J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)
- 1. Unless Trachonitidos (of Trachonitis) be used adjectively, choras (the region) applies to Itouraias (of Ituraea) also, as indeed I judge.
- 3. It was not a testimony here at all "Ye must be born again," but "fruits meet for repentance," addressing them as they were.
- 3-6. "Repentance for the remission of sins" is not Christianity, though both truths be in Christian teaching. John's doctrine supposed their return as Jews, so that God should forgive them; it was not at all a baptism of death and resurrection. To whomsoever he was personally sent, in the doctrine of his mission as a restorer of all things, he was a messenger to all flesh; so he is here introduced by Luke. It was to introduce to "all flesh" "the salvation of God"; quod nota, for Zacharias' word, "Thou, child, shalt," etc., "for thou shalt go before … to give knowledge of deliverance" (or "salvation" - same word as in verse 69), "to his people through the remission of their sins." The consistency of this is remarkable, for as he was sent, and gave this knowledge only to the Jews, as in verse 3, yet by the power of his mission, and by its very nature it ministered to His coming in whom "All flesh shall see." "Pharisees and Sadducees," says Matthew; they were the leaders whom it particularly concerned Matthew to mention from the nature of his gospel. But here, when the nature and moral power of the doctrine to all was concerned, he applies himself to the general principle on which the people came out - the assumptive, unrepenting hope, of which the Pharisees and Sadducees were the peculiar promoters. It is an important statement, because though Matthew, writing to Jews, might designate specially the sources of evil there, and the leaders looked at as from without and above, this involved the whole principle and condition of the people. Individuals might come out humbled, but the multitudes, as the Pharisees, the leaders and the led both came on the desire of owning proposed blessing, as humbling themselves in compliment, yet, as privileged, willing to have Israel's light, but not laid low in the sense of individual and national sin. Personal change was the point.
- 7. This is complete Jewish rejection.
90 - 11. The spirit of selfishness, covetousness and grandeur, and disregard of others - that, in a word, which is contrary to the word: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," is that out of which especially we pass in repentance, as to its practical operation, the "fruits worthy," quod nota. This is what is marked in Dives in the parable (chap. 16), as exhibitory of character of selfishness; so, "You have received your consolation." "Wherefore, O king," says Daniel, "let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity" - a passage terribly perverted, but which is fully explained by this. Indeed it is the special nature of that corruption to place a satisfying, redeeming conduct for the fruits of a change of spirit, and, by copying the outward effects, preclude and get rid of the inward power which produced the things of which they are a bad imitation. But the moral instruction is important, and it throws light on the spirit we are by nature of, for repentance, when genuine, produces especially a contrast to the habitually furiously reigning evil. Then we see the way selfishness is marked as the general spirit to be repented of, and thus the sinner is left, without escape, to conscience. Every mere religious habit almost can be put on but that which breaks through the habit of sin, and a man may be moral in everything, and offend in one point, so as to show the reign of sin, whatever his character may be. But repentance reaches all; it reaches the spring of all evil; it is not an outward following which fails somewhere, but an inward introduction of a new life, which therefore shows itself in all, and especially in that where it has found its conscience most clearly needing purging, and there the faithful steward of the word presses. And note, we may do it in act, for the unconverted man kicks as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, when that in which his own will is is touched; he will assent to all but this. And here I say therefore is faithfulness on John's part the reaching the conscience by the habit to which persons are respectively attached or under subjection, generally selfishness to all. "What shall we do" is the common and easy word; its spiritual sincerity will be discovered by the application of a direction to do that which breaks through the habitual will. If the will of God be really sought, it will be acquiesced in as soon as anything else.
How much more moral John the baptist's testimony is in Luke! Only the Person of Christ, judgment and the Holy Ghost for those that believe.
91 Luke gives the moral testimony of John in detail. All give the baptising with the Holy Ghost as characteristic, and supplanting, I may say, the judged floor. In Matthew we get the moral judgment of Pharisees and Sadducees, besides the prophetic judgment (this in Luke is said of all the people). The sovereignty of God overrides national election. But baptising with water to repentance is John's Israelitish mission before coming judgments. His testimony of Christ is a different thing, but he knew prophetically there was One coming who was to be preferred before him - indeed was sent to prepare His way. But Matthew 3:11 distinguishes even here the two missions, repentance to the remission of sins, and then testimony to Him who came after him, who would purge His floor. This last connects itself with the Holy Ghost and judgment. So, even more distinctly in Mark 1:7-8. Indeed, this gives it most definitely and clearly, though indeed Luke 3:16-17, is distinct enough from the moral part of the mission, and gives the two points - the Holy Ghost, and the floor purged. So that the mission to separate the remnant is definite enough; and then the gift of the Holy Ghost, and judgment. Matthew 3:10 and 12 differ in the first being individual judgment dependent on the fruit borne, the second dispensational, as is the baptism of the Holy Ghost. In John the testimony is different. It is first to Christ as Light, that all might believe - suited to the first division of the chapter. Next, verse 15, His eternal Person, coming after him, is preferred (gegonen) before him, for He was (en) before him, i.e., in connection with verse 14, the second division, and is John Baptist's testimony that He of verse 14 was the One he had spoken of; verse 16 connects with verse 14. Only in verse 26 is there allusion to his primary mission of baptising with water. This (v. 19) testimony comes as an historical fact by itself, his account of his testimony, not the testimony itself; probably after Christ's baptism, indeed it is certain, because "the next day" is clearly after it. And here the testimony is clearly different. He is the Son of God, but this witness was after He was anointed and sealed with the Holy Ghost. He verifies as to that particular Person borne witness to. "This is he," what he had prophetically said, that there was such a Person. Indeed, all from verse 15, is a separate witness (person) as from verse 29, to His work. Save the fact in verse 26, we have nothing of his actual mission. As to this testimony John did not know Him at all. It was founded on the descent of the Holy Ghost. But this only definitely marked him out as the baptiser, but led to far wider testimony. But Luke 3:16, Mark 1:7, and Matthew 3:11, are all prophetic persons saying there was after him a Baptiser with the Holy Ghost, far mightier than he; he knew Him not yet. But, when Jesus came to be baptised, he knew by the Holy Ghost that He was that mightier One; but not even then what came out by what happened after His baptism. John 1:32-34 has no specific date, save that it was after the end of Matthew 3. It merely records the fact that John so testified. In general, the time is not the object, but what he testified of the Lord. Three times the "He who comes after me" is referred to, but always historically as a past thing, verses 15, 27 and 30.
92 - 16. John and his austerities are more acceptable to a carnal mind than the gospel. The very scribes, etc., were willing for a season to rejoice in his light; it does not hurt pride as much.
"Baptise you" - how he thus takes the general application! Fire is judgment.
- 17. His testimony to Christ, as regards Israel, was as severe as his own. He preached repentance. Christ comes in judgment to discern and vindicate the righteousness declared in the testimony. To the world He is the Lamb of God, though that may bring in more judgment. It is remarkable how the Lord effected this. He shall effect it undoubtedly in actual judgment, but He first met it (the nation) in grace (and therefore was rejected. How blind is man!). Yet this in effect was for judgment. But He came sowing seed really, though seeking fruit. Had He come in glory, it must have been judgment; but the want of conscience of sin made them not see this process which had its form in blessing in the Church, and that in heaven.
- 20. This seems to be a common end to faithful ministry; it necessarily makes a man conspicuous, though he go into the wilderness, and he is brought into reproof with kings, nor can he change his word.
The direct account of John ends here, though he may be introduced in connection with our Lord.
93 - 21. "Praying." We have still Christ as Man distinctly before us here. Here, as constantly in Luke, it is when Jesus is praying the heaven is opened.
- 22. Jesus as Man was born of the Holy Ghost, and Jesus as Man was anointed of the Holy Ghost; both these have their corresponding truth in us.
The simple sentence is of the utmost power and manifestation, for whom should the Lord God call thus His Son absolutely, saying: "In thee I am well pleased," but the Only-begotten? In whom could He be well pleased, and thus personally address in complacency and satisfaction, except Him by whom He created all things, who was the brightness of His own glory, to whom it was no robbery to be equal with God? I can conceive no higher demonstration of our Lord's nature - no possibility of the admission of weak man into the knowledge of the ineffable complacency of the Father in the Son, than this communication. And such indeed its purpose. Nor to any one else did the Father ever thus display Himself, or make His Person known, except in and by Christ - "he to whom the Son reveals him." To the Son He reveals Himself in full complacency. Note what is said here, "In thee" (en soi) is declared to be "in men" (en anthropois) by the angels; suitably, of course, to their nature. It is a word much to be dwelt upon. "No man knoweth who the Son is but the Father." How could this be if He were not God? Or how should the Father be the sole exception, if it were an object less worthy of His only knowledge? How plain a testimony indeed, in that verse, to a nature alike inscrutable to human knowledge, co-equal Godhead, alike equally above us, and One alone able to know Him who alone can know that One in return, alike unknown to all else, alike within the cognisance of either respectively. We would not go beyond what is written, but we see not how any can know God in Himself but Himself, or in what He can find pleasure worthy of announcement by Himself to another in this familiarity, so to speak, of communication but in One not Himself in Person, but Himself withal.
- 23. "As was supposed" (hos enomizeto) is very marked in its meaning. "Thirty years old." Still as the Man here presented. Jesus did nothing till thirty. What patience there is in divine obedience. At twelve He was conscious of His power, and Person, and mission, avowedly. But here He acts in the order of divine direction in the land. It is not a question of divinely sent impulse, as, after His ascension, in the ministry of those called by grace, as Paul, Silas, and the like. "Which was," is better left out all through.
94 - 24. The genealogy here presented is not traced to Solomon as royal heir, but simply lineally, to connect by a better title Man with God as such. Son of Adam, Jesus was lineally Son of God so, but then bringing in a better and higher power of life, so as to give the moral character of Man from God, not merely responsible innocence coming first in Creation, and a natural living soul from God, but bringing the life of God into human nature, and without sin, in God's life in Man, to us by resurrection, because the sin is there already. The genealogies present no question to me, because passing to a grandfather would make all the difference - one is traced royally, and then to promise lineally, the other lineally by mere natural descent. A similar difference would occur even in English law. The genealogy of title to an estate would not necessarily be the direct lineal descendant or next of kin of any given person, if the children failed in one step, or even the males.
- 38. Jesus is proved to be the Son of Adam, and, in truer sense than he (to wit as Second Adam) Son of God, as in Matthew of David and Abraham; see note beginning of Matthew.
We then see Jesus filling up, and more, the measure, frustrated in the natural man by the sin of Adam, in the grace of God.
Although the fact has been noticed, it is worthy of note how completely we pass in this chapter from the state of the pious Jewish remnant, of which we have so lovely a picture here under the providential authority of the Roman Empire, to Christ as Centre of all human hope. Christ Himself first overcoming the enemy who held man captive, and then presenting Himself as the introduction of good, of delivering good, and in truth the Centre of all, though here in the way of introduced good in power, but thereby the Centre though rejected. But it is the Man in whom the Spirit is, and who therefore goes at once beyond Israel; verses 18, 24-30; and is engaged in the service of good. Verse 21 gives the characterising presentation of Christ (I say "Centre," because Christ completely replaces, by His own Person, all the scene we had before). The sphere is in verses 24, 25 et seq.: His gathering, and the moral character of it, comes in the following chapters.
95 The subject of chapters 4-6 is evidently the unfolding of grace in deliverance in this world, in the Son of man, only it is shown that this cannot enter into the narrow system of Judaism. It is the power of the Spirit in the Son of man. It is intimated meanwhile that He is there as the Bridegroom of Israel, so that the disciples who received Him must accompany Him in that character. His founding of a gathering system, and its character, is distinctly found only from chapter 6:13. Even in the call of the disciples we see the moral power displayed. Still, though the principles of grace are unfolded, the Lord, up to the end of chapter 6, is working within Israel. He works on principles which surely go beyond it, and show, as Naaman and Elijah, that they do, yet still work as belonging to it though in a separate way, and separating a remnant. So the Lord sends the leper to the priests, and forgiveness of the paralytic is the forgiveness of Psalm 103. In the audience of the people He separates the remnant, and unfolds to them the principles of the kingdom.
In chapter 7, I apprehend, the word goes further. The Gentiles have a faith not known in Israel (which owns indeed Israel, but is blessed for itself) which owns Christ Lord of all. This is connected with the power of resurrection from the dead (yet He was a Prophet in fact in Israel). The least in the kingdom are greater than John Baptist, and the remnant are distinctly separated for it; the nation obdurate. Hence we get a forgiveness, not governmental as to the earth, in mercy, however real it may be, but the simple forgiveness of a morally renewed poor sinner - a forgiveness which lets go in peace, the soul being saved by faith. This, though all happens in Israel, and owns Israel, is a progress, and on other grounds from chapter 5.
Chapter 7 closes, I think, this direct part of the gospel - the presenting of Christ in the power in which He was come into the world.
The actings here are still of Jesus the Man. It is a very remarkable contrast - Moses, the man for the Law, and for the people to receive it from God, is separated to God for the forty days, and "did neither eat nor drink." But Jesus, perfect in holiness, perfect in grace, the Man of God's acceptance, in whom the life of God was, and filled with the Spirit from on high (not the mediator, however faithful and in certain sense perfect, of the flesh with the Holy God, but presenting the life of God in Man) is separated to Satan's trials and temptations, the forty days thoroughly, and He neither eats nor drinks. And this was grace, meeting withal the case of the temptation of the first Adam. This, in its nature, is a vast advance upon Moses. It was not one at all seeking direction and ordinance for man in the flesh from God as sent, even in any covenant connection, and so separated to God that he might justly receive it; but it was the perfection of the Second Adam coming, in the energy of divine life and the Holy Ghost, to present this, and God's ways to man, and serve God really as well as in pattern in the power of this life. Therefore is He presented in the energy of the Spirit to him who deceived us as to the old Adam, and hinders as to the new, to show the path of faith to the new man, as obedience in that energy. I do not see that it is necessary that our blessed Lord was tempted continuously, as to manifest temptations, for the forty days, but that He was separated in Spirit to this exigency, in the power of the Spirit brought into this place. The positive temptations clearly come after, as the two tables of stone were given at the end of the Lord's communing with Moses. He was led in the Spirit into the wilderness, forty days tempted of the devil.
96 - 1. To separate Himself in power from the deceit and need of Israel, instead of obeying - in fasting of spirit and suffering. The world (His righteous glory), the Messiahship, the glory of Israel in the temple - all were put before Him, but in vain. Jesus answered these temptations not merely wisely, but righteously, and this is our wisdom.
Better simply "in the Spirit," or "in Spirit," as "David in Spirit," etc. On all this compare Matthew. The sense, however, is plain. Nor is it altogether unimportant what in Scripture is, for it is a commentary on Matthew where we have, "By the Spirit" (hupo tou Pneumatos) and we learn the way the Spirit leads; it behoves us, of course, not to deceive ourselves, but I am sure His witnesses are sadly neglected. We may compare it hereafter, as belonging to the two evangelists.
- 2. The length of the period added doubtless greatly to the trial; its correspondency with others is obvious. It was evidently supernatural energy which made Him forget even His necessary food. When that was withdrawn, i.e., when the special occupation of Spirit ceased, He felt the need; and, note, then we come to the specific temptations in His ordinary state. But the other doubtless was the greatest trial; these were only moral trials such as scriptural judgment could meet, but although given the other as that it might not surprise us, nor we count ourselves where Jesus has not been as to trial, the others only are given in detail, the wisdom of which seems evident. It is, as we have said, that ordinary moral trial which all have to go through, such as Paul speaks, "as is common to man," so that we are not to count it a strange thing that is happened to us, seeing, etc. Therefore the Lord's wisdom exhibiting the way of faith, and divine testimony, to escape is set before us. Let us recollect that these are the things which the Lord really passed through. I feel almost ashamed to speak about Him as a sort of subject-matter set forth for our instruction. They were the real trials, as one of us, of the Lord that bought us, of Him whom none knoweth save the Father, the Lord of glory, in that both He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of One, for our sakes. Compare the note on tote (then) in Matthew 4:1. Luke does not say tote (then), quod nota.
97 - 4. The Lord having gone through the temptation, "If thou art the Son of God," comes upon the result of it in Adam. It was immediate, Jesus had been announced such, as born here in the world. There was no command, and He came to obey, and He could do nothing. Man was not to "live by bread alone, but by every word of God." God's dealings with Israel, note, taught us about man.
The exercise of gift or power is always rightly subject to or ministered in furtherance of the great objects of faith, not in self-display - that is Satan's suggestion - nor in supply of our own need, in that we wait upon God. The glory of God in the gospel is the end of the believers', the sons' of God's, intention and rule of conversation. This, therefore, as it is the end, so it is the reason of miracles, and to be looked for in them; in truth, it could not possibly be otherwise - it enters into the very idea of a miracle, seeing the Father has centred all His glory in the Son, and the Lord Jesus is the Centre and End of all the counsels of God.
It is to be observed, too, that in the denial the Lord does give that glory to God by faith (perfectly sanctify God as amongst men - He indeed not by measure - yet in the same way as we ought to do it in) which is the sole office of a miracle, and which the working it in this case would have been directly contrary to. We may see the craft of Satan, and the wisdom of Jesus. And, note, simple faith in the Scripture supplied it. So faith, by the simplicity of its own exercise and reliance in obedience in fact, proves in result to shine in the wisdom of God who directed by His supreme counsel. Note, it is a glory exercised in goodness. Faith, though it uses in obedience and wisdom, looks to God above and beyond instruments, and is absolutely independent, i.e., in its judgment about the power of God in producing effects, and dependence on His word, of means, yea, of life, and thus only God is sanctified as God. This is shown by acting on the word of God, independent of our judgment of human necessity, or the consequences of our not doing so, for God is the God of consequences, and His will is absolutely right, i.e., all things are of His will, and have dependence on it; He knows the end from the beginning.
98 Our Lord's making the stones bread would have been not depending upon God, but in truth looking in independence to the supply of means, and in fact using (as Man) His gift to unsanctify God as the Object of faith, instead of the contrary. This seems to have been precisely the failure of Moses, and in the same way, and by a trial the same in nature, though there necessarily unput, here only frustrating the intent, if it had been possible, of His coming. Besides, it would have been taking Him precisely out of that office which He came to fulfil, the right place of Man with God, that He might be their Mediator. If He had merely acted as Son of God, as Satan would have had Him do, and as He might have justly done, He would have failed, not subjecting Himself to the necessities, in so putting Himself in the place of man, so as to be such before God according to that, "Behold, I and the children which God has given me," for "I will put my trust in him." He could not have restored us as His brethren (declaring God's Name to us, if He had kept that Name concealed in Himself, instead of showing it forth in His own conduct, and that) as of one nature with us, as having taken hold upon us, undertaken our cause, put Himself as our Substitute to make it good for us, yet ours for He made Himself one of us, identifying Himself with us in interest, as He speaks: "It became him, of whom are all things, and to whom are all things," etc., God could never have been set in this character, unless Christ had thoroughly humbled Himself as one of us, even unto death, as our reconciliation, and, so identifying Himself with us, restored us to God. Having passed through suffering in the perfection of faith, now, in that He liveth, He liveth unto God, and so if we be dead with Him, we believe that we shall also live with Him. We cannot fully open this in words, for while He stands in our stead in His own perfection, yet He does so as one of us, the Head, and as made lower than the angels, and in all points tempted like as we are, He is the Second Adam, and so not only as one of us, but as He in whom, and as of whom, we all stand before God, as the Heir of our infirmities, yet without sin, and looks from among us towards God in the personal interest, in love, in our infirmities, as He looks from God towards us in the power of eternal life, and authority, in a word, as God. This is a great mystery, such as angels indeed desire to look into, even the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, declaring the name of God to man, and the cause of man to God (and the glory of God and our salvation are identified in Christ Jesus the Lord) alike Himself God towards man, and Man towards God, through the glorious mystery of the Incarnation, full of exalting consolation towards us, but indeed, as the apostle speaks, if all its glory could be written, the world itself, I suppose, could not contain the books that should be written. Yet enough is written to make it the full object of faith to us.
99 - 6. In one sense this is true, i.e., as to the power of deceit, as Revelation 13:2, yet indeed it is of the father of lies, and such accordingly in ungodliness, but only as deceiving men, while it is altogether subject, and so indeed Satan knows, as the Book of Job shows, to the authority of God, and ministers whatever he may design against God's children in the way of perplexity, trial, and great tribulation, to their exaltation according to the good pleasure of their God, though they may give their Father a needs-be to chasten them for their profit (of which he is the willing instrument, as by it he would often deny the character of their Father to them) that they may be partakers of His holiness. And so the Lord here fulfilled all righteousness, "It became him" (God) "for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, to make the Captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings." But as to that very authority which is spoken of in Revelation, Paul declares, and it is the faith of believers that there is no power but of God, "The powers that be are ordained of God." Satan may deceive by the earthly grandeur, but "promotion cometh not from the east nor the west, nor yet from the south"; for why? God is the Judge. He putteth down one, and setteth up another. Believers can separate therefore with judgment where the world sees contradiction.
100 Note also Satan's power on the imagination.
I have observed elsewhere the moral reasons of the order of the temptations in Luke. There was a mixture of truth and falsehood in the second by the passions of men, i.e., as to the old man, it was true, though God overruled it as to the new man. It is here shown it avails nothing, this power; they are not yet taken out of Satan's hand, but the new man accepts nothing from him. The Lord's answer was entirely as Man as to the duty, nothing at all as to His title. It was not yet His place, and grace brought Him into this place, and He was not to assert titles there; it were going off the blessed glory and incomparable dignity of His place in grace. One little act would have done; it had been and had detected sin. The third temptation was much more subtle; it was not mere human, it was not Gentile or worldly temptation. The Lord, while subjecting man in the first, and exalting God in the second, had answered not only as Man, but in the place where God had set obedient men, sovereignly, as a Jew, identifying Himself with the obedient remnant in their place of patience, not of claim. Satan takes Jesus up here on this Jewish ground, on the plea of trusting God's promise in the midst of Jerusalem. But it was all pride, and questioning His promise. He would not go up nor try, as doubting was the Lord amongst us, which was just unbelief. Accordingly, Scripture was adduced here for this use of the promises. It was a temptation connected with spiritual privileges. Jesus' answer is still simply and entirely as a Man: "The Lord thy God."
Certainly, of all the distinctions, that of worship and service is the greatest folly, for in truth it makes our Lord say, if He mean anything, that He might do all that Satan asked Him to do.
We may observe that our Lord in these replies to Satan affords us the divine principle of life, on which He relies, as applicable to the snare by which Satan would have seduced Him, if possible, i.e., we have not merely the principle in se, but we have it, enlightened as to its power and application, rather the snares, of which we might not exactly know the moral solution, brought fully into the light of that divine truth which shows them exactly as they are, and thus we have not merely a direction of conduct, supposing us walking aright, but in such a way as detects and sets before us everything which might entangle our judgment by engaging our affections, and thus keep us from the path of uprightness, as He says: "All things having their true character exposed by the light are made manifest." And we see the self-destroying character of temptation when the light of faith is applied to it. It ought to be matter of our prayer that our daily conversation might, through the accompanying light of God's truth, be made the instrument, for it is all temptation, of thus clearing and enlarging our judgment as to the walk of holiness, that it might give us, in a word, experience, not of evil, but, as the word implies, refine our apprehensions and judgment, that we might have that which was truly good more separated and purged in our minds, the path of Christ more experienced by, realised to, us. Such is the fruit of temptations, and such may be the fruit under grace, if we hold fast the patience of faith of our daily conversation in the world. Thus we shall be able more to answer every man; charity will have more scope, and have more wisdom of action. We shall walk more with God, and according to the mind and purpose of Christ in this world, knowing no man after the flesh, but increasing in the fellowship of the Father and the Son. What I would press is that all our conversation is a scene of temptation, and that if we walk in the Spirit of faith (through the divine teaching) which will realise, more or less, by patience the mind of Christ in it, not at the time perhaps, apparently, or it would not be patience, the whole is instrumental in rapidly enlarging our minds into a real knowledge of the divine life, by the Spirit of God dwelling in us.
101 Our Lord's answers, we may further remark, are merely such as become a Man living the life of faith, in a word, the commandment of faith, of which the Book from which they are taken, is so distinctively the organ in the Scriptures. Though the temptations were suited to the Person of Him tempted, and the place which He held, in their character, Satan (v. 5) offers in sin, where only its temporary deceit is found, what belongs to the children of God in their own inheritance, that he may be set up as their god in it, but which God alone can give the reality of. Note also, he proposes it to us when our own inheritance in it is quite out of sight, and we have the very contrary to all appearance, nor sign of having anything else, when we must walk by faith and not by sight. "The meek shall inherit the earth," and that in Christ. But Satan would have Him hold it of him, tempting Him as Man - Man in His humiliation - which was indeed to be His in glory. Here is overcoming - "To him that overcometh will I," etc. - so "Ye are they," etc. That which is true of Christ, is true of Christ's. Nay! it was for their sakes He sanctified Himself. But such proposals of Satan always militate against some duty, and this indeed is his end in them; they are therefore met by the duty; so the Lord here. The comparison of the whole of Psalm 91 will show how contrary to its spirit the proposal of Satan was; nor do I see why we should disregard the omission of "In all thy ways," for to a believer it would reveal the snare.
102 We find, I think, then suited to the Lord's Person and place these temptations. First, the will of the flesh listening to appetite as such, God not being in our thoughts. Next, the will of man, dominion. Thirdly, carnal security or presumption; it is indeed unbelief, it shows itself in doubting the Lord's promise, showing itself often in the requisition of His interposition in proof to unbelief. Satan seeks to make us act upon our privileges independently of the life of faith. On the whole, a presumptuous claim, on our part, of the interpositions of God, due in promise to His people, as of that which belongs to our will, and related here according to this moral order by Luke; Matthew giving them to us according to the accuracy of their historical occurrence, as I suppose. Compare also the omission at verse 8, of "Get thee behind me Satan, for." To the two former the Lord gives an answer verbally, applying itself to the act - here one detecting its moral character. Observe too that the point of guilt in it is peculiarly brought out by the rebuke, for indeed it were impossible that the children of God, as such, could so deal with the Lord their God, especially looking at Him as such, which, as children of God, they necessarily do. The deceit, as we have observed before, is the relinquishment of the character on the assumption of the privileges of God's people - a destroying of His name.
- 13. There is an end, so "be patient," for the Lord is over all, all the while. If He tarry, wait for Him, for He will surely come, He will not tarry. This was Saul's error, yet He came, only to mark his unbelief. Therefore the practical word under trial: "Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord," for there is always a way to escape under each temptation, and the end will be deliverance when its due work is done; so Job. Nay! let us not frustrate the work which is, be sure, of God's goodness, by seeking deliverance independent of full trial. "Let patience have its perfect work." Rather say, knowing it is in mercy: Search, Lord, try the ground of my heart. Look well, etc., and note the confidence, Lead me in the way, for it yields peaceable fruit of righteousness - O happy consequence! in them that are exercised, note, thereby.
103 - 14. This characterises all the testimony here.
Note, the power of the Spirit is not withdrawn - far from it - while we are under trial. It is manifested in integrity of conversation, and the same power which supports one through the temptation which tries, and represses it, when that is under the divine wisdom removed, breaks forth in manifestation to the holy necessities of the Church and testimony of God in unhindered, nay, in sanctified energy of action. He was perfected through suffering for service, as in office - so we, for this therefore let us wait. The Spirit which leads us into service, first leads us into qualifying suffering. Thus, at least, the Lord is shown to us. He, because perfectly for all; we according to the love of that God who makes all things work together for good for His children.
The above, note, is the strongest confirmation of the method of Luke. He overlooks here a long interval, as in John 2 and 3; see note on Matthew 4:12 and 17, and John 3:24, during which much passed, but our Lord had not entered on His public ministry, i.e., to propose Himself as the Object of faith; this, i.e., His public ministry, Luke passes to at once; see note on verse 16, the "according to his custom" (kata to aothos auto) evincing the passing at once to the moral matter proposed. The leaving all to follow Jesus (chap. 5:11) does not imply it was the first time he knew anything of Him as a hearer. Indeed we know it was not, but, as we learn from Matthew, when He entered on public ministry He called them to be with Him throughout it, "beginning from Galilee." A comparison of these observations and the passages will give them their force, though they are unduly scattered, and the subject of deep interest, as concerning our Lord's conduct on earth. Verse 14 takes Him up, that is, from His public ministry, which was subsequent to John's being cast into prison, upon which He returned into Galilee; see Matthew 4:12, but between verses 11 and 12 there, and 13 and 14 here, a long interval, and much that was interesting from the first, for example, to the end of John 3.
104 - 14-44. We have the whole sum of the mission of Christ. The grace first (vv. 14-30), and then the power confirming the word. Still, no way seeking His own glory, His service is to announce the Kingdom of God. But note the difference of the way in which Christ presents Himself, to the simple fact of the kingdom at hand.
- 16. Perhaps He taught before this, but this is noticed, if not the first, yet as one affording His personal announcement of Himself, and therefore recorded by the Spirit.
- 17 et seq. The Lord here is presented as coming in grace to Israel, not as seeking fruit, and Nazareth, representing Israel where He was brought up, selected, and the intermediate service passed by because now presented in this character. "He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me." In this character, the anointed Man born of the Holy Ghost, we have still seen Luke present our blessed Lord; and this unfolded in the most blessed, and condescending, and tender grace, its fulfilment presented to them. "And they wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of his mouth." It was not faith, but it was new to them, and they were astonished. But they turned to His supposed family circumstances, and saw not, not only His divine nature, but even the power of the Holy Ghost speaking by His mouth. The Lord then shuts up this scene of His position in Israel by showing that a prophet is not received in his own country, thereon asserting the sovereignty of grace shown in prophetic ministry in Elijah and Elisha ministering under the apostasy of Israel. This in grace was a solemn testimony to the whole state of things, but grace or goodness in God they would not have, claiming their own righteousness and privilege. This was a most terrible blow to Israel in pride; but it was really blessed grace. Without sovereignty there can be no grace, righteous grace. Note, Moses had not this principle revealed to him till after the apostasy under the Law, and there was then manifestly no hope without it, unless evil were sanctioned. Here the Lord begins with it, because He comes amongst, and identifies Himself with Israel as already ruined, but then He must take up this principle. Their anger at this knew no bounds but God's restraining hand. Thus passed His presentation to fallen, yet loved though rebellious Israel!
105 - 20. How very strongly Luke gives us the whole scene before our eyes! There was something in our Lord's demeanour which came home as something not ordinary to their minds, and identified Him in attention and enquiry with the passage He was reading. The power of the Spirit was on Him.
I think it is evident that in Luke from the temptation to the Sermon on the Mount it is more the character from the Sermon on the Mount, more the activity of the gospel. It goes out into the new sphere, Gentiles, resurrection, or at least, setting aside death, peace to the soul, not merely governmental forgiveness. Then the particular present relationship with Israel, passing over to the future in power. Chapter 9 then closes in the mission of the disciples, the Lord Jehovah in the midst of Israel according to the power of millennial blessings - the kingdom, but the Father's house with it, His going to Jerusalem to suffer, and the heart tested in all respects as to service. Then follow, as is known, various teachings and principles, up to chapter 18:34. Chapter 10:1-24, is the active final display of His dealings with Israel, Law and Gospel taking their place, or Law and Grace, rather in verses 24-37.
Something more especially as to part of Luke. After the temptation in its moral order (chap. 4:16-30) gives the thesis of what characterises His ministry in this gospel - divine grace manifested by the power of the Spirit in a Man, but as such rejected; the new wine not being possible to put in old bottles. Verses 16-22 suffice to give the whole; verses 23-30 His comment on it; then, to the end, power as regards Satan's direct actings on the state into which man had fallen in physical evil through him and sin. He seeks not Himself but serves. Chapter 5 is grace calling round Himself, through conviction of sin, to be with Him - cleansing, forgiving, calling not the righteous but sinners - not power, though it was divinely there (v. 17) as He showed, but grace dealing with sin. Verses 16, 17, 21, show Jehovah's power present, but in and as a Man; verse 33 begins the incompatibility between this power and grace with the old Jewish ordinances, on to chapter 6:11, drawing out hatred. Verse 12, He formally gathers out His disciples apart from the nation, then comes down and, continuing to exercise His power in blessing, shows the blessedness and true character and condition of those thus separated out of all to Him, but in their (the then) order of calling, i.e., not as after His resurrection, ascension, and the giving of the Holy Ghost.
106 Note here how the preceptual direction of the saints completely follows, and refers to the revelation of God in Christ. When He reveals Himself in law-giving, law, of course, is the form of duty; when in grace on the earth, what Christ was there is reproduced in His precepts, as in the Sermon on the Mount, and here as may be easily seen by comparing the precepts with Christ's character, as thus manifested. So, in sum, he that is perfect shall be as his Master. They were to follow Him in that path, giving up all as He did. When exalted on high, it is the same thing, not: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," but: "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your intelligent service" - "As Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind" - "Hereby know we love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" - "Be ye imitators of God as dear children, and walk in love as Christ has loved us, and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice, to God for a sweet-smelling savour." "For us," note, but "to God"; that is perfection. So, as God is Light, "Ye are light in the Lord: walk as children of light" - "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." We are to walk "worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing"; compare Colossians 3. It looks on too: "He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure."
Then this grace goes wholly out of the limits of Judaism to the Gentiles, and shows its power over death itself; but this gives it evidently a new character, and the rejection of both John and Christ is fully brought out, John appearing not as a precursor, but as coming into to believe in Jesus, who does not deliver in Israel, and is received on His own testimony. Christ is Son of man. We have then the bright and blessed example of wisdom being justified by one of her children, the wisdom of sovereign grace, a soul convinced of sin answering completely to God's intention and God's delight in Christ, to God's manifestation of Himself in Him, producing the full answer of the soul to it in confidence, forgiveness and peace then made known, while the Pharisee saw no one trait or discern in God Himself in grace present in his house, but was discerned and judged. But, how perfect! And what dignity in Christ's not paying the slightest attention to their remarks, but occupying Himself with the poor woman! Thereafter, the whole state of the case is brought out. He is sowing, not seeking fruit - they are to be witnesses, tossed on the waves of this troublesome world, but all discouragement is wrong - Christ is with them in the ship. He may allow the storm, but has power over it. Then the whole progress of the scene is unfolded, Satan's power destroyed by a word, but therefore the world will not have Jesus, because God's presence and power is manifested. That cannot be borne amongst men. The Remnant desire to be with Jesus where He goes, but must go back to the world for a testimony - the mass of Israel rush to destruction.
107 Then we find Jesus come to sanctify, when individual faith, in Israel, touches Him; one is healed, but as to Israel it is really dead and to be brought to life. He sends out the twelve as a final testimony, shows He is Jehovah according to Psalm 132. The question arises who He is. Peter, the remnant, owns Him as the Christ, and they are formally forbidden to announce Him as such - the Son of man is going to suffer, be rejected, raised, and they must take (we) their cross - the soul is more than ease in the world, and Christ will appear in His glories. Then the kingdom is revealed, and the heavenly glory, or the Father's house, and man's entering into it. He still continues to answer faith here below, but that does not alter the fact that the cross is the settled thing - the unbelief of the disciples shows it must be. Then the various forms of self that hinder our taking it up, hinder our following Jesus, are gone through, which make us unfit for the kingdom of God.
The Lord then, in sovereign and persevering grace, which is above circumstances, sends out an urgent but final testimony, but, while thus dealing with Israel, brings in heaven as the true portion of His messengers - an evident change; unfolds this in the true, full character of His mission, the revelation of the Father by the Son in sovereign grace (yet in fitness) to babes, but shows the disciples happy in their seeing what prophets had desired, the true Messiah in Israel. The obligation of law which measures duty by a neighbour, is changed to a neighbour by grace in the heart towards need, as Christ was to ruined man. We then get the word and prayer as the way of blessing, but as in the then time, the Holy Ghost being to be looked for. The Lord then shows, what is ever present to His Spirit here, the entire rejection of the Jews as then subsisting as against Him when the finger of God was there. He rejects His natural association, and accepts those who hear the word of God. This rejection of the word and Person of Christ brings up Nineveh and the Queen of the South in judgment against Israel. We then have the way of Light in us, purity of motive, and thus light is, as to everything, to be seen, and outshines also. Moral truths and reasons are thus ever mixed up here, principles ever true with the pending judgment of the people. But this judgment as to the nation is the accumulation of all the blood of the slain prophets from Abel to that day; they would be tested by the point they insisted on.
108 In chapter 12, the motives which keep and direct the testifying remnant are shown; everything manifested, God to be feared, God to be trusted, the coming of the Son of man to be looked to, the presence of the Holy Ghost to be relied on. He refuses present judicial maintaining of righteousness and turns to motive in the world, then to the ground of confidence for His disciples in passing through it; verses 22-34. Then His coming is applied to the state, watching, blessing from Himself - service, the inheritance; verse 49, the effect of His coming already produced. It draws out the very worst evil of man in a hopeless way, but the cross opens the door to love, warns the people of the signs of the times, morally too they ought to judge, Israel was on its way to the judge. Chapter 13, all would finish in judgment if they did not repent. But God was filling His house with guests in grace, Israel would not, and so should not come, but the poor and Gentiles fill it. Men must take up the cross, and better to count the cost first. If the Church lost this devotedness and Christ being all, it could not be restored even as Israel (for whom sovereign grace and a new covenant might be) but cast out as hopelessly bad.
Then after all this discussion of the ways of God, the whole heart of God itself comes out, founding the system of grace itself in grace as in His heart, in its fruit in heavenly prospects; the light of heaven being brought to bear on the present conduct with earthly things, and showing how they set aside the Jewish administration of them, as even of God in the land. Man was a steward out of place. But if Moses and the prophets had not taken effect, Christ's resurrection would not change them. In chapter 17, it is remarkable to see how the moral grace brought in in testimony by Him, and the change of outward order dispensation go together in this gospel, care for the little ones, forgiveness seven times a day on turning to the offended one, the power of faith, and, if all be done, we nothing. Then, Jerusalem set aside in grace, faith in a Samaritan finds the power of God in Christ. He need no longer toil up to Jerusalem; the kingdom of God was among them then. But days were coming when the disciples would desire one of the days of the Son of man. Now these days were such, but in the evil day (in Israel) they would, promising when He was not there, but the Son of man would come as lightning in His day. That is unfolded - men ought always to pray; there is the universal moral grace, but the avenging the elect is, for faith, in Israel when the Son of man comes. They cry day and night to God for vengeance. He will avenge them speedily, but what faith will be so found expecting Him when He comes? Always true, the coming of the Son of man will show how much of it remains. The moral ground is then returned to. The confessing sinner more righteous than the self-approving Pharisee, and if all the law were kept to have eternal life, the heart's alienation searched out, and made manifest; but herein present Judaism judged. The apostles who followed Him would have the kingdom, but the Son of man must suffer.
109 Then the final history begins with the blind man, and Jesus presents Himself finally as Son of David to Jerusalem. Still, even here, the great moral principles and grace are brought out in Zacchaeus. Salvation came to a publican then; his previous, well-intentioned efforts find no place in that. Then the course of dealing, often referred to, is gone through. I only note here the strong expression of the difference of Luke 21 and Matthew 24. The enquiry (v. 7) is only, "When shall these things be?" And in opposition to "Immediately after the tribulation," you have "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until"; then the then suited warnings come. In chapter 22, note how many moral questions connected with the facts arise, as verses 23-28, and how the subsequent setting up of the kingdom is avoided in verse 13, etc. Other things more briefly and generally, as Peter's denial, the visit of the women to the sepulchre, Herod brought in, Jesus definitely and briefly condemned on His own testimony only (chap. 23:24). It is the Jews' act. Full details of the cross, and the thief, as of the character of Gethsemane, and of Joseph and Nicodemus, and full details on the way to Emmaus, in contrast with the then kingdom, and in the history of the new heavenly character, Christ to suffer, and then Jew first, and then Gentile, but all needing salvation. The Scriptures get a distinct place, and a true, risen man, the same as one they had known. Other points largely noticed elsewhere.
110 - 21. What a word was this! Not a general exposition of sense. It demanded instant faith, or produced the anger of unbelief. But though all bare Him witness, and saw the power of grace shining forth in Him, they were unchanged to know the voice - He was the Son of Joseph, one of them.
The greatest grace of all, the most distinct manifestation of the Saviour, passes as the wind by ordinary associations until the Lord call by His spirit. But it is worthy of remark how these people felt and acted under the irresistible testimony which accompanied Jesus. It is one peculiar exhibition of unbelief - "They bore witness … they wondered … they said." They expected the same manifestation, above all places at home, of that of which they had heard in places where He was a Stranger, but they were unconscious that the manifestation of divine power was dependent morally on faith, and when He was known as "The Son of Joseph" they could not receive Him in the power of His coming, and "He could not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief." It is upon this principle He reasons, showing it was their fault, and that often thus assumed privilege put farther from grace which made them so angry, and that it was thus really often confined to the despised and reprobate stranger. The whole, duly weighed, is a very interesting and instructive picture of unbelief thus working. And, note, He presented Himself here to them not in general miraculous testimony, but in Person, offering Himself to them in gracious personality, suitable and graciously adapted to their situation, but "No prophet," etc. It is interesting too to observe our Lord's mind turning upon itself in testimony against them, "But of a truth I say to you."
Then the Lord exercises His manifested power, as so come as Man, first against Satan's immediate possession of a power over man; then the effects of evil in a violent disease; then as against all manner of sickness, and devils going out of many, as it is expressed by the apostle in the record of this evangelist: "How God anointed" … "Jesus of Nazareth" … "with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." The devils said: "Thou art the Son of God," for they knew that He was the Anointed. They had no divine knowledge that He was the Son of God. It was conclusion from His work and way as the Anointed, as full of the Holy Ghost, the Holy One of God.
111 - 37. But the rumour, though just, is not belief in His Person, nor in His word. I do not know anything more sad or afflicting than to see the Son of God in a lost and alienated world, admiring, testifying to the grace which showed itself in Him, His fame spread abroad on every side so that multitudes were ever waiting on Him, but ignorant of His Person, and unconverted by His word, nay, at last getting rid of Him that they might have it their own way. How much we sometimes see of this! He, however, knew wherefore He had come, and patiently did His Father's will, while it was called "To-day."
Note, our Lord's fame in public made Him nothing the less humble, and attentive to the merest human necessity. In Him, indeed it could not, for human honour was nothing, but it affords an example to us, and the unchanging attention of His kindness, interesting itself in the necessity of each, is strongly exhibited in what follows. It were as easy to Him to have spoken a word, healed, and dismissed them all - a greater apparent display of His power, but God's power to us is Love. "And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken."
- 40, 41. "And having laid his hands on every one of them, he healed them." Satan, when he could not oppose, and constrained to recognise the actual power as of the Son of God and His Kingdom, would have share, nay, take the lead in recognising it, that it might be accredited by him, and so he retain his paramount influence as far as possible over the minds of men, and credit, and station in the world, and make God, as it were, a debtor to him for his sanction in it. So with Paul at Philippi, but not so the Spirit of God; He works His own holy purpose, and separates, by the reception or rejection of His own testimony, those who love or hate the light. And it is only in presenting Christ in this moral character of trial that His work is truly wrought. The spirits knew it, and the master spirit would have made use of this knowledge to minister subtle hindrance to the Lord's kingdom, and maintain, as we have seen, his influence over the blinded heart of man, but the Lord "suffered them not to speak."
112 We may also remark, as regards ourselves, how the Lord was never drawn aside to His own glory, though He indeed might. Note also, Satan appears to know, though with undistracted power of apprehension, as we know, merely as a creature, though a more exalted one by evidence.
But, though the testimony afforded to His glory was thus very great, Jesus, thus led of the Spirit, was seeking the good of poor sinners, showing mercy in power for that, not using it for His glory, nor waiting to enjoy its effects for Himself, but went on to the testimony of God's kingdom which it verified and proved in mercy amongst men, thus connecting man's blessing and the kingdom of God. His main object to testify of the other threw its light on this - in man's poor withered heart. Nothing can be more beautiful than the perfection of this. Lord, give us of this heavenly Spirit, the Spirit of thy blessed Son here below! If, when the effect of these mercies was fresh and strong on the hearts of men, the Lord says: "I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also; for therefore am I sent," it identified the blessings not with favour to Him, but with the kingdom of God and Him who sent Him. It was love to poor men, drawing their hearts from the pit, where they were lying, to the coming of mercy, and delivering power in the kingdom of God. Here this part of the testimony therefore closes.
- 43. Still the same stedfastness of purpose, quod nota, here, for there was much to detain Him humanly in this request. This is of great importance in labour, both as to our own mind and the fulfilment of the work. Nothing would have been added here really to the work, indeed it was the result of what was passed; they wished to keep Him because He had - not an awakened desire as to what was to come. It is a spirit of diligent service. The petition for the Lord to stay, looking at the Lord Jesus here as our Pattern in service, was evidence that He might go away.
- 44. "He preached in their synagogues," also to the multitude when they came to hear the word of God.
I think there is something very affecting to go through the various patience of our Lord's perfect ministry. I love to bring Him before my mind thus, as well as in His supreme glory and exaltation. And we know Him better by it, as Luke vividly presents Him to us in subjection to all the ordinary infirmities of our fallen nature - the same circumstances in which we are conversant, the same resources putting His trust in God while His soul knew all, even as God, the necessities which surrounded, and was filled with the thoughts, and bore the weight of all that sin had introduced and love would remove - knew it indeed perfectly as God, but knew it also Himself as Man. I cannot sufficiently contemplate the Lord thus humbling Himself, and ministering the very glory of God, and yet the Servant of all men. Oh, for a heart to follow His steps! I see the Lord, His glory and Person, shining in everything, in the midst of unbelief which surrounded and understood nothing of it, yet is given to His people.