J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)
Mark 10 (continued from Volume 5)
- 28. The Lord answers the question now proposed, "Lo, we have left all and followed Thee, what shall we have?" "There is no man who has left house," etc., "on account of me, and on account of the Gospel, that shall not receive an hundredfold" in kind even (the Lord in this omits "wife"; there is no promise to give him back this - this stands on other and its own ground) in all the comforts and kindness, and peace, and enjoyments which belong to Christians as such here, with persecutions as from the world, and in the age to come eternal life. Yet there is no mere human standard of purchase as it were, or recompense. There are many who seem to take the lead, and do externally, who shall be last, and last apparently for a time who shall be first. The expression "mothers" shows that it is not in a mere natural sense, yet it is, in the counterpart, enjoyment of actual present things, finding in the Church what really fills the gap an hundredfold, made by these breaches. But, though in love to Christ and the Church, there may be infinitely more than an hundredfold for sacrificing wife, yet that is never made up in counterpart. There is not that made up in the actual enjoyments of the heart in the sources of happiness around, that may perhaps make the sacrifice more blessed, because Christ alone can make it up, but the other thing is not, though that may be more than verified. But in all other things, though with persecution, there is a positive more than making good in all that draws out, and fills up, and satisfies, and enlarges the affections in the relations with all around, besides the world to come, which seals it all with blessing and joy. "But there are first," etc. This encouragement was graciously given to us all, when the effect of the Gospel was stated, and brought to light indeed in the rejection of the Saviour. Such was the portion of the Saviour. He had now fully brought it out, and indeed they had seen how He had been treated and rejected at the seat of the nation's judgment and authority. He had also put it before them, and hence pressing on them the way He was to be treated, and what position He stood in towards the nation, and how He was rejected indeed, and what man was, shown too in Elias.
2 - 30. Does not this imply, as other passages, that Christianity is not an aion (age)? For "the world to come" is, I apprehend, the millennial state.
- 32. "And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem," where His glory was to be cast down to the ground; "And Jesus was going before them," conducting them there; "And they were astonished," how He could lead them thus on to the very destruction He had declared; "And they, following, were afraid." This very courage which led straight on to predicted oppression and disaster, frightened and terrified them; it is its natural consequence, for the flesh shrinks from what is so inconsistent and contrary to its natural feelings. There is something that terrifies nature, because it is what we call unnatural, and to see One in our nature do it distresses us. But the Lord led calmly and peaceably straight on. He knew why, and where, and to what end He was going, and, in patient determination of love and obedience, steadfastly set His face to go there. The Lord, seeing their terror, knowing their condition, speaks openly to them of it all - does not leave them in their affright, but calmly explains all that was coming. His soul was at peace, and able to care, and caring for them, and relieve them by talking to them of it as a clear and settled purpose. And the explanation was clearer, and fuller, and more intimate than before. Before this it had a character just relative to the position they stood in, to the character in which He had just been revealed, as for example, the Transfiguration. But now it was the full detail, on the guilt of the nation, not merely the fact as regarded His glory, but their conduct; this might be now openly exposed, for they had now really rejected Him, and the Apostles felt their position as to this, and therefore it was right to explain it all to them as it stood in the knowledge of the Lord's mind. "Taking the twelve again to Him, He began to tell them the things that were about to happen to Him - that, lo, we go up to Jerusalem." This was what was the source of their fright, when they were silently following Him in the way. This, says the Lord, is my account of the matter. "Lo, we do go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed to the chief priests and scribes" - all this is coming - "And they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles. And they shall mock Him, and shall scourge Him, and shall spit upon Him" - treat Him with every possible indignity - "and they shall kill Him; and after three days He shall rise again." The whole case was now before them, thoroughly weighed by and known to the Lord. Jews and Gentiles were alike to take their own appropriate evil in the dreadful act of man's accomplished rejection of Him, already true in spirit. And the third day He was to show His victory over all the evil they were instruments of. Everything was perfectly weighed. He calmly surveyed, set about, and could communicate it all. Such was the divine counsel. Resurrection was the grand remedy and power of blessing. All the now proved evil had not escaped God's eye. This was the course to be taken. It was most important, too, as laying the foundation of their faith and understanding, when He did rise from the dead. Nothing could be plainer, calmer, and more apposite, or more in facts needful to be communicated. Just a sentence upon all that was in man, in every character, Jew or Gentile, religious, or in power.
3 - 35. Note the terms of this request, as a warning as to the frame of man's spirit "We would" (thelomen, will). There was no faith in this, though perhaps it was formed on what they had verbally heard of the limits of faith; it was strange request. But let us judge ourselves in spirit, not making the Lord and His glory mere servant to our will and unholy presumption. Let us also learn not to judge others. "He that seeketh His glory that sent Him, the same is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him."
The evil, even of the saint's nature, had yet to be manifested in relation to His position in glory, when owned even, which passed by all the solemn and affecting truths just that moment presented, and which ought to have changed, could mere truths and facts do it, the whole position of the human heart. It was really the discovery of its irreparable badness, even when there was an acknowledgment of the glory, the humiliation, and the deep grace in it; and the ruin of man, of themselves, it disclosed, was entirely unfelt and unentered into - took no effect whatever on their heart; they were totally dark and blind to it. Man's heart is so. It must be partakers of them by the Holy Spirit to know them. It is a true portion of the saints that, if we keep the Lord's words, we may ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us. But here was the seeking their own exaltation in His glory, and that in the very face of the testimony of His humiliation. There was the appearance of faith, for it assumed His glory, and that He would be exalted, though He was just speaking of His humiliation. They say that whatever they ask He should do it. This is just the form of faith and promise; yet it was the pure spirit of self-exaltation, re-proved, and the very contrary to the Spirit of Christ. It did not enter into His humiliation, nor was really identified with Him, and sought its own glory, assuming, as we have said, withal the character of faith in His glory, flattering the Lord (had He been susceptible of anything of the kind) at the moment of His trial - a work really of Satan from beginning to end; and the form which the spirit of the world or self-exaltation takes in the saint under a spiritual giver - a suitable occasion for the flesh to make such a request, but the greatest, real insensibility. The Lord, however, in the patience of grace, His own soul now dwelling on what He was going to pass through, still presses this: "Ye know not what ye ask." And the deep self-humiliation, or rather the taking and keeping as His, the low place in which for our sakes, in the manifestation of the divine glory, He had set Himself.
4 - 38. "Ye do not know what ye ask." Note the way to the Lord's glory necessarily. The snare, to our evil hearts, would have been to have taken the occasion to show that though humbled, we had a real title to glory; that it was all voluntary, our own doing, carrying the love of it in our hearts, though we might have relinquished it. But He, whose glory really was what He did, He did in perfectness. What we give up is false, though He may accept the sacrifice. What He laid by was true, and He humbled Himself truly; He had a cup to give them to drink - at least He could lead them to the drinking it, He could lead them to this consequence, and tell them they would have that. But He professed no conferring of favours in His Kingdom. All moral perfectness He had, and this the rather from this very position, for what is true claims not itself outwardly thus - that is, of the world. He came as His Father's Servant, and that place He perfectly held. "To sit on my right hand and my left, is not mine to give, but to those for whom it is prepared." I am a Minister of accomplishing a given work. I can lead you in the renunciation of all things of life. I have a cup to drink, and you shall drink of this cup of self-sacrifice and death. But it is in the spirit of perfect submission and nothingness, that the Father, and He only, may be perfectly glorified. Nothing could exceed the admirable perfectness of this reply, not in mere statement of principles, but in the blessed silent (yet far more eloquent) expression of it in His own conduct. I know not a more beautiful expression of our Lord's perfectness in humiliation, and abstract perfection in the place He had taken in which alone God could be perfectly glorified. How different from "Ye shall be as gods." As the first Adam exalted Himself to be as God, so the Second humbled Himself entirely (even to the death of the Cross) that God, in all His character, supremacy, and glory, might be completely, and finally, and altogether glorified. How fully He emptied Himself, and, just because Himself, never ceased to exist! Therefore the emptying was always absolutely perfect.
5 Then how blessed, as to the suffering, "The cup that I drink, shall ye drink!" Oh, what a privilege to follow Jesus, let it be ever so feebly! And all through grace, and so only blessed too. Yet in that in which He exhibited His own divine perfectness, not merely to follow but to be with Him in it - for we are not speaking of atonement here, but of suffering in it, not the cause or effect of the cup, but of His Spirit in drinking it, in which we have the privilege, according to our measure, of the sufferings of Christ abounding in us. Glorious privilege! And filling up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ, for His body's sake, the Church, and having all, in the certainty of His love, to His glory, and the Father's in it, knowing it is of grace in us, in Him of His will. Yet, in the perfect subjection of that will, suffering in the flesh. "For he that hath suffered in the flesh, hath ceased from sin," whereas the exercise of the will of the flesh is always sin; the subjection of it in suffering for God always righteousness, and, in Christ, being by His will intrinsic righteousness, in us conferred grace; compare Psalm 40. Through the truth, looking at this in communion as an object, we are sanctified.
In these thoughts of the flesh in the two brethren, we have first their own will which Christ did not take, and then their assertion of their own power to go through all He had to accomplish or pass through. This is drawn out by the expression of the Lord in the now consciousness of His approaching sorrow, for He was rejected: "Are ye able to drink the cup," etc., "and be baptised with the baptism" of death in all its weight of suffering, to rise again? They, equalling themselves with Him, say: "We are able." The Lord, in His wondrous grace, equals them with Him by grace. He does not say: "Ye are indeed able," but "Ye shall indeed drink." As we have said, "Ye shall indeed suffer with me"; the reward of glory I leave to the appointment of the Father - it is not mine to give, but to whom it is prepared. The indignation of the ten was, if not so deliberate, not much less the flesh than the wish of the two. It was founded on the same feeling of being first or last. The Lord therefore calls them all, and reminds them this was a Gentile practice, the spirit of the world. It had, in a sense, been forbidden, even among earthly Israel. But here all was contrary, "Whosoever would be great" "among them should be" their "servant." They were a people quite separate, separated by the gulf of death and the Cross from the world; to be great there was out of question, but among them it was to be all different. "He who would be great should be their servant." And in very deed so it is; the lowest is the first in Christianity. Whoever wished to be first should be servant of all. It fulfils itself in the dispensations of God; for this indeed was the very errand of the Son, to come and act on His own principles - of love - in the midst of the world, and not to mix Himself with it, and fall in with its ways. He came in the power, and new principle of love, "to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." He it was they were to follow. Nothing could be simpler, for they were quite a separate people. The darkest sense of need was more to the purpose, in calling out the true and unfailing power of Christ, never failing and never wearied by man's wretchedness, in the effecting the works of divine mercy. And if the Lord came that they which saw might be made blind, He came that they which saw not might see. This poor blind man, in the sense of need, cries for mercy, owning Jesus honestly as the Son of David, less apparent faith than those who spoke of His glory that they might have it for themselves - grace, the grace of the Lord had prepared this man's soul for this occasion, and now the occasion occurred, for God works where we know not. But he was seeking the supply of his wants in the acknowledgment of Jesus' glory. The world rebuked him, but he was in earnest, he wanted the blessing, and he sought it. This man knew what he asked for - the sense of our wants is true knowledge (in asking). On the cry: "Have mercy," Jesus at once stood, and proposed, to this cry of need, the very thing which He had reproved and set aside in the two brethren: "What wilt thou that I should do unto you?" So different are the same words in the mouth of unbelief, a carnal, sordid, selfish claim, and in grace. "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" And he received all he desired, and used it to follow Jesus. How different from using the plea of His glory, merely to exalt ourselves! Followed the Lord in simplicity, where the disciples were astonished, and followed trembling!
7 Jesus was now entering by this ancient port of Israel - the sign of God's favour, and the nation's refusal of judgment in its rebuilding - the door of hope to rebellious and apostate Israel. Here He is first acknowledged King, the Son of David, by the blind receiving, in the sense of their misery, sight from Him. The nation's dealing in respect of this title remains to be seen. This was the blind seeing, Israel's true restoration and hope; for who was blind as His servant, seeing many things and observing not? Here the Remnant followed Him - this poor blind man, the first herald of the King of mercy, the Son of David, Jesus.
- 40. "To give; but" (save) "to those for whom it is prepared." For this use of alla (but, or save) see chapter 9:8. What profound humiliation! To suffer all, but not to have, as it were, a place to give away in His Kingdom! And to avow it! But this is spiritual. He came to glorify His Father, and He was perfect. There is something exquisitely beautiful in all this in the life of Christ, and they are eternal principles.
- 45. He sets the example - "to serve." There is glory in what follows. But what self-devotion it is not "to give," as it were, as rich, but "His life"! It was what He had to give for sin; but what a gift!
- 48. We must look for rebukes in the exercise of faith. It seems to them troublesome and unreasonable; for why? They have not the same spiritual urgency, but true faith. "He cried much more." And the Lord will stop, though man would not; and their minds will be changed then, when they see the Lord has regard to the cry.
- 51. Compare verse 35. This is ever the Lord's word to faith. I suppose faith ever runs parallel with the Lord's will, for faith has its operation in the power of that kingdom which is the fulfilment of the Lord's will; when the request flows from our own will therefore, it cannot be the prayer of faith, and is a mere subjection of God and His counsels to our fallen wills. Accordingly, "We know that whatsoever we ask according to His will, He heareth us." And I am persuaded this knowledge of the divine will and faith run proportionally. It is (not knowledge properly but) in fact the knowledge of faith, and where there is the enquiry of faith, short of the apprehension of the will of God, we pray in truth in implicit subjection to His will, looking for that increase of the Spirit which shall enlighten us in power of conversation. Our personal necessities, however, may, even in this subjection to the divine will, be brought before God; when there is genuine trust in Him, we propose ourselves for mercy. The "What wilt thou" is God's part; the "We will" comes quite wrong from us, and marks want of trust or acknowledgment of the need first of mercy, and we generally, in such case, "know not what" we ask. And hereto the word of man, besides the willingness, applies "Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst," and the Lord said: "I will, be thou." The point we should practically enquire into is, Is our will concerned, or is there simple-hearted reliance upon the wisdom, and acknowledgment of the righteousness of the divine counsels and will? If it be our will, we may judge it (and this includes our judgment) to be at variance with the divine counsels, and injurious to our own peace, though it may, as the two disciples had, have a reference generally to, and seeking strong acknowledgment of the object of faith. However, there is a distinction between doing this in ignorance and misled perhaps by others, as here, and wilfully as in the Jews in the wilderness. In the latter case, I conceive the object will be found ever present and personal, and to be real distrust, and love of present gratification.
8 But the exact coincidence of the language of the two disciples, and the Lord's subsequent promise, John 14:13, and chapter 15:7, connected too with our Lord's words in verse 3 leads us to the true source of this deeply interesting question. But the just weighing of the several passages in the Gospel of John, fully opens this comprehensive, and all-important truth to our souls.
- 52. See the fruit, when the faith is genuine. The Jew, who recognised the Son of David so coming, received his sight, and followed Jesus to better, perhaps more sorrowful things, but in His triumph speedily in His time.
9 Mark 11
The whole scene, as regarded presenting Himself as the Object of their faith, was really now closed, and the Lord was now to present Himself in the claim of His royal character, and judicial Lordship in the Temple, and to have them all before Him, and to judge them in this capacity. His presenting Himself as a gracious witness was now closed, and He acts on the claim, and makes it good in the need of this manifestation, as before His willing subjection, though He could command all creation to meet the need, that subjection occasioned, of the didrachma. He sends two of His disciples, and takes the ass, "Whereon never man sat," for this royal and entitled Claimant of the throne of Israel to sit upon, "And if any say to you, Why do ye this?" They were to say simply: "The Lord hath need of it." "And straightway he would send it there." Thus knowing and ordering the distant heart, and manifesting how David's Lord had good claim to be David's Son, indeed to be received as such in the title of His own Person and glory, He who did these things by this divine power and ordering was claiming surely in grace, and in no needless untruth, the place of David's Son. All was already subject to Him, to whatever He might subject Himself. This was over several hearts, whoever they were, so that it was not merely knowledge of the owner, but control of their hearts; "and some of those who stood there."
The same divine power was controlling the hearts of the disciples, and the multitude, to give this testimony to the royalty of Jesus, and accomplish the words of the Prophet. "They put their garments upon it, and he sat on it." A new position of the lowly Jesus - yet lovely even in this. "And many strewed their garments on the way." "And they that preceded," inspired to sing the same testimony of Israel, cried saying, as in Psalm 118 as Israel shall say in that day: "Hosanna! Blessed be he that cometh in the Name of the Lord. Blessed be the coming kingdom of our father David." This was really the full language of waiting for the kingdom, and acknowledging the Person of Messiah, and looking up to the heavens as the source of it, saying: "Save now in the highest." Thus was the full testimony given to the Son of David, the Lord Jesus, and the minds of the people, though in will to reject Him, overruled to honour Him with the fullest testimony to the claim in which He came for their own blessing. This must have been before He was rejected.
10 - 8, 9. What glorious disposition of hearts! It was as Lord only He had anything here thus to dispose of.
- 10. "The coming Kingdom." It is manifest that the Lord dispensatorily proposed Himself to the Jews, though He opposed their thoughts concerning it, declaring that a man must be born again before he could see it. To Pilate He clearly avowed His being so; to the Jews He avowed His Person, not His claim.
- 11. How calm and full of heavenly dignity is the Lord's way now! Hated, despised, rejected, and soon to be treated with unresisted scorn and death. The terror of God is now upon them all; and He enters into the city thus in public and unhindered testimony to His Messiahship. His dignity from God, and indeed with the stamp of what was properly divine upon it - thus come, He enters into Jerusalem, and goes on in royal dignity. He enters into the temple. There is no hand raised, no tongue moves against Him; He, and He only is the great Object there. "And having looked round on all things, it being late, he went forth to Bethany" again "with the twelve." The full testimony was given. The judgment was to be as calm as the dignity was manifested. For as He displayed God, had displayed the royal dignity of Him who was rejected, so now they were to be judged. This entrance of the Lord was a blessed testimony to His rejected character, and the hand of God astoundingly displayed in it, placing Him in the judgment place of the nation. He had now surveyed it all. He had long walked in grace as the least, and the last, that He might carry the grace to all, that He might suit it to their need, and meet, and sympathise with all their ruin in blessed grace. Blessed Master! But as far as they were concerned, to their shame and loss, He had "laboured in vain" and spent His "strength for nought," and in vain. And now, this having been exercised till they had rejected it fully, the more fully manifested it, yea, ascribed it to the enemy, though, that it might reach all, He after that still went on, now it was closed; and, in the dignity of His own Person and Messiahship, He was to call them up before Him in judgment. His way is clothed with unresisted and resistless divine dignity, in doing this. First, the weakness and darkness, and impotency of sin and malice shrink into their own place before the light of God beaming forth, that His death and suffering might be manifestly the willing exercise of His grace for them, not their power while divine control and influence emanated from Him, and ordered all for it. Yet, so properly divine was it that He never the least left the simplicity and humility of His character. It was divine testimony to Him such as He always was (out of the mouths of babes, and sucklings even, perfecting praise, to still the enemy and avenger) He came in, and went out in His usual meekness with the twelve, whatever surrounded Him. But what controlling dignity! The Lord guide us, and make us estimate Him, that Blessed One.
11 - 11. There are indicative circumstances in Mark, of the most striking character, as chapters 9:15, 10:32, and here in this verse.
- 13. The Lord, in His righteous dispensation, justly looked for fruit. Yet, in the fixed order of His ordinances, "it was not the time of figs." The power of the Lord's coming, as dispensatorily proposed, but in the knowledge of God, suspended during the times of the Gentiles, is key to much of the prophecies. It is that which drew forth the admiration of Paul; as touching the Gospel they are enemies, as touching the election they are beloved.
The Lord returned to Bethany, and, on the morrow, going forth from Bethany, He hungered, for the Lord indeed was subject to all our infirmities - He took them - but so all this was ordered. So the Lord looks for food in that which He has created and planted. He has not created it for no delight to Himself, nor planted it to find no food nor fruit. But, alas! Jehovah could find no food but the offering. Yet, on the other hand, blessed is that, but He did in His own delight and love look for, that He might have complacency and delight in it - fruit in the place and vineyard of His planting. But, alas! when He looked close, how different! There was none; it had leaves, and looked fair at a distance, but had leaves only - "The time of figs was not." The Lord pronounced final judgment upon it; no fruit was to grow on it for ever. And so it was strictly with the Jewish people; as standing as they did under the old covenant, they were hopelessly condemned, they never will be recognised, nor bear fruit ever. The old covenant was not the time of fruit. When grace receives them under the new, Israel shall blossom, and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit, but on this, where it stood in the obedience of man, it never would. It had been indeed fully tried; the fact merely, however, here is pronounced. The application, the Lord's search for good, found no refreshment, or answer there. His answer was in righteous judgment - a judgment utterly fulfilled.
12 And they came to Jerusalem, and He enters then into the temple. Yesterday, the full survey of their condition, and the condition of His Father's, Jehovah's house, had been made, and to-day judgment is to be executed with all the authority, the condemning authority of Jehovah's King, bearing with none of this evil now. Long had grace been patient. He had retired to a distance, to give time for repentance. He being thus manifested (in the way with them) and after John's warnings, but now, this past, with all righteous authority and indignation, at headquarters, there was no more but to get rid of them. What authority in the righteousness of God! "He began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves." This den of thieves! And in Jehovah's house! How free from idolatry! How full of sin! He would sanctify it. He suffered no man to pass through, to carry anything through the temple, making it just a passage for his convenience. He maintained the holiness of God's house, and while He maintained its holiness as Jehovah's house, not the mere convenience of Jewish pride, as Jehovah's house, His Father's house, it had all its wide claim and value in His eyes - a house of prayer for all nations. The holiness of God's house gives it its extension, because it makes it properly God's house, and His claim is over all, and it is a claim of grace. But, while the Lord does this, His judgment and charge on the Jewish people is distinct and conclusive: "Ye have made it a den of thieves." His word too is from Scripture, so that the truth and guilt was plain. It had the force of God's word to them. We have also to note that the title of God, and the moral charge always has its force in the subject it applies to; thus the passage of Isaiah has its accomplishment in the latter day, when the house shall be so as God's house. Yet the claim of God was at least from its utterance by the Prophet. Yet it was then, after all, judgment, when sin had made it impossible (for all tended to the blessed end when Christ shall be there) and the charge was made in Jeremiah's time actually, but as it hung over their heads, so was it accomplished by their hands, and they are charged with it - they had done the thing, i.e., He puts it as a question: Did not their conduct amount to their considering it so? "Ye have made it a den of thieves." How plain, and bold, and unmoved in judgment is the Lord now, for He had taken the pronouncing of judgment in His own hand now. And the Lord applied the testimony of the Prophets now in judgment.
13 The Scribes and Pharisees hear it, only do what Satan does when he can do nought else - seek how he may destroy - for they were acting indeed his part now. They were afraid to act openly, but they sought to do it, or how they might, for they feared Him; the power of His word and ministry had swayed the multitude. They were astonished, if not converted, and, afraid of the effect of open action against Him as to their character before the people, they sought how. Thus Satan, by their love of importance and malice, had this thread of his train laid. All the awe and the power was with Him; no one still touched Him (and doubtless this an important seed for the apostle's future work) when it was late He went out of the city. Thus this day closed in the Lord's manifested but holy, royal judgment, and their desired treachery of secret destruction, showing itself as in their hearts, for they were afraid of doing anything open, for the Lord had, in patient testimony, and real moral power, the upper hand in the glory of righteousness. For the testimony now, and evidence of influence and power, produces not amendment or submission but, in their hopeless opposition, the desire to destroy Him, for they were really in the hands of Satan, as He the instrument of Jehovah's power and its wielder, though as yet it was only morally exhibited, or in human zeal and righteousness externally to them, so as still for responsibility, though in another way from the patient testimony of grace.
- 15. Their recovery was out of question, this was their judgment. What power of righteousness over evil! Still, "Is it not written?"
- 17. The remark may here be made that attention must be paid to the word "people" in the Scriptures, in order to our discernment of the mind of the Spirit in Scripture, as very often the word may represent things which are specially contrasted - the people (laos) and the Gentiles (ethnon).
14 Verses 33 and 34 of the preceding chapter are exceedingly strong as to that which concerned the rejection of Christ. "We go up to Jerusalem." There was the place of God's delight amongst men in blessing, in favour, in divine government on earth, the centre of all connection of God with man upon earth, and the Son of man, the great Centre and Link of it; His presence, after the patient grace of which we have spoken, was the test then of the condition of man and his whole estate. In Judas, man, left to his own way, was shown how, by lust and love of the world Satan had created in money, under the power of Satan in desperate and sad wickedness; looked at as left to himself, it had been good for him had he not been born. The companion and familiar friend of all the blessed manifestation of grace in Christ - his Introducer in holy familiarity into the house of God - he betrays Him, as the wretched, possessed instrument of Satan (yet by his own depraved lust) to the very priests of God, that they might disclose their state by delivering the King of Israel to the Gentiles; and they show their condition, and the condition of the world in their head exercising authority over God's King to reject Him under the title of Head of His own nation, and that at Jerusalem, "For it could not be that a prophet perish away from Jerusalem." But such is the picture exhibited in this statement of the Lord. For, though Christ came abstractedly as the Head of human nature, the Head and Crown of human blessing, yet it was not only blessing, but restorative blessing, if man had been capable of restoration. Thus the character of gracious interference, if man had not been hopeless as to condition, as well as sinful, for the close of all restorative process on responsibility came in in Christ. The law was the perfect direction of man on earth, now at sea through ignorance, and Christ of His pains in taking him up in this condition to remedy evil, and crown the good according to it - made of a woman, the first point, i.e. as Man; made under the law, the second; but even the grace which did it was manifested externally in vain.
In the morning there was the witness of God's judgment of the fruitless fig tree. This was a solemn judgment, really on the Jewish fruitless stock. But as the Lord turned His washing the disciples' feet to a present practical purpose, besides the type, so here to a lesson of how to enter into the power of this "Have faith in God." Such is the great secret - to draw all our thoughts up to Him, and to judge with Him, and act for, and solely from Him (through faith); and there in the accomplishment of His purpose in His power, for there, by its mysterious yet simple connection with the interests of Christ, and the purpose of God, faith introduces us. He does not say here: Faith in the Father, or, Faith in salvation by the Son; it is not of this He speaks properly, though this may be connected with the confidence, and leads in the way of faith, and, save interests with Christ, in understanding. Yet in exercise, it is simply "faith in God." The Holy Spirit, having set us in the ways of God, the place of separate service to Him, in the presence and midst of evil, relies on His intervention for the accomplishment of His own glory in Christ. And we see that this must be, we have faith in God, not in the stability of present things, not in the strength in which they stood before as impenetrable to the truth, but drawn up to God and centred in Him, separated to Him, acting, as it were, for Him and in His name, but in entire dependence, for this is always and specially in faith. It is the present dependence in the highest exercise of its power, the most so, yet therein does all, and for that reason. This faith is the working of the Spirit in us, in all the ways and purposes of God, but it shows itself in simple dependence, because it is the concentration of the soul upon Him.
15 Here was the simple exercise of faith: "Say to this mountain, Be lifted up, and cast into the sea, and doubt not in his heart, but believe that what he says is," it shall be to him. I believe, as I noticed I suppose in Matthew, that there is allusion to all the power and stability of the Jewish polity, even as then, the nation, not only the Remnant or moral state, whence fruit was looked. Note, when judgment against any further fruitbearing is pronounced, the tree withers; quod nota. But this accomplishment is whatever He says, but we must take it simply; anything tentative is not this; the question of false miracles does not here intervene. The next case supposes not the positive, active exercise of faith, but whatever they need, and are asking at God's hand which is now supposed. Then let them believe that they receive it, and it shall be to them. Next, when they are praying, they are under judgment to God in this nearness, if they forgive not. Their souls must be in the frame of the Spirit of Christ; it is not supplication in the Spirit else; clearly they cannot ask in grace with unforgiveness in their hearts - they are not in the way of efficacious request in the Spirit. How far from visiting evil for evil was Christ in His dealings with His rebellious and unhappy people! "Father, forgive them," was His word; His judgment therefore came with all the power of God. This was, on this head, the Lord's manner of putting His disciples in His place, in the exercise of faith in the power of God towards them, and the manner and spirit of it. God would be with them in everything. They had only to have faith in God. Man had been fully proved. They had to cast themselves entirely upon God, and they would find what God was - powerful, faithful, and answering them, as always for and with them, to vindicate His truth with them. It was in mercy forgiving, not man in righteousness of his own with Him. What occasion had the Lord to tell them all this - that faith in God was the only resource; man was no avail! But what perfectness at such a time to say this, when every circumstance was the most opposite to God's appearance in His favour that possibly could be! Now is the time when He assures them, ask what they would, having faith in God and it would be to them. How willingly did He offer Himself! How opposite to the witness of such certainty, were the circumstances! And yet really, how easily could He have had twelve legions of angels! But how then should the word be fulfilled? Here, moreover, it was the faith of service, and position towards God, not the children asking of the Father. And faith in God, after all, only trusts in God's almighty power; but it implies His perfect interest in His children; but this is acted in the power of, not thought of as an object. His children, as such, do trust, not that they are children, but in Him.
16 They came again to Jerusalem, for this conversation was by the way, as to their portion as standing alone, as it were, as separated to God, as the fig-tree's withering had happened within the knowledge of the disciples only; and the Lord stands now before His unsubdued and unrelenting people, having been vindicated, with none of the awe of the previous day's circumstances, but in the simplicity of His own glory in humiliation, for His heart was never changed in it at all, with His disciples. The true and highest glory He receives, exhibits the testimony, and returns to His course of patient, but now judicial, and fast-closing service; His character still the same, its effect by His grace more terrible on its rejecters. He was walking about in the temple, subject to every question, and all their thoughts of Him humbled, whatever evidence He had given of power. The chief priests, scribes, and elders, recovered in a measure from their stupor on His entry into Jerusalem, question Him by what authority He does these things, still under a certain awe - the effect of what they had seen, and respecting Him more from the manifest influence on the people. Who gave Him this authority? But the Lord now no longer answers enquiries, not the desire of faith to learn, but the self-judging question that they knew not, owned not Him, after all, whom God and, for the moment, man also owned. It was the restless effort to get rid of the pressure of facts on their own conscience, but indeed divinely ordered to their judgment. The Lord's answer no longer, as we said, explaining what was onward in mercy, throws them back upon the first testimony connected with His Person, judging them in the first onset before their conscience was hardened; yet therein their judgment now more terrible. "The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?" Answer this! It was throwing them on what was plain to their consciences as a test, what all the people, unprejudiced by interest, to whom they leaned for influence, believed, even if not receiving Christ. A terrible, but divinely profound question! Yet so simple! Own this, they owned Christ; disown it, they condemned themselves before all, for indeed He was now the Judge. How terrible is the spiritual discernment of righteousness to plain points of conscience! And how it baffles human wisdom and plans! But what a wretched condition really were these rulers in! With all their importance and religious influence, obliged to deny the lowest testimony of God's truth, or condemn themselves; and avowing they did not believe on him whom they were afraid to deny, and afraid to deny him whose testimony plainly condemned themselves, so that their answer brought them into still lower degradation morally really, and to save their position, confessedly in ignorance, and incompetency to determine on the alleged pretensions of religious teachers. But really it was, on the face of it, hypocrisy. It was a perpetual silencer on all their religious pretensions; they were judged, not judges now. There was divine wisdom in the enquiry, for it put the Jews first, and owned ministry presented as a test of their competency to judge, or honesty in owning; their consciences, and state were all judged by it. Thus the three classes of rulers, priestly, governing, and teaching, stood all incompetent, rejected, and, as mere individuals, not able to discern and receive the testimony of God which all the people even acknowledged. They were judged, completely judged. The Lord declined replying to such, or submitting His authority to them. He was there - left them to their own course, and they stood incompetent and self-condemned. Then the Lord began to teach them in judgment.
18 - 23. I believe this also had typical reference and accomplishment, though that be not all; but a great truth is in it besides.
- 24. But there it is as walking in the power of the kingdom. The Spirit distributes to every man, severally, as He will. Yet this word is true; yet must we wait on the Lord's mind, and so the believer will.
- 28. This was a humiliating question to themselves, for He did and had done the things blessedly, and they could not help it.
- 31-33. There is a deeper hardness of men than we are aware of.
- 1-11. How beautiful to see the feeling yet calmness with which the Lord speaks of His mission and rejection, in the parable of the husbandmen!
The Lord does not at all address them here on the ground of His service in grace, which had been rejected and closed at His entry into Jerusalem. It was no explanation to His disciples or the multitude, that a Sower went forth to sow - the ministration of grace, fresh sowing on confessedly fruitless ground, a new work of grace which the Lord was really carrying on, but as One who came, after other messengers, to seek fruit on what was already planted. And this, of course, was the judgment of that people, though long patience had been, and was still shown before the judgment was executed. The judgment here was clear, plain, and solemn, addressed plainly to their consciences, including, for the whole scene was looked at, and declared His own rejection. In plain testimony by the word, His word - for He was still externally in such form of humiliation - yet faith sees the full and clear character of patient and true, according to the truth of God, yet divine judgment, the human rightness and suitedness to situation, yet divine dignity and power in the truth. Everything had been done for the vineyard that could be done. It was, alas! an old story this, but it had been put responsibly into the hands of the husbandmen, and the rightful Owner left it thus in their hands. He who had ordered it, and settled it all at Sinai, and under Joshua, had left it, with warnings too, in the responsibility of the rulers and people to keep up, and dress, and order. He sent His servant in season, that He might receive of the fruit of the vineyard, and they beat him, and sent him away empty. We have two things here - the Jews, specially the husbandmen among them, in their responsibility, not God in His own sovereign grace; every thing however put in perfect order into their hands in arrangement, blessing, and security, and, further, the patience of God's dealings, sending messenger after messenger, doing every thing while possibility remained, till they had rejected and cast out His own Son. The whole ministry of Prophets was there - a ministry of patience with man (whom God had hedged about - but) in his responsibility, and Christ's coming, supremely so. The Sower's grace, as we have said, is quite distinct. This mission of His Son was last to them in this their responsibility. There was further here the distinct charge that they recognised Him as the Heir, as He was, and in their responsibility, and in such must be left to themselves, only with every external advantage afforded, had sought to get the inheritance for themselves by the destruction of the Heir. But the abuse and rebellion of their responsibility did not take it away, but drew on the judgment when all patience in instrumentality was exhausted. There was a Lord of the vineyard - who had surrendered none of His rights, and if He had sent His Son in His great love to them, and in the glory of His own patience, would not leave Him unvindicated. They wished to have the vineyard and all appertaining to it on their own right, in rebellion. It was not merely want of fruit, but active revolt against God's own title, and setting up for themselves against Him, and this in direct question between His Son and them - Him who was appointed Heir of all things. Such was the position of man's will, when the greatest exercise of patient favour put the Holy, Beloved One of God within the reach of their malice. But the Lord of the vineyard could only thereon resume His rights - come and destroy the labourers, and give the vineyard to others. But it was not only an exhibition of the nature and will of man, which their conscience must testify to the truth of, it was the revealed and foretold conduct of the people, especially of the builders. It was clearly their case. It was the stone which the builders rejected, which was to become the Head of the corner. Did they set up to be builders - were they such? Such was the judgment of their own scriptures on them. And this, too, was the Lord's doing. How opposite then were the builders to the Lord's mind! It would be marvellous in the eyes of the people in that day. The whole of Psalm 118 is of remarkable application here. The whole passage is a wonderful judgment on them, and by the use of that very Psalm on them, till that Hosanna be sung, and He becomes, in full sense, the Head of the corner, and the gates of righteousness are opened to Him, and a willing people shall sing that "His mercy" has indeed "endured for ever" - entering by what His supreme grace has wrought into this their morally, and long time actually desolate place, but now the gate of the Lord into which the righteous shall enter. How blessed, and excellent the ways which have purged the sin and evil, yet loved the people, and in full righteousness accomplished all the promises, vindicating His own glory and Name, and only the more exalting the despised Son! Yet in despisal, the witness of infinite grace! These men who ruled, but not of God, could do nothing; they felt they were judged, they disputed, they condemned, but they could do nothing. The hand of wisdom held them fast in their impotency. They would have laid hold on Him, but they feared the people. They knew that He had spoken this parable against them, and, leaving Him, they departed. They take judgment only in their questioning Him. He remains there, and they have to leave Him, ashamed. In what dignified blessedness does the blessed Lord stand forth here in the testimony of what He was, before He gave Himself willingly up, i.e., how does the testimony shine forth in Him! They have to leave Him, completely judged and baffled. They send the Pharisees and Herodians that they might entangle Him in word. As they were baffled in the question of authority, they select certain of the Pharisees and Herodians, strict in their Jewish claims, and apostate in their recognition of the heathen world - all one, if they can entangle Him who came in grace - and they propose the question which tries just these two points. And as the scribes, elders, and chief priests questioned the authority of the King of Israel, and so judged themselves, so these laid bare the woes and sorrows of Israel, without feeling and remorse, in tempting, and to entangle the Blessed One, using their sin with Satan's malice to put down and silence all good and every hope. And they are left just where they were, in the confession of the sin and ruin they had brought themselves into; without more it was a sad and terrible leaving. The Lord has only to do this, and what is our fate? These poor creatures could afterwards, when it served a moment's object and madness, cry aloud in self judgment: "We have no King but Caesar!" Their address was most, to our evil flesh, attractive, had that been in Him whom they tempted, for evil of heart ever in a bad way knows righteousness, and what is upright and good abstractedly, by a conscience bad by the opposite. "Thou art true, and carest for no man, for thou lookest not on the person of man, but teachest the way of God in truth." How far was this from them! How well they knew the good and its blessedness, by a bad conscience! Nothing, in one sense, knows it so strongly. But they were precise in their requisition of an answer, a categoric answer, letting out their evil in apparent simplicity. The Lord knew their hypocrisy, and called for the seal of their present condition, into which the same unbelief that rejected Him had brought them. He was now leaving them in it. They had rejected Him, and this was all they brought out. Often the saint, standing where his own place with God is rejected, has to answer by the admitted evil of another, i.e. when thus tempted - but this is different from the predominant energy and testimony of the Holy Ghost, for He was not to strive nor cry, and He had not, whatever the testimony to Him, left this character, nor would not, nor could not, till He was risen - but in deepest judgment this may often be. They gave, or rendered nothing really to God. The Lord left them now where they had brought themselves - under Caesar. They had brought themselves into the place of ruin, refused the Deliverer - there they were left to pay to Caesar with nothing of God.
21 - 12. Evidently now question of judgment between the Jews and Christ, as two distinct parties. Still the whole is more moral than economic. The principles, eternal principles of the Church substituted for the economic principles of Moses, rather than its economy; as chapter 10:5, and verses 33 and 44 of this chapter.
- 18. The Sadducees must have their day, for God had so appointed. It was that other form of Jewish worldly evil. They plead Moses - a clear and recognised authority from God. But there was a new world, of which they knew nothing, into which He was now entering. And before Moses had given the commandment, of which they were proud, at all, God had given promises, and revealed Himself in a covenant relationship, and in blessings which the law could not and did not affect. It was all for this world, and to regulate what was fleshly and of the flesh. But they "knew not the Scriptures, nor the power of God." These are the two things needed; if we recognise and own not the power of God, we limit the operation and extent of the Scriptures to our own, and we are astray even in interpretation of them - this is a great, perhaps not an uncommon evil. From God the testimony comes, and He views things in His own light, as to these promises, and accomplishes His own thoughts by His own power. Leave this out, and we are shut up in the puny inferences, results, and measures of our own minds and strength. Here it rested on the very point, not of Jewish integrity, as with chief priests or Pharisees, but, which was the witness of divine power, exactly in its predominance over all the results of what man was. And this was the foundation, and only could be, on the Fall; this, the result of all God's actings, in which He would be glorified, and it was in this that this Blessed One was declared to be the Son of God with power. But He answers them from the Book of Moses, in which they trusted not when it regulated their fleshly or national laws which their vanity took. It was not what Moses said to them (as a mere lawgiver, though of God) but what God said to Moses when laying the foundation of blessing and hope for the people, speaking therefore of Himself, and what He was in grace. How blessedly does the Lord turn to grace, where His own soul was refreshed and at home, from their cavils, in power, in perpetual remembrance of His people, out of the depth and simplicity of His own fulness! God said to Moses: "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." Man might fail, evil acquire power over good, but God remained the God of His people in all the fulness of His promises in the immutability of His own purpose of love. He was not the God of the dead - that were folly, inanity, and impossibility - they were living people to inherit living promises - not a tittle of God's purposes touched, let the apparent course of events and death itself seem to mar all. His purpose remained, in His own security, what it was. How blessedly did this apply to the circumstances the Lord was in! The power of it He evinced in His resurrection, while the great principle of the change of dispensation, and the divine glory was thus brought out. The Sadducees were not the rulers, but the heretics of the nation; they are therefore plainly judged in error, as contrary to the hope, not corrupters of the righteousness, though doubtless they were, of the then Jewish state. It is remarkable the Lord's reference to this great revelation of Himself by God, as the warrant of the doctrine of resurrection; it lay at the very basis of the association of Israel with God - the basis on which their unconditional promises rested - God's name for ever, His "memorial throughout all generations." It could be on no other ground with sinful man than resurrection. It flowed, too, from the nature of things, in the nature of the living God. And the resurrection, the only recognised form and power of this continuous living as a separated spirit, was recognised in no way by them; it was not Abraham if that continued so.
23 - 25. If I understand this argument of our divine Redeemer, it includes this, that those who rise are as the angels in heaven, but God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was God of the promises. But being the God of them, yet not the God of the dead, they being dead, He was the God of them in the resurrection, and this seems His statement, for He introduces God's being their God as a proof that they rise. I am by no means fully informed from Scripture on this subject as yet, but, in His declaration to Moses, He seems to be called thus in reference to the promises made to the fathers, and these promises our Lord therefore seems to make hang, as to their validity, on the resurrection, speaking of the personal interest of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in this declaration. It was in this view a fatal error, for it struck at the root of God's faithfulness to His promises. Indeed now we know that it is the very centre of all our hopes. We may remark the ground of their great error, ignorance of the Scriptures, and the power of God.
- 30. "With all thy heart" (kardias); "with all thy strength" (ischuos); come from, or however are used in the Septuagint (2 Kings 23:25); dunameos (power) is perhaps nearly equivalent in Deut. 6:5, where also dianoia (mind) occurs.
- 31. The comparison of the place (Lev. 19:18), where this is found, with the parable, so called, of the good Samaritan, throws the strongest light on it; with which also compare the Sermon on the Mount.
24 But though, as regards the nation, the Lord might say: "Then have I laboured in vain, and spent my strength for nought and in vain," yet still there was a work with the Lord; and His ministry here, as well as His Person, had its effect, and was owned. We speak not here of disciples who were to be witnesses for the next dispensation, but those who, by the overruling hand of God, were called to own the force of its moral power, though among the rejecting nation. Still it gives us a glimpse into a class - how numerous we know not - not far from the kingdom of God, who were in principles within morally right, though they had not received or seen the kingdom, but who may have been reaped when the harvest was gathered of the Lord's sowing. But they were still within the Jewish sphere - not the separated ones. The Lord was the perfect Discerner and Teacher of truth for Israel, as well as the Prophet of the kingdom that should come. The full display of the truth, of the foundations of their own law, was thus brought out extracted from it all, and presented to the conscience. The conscience of the scribe owned the truth presented, but indeed he went further, for he saw the distinction between that and outward services; how to place the two, and the power of the kingdom he might not know, but the moral difference of a heart aright, in the sight of God, from the mere economy he did understand. And it is a great point, the end of Judaism really, while all God's part in it was exalted and sanctioned in the highest way. It was an admirable termination to the judgment of Israel itself, and the Lord's ministry among them, sanctioning and exalting what God had given them in the law, out of their own mouths, a righteous scribe's mouth. He, Jesus, had the truth and power of the law; they refused to accredit the righteousness which corrupted the forms, and made His Father's house a house of merchandise, in a word, while they had abused the forms. The nation, as between God and them, had been judged in their chiefs, from their unconscientious rejection of John on to Himself who threw them back on that. Their external or national condition, as God's people in the earth, had been judged in this duty to render to Caesar what belonged to Caesar. God left them in their condition there - all of these, by plain important truths directly applicable to their condition in the wisdom of God. Then the Sadducees, in power as the nation - see Acts, when the truth became important and a revealed fact - as deniers of the hope of Israel, for that hope stood in resurrection, and a hope connected with the promises made to the fathers, and that revelation of God on which all their hope stood - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Here our Lord shines forth as the extractor of all the essence of the law, as God's righteousness in the midst of the apostasy, as well as Founder of other hopes, and so as to claim the conscience of their own scribe, no follower of His. Indeed he seems to have been graciously attracted by the truth, for his mind rested on and repeated the points of the truth with pleasure, at any rate with forms, even though ordained. In doing this, the Lord sustained, too, what was eternal in the law, and passed into all dispensations, as before all, however the effect was produced. And, while He maintained what was excellent there, He carried all that was, and could enter into the dispensation of love, into it with Him in the power that established it in the strength of resurrection on the basis of love. Those that valued this might pass, and did, when power came with it, into the kingdom, yea, to find it there, yea, there only, certainly not in Israel left empty of the Lord; and doubtless there were many that did. It all centred in truth in, and went with the Lord who was now leaving them. This part of the law was concentrated and found in Him. He fulfilled the rest in His own Person in sacrifice. "No man after that durst ask him any question."
25 The Lord, having silenced all His adversaries, now proceeded to show their ignorance, their unbelief in what regarded the excellency of His Person, the incompetency of these scribes, and this publicly and openly, teaching in the temple. "How say the scribes that the Messiah is David's Son? For David himself said, speaking in the Holy Spirit: The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool. David himself calls him Lord, and whence is he then his Son?" How blessedly, having taken out the essence and perfection of the law, and that in part from quite a hidden passage, does the Lord turn to that which constituted the change of dispensation, as regarded the Jewish people, providing for the excellency and righteousness of the Lord's Person - His transfer, on their rejection, and His leaving them, on the call of Jehovah, to the right hand of the Majesty on high! The precise applicability was perfect. The scribes had nothing to understand it with; but a great multitude, given liberty of heart and graciousness of subduing truth from the tyranny of scribe-like reasoning and dogmas, heard Him gladly. There was the sway and influence of moral blessedness and care for them. Often, where there is power and grace in some sort, we see this. Nothing was answered Him. He was there before them all in the temple, but His majesty, and the majesty of truth kept them in check and in awe; they were afraid of Him, not He of them. He said to them in His doctrine: "Beware of the scribes." But this warning is not for ignorance, though their ignorance was manifested. The Lord always judges upon plain moral evil; they sought themselves, and were hypocrites; their judgment was short and plain. But the Lord lays His finger upon what all knew, but none would say; but He, the Judge (in the power of the word now), brings all the hypocrisy plainly into light; in the acts where their credit was their external honour, they should receive greater condemnation, for the pretences by which they sought to keep it up. I believe there was reference also here to the vanity of external service. It was a judgment of direct evil, in which the dispensation had closed in them; but it lifted up the veil on the character of the new. The best thing among them was hypocrisy; but God was indeed now looking upon what was real and internal.
26 - 36. The matter of the discourse is merely stated here; in Matthew and Luke the particulars may be gathered.
- 41. Here also the Lord is thinking and judging according to the Spirit of the kingdom of heaven, where the spirit of the offerer solely was noticed in a divine way, not the value of the offering with men externally, as in all that concerned the flesh, even before God, but now properly in His own intimate view of things, not the external and dispensed one. The Lord took pains to show them this, for this was addressed only to His disciples. It was a giving of self, her living; and the eye of God rested on it; the Lord noticed it. It was within all the eye of man noticed. But God was now bringing to light the glory and principle of these hidden things. God's "more" (pleion) was different from all man's. It was morally more, as Abel's sacrifice which was "a more excellent sacrifice" (pleiona thusian).
27 Mark 13
This great principle and contrast is brought out in strong relief, and application to the hope and glory of Israel, in the passage that follows, for the sentence of Israel was now sealed. This one of the disciples rested on the outward form and power of the system. "What stones and what buildings?" The Lord at once gives their sentence: "Seest thou these great buildings? There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down."
Nothing can be clearer than the Jewish character of this chapter. They were to be taken before councils and beaten in the synagogues; and then we get false Christs in the general history which began at the time. Then we get false Christs again after the specific epoch of the abomination of desolation. In the first case we know Christ is in heaven, but the desire for Him would be natural to Jews - a snare to Jewish Christians - for national deliverance; in the second case we shall be in heaven. In neither can there be application to the (Gentile) Church, as such. In Revelation, as in all prophecy, the Church is seen only in Christ; so the rapture in chapter 12, and the saints are seen in full distinctness in chapter 19. Only before the prophecy begins, their place in respect of the judgments is seen in chapter 4 - kings on their thrones, though owning all glory to be the Creator's, the Almighty; in chapter 5, priests.
- 3. Sitting on the Mount of Olives - that place of judgment, departure, and return - looking over the loved but perverse and rejected city, these disciples, affected at what had been the centre of all their thoughts, being destroyed and made void, ask, "When shall these things be, and what shall be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?" The question here is presented to us by the Holy Spirit in a much simpler form, and affecting the setting aside of the Jewish resting-place.
- 4. It is to be remarked here that the question is only as to "these things," and it is to be remarked that below (v. 11) the presence of the Holy Ghost is spoken of, which is the case neither in Matthew nor Luke, which first attracted my attention here. Thus Mark, I apprehend, up to verse 14, speaks more of the then present time; nor does Mark say the end comes when the Gospel has been preached. In Matthew, the beginning of wars is also distinguished. In Luke the distinction is clearly made; Christ gives them a mouth there. But the destruction of Jerusalem is in view.
28 The first point the Lord noticed was the use Satan made of the rejection of Christ by the nation; many would arise: "saying, I am, and shall deceive many." They were to be aware of deception; next, the murmuring of the distant winds gathering the clouds for God's judgments, wars and rumours of wars. They were not to be troubled; they must be, but the end was not yet. For nation would rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there were to be earthquakes, famines, and troubles in different places; these were the beginnings of this world's throes for the bringing forth of judgment. All this, however, was to direct their progress and conduct in ministry, as the course of events went on. At the rumours they were not to be troubled. But there was another form of difficulty - they would be delivered up to councils, etc., and stand before kings "for a testimony to them; and the Gospel must first be preached to all the nations." This would have that form of trial which arises from enmity - of the father against the son, etc. - in a word, which broke through the closest ties. Here the rule of their service was to be, they were not to premeditate; it would be given them the same hour. They would be "hated of all" for Christ's Name's sake, but whoever endured to the end, in spite of all this, would be saved. This is the statement of a general principle - endurance by the divine power and grace. If it was on earth, and the end of the Jewish scene, the deliverance would be on earth. The point was, going on in patience till the Lord interfered. It runs then thus: "Lest anyone mislead you," "Be not disturbed," "Be not careful beforehand," "nor prepare"; all this was a matter of endurance to the end. This is the leading thought, what is to be guarded against and endurance. As to the time of this, it appears to me to be purposely general, giving the character and circumstances of the ministry, not a prophetic detail; only this, that it is connected with troubles apprehended by those conversant in Judaea or Israel, persons in the circumstances of the Lord's own disciples, the Lord gone, and His judgment not come. The whole period is embraced in one fact, here stated generally - the Gospel must first be preached to all the Gentiles. But this was in a measure, or rather in principle, true before the destruction of the temple, so that it had its application coincidently with the Jewish part of the warnings. But the expression also opens it to the full fact, and thus leaves open the ministration which may take place at the close before the latter day destruction takes place. However the destruction is not the close of the ministry in the land, but another point which the Lord then notices.
29 - 10. Here (unless abstractedly in principle, as in Col. 1:6) that which is spoken of is not the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus merely; that was not "the end." It is impossible not to see a wider scene in the Lord's thoughts.
The Lord, it appears to me, designedly uses here the term "the end" (to telos). In His mind the true end was embraced, and in fact therefore, verse 10 swept over the whole period, or, at least, it was left open to it all, while all this served for direction to His disciples for their then emergencies, and the Gospel was, in a general sense, preached to all the Gentiles, before that took place which their thoughts rested on and were concerned in, having pretty nearly as great, in point of real power, a greater extent than it has now. Then prophetically, though the fact of verse 10 is stated as a plain simple fact, the whole of what is said supposes, whatever may be done among the Gentiles, the subsistence of a state of things in Judaea such as the disciples were immediately concerned in, and the Jews there. Having given directions for their patient ministry, of which we have seen the extent, including coming before the Gentiles, the Lord then notices what concerns their position in the land - the immediate question. "When ye see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not" - it was a matter for him that read to consider - then those that were in Judaea were to flee to the mountains. There might be many occupied in testimony in far countries, but those in Judaea were to flee. They were at once, without the least delay, to escape; the door was now closing (in judgment) on unhappy Israel; it was no time of testimony then. "Where it ought not" (hopou ou dei) I believe is purposely left open, as being instruction for ministry for what might happen to them, and when, in its stricter and fuller application, the abomination should be set up in the latter day. It was a time of sweeping and pure judgment; woe to the feeble and helpless woman! The people and place were given up to judgment and sorrow; they had refused mercy. The place of believers, in testimony, was to escape. It was matter of prayer, for the disciples, that their flight should not be in winter; for the ear of their Father and Lord was open to their cry for everything. How sweetly does this come in, in the midst of the terrible giving up to judgment! The Lord was not the least changed; His ear as calmly and as blessedly open to every one that sought, and cried, and believed; though He might be forced to give up a relentless people to relentless judgment, when they would have nothing else as the way of righteousness. He was still the same gracious, prayer-hearing God, nigh to them that called on Him, thinking even of the details of mercy for His people, and ready to make their necessary flight less painful and trying even for the flesh, but His warning easy to be acted upon.
30 - 19. "For those days shall be distress, such as there has not been the like since the beginning of Creation which God created until now, and never shall be." Here the Lord's mind rests on the great accomplishment, and though there may be a partial anticipative fulfilment in that which Scripture does not notice historically - the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans, and those who were in that may have been providentially directed by it - the mind of the Spirit rests clearly on the great final catastrophe of God's house and people and city, that it may be purged by the Spirit of judgment and burning, and the unclean not pass through her any more. It was a giving up to misery; the abomination of desolation brought it in. It might last in the hands of man so or so long - that may be learned perhaps elsewhere - but the days were "distress," and known so to the people at large. The disciples were forewarned, and had the sign of their commencement for fleeing, not then for testimony. If the Lord had not shortened those terrible days, no flesh should be saved. This is a remarkable term even to the evil of their own hearts, and the Spirit of death and evil is amongst them; they would destroy themselves, and so has been seen in Jerusalem, and even elsewhere. This from within and without; but, for the elect's sake who were to be spared after the flesh, these days were shortened. Still, though they be forewarned, and those who had understanding escaped, it is a general scene of confusion coming on the inhabiters of the land (or earth) which might reach all found there, unless God interposed to stop its actual career. As regard the heavenlies, this, in a certain sense, had been no matter, but for the earthly Remnant was all-important for its continuing existence. We have then the elect Remnant of those days especially noticed and brought into view: "For the elect's sake … he hath shortened those days. And then if anyone say to you," i.e., in this time of affliction recognised by all, for they were all in it, i.e., the unbelievers. It was not then a subject of prophecy, but of actual trial: "If anyone say to you: Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there, believe it or not." "There will arise," saith the Lord, "false Christs and false prophets." How blessed to have all these forewarnings! And doubtless there will be a Remnant using them, and availing themselves of them in that day, for there will be the earthly things, when the others have had their course - not days of testimony now closed, but vengeance. These false Christs and prophets will give signs and wonders, so as, if it were possible, to deceive the very elect. God may keep them, but that is the only safeguard. For the elect here if fled (at least those of understanding receiving the testimony of Jesus as a Prophet, for the heavenly door is now, I presume, closed) from the place of vengeance, are still in the midst, morally at least, of the trials.
31 The hour of temptation which should come on all the world to try the dwellers upon earth, as Lot compared with Abraham, the heavenly man and family. "But," says the Lord, "do ye beware, lo, I have foretold you all things." For the Lord speaks here in the character of the Prophet of the Jewish Remnant, and so has to be received, not as the glorified Son of God, nor "Son of man who is in heaven"; for these necessarily the associations would be heavenly, not warning to flee and saving flesh; and "Whosoever will not hearken to" this Prophet (for this is as true of Christ as His being Son of God and all else) "shall be cut off from among his people." But in those days, after the tribulation of which the setting up the abomination of desolation was the leading sign to them for getting out of the way, every visible seat of power shall be cast down, and cease to guide and illuminate the world. "The powers which are in the heavens" offer a little difficulty to my mind. It is clear that the whole stability of governance will be shaken. That there may be a public witness in creation of the immense revolution, which is then taking place, is possible, as at the Lord's death. Its general import is plain, not only that the affected earth, but the sources of power will be touched by the divine hand and will; "I will shake not the earth only, but also the heavens." Satan is cast out at this time, but the principalities and powers in heavenly places cease to be the agents of divine ministration, and shake under this great action that transfers it to the hands of the Son of man; for who can stand in the presence of this power, unmoved? The evil was cast out, but the creature could not stand unmoved in the presence and acting of His power. His assumption of it for the subjection and order of the world to come is not that "of this age," not only in respect of evil but also of the instruments of His power. And this change is a mighty one, and introduces the Son of man in His manifested glory in royalty. The casting down of Satan was by predominance in those regions, according to the character of subsisting power. Then, Michael, the archangel, fought, and the dragon fought, and his angels, and his place was not found; but this was a shaking of the whole ministration itself. "And then they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send forth his angels" (servants of the Son of man) the angels of His power, not the messengers of His grace, to "gather his elect from the four winds, from end of earth to end of heaven." This seems to me to be purposely general, including the title of the place, in the power of which the Lord Jesus comes; compare Psalm 50. The fig tree, the habitual figurative representative of the Jewish people, would afford them the parable of this. When they saw the things He had spoken of, His coming in power, and the whole setting aside of the dispensation, was nigh at the doors. The Jewish (unbelieving) "generation" would not "pass away till all these things take place"; heaven and earth would pass away, but not the despised Son of man's, for He now spoke in the dignity of power. But of that day and hour none but the Father knew. It was not a subject of revelation, for here the Lord acted as a Servant; the kingdom was God's kingdom; what He heard He spake. "Take heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is." It appears to me this was addressed to them as within the Jewish scheme, though it may be true that we may watch, not knowing the day; but that is not exactly our position. It was a day looked for to overtake them here, when there would be trouble, and great affliction, however they might be preserved, not being caught up out of it all to meet the Lord. They were waiting here, with guidance how to pass through the difficulties, and dangers, and that connected with Jewish circumstances and Jewish habits. It was not at all the Holy Ghost's witness of a glorified Jesus, and union with Him to be accomplished in His presence, that where He is they may be. The Lord, however, turns back to the general principle and application of it to ministry. They were to go on thus acting while He was away, absent, "as a man gone out of the country," and this He said not to them only, but to all.
33 The thing of which the day is not known extends, it seems to me, however, withal to this change in the sources of dispensation, the revolution that takes place in the heavens, and this it is that affects the condition of the Remnant here (this Red Sea of heavenly matters) for the casting out of Satan makes their state much worse, for he comes down to earth. But this brings in the day of the Lord. "Unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come whereof we speak," but to Man, in Jesus' Person, then accomplished; and here this revolution takes place.
- 24. It is remarkable that neither here nor in Matthew, though announced at the first, and the occasion of the discourse, is there any hint of the (or a) destruction of Jerusalem. There is great tribulation, and then the coming of the Son of man.
Note, in this chapter, the dispensational character is not nearly so defined and precise as in Matthew; thus, it is not, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached … in all nations, and then shall the end come" (there is no question as to the end of the age) but we have in general, the Gospel must first be preached (compare chap. 16:15, 20), and, in a part connected with the general testimony, Matthew 10, which goes from Christ till He comes again, as far as Palestine and the Jews are concerned. The end is not spoken of here; verse 24 too is much more general, not so precise, though the same event.
"After that distress"; "but in those days"; the sun put out before the Lord comes, i.e., is seen. No question of the Church here, but of those in Judaea; He gathers the elect after He comes. The troubles come before the day; Joel, compare Rev. 6. The Lord appears for the Jews against the nations; Zechariah. The deliverance is in Zion and Jerusalem; Joel. The sun is darkened before the day; Jerusalem is taken in the day. The lawless one is destroyed "by the appearing of his coming"; but that is only an incident.
It is manifest that Luke was given to write with more explicitness upon the times of this prophecy than Matthew or Mark, whose accounts seem so worded as to bring it all very intelligibly within the destruction of the religious establishment and polity of the Jews, then of immediate and practical importance; as to the full import of it, I have still to receive it. In Luke 21, verses 25 and 26, seem fairly referable to what was after the destruction of Jerusalem, but I do not think I have ever found adequate importance attached to the dissolution of the economy of God's peculiar people - His first great dispensation - in fact, more important than the dissolution of the Gentile economy, though exceedingly parallel, save as that dissolution was attended by the re-admission of the Jews into the privileges of the kingdom, and was life from the dead to the world. I should, however, have been freely disposed to refer this to the dissolution of the Gentile dispensation, were it not for Matthew's "immediately" (chap. 24:29) (eutheos). Reason indeed may be assigned for Luke's greater explicitness on this subject. Many of the terms are generic, and seem applicable to the dissolution of both fallen economies, and I cannot help thinking that Matthew 24:27 applies to the Jewish dispensation. Perhaps, in the next verse, our Lord purposely generalises it to suit both cases, for the carcase and the eagles seem clearly the sudden and devouring judgments on a body from which the spirit of life was gone, whatever form it might have. And I think it highly probable that, though obscurely, what followed runs more into the Gentile than the Jewish fulfilment of the statement. But, in those two evangelists, it was merely the glancing of the prophetic mind towards that which to them was not directly to the purpose, and, the dispensations being essentially similar, the terms had their fulfilment in power in that to which their immediate attention was directed, when the dispensations themselves had prepared the way. The larger scene might open, to which their minds were now enlarged, and in which the passage found fuller, and perhaps more literal, application, and which, in its appropriate place, was to be largely revealed. That the Spirit of God did so deal in editing these Gospels, I think quite manifest, for we must remember that, though not fully fulfilled in final results till His second coming, the Lord's coming was, with separate purposes, hidden from ages but made known by the Gospel in various revelation from the day of the angels' song till the day of the fulness of the glory of His kingdom, and that the whole Gentile dispensation forms a sort of parenthesis, necessary indeed to the filling up the whole mind of God, but in dispensation, as to Christ, intermediate between those great events which were held out from the first, and together formed the coming of the Lord - the mystery that that nation, to whom He was to come, and called without repentance, should be dispensatorily rejected, and so the glory of His coming suspended till, by the operations of the Spirit, the Gentile economy should have been given its times, and both, fallen through unbelief, be admitted in grace according to that full salvation which was from the Father of lights with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning.
35 - 27. This is clearly the Jewish gathering.
- 30. Nor do I, though I think it intended to lead the minds of those to whom He addressed Himself to the immediate exercise of judgment on the Jewish company, by any means deny the truth of its application to the continuance of the Jewish race, till the whole mystery of God was complete, till that mechris hou (until that) should be come, when it should be said: "It is accomplished." Blessed thought that the word of faith which we preach should have the perfect stability of the Father of the everlasting ages! Its force in this full sense is evinced and drawn in the Spirit of prophecy from Deuteronomy 32:5, 20. The tribulation of the Jews embraced the whole time from their rejection of the Lord as the Messiah, to their acknowledging Him again, till they said: "Hosanna!" from the time they blamed the children, out of whose mouth God perfected it, for saying it.
There seems to be designedly a cloud thrown over the time in this and verse 31; immense importance attaches to the certitude of the event. It is a question of the truth of the word of God; compare 2 Peter 3. It is some great event; it is different from the seventy weeks are determined (nekh-tak; Dan. 9:24), The Gentile dispensation left this uncertain gap.
- 32. "Neither the Son," compare Rev. 1:1.
- 33. "Take heed, watch and pray."
- 34. "Leave his house"; the time is the return of the Lord to His house, sometime.
36 Mark 14
- 4. "There were"; this serves here merely to bring out the Lord's answer, and His view of it.
- 8. How infinitely full of grace! There was no understanding in them of the position He was really in.
Could the Lord say of me: What he could he has done? I do fear not; I fear a sad defect of surrender of self to the Lord. If we honour the Lord with what we have, we know nothing of the power or extent of the testimony. The Church has delighted itself, in all ages, with this woman's offering, to her own special honour. Yet is there none on whom my soul rests, or, may not I say Lord, desires but Him. "I count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of" Him, and that thankfully to be given to do so, but what I feel so lacking is the practical.
- 10. Judas had heard Jesus was to suffer, and these things began to have an end, and money had been brought in question. The character of Judas seems brought out upon, and in contrast with that of the poor woman; he was the mere instrument, after all, of filling up the divine counsel. The Lord in all holy and dignified calmness, with perfect knowledge of what was coming, could stamp His seal of testimony to the loving and divinely directed action of this poor woman, and give it its value in the whole world, wherever the good news came that a Saviour had died. God was not unrighteous to forget her work and labour of love. Love to Jesus was His supreme delight. The anxiety and care of sin is just contrasted with the calmness of grace.
- 12. As the Lord could provide for His royal entry, so for the last token of love to His disciples, and, though submitting and meek in all this, we see the perfect power of arranging, ordering, and pronouncing all things for present circumstances, or which should be. The glory of His title and power breaks through and shines through all, and as the rejection of His Person as Messiah was practically complete, and His death as Son of man was drawing nigh, His glory, lost by the unhappy Jews in one, and which gave divine efficacy, shone blessedly forth in all He said and did, as need called it forth, and in a rejected Messiah. There was no longer need for its concealment. There was a Remnant that He knew in the midst of the evil and the rejection, those the disciples knew not, unmanifested persons, to whom it was enough to say: "The Teacher says." A consolation to Jesus' soul, and a timely confirmation to the faith of His disciples, compare the conduct of even Elijah with this, blessed as he was - no broken-hearted retreat to Horeb here, but such a declaration of God's righteousness and truth in the great congregation as left the manifestation of God so on the soul, as that the control of His word was there, though the energy of the Holy Ghost had not manifested them to the world. Yet the Lord never departs out of the simplicity of His course. Then the Lord, when they are gathered opens His heart to them - one of those who eat with Him should betray Him. There certainly was beautiful confidence in their enquiry, for grief often makes humble in bringing down proud confidence in self; we have not been able to hinder the sorrow.
37 Compare Matthew 26:17, Luke 22:7, John 13:1, and Exodus 12:6, 18. I apprehend that the consideration of the different structure of the days, makes the Last Supper and Passover quite intelligible. Thursday evening, our 13th, is their Friday, 14th beginning. I believe then our Lord ate the Passover on Friday and was offered up on Friday - we know that it was late, night, when He was betrayed, just after the supper; John 13:30, etc. That was their Friday night. The blessed Lamb of God was offered up, He was crucified the third hour, and the scene closed just after the ninth hour - about three hours within the Friday. I know that learned men say "between the two evenings was 3 o'clock and 6 o'clock," but why? What is their authority? It is remarkable that the unleavened bread was to begin at even, i.e., at 6 o'clock on our Thursday, their Friday, but the Paschal Lamb to be slain between the two evenings. Query whether that be not between the beginning of Friday (our Thursday evening) and the beginning of Saturday (our Friday evening), which was strictly fulfilled in our Lord, and upon this supposition every statement in the Scripture is consistent. The order is just thus then, as: - Thursday, 13th, evening with us - Friday, last Supper; Friday, 14th - Friday, the Crucifixion; Friday, 14th evening with us - Saturday, "rested the Sabbath"; Saturday, 15th - Saturday, the high Sabbath, rested Saturday, 15th evening with us - First day of the week, Sunday, 16th morning with us - First day of the week they came very early to the sepulchre.
Our Thursday night, their Friday, was spent in the judgment hall, they not going into Pilate's, that they might keep the Passover.
38 - 19. In Matthew 26:25, Judas says, "Master, is it I?" Note the difference of spirit which dictates, and "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I," to Peter. And how traitorous the heart is!
- 20, et seq. There is something very brief and solemn in all this account here. The Lord's mind was full, and the Spirit presents the truth as if it was too weighty and near to say much about it. "One of the twelve, who dips with me in the dish"; all was morally contained in that. "The Son of man goes as it is written … but woe to that man … good for that man if he had not been born." It is the pith and substance too of the institution which is given. "For many"; this carries it out into a further scene of grace, while verse 25 closes all His present relationship with earth, to be resumed in a future day when His Nazarite separation from them would close.
- 27. But the time was coming when He should smite the Shepherd, and the sheep should be scattered.
- 29, 30. "If all … not I"; yet it was no one but he. And our Lord's answer seems strikingly marked.
- 31. I may remark here, in passing, that the evidence from versions from a reading is to be taken with much question, and also of the fathers, especially as quoted by Griesbach. The versions are, it is to be remembered, translations conveying the sense, and not always direct evidence of the words employed. Thus here, the Vulgate gives "amplius" (the more). I am not at all clear that it did not read mallon ek perissou (the more vehemently), and translate it all amplius (the more). Indeed, I believe mallon ek perissou to be of that effect. There are many analogous connections of mallon and perissos. I would remark that, though we are highly indebted for his pains and profitable diligence to Griesbach, his judgment as to Scripture text and sense is, I think, exceedingly low.
- 33. Ton (the) before Petron (Peter) I suspect marks the surname. Let us never pass by the simple fact of the heaviness and distress of our Lord, "the Author and Finisher of faith."
- 35. His soul was truly "full of grief." May our souls be made conformable to His death.
- 36. The answer does not appear, i.e. upon the prayer, but the prayer is full of instruction. In the trials of the saints, when there is pure unfeigned submission to the will of their heavenly Father in outward circumstance, which, on the approach of the trial, connects itself with all the power of the trial, the prayer may not be formed on the purposes of divine counsel, and yet be fully accepted and answered by separation of the circumstances, not from the reality of the trial, but from its power over the will. There was a submission of the will, from the beginning, to the divine will, but patience of its fulfilment, in which the present actings of the will are concerned, is wrought in the soul by the operation of the divine power in answer, and we are heard by reason of fearing (Heb. 5:7). "All things are possible," in whatever ignorance we may be, is abstractedly an answer to apprehension, if the person in fear has an interest in that will. Faith realises this abstract answer in respect of practical exigency.
39 - 38. "The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh weak," is not given as aphoristic commiseration of them, but as a reason for, and marking the necessity of watching and prayer. Do not rely on the readiness of your spirit, for the flesh in which you walk is weak; therefore watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. There was special allusion and graciously (for the Lord's soul was stayed and prepared for the evil) to Peter's hasty undertaking to suffer with Him, unsustained in spirit by going through it with God; he would soon sink in going through it with man.
- 40. What perfect simplicity of truth there is in this statement! At the moment that the anxiety of redeeming the world by His own obedience unto death weighed upon the Lord's mind, when He was subjecting Himself to His own substitution to wrath for His sheep, to His Father's necessary will in holiness and justice! How do we see the place which the Son of man held upon earth - subjection to the merest present circumstance when salvation is in question!
- 41. He saw His way before Him - that bitterness of distress even to death, in which He had sought the stay of one to watch with Him, was over. They might now sleep; He knew that the hour was indeed come, and He had set Himself to meet it. Observe, our Lord was caused to feel that He was utterly alone in the conflict. His mind had unburthened its load, and He returned to them whom He had left as Man; but they were asleep. He warns them, and returns to that on which His soul was occupied with God, and which could be settled there only, and there only accordingly He finds, so to speak, vent for His soul, till He should have manifested to us the fulfilling of all righteousness for our sakes. When we think of His divine glory, His being the depository of the power of His Father's will, we can but be silent before Him. Observe too for ourselves, the Spirit of God will lead us into timely prayer.
40 - 44. There was something desperately wicked in Judas, after passing such time with Christ. But Satan was with him to carry the flesh through, and it is so with Peter. "The flesh is weak," is another thing as to state, if the roots are the same. It is bad enough, I mean even in effect. The Holy Ghost was not there though "the spirit willing." Satan had entered into Judas; no wonder his wickedness.
- 62. "I am." "And ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven," is an additional testimony; all the truth must now be told.
- 68. The first step was seemingly a little one, merely rejecting the impertinence of a girl, when there was no good in the testimony. It clearly was not the time, but it was all in principle. It seemed at the time as if it made no difference to any, his denial or not; it was merely avoiding the inquisitive intrusion of strangers when inconvenient to himself. So, often, in the world. They would have given no honour to Jesus, had He confessed Him, but the contrary.
How the boldness of nature leads a man into a situation where he is not in the way of grace, and fails to his own sorrow and bitterness of heart! What business had he there if he were not one of them?
- 69. Compare Matthew 26:71. There was conversation about it going on. How clear the scene!
Query. "The maid again began." It is quite possible that more than three may have spoken even if he only directly denied the Lord thrice. But there is no apparent discrepancy even, save that Matthew says, "Another maid," and Mark, "The maid." Bengel would say both did, but I apprehend it was the maid of the proaulion (entrance-hall) the he thuroros (the door keeper) of John, very likely. The palin (again) seems certainly to belong to erxato (began) in any case. How little poor Peter gained by having the fire, and going out into the porch! It is no use.
41 Mark 15
- 37. There seems to have been something extraordinary in this great voice which He uttered, nor could it I suppose be thought natural at the moment of death. It might show that even on the Cross it was no mere natural dissolution, but that it was finished, and therefore He gave up the ghost.
- 8. It is the general effect on the heart and spirit, the result, which is more presented here than the detail of circumstances. This is evident in verses 14, 15, et seq.
- 9. "And" (or "But") "Jesus having risen" (or "When he had risen") "early the first day of the week, he appeared first," etc.; the breach of continuation is less. No doubt it comes in as a statement apart. Up to this it was merely the fact of His resurrection announced to the women at the sepulchre, who stayed last at the Cross and, watching as it were over His body, were found first at the sepulchre He had left. This introduces His appearances, in a short general recital, to give, after showing their unbelief, the mission of the disciples according to the mind and tenor of this Gospel. The whole thing is a résumé of the unbelief of the disciples, and then, after the Lord's reproaching them with it, their mission. It is not, in any way, a detailed history whose object is to give an account of what passed. This closes with verses 7 and 8. He was to be seen in Galilee in connection with His own mission here, and His association with them. The rest is a testimony by others to them, distinct from this, and which falls on unbelieving hearts; and Christ, in a distinct way, sees them revealingly as to His Person, not in Galilee, and they have a mission to the world for personal salvation, signs of power being attached to their mission. With this His ascension is connected. He took His heavenly place till His return.
- 15. "To the whole creation."
- 20. "Everywhere"; again we have the introduction of the general result, but it is quite general. This mission "unto the world" - to the whole creation - was not from Galilee, but before His ascension, and their execution of it quite general. But note, while the Galilee scene is recognised in the current of Mark's history, there is no account of it. The account we have is of the Bethany close of the blessed Lord's presence here, and the mission thence. As Jewish expectants, there is still unbelief. The mission is not quite Luke's heavenly beginning at Jerusalem. It is from the risen Lord in Person. But it is not at all Matthew's; Matthew and Luke are dispensational - this personal and for simple salvation.
42 Whatever the explanation of the end of this chapter from verse 9, it is evident, I think, that it is an added morsel. I have often noticed that it is the John and Luke aspect of the history which is added in a summary; but the anastas de proi (when He had risen very early) comes in unconnected with any governing noun, rather confirming, I think, its genuineness, but showing it is not a continuous history but added, but its being "Jesus" assumed. It assumes it to be Jesus, mentioned in verse 6, but has not the air of continuity. But while following the Matthew part at first, it takes up the other aspects as what the writer had at heart. Nor is it a connected story, for verse 9 does not directly connect with verse 2; "they" in verse 2 is general. Mary of Magdala came first alone; verse 3 implies there were others engaged in the matter. They bought the spices Saturday, after 6 o'clock, and the two last went at sunrise next morning. It merely gives the general character of the history; they find the angel and flee alarmed, having received the message as to Galilee. Matthew gives the same history with more detail as to the angel; the women are thrown into a lump in verse 5; from Luke 23:55, and chapter 24:1, 10, we learn there were several. Then we get the Mary of Magdala account, and the two to Emmaus. Thus verses 9 to 20 is evidently a calm retrospect on the whole scene, and its consequence; verse 19 was forty days after what precedes; and, verse 20, we have the consequence - it professes to be after the apostles generally had gone out, knowing nothing of Paul, quod nota.
Thus verse 9 to 20 detaches itself more and more from what precedes. Its purport has been spoken of elsewhere. But verse I takes up the women in the general Galilean form, and passes from those who had bought the spices Saturday evening, whom it designates by name, to the general thought of the women coming Sunday morning. Mary of Magdala came, we know, before the sun rose; there were the women from Galilee, and others with them; in Luke, all lumped together, three and "others with them" being mentioned afterwards. The other Mary (i.e., of James, etc.) and Salome who came, only Mary of Magdala had gone before them and was alone. These three were at the Cross (query, was Joanna the same as Salome?). He who had alarmed the keepers without, was perhaps the same that peacefully told the women not to be affrighted inside the general excavation of the sepulchre, and showed them the particular place where the Lord had lain. The contrast is purposed in Matthew 28:4-5. But Mary of Magdala was alone and apart. Except Jesus' meeting them the account of Matthew and Mark is identical, only Mark gives the effect in their speaking to no one, as they fled to tell the disciples. But in verse 9 we have Mary of Magdala, not mixed up in the general history as in Matthew, verse 1 of this chapter, and Luke; it begins a totally different aspect of the story with anastas (being risen) referring to Jesus, not named here nor in what precedes, not as a person writing continuously, but, taking for granted that Jesus was in question, begins a separate account about Him, not about the women. Verse 1 quite falls in with the statements in Matthew and Luke, giving what the women in general were about in their love to the Lord; but verse 9 repeats "Mary of Magdala" in a quite distinct and separate personal character, and yet vaguely, with nothing of Peter and John, which John, one of them, so clearly and graphically relates. This and the Emmaus disciples are introduced to show the unbelief of the disciples. It is not very easy to reconcile this and Luke, still the transition from unbelief to faith is not unnatural, and, though they spoke of His appearing to Simon, on report, yet they evidently were not prepared to see Him. It is easier to believe death than life. The grace in which the Lord convinces them is most touching. But the whole passage is as if it were a recital of what had happened a good while ago, and added to complete the account left unfinished in the air, and what was known by report or general common information. Yet I do not reject it. The insertion of it may be inspired of God, as giving a general account of what was after the Acts - perhaps through John himself - and this is the way I am inclined to look for it. One thing is clear - verse 20 shows it was written after the dispersion of the twelve from their old local work, and knows nothing of Paul and the Acts, is based on the ascension, not on the Galilee mission, and passes from it to the late general mission of the twelve; verses 15, 16 also give this.
44 The difference noticed at the end of Mark is quite evident. I mean the Jewish meeting with the Lord, and the heavenly one, Matthew having only the Jewish, and Luke the heavenly - Mark both, only verses 15-18 are more general, as is the case with Mark who speaks of the Gospel as we might almost. I have looked through Mark to see how the general strain bears on this. I find first, it contains much more His personal testimony (not His Person) and its authority. The contrast (perhaps from the rapidity of his statement of events) of the Jews with Him, their opposition to His testimony, and display of divine power, more distinctly prominent. It is not the careful presenting Him according to promise, as in Matthew, finally rejected, but His personal testimony, by word and work, brought immediately into collision with their unbelief and prejudices. In the first chapter we have the display of power acting on them, but from chapter 2 we have the opposition, as verses 7, 16, 24; chap. 3:6, 22, and the rejection of His place among the Jews by birth, already, at the end of chapter 3. Thereupon, the Sower and Christ - peculiar to Mark - personally at beginning and ending. So the testimony is general - a candle not under a bushel. In chapter 5 we have a general idea of the dealings with Israel, then and hereafter, the swine, the woman, and really giving life. In chapter 6 the twelve are not forbidden to go to Gentiles, but John the baptist is put to death. Jehovah satisfies the poor; but He separates from His disciples to rejoin them. In chapter 7, the Pharisees are judged - the whole system judged morally; and what man is shown, and mercy shown to Gentiles; grace makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak. In chapter 8, the Remnant is dealt with in sovereign grace, the disciples even understand nothing, the opening the eyes of the blind is wrought outside the town, and gradually; from that the general testimony of rejection, and taking up the Cross to have the glory. Life must be lost to save it.
I have longed to begin and to read the Gospels which remain (Mark and Luke) yet now I find it is communion and glory that my soul desires, not knowledge. Yet should I refuse to learn what is given here, were it only even for others, and I passed on to where my thoughts and hopes are, and where we shall see Him in higher, His own glory, and know as we are known according to His fulness, I feel as if I was coming down to earth again, having known Him in glory, thus to study that Blessed One even on earth, perfect, divine and admirable as all His ways were. But we must take it as it is presented, and leave our minds open for all divine truth, but I so felt, and feel yet, the rays of that divine glory, and where He now is, shine on all the path He trod, until it burst forth again in Him glorified.
45 I return for a moment to the commencement of this Gospel. John the baptist's ministry is called here, I apprehend, the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. because it was, whatever its claim, the good news about Him - "the Mightier comes." This ministry of John was the commencement of the testimony, as introducing Him. It was not merely prophecy - they were till now - it was before His face to prepare His way. This was the beginning of the Gospel; it was a special thing. I do not see that the end of Malachi: "Behold I send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord." This is not the Gospel, as here spoken of. As to the reading "in the prophets," it was probably "prophet" or "prophets" and "Isaiah" a gloss, and "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way," was introduced; otherwise this last is a mere comment or explanation of what follows. The beginning of the Gospel was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. It was according to the prophets, but they were not it, the thing spoken of by them was it. "Behold I send" was a promise in fact to Christ, as representing and interested in Israel. "The voice of one crying" was the beginning of the Gospel. Therefore both are introduced; so that the plan of prophecy, and the beginning of the testimony are all perfectly introduced in their place. As to the critical point, the intention of the Lord in the structure of the passage being evident, it is of comparatively little importance, but may be further searched. The beginning of the Gospel, the good news fully recognised the place where Israel was - in the wilderness. It recognised nothing, not the least, of the state they were in; so ever, they must go out to the testimony. So again ever; this then, and owning that the paths must be made straight; so in all cases, and grace makes the Lord enter into that sorrow and that effect of sin; there His paths are prepared, not in Jerusalem apostate, and we find that those who owned this accordingly believed on Him. The way was repentance for remission, the manner and effect confession. The effect however of this was very general, and made way for Another's righteousness. We know who rejected it and were rejected. But it was a different thing publicly to receive this and to receive Christ; then the claim was more in opposition to their present state, and found its opposition in those who shrunk from the recognition of what condemned them and subverted their importance. I may own the evil I am in; the Holy Ghost alone can effect a confession of what sets aside the evil I am connected with. While all the system is owned, evil and reformation may well pass, but Christ must stand for Himself, and gather, and the flesh cannot bear this , it requires faith, and faith is the gift of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit Himself. But human nature, wearied with evil, is attracted and subdued by a testimony against it, when, to a certain point, note, in such a time public adherence to, and owning the verity of Christ's proposal, are different things; the former requires the public action of the Spirit of God - power - display belongs to a new dispensation. Therefore the interpretations of parables, and symbolic prophecies are ever new revelations of the succeeding dispensation, quod nota.
46 John bore his own character, but he testified to One to come after, "the Mightier." There were two points as to Him, after the character of John was shown forth, the (comparative) excellence and worthiness of His Person (for he does not speak of proper glory here: "He was before me") - and of His ministry or baptism: "I have baptised you with water, but he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost." Repentance and power are different things; the latter is the Lord's baptism. Fire is not here in question; judgment was not the point, but what characterised His ministry, what He conferred as contrasted with what He convinced of and claimed. Repentance, the return to God in a sense of sin, is a different thing from the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, though He may work in power to produce the former. "With Holy Spirit" is the character of the baptism, therefore no article. We have then the two things fulfilled in Jesus, for He comes in by the door, though perhaps we should say "because," for He only could do it, He was God above all. He is baptised with water (coming in by the door thus among the Jews) and is endued with power, not mediately but immediately. "God anointed" Him "with the Holy Ghost and with power"; I add this, lest any should suppose it might be taken ill, saying: "endued." Though full, personally, with the fulness of the Godhead bodily in incarnation, this is not manifest endowment as entering on ministry, presented before our eyes in service. To the first He submits. He came from the rejected seat of vileness, out even in Galilee. No proximate place acting on the national requisition (it is not said that was a seal - only Judaea and Jerusalem affected by proximity) and connecting as One who knew Israel and the rights of Israel, with the heart of Him who claimed its rights for it, and whose eye rested even on its despised borders. He "came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptised of John in Jordan." The love of the Lord's heart embracing all, even its degraded quarters, but coming, in the degradation of its despised and outcast corners, to submit to the necessity of its testified moral condition as a Servant. He was baptised of John in Jordan; His entrance into its real limits as properly owned of Him. But higher glory was declared on this submission; He sees the heavens opened, etc., and the voice came; "Thou art my beloved Son." This was the recognition of Him as a Man upon earth. At all times the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Him bodily, for "in him all the fulness was pleased to dwell." This was not the question, but as a Man He was born of the Holy Ghost, even as to the nature to which the divinity was united, so was He sealed and anointed in it too ("for him hath God the Father sealed"). And note it is not here merely it descended, but on His submission to righteousness He saw it descending. "Straightway ascending up out of the water, he saw the heavens open." It was not only acceptable righteousness on earth, increasing in favour with God and man, but on His submission to the righteousness of God, in the condemnation of Israel, and the baptism of repentance, He sees heaven open. All His ministry is characterised by this. It is not merely: "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen," for that was higher still, even what He had divinely and previously, but His testimony to Sonship as incarnate, Man. And note the anointing or seal is a revelation to the Person Himself for His joy and gladness, as well as a stamp known to God and others. "He saw heaven open, and the Spirit as a dove descending upon him." So was the voice addressed to Him of the Father: "Thou art my beloved Son"; indeed it is its chief character, though it has consequences surely. Yet was a Spirit of meekness and gentleness, as well as purity, for so is ever the Spirit of Sonship, for it goes beyond the difficulties, and trials, and evil upon earth, and its pressure, and sees heaven opened where these things come out, and hears the Father's voice, which overreaches and passes through all these things. It has submitted to the recognition of the full moral evil, a thing much deeper than the national or judicial consequences, far deeper - has owned it with God, fully bowed to the acknowledgment of it, and passes into a clearer and brighter scene, upon the full confession of it, which is beyond, blessedly beyond, all this, where the Father's heart has its play, for the evil is passed and left behind, and the testimony is known in the midst of it, as the place whence it comes rises above it.
48 This then was the character of the Lord's ministry, submission to righteousness in Judaism, but a view and a consciousness opened infinitely higher. The coming of Jesus was a voluntary act to this - "It became him." Testimony to Sonship; and knowledge of the Father's own voice is the proper character of present blessing brought in to those that have a portion in Him.
The recognition by His Father here was at the beginning, rather before the commencement of His ministry. We have that, in verse 14, chapter 1, when fully manifested personally perfect in righteousness, and acceptable in personal relationship; and coming forth now, submitting to all needful to accomplish His counsels, He receives this testimony. The course and accomplishment of His service gives only another occasion of the all-important and blessed testimony, and His patience to death to secure the Father's glory - the final witness of it in power in the resurrection, "according to the Spirit of holiness." This being done, i.e. the submission, with Christ willing, in us needed, and our wondrous grace, and privilege, and Sonship fully declared (the Father, in fact, known to the sons by the Spirit) "immediately the Spirit casteth him forth," putteth Him out from this enjoyed shelter of Sonship into the wilderness (there John cried, there repentance and submission were proclaimed, for there in condition the people were) there we go back, but as sons; compare the groans in Romans and 8. "And he was in the wilderness forty days tempted" of the adversary, "with the wild beasts, and angels," the ministers of God's providence and honour to the (humbled) Son of man "ministered to him" there. This is an important point of the entrance on ministry. Moses passed forty days in intercourse with God, with Jehovah, before he comes down to exercise that ministry in the giving of the Law, and service of the tabernacle, and the passage through the wilderness up to Mount Pisgah; he needed it for that work, and the broken tables (though on God's part most righteous perhaps) needed from this meekest of men another forty days of exercise there. Yet was the place of Jesus, there in the wilderness, far more wonderful, and, when known, glorious than that of Moses. Moses, "as a servant" faithful in all His house, had need to be taken up to see the Lord, that the witness of the power and glory might shine forth with the authority and power of communion.
49 The Law must reflect the glory, and its communicator and mediator, both for competency, and for its bearing on others, have intercourse with and come forth from such a presence into which for the purpose he had been introduced. But this One, the Lord, had ever dwelt there. He was come down interested in those who were the witnesses of a broken law, and a dishonoured God, and utterly ruined man, and the prevailing power of Satan. He must go into the wilderness and meet Satan there - this was the forty days suitable to Him - and in all this be tempted with all that was suitable to withdraw Him from the place of utter humiliation, and service - born under the law, not its mediator, and responsible for the curse for us, which Moses had authoritatively, and with the glorious sanction of Mount Sinai attached. Here, however, it is its briefly but forcibly stated character, as ever in Mark, "He was in the desert … tempted of Satan … with the wild beasts," the power of ferocious evil, "and the angels ministered to him." The acceptance was not the less as Son of man for the sorrow. Both John and the Lord, as we have said, in the wilderness, but one in the bitterness, though prophet, of judgment and repentance, the Other in the witnessed certainty of Sonship, and consequent trial, and temptation, and desolation, but with an honour due to Him and the heirs of salvation. Glorious as Moses was, and not in trial but in honour, the angels were dispensers. Here, the glory of love brings Him low, as low as possible, alone indeed in these, in the wilderness and in temptation, subjected to the temptations of Satan, but the angels are ministers to Him. It is the same in principle with us. It was not the honour of proposing (as Mediator) what the Lord revealed, and required for blessing, but taking up in divine love the total ruin of the whole, and this by being already in the secret of being a Son Himself, not something given for them to fulfil, but Himself fulfilling in love the need even into which the sons were brought. Having this experimental preparation for ministry as Son Himself, having received the seal and conscious character of Sonship as a witness, thus received in witness to His soul (so only available to us) and as tempted of Satan, what the Father was, and what the world (or Jews) was. Thereon, waiting in patience the appointed time, till the ministry of John was closed, till the enmity of the world had shown what was to be expected, for the Son of man should also suffer of them, in the manifested though not ripened apostasy of Israel, but in the fitting time of service to the Father, everything that would have deterred the flesh, everything that was a guide to the Spirit, the anointed Son, who had been tried of the evil one, enters on His ministry. John's casting into prison might have seemed to have made His service and ministry hopeless, but perfectly separate from and giving no sanction to, nay, having owned the apostasy of, Israel by His baptism by John, He enters exactly at the appointed, needed, and fitted time, when John was set aside, to bear testimony, and minister in the midst of Israel. But indeed, when looked into, and seen on the footing of, and in the midst of the apostasy as to such (however presenting all the good) and the presentation we have of the ministry here, John the baptist presents the Person of Jesus, and what He would do as exalted - baptise with the Holy Ghost, His proper ministry in this sense. It was thus the beginning of the Gospel of the Son of God. The Lord's word was, on John's being delivered up, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God. That indeed was what was wanting in such a state of things, the truth of the setting aside of the evil state of things, that was to arouse specially to repentance, and to comfort those who sighed for the evil, and perhaps were persecuted for leaving it. When John was put in prison, it was a suited time for this, suited not to the flesh but to the holy testimony of God. The place of the testimony was accordingly full of grace to the nation, extending the full title of the Lord to His people and land, but having all the pride and evil which was associated in man's part of it, and saying: "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye." It was not merely blessing, or blessing to a righteous people, but to a people whose word of address must be simply, universally: Repent and believe this good news. This, to follow Him, called for total separation from interests, and possessions, and all relationships of life. He stood outside all (in mercy) saying: Repent, from God the Father (in Sonship), from Satan, the sum of the condition of things then learnt from apprehensions of mind, learnt personally with the Father, and made in the energy of the Spirit to go forth (cast out) and therefore experience of the temptation of Satan and the wilderness the Spirit led Him into. He goes forth when the evidence of the rejection of His predecessor, and their iniquity in the rejection of testimony was manifested, to bear His witness, and final gracious and patient testimony amongst them, in a word, from God and from Satan - He goes forth in the full force of that, He goes forth into a world which had already proved what it was; but He was fulfilling His own mercy. Into this fellowship His disciples were called; they could not be of the world and in it, nor anywise associated with the world in which the testimony was sent. Efficient, Christian testimony is always, really proceeds from one who has this knowledge, and comes forth from this conscious acceptance by the Father in the power of testimony to Himself, and separation, by temptation of Satan, or according to the measure of that, from all that might be the question in the course of service, or hinder entering into it as sons into a mere wilderness, where he could use all we were not separated from against us.
51 The Gospel of Mark seems to present, as its distinctive characteristic, a vivid picture of the life and conversation of our Lord, and His walk on earth. It is much more than the others, the life and ministry of Jesus. I have heretofore referred to the characters of the three other Gospels; Mark's was then omitted, for I was not prepared to state what was peculiarly to be found of the Lord in it. But this has struck my mind much, and early, on this perusal of it.