the sentence declared to be resting on the people, and the Remnant are then distinguished, and the kingdom of heaven is not mentioned until the judgment on the people is declared, but it is called, in the explanation to the disciples, 'The word of the kingdom.'
293 - 38. It is important to understand that the field is the world, not merely as an ecclesiastical point, but as going out into the whole world beyond Jewish precincts. When Christ sows it is not merely Jewish - there He sought fruit.
- 39. Not 'The end of the world,' but "The end of the age," or rather "completion of."
- 40. "The completion of this age."
- 44. It is the character of the kingdom, though, no doubt, it is Christ that did it. Judaism was not this.
This is a blessed chapter, not simply as unfolding dispensational dealing, but, as showing us in the words of Jesus flowing from His mind on His rejection, the whole scene of God's ways to the end. He, presented to Israel, is rejected. All God's ways at once come out of the treasuries of wisdom in Him. How perfect this is! He was not insensible (see chapter 11) but perfect. The effect of what acted on Him was to bring out, in touching the springs within, all the divine treasures whether of grace or wisdom. As long remarked, He sits on the sea, has left the house and Israel, and brings what is to produce fruit, does not seek it on any plant on earth. Israel is judged, the Remnant owned; they had, too, the things prophets and righteous men had desired to see. Then the first is individual, then the whole external history of the kingdom of heaven, what it had become like, and then the internal, known to divine intelligence - the action of Satan in the field - this does not appear in the net. The former was the positive activity of the enemy, where he had scope for his activity. Gathering fishes is another matter - fisherman's work - the bad a result, not meeting the purpose. We must not confound all these tares positively sown by the devil such as Popery, heresies of every kind, Gnosticism, etc. In the last parables, I cannot for a moment doubt we have the mind of Christ, only in the first two what He was really doing now He was rejected; in the third, the action of His servants in the Gospel. First, the world for what was hid in it - Judaism was not hid but contrasted - and then the Church in its proper beauty. In the fishes, the work of the fishers of men; only a net, not a hook. The tares, previously gathered into bundles, are cast into the fire. In the second case, we have nothing of the good beyond the vessels, In the wheat we have, because it is in the world - they are in glory. The fish had been taken for their own object by the fishermen, and this goes beyond the kingdom in its outward form, even when glorious. This is striking, as showing that the point here is hidden purpose, to be spiritually apprehended, as other Scriptures teach us.
294 We have here the whole course of events of the latter days. First, providential gathering of the wicked in the world, the saints gathered into His garner, i.e., Christ coming to receive the saints. Then the wicked cast into the fiery furnace, the coming to judge the quick, and then the righteous shining like Himself in His Father's kingdom - the heavenly part of the manifestation.
From this chapter, we have the controversy with the adverse Pharisees, but here a kind of sketch of the whole. The wanton power of evil puts to death what is given up to its power. Christ is Jehovah (Psa. 132) in Israel, but dismisses the multitude - the Remnant being alone on the Sea while He is on high. We have an intimation, I think, of the Church's faith, in Peter's walking on the sea - but they are the Remnant, and at land as soon as He rejoins them, and go forth into the world which once rejected Him, which is blessed and willing.
This is a remarkable chapter, as, besides continuing the controversy with the Pharisees, we have the relationship with Israel fully maintained, yet on higher ground, and eternal principles, both as to man and God, brought out to light. The state of man's heart is brought into contrast with ceremonial priestly righteousness. Israel judged on this ground according to her own prophets - plants not of the Father's planting, morally speaking, not true children of God, would be rooted up. But the true evil of the human heart, as such, is taught, and then Jesus, who really brought God in grace to man, goes beyond the limits of Israel, and to one accursed according to dispensational view, manifests God's heart, the necessary goodness of God who cannot deny Himself, maintains fully the title of Israel, but recognises faith, blessing the worst of Gentiles, when this was laying hold by grace of what God was. He then, moreover, shows the maintenance of the same grace towards Israel, in spite of its evil, and, I think, on a higher ground, though a smaller sphere, as heretofore noticed - not the administrative blessing of a whole in man, but the sovereign goodness of God whatever man was (verse 7, not 12) but still Jehovah, according to Psalm 132, in Israel. In chapter 16 the judgment of Israel continues, but the Church is substituted for it, and He declares He is to suffer, and not to be announced as the Christ.
295 - 27. How evidently the poor woman gets at what God is, and that He cannot deny Himself, and that outside all promise and dispensation.
The substitution of the Church, founded on the truth confessed by Peter, brings in the suffering and death of Christ. The first part, however true, they were no longer to announce. I repeat, what I have elsewhere remarked, how the state of the soul may not be up to the height of a revelation really received of God. I repeat it, because it is so important to remember. If He takes up His Cross, we must; and note it is a matter of saving the soul now, not of the kingdom to be set up, the internal realities of life, but the glory of the kingdom is added, and that is in chapter 17.
- 18. Not, 'And I say also unto thee,' but "And I also say unto thee."
Here the kingdom is essentially in substituting Christ the Son in place of Moses and the Prophets, but it belonged to resurrection testimony.
- 11. "Elias truly comes first and shall restore."
- 14. Note how admirably, from this verse to the end, the whole position of Christ in the world is brought out. We are accustomed to look at the state of this world, sickness, death, Satan's power as a natural condition, but, once the Lord who had created it came into it, its true condition necessarily came out - the opposition of its ruin to the fruits and thoughts of the divine nature. But He was power in goodness there. Sickness is there - He heals it - It was contrary to His nature and heart, who had made the world without these things, and who was in it in grace. He was there as Man, feeling thus for these sorrows. He touched her - the fever was gone - she was well. Blessed manifestation! But there was readiness, universal readiness to help. Many came possessed with devils - with a word they were gone - "And He healed all that were sick." But He felt, and took, bore, all in sorrow on His own heart - divine love in fellowship with man's sorrow!
296 But, for the same reason, He had no place on earth; foxes had holes, and birds of the air their nests - the Son of Man none. How could He in a world departed from God? But He called to follow - Himself, others too. They had excuses. If it were the nearest claim, they belonged to another sphere totally. The rest were dead - leave the dead to them! What a word for this world! What it expressed in Christ's mouth! But He takes them across the waves, and seems asleep. The devil, by God's permission, can raise storms, but they are in the ship with Christ. Their fear was their shame. But a word of His, awake to their cry, settled all. Then we find the world rejects Him because He casts out Satan's power. The sign that that power was there was given. Christ's presence, though it freed when His power was exercised, brought that power of evil sensibly out, and man who cannot get rid of Satan, begs the Lord to go away, to depart out of their coasts. Such is the world's history! In Luke, we have the effect on the delivered one.
- 24. Et seq.: I have spoken elsewhere of the tribute money; I only remark how it is connected with the Sonship brought out in chapter 16, and here, only He brings Peter into it, as indeed He did reveal the Father's Name.
This is a striking instruction as to the spirit which is to animate those who are to have part in the kingdom and life - lowliness - a thorough judgment of evil in itself - a horror of evil so as to avoid it at all cost - gracious appreciation of what is lowly and little, for that is what God loves - grace towards offenders - still, an unbroken will in evil rejected - and the assembly the place of within and without. But grace characterises the kingdom. That is the mind of God.
- 11. This is a most clear and blessed witness that all infants are saved through Christ.
- 17. "Tell it to the assembly."
297 Matthew 19
This chapter seems to me to give more the grace of the Lord's ways, and what was coming in, the Spirit in which they had to walk, in which He did. Chapter 20, the sounding all the motives of the human heart, and breaking with all that tied to earth and was valued there, only fully sanctioning all that God had established in nature, all that was amiable in His creation. But now there was none good but God, and, while bringing in a power that lifted above and out of all that acted on or kept nature, yet, as I have said, sanctioned all God had originally established. It is remarkable in this respect. The ordinances, as marriage, etc., were good in themselves. If a man wanted to enter into life, he was to keep the commandments. But creation goodness morally was gone. None - no person was good but God. And, if we want to go wholly with Him, we must have done wholly with the world, and break with the system flesh has formed round itself.
In this chapter humility is taught as well as goodness. Verses 6-9 are a kind of warning parenthesis. How to deal with personal wrong in the new state of things is provided for. Judgment of self, and patient goodness with others is the rule, with provision in the Church for obstinate wrong. The whole, in general (save this special ordering within) is the kingdom of heaven, and goes on to consequent place in the regeneration.
In what is first addressed to the young man, we have the external positive responsibility of man, then the fact that none is good but God - the real truth, so to speak - and the judgment of the heart in motives, and hence self-sacrifice. These are the great moral questions, and the difference of law and Christian practice. With this, reward connects itself, and here He speaks of everlasting life.
Everlasting life is guarded by sovereign grace, the Cross being the present portion, and all according to the predetermined ordering of the Father. All this is a most important unfolding of moral principles, and is the unfolding of the new thing coming in, as it brought man and God to light. What follows is the closing history.
298 Matthew 21
It is impossible not to see how completely, from the blind men of Jericho, it is the presentation of Messiah to Jerusalem - not a work among the poor of the flock, but a final presenting of Messiah, and Jewish. Here, even the Temple is "a house of prayer," not adding "for all nations." The riding in is evident - the cursing the fig tree - and then the details of the controversy. The judgment of the Lord, as the Stone which the builders rejected, closes this. We get details of controversy with different classes afterwards, but this is the sentence of the nation as such.
- 13. Not 'The house of prayer,' but "A house of prayer."
We here go beyond the judgment of what was, which reaches down indeed to the last day, but does not go beyond requirement from what was, or man, in it. (Only they will be found adversaries.) Here we go on to grace, and the intermediate state, with the present judgment of Jerusalem - Caesar left where he is, and religion disengaged from these questions. The great essential truths the Lord does not disengage, silencing by wisdom, but openly and boldly states the resurrection and its true force, involving abiding life in another state, but apart from earthly ties, and the essence of the law, and then the putting of Christ in the place of Lord on high, in contrast with His Son of David title, Jehovah setting Him at His right hand till His enemies were made His footstool. In a word, it is the new state connected with another world, as contrasted with the old. The point of connection is in the vineyard labourers and marriage feast - one, requirement, on to sending the Son, from the Jews - the other, grace inviting to have part in the Son's festive blessing. Future judgment on the Jews is not part of this last. It turns to Gospel times, and leaves Christ at God's right hand "till" … Then all adversaries are judged, just as whoever has not a wedding garment.
In this chapter we have the Lord's own thoughts and feelings as to the position. It has thus a very solemn and touching character, resulting in the outgoing of His heart as to Jerusalem, though in judgment as it must have been. There are directions for His disciples during the continuation of Moses' seat, and the judgment of the Pharisees who were in it. The Spirit in which the disciples were to walk. All, though the spirit of it may continue, as within Israel. The Scribes and Pharisees tested by their being sent to them like the old Prophets, and the blood of all the slain in Jerusalem would come upon that generation. Her house was left desolate till grace put Psalm 118 into their heart, and into their mouth. But we are wholly among the Jews, and in Jerusalem here, and, as present judgment, by One who loved her - the Jehovah who would have gathered her children.
299 - 39. This though of direct and local, is really of universal application. The flesh receives one come in his own name, and will say, left to itself, 'Let the Lord be glorified.'
I have nothing particular to add on this chapter, except the increased sense, as coming in after what we have seen, of how Jewish it is. "This generation" still remains the striking expression; but, I think, the following verse points out that it goes further than the mere fact that only some thirty-odd years would elapse before it happened, but not more, and that what seemed a kind of impossibility would take place in spite of all.
- 5. This begins explanation.
- 6, 7. The general character.
- 9, 12. The position of disciples in it.
- 8 and 12. The comment. There is another accompanying circumstance - verse 14 - before the end can come. But there is another aspect in the course of it - verse 15 - with this they have nothing to do but to fly. But, connected with the trouble, there will be false Christs and prophets - before, only prophets, but now Antichrist ruling their will.
- 17. i.e., with the Jews then.
Note how human nature first rests in what is established, just perhaps going to be judged, and then turns to false hopes excitedly trumped up when the power of evil is there. He who looks to Christ is delivered from the former, despised and rejected as He may be. And when the evil day comes, his refuge remains - he is unshaken like that he rests on - has not to seek vain excuses.
300 Matthew 25
- 31. I consider this verse as immediately following chapter 24:31. All that is between these two verses does not belong to the history of events; it is a practical and hortative application of the truths to the consciences of the disciples. Neither is it the Church properly so-called. They are those to whom the testimony has been entrusted, who await the Bridegroom, who consequently look towards heaven, having received this testimony, and who go out to meet the Bridegroom, and that before the cry which was heard at midnight. They are those who laboured, or who ought to have laboured during the absence of the Master.
All this is true of the Church, inasmuch as she is placed upon the earth, but it is not in regard to the Church that this is said, but in regard to the servant. As to the ten virgins - the similitude of the kingdom of the heavens - it is not simply servants, but what is found, in general, in the kingdom and characterises it. It is the activity, not the service, which is rewarded - but who goes out, who leaves the state of things, who awaits the Bridegroom, and who goes out towards Him. I do not at all say there will not be anything like it when there will be no further question of the Church properly speaking; I believe there will be persons in that state, who will be in advance of the state of things in which they find themselves, but who are not the Church, and who perhaps are called "Saints of the heavenlies." But the kingdom of the heavens will have this character, of having "gone forth to meet the Bridegroom." The parable of chapter 24 supposes the two cases; and the return of the Master does not apply to the rapture of the Church, but to the judgment executed, whether upon the professing Church or upon those who have laboured when the Church shall have been taken away; in both cases they would be, according to their circumstances, established on all that they have done. In general, they are instructions for the interval until the Son of Man comes in His glory. The distinction between the Church and another testimony is not touched. Two of the parables speak of the service during this time - the other, of the activity which precedes the establishment of the kingdom, going forth to meet the Bridegroom. The Master who takes account of the conduct of the servants, always refers (we have often had it) to the time of His manifestation as to result.
301 - 34. Not 'children,' but "blessed" and "the King shall say." And it is not, abstractly, the kingdom of God (for which ye suffer). It does seem to me a clear, definite statement of those who are spared; compare 1 Thessalonians 2:12, and 1 Corinthians 15:50, quod nota.
- 46. Though vague, life eternal was a well-known thought with the Jew at this time; compare John 5:39; Matthew 19:16, and other passages.
- 25. There is no note of time; it is "And Judas answering" (apokritheis) "said."
- 26. What a turn to patient suffering!
- 29. Not 'anew,' but "new" (kainon), 'of another kind.'
- 56. The form is that of inspiration. The Spirit is writing about the disciples. Matthew might have said 'We.' In Acts, where Luke joins, it is "We"; there the disciples were the subject.
- 64. Not 'Hereafter,' but "From henceforth."
- 31. John 19:4-15, comes in in the middle of this verse. Evidently Pilate was profoundly uneasy, and at last tried to pass it off with gibes against the Jews, but washing his hands of the business - a poor washing! Here the Jews put themselves under the guilt of Christ's death, in John rejecting all their privileges under Caesar's power.
- 3. It is evident that, in the account here, the main facts are brought together so as to give the relative position of the parties, as to the Jews and disciples, in their Jewish connection, and the Jews' connection with the Romans, not stopping at the linking events according to time.
302 - 18. He is risen, not ascended. This commission seems to have been entirely curtailed and broken in upon by the events. According to God's counsel Jerusalem would have been the centre, and the nations brought in under the ecclesiastical centre of that Holy City. The commandments of Christ upon earth regulated all until the end came of the age, but it was given so generally that the principle was clear to act on. But, as within that circle (till God removes it) the end of the age is come, and new energies, or newly ordered, have taken place by the Apostle of the Gentiles, who was no witness of the life of Jesus and His personal words and ways, but, born out of due time, received all part according to that energy by revelation, so he tell us in Galatians. It was another character of things.
- 19, 20. This text becomes extremely important for the ministry to be exercised in the last days. The age is not then ended. "In the Name" used, which was already revealed in the Lord's life-time, though not thus completed and put together, so to speak. It is not however a ministry which the Jews characterise as its object. But, though all power be given, it is ministry which flows from a risen, not yet from an ascended and glorified Saviour.
In this chapter of Matthew, though often noted in detail, I sum up a little as a whole. First, it is not 'Touch me not … I go to My Father and your Father,' but resurrection. The women touch Him, and do Him homage. Then next, the connection with the disciples is Galilee, where the great light had been seen, and where He had been associated with the poor of the flock. Now, all power was given Him in heaven and on earth, but we have no ascension, no personal place, as Son, taken with the Father, but all power given Him, which we have to remember. Hence, it reaches out beyond Judaism, and He sends His disciples to disciple all the Gentiles, "baptising them in the Name," etc. Here we have nothing of salvation nor belief, but, all power being given Him, He is Lord, and they are to be subject to the faith, and then to teach them to do what was commanded. In a certain providential way this has been done, though not universally, and not as really completing this commission. And there is the promise - is to be with them to the end of the age; that is not Church time, but till Messiah came closing the age in this world. Such was the thought they had of it, and in which the Lord speaks, the meaning of it in Scripture. Paul's message was quite different. He is sent to the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His Name. The nature of his commission is quite different, and the twelve gave up the Gentiles to him. They were not up to the height of this commission, whatever may have been historically done. Luke's commission is evidently different - has a moral character - that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name, beginning at Jerusalem. They are to wait for power, but there is no "to the end of the age," and He goes up to heaven, and blesses them thence.
303 The Matthew commission was never carried into execution in Scripture, but merely dropped. The Acts are entirely the Luke commission, "repentance and remission of sins … beginning at Jerusalem." Nor did they flee from Jerusalem, according to Matthew 10. Then Paul, as often seen, receives the Gentile commission in a new way, from the glory. The Judaism, which harassed him, became practically dominant, and carried out the Matthew commission, only according to his statement in Galatians, it returned to heathenism (in popery) when it returned to Judaism.
The kingdom comes in, in Matthew, by Son of David Emmanuel, but He must be owned Son of God to be received - that they will not. We might (if man were not what he is) suppose His going to heaven then, and the heavenly character of the kingdom set up. But, rejected, the kingdom of heaven takes the form of the parables. Then He takes to Him His great power, and reigns - puts in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
There was a special presentation to the Jews in Acts 3, in virtue of Christ's intercession on the Cross, but this was rejected. Galilee goes on, "To us a son is born." And so Matthew 10 and 28, and suitably chapter 24 contrasted with Luke 21. Only Matthew 10 is the Jewish part - chapter 28, the Gentile, consequent on it. With Paul's we know the ministry of the Church came. The "Son of Man" is a wider sphere, passing into Psalm 8 from Psalm 2, as Nathaniel, John 1. But He receives the kingdom, too, as Son of Man, Daniel 7, but over all nations. The "Son of God" is a personal name, not a royal name, I apprehend, as to the kingdom, the kingdom which belongs to the Son. It is the religious side ensures the earthly part, as in Psalm 2, the decree as to the exalting of Him who had the throne as given from heaven. This is true as to priesthood even in Hebrews 5:5.