J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)
- 4. It was needful He should suffer under Pilate for many reasons, but it was needful He should suffer not by his but their rejection and condemnation.
- 5. The change from to ethnos (the nation, in verse 2) to ton laon (the people, here) opens to us the spirit and mind of their conduct.
336 What a continued picture of all that is in man's heart, and all his ways as brought out in this wondrous scene, and the moral force of all his relationship with God, is given us in this gospel! The iniquity of the chief priests was manifest in their accusation, calculated to arouse the jealousy of the governor, and charging on Christ what was entirely contrary to the truth as to the tribute, but mixed up with a ground work which they knew, reckoning on His truth, Jesus could not deny, but which thus proved their consummate and hardened wickedness. The evangelist then gives us, by the Spirit, His good confession before Pontius Pilate; and Pontius Pilate, that the guilt of the Jews might be complete, and that also of the civil power among the Gentiles, declares that he finds no fault in Him - testimony rendered in spite of themselves by the authority appointed of God. Thus briefly, the great points of principle are given by the evangelist. The Jews persist in their iniquity, saying: "He stirreth up the people," acting on the jealousy of a known government of a known people.
But there was another form of evil and authority to be introduced - the apostate king of apostate Israel, and in this rejection of Jesus all are friends, however jealous and divided. Here Christ answers nothing, for He recognises not Herod though He had done nothing in derogation of his authority. Being yet in confession and testimony He had specially to do with the Gentile authority ordained of God as head of the fourth beast, and the high priests head of the nation to which He came, and while authorities are agreed and recognise each other, and make compliments of man in delivering up Jesus, yet the providence of God provides that the act should entirely lie between Rome and the Jewish people, the terrible union between the fourth beast and God's external people here below. The question as to the Christ lay really on them as responsible, He not yet assuming the power because of the glory of the Father, and the work He had to do (accomplish). Yet though the guilt of authority, failure in protecting the innocent, and unrighteous judgment rested with the Gentiles, yet the activity of an evil will was with the religious part of the Jews. Pilate and Herod please one another, and Pilate the Jews. Both agree, as the Jews knew that He was entirely innocent. Pilate even attempts, by taking advantage of a customary favour done to please the Jews, to get rid of the question, satisfying their malice by scourging Him, but never persevered in righteousness. The sincerity of the Jews was manifested by the choice they made of the prisoner to be delivered - evil under the eyes even of the governor. The evangelist, yea, the Holy Ghost is careful to mark that the voices of the people and of the chief priests, who had "stirred them up," prevailed, and he delivered Jesus to their demand. Nothing can be clearer and more plain than the judgment of the Jews here, the judgment of this unhappy people. Three times the opportunity of a relenting voice was given, and while the evil of the governor was plain. But the Lord thus righteously put them in the place of judgment; every time their cry increased in ardour and fierceness for the rejection, the death of Messiah. It was a terrible moment in the eyes of God, "the power of darkness"; but what a saying of God's people "their hour"! Pilate therefore released the guilty Barabbas, whom they desired, to appease and please the people, and delivered Jesus "to their will." Iniquity enough as judge, but still we hear "to their will."
337 It is remarkable how the evangelist insists here on the guilt of the people. Peter, in his preaching to the people, insists on the same point, taking only, by the Holy Ghost, infinite grace, the intercession of Jesus on the Cross, as the ground of God's yet relationship with the people. Also Luke omits all mention of Gentile violence of the soldiers or others, and, though guilty, presents Mate at least as not doing it of perverse will. Yet it is the moral evil which is most put forward here, for their position as to dispensation is much more strongly marked in John; see chapter 19.
- 26. I suppose that Jesus, that, to man, "root out of a dry ground," "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," was ill-calculated to carry His cross - a weightier cross lay upon Him - and those who led Him away (for it was a moment of all violence) could lay hold on any one they met to help them in their iniquity. The great blow of man's hideous iniquity was now struck, and Jews and Gentiles fell into the same mass of rejection, and insulters of Messiah; only the Jews were so with more knowledge, but they all fell into the same mass in judgment. Privileges, or at least the forms of them, became sorrows and terror, for they must be broken down and laid low, for all was untrue now. If they did these things in the green tree, what must be done in the dry? Natural affection, the natural feelings touched by affecting circumstances, changed nothing of this. They wept with a conscience unaffected; they understood not the ruin which awaited them. The Lord, in calm and holy concern for them, at least not stranger to their position as daughters of Jerusalem, says to them: "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep over me, but weep over yourselves and your children." One may be affected with compassion, as if one was superior to Christ, and fall under the judgment consequent on His rejection, and such the case if not subjected to Him in His glory, and really companion of His humiliation, as dependent on His grace. No humiliation of the Lord put Him out of His place of perfect capability of dealing with others, all others, from God. Then Israel, or the Jews who had rejected Him should cry in vain for something to hide them, for if He, the living and true Vine, who indeed bore fruit to God, was thus dealt with, what the lot of the fruitless and unprofitable, whose end was to be burned, for so they were as branches?
338 - 31. Luke's use of the third person plural for existence of the fact I apprehend. "Shall be done" is not in Greek opposed as passive; it is genetai (may take place).
- 33. It appears to me that all occupied here are confounded, Jews and Gentiles. Yet the expression is rather what presents to us Jesus Himself than the others. These poor Gentile soldiers, utterly ignorant of what they were doing, were the object of the compassion of Him who, as we have seen, never lost His thought for others in the midst of the deep waters which overwhelmed Himself. For man, in his awful ignorance, Jesus and the malefactors were all together; but the heart of Jesus turned in grace over those who put them there, and separated, by the revelation of Himself in grace, between them with whom He was thus undistinguishedly associated by man - by man whom He had made. Here certainly the Gentiles hold the primary place. "The world was made by him and the world knew him not."
- 35. We have "The people stood beholding, and the rulers with them sneered." These not only do the same, but had pleasure in them that did it - could use the ignorance of the Gentile to accomplish the advised iniquity of their hearts. With what grace does the Holy Ghost by Peter, yet in mercy, address them, saying, "I wot that through ignorance ye did it," etc.! And not till Israel resisted the Holy Ghost, as well as betrayed and rejected the Son of man, is the judgment finally pronounced upon them. They were guilty in the ten thousand talents by the death of Jesus, but this was passed by until they refused the testimony and principle of grace, "Forbidding to preach to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway," and so wrath came upon them to the uttermost. Now they mock the Saviour for His perfect obedience and perfect all-submissive love. For this the Saviour should undergo, have no approbation, but simply do the will of God, and find His reward elsewhere; terrible for man, and just the trial of perfect, abstractedly perfect obedience, also of love. The more He loved, the less He was loved. But He obeyed and loved, not for the acceptance or approval of man, but to please God, and because His love was perfect, according to and of God. Thus, in the darkness, the perfect darkness, His perfection shown.
339 "He saved others" is a dark trait of deepest malignity and condemnation. It was pure malice, for even here they owned His works. They did not care to deny them now for the moment, but only to show the perfect evil of their hearts. They could say, "Ah, so would we have it," not in evil that the Lord had done but in evil that they had accomplished, for they loved evil - sad slavery and bondage to Satan the father of all this! They were entirely under his power, the expression of his will and ways. Yet blinded in their malice, for, owning the fact "He saved others," they do not recognise Him as the Christ, the Chosen of God, for then they should have expressly condemned themselves, and been humbled, having crucified their Messiah, their own Glory, and Hope, and Triumph, as they will own yet, hereafter. But the malice of the heart, of Satan, is always entirely blind. The soldiers joining the Jews in fact in their insults, and looking merely on the question of secular power, say: "If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself." They are merely on the outside of the evil, and witness publicly the fall of the people (lo chesed) the now ungodly people. The Jews, their own destroyers, they were entirely without force, because without the Lord, for indeed the King of the Jews (but through His grace, for no man could take it from Him - He laid it down of Himself) was there rejected, crucified, and for death, entirely so as regarded the people of Israel, as then before God who judged His people in the world. Such is the folly of man! This accordingly was the inscription written, so as to be read by all, "This is the King of the Jews." The nation was judged in this; they had brought it about. But while the counsel of God was fulfilled, He was King of the Jews, and what was the nation when their King (the green tree among them) was hung as a slave? The pith and force of the expression is not that "This is Jesus," but "This is the King of the Jews." Unhappy nation! They were gone for ever, but by grace.
340 It is remarkable how this taunt, bitter and trying, but indeed revealing the perfect egoism of the human heart, is repeated by all, "Save thyself." To have power, and not use it to save oneself was inconceivable to man's mind; selfishness in the thief could add "and us" to the taunt. But the Jews, "If he be the Christ, let him save himself": in insult to the Jews as to Him, "If thou art King of the Jews, save thyself," and the thief, as the Jews, all unite in this - but the love of Jesus above, unabated - He did not come to save Himself. He could have saved Himself, but then not others, not have accomplished the perfect and adorable will of His blessed Father. What an interest the Spirit of God takes in all these circumstances, as in Psalms 69 and 22! Though thus oppressed and smitten, His adversaries were all before Jehovah. But God had prepared, even here, the consolations of grace for Jesus, in a poor sinner who found the balm of his soul just in this sorrow, that Jesus was there with him on the accursed tree. He was there to own, honour, and, we may say, pour balm into the heart where alone he found it, for the joy of the operation of grace in the heart is balm to Him who suffers that it may be so. And indeed Jesus, to convey full truth and comfort to the poor thief, must also speak comfort to Himself, "To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." Thus did this poor sinner minister comfort to the Lord.
Also we have another example how the Lord, whatever His circumstances, whatever His trial, was always perfectly centred in divine patience before God, and was in the calmness of love according to the need of those who were before Him. In these two thieves we have an extraordinary example of the heart of man without, and under the operation of grace. No sorrow, no shame, no disgrace, no suffering brings the heart too low to scorn Jesus, or touches the hardness which rejects and despises Him. He is the off-scouring of all things, a gibbetted thief can despise Him, and He has no word to reply. On the other hand, we have the evidence how in the midst of manifested iniquity, the grace of God produces fruits and manifestation of faith to His glory, which shine through the very darkest circumstances when even the known companions of Jesus were all sunk in their shade. The scene around was all dark, but on the Cross itself there was a scene apart and one more intimate where God's ways, man's heart, and Jesus as the great Object in which these were manifested, were all, and now in their first fruits, fully brought out. For in this poor thief - first fruits of the Cross - we see a good for an honest conscience fully in the light, and which therefore, in the full confession of, can fully rebuke sin, and that because of the fear of God. For such is the case when the thought of the presence of God - as where it exists it does and must - predominates entirely, the conscience is astonished at the possibility of sin there, i.e., anywhere, because it has realised the truth in the fear of God, and looks at circumstances as judged by a conscience in His presence. "Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?" Can you mock at your own position in another (the human heart can do anything) and when we indeed are here justly? For the judgment of sin in another, in righteousness, is by the sense of the evil of sin in our own conscience, and, therefore is humble though firm. It is as to both the conscience which is in activity in the presence of God.
341 Further there was the spiritual intelligence, on the other hand, with the full honest confession of sin and guilt, of the perfectness and sinlessness of Christ as Man. He knew Jesus. This is an immense fact in the state and confession of this man's heart; further, contrary to all possible appearance to the flesh. When all denied Him, he only sees, owns, and confesses Him "Lord." At the same time his whole concern and anxiety, in the certainty that Christ would come in His kingdom, confiding in His love, was that this despised Malefactor would remember him. Present sufferings, shame, Jesus' reproach, all gave way before this desire to be owned then of One whom he only now knew, save the Father who would glorify Him with a yet better glory. To this hope of future excellence and glory, the Lord replies by the certainty of present salvation. Jesus, honoured and sustained, comforted by his confession, rejoices in this companion into the peace before Him, and reassures his heart with better things than even he anticipated. Thus this scene, which let in the light which was beyond, through the portal of this poor sinner's heart, whose need touched of grace, opened necessarily the resources and counsels of divine love. Cloud, and the darkness proper to the hour resumed, and even by the providence of God outwardly, its wonted and now suited and recognised course. But this, it seems to me, hung specially over Israel when the earth was in relation with the Lord there. Its utter darkness, and the entire hiding of His face from it was manifested - the sun being darkened - but then it was that, judgment and darkness hanging over the earth, the way into the holiest, by the act which had its place in this darkness, was fully opened, and God, in the grace of Christ's sacrifice and supreme love, shone forth upon the world. At least, all that hid Him was broken through. It was the darkness of judgment to one, but it was the breaking through of light, and access opened to the holiest by the death of Christ to those without. The companions of Jesus had the way into the holiest opened by the rending of His flesh, the veil. All was thus now finished, and the Lord with no infirm or hesitating language which failed of its point, but crying with a loud voice, "Father" (for His soul was now returned into its communion, all being accomplished) "Into thy hands I commend my spirit." And having said this He expired.
342 - 46. We have a remarkable case of the article in the blessed Lord's words here, "Into thy hands I commit my spirit" (eis cheiras sou paratithemai to pneuma mou). It is very unusual Greek to have the possessive pronoun without the article. It may, no doubt, be from the Hebrew which has none in such case, b'yad-kha (into Thy hand); but in Greek we must take pater eis cheiras, as one word, so to speak. To commit to these, it would be right as only characteristic; sou (Thy) comes in by the bye, not necessarily, through "hands" (cheiras) being there; but this is all right for the sense. "Hands" (cheiras) has no individuality, here is no object before the mind. He commits Himself to Another, His Father's hands, so to speak. It is far more significant than "My spirit" (to pneuma mou); here we have the article, because, while the regular form, His spirit was the positive object He was so committing to His Father's safe keeping.
Note, Luke does not give the cup of wrath on the Cross - that is specially Matthew - Luke more the circumstances, and the faithful path of the Son of man, the Saviour. He is above the circumstances in faith, truly Man; see chapters 22:43-44; 23:46. In John He is above them in Person. In Matthew, God's sword has awoken against His Fellow.
343 We find in the gospels, not the comment of the Holy Spirit on the counsels of God in the death of Jesus, but the circumstances and relations in which He, as a Man, found Himself on earth. In Matthew, we find the Sufferer of Psalm 22, and also of Psalm 69. He should have been King of Israel, and owned as such, is despised of Gentiles who cast lots for His garments, and abandoned of God, and declares it. Here the circumstances are, in a sense, less marked but perhaps more important. It is the Man rejected. The Jews, and all that concerned them, set aside in their relationship with God (in the Person of their King, the Just One) and He, the veil being rent which enclosed the holiest of all, to become the Head and Recipient of power for a new family of blessing, heavenly blessing as risen and glorified. All that is marked therefore is "darkness over all the land." The creation, and the Jewish polity creation under the trial (possibility) of blessing by law cast into darkness, and the veil of the temple, the centre of their polity, and the exclusive concealment of God amongst them, rent in the midst. Then Jesus, this being so, marks its power in His death, and gives His Spirit into His Father's hand. This was not Jewish blessing, for "The living, the living, they shall praise thee." But it was much higher; it was Sonship, death overcome, and the occasion merely of presenting the Spirit, happy, safe, confident notwithstanding death, into the Father's care and presence. This was an immense triumph, and struck a blow at death, in the Person of Him who must have been blessed in it, which death could never recover. Having laid hold of Him, it necessarily therein lost its power, for in death His Spirit necessarily went to the Father. In truth this word, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" is (short of resurrection) of the highest possible importance, for indeed it is identified with death, but with death in the hands of Jesus. What a word! And what a fact! What a centre of all truth, of the mystery of good and evil, of the centre of its power, and divine power, yet in perfect submission, or, at least, divine life introduced into the midst of it! But then the resurrection passes clean beyond it, and is divine power producing its effect beyond, and leaving death, and its region and effects, entirely behind. As it is written: "Determined Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead"; and surely we should be victorious, in the power of this life, over mortified evil, reckoning ourselves dead.
344 But the divine life in Man passes here scatheless through the power of evil and death, because free from all evil, because it had never been sullied by defilement, because the prince of this world had nothing in Him. Hence also, in speaking of the resurrection, as to the Lord Jesus, He says: "According to the Spirit of holiness." "He that is born of God sinneth not, but keepeth himself … and the wicked one toucheth him not." But the flesh is ever evil; it is of the old man, and perishes, or is changed, but the life of Christ can make it silent, as hereafter change it altogether. How few are really engaged in active evil, but how little virtue to resist!
"The people looked on, and the rulers with them mocked"; and here a large mass, for the crowds were ever distinct from the Jews. Nothing is ever so wicked as fallen, and therefore proud religion. What scenes will be disclosed in the latter day! "The crowds, seeing what took place, beating their breasts, return." They were come to that sight, were astonished, amazed, and returned - "These crowds who had come together" - for indeed this is a marvellous scene. The effect of this great event (how things are perverted! for what is man unsustained?) the centurion, there in the course of duty, struck by divine mercy, at least in the conviction of his natural conscience, "Glorified God, saying: In very deed this Man was just." What happened acted on his natural conscience. The masses are troubled (they had no part in the affair, and augur no good) and go away. Those that knew Him more humanly, personally interested, but more intimidated therefore, stood afar off, and the women, that had followed Him from Galilee, were there looking on.
But this: "I commit my spirit" was a supreme act of faith in the Lord Jesus. It took its power from, and gave its character to death to us, for, while in all cases it passed the sentence of ruin on whatever stood in the place of the first Adam and all his living irremediable ruin, to which Jesus in infinite grace to us, and that His Father might be perfectly glorified in the full manifestation of this ruin, in righteous judgment, yet in His righteousness, obedience, and perfect expiation for us, and perfectness in faith in God His Father whatever weight and terror of death lay upon Him, and He entered into all the depths of it, and though this blow came from above, and to Him with the full sense that it came from above: "Thou hast brought me into the dust of death," yet He commends His Spirit in death to Him, to His Father, although death, the judgment of God, still rested on Him as to the fact externally. But, the expiation made, its natural horror was gone to faith, because the conscience unburdened, and Jesus bearing sin was more than that, the Father in love could be trusted in not to hinder, and to restore, but notwithstanding in the certainty of His love, for communion was restored, to guard and deal with that which was separated and dissolved - what had suffered, but which had perfectly glorified Him. As Jesus commended His Spirit to His Father leaving His body, part of a world He left behind Him condemned and rejected, for He placed Himself in all its circumstances (only His Spirit went on to His Father beyond it) yet indeed the providence and operation of God provided for this also, and as He was sinless, even as to the flesh, God, the righteous Judge, would not suffer His Holy One to see corruption. Also, now the suffering and expiation being made, He is to be with the rich in His death.
345 That the lesson of our condition may be complete, the most faithful are sometimes set aside, and others feeble in faith, scarce owned, or even putting themselves forward as Christians, are found active and faithful in the post of danger, confession, and attachment to the Lord. And often too it is the difficulties, which frighten others, which force them forward. I have already noticed that then also (while perfect disgrace as trial) honour was to be put on the Lord, God having prepared this little Remnant of the honourable among the people for this, even He who orders all things, the end from the beginning. There is a moral righteousness in awaiting the kingdom of God, a righteous, humbled sense of evil around, and dependence at least on God. There may be fulness of faith for the present accomplishment of service, or realisation of His power here below, but there is moral rectitude which the Lord can and does own, though man can scarce perhaps perceive it. It is not all. It is not power. It is not the manifestation which the Holy Ghost operates. It does not consent to the evil, and is bold as respected, even more than the others with the authority where need is, by the divine help for good. Were they more right than the disciples who discovered their weakness? Far from it. These became the witnesses and apostles of the Lord by the Holy Ghost, who had been with Him from the beginning But the Holy Ghost has been willing to give us the example and sample even of these. At least the Saviour was honoured, for His time of trial was perfected and closed, and that was all that was needed, for honour was, and was now specially, His due. The women, in true but ignorant affection, make useless preparation, awaiting the just Jewish time, for a risen Lord who had passed far beyond their faith; and the Jewish commandments which restrained them, restrained them that the will of God might be accomplished. Yet here, with ignorance and measure of unbelief, for they had heard Him reveal His death and resurrection, it was their true faith acting in the affections which rejected and left aside every conviction of fear, danger, impossibility or what not, respected the law, which was dead in Christ, and death, so to speak, which was put to death and overcome in Him, ruled though in love to Jesus, under the influence, as to obedience and the power of death, of a system which His death had closed, but attached to Him. For, up to verse 56, i.e., the end of the chapter, we have all according to the form and subsistence of Jewish order and dispensation - honoured of Jewish rulers, death in its power the preparation and Sabbath observed. The resurrection had not yet broken the seal which was put upon the profitless flesh, though death indeed closed its character, and was its true seal and result, sin being entered. The honour and evening light which closed around the head of Him who had bowed to the storm of that hour, and the dishonour which had fallen upon Him, the affection and the desertion which marked the scene, all alike were stamped with a Jewish character - Messiah outraged, and Messiah at least in death with the rich. Beloved, betrayed, and deserted, He was still known after the flesh.
346 Luke 24
The morning of the Lord's power dissipated all this in fact, for indeed our minds are often slow of understanding, "slow of heart" to understand this new power and truth of the rising of Christ above all the principle of natural life, or rather death, and its result in testimony is what occupies Luke now. It is the risen Man again with His disciples, and the testimony founded on it to the world, beginning at Jerusalem. The women, however, preoccupied with their own thoughts and affections, come with their spices to anoint the dead body of Jesus, while He was indeed living in all the perfume of His work and offering before God, having effected all which placed man anew before God the Father - the Second Adam in living acceptance. Then they were thrown into an unlooked-for difficulty at first, for they did not find Jesus nor His body. It was not there. But soon the question which cleared all up was put: "Why seek ye the living among the dead?" Still, all this was short of the Church. It based all on the resurrection, not on the flesh, but thus far ministered by angels not by the Holy Ghost. It might be but the sure mercies of David. But the terms in which it was communicated opened a wider sphere, though only by their generality. He was risen, but He had predicted when in Galilee, before He came up even to Jerusalem, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men. He who concentred in Himself all the rights of man in righteousness according to the counsel of God, yet, as coming associated in responsibility with the evil, must suffer as Messiah, be delivered by blinded Jews to sinners, and seal the guilt of sinful man by their denial, total denial and rejection of what God accepted in Man. He who was the Heir of glory (see Daniel 7) according to the counsels of God, was to be delivered into the hands of men wilfully though recklessly acting after their own will - slaves to Satan. He would be crucified, but the third day rise again. This was the counsel of God: "They remembered his words." They went and reported what had been said: "To the eleven and to all the rest."
347 There was not faith properly in the resurrection, but there was enough to occupy their heart to tell to the disciples of what they had seen and heard. These faithful women, faithful if ignorant, were not forgotten of the Lord, and if eclipsed by the service of those whom the Lord sent, He, whose ways are grace, has preserved their memorial, and their early seeking of the Lord. If in ignorance, there to be instructed, and to bear the message to the apostles themselves. But to these they were "as idle tales, and they believed them not." They were the tales of their imagination. But Peter's heart, if broken and sunk within, was the more affected by what he heard, and he runs "to the sepulchre: and, stooping down, he sees the "wrappings laid aside there, and he went away, apart, wondering.
Thus far it was astonishment, and confusion of spirit. Surely it was a marvellous event which baffled, and rose above all human thought.
348 - 13, et seq. The touchingness of this interview of the Lord in the journey to Emmaus need not be spoken of How the Lord draws out all their thoughts! But He is here, I remark, altogether as a Man, and presenting the truth. They speak Jewishly, and how naturally their thoughts rested always in the same circle. He was a Prophet, and they hoped might redeem Israel. The fact of the resurrection occupied their attention, but had no link with the counsels of God. They were astonished; there they rested. Christ takes up a quite other ground; not yet power, but understanding. He says: "Fools and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken." This He expounds, and opens their understandings to understand. For, though presenting Himself completely as Man, yet He operates divinely and spiritually on their minds. The Lord takes this ground: "Ought not?" Was it not the counsel of God plainly revealed in His word? It was not presenting Himself, and the fact of the resurrection, but the mind of God relative to the Christ. This was an immense step. It took them out of their egoism, and the egoistical part of their Judaism. Having done this, and revealed the Scriptures as to the Christ (not the Son of God) their eyes are opened to know Him. Their hearts were opened by what encouraged them in connecting the truth of God with all that had happened to Jesus - their force in what was the cause of their despair, and that by the counsels of God in it. But His actual revelation was by the touching circumstance of personal affection and association in the breaking of bread. It was Himself did that. There could be no mistaking. Oh! may He be so revealed to our souls!
Filled with the great and concentrating event which began a new world, they hastened back to Jerusalem, where the eleven and others were themselves occupied. The holding of the eyes of the disciples was of evident importance. To have recognised Jesus would have been to have satisfied their thoughts, to have received Him again according to their thoughts. The Lord, on the other hand, engaging all their affections to what God said of Him, furnished their souls with the scriptural knowledge of God's mind concerning Him, and then, in the act of personal friendship which, in intimacy of kindness, recalled the great truth signified and brought to mind in the breaking of bread - another Passover by death - another deliverance and career of faith. The Lord provided thus that there should be independent witnesses.
349 - 38. Thus their hearts were prepared. Yet in the fact of a risen Man on earth, this new thing, beginning of a new world, there was that to which earthly hearts could ill assort themselves. The Lord presents Himself as the very same Man. All through here Jesus presents Himself as Man, in every way, in His intercourse with the two disciples. All was human, though what no man ever was, what none but God could be, shone through it all. Here also His hands, His feet, all that marked His manhood, His previous wounds are presented. He eats. There were two sentiments which had possession of the disciples - overpowering joy to see Him Himself again, and then, as to their understanding, for it was no doctrine of truth, astonishment. The Lord presents it most familiarly to them. He eats and drinks before them - vast condescension! But reality and truth, and what restored their souls, and made them know Him as yet a Man, risen indeed, but a Man, properly and truly and really.
- 44. But the Lord, having thus revealed Himself and satisfied them as to His real humanity, returns to the other great point we have seen noticed in Luke, i.e., in this account of the resurrection. The fulfilment of testimony and purpose of God in the Word. It was but that which He had always told them when with them, that all things must be fulfilled which were written concerning Him. Man's hand but God's purpose was in all that occurred - purpose already revealed and declared in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Then (for this was not done yet, though they were attached to His Person) He opened their understanding to understand the Scriptures, and then recurs to this so important expression: "Thus it behoved" (houtos edei) opening the door thereon to the activity of God's grace founded on this great truth of the suffering of Messiah (Christ) and His resurrection, the word thus reaching the Gentiles. For it is evident a Christ not received by the Jews, but crucified, was not a mere Jewish Christ, but, on the contrary, carried out the plan of God much farther in preaching peace to the sinner afar off by the sacrifice - repentance and remission of sins to all the Gentiles, though, dispensatorily, that began at Jerusalem.
350 The death of Christ broke the link with the Jews as a Jewish Messiah, but opened the door of grace to the Gentiles in going forth to them in grace, for it was no question of coming in to the Jews, for they had lost their link with the good and blessing in rejecting Messiah. It was God going forth in grace, by virtue of Christ's death, to the sinners that needed it, though He might begin with those that were nigh. As the Scriptures had declared the thoughts and ways of God as to these things, and thus to be accomplished, the disciples were to be witnesses of these things; that was their place. The word explained: "Thus it behoved," and gave the mind of God in all these things; they were to be witnesses of them. And here came in the word of power distinct from the counsels of the Word, and the gift of understanding of it. To be witnesses they needed power. Already the Lord opened their understanding (on this Peter acted in explaining the case of Judas before Pentecost, but that was not power nor nomination by the Holy Ghost; it was lot and Jewish, but yet with understanding of the purpose and prophetic meaning of the word) to understand the Scriptures. It was want of this which had marred and rendered nugatory the recognition of the fact that Jesus was risen ("they saw," we read, "and believed, and went home," "for as yet they understood not the Scriptures") but there was no intelligence of the mind and purpose of God in it. But then further, they were to be witnesses, and here the occasion of power came in. This efficiently would carry them forth, whether at Jerusalem, or Samaria, or among the Gentiles. It was power, wherever it came, so as to ingather anew to a new Centre. The association, though broken passively, so to speak, could not be actively in testimony, till the power came which could verify the new thing - the heavenly position and glory of Christ, for He must be, if witnessed or received, at Jerusalem or on high, though they who had received Him could (their understandings opened) receive and know Him risen, and the mind of God in His resurrection. But now power was to come from on high. Christ would receive and send the promise of the Father on them, and they were to abide at Jerusalem till this all important index of the exaltation of Christ to heaven came from on high. Thus also it was ordered they should begin at Jerusalem.
This presence of the Spirit is the great promise of the Father, for it is power on earth notwithstanding and paramount to all evil, and introductive of heavenly good and relationship. Hence it introduces the Gentiles, and passes necessarily by Judaism, so in Galatians (rising above Jew, Gentile, and all, in the power of a new Centre, Christ glorified) "that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. This, however, could only be obtained for men by the Man Jesus being presented as the new Man in the power of an accomplished sacrifice, the Head of blessing before God in this sense. Though the Holy Ghost had acted as a divine Person from the beginning, whether in creation or prophecy, or in all good, He had never been given. This hung on the glory of Jesus; to that the Holy Ghost could become a Servant in man, for it was the divine counsel, and the perfection of divine love. He hath ascended up on high, He hath received gifts (baadam, in Man) Himself, and so for men. Hence the presence of the Spirit here below, while it ministers supreme love to, condemns necessarily man and the world which has its centre in him, and gathers round the new Man, Christ Jesus, and therefore also is heavenly. So the Holy Ghost does not speak of Himself as One here below, but what He hears He speaks, brings what is above and declares it by man. Hence also is it that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, for, in these gifts confided, they are the servants of Jesus, and, in communion with Jesus, employ them according to the wisdom of the Lord for good, and to this the Spirit as a Spirit of power is subject. It is a deposit of power to be used by the intelligence of the Holy Ghost of the mind of Christ in us, not indeed man's prudence but the Lord's wisdom. For the Holy Ghost, as One giving the mind of Christ, guides the exercise of particular gifts to the purposes of this mind.
351 - 50. We have here an evidence how completely Luke puts the events in order according to the moral force, and not according to chronology, from what happened in verse 43 to this verse. Forty days elapsed, the Lord went into Galilee from verse 44 to 49. Though it commences apparently with what happened the day of the resurrection itself, in continuation we have nothing but the moral position of the disciples; and what is said at the end was most probably said before He led them out for His ascension.
Bethany had been the Lord's resort as Man; there He sat with Lazarus; there He found a sort of home who had "not where to lay his head." There before He went on high, He gave His parting blessing; divine in its efficacy, it was human in its form, and order, and affection. Moreover, this must not be in Jerusalem; He could not bless there now. It could not be written, it had not been: "We have blessed thee out of the house of the Lord." He, the Lord who had loved it, must leave Jerusalem to bless. From the house of fellowship on the mount of corruption He gives His blessing, and takes His departure. There His savour remains; with that He is united. His affection, His interest remains, abides there. He was taken up into heaven. They worshipping Him according to His word, and themselves not yet affranchised, or endued with power? return to Jerusalem though He had left it. They returned with great joy filled with the new thought that their Master was victorious, glorified, exalted. When filled with the Spirit many other things would occupy them. Hence we see the character often of joy.
352 It is not necessarily here the highest part of religion, nor connected with all truth. When entirely in the presence of God, a certain character of joy will be the accompaniment of our central blessing, but not this lively joy of circumstance exactly. Joy may be from the occupation of the natural affections without any real change, and the heart remain stony, as in the seed sown on stony ground. It may be from deliverance in a point where we have been anxious and distressed, from the obtaining some great point in which our hearts are interested at the moment. Whereas sympathy with Christ, while producing joy in Him, will give us the fellowship of His sufferings, labour, toil, anxieties. This was not yet come. They were left to the full influence of this great fact which acted now on their hearts. It was to have its weight and strengthen their souls. Messiah was risen and ascended. They were to be filled with this, and the Holy Ghost vivify, and act on this deposit. And so we find it was, for this was Peter's testimony, that the Man, the Messiah, rejected, God had exalted. Hence to them it was associated with Jewish thoughts and associations. Messiah was exalted: "And they were continually in the temple praising and blessing God." But they were prepared by the thought of Christ exalted, vivified in power by the Holy Ghost, for wider and more concentrating witness and labours. But these two elements reproduce themselves evidently in the Acts - testimony to the exaltation of Messiah always viewed as Man. This continues even to the call of Cornelius, and the Jewish link of the temple. It was their Messiah that was exalted. This gave room to the Lords dealing in grace to Israel. It changes in the death of Stephen in Paul. Christ owns in glory the persecuted Remnant as Himself. But in all this the Gentiles come in by the bye. They were the children of Jerusalem desolate, i.e., without a husband. Paul typifies the Remnant of Jews re-accepted; he who had been enemy as regards the gospel. The comparison of Acts 2:32-33, is very distinct in identifying the new presented of the Holy Ghost, and the testimony with this gospel.
353 Note the difference between the end of Luke and John 20. The history of the ascension presents to us the blessed picture of Christ blessing them, and in the act of it taken up to heaven; but in John there is both, according to this character of the gospel - a rejection of even restored Judaism as a present thing. Mary Magdalene, who had loved His Person as a Man revealed on earth, must not touch Him - He could not now be revealed as corporately taking the kingdom. But He goes, she is to tell His brethren, to His Father and theirs, His God and theirs. That is He puts them into the same relationship with Himself as Son and Man in heaven - as all through this part He associates them with Himself. But here in yet hidden relationship with God, whereas in Luke the blessing goes forth to them on earth. It is not relationship, immutable relationship in heaven - God was that to them - but expressed blessing on them as left down here, and He therein or therewith gone up to heaven, parted from them. He is not parted from them in John, but they associated with Him in heaven.
Note too, although Thomas's is a most blessed and remarkable testimony, prefiguring the Remnant of Israel's in the latter day, yet it is evidently on a lower ground than what the Lord says to Mary Magdalene. Thomas looks, as previously unbelieving, not having been with the disciples, at Christ owning Him now appearing to him as his Lord and his God, but in Mary's message they are taught to look with Christ as Son and as the accepted Man with God in glory and perfectness, at the Father and God to whom Christ was going. This is another thing.
The whole scene in Luke 24 has this character of meeting men in their weakness, not taking them up to the higher place in glory. It is not "Peace be to you as my Father sent me forth, I also send you," but "they were terrified and affrighted, and thought they saw a spirit." And the Lord: "Why do thoughts arise in your hearts … handle me and see … it is I myself." How gracious! And the rest! It is blessed to see the sure heavenly place of Christ employed to show that we have the same with Him in heaven, and that He ministers perfect blessing to our feebleness on earth out of it. And note this awakens the desires and affections more. I do not say it sanctifies more, but in John 20, as in Ephesians, we have standing and consequent conduct showing out the life and grace of Christ, but where Christ has left us; we long to go after Him; compare 1 Peter 1:1-9. It is before us in hope. We are not risen with Him here, but in hope, through His resurrection we are not in heaven but kept on earth, and the incorruptible inheritance kept for us. This engages our affections in it, as Colossians 3. So we are "kept through faith." We have not seen Him but love Him. He is precious to us. We are tried in heaviness, but greatly rejoice - yea "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." We must not weaken Ephesian truth, but we must not loose hold of this in Peter. We shall find most souls in it, and admired as being there. This is false ground - I mean, to set it up against the other - but real souls are in it, and Christ is there for it, and most graciously and truly so. It does not produce divine life on earth in the same way, but it cultivates heavenly affections in those who are walking there. God is full of grace, and towards us.