Edited with annotations, by E. E. Whitfield.
(The reference figures, relate to the notes respectively so numbered in the Appendix.)
"All flesh shall see the salvation of God." - Luke 3:6.
Luke 1 - 10:37.
The late William Kelly, for many years editor of the serial entitled The Bible Treasury, left in it a set of papers covering the whole of the Gospel according to Luke, for reproduction in collected form. The editor of the present volume, which carries out that intention, has used as Introduction a section of the same writer's "God's Inspiration of the Scriptures," which was published a short time before his decease, has added marginal references to parallel passages of the other Gospels, and has supplied critical apparatus in footnotes, as well as a full index immediately following the Exposition. The translation of the biblical text has been derived mainly from the same source as that used in editing a companion volume on the Gospel according to Mark. Where, in references to the Revised Version in the numbered Notes, any difference exists between the English and the American "Standard" edition (1901), attention is called to this for the convenience of Transatlantic readers. The portions in bold type in the exposition, are peculiar to Luke's record; though this indication is typical, not systematic.
As in the current editions of Mr. Kelly's Expositions of the Gospels, severally according to Mark and John, a sequel of notes has been subjoined, for which the editor alone is responsible. These may show the bearing of this Exposition of the Third Gospel upon critical views largely developed since the papers first appeared, and will in other respects put the reader in possession of the various phases of thought upon the composition and history of Luke's Gospel in particular, the literature for which is very extensive. The notes are in general harmony with the expositor's point of view; much in them results from conversations and correspondence with him during a friendship of some thirty-five years. Reference to this part may be aided by the Summary of Contents prefixed to it, which should, in the first instance, be read continuously.
As a venerable German professor of the first rank has remarked in correspondence with the present writer, much of the criticism of the Gospels in which his countrymen indulge "strikes out that which is inconvenient to it, and drags in that which has not the support of a single word in the text." Criticism is of little value unless independent of academical tradition, however imposing, or of ecclesiastical authority, however dogmatic; and every one must in these days have the courage of his own convictions. But there may at least be general agreement as to what is morally weakening; progress in its highest department must not be sacrificed to that of any lower. In the closing index will be found reference to treatment of "Difficulties" under that head.
The Third Gospel being a mine of material for homiletic as well as mission work, constant reference has been made in Part 2 to discourses of notable preachers in comments on prominent passages of this precious record.
Mr. Kelly, who was mighty in the Scriptures, helped believers much. In like spirit to that in which he himself sent forth such books, the present volume is commended to the gracious blessing of God, "without Whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy," that He may use it, to the glory of Christ, for the profit of souls.
E. E. W.
§ 1. SUMMARY OF CONTENTS.*
*From Bible Treasury, Sept., 1900 (pp. 139-144), reproduced in God's Inspiration of the Scriptures."
The third Gospel is distinguished by its display of God's grace in man, which could be only and perfectly in the "Holy Thing" to be born and called the Son of God.1 Here, therefore, as the moral ways of God shine, so is manifested man's heart in saint and sinner. Hence the preface and dedication to Theophilus, and the Evangelist's motives for writing; hence also the beautiful picture of Jewish piety in presence of Divine intervention for both forerunner and Son of the Highest to accomplish promise and prophecy, as announced by angels (Luke 1). The last of the Gentile empires was in power when the Saviour was born in David's city, and Jehovah's glory shone around shepherds at their lowly watch that night when His angel proclaimed the joyful event and its significant token, with the heavenly host praising as they said, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, in men complacency" (or good pleasure). God's Son, born of woman, was also born under law, the seal of which He duly received; and the godly remnant seen in Simeon and Anna, that looked for Jerusalem's redemption, testified to Him in the spirit of prophecy; while He walked in the holy subjection of grace, with wisdom beyond all teachers, yet bearing witness to His consciousness of Divine Sonship even from His youth (Luke 2).
In due time, marked still more explicitly by the dates of Gentile dominion and of Jewish disorder, both civil and religious, John comes preaching, not here the kingdom of the heavens, nor yet the kingdom of God, but a baptism of repentance for remission of sins. He alone and most appropriately is quoted from Isaiah's oracle, "All flesh shall see the salvation of God"; here only have we John's answers to the inquiring people, tax-gatherers and soldiers; and here too is stated anticipatively his imprisonment, but also the baptism of our Lord; and here only is given His praying, when the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him, and the Father's voice was heard, "Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee am I well pleased." And the genealogy is through Mary (as she throughout is prominent, not Joseph as in Matthew) up to Adam, as becomes the Second Man and Last Adam (Luke 3). It may help if it be seen that "being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph" is parenthetical, and that "of Heli, of Matthat," etc., is the genealogical line from Mary's father upward.
Then follows His temptation, viewed morally, not dispensationally as in the first Gospel; the natural, the worldly, and the spiritual. This order necessarily involved the omission in Luke 4:8, which ignorant copyists assimilated to the text of Matthew. The critics have rightly followed the best witnesses, though none of them appears to notice the evidence it renders to plenary inspiration. Divine purpose is clearly in it. Thereon He returns to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and at Nazareth in the synagogue He reads Isaiah 61:1-2 (omitting the last clause strikingly), and declares this scripture fulfilled "today" in their ears. In that interval, or within the acceptable year, Israel as it were goes out, and the Church comes in where is neither Jew nor Gentile, but Christ is all and they one new man in Him. Then when His gracious words were met by unbelieving words on their part, He points out the grace of old that passed by Israel and blessed Gentiles. This kindled His hearers to murderous wrath even then, whilst He, passing through the midst of them, went His way. At Capernaum He astonished them publicly with His teaching, and cast out an unclean spirit in the synagogue, as He brought Peter's mother-in-law immediately to strength from "a great fever," and subsequently healed the varied sick and demoniacs that were brought, while He refused their testimony to Him. And when men would detain Him, He said, "I must announce the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for therefore was I sent" (Luke 4). It is a question of the soul yet more than of the body.
In connection accordingly with preaching the Word of God, we have (Luke 5) the Lord, by a miracle that revealed Him, calling Simon Peter (who judged himself as never before) with his partners, to forsake all and follow Him: an incident of earlier date, but reserved for this point in Luke. The cleansing of a man full of leprosy follows, and after the healing of multitudes He retires and prays; but as He afterwards is teaching in presence of Pharisees and law-doctors, He declares to a paralytic the forgiveness of his sins, and, to prove it, bids him arise, take up his couch, and go to his house, as the man did forthwith. Then we have the call of Levi, the tax-gatherer, and a great feast with many such in his house; but Jesus answers all murmurs with the open assertion of His coming to call sinners to repentance, as He defends the actual eating and drinking of His disciples by their joy in His presence with them: when taken away, they should fast. In parable He intimates that the old was doomed, and that the new character and power demand a new way; though naturally no one relishes the new, but likes the old.
Luke 6 shows first, the Son of Man Lord also of the Sabbath, and secondly the title to do good on that day, which filled them with madness against Him. Next, going to the mountain to pray all night to God, He chose twelve and named them apostles, with whom He came down to a plateau, healing all that came under diseases and demons. Then He addresses them in that form of His discourse which falls in perfectly with our Gospel. The great moral principles are there, not in contrast with law as in Matthew, but the personal blessedness of His own, and the woes of such as are not His but enjoy the world. Another peculiarity is that Luke was led to give our Lord's teaching in detached parts connected with facts of kindred character; whereas Matthew was no less Divinely given to present it as a whole, omitting the facts or questions which drew out those particulars.
Then in Luke 7 He enters Capernaum, and the healing of the centurion's slave follows. Luke distinguishes the embassy of Jewish elders, then of friends when He was near the house; but the dispensational issue was left to Matthew. The raising of the widow's only son at Nain yet more deeply proves the Divine power He wields with a perfect human heart. It was high time for John's disciples to find all doubts solved by Jesus, Who testifies to the Baptist's place instead of being witnessed to by him. Yet was wisdom justified of all her children, as the penitent woman finds from the Lord's lips in the Pharisee's house. Everywhere it was Divine grace in man; and she tasted it in the faith that saved, and in the grace that bade her go in peace.
In Luke 8 we see Him on His errand of mercy, followed not by the twelve only but by certain women healed of wicked spirits and infirmities, who ministered to Him of their substance. And the Lord addresses the crowd in parables, but not of the Kingdom, as in Matthew; after that He designates His true relations to be those that hear and do the Word of God. The storm on the lake follows, and the healing of Legion in the details of grace, as well as of the woman who had a flux of blood, while He was on the way to raise the daughter of Jairus.
Luke 9 gives the mission of the twelve empowered by and like Himself, and sent to proclaim the Kingdom of God, with its effect on Herod's bad conscience. The apostles on their return He leads apart, but, being followed by a hungry crowd, He feeds about 5,000 men with five loaves and two fishes multiplied under His hand, while the fragments left fill twelve hand-baskets. After praying alone, He elicits from His disciples men's varying thoughts of Him, and Peter's confession of His Messiahship (Matthew recording much more). For this He substitutes His suffering and His glory as Son of Man: they were no more to speak of Him as Messiah. Deeper need had to be met in the face of Jewish unbelief. The transfiguration follows with moral traits usual in Luke, and the Centre of that glory is owned Son of God. When the Lord and His chosen witnesses come down, the power of Satan that baffled the disciples yields to the majesty of God's power in Jesus, Who thereon announces to them His delivery into men's hands, and lays bare to the end of the chapter the various forms that self may assume in His people or in pretenders to that place.
Then we have in Luke 10 the seventy sent out two and two before His face, a larger and more urgent mission peculiar to Luke. On their return, exultant that even the demons were subject to them in His name, the Lord looks on to Satan's overthrow, but calls them to rejoice that their names are written in the heavens. To this our Gospel leads more and more henceforth. His own joy follows, not as in Matthew dispensationally connected, but bound up with the blessedness of the disciples. Then the tempting lawyer is taught that, while those who trust themselves are as blind as they are powerless, grace sees one's neighbour in every one who needs love. The parable of the Samaritan is in Luke only. The close of the chapter teaches that the one thing needful, the good part, is to hear the Word of Jesus. It is not only by the Word that we are begotten; by it we are refreshed, nourished, and kept.
But prayer hereon follows ("as He was praying") (Luke 11), not only because of our need, but to enjoy the God of grace Whose children we become through faith; and in His illustration He urges importunity. Here again we have an instructive example of the Divine design by Luke as compared with that in Matthew 6. His casting out a dumb demon to some gave occasion to blaspheme, whereon He declares that he who is not with Him is against Him, and he who gathers not with Him scatters: a solemn word for every soul. Nature has nothing to do with it, but the grace that hears and keeps the Word of God. So did the Ninevites repent, and the Queen of Sheba come to hear; and a greater than Solomon and Jonah was there. But if light is not seen, it is the fault of the eye; if it is wicked, the body also is dark. Then to the end the dead externalism of man's religion is exposed, and the woe of such as have taken away the key of knowledge, and their malice when exposed.
Luke 12 warns the disciples against hypocrisy, and urges the sure revelation of all things in the light, with the call to fear God and to confess the Son of Man, trusting not in themselves but in the Holy Spirit. It is no question now of Jewish blessing; and He would be no judge of earthly inheritances. They should beware of being like the rich fool whose soul is required when busy with gain. The ravens and the lilies teach a better lesson. The little flock need not fear, but rid themselves rather of what men covet, and seek a treasure unfailing: if it is in the heavens, there will the heart be. And thence is the Lord coming, Whom they were habitually and diligently to wait for. Blessed they whom the Lord finds marching! Blessed he whom the Lord finds working! To put off His coming in heart is evil, and will be so judged. But the judgment will be righteous, and worst of all that of corrupt and faithless and apostate Christendom. Whatever His love, the opposition of man brings hate, and fire, and division, not peace meanwhile. His grace aroused enmity. Judgment came and will; as, on the other hand, He was baptized in death that the pent-up floods of grace might flow as they do in the Gospel.
With the Jews on the way to the judge, and about to suffer from God's just government (at the end of the chapter before), the Holy Spirit connects in Luke 13 the question of what had befallen the Galileans. Here the Lord pronounces the exposure of all to perdition, except they repented. The parable of the fig-tree tells the same tale; respite hung on Himself. In vain was the ruler of the synagogue indignant for the Sabbath against Jehovah present to heal; it was but hypocrisy and preference of Satan. The Kingdom about to follow His rejection was not to come in by manifested power and glory, but, as under man's responsibility, from a little seed to wax a great tree, and to leaven the assigned measure, wholly in contrast with Daniel 2, 7. Instead of gratifying curiosity as to "those to be saved" (the remnant), the Lord urges the necessity of entering by the strait gate (conversion to God); seeking their own way they would utterly fail. So He would tell them He knew them not whence they were, in the day when they should see the Jews even thrust out, and Gentiles sitting with the fathers, last first and first last, in the Kingdom of God. Crafty as Herod was, it was Jerusalem He lamented, the guiltiest rejecter alike of God's government and of His grace, yet not beyond His grace at the end.
Hence Luke 14 points out unanswerably the title of grace in the face of form, and its way of self-renunciation, which will be owned in the resurrection of the just, not by the religious world which is deaf to God's call to the great supper. But if the bidden remain without, grace fills it not only with the poor of the city, but with the despised Gentiles. Only those who believe God's grace are called to break with the world. Coming to Christ costs all else: if one lose the salt of truth, none more useless and offensive.
In Luke 15 the Lord asserts the sovereign power of grace in His own seeking of the lost one, in the painstaking of the Spirit by the Word, and in the Father's reception and joy when he is found; as self-righteousness betrays its alienation from the Father and contempt for the reconciled soul.
Then Luke 16 describes parabolically the Jew losing his place; so that the only wisdom was, not in hoarding for self but in giving up his master's goods, to make friends with an everlasting and heavenly habitation. Practical Christianity is the sacrifice of the present (which is God's) to secure the future (which will be our own, the true riches). Pharisees, being covetous, derided this; but death lifts the veil that then hid the true issue in the selfish rich tormented, and the once suffering beggar in Abraham's bosom. If God's Word fail, not even resurrection would assure. Unbelief is invincible, save by His grace.
As grace thus delivers from the world, so it is to govern the believer's walk, who must take heed to himself, rebuke a sinning brother, and if he repent, forgive him even seven times in the day (Luke 17). Faith is followed by answering power. But the yoke of Judaism, though still existing, is gone for faith, as the Lord shows in the Samaritan leper, who broke through the letter of the law, rightly confessed the power of God in Christ, and went his way in liberty. The Kingdom in His person was in the midst of men for faith. By-and-by it will be displayed visibly and judicially; for such will be the Son of Man (now about to suffer and be rejected) in His day, as in those of Noah and Lot, far different from the indiscriminate sack of Jerusalem by Titus.
Luke 18 shows prayer to be the great resource, as always, so especially when oppression prevails in the latter day, and God is about to avenge His elect, and the question is raised if the coming Son of Man shall find faith on the earth. After this the Lord lets us see the spirit and ways suited to the Kingdom in the penitent tax-gatherers contrasted with the Pharisee, and in the babes He received, not in the ruler who, not following Jesus, because he clave to his riches, lost treasure in heaven. Yet he that leaves all for His sake receives manifold more now, and in the coming age life everlasting. Lastly, the Lord again announces His ignominious death, but His resurrection.
Then (verse 35) begins His last progress to Jerusalem and presentation as David's Son; and the blind beggar, invoking Him so, receives his sight, and follows Him, glorifying God.
Zacchaeus in Luke 19, chief tax-gatherer and rich, is the witness of yet more — the saving grace of God. But the Lord is not going to restore the Kingdom immediately, as they thought; He is going to a far country to receive it and to return; and when He does, He will examine the ways of His servants meanwhile entrusted with His goods, and He will execute judgment on His guilty citizens who would not that He should reign over them. Next He rides to the city from the Mount of Olivet on a colt, given up at once by the owners; and the whole multitude of the disciples praise God aloud for all the powers they have seen, saying, "Blessed be the coming King in Jehovah's name: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest." It is strikingly different from the angels' praise at His birth; but both in season. Pharisees in vain object, and hear that the stones would cry out if the disciples did not. Yet did He weep over the city that know not even then the things that made for its peace, doomed to destruction because it knew not the time of its visitation. The purging of the temple follows, and there He was teaching daily; yet could not the chief priests and the chiefs of the people destroy Him, though seeking it earnestly.
Then in Luke 20 come the various parties to judge Him, really to be judged themselves. The chief priests and the scribes with the elders demand His authority; which He meets with the question, "Was John's baptism of Heaven or of men?" Their dishonest plea of ignorance drew out His refusal to tell such people the source of His authority. But He utters the parable of the vineyard let to husbandmen, who not only grow worse and worse to their lord's servants but killed at last his son and heir, to their own ruin according to Psalm 118:22-23, adding His own solemn and twofold sentence. Next, we have His reply to the spies who would have entangled Him with the civil power; but as He asks for a denarius, and they own Caesar's image on it, He bids them render to Caesar Caesar's things, and to God the things that are God's; and they were put to silence. The heterodox Sadducees followed with their difficulty as to the resurrection; whereon He shows that there was nothing in it but their ignorance of its glorious nature, of which present experience gives no hint. Resurrection belongs to the new age, to which marriage does not apply. Even now all live to God, if men cannot see. The Lord closes with His question on Psalm 110, how He Whom David calls his Lord is also his Son. It is just Israel's stumbling-stone, ere long to be Israel's sure foundation. Then the chapter concludes with His warning to beware of those who affect worldly show in religion, and prey on the weak and bereaved, about to receive, spite of long prayers, judgment all the more severe.
Luke 21 begins with the poor widow and her two mites of more account than the richest in the offertory. Then, in correction of those who thought much of the temple adorned with goodly stones and offerings, the Lord predicts its approaching demolition, though the end was not to be immediately. But He cheers and counsels His own meanwhile. From verses 20 to 24 is the siege under Titus, and its consequences to this day. Verse 25 and the following look on to the future. The Gentiles are prominent; whence we have, "Behold the fig-tree and all the trees" in verse 29. Observe also "this generation," etc., in verse 32, is in the future part, not in what is fulfilled. Lastly, verses 34-36 give a moral appeal. Here again we find Him teaching in the temple by day, and every night lodging at Olivet.
The last Passover approached (Luke 22) and found the chief priests and the scribes plotting, when Judas Iscariot* gave them the desired means. On the day of sacrifice He sent Peter and John to prepare, and the Lord instructed them divinely when and how: for as He said, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer," and its cup He bade them take and divide it among themselves. Then He institutes His supper. As yet He had given no sign to mark the traitor, though He had long alluded to the fact. But alas! they were even then contending which of them would be accounted greatest; whilst He explains that such is the way of the Gentiles and their kings, whilst they were to follow His example — "I am in the midst of you as he that serves." Yet He owns their continuance with Him in His temptations, and appoints to them a kingdom. He tells Simon of Satan's sifting, but of His supplication that his faith should not fail, and bids him, when turned again, or restored, to stablish his brethren. After further warning Peter, He clears up the change from a Messianic mission to the ordinary ways of Providence in verses 35-38, and then goes out to the mount and passes through His agony with His Father (39-46) while the disciples sleep. Then a crowd comes, and Judas draws near to kiss, and the Lord lays all open. He heals the high priest's bondman, whose right ear was cut off; but remonstrates, yet allows Himself to be taken Who could have overwhelmed them with a word. Peter denies Him thrice. The men revile the Lord with mockery and blows; and as soon as it is day, He is led to the Sanhedrin, and when asked if He is the Christ, He tells them of the place the Son of Man will take, and owns Himself Son of God.
*It is quite general here in verse 3: "And [not Then] Satan entered into Judas." The precise time is shown in John 13:27, where then is expressed; here the statement is general, as often in the third Evangelist. So in 24:12, it should be And or But, not Then. (B.T.)
Before Pilate in Luke 23 the effort was to prove Him a rival of Caesar; but though confessing Himself the King of the Jews, Pilate found no fault in Him. The connection with Galilee gave the opportunity for a compliment to Herod, who got not a word from the Lord; but after, with his soldiers, insulting Him, he sent Him back, when Pilate again sought to release Him, as neither he nor yet Herod found evidence against Him. But the Jews only the more fiercely demanded a seditious murderer to be released, and Jesus to be crucified. Still Pilate made a last effort. But their voices prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that what they asked for should be done. Such is man; and such is religious man, even more wicked: "Jesus he delivered up to their will." Simon of Cyrene had to prove the violence of that hour; and Jerusalem's daughters lamented with wailing. But the Lord bade them weep for themselves and for their children, and proceeded to Calvary where He was crucified, and the two robbers on either side. There He prayed His Father to forgive them, as rulers scoffed and soldiers mocked. Even one of those crucified kept railing on Him; but the other became a monument of grace, confessing the Saviour and King, when others forsook and fled. The centurion too bore testimony to Him; and if they made His grave with the wicked, the rich was there in His death, and with Pilate's leave His body was laid in a tomb hewn in stone where never man had yet lain. It was Friday, growing dark, and Sabbath twilight was coming on. And the Galilean women who saw Him laid there returned and prepared spices and unguents. Little did they know what God was about to do; yet they loved Him in Whom they believed.
On the first day of the week at early dawn the women came (Luke 24), but found the stone rolled away from the tomb and the body gone; and two in dazzling raiment stood by them to their alarm, who asked, "Why seek ye the Living One among the dead? He is not here, but is risen"; and they recalled to their minds His words in Galilee, now fulfilled in His death and resurrection. Even the apostles disbelieved. And Peter went, and saw evidences and wondered. Then we have the walk to Emmaus with all its grace and deep instruction from the Scriptures, not for those disheartened men only, but for all time and all believers. Next the Lord makes Himself known in the breaking of bread (the sign of death), and at once vanishes. For we walk by faith, not by sight. On returning to Jerusalem they hear how He had appeared to Simon; and as they spoke, the Lord stood in their midst, bade them handle Him and see (for they were troubled), and even ate to reassure them of His resurrection. He speaks further and opens their minds to understand the Scriptures; a distinct thing from the power of the Spirit they were to receive in due time. No going to Galilee is introduced here; it is exactly suited to Matthew's design. Here Jerusalem is prominent, which was avowedly most guilty. So repentance and remission of sins "were to be preached in His name, unto all the nations, beginning with Jerusalem." There too they were to tarry till clothed with power from on high. But thence, when the day arrived, He led them out over against Bethany, and blessed them with uplifted hands; and, while blessing them, He parted from them and was borne up into heaven.
§ 2. THE PROLOGUE (1:1-4).*
*Cf. "Lectures Introductory to the Study of the Gospels," pp. 241-245, and "God's Inspiration of the Scriptures," pp. 66-71.
There is no Gospel which more shows the mind and love of God than this of Luke.2 None is more truly and evidently inspired. Nevertheless there is none so deeply marked by traces of the human hand and heart.* This is its characteristic object in presenting Christ to us. Luke had, as the work assigned to him of the Holy Ghost, to delineate our Lord as a man, both in body and soul. This he does, not only as to facts which are related about Him, but in all His course and teaching in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. It is emphatically a man we see and hear, a Divine Person, no doubt, but at the same time a real, proper man Who walks in perfect dependence and absolute obedience, honouring God and honoured of Him in all things.
*As to coalescence of Divine and human in Luke's preface, Cf. "God's Inspiration," etc., chapter 4, "The Human Element."
For this reason I believe it is that Luke alone opens his Gospel with an address to a particular man. You could not have Matthew, consistently with the purpose and character of his Gospel, addressing it to a man; nor is it conceivable of Mark or of John. Luke so writes with the most admirable propriety. "Whereas many have undertaken to arrange a declaration concerning the matters fully believed in among us, even as they, who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word, delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having thorough acquaintance from the outset with all things accurately, to write to thee in regular order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest truly know the certainty of accounts [or things] in which thou hast been instructed." Thus Luke was led of God as one who had a thirst and loving desire for the good of Theophilus, and fitly addresses this Gospel to him: and this we shall find in harmony with its character throughout. It was not for him only, of course, but for the permanent instruction of the Church; yet none the less was it written to him. Theophilus was laid on the heart of that godly man to be instructed in the things of God, and this draws out the workings of the Spirit of God in him to expound the way of God as shown in Christ more perfectly.
Theophilus appears to have been a man of rank, probably a Roman governor. This seems the reason why he is called here "Most Excellent," or, as we might say, His Excellency.* It relates to official position, and not to his character morally as a man.3 It is evident he was a believer, but only partially instructed. The object of the Evangelist here was to give him a fuller understanding of "the way."4
*Cf. Acts 23:26; Acts 24:3, Acts 26:25.
At this time there were many accounts of Christ in vogue among Christians. The "many" spoken of here who had undertaken to draw up these accounts of our Lord, were not inspired.4a Luke does not charge them with evil intent in what they wrote, still less with falsehood, but it was clearly inadequate, as being no more than the fruit of a human effort5 to relate the matters5a fully believed5b among the Christians. They did not accomplish the work so as to set aside the need of a fresh and above all a Divinely given narrative of the Lord Jesus. Only we must carefully remember that the difference between an inspired writing and any other is not that the other is necessarily false, and that the inspired one is simply true. There is much more than this. It is the truth as God sees it, and with that special object that God always has in view when He furnishes an account of anything. A gospel is not a mere biography: it is God's account of Christ, governed by the special moral object He was pleased to impress on it. This is characteristic of all inspired writings, whatever their form or aim. Inspiration excludes mistake, no doubt; but it does much more than that. It includes a Divine object for the instruction of the faithful in the display of God's glory in Christ. These "many" biographers4a spoken of by Luke were not authorized by the Spirit of God. They may have entered on their self-imposed task with the best motives, and some or all may have been persons in whom the Spirit of God was (i.e., Christians), but they were not inspired any more than one who preaches the Gospel or seeks to edify believers. There is a weighty difference between the leading of the Spirit in a general way, where flesh may more or less impair the truth enforced, and the inspiration of the Spirit, which not only excludes all error but gives what was never given before. Luke was inspired; yet he does not put forward his inspiration. And what then? Who does? Matthew, Mark, John, Paul, or any other? When people write an imposture they naturally pretend to this or that, and are apt most to claim what they have least or not at all. They may talk much about inspiration; the inspired writers, as a rule, take it for granted. It is self-proved, not posted up. The special character that distinguishes these writings from all others to the heart or conscience gives the believer the certainty of inspiration. For, I repeat, the Holy Ghost not only excludes error, but writes with a Divine object, and communicates the truth as none but God can. And these proofs are such as to leave the unbeliever without excuse. Light wants nothing else to show itself.6
Observe one marked difference here claimed between these many uninspired writers and Luke's Gospel. They had taken up the tradition6a of such as had been from the beginning6b of the Lord's public life eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word.6c It was founded on oral testimony.4b But Luke takes particular pains to let us know that this is not said of his own Gospel.6d He does not attribute it to the same sources as theirs,7 but claims an accurate and thorough acquaintance* of all things8 from the very first (ἄνωθεν). He does not explain his sources4 any more than other inspired men, but he does contrast the character of what he knew and had to say with those who merely drew up9 a report from the earliest and best tradition. This is of high importance and has been often overlooked. Like Matthew, he goes back to the very first10 and even before Matthew's relations; for he gives us, not only the circumstances that preceded the birth of Christ, but the account of all that pertained to His forerunner's birth. Thus, though Luke does so far say that "it seemed good to me also" as well as to them,11 nevertheless he otherwise distinguishes his own task entirely from theirs. He does not tell us how he had his perfect understanding of all things from the very first; he simply lays down the fact.6d Again, it seems to me that the reason why he alone gives us his motive for writing, without putting forward his inspired character, is of all interest. Not only is it unusual in the sacred writers, but also Luke has the human element so predominant that it would be somewhat inconsistent with it to dwell strongly on the fact that it was God's Word he was writing. He, above all, therefore, would rather avoid bringing it out prominently or formally, though he proves practically that every line was truly inspired. The regular (καθεξῆς) order was not that in which the events occurred. Such a mere sequence is by no means either the only order or the best for all purposes. To Luke it would have been an arrangement infinitely inferior to the one he has adopted. All it means is that he has written his account from the very first in a methodical manner. What that method is can only be learnt from studying the Gospel itself. It will be proved, as we proceed, that Luke's is essentially a moral order, and that he classifies the facts, conversations, questions, replies, and discourses of our Lord according to their inward connection, and not the mere outward succession of events, which is in truth the rudest and most infantile form of record. But to group events together with their causes and consequences, in their moral order, is a far more difficult task for the historian, as distinguished from the mere chronicler. God can cause Luke to do it perfectly.12
*Cf. "Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles," ii., p. 48: "The Spirit of God alone secures absolute truth, which no seeing, hearing, or research could effect."
Again, Luke writes as a man to a man, unfolding the goodness of God in man — the Man Christ Jesus. Hence all that would exemplify humanity, as in Christ and also in us before God, is brought out in the most instructive manner. He writes for the help of his Excellency, Theophilus, that he might truly know (ἐπιγνῳς)13 the certainty14 of those things15 wherein he had been instructed.16 God thus takes care of those who know Him, though it may be imperfectly, and He would lead them more deeply into the understanding and enjoyment of what He is now communicating to man by His grace. "To him that has shall be given." It is the way of God. Theophilus had been enabled to receive Christ and to confess Him. Hence, though Luke sets forth with particular care how truly the Gospel was preached to the poor (see chapters 4, 6, 7.), yet his Gospel as a whole is addressed to this man of rank, now a disciple. Circumstantially, there is no man so much to be pitied as to the truth of God, or who so needs the grace of God, as one who is great in this world, because he is peculiarly open to snares, temptations, and cares of the world, which war against the soul and threaten to choke up the seed of the Word. Therefore we have the gracious care of Him Who knows so well what the heart of man needs, and Who, despising not any, deigns to provide for the great man now made low, and assuredly feeling his poverty, in spite of rank or riches.
§ 3. TEXTUAL CRITICISM.**This section is identical with § 3 of Introduction to "Exposition of the Gospel of Mark." — See also notes 14-16 there, and Cf. note 17 in Appendix below.
Although able critics have for a century sought to edit the Greek Testament on documentary evidence of Greek manuscripts, ancient versions, and early citations, none as yet have succeeded in commanding more than partial confidence. Hence it has been a necessity for any careful and conscientious scholar who would really know the sources to compare several of these editions, and search into the grounds on which their differences depend, so as to have anything like a correct and enlarged view of the text, and to judge fairly of the claims of conflicting readings. … Mature spiritual judgment, with continual dependence on the Lord, is just as essential as a sound and thorough familiarity with the ancient witnesses of all kinds.*18
*From a review of the Revised Version of the New Testament, in — Bible Treasury, Vol. XIII., p. 287 (June, 1881).
Lachmann published a manual edition of the New Testament professedly based on Bentley's idea of exhibiting the text as read in the fourth century … at one fell swoop sentenced the mass of the surviving witnesses to an ignominious death, and presented us with a text formed on absolute principles of singular narrowness. … The neglect of internal evidence is a fatal objection. But the grand fallacy involved is that a manuscript of the fourth or fifth century must give better readings than one of the seventh or eighth. Now this is in no way certain. There is a presumption in favour of the more ancient manuscript, because each successive transcription tends to introduce new errors in addition to those it repeats. On the other hand, a copy of the ninth century may have been made from one older than any now extant, and certainly some old documents are more corrupt than many of the more recent witnesses. Every ingenuous scholar must own, to say the least, that the oldest manuscripts have some bad readings, and that the modern manuscripts have some that are good. Hence the distinction is not between the united evidence of the most ancient documents (Manuscripts, Versions, Fathers) and the common herd of those more recent; for rarely, or never, is there such unanimous ancient testimony without considerable support from witnesses of a later day. The truth is that almost always, where the old documents really agree, there is large confirmation elsewhere, and where the ancients differ, so do the moderns. It is quite unfounded, therefore, to treat it as a question pure and simple between old and new. Nor is it the important point of research what particular readings existed in the days of Jerome. For notoriously errors of various kinds had then crept into both Greek and Latin copies, and no antiquity can sanctify an error. The true question is: What, using every available means to form a judgment, was the primitive text? It is often forgotten that our oldest documents are but copies. Several centuries elapsed between the original issue of the New Testament Scriptures and any manuscripts now existing. All, therefore, are on the ground of copyists differing only in degree. It is not, then, a comparison between a single eye-witness and many hearsay reporters, unless we had the original autographs. And, in fact, we know that an historian's account, three centuries after alleged facts, may be, and often is, corrected, five hundred or a thousand years after, by recurrence to sources more trustworthy, or by a more patient, comprehensive, and skilful sifting of neglected evidence.
My own conviction is that in certain cases, especially in single words, the most ancient copy that exists may be corrected by another generally inferior, not only in age, but in almost every respect besides, and that internal evidence ought to be used, in dependence upon the Spirit of God, where the external authorities are conflicting.*17
*From Preface to "The Revelation of John, edited in Greek, with a new English Version and a Statement of the Chief Authorities and Various Readings." (London: Williams and Norgate, 1860.)
*Cf. "Lectures introductory to the Gospels," pp. 245-247.
That the Gospel of Luke has a special aspect towards men at large, that it displays the grace of God towards the Gentiles who had been so long forgotten, or seemed to be so in the outward dealings of God, is very plain. Nevertheless some have found, as they thought, an insuperable difficulty to their admitting this to be the characteristic business of Luke, because we find, for instance, at the very beginning a striking occupation of the writer's mind with the circumstances of the Jewish people before, at, and after the birth of Christ. In fact, none of the Gospels introduces us so thoroughly into the whole routine of their state and worship, with their relation to the worldly powers: first of all to the king that then ruled over them, Herod the Great; and, in the next chapter, to the Roman Empire.
But I think it will be found, if we look below the surface, that there is no real inconsistency between such a preface as we have in Luke and the general regard that he pays to the Gentiles in the rest of his Gospel. In fact, it answers closely to what we find in the ministry of the apostle who had Luke for his companion in labours. For although Paul was so emphatically the apostle of the Gentiles, the uncircumcision being delivered over to him as the circumcision was to Peter; none the less was it Paul's habit in every place first to visit the Jews, or, as he says himself, "to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile." So it is precisely that Luke begins with the Jew, discloses God working in the midst of the remnant of that people before we find the intimations of His mercy towards the Gentiles. So far from inconsistency on the part of Luke with his purpose, this very introduction of the Jews in the beginning of his Gospel seems even to be morally necessary; because God could not, so to speak, go out to the Gentiles according to the analogy of His dealings from the beginning and His promises to the Jewish people, unless there were first the manifestation of His goodness there and the unheeded effect of it as far as the Jews were concerned. God proves amply His mercy towards Israel before He turns to the nations. Israel would have none of Him or His Kingdom: the Gentiles would hear.
Hence we find that, although Luke's be the Gentile Gospel, there is first this full and bold outline presented to us of the working of God's grace among the Jews.
"There was in the days of Herod the king of Judea,19 a certain priest by name Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name Elisabeth." Thus we have the living picture of the state of things then going on in Israel. There might be a foreign prince over them — an Edomite, and high priests in strange confusion, as we shall see shortly; but for all that there was a priest duly married to one of the daughters of Aaron, Zacharias, of the course of Abia. "And they were both just before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the LORD blameless." Low as the state was in Israel and outwardly most irregular, nevertheless, in the midst of all there were godly ones: and the only thing that enabled any to walk after such a sort in Israel was the faith of the coming Messiah: this at least had not disappeared. On the contrary, God's Spirit was working in the hearts of a few, preparing them for the One Who was coming. Zacharias and Elisabeth were among these few. They were expecting in faith, the effect of which, where it is real, is to give power of walking rightly. The only souls who walked well, even according to the law, were those who looked beyond the law to Christ. Those who merely rested in the law broke it, though the law might be their boast. On the contrary, such as looked for the Messiah were faithful, "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the LORD blameless."
It is the same thing in principle now. There are those who cry up the law as a rule of life, but such never carry themselves well even according to that standard. On the contrary, those who go forward in the sense of God's grace, knowing the full deliverance of the believer in the redemption that is in Christ, do really manifest the righteousness of the law; as it is said, "What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." Rom. 8:3. If I am walking after the law, I do not fulfil it; if I am walking after the Spirit, I do. The same doctrine appears in Galatians 5. If we walk according to the Spirit, there are good fruits: "against such there is no law." Gal. 5:23. On the contrary, the law justifies the fruits of the Spirit, but the Spirit never justifies the ways of any man who finds his rule of life in the law, which is and must be to a sinful man a rule of condemnation and death. There is no power of grace, unless Christ be the Object of the heart.
Such was the case with this godly pair in Israel. The aged priest and his wife were really (i.e., believingly) looking for the Messiah. Their hope was no fleshly desire to exalt themselves or their nation in earthly power; though it remains true that Israel will then be the head and the Gentiles the tail, (Deut. 28:13.) when Messiah comes to close their last fiery tribulation and deliver them from their foes. But in that day the hearts of the godly remnant will be lifted above pride or vanity, they will bear to be exalted above all other peoples of the earth. Such is the Divine counsel according to prophecy which God will surely accomplish in its season.
Observe how faith leads to faithfulness. Those who merely look to the law (i.e., as much as God requires) never accomplish His righteous requirement. In every case one must be above any obligations in order to fulfil them. I must have faith in God's object in order to fulfil God's will. If my mind is occupied with Christ, I shall be able in the same measure to glorify God.
Thus it was with Zacharias and his wife. They looked in faith for the Messiah: hence they were righteous, and walking in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. Nevertheless they had a disappointment of heart which answered to the state of things in Israel. "They had no child, because Elisabeth was barren; and they were both advanced in years." They had prayed about it, as we find afterwards. Though Zacharias seems even to have lost sight of his own prayer, yet God had not. And so "it came to pass, as he fulfilled his priestly service before God in the order of his course" — for here he was faithful to the requisition of daily duty — "it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter into the temple of the LORD to burn incense. And all the multitude of the people were praying without at the hour of incense." We have thus a full and lively setting forth of what was actually going on then in Israel. "And an angel of [the] LORD appeared to him standing on the right of the altar of incense." In this form such a visit was unknown for a long while. It was a gracious intervention of God (not merely betimes, as we find in another Gospel, for the healing of sicknesses and weaknesses of the people, but) for the more glorious purpose of announcing the forerunner of the Messiah Himself. Was it so strange after all that he was to be born beyond nature of this godly couple? One could not have anticipated such a thing; but once announced as God's intention, how wise and suitable our hearts see it to be! When Zacharias saw the angel he "was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, Fear not, Zacharias, because thy supplication has been heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John" (i.e., the gift of God). "And he shall be to thee joy and rejoicing: and many shall rejoice at his birth."20 It was calculated to strike the eye and heart of any godly Israelite, being manifestly God's gift. The LORD was faithful to His people and His purposes. There were many who at this time were looking for the Messiah. We know even from heathen authors that there was a strong, general, and ancient tradition (no doubt derived from Balaam of old, and Daniel later, and the Septuagint), that at this time a great prince was to be born in Israel, who would lead that nation on to supremacy. Hence they would naturally heed this extraordinary birth, and the singular course of life which John the Baptist ever followed, as well as his preaching when the time for it was come.
"He shall be great before [the] LORD,* and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with [the] Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb." He should be a Nazarite, separated to the LORD, not only in outward separation, but with inward and special power of God.21 "And many of the sons of Israel shall he turn to [the] LORD their God." This would be the characteristic aim of his mission — to recall them to God from whom they had departed. "And he shall go before him in [the] spirit and power of Elias, to turn hearts of fathers to children, and disobedient ones to [the] thoughts of just [men]15 to make ready for [the] LORD a prepared people." Elijah was the prophet who took up the broken obligations of the people. Hence it is that he went to Horeb. Thence it was that Elias had his great commission from before God; there he went through the scene we have so strikingly described in his history. Horeb was the place where the law was given, and Elias went back thither, feeling how deeply the people had departed from God. John should now recall the people in the spirit and power of Elias. It is repentance; it is not of course the great work of God in putting away sin — that could only be done by one, even Jesus the Lord. Neither is it the power of the Holy Ghost shed upon Israel. This also could only be done by Christ. He is, as we find in John, the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world, the same is he which baptizes with the Holy Ghost." John 1:29, 33. But John could at least do his own work by God's grace given to him; he should go "before him in the spirit and power of Elias." This is a remarkable testimony: first, because it is said he shall go before the LORD, i.e., before Jehovah; a plain statement of the dignity of Jesus. He was really Jehovah; and this messenger of His should go before His face, next, "in [the] spirit and power of Elias, to turn hearts of fathers to children." There was no union, but alienation: everything was broken in Israel. Sin always produces such dislocations. But John should "turn the hearts of fathers to children"; that is, he would be used of God to unite them in affection, and also to instruct them morally, or lead "the disobedient to the wisdom of the just."22 Hence, in all respects, both in affection and in moral power and wisdom, his mission was "to make ready for the LORD a prepared people." Such would be John's work — "to make ready for the LORD a prepared people."
*As to the textual criticism of Luke's Gospel, see note 17 in Appendix. — In this Gospel the authorities show considerable variation with regard to use of the definite article before "LORD." Here it is contained in BDΔ, etc., but not in ℵACLΓ 33. Κύριος without the article stands regularly for Jehovah (Yahveh) of the Old Testament, as in the LXX. So in verse 16. Cf. again in verse 28.
"And Zacharias said to the angel, How shall I know this, for I am an old man, and my wife advanced in years?" Unbelief works just when God was about to accomplish this signal mercy — a remarkable but by no means infrequent case which we would do well to apply to our souls. That is, when God means mercy to us, we are too apt to limit the Lord; to doubt Him even when the blessing comes very close to us; to put some difficulty in the way, yielding to the suggestions of the enemy and the unbelief of our own hearts. Zacharias accordingly asks how he should know it.
The angel answers, "I am Gabriel23 who stand before God; and I have been sent to speak to thee and to bring these glad tidings to thee. And, behold, thou shall be silent, and not able to speak, till the day in which these things shall take place, because thou hast not believed my words, such as shall be fulfilled in their time." A measure of chastening was thus put upon Zacharias — a sign to others, but at the same time a rebuke to himself. The very fact that he was struck suddenly dumb would awaken the attention of the people. They would see that an extraordinary occurrence had taken place and might be led to think about it. On the other hand, when God had sent His angel to tell him that these things should be done, Zacharias showed his unbelief in requiring another sign. Hence his chastening. God's words should be fulfilled in their season spite of his unbelief. Mercy removes the stroke in due season.
"And the people were awaiting Zacharias, and they wondered at his delaying in the temple. But when he came out he could not speak to them: and they recognised that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he was making signs to them and continued dumb. And it came to pass, when the days of his service were completed, he departed to his house." Each priest had to serve in his course from Sabbath to Sabbath; so when the week was up, he leaves. "Now after these days Elisabeth his wife conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus has the LORD done to me in [these] days in which he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men." The feeling of Elisabeth under the circumstances was just as godly as the unbelief of Zacharias was a striking witness of what is so natural to us all.24
This closes the opening incidents which the Spirit of God gives us by Luke.
It was the angel Gabriel who was sent to Daniel to make known of old the Messiah's coming and cutting off in the famous prophecy of the seventy weeks. (Dan. 9:26.) Now he comes to Mary, the espoused of Joseph, and announces to her, "the virgin" of a still older prophet, (Isa. 7:14) the birth of that Messiah.25 No wonder that he salutes her as a favoured one, with whom the Lord was. Blessed was she among women!* Mary,26 though troubled, pondered what might be the meaning of this salutation. The angel bids her not fear, for she has found favour with God. She is the chosen channel of the wondrous purposes which should yet fill the world as well as her own people with blessing — the appointed mother she is to be of One in Whom God was about to solve all the difficulties that sin had brought into the world by a righteous triumph over it — nay, to make it possible for God to bless those who believed, sinners though they had been, and to make them righteously triumph through and with Himself.
*"Blessed art thou amongst women." So Treg. (text) after ACD and most later uncials, with cursives (33, 69), Syrrpesch hcl. Old Latin, Gothic, Aeth. The words (as anticipating those in verse 42) are omitted here by Edd. in general with ℵBL, Memph. Arm.
Therefore he says, "Behold, thou shalt conceive in the womb, and bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus" — a Divine Saviour.27* "He shall be great, and shall be called Son of [the] Highest,28 and the Lord God shall give him the throne of David his father." This is another and quite different glory, which evidently combines with saving power His title of Messiah. "And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for the ages; and of his kingdom there shall not be an end." Even in the lowest domain, how far is His Kingdom from being a mere human dominion!
*See "Lectures on Matthew," p. 30.
"But Mary said to the angel, How shall this be, since I know not a man?" She does not doubt, but she asks confidingly. Hence there is no smiting dumb nor any sign of unbelief, as in the case of Zacharias, who asked, "Whereby shall I know this?" There maybe a question in the spirit which needs an answer, but betrays no lack of faith. There might be one not so dissimilar in form, but which really sprang from unbelief. God does not judge according to appearance, but the heart.
The angel accordingly explains in all grace to Mary. "[The] Holy Spirit shall come upon thee,29 and power of [the] Highest overshadow thee." It was not to be nature, but Divine power. "Therefore the holy thing also which shall be born [of thee]* shall be called Son of God," and not merely Son of man. This is exceedingly important. "Son of God" is a title that belongs to our Lord both in His Divine glory before He became a man and here; for, in this place when He became a man, He did not cease to be Son of God. As incarnate He was still the Son of God. So, again, when He rose from the dead, the same thing was true; He was the Son of God as risen again. It is plain therefore that it is a title that appertains to Him in the three conditions in which Scripture represents our Lord. He was the Son of God when He was purely and simply a Divine Person; Son of God when He became a man; Son of God when risen from the dead and gone out of this world to heaven.
*"Of thee," after "born" is supported only by C and a few minuscules.
But there is another thing also to note, that His taking manhood did not in the smallest degree connect Him with the taint of man's fallen nature. This was absolutely counteracted by the singularity of His conception, which was effected through the power of the Holy Ghost. "Wherefore the holy thing also which shall be born [of thee] shall be called Son of God."30 Thus He was holy, not merely in His Divine nature, but in His humanity. He was emphatically the Holy One of God: without this not only would salvation have been impossible for us, but even His own acceptance as man would have been out of the question."30a We have therefore in this passage the most important truth as to the birth of this wondrous Child, and the union of the Divine and human natures in the person of Christ. Much here given is peculiar to Luke. Mary is informed also of what God was doing to her cousin Elisabeth, for as the angel added "with God nothing shall be impossible."31 She bows at once to the will of the LORD, with the words, "Behold the bondmaid of [the] LORD; be it to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her."
Mary then arises, enters into the house of Zacharias and salutes her kinswoman, Elisabeth, which gives occasion to the wonderful obeisance that was paid even by the unborn babe, Elisabeth's child, to her the predestined mother of the Messiah, in honour to the Messiah himself.32 The consequence was that Elisabeth, filled with the Holy Ghost, breaks out into an acknowledgment of the place God had given Mary. "And whence [is] this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" It is remarkable how beautifully it is owned that even the child that was yet to be born was the Lord. We find just the same thing with Mary herself. She has no notion of being taken out of the place of a needy sinner, whilst the miraculous birth of John does not detract from Elisabeth's sense of the Messiah, but rather adds to her sense of it. She owns at the same time that God has shown singular favour to Mary's soul. "Blessed is she that has believed; for there shall be a fulfilment of the things spoken to her from [the] LORD."33 She knew that what had happened to her husband was because of unbelief, and contrasts with it Mary's meek, because believing, heart.
Mary answers,34 "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit35 has rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he has looked upon the low estate of his bondmaid; for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." It is remarkable how simply Scripture has met beforehand the monstrous unbelief of man which lowers God as much as it exalts a human being. Mary had no thought of exaltation. She says, "All generations shall call me blessed," but not a blesser. She was the object of blessing, not the giver or mediatrix of it. "For the Mighty One has done to me great things; and holy [is] his name [not a word of her own]. And his mercy is to generations and generations* to them that fear him [not that pray to or worship me]. He has wrought strength with his arm; he has scattered haughty [ones] in the thought of their heart. He has put down rulers from thrones, and exalted the lowly" — alluding to her own place as well as Elisabeth's. "He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent the rich empty away. He has helped Israel, his servant, in order to remember mercy; as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever." It is remarkable how Jewish the character of the joy is, and the acknowledgement of the mercy.
*"Generations and generations": so Edd. after BCpm LΞ Amiat. Syrrpesch Memph. ℵ with nine other uncials has "generations and generations." Syrrsin pesch: "generation and tribe." — ACcorr D, etc., 33, have "generations of generations."
So Mary abides with her cousin three months, and then returns to her own house.36 "But the time was fulfilled for Elisabeth that she should bring forth; and she gave birth to a son. And her neighbours and kinsfolk heard how [the] LORD had magnified his mercy with her; and they rejoiced with her." The general thought was to call37 the child after his father's name; but the mother, who alone can speak for it, directs him to be called John. Zacharias is appealed to and writes, "John is his name." And immediately the punishment of his unbelief departs from him. His tongue was loosed and he spoke and praised God; which filled all around with fear, astonishment, and anticipation of what this child would be.
Zacharias breaks forth into a strain of praise.38 "Blessed be [the] LORD the God of Israel; because he has visited and wrought redemption for his people, and raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David, his servant." It is remarkable the grace that does not so much look at his own house as at the house of God's servant David. There was faith here. During the season of his dumbness Zacharias has pondered the ways of the LORD; and the Holy Ghost, as He had filled Elisabeth, as He had filled the babe from his mother's womb, so now filled Zacharias, who prophesies the end of these wonders. "That we should be delivered from our enemies, and out of the hand of all who hate us; to fulfil39 mercy with our fathers, and remember his holy covenant; [the] oath which he swore to Abraham, our father, to give us, that, saved out of the hand of our* enemies, we should serve him without fear."39a It is important to observe how thoroughly this savours of Old Testament hopes. It is not a question of sins merely, but of being delivered from their enemies, which last is assuredly not, nor ought to be, the feeling of the Christian now. Does not the Christian serve God, delivered from his sins, in the midst of his enemies? So when the Lord comes, it is simply a taking him up out of the midst of his enemies when the time of deliverance comes. Here then the language is, "That we being saved out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in piety40 and righteousness before him all our days."† Such is the expectation of Israel according to the Psalms and the Prophets.
*"Our": so ACD, etc., Amiat. Syrr. Memph.; but Edd. omit, after ℵBL 1, 69, etc.
†"All our days": so Edd. after ℵABCDL, etc., Old Lat. Vulg. Syrr. (exc. sin) Memph. — E and some other copies, with cursives 1, 69 Syrsin have "all the days of our life."
"And thou, child, shalt be called [the] prophet of [the] Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of [the] LORD to make ready his ways" — an allusion clearly to Malachi (Mal. 3:1) as well as to Isaiah. "To give knowledge of salvation41 to his people by [the] forgiveness of their sins." It is not that the Jews will be without the remission of their sins; they will have that beside deliverance from their enemies. All this is "on account of [the] bowels of mercy of our God; whereby [the] day-spring from on high has visited* us, to shine upon them who were sitting in darkness and in [the] shadow of death, to guide our feet into [the] way of peace."
*"Has visited": so T.R., retained by Tisch., Treg. (text) and Blass, after AC and some cursives with Old Lat. — Other Edd. (W. H., followed by Revv., Weiss) adopt "will visit," as ℵBL, Syrr. Arm.
Such will be the condition in which the Jews will be finally met by God; there will be a special darkness more immediately before the light shines out upon them.
It was when they were in bitter degradation under the Gentiles, as well as in the moral darkness, that the Lord came the first time; still more will this be the case when He comes again. There will be renewed bondage under the power of the West; a stranger king will reign in the land, and a special delusive power of Satan will be there, but the Lord will appear to the discomfiture of all their foes and the full deliverance of His people Israel.
Meanwhile "the child grew, and was strengthened in spirit; and he was in the deserts until the day of his showing to Israel."42 We have seen that, before the large universal character of the Gospel of Luke appears — the grace of God to man — there is the utmost care to show the goodness and forbearance of the Lord in meeting Israel as they then were. Thus they have the responsibility of refusing their Messiah, before God lays the foundation of the richest grace to man generally.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 247-256.
We have had the forerunner of Jesus and the announcement of the birth of Jesus. But now this chapter opens with a providential event which we find nowhere else in the Gospels, and yet which explains a fact that is found in the first Gospel as well as in the third. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. His parents were in the habit of living in Galilee. How, then, if the ordinary residence of His parents was at Nazareth, which was at one extremity of the land, could he be born at Bethlehem, which was almost at the other?
"And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census should be made of all the habitable world." Caesar Augustine was the then Emperor of Rome, the last human kingdom of Daniel. Even the Holy Land was put in subjection to these imperial powers, and Caesar used his power and marked it in this that he demanded the presence of every man in his own city, as if all belonged to him. It was a testimony to the total subjection of the habitable world" 43to himself, not to Christ. This, indeed, will in due time be according to God, the fruit of His own power, when Jesus is manifestly exalted and God's direct power is vested in His hands, Who, being Himself a Divine Person as well as man, will thus exercise all the power as man, yet without derogating in the smallest degree from the rights and authority of God, yea, displaying them gloriously before the world, as He has already established them before God and, to faith, in the cross.
With Caesar Augustus however, it was far different. Even the people of God were placed in servitude; and wonderful to say, the mother of the Messiah was among those, as well as His legal father, who had to pay obedience to the decree of the Roman Emperor. They went up accordingly for the census45 to their own city, the city of David, Bethlehem,44 thus accomplishing the prophecies. And what made it the more remarkable is that, in verse 2, we are told that "the census itself* first took place when Cyrenius43a was governor of Syria." It was not effected at the time here in view as proposed, but was sufficiently carried out to call the parents of our Lord from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, which accomplished not man's census, but God's prophecy. God took care that it should be just fulfilled enough to carry out His purposes. It was not till some years afterwards that Cyrenius was governor of Syria. Then it was carried into effect fully,45 but meanwhile all went up to be enrolled, each to his own city.
*"The census itself" (αὐτή): so ACLΔ and later uncials, with most cursives. — Edd.: "This (αὕτη) was the first census," after ℵBD.
Therefore "Joseph also went up from Galilee,46 out of the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to David's city, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and family of David), to be enrolled with Mary47 his betrothed wife,*47a she being great with child." From the time that a woman among the Jews was espoused, she was considered legally the wife of him to whom she was betrothed. Thus the Lord, while really Son of His mother Mary, was legally of Joseph; and both Joseph and Mary were of the royal line. The Lord Jesus, therefore, represented David on both sides; but as the law required, He was the descendant of Solomon on the legal side. For no matter how unquestionably He might have been the Son of Mary, descended from the Nathan stem, He could not have been according to law the Messiah as long as there was a living representative of the Solomon branch. But the Lord, being the legally-reputed Son of Joseph as well as Mary's child, was precisely so descended as to be in every required respect "David's Son," the Messiah. I say this quite independently of His Divine glory, which was demanded for other and far deeper reasons.
*"Wife": so AΔ and later uncials, nearly all cursives (including 33, 69) and Amiat. — Edd. omit, after ℵBCpm DL, etc. Syrsin simply "wife" (Mrs. Lewis in Expositor: "under full legal protection of Joseph").
Thus then "while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born son48 and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in the* manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke always loves to present moral features. Accordingly there is an intimation very instructive for us in the circumstance that it was in the manger Jesus was laid, not in the inn. There was no room for them in the inn. The Lord of glory when born into this world was laid in the manger. What a picture of the state of the world! There was no room for Him who was God in the world! The children of men according to their means found their place in the inn as it suited them. Those who had money could command a place proportioned to what they were willing to pay. But the parents of the Lord were in such poverty as to be thoroughly despised at the inn, and the only place where they could find a shelter for the Babe was a manger.
*"The": so Δ and later uncials. Edd. omit, after ℵABDLΞ.
But this did not hinder the outflow of Divine grace any more than it could deny, except to unbelief, the Divine glory of Him who was laid there. Unbelief never receives that the Lord of heaven and earth could be born in such circumstances and of such parents. In fact, to be born at all, to be really a man, to know beyond all other men the bitterness of the world, the scorn and hatred of men, and finally the cross — all this is utterly stumbling to unbelief. But this is just the truth of God, and the only truth that really makes known God and delivers man. And those who receive it are the simple. Grace makes them such, especially the lowly. It can make the proudest simple, no doubt; but it addresses itself in particular as the rule (and Luke marks the fact) to those that are despised on the earth as Christ was.
"And there were shepherds in that country49 abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. And lo,* an angel of [the] LORD stood by49a them and the glory of [the] LORD50 shone around them, and they were sore afraid." Nevertheless, there was no reason. Man, because he is a sinner, is afraid of God, but in truth "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that every one that believes on Him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16. The angel in the spirit of this says, "Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be" — but not exactly "to all people." For although Luke does finally proclaim the saving grace that goes out to all men, he begins within the strict limits of Israel, and shows God faithful to His people and willing to accomplish all His promises if they would receive Jesus. But they would not; and therefore God was morally justified in turning from the despising Jews to the Gentiles. The true way of understanding this clause is "(which shall be) to all the people," meaning the people of Israel. This is confirmed in the next verse: "For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ [the] Lord."51 It was the Anointed of God, whom their fathers had long waited and looked for. The Child51a was now born, the Son given, and unto them, as said the prophet. Isa. 9:6.
*"Lo": so AD and the later uncials, all cursives, Old Lat. Vulg. Memph. Syrr.; but omitted by Edd., following ℵBLΞ.
"And this is the sign unto you: ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger."* "A babe" it should be. And so it was: a most significant sign — a Messiah, not in power and glory as the Jews expected, but a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, who in grace was subject to all the realities of the circumstances of a human birth and infancy, and who was found in fact, as to external position, lying in a manger.
*"And lying in a manger": so most Edd., after BLΞ, 1, 33. Tisch., with ℵD, omits "and lying."
But if such was the place of obscurity that He entered, all the world being really out of course and God unwilling to allow such a thought as a sanction by His Son of the state of men in sin; if He gives Him, therefore, a place, as it were, outside, on the other hand there was suddenly "with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good pleasure in men."* This is comprising in a few words the whole scope of Divine purpose. The manifestation of the Son, now man, leads to this, not exactly the moral ground of it, or the means by which it will be brought about, but the result as illustrating to their unjealous eyes God's good pleasure in men (not angels). First of all there is, "Glory to God in the highest." Up to the birth of Jesus all had been disappointment in man. The creature had broken down under the best circumstances, and every attempt by any other means to correct it had brought either destruction to men or rebellion against God, growing worse and worse. The deluge had not mended the world, but simply destroyed men. The law had only aggravated the condition of man, provoking their sin into open transgression and sealing them up in condemnation.
*"Good pleasure in men": so ℵcorr LΔ and all later uncials, cursives. Syrrpesch hcl (sin.: "good will to"), Copt. Arm. Aeth., with Basil, Gregory, Naz., etc.; but Revv. with Edd. adopt "peace to men of good pleasure" after ℵpm Bpm AD, Old Lat. Vulg. Goth., with Iren. Origen (Jer.), Hill, etc. See, further, note 52 in Appendix.
But the birth of the Lord Jesus is at once the signal for the angels to sing [say], "Glory to God in the highest." It would not be merely "Glory to God below," but "in the highest," throughout the whole universe of God, and expressly in its highest places — glory to God at length, everywhere. On earth, where nothing but war had been against God, and with man, confusion, misery, and rebellion — "on earth, peace." Nothing less than this would ensue from the birth of the Messiah, though not all at once; but the heavenly host take in the magnificent issues of His birth who is Father of the age to come. (Isa. 9:6). That birth, too, was the expression that God's complacency is in men.52 There could not be a greater proof of God's good pleasure than this; for the Son of God did not become an angel but a man. He was God from all eternity, but He became man. This bore witness, irrefragable and evident to every one who reflects, to what an object of love men were to God. The heavenly host therefore only sing of these great outlines. They did not enter into detail; perhaps they did not know how any one was to be brought about. But the great fact was there before them; the Lord from heaven was this Babe, the object of contempt to man, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, perhaps as no other babe was. No wonder it drew out the loudest songs [praises] of the angels. They see God's glory in it; they see men thus the object of His infinite love and condescension; they anticipate peace for the earth, spite of all appearances, spite of Caesar Augustus or his decrees, spite of the Roman armies, those massive iron hammers that battered down the nations, the beast that trampled what it could not devour (Dan. 7:7) — spite of all this, "peace on earth." They looked at things as the scene for displaying in man (because the Son was now man) God's glory and grace; and they were right.
When the unwonted vision passed away, the shepherds said one to another, "Let us make our way53 now as far as Bethlehem and let us see this thing that is come to pass, which the LORD has made known to us. And they came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. And when they had seen [it], they made known about the country* the thing which had been said to them concerning this child. And all who heard [it] wondered at the things said to them by the shepherds."
*Edd. read simply "made known," after ℵBDLΞ, etc. AE, etc., have made known about the country (διεγνώρισαν)."
Thus, in their artless way, they acted upon what was made known to them, upon the report of the angels; and when they had proved its truth, they spread the news. They were anticipating thus far the way of grace. Tidings of such great goodness and joy could not be, ought not to be, confined to the breasts of those to whom it was first communicated. They made it known wherever they could. "But Mary kept all these things, pondering [them] in her heart."53a A deeper feeling, no doubt, wrought in her mind. The time was not come for the propagation of the Gospel which was in store: the basis for it was not even laid. But she who must needs have been intimately interested in the wonders that surrounded her — she weighed all, and treasured it all up in her heart. The shepherds, too, simple men, favoured as they had been of God, returned, glorifying and praising Him "for all things that they had heard and seen, as it had been said to them."
We now see the Lord Jesus under the law of Moses, as in the earlier verses, born of woman. For "when eight days were fulfilled for circumcising him,* his name was called Jesus, which was the name given by the angel before he had been conceived in the womb." This name refers both to His being Jehovah and a Saviour, as we are told in Matthew 1:21. Here the fact simply is mentioned. Nevertheless we have here beyond what we have in Matthew — the Jewish evidence of the poverty of the holy family, as we had before the contempt of man proved in the lowly circumstances in which the Lord was born (verse 7). "And when the days were fulfilled for their† purifying according to the law of Moses,54 they brought him to Jerusalem55 to present [him] to the LORD (as it is written in the law of [the] LORD: Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD, (Ex. 13:2, 12) and to offer a sacrifice, according to what is said in the law of the LORD, a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons." (Lev. 5:11). Now, we know from the Pentateuch that this sacrifice was a provision where the parents were extremely poor. Thus Luke preserves the two traits that we have noticed as the characteristics of his Gospel. First, there is the Evangelist showing that the Lord met Israel thoroughly according to the Divine ordinances — that He was presented in the strictest compliance with the law "to the Jew first."54 The next feature is the display of moral principles manifested in all that surrounded the Lord on His coming into the world, as well as His ways in it. To the poor the Gospel is preached; and the Lord did not preach the Gospel to the poor as One who was a rich and mighty and distinguished Patron, though entitled even as man to the highest place on earth. But though He was rich, the Lord Jesus tasted what it is to be poor (2 Cor. 8:9) and despised in all its reality. It was not as a benefactor, which is the way of the world; their great ones are called benefactors, when they spare of their bounty for the destitute. As it is said, "They that exercise authority over them are called benefactors. But ye [shall] not [be] thus." (Luke 22:25f.) And as we are commanded not to act thus, on the other hand Jesus was surely not so, but the very reverse. Infinitely above all, He nevertheless took His place with the least, with the most obscure and overlooked in the land: and this, as we see, from the very beginning of His earthly course.
*"Him so Edd. with ℵABL, etc., about 100 cursives (as 1), Old Lat. Amiat. Goth. Memph. "The child" is found in DE, etc., Syrr. Aeth.
†"Their": so Edd. after ℵABL and later uncials, most cursives, Syrr (except sin.) and versions in general, with Orig. "Her" (Lev. 12:4) of T.R., with Syrsin, has scarcely any MS. support.
But if there was no natural éclat but evident humiliation in the facts of our Lord's infancy, what was there not of moral glory! This again it was most suitable for Luke to notice, and he alone does so. "And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was just and pious, awaiting the consolation of Israel,56 and [the] Holy Spirit was upon him." The consolation of Israel was come; the Person who brought it in, and who would make it good in due time, was here. But, further, it was revealed to Simeon "by the Holy Spirit, that he should not see death before he should see [the] LORD'S Christ."57 These and the like revelations were vouchsafed before the canon of Scripture was complete. "And he came in the Spirit into the temple." It was a part of that same goodness of God, Who would give suitable witnesses, that this godly man came in at the very time when the parents brought in the infant Jesus to do for Him "according to the custom of the law." But he sees that there was in that babe One altogether above the law. In grace He might become subject to it, and His parents were, of course, right in paying every deference to its ordinances. But Simeon "received him into his arms, and blessed God, saying, Lord, now thou lettest thy bondman go according to thy word, in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation."57a The law of Moses never could give a sinful man to depart in peace — so to speak, it never ought. Peace must be, in order to be real and righteous, from the God who gave the law present in grace, present as man in this world, and present to suffer for sins, the Just for the unjust. And so He was, for such was Jesus. No wonder, then, that he whose eyes were touched with a better eyesalve than that of earth could see God and His salvation in the Babe — could say, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." It was not imagination, but sober faith; it was "according to thy word." It was not a mere craving desire, nor a sanguine hope. There is nothing so sure as the testimonies of God and His Word; and he had an intimation that he should not see death until he had seen the Anointed of Jehovah. But to depart in peace according to the Lord's Word was a matter of broader interest; it was for others who might not see the Babe. To him, however, it was pledged and performed. "For mine eyes have seen thy salvation." This was what kings and prophets had desired to see, and now Simeon saw it in the person of Jesus. And so, as it was grace of the most marked character in the favour shown to the aged Simeon, he enters more or less into the dealings of grace by the power of the Spirit of God. Thus he pursues it: ("Mine eyes have seen thy salvation), which thou hast prepared before the face of" — not now "all the (Jewish) people," but "all peoples." Again, it is "a light" not exactly "to lighten the Gentiles," but "for revelation of [the] Gentiles, and [the] glory of thy people Israel."58 To this godly man there was an intimation of the momentous change that was at hand. The salvation of God could not be restricted to one people; if God's salvation was upon earth it must at least in result be before all the nations; as St. Paul said, "The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." (Titus 2:11). That goes farther, no doubt, because it supposes the work done, as well as the person manifested; nevertheless the principle is the same, and it is here.
But further note, "a light for revelation of [the] Gentiles." This is an unusual expression and to be weighed. The Gentiles during God's dealings with Israel were in the dark. Those were the times of ignorance, and God winked at their ways. But now, says the apostle, He commands all men everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30). There is no excuse for ignorance longer. The Light shines, the true Light. Christ was that Light, and He is a Light for revelation of the Gentiles. This is the time during which Israel is blinded, and the long hidden Gentiles are revealed, brought out of the degradation in which they had hitherto lain.58 But when God has accomplished His work among the Gentiles, that which is added here will be made true, "and the glory of thy people Israel."58a This verse is very important as showing what was to ensue when Israel would reject the Messiah, and before they shall be brought in by and by. This is not the order that we find in the prophets. There the Lord, wherever He is presented as the Glory of Israel, is also seen as blessing the Gentiles subordinately to the chosen people. Here the reversed order is, I think, significant: "a light for revelation of [the] Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." The predicted and regular state of things will follow this exceptional period during which the Gentiles have been revealed. Nevertheless once God has brought the Gentiles into light, He never puts them back into darkness. But this will not hinder Him from bringing Israel to the highest pitch of earthly glory above all the Gentiles. Thus God's wisdom will secure that His goodness to the Gentiles shall never pass away, but at the same time He will accomplish His ancient and special promises to Israel. During the present dispensation these two things are necessarily separated. The Gentiles are being revealed now, and though hereafter they shall not cease to be revealed, Christ will be the glory of His people Israel. Now He is, as it were, their shame, or rather they are His; because they crucified Him, and they have not yet repented of their sin, but added to it their contempt of the Spirit's message of forgiveness on faith in the Gospel.
"And his father* and mother wondered at the things which were said concerning him. And Simeon blessed them." Now, too, he is given to supply the key to the fact that the glory of the people Israel should be postponed. He "said to Mary his mother, Lo, this [child] is set for the fall and rising up of many in Israel; and for a sign spoken against (and even a sword shall go through thine own soul), so that [the] thoughts may be revealed from many hearts." 58b The personal sorrow of Mary is alluded to, who is to be a witness of the crucifixion of her own Son. Luke always brings out these touches of human affection and sorrow. This is a part of his province, because he particularly portrays the Lord Jesus as a man; and in accordance with which he brings out the feelings of those so nearly connected with Him as His mother. The moral object and effect is added with equal propriety "that [the] thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
*"His father": so Edd., with ℵBDL Syrsin Amiat. Memph. Aeth. Arm. "Joseph" is in AE, etc., 33, 69, the other Syrr. most Old Lat. Goth.
Such is the issue of the rejection of Jesus. If men's hearts are set upon present glory and ease, the cross of Jesus scandalises them. If their hearts, on the contrary, are taught of God to feel the need of redemption through the blood of the Saviour, then the Cross of Christ is most welcome and sweet. If Divine love has value in our eyes, if the alienation of the world from God is strongly felt by our hearts, then the death of Christ will have its just place more or less. On the other hand, to self-righteousness, or self-will, or worldliness the Cross of Christ is just hateful and repulsive in the measure in which it is understood. Where there is the sense of need, where there is the teaching of God, where there is entrance into Divine love, where the world's position in His sight or the place of faithful testimony for God is appreciated, there the Cross rises in its value before our hearts. Thus the thoughts of many hearts are revealed, and by the Cross above all other tests.
God, however, brings in, besides Simeon, another witness, Anna the prophetess, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
As Simeon was said to be just and pious, so the Spirit loves to record a blessed account of this believing woman, Anna. If he, too, had the spirit of prophecy, so had she. "She was a widow up to* eighty-four years,59 who did not depart from the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers." The subjection of these godly ones in Israel to ordinances, or their submission to God according to the law, is carefully noted here. "And she coming up the same hour, gave praise to the LORD,† and spoke of him to all those who waited for redemption in‡59a Jerusalem." The present guidance of God is equally conspicuous in her case as in that of Simeon. There was then, as ever, a remnant according to the election of grace; and God took care that the testimony should reach those whose hearts were prepared for Jesus. Grace might and would in due time go out to the very vilest; but God first of all makes Him known to those whose hearts were already touched, waiting for Jesus. The moral wisdom of such ways seems to me equally apparent and admirable.
*"Up to": so Edd., following ℵABLΞ, 33, Amiat. Memph. "About" has the support of later uncials (EXΔ, etc.), as of most cursives, and Syrr (sin.: simply 84).
†"The Lord": so A and later uncials, with most cursives, nearly all Old Lat. Amiat. Syrr. Aeth. Arm. Edd. adopt "God," from ℵBDL, etc., Memph.
‡"In": so AD, etc.; but Edd. omit, after ℵBΞ, 1, Syrsin ("of").
Such is the presentation of the Lord as yet in Jewish circumstances, given by our Evangelist, though not without hints and predictions which look out to a larger vista of Divine goodness.
There was the full recognition of the law of the LORD, while the person of Jesus is brought before us with all evidence as the great manifestation of God's grace. This surprises some. They are apt to set law and grace in contradiction to each other. Now for this there is no just reason. It is true neither of the person of Christ nor of His work, any more than of those that are Christ's. In no case does law suffer through the grace of God, but on the contrary, it never receives so important a testimony either to its authority or to its use as through grace. Indeed, it is grace alone which accomplishes the law. Other people talk about it and employ it for their own importance; but in point of fact they weaken it, and even teach or allow in their doctrine that God mitigates it under the Gospel, instead of maintaining all its real authority. This is very strikingly shown in our Lord's case, but it is equally true both in the Cross and in Christianity. Hence in Romans 3 we read that through faith "we establish the law," because the believer rests upon the mighty work of Christ on the cross, which gave the most solemn sanction to the law that it ever received or could have. Faith beholds Jesus suffering the curse in all its depth and its bitterness; whereas, in the view I am opposing, God is conceived to depart from the rigour of the law in order to show mercy. The doctrine of the apostle shows, on the contrary, that Jesus underwent the extreme judgment of God for sin and bore all that God could display against our evil when imputed to Him. Therefore nothing but grace remains, so to speak, and becomes the portion of those who believe. Thus faith establishes the law, as legalism undermines it in order to let off the guilty. It is the same principle with the people of God. In Romans 8 it is written, "What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." (Rom. 8:3). It is not merely fulfilled in Him, but in the Christian; it was established in the Cross and it is fulfilled in us "who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit." The reason is because the new nature in the believer always loves the law of God and is subject to it, as nothing else is. This displays itself in the ways of the believer, in holiness, obedience, and love. For he who loves has fulfilled the law; as the apostle says elsewhere, "Love is the fulfilling of the law." (Rom. 13:10). Hence we find that in the case of Christ, who was the proper manifestation of God's grace, there was the fullest homage paid to the law; though personally His own title was above law, yet was He in grace made under law as truly as He was made of a woman, and this fittingly and righteously to accomplish redemption.
"And when they had completed all things according to the law of [the] LORD, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth."60 The law was owned in Jerusalem; grace takes its place among the insignificant and despised and outcast and good-for-nothing in the eyes of men: indeed, not only in Galilee but in a place proverbially obscure even there — Nazareth. What a wonderful witness of the way of Divine grace! People when they choose a place are apt to consider what pleases them most and will answer their interests best. What pleased God most and answered the interests of grace best was Nazareth. There His Son spent His earliest days. "And the child grew and waxed strong [in spirit],* filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him." How entirely independent of human culture,61 of anything that man could bring from without — this Child the Son of God, filled with wisdom; but as it is written, "the grace of God was upon him."
*["In spirit"]: so A and later uncials, most cursives (1, 33, 69) and Syrr. Aeth. Edd. omit, as ℵBDL Syrsin, most Old Lat., Amiat., etc.
"Now his parents went to Jerusalem* every year at the feast of the passover." It is this, their yearly visit to Jerusalem, which accounts for their being at Bethlehem when the Magi came up from the East. Certainly the arrival was not immediately after the Babe was born. It can hardly be doubted that it must have been on one of their regular subsequent visits, when they not only went up to Jerusalem, but, as we can understand, they turned aside to Bethlehem, which had now more than ever the deepest interest in their eyes, as the birthplace of the Child that had been given them — the Messiah. On the occasion of this visit, at least a year after His birth, the Magi came up and found the young Child with Mary His mother, and presented unto Him their gifts. And this accounts for the fact that, when Herod found it out, he ordered the children to be killed from two years and under. He would scarcely have done this, cruel man as he was, had the Child been just born; but because at least a year had passed or more, to make sure of his purpose, he orders all to be killed from two years old and under "according to the time which he had accurately inquired from the Magi." This causes at first sight a difficulty, because the Child is again seen in Bethlehem, whereas we are told that they lived at Nazareth. But there is really nothing to perplex the weakest believer. Luke supplies the link by telling us of the annual return to Jerusalem, while Matthew gives us the additional scene of the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem according to prophecy.62 Nothing would have been easier than, when they were at Jerusalem, to have turned southward to Bethany — nothing more natural than that they should revisit the scene of the most important event in their lives. Indeed, never had anything in interest approached the birth of Jesus since the world began. It was to be eclipsed, or at the least outshone, by the greater and altogether incomparable work of His cross. But this was not yet come.
*"To Jerusalem" is in AC and later uncials, most cursives, Old Lat., Amiat. Goth. Arm. Aeth. Edd. omit, after ℵBDL, Syrr. Memph.
We are next given to see that, when He was twelve years old, a remarkable illustration of His youthful days takes place.63 "When they had completed the days64 as they returned, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem; and his parents* knew not [of it]. … And not having found him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.† And it came to pass, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers and hearing them, and asking them questions" (verses 43, 45f). A more attractive sight morally there is nowhere even in God's Word. Just at the age when there is apt to be neither the simplicity of the child nor the exercised good sense of the man, we find Jesus thus engaged. Others of like age were, no doubt, bent upon their play, or the indulgence of curiosity in such a city, frittering away the most valuable time, that never can return, before the bustle of human life begins and the great struggle in which so many lose themselves continually. But Jesus was found lowly, and at the same time filled with wisdom, using the golden opportunity, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them (a proof of His humility), and asking them questions, a proof of His interest in the Scriptures. It was not enough that the Lord wakened His ear morning by morning to hear as the learned: it was not enough that He gave Him the tongue of the learned that He might know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. (Isa. 50:4). But here it is the ear and tongue of the learner in the use of the means at the command of any child in Israel. However taught of God He might be immediately, here He was none the less sitting in the midst of the doctors of Jerusalem, both hearing them and asking them questions. It was not teaching them, though perfectly competent and personally entitled to do so as the Son of God.
*Edd. adopt "His parents," following ℵBDL, 1, 33, Syrsin, Memph., etc. AC and later uncials, most cursives and Old Lat., the other Syrr. and Goth. have "Joseph and His mother."
†"Seeking Him": so ℵA, later uncials, and the cursives. Edd. adopt "seeking Him diligently," after BCDL.
No doubt His very questions were very instructive, such as never had been heard in this world before. Still, this beautiful picture displays the perfect propriety of the child Jesus. For though He was God, He was man; and not only man, but in this special stage of His manhood, as a youth, He shows all deference to those who were older than Himself. Had He acted upon right, He was the Lord of that temple, He might have taken up the word of Malachi, which bore witness to His coming there in power and glory. He might have claimed as Jehovah "suddenly [to] come to his temple: and who shall endure the day of his coming? And who shall stand when He appears? … He shall sit [as] a refiner and purifier of silver; and he will purify the children of Levi and purge them as gold and silver, that they shall offer unto Jehovah an oblation in righteousness." Mal. 3:1, 3. But no; He, the Master, is found there as the disciple of the Word of God, as one Who does not for Himself dispense with, but on the contrary, would seek the profit of that Word which was on the lips of these doctors. It was, after all, His Father's Word: so he hears them and asks them questions. "And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding, and answers." Thus His questions led to the manifestation of Divine truth; so yet more His answers, as is evident from this that they also put questions to Him.65
And when His parents "saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said to him, Child, why hast thou dealt thus with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee distressed. And he said to them,66 Why [is it] that ye have sought me? Did ye not know that I ought to be [occupied] in my Father's business?"66a Thus from early youth our Lord had the consciousness of being the Son of God above all earthly claims. But exactly as grace acknowledges the law, so the eternal Son acknowledges His human place as the child of Mary. He asserted and proved that He was really the Son of the Father in His own consciousness and that consequently He must be about His Father's business. It was not open to, or possible for, Him to set aside His Father's will. This was the first object before His heart. But spite of all this devotedness as Son of God, spite of His parents not understanding what He said, He comes down with them "to Nazareth and was in subjection to them," while His mother keeps all these* sayings, little understood, in her heart.
*So Weiss, with ℵcorr ACL, etc., Syrcorr, but Revv., as W.H., follow ℵpm: "the."
"And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and men." Thus we have this fresh notice of the Lord's growth outwardly as well as inwardly. How can we reconcile such intimations with His being God Himself, though man? Most evidently He was always perfect, but then He was the perfect Babe, and the perfect Youth, as we shall also find Him to be in due time the perfect Man. At any given moment He was absolutely perfect, and yet He grew. He advanced from a Babe to a Youth and from a Youth to a Man. And so it was, that, as He grew up, the perfection was in exact harmony with His growth, and proved itself to be so both to God and man. If the immaculate and holy Babe was precious in the sight of God, yet more as youth, and most of all the developed maturity of a man.
It is thus therefore that, while all was perfect and always so, still, that perfection admitted of progress; "and Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favour67 with God and men." But all this, we may observe, is in precise accordance with the spirit and design of our Evangelist, and, in fact, found in this Gospel alone.
Matt. 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8.
* Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 256-262.
The dates are given in Luke reckoning from the years of the Roman empire. Judea is but a province of it, the Herods are in power. All this was a very humiliating and significant circumstance for Israel — impossible if the people had been faithful to God. But God does not hide the shame of His people; on the contrary He makes it manifest by this very fact — He gives it a record in His own eternal Word, the Word that lives and abides for ever.
"Now, in the fifteenth year of the government of Tiberius Caesar,68 Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod Tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip Tetrarch of Ituraea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias Tetrarch of Abilene,69 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas."* We see from this that, although the high priests were there, yet even this holy office was affected strangely by the new circumstances of Israel. There was not one high priest but two;70 there was disorder that not only dislocated the people politically, but tainted their religious relations. However, God was faithful and His word "came upon71 John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness" — even in spite of these circumstances, but in the wilderness. It is no question of the city of the great King now, but of the wilderness; and John the Baptist's dwelling in the wilderness, and the Word of God coming upon him there, speak volumes as to the real state of the holy city. It was not to Zion that the Word of God came.
*"In the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas": so Edd. after ℵABCDEGHKL, etc., and most cursives. The plural "A. and C. being high priests" is confined to minuscules.
Accordingly, John "came into all the district round the Jordan,72 preaching [the] baptism of repentance for [the] remission of sins." Repentance was what characterised John's preaching; not but that repentance was and abides always a truth obligatory upon every sinful soul that comes to the knowledge of God. Under Christianity repentance, so far from being lessened in its character, is deepened: yet you could not say that it is characteristic of Christianity — faith is much more so. Hence in Galatians the apostle speaks of "when faith was come." (Gal. 3:23-25). "When repentance was come" would be no description of the new thing, whereas in John the Baptist's preaching it was the emphatic word that described the character of his message. John came therefore "preaching [the] baptism of repentance for [the] remission of sins." He had indeed a peculiar position. It was not law simply nor even prophets, though in truth he was the greatest of prophets; none had arisen greater than John the Baptist. But it was one who was the herald of the Messiah, Whom he proclaimed to be just at the doors — yea, in their midst, as he says — and in view of His immediate coming he calls men to repentance. It was the confession of utter failure with respect to the law and despising of the prophets, but it was also to confess their sins in view of One just coming Who could and would forgive their sins. He preached therefore "[the] baptism of repentance for [the] remission of sins." This was not arbitrary but of Divine authority. "He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizes with the Holy Ghost." He was really sent to baptize with water; but at the same time there was an intimation given to him that he should see the Spirit descending upon some special Individual — the Messiah; and that the Messiah should be a baptizer (not with water, but) with the Holy Ghost. This was his peculiar mission. Christ, and He alone, baptizes with the Holy Ghost, and this the Lord Jesus did when He went up to heaven. But John baptized upon earth with water. No doubt under Christianity baptism with water still continues and has a very important meaning, — I do not doubt a good deal deeper than John's. It is not merely baptism unto repentance that "they should believe on him which should come after him." But now baptism is founded on the faith of Him Who has already come and died; consequently, the great point of Christian baptism is burial (not into Christ's life, of course, but) into His death. John could not say this; he saw a living Christ, though he spoke by the Holy Ghost of His being "the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29). How far he entered into the meaning of what he said is another matter. We know for certain that when he was thrown into prison himself afterwards, he was somewhat offended or stumbled, and sent some of his disciples to ask, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" (Luke 7:19). It is clear therefore that he looked for a Christ in power to break the chains of the oppressed and to deliver the captives, as well as to preach the Gospel to the poor. But to see a Saviour despised and rejected more and more, and himself, His forerunner, languishing in a prison, these were altogether new and strange thoughts to John the Baptist. Nevertheless God had taken care that his lips should proclaim the mighty work of Christ in both its parts, as the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world, and as the One Who baptizes with the Holy Ghost.
Now we have John the Baptist acting here according to Isaiah the prophet. "Voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." Only the Spirit of God in Luke takes care to give it the utmost breadth. "Every gorge shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked [places] shall become straight [paths], and the rough places smooth ways. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God."73 (Isa. 40:3-5). We have not this elsewhere. In Matthew, Mark, and John the quotation stops short of this. But Luke, though he begins with the Jew, does not end with him; but very decidedly goes out to all the nations. Hence expressions that would add largeness and comprehensiveness are particularly added by the Spirit here.
But another peculiarity of Luke is exemplified here also. There is not only exceeding breadth given to the ways of God, but also the Word of God in its moral power is continually enforced. So when John the Baptist speaks to the multitudes that come to be baptized of him, he warns them, as the other Evangelists do also, to flee from the wrath to come, and not to presume upon their privileges of birth, saying, "We have Abraham for [our] father74; for I say to you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham." Moreover, already "the axe is applied to the root of the trees"; judgment was at the door; — "every tree therefore not producing good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire." This process was what was now going on. So far we have what is common to Luke with Matthew. But we have afterwards what is peculiar. "And the crowds asked him, saying, What should we do then?" And then we have John the Baptist's detailed exhortation to different classes of men. "He answering says* to them, He that has two coats let him give to him that has none; and he that has food let him do likewise." Although John called to repentance, it is a poor and superficial sorrow for sins that simply owns the past and judges, however strongly, the evil that has hitherto broken out in our ways. John lays down suitable conduct for those who professed to repent. God was acting Himself for His own glory in the spirit of this same grace. Repentance prepares the way for grace; it is produced by grace, of course, but at the same time it leads into a path of grace.
*"Says" is the reading of AD., etc., whilst ℵBCpm LX, 1, 33, 69, have "said," which Edd. (Revv.) adopt. Blass, however, retains λέγει.
So also when the tax-gatherers came to be baptized, instead of dismissing them contemptuously as a mere Jew would have done, he answers their question, "Master what should we do? And he said to them, Take no more [money] than what is appointed to you." Notoriously they were extortioners, their rapacity was proverbial; they plundered the people of whom they were the official tax-gatherers. The soldiers similarly "asked him, saying, And we, what should we do? And he said to them, Oppress no one, nor accuse falsely; and be content with your pay."74a It is clear that here we are warned against violence and corruption, the two great features of men left to themselves. But, besides, contentedness with their pay is pressed upon them. It is remarkable how much the spirit of contentment has to do not only with the happiness of a soul but with its holiness. There is scarcely another thing that so tends to disturb our relationship with God and man as discontent. It makes an individual ripe for any evil. It helps, on a great scale, to the revolutions of nations and other social ruptures. On a smaller scale, it subverts the equilibrium of families and the right attitude of individuals as nothing else can. So we read of "unthankful, unholy" classed together by the Spirit of God. We also find unthankfulness mentioned as leading into idolatry. The Gentiles not only did not glorify God as God, but they were unthankful, and they fell into all kinds of moral depravity. There is nothing more important than to cherish a thankfulness of heart, sanctifying the Lord God in our hearts, having confidence in His goodness, and also in the certainty that He has given to ourselves individually exactly the thing that is best for us. But the only way to be thus content, whatever may be our lot, is to look at God as dealing with us in Christ for eternity.
There is thus, under the most homely words of John the Baptist, real moral wisdom from God suitable to men's circumstances here below. We have not here heavenly things; these are the fruit of Christ's redemption. Nevertheless, the sketch that is given us of John the Baptist's teaching, is eminently practical, and suited to deal with the conscience and heart. And we shall find this to be always true as we advance further in our Gospel.
Matt. 3:11-12; John 1:10ff.
John the Baptist's appearance in Israel at this moment struck them the more, because, in consequence of Daniel's famous prophecy of the seventy weeks, and it may be other scriptures, they were at that very time waiting for the Messiah. The expectation was general over the East, no doubt through the Jews who were scattered abroad. Therefore a man so distinguished as John the Baptist was for righteousness raised the question whether he were the Christ75 or not. But his answer was always distinct. He pointed to the fact of his own baptizing with water. This was peculiar to him and a sign to Israel. But even his (if I may so say) coming by water gave him the opportunity of contrasting One Who had come after a far different sort, even looking at power, not to speak of blood. Jesus "came by water and blood." (1 John 5:6). The point, however, that John contrasted with the water is His baptizing with the Holy Ghost. It was a Person infinitely greater than himself, One Whose dignity was such that the tie of His sandals he was not worthy to unloose; One not only mightier and more dignified, but Who would be distinguished by baptizing with the Holy Ghost and with fire — baptizing with the Holy Ghost as the fruit of His first advent, and baptizing with fire as the accompaniment of the second. When the Lord Jesus comes again, He will baptize with fire; He will execute the solemn judgment of God upon the world. Baptizing with the Holy Ghost is what makes the Church (that is, God's present assembly) separate from the Jew even.
The Acts of the Apostles may serve to make this particularly plain. When the disciples were with the Lord after His resurrection, He spoke to them of the things concerning the kingdom, besides giving them many infallible proofs of His own life in resurrection after His suffering. Among the rest, He told them that they were not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father. The Lord therefore distinguished John's from His own mission by this. He baptized with the Holy Ghost, John only with water. Accordingly not many days after this, on the day of Pentecost, the baptism of the Holy Ghost became a fact. The Lord shed forth what was then seen and heard: the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they were thus baptized (as Paul afterwards taught — into one body; that is, the Church). Of the baptism with fire, you will observe, the Lord does not speak one word. The reason is that this was not to be accomplished then. When John is looking onwards, he sees both, but when Christ had actually suffered on the cross, He announces the one and not the other. Baptism with fire will take place when the Lord will be revealed from heaven "in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thess. 1:7 f.) This is plain from verse 17: "Whose winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge* his threshing floor, and will gather† the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable." This is the baptism with fire.76 "Exhorting them many other things also, he announced [his] glad tidings to the people."
*"And he will thoroughly purge": so ACDL, all later uncials, every cursive, and Amiat.— Edd. adopt "thoroughly to purge," after ℵpm B, Memph. Arm.
†"Will gather": so ACDL, later uncials, cursives, etc.; but Edd. "to gather," with AB, Old Lat., Arm.
Then we have in Luke's remarkable manner a compendious description of John up to his imprisonment. "But Herod the Tetrarch being reproved by him as to Herodias the wife of his brother,* and as to all the wicked things which Herod had done, added this also to all [the rest], that he shut up John in prison." The object is to present a full picture of John77; and hence Luke does not adhere to mere time any more than Matthew does. Whatever adds to the moral description is Luke's province. John was faithful not only to the lower classes, but also to the highest. His testimony to Christ was decisive, making nothing of his own glory in order to exalt the Lord; and he suffered for it too; he was shut up in prison because of righteousness.
*"His brother": so Edd., after ℵBDELΞ and Old Lat. — ACK and later uncials, with 33, Syrr. Memph. add "Philip."
Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11.
And now the door is open for presenting Jesus. And it came to pass "all the people having been baptized, and Jesus having been baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened." How lovely the picture! The Lord, perfect as He was, did not keep Himself aloof from the people. Morally separate from sinners, nevertheless their confession of sin, which was implied in their baptism, attracted the Lord's heart, and He would be with them, though Himself absolutely sinless. The Holy Jesus also being baptized, and praying — so thoroughly was He found taking His place as the dependent Man upon earth, and while He was praying — the heavens were opened "and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I have found my delight."78 The heavens had never opened before, except in judgment when Ezekiel had seen them. But there was an object upon earth that even God could look upon with delight. There was none in heaven that was adequate to draw out and fix the attention of God; nothing could solicit His complacency: a creature could not, but Jesus, because He was not only God but perfect man, was precisely what met the love of God — of His heart. It was God's delight to look down and see a Man Who could answer to all His affections and nature and mind and judgment about everything. This is beautiful, and shows what the grace of God is in connection with His being baptized when all the people were. Man as such knows nothing of the mind of God. As the heavens are high above the earth, so are His thoughts higher than our thoughts; and the heavens now answer to Jesus on the earth, and the Holy Ghost descends upon Him.
From the very first the Holy Ghost had to do with Jesus as man; we were told so in the first chapter, where it was said (when Mary inquired how she was to be the mother of a child) that the Holy Ghost should come upon her. But Jesus was much more than thus conceived of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost descended upon Him. This is what is called by Luke, in Acts 10:38, His anointing of God: "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power." The anointing of the Holy Ghost was not to counteract the evil of human nature — this was already secured by His miraculous conception. There was no taint of evil whatever in the humanity of Christ; all was perfectly pure, there being a total absence of sin, sin in nature as well as in act. But now there was more than this; there was the Spirit of God poured upon Him. Him God the Father sealed, and this when He was baptized, before He entered upon His public service. It was the expression of God's perfect delight in Him, and it was also power for service. He alone of all men needed no blood to fit Him, as it were, to be anointed with the Holy oil. I speak now after the language of Exodus and Leviticus. (Ex. 29:21, Lev. 8:23f.) Others of His people would receive the Holy Ghost, but this only in virtue of blood, His atoning blood being put upon them. Where the blood was put, the oil could be. But Jesus as man receives the Holy Ghost without blood shed or sprinkled. The Holy Ghost descended upon Him in a bodily shape like a dove. I do not doubt that the outward form of the Spirit's descent was in relation to the character of Christ, just as the cloven tongues as of fire were in relation to the place and work of the disciples on the day of Pentecost. It was not merely a tongue, but a divided tongue, showing that God was now going out to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews. It was a tongue of fire, whatever the grace; it was in the Divine judgment of all evil. But in Christ's case there is neither of these characteristics. In bodily shape the Spirit came down like a dove, the emblem of what is proverbially pure and gentle to the last degree. "Holy, harmless, undefiled," (Heb. 7:26) such was Christ.
But more than this the voice came from heaven which said, "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I have found my delight." This voice is of all importance too. It is manifested that Jesus was the delight of God as man, not merely in consequence of a work that was going to be done; it was the Person Who was owned, and His Person too after He had identified Himself with the people who were baptized. They must not mistake nor misinterpret His baptism; it was the baptism of repentance for them, but thoroughly in grace for Him. He had nothing to own. He was about to enter upon a great work, but baptism was in no way the expression of need on His part, nor to fit Him for what He was entering upon. "Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased" — not only I am, but I have been well pleased, "have found my delight." It is retrospective, and not present merely.
Then we have in a very remarkable manner the genealogy of Jesus introduced.79 It ought to strike any thoughtful mind that the Spirit of God must have sufficient reason for introducing it here. The natural place we might think for such an account of our Lord's ancestry would be when He was born, or even before His birth, as we have had one in Matthew. A Jew would require it there, and has it there in the first Gospel; but here it is introduced when He is baptized. The reason is just this, that the genealogy here is brought in, not so much to show whence Jesus was naturally or rather legally, to meet the difficulties of a Jew, and to prove He was truly the Messiah according to the flesh, but to bring out the Person of Jesus on the human side as the Father had just owned Him on the Divine. Accordingly, the genealogy is very peculiar in this — that it traces him up to Adam and to God. Why so? Clearly this has nothing to do with His being the Messiah; but it is expressly to manifest One Whose heart was toward the whole human race. It is the genealogy of grace, as Matthew's is of law. It is not one traced down from the two great fountains of blessing for Israel, Abraham, and David, the stock of promise and the line of royalty. Here it is tracing Him up; this wonderful Person owned as the Son of God, Who is He? So the Spirit of God deigns to show that He was, as it was supposed (He was legitimately counted), the son of Joseph. This implies that the writer of the Gospel was perfectly aware that He was not a mere man, that He was not Joseph's son except before the eyes of men. I presume that the genealogy was really Mary's, but (Mary being Joseph's wife) He could be "as was supposed, the son of Joseph," and so on. This will accord with the character of the Gospel, because the Lord Jesus was not a man in virtue of His connection with Joseph, but with Mary. The reality of His manhood depended on His being the son of Mary; nevertheless He was, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, which was of Heli. Heli, as I take it, was the father of Mary; hence the genealogy here traces Him through Nathan to David; this was His mother's line, as it appears to me. In Matthew He is derived through Solomon, which was Joseph's line. Therefore, as the law required, it was the father who gave Him His title, and thus He had a strict legal title to the throne of David. The great point in the Jewish system was the father. Thus Matthew gives us Joseph's royal genealogy; but Luke furnishes the maternal line through Mary. This indeed was the real one for Christ's humanity; and the object of Luke was to attest the grace of God displayed in the Man Christ Jesus. The humanity of Christ has the largest place throughout this Gospel.
Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 262-270.
In none of the Synoptic Gospels has the temptation a weightier place than here. Matthew confronts the Messiah with the great enemy of God's people; and, giving the three closing acts just as they took place, reports them as they illustrate dispensation, and the great impending change, which is emphatically his theme. Mark notes the fact in its due time, and the devotedness of the blessed Servant of God thus tempted of the devil in the wilderness, with none but the wild beasts near, till at its close, as we know also from Matthew, angels came and ministered to Him. John characteristically omits the circumstance altogether; for it clearly attached to His being found in fashion as a man (when He emptied Himself, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men), and not to His being God. To Luke it was of capital moment; and the Spirit, as we shall see, saw fit to arrange the order of its parts so as the better to carry out the design by our Evangelist.
Here is noted the transition from Jordan of Jesus, "full of the Holy Ghost" (verse 1). It might not at first sight appear to be a likely path; but the more one reflects, the more one may see its wisdom and suitability. He was just baptized, sealed of the Spirit, and, above all, owned by the Father as His beloved Son, forthwith led in the Spirit in the wilderness; and there He was forty days tempted of the devil.80 The principle is true of us too. Sons of God by the faith of Jesus, and consciously so by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, we too know what it is to be tempted by the devil. Temptation is hardly the way in which the devil deals with his children; but when we are delivered, such conflicts begin.
The first in order, and this in Matthew too, is the appeal to natural wants. "And in those days he did not eat anything; and when they were finished, he hungered.* And the devil said to him, If thou be Son of God, speak to this stone that it become bread."81 The Lord at once takes the lowliest ground, really the most elevated morally, that the sustenance of nature is not the first consideration, but living by the Word of God. He waits for a word from Him Whose will He was come to do. He refuses even in His hunger to take a single step in the way of satisfying His sinless wants without Divine direction. The true and only right place of man is dependence; and He having become a man, would not swerve from the dependence which referred to God instead of following wishes of His own: indeed, His will was to do God's will. "And Jesus answered unto him, saying, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, (Deut. 8:3) but by every word of God"†81a (verse 4). Such was the true estate of man, and his right relation to God; and Jesus therein abode, in circumstances of the greatest trial, the bright contrast of the first Adam, who left it where all circumstances were in his favour.
* Before "hungered," AE, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrr., etc., put "afterwards, which Edd. omit, with ℵBDL and Old Lat.
†"But by every word of God": so AD, etc., and all later uncials with cursives, Goth., most Syrr. Rejected by Edd. following ℵBL, Syrsin, Amiat., Sahid., Memph. (from Matthew).
Historically Israel were so tried and failed totally, spite of that constant lesson in the daily manna of their dependence on God and of His unfailing care of them. They hardened their hearts, not hearing His voice; so that forty years long Jehovah was grieved with that generation, and said, "It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways." (Ps. 95:10). But the heart of Jesus was toward His Father, and He, with the full power of the Spirit, refused to supply even the most legitimate wants of the body, save in obedience. "My meat," as He said later, "is to do the will of him that sent Me." (John 4:34.)
The next here (the third in Matthew, and, as I believe, in the order of occurrence) is the worldly appeal. "And [the devil]* leading him up into a high mountain,† showed him all the kingdoms of the habitable world in a moment of time. And the devil said to him, I will give thee all this power, and the glory, for it is given up to me,82 and to whomsoever will I give it. If, therefore, thou wilt do homage before me, all‡ shall be thine. And Jesus answering him said, It is written, Thou shalt do homage to the Lord thy God, and him alone shalt thou serve" (verses 5-8). (Deut. 6:13). The best authenticated text leaves out of the Lord's answer to the devil "Get thee behind me, Satan; for."§ And a little reflection shows that, as the external authority demands this omission, so it seems necessarily to follow from the change of order in which Luke was, I doubt not, guided of God. For the vulgarly received text would give the strange appearance that the Lord told the adversary to get behind or go away, while Satan is represented as staying where he was and tempting the Lord after a new sort. Omit these words, and all flows on in exact connection with the context. Internal evidence is thus in harmony with the external.
*["The devil"]: so AE, etc., Amiat., Syrr. (sin.: "Satan"); but omitted by Edd., after ℵBDL, 1.
†"Into a high mountain": as AD and later uncials, all cursives, Syrr. Goth.; but Edd. omit, following ℵBL, Amiat., etc. (from Matthew).
‡"All": so Edd. after ℵABDLΔΞ, most cursives (1, 33, 69), Syrr. Memph. "All things" is found in only a few minuscules, and in Amiat.
§"Get thee behind me, Satan," in T. R. after "him" is supported only by A with later uncials, most cursives. Edd. follow ℵBDLΞ, 1, 33, etc.; and the same authorities with Amiat. omit "for."
In Matthew where the words occur in the third place,83 as in fact it was so, the command to get hence is followed by the devil leaving Him. Thus all is as it should be. In Luke where the transposition occurs, the necessity for omitting the clause is evident; and so it was.
The Lord rebuts the worldly temptations by insisting, according to the written Word, on worshipping the Lord God and serving only Him. Homage to Satan is incompatible with the service of God.
Lastly comes the religious trial. "And he led him to, Jerusalem,84 and set him on the edge of the temple,85 and said to him, If thou be Son of God, cast thyself down hence, for it is written, He shall give charge to his angels concerning thee to keep thee; and on their hands they shall bear thee up, lest in any wise thou strike thy foot against a stone. (Ps. 91:11f). And Jesus answering said to him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt [the] LORD thy God" (verses 9-12) (Deut. 6:16). Here the devil would separate the way from the end, omitting this part of the psalm which he cites. The Lord replies with the saying in Scripture, "Thou shalt not tempt the LORD thy God." To trust Him and count on His gracious ways is not to tempt. The Israelites tempted Jehovah by questioning whether He was in their midst or not; they ought to have reckoned on His presence, and succour, and care. Jesus did not need to prove the faithfulness of God to His own Word; He was sure of it and counted on it. He knew that Jehovah would give His angels charge over Him, and this not outside, but to keep Him in all His ways. Thus foiled in his misuse of Scripture, as everywhere else, the enemy could do no more then. "And the devil having completed every temptation, departed from him for a time."86 Jesus, the Son of God, was victorious, and this in obedience, by the right use of the written Word of God.
It is important to notice that the temptation in the wilderness preceded the active public life of the Lord, as Gethsemane preceded His death in atonement for our sins. It is an utterly false notion that this defeat of Satan in the wilderness was the basis of our redemption. Such, I believe, is Milton's view in his "Paradise Regained." But this theory makes victory to be the means of our deliverance from God instead of suffering, and gives consequently the all-importance to living energy, rather than to God's infinite moral or judicial dealing with our sins on the cross; it puts life in the place of death, and shuts out or ignores expiation. The real object and connection of the temptation is manifest, when we consider that it is the prelude to the Lord's public life here below, in which He was continually acting on His victory over Satan. When the enemy came again at Gethsemane, it was to turn the Lord aside through the terror of death, and specially of such a death as His on the cross. In the wilderness, and on the mountain, and on the pinnacle of the temple (for there were three different sites and circumstances of this temptation) it was to draw Him away from the path of God by the desirable things of the world.
But however this may be, Jesus now returns in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: "and a rumour went out into the whole surrounding country about him. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all."87 This is the general description, I apprehend; but the Spirit of God singles out a very special circumstance which illustrates our Lord in the great design of this Gospel. It is peculiar to Luke.88 "He came to Nazareth [Nazara], where he was brought up: and he entered, according to his custom, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read.89 And the book of the prophet Esaias was given to him. And having unrolled the book, he found the place where it was written." It was, in fact, the beginning of Isaiah 61.90 This is the more remarkable because the connection of the prophecy is the total ruin of Israel, and the introduction of the kingdom of God and His glory when judgment takes its course. Yet in the midst of this these verses describe our Lord in the fulness of grace. There is no prophet so evangelical, according to ordinary language, as Isaiah; and in Isaiah there is no portion perhaps of the whole prophecy that so breathes the spirit of the Gospel as these very verses. Now what can be more striking than that this should be read on that occasion by Christ, and that the Spirit of God gives Luke alone to record it? Our Lord takes the book and reads, stopping precisely at the point where mercy terminates. It is the description of His grace in ministry; it is not so much His Person as His devoted life, His work, His ways on earth. In fact, it is pretty much what we have in Acts 10: "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him." Immediately after in the prophecy follows "the day of vengeance of our God." But our Lord does not read these words. Is not this, too, extremely remarkable, that our Lord should stop in the middle of a verse, and read what describes His grace and not what touches on His judgment? Why is this? Because He is come only in grace now. By and by He will come in judgment, and then the other verses of the prophecy will be accomplished. Then it will be both the year of His redeemed when He will bless them, and the day of vengeance when He will execute judgment upon their enemies.
Meanwhile, all that He was about to do in Israel for the present was only gracious activity in the power of the Spirit. To this accordingly God had anointed Him — "to preach glad tidings to [the] poor; he has sent me [to heal the broken-hearted],* to preach to captives deliverance, and to [the] blind sight, to send forth [the] crushed delivered" — and this is what He was to preach — "[the] acceptable year of [the] LORD."91 "And he rolled up the book." Now nothing, it is plain, can more aptly suit the object of the Spirit of God in Luke, who is the only writer inspired to record this. All through the Gospel, this is what He is doing. It is the activity of grace among men's misery and sins and need.92 By and by He will tread the winepress alone, He will expend the fury of the Lord upon His adversaries; but now it is unmingled mercy. Such was Jesus upon the earth, and so Luke describes Him throughout. No wonder therefore that He closed the book. This was all that was needful or true to say about Him now; the rest will be proved in its own time. The judgment of God in the second advent is as true as the grace of God that He has been showing in the first advent.
*Before "to preach deliverance," A, with all later uncials and most cursives, Goth. Syrrpesch hcl hier has the words bracketed, which Edd. reject, after ℵBDLΞ, 33, 69, Syrsin Old Lat. and Amiat., Origen, etc.
Another thing, too, is remarkable and proved by this. It is that the whole state of things since Christ was upon the earth till the second advent is a parenthesis. It is not the accomplishment of prophecy, but the revelation of the mystery that was hid in God that is now brought to view. Prophecy shows us Christ's first and second advents together; but what is between the two advents is filled up by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, Who is forming the Church wherein there is neither Jew nor Gentile. Prophecy always supposes Jew and Gentile. The Church is founded upon the blotting out of this distinction for the time being. It is during the period when Israel does not own the Messiah, which stretches over all the interval between the two advents of Christ, that this new and heavenly work proceeds.
The Lord therefore stopped dead short, and closed the book. When He comes again, He will, as it were, open the book where He left off.92a Meanwhile, His action was exclusively in grace. The Lord draws their particular attention to this; for when He returns the book to the officer who has it in charge, He sits down. People were all gazing at Him in wonder. He tells them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your ears."
But unbelief at once betrays itself. "Is not this the son of Joseph?" They could not deny the grace,93 but they contemn His person: "He was despised and rejected of men." In point of fact, unbelief is always blind; He was not Joseph's son,94 except legally — He was God's Son. "And he said to them, Ye will surely say to me this parable, Physician, heal thyself:95 whatsoever we have heard has taken place in* Capernaum, do here also in thine own country." His answer to their thought was, that "No prophet is acceptable in his [own] country."96 Nevertheless grace shines out all the more because Christ was rejected. It is remarkable that He does not vindicate Himself by power; He does not work any miracles to make good the rights of His own person, but appeals to the Word of God, the Old Testament Scriptures, for what suited the present time. "Of a truth, I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months,97 so that a great famine came upon all the land; and to none of them was Elias sent, but to Sarepta of Sidon,† to a woman [that was] a widow." Grace, therefore, when Israel rejects (and they were doing so now), goes out to the Gentiles. Sidon was under the special judgment of God, and there was a widow there, reft of all human resources, and she was the one to whom God sent His prophet in the days of deep distress. When Israel themselves were suffering from a terrible famine, God opened stores for the desolate woman in Sidon. Thus grace goes outside His guilty people. So, too, in the time of Elisha the prophet. Many lepers were in Israel, "and none of them was cleansed, but Naaman the Syrian." Grace is sovereign, and in the days of Jewish unbelief Gentiles are blessed. This Scripture showed; and how beautiful this was and in keeping with Luke! It paves the way for the going forth of the Gospel. When Israel rejected the Lord Jesus, the grace of God must work among the Gentiles, among those who least expect and deserve mercy. How did the men of Nazareth relish this? They were "filled with rage, and rising up, they cast him forth out of the city, and led him up to the brow of the mountain upon which their city was built, so that they might‡ throw him down the precipice." This is the expression of the hatred which follows rejection of grace. When self-righteous men are convicted of wrong without feeling their guilt against God, there are no bounds to their resentment; and the enmity of their hearts is most of all against Jesus.
*T. R. for "in" has ἐν, with AE, etc., and most cursives. Edd. adopt εἰς, which may be "to" or "for" (R.V. "at"), but is probably a colloquial substitute for ἐν, as in verse 44. The critical text is that of ℵBDL, 69.
†"Of Sidonia"; so ℵABCDL, etc., 1, 69, Old Lat., Memph. "Sidon" appears in EΔ, etc., Syrr.
‡"So that they might," as Edd. after ℵBDL, etc., 1, 33, 69. Memph., in place of "in order to," the reading of AC, etc.
The result of the Lord's first appearance at Nazareth in the synagogue was that, though He Himself characterized His ministry from the Word of God, or rather the Spirit of God had already anticipated it as He then openly proclaimed it, as being the ministry of grace, by reading this scripture and declaring that it was that day fulfilled in their ears, man soon turns from it in anger and dislike. Attracted at first, he revolted from it afterwards, because grace both tells out the ruin of man, and always insists on going out wherever there is need and misery. Nevertheless, the Lord did not make it plainly known that grace should go out to the Gentiles till their rejection of Himself began to manifest itself. And now the same men who were so smitten with the charm of grace at first were ready to turn upon Him and cast Him down headlong from "the brow of the mountain upon which their city was built. But he, passing through the midst of them, went his way."98 His time was not yet come.
He "came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee,101 and taught them on the Sabbaths. And they were astonished at his doctrine; for his word was with authority."102 This was what Jesus showed. It was not first miracles and then glory, but the truth of God. The Word, not a miracle, forms a connecting link between the soul and God; no miracle can do this — nothing but the Word of God. For the Word addresses itself to faith, while a miracle is done as a sign to unbelief. But as God produces faith by the Word, so He also nourishes it by the Word. This proves the immense value of the Word of God; and Christ's word was with authority.
"And there was in the synagogue a man having a spirit of an unclean demon."103 This is the first great work that is recorded in Luke. Our Lord seems already to have done mighty deeds in Capernaum (that is, in this very place) before He went to Nazareth: but Luke begins with Nazareth, in order to characterise His ministry by that wonderful description in the Word of God which opens out grace to man. Now we find Him in Capernaum, and the first miracle recorded of Him here, whilst He was teaching in the synagogue, was the cure of a man possessed with a spirit of an unclean demon which had the consciousness of the power of Jesus. For the demoniac cried out, "Eh! what have we to do with thee, Jesus, Nazarene?104 Hast thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy [One] of God." It is remarkable here and elsewhere, the "I" and the "we" — the man himself, and yet the identification with the evil spirit. Moreover, this possessed man says, "I know thee who thou art; the Holy [One] of God." This appears to be the same character in which Psalm 89 speaks of Christ, where it says, "Jehovah is our shield; and the Holy One of Israel our King" (verse 18). It is a psalm full of interest because the Holy One there is the sole groundwork of the hopes of the people, as well as the stay of the house of David, otherwise ruined. It is just the same thing in our Gospel, save that Luke goes out more widely. The point of Psalm 89 is that every hope depends on Him. Israel have come to nothing; the glory has waned, and at length departed; the throne is cast down to the ground. But then He is the King, and therefore it is perfectly secured.
The shame of God's servants shall be removed, and their enemies shall surely be put to perpetual reproach, after the downfall of their pride, and all the painful discipline that the people of Israel shall pass through.
Here the unclean spirit prompts the man to acknowledge Jesus as this Holy One. But He refused such testimony; He did not even receive the witness of men, how much less of demons! "Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out from him. And the demon, having thrown him down105 into the midst, came out from him without doing him any injury. And astonishment106 came upon all, and they spoke to one another, saying, What word [is] this! for with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out. And a rumour went out into every place of the country round concerning him." He has thus shown that the power of Christ must first put down Satan (but not without a certain allowed humiliation for man); that this is the chief evil which pollutes and oppresses the world; and that until the day Satan's power is expelled it is no good to expect full deliverance. We must go to the source of the mischief. This, therefore, is the earliest of the miracles of Christ brought before us by Luke.107
Matt. 8:14-17; Mark 1:29-39.
But then there is also compassion — deep and effectual pity for men. So our Lord, when He leaves the synagogue, goes into the house of Simon.108 "And Simon's wife's mother was suffering108a under a great109 fever, and they besought him for her. And, standing over her, he rebuked the fever, and it left her; and immediately standing up, she served them." Not only was there power to dismiss the disease with a word, but there was, contrary to all nature, strength communicated to her. A "great" fever leaves a person, even when it is gone, exceedingly weak, and a considerable time must elapse before usual vigour returns. But in this case, as the healing was the fruit of Divine power, Peter's wife's mother not only arose, but served them immediately.
The same evening, "when the sun went down, all they that had persons sick with divers diseases brought them to him; and having laid his hands on every one110 of them, he healed them." It made no difference. It was not only that He could cure the fever, but He could cure everything. "He laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them." Another thing to be noticed is the manner of it, the tenderness of feeling — He laid His hands on them. This was in no way necessary; a word would have been enough, and the Lord often employed nothing more than a word. But here He shows His human compassion — He laid His hands upon them and healed them. Demons also came out of many, but we find Him here keeping up the testimony to man of the power that Satan had in the world. There are few things more injurious to men than forgetfulness of the power of Satan. At the present time there is exceeding unbelief on the subject. It is regarded as one of the obsolete delusions of the past. But we find most clearly demons going out of many, not in any one peculiar case, "crying out, and saying, Thou art the Son* of God." These acknowledge the Lord, not as the Holy One of Psalm 89, but as the Anointed One, the Son of God, of Psalm 2. He was the King of Israel in both cases. But the Lord accepted not their testimony in any instance. He really was the Holy One and the Son of God, but it was from God that He took His title, and recognition by the demons He refuses. "They knew that He was the Christ."111 What a solemn thing to find that man is even more obdurate than Satan! for the demons were more willing to acknowledge Jesus than the men even who were delivered here from the demons, and who were healed of all their diseases. Man for whom Jesus came! What a proof of the incurable unbelief of man, and the certain ruin of those who refuse the Son of God! Devils believe and tremble. Man, even when he does believe with his natural heart, does not tremble. He may believe, but he is insensible in his belief. Can such faith save him? The only faith that is good for anything is that which brings the sinner in his need and ruin before God, and which sees God in infinite mercy giving His Son to die for him. Anything short of this ends in destruction; and so far from natural faith bettering a man, it only brings out his evil, and turns to corruption the more speedily. It is a kind of complimenting the Son of God, instead of a lowly and a true owning of man's own condition and God's grace.
*"The Son": so Edd., after ℵBCDLΞ, 33, Old Lat., Amiat., Memph., Arm. A and later uncials, as most cursives, Syrr. Aeth. Goth. add "the Christ" before "the Son."
But there is another thing which this chapter brings before us — namely, that our Lord departed112 when it was day "into a desert place; and the crowds sought after* him, and came up to him, and [would have] kept him back113 that he should not go from them. But he said to them, I must needs announce the glad tidings of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for for this I have been† sent forth. And he was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee."‡114 The great object of the coming of Christ was to preach God's kingdom;115 it was bringing God and God's power before men — God's power visiting man in mercy. No healing of diseases or expulsion of demons could satisfy the Lord. And when He had by His miracles attracted attention in any place, it was the more reason for His going to another. He did not seek His own fame; another should come in his own name who would. But for our Lord Jesus to attract a name was a reason for departure, not for staying.
*"Sought after": so Edd., following ℵABCD, etc., 1, 33, 69. EG and some later uncials have simply "sought."
†"I have been [I was]": so ℵABCDLΧ, 1, 33, 69. AE and some later uncials have "I am."
‡"Galilee" (Cf. Mark 1:39): so Blass, with ADΧΓΑΠ, etc., Old Lat., Goth., Syrrpesch hcl. Other Edd. adopt "Judea," after ℵBCLQR, a few cursives, Syrsin, Memph. See further in Appendix, note114.
Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 271-274.
It will be remarked that the account of the call of Simon and of the rest of his companions, at the Lake of Gennesaret, is given not only more fully in Luke than in any other Evangelist, but in a totally different connection. In Matthew and Mark we find it mentioned immediately after our Lord began to preach, when John was reported to be put into prison. The first thing named then is when Jesus was "walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, cast a net into the sea, for they were fishers; and He said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." Both in Matthew 4 and in Mark 1 the account is given in general terms. We have far more detail in Luke. Is this an accident? Contrariwise, it is the fruit of a gracious design of God. Luke had the task confided to him more than any other of bringing out God's grace toward man and in man. Along with this he had also to lay bare the working of man's conscience and heart, especially under the operation of the Spirit of God.
The Lord, then, is shown us calling Simon, not at the time when it actually occurred, but in connection with the development of this great purpose — calling men to be associated with Himself. Hence this notice of their call, which had taken place some time before, (John 1:40ff.) is reserved till the opening and character of His own ministry have been fully set before us; His reading at Nazareth with grace and nothing but grace to man — not judgment as yet, for He stopped before it; His subsequent comment when they began to show their unbelief, even after their confession of the gracious words which had proceeded out of His mouth; His proof from the law that the unbelief of Israel turns the stream of grace toward the Gentiles, the intimation of what God was going to do now, and their subsequent deadly wrath and indignation; then His course in the power of the Holy Ghost; but above all, His word with power, not nevertheless without mighty works, as in dealing with Satan's dominion over man and all the physical consequences of it, the healing of all diseases and the casting out of demons. But especially He preached the kingdom of God, and that far and wide, fame among men being only an additional reason for moving elsewhere.
Thus it is Man, by the power of the Holy Ghost, entirely above Satanic working and human weakness, delivering mankind, and ministering the Word of God as the sole means of spiritual strength and association with God, as the Spirit is the source of all that is good and great according to God. But even this is not enough for His grace; He would associate men with Himself in good. Hence in the next scene before us the Holy Spirit shows us the Lord calling others. He rejoices in the habitable part of His earth, and His delights are with the sons of men; He associated them with Himself. It was not only for men's pardon that He came, but for salvation and all its fruits. Simon Peter, being the more prominent of those now called, is brought into the foreground. If he is to help others, he must be first helped himself; and man cannot be truly helped without raising the question of sin and settling it in the heart, as well as by Christ outside ourselves.
The Lord now effects this. Standing by the lake, He sees two ships*117 there, and the fishermen engaged in washing their nets, when "the people pressed upon Him to hear the Word of God."118 So he enters "into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and asked him to draw out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the crowds out of the ship. But when he ceased speaking, he said to Simon, Draw out into the deep, and let down your nets for a haul."
*"Two ships": so ℵBD and nearly all later uncials, with most cursives and Old Latin. Tisch, "little ships," after ACL, 33, and some other cursives.
The work must be carried within. Even the Word may seem to fail, but it may be followed up by some act or way on God's part in order to drive it home to the heart. He tells Simon therefore to thrust out and let down the net for a haul. A seaman is apt to think that he understands his own business best; and Simon answered saying, "Master,119 we have laboured through the whole night and have taken nothing; but at thy word I will let down the net." Thus, feeble as his faith might have been at this time, it was real. He bows to One Who naturally could not be considered to know anything of a fisherman's work, but Peter has confidence that He is Messiah, and learns that He is this and, far more, that He had the mind and grace of God. It would be now shown whether He had all power at His command. Simon had reason to know that He had Divine energy as to men on earth; but now there was a new thing, One Who had dominion over the fish of the sea. Sin had greatly hindered the exercise, and even proof, of the large dominion which was originally granted to them. But here was the repairer of all breaches; in Peter's ship was the Second Man, the Lord from heaven. "And having done this, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes." The failure of human resources, as they are to avail themselves of the blessing, is made manifest. "Their net* was breaking, and they beckoned to their partners who were in the other ship to come and help them. And they came and filled both the ships, so that they were sinking." The help of man is as vain as man himself, even for the blessing of God. The day was coming when the net should not break, no matter how large the fishes nor how great the variety. But this is reserved for another age, when the Second Man shall reign in righteousness and power. Here we see the feebleness of this age.
*"Net": so ACΧΓΔΛΠ, etc., most Syrr. — Edd., "Nets (were)", as ℵBDL, etc., Syrsin.
"But Simon Peter seeing it, fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, Lord. For astonishment had laid hold on him, and on all those who were with him, at the haul of fishes which they had taken." Now comes the deep moral result for Peter's heart. The greatness of the Lord's grace as well as His power brought his sinfulness more than ever before his soul. A strange moral inconsistency follows. He casts himself at the Lord's feet, and says, "Depart from me." But he does not depart from Jesus. Rather does he fall down as near to Jesus as he can; yet he says, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, Lord." He confesses his unfitness for the presence of the Lord, yet would not lose Him for all worlds — goes to Him, yet feels and owns that He might justly go away from such a sinner. Thus the Lord, Who knew the heart, did that which was eminently calculated to act upon Simon, who knew the powerlessness of man as he is to do what the Lord had done. They had all shown how unable they were; they had "laboured through the whole night, and taken nothing." But the Lord not only knew all, but could do all; and this brings up sin on Simon's conscience.120
But, further, the Lord's answer thereon was, "Fear not, henceforth thou shalt be catching men." He banishes the fear so natural to the heart where sin is, which is even increased at first by the action of the Spirit of God. The Holy Ghost only removes fear by the revelation of Christ, His work, and His word. His operation is to make us know what is calculated to produce fear as well as to lead us to Him Who alone by His grace can banish it. The effect of the state of the first man, when rightly viewed, is to fill with intense fear and horror: as to himself he could not but fear; from Christ he hears, "Fear not." And who is entitled to be heard? "My sheep hear my voice; and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27.) It is blessed to learn from God that our sinfulness, while not only naturally but even spiritually it ought to produce torment, is met, and fear is cast out, by the perfect love of God in Christ. Our Lord, on the ground of that great redemption which He was about to bring in by His blood, was entitled righteously to say, "Fear not." This was the Divine way of forming one that was afterwards to become a fisher of men. He must be in the experience of the blessing of grace himself before he was fit to be the witness of it to others.
"And having run the ships on shore, leaving all, they followed him."120a Such was the power of grace; it made all things little in comparison with Christ, and of what Christ becomes to the man who believes in Him.
Matt. 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45.
We have seen that the call — the special ministerial call — of Peter and the rest was taken out of its historical place in order to present the Lord uninterruptedly in the activity of His grace, when He entered upon His manifestation.
Now we find two remarkable miracles, which, I believe, set forth sin in two different forms. The first is under the phase of leprosy. "It came to pass, as he was in one of the cities, that behold there was a man full of leprosy." Luke particularly mentions this symptom. It was not in an incipient stage or a slight case, but a man full of leprosy, "and, seeing Jesus, falling on his face, he besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou art able to cleanse me." The man wanted confidence in the Lord's love and good pleasure to meet his need. The Lord, accordingly, showed not only His power but His goodness. "He stretched forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou cleansed." This was by no means necessary for healing. Love, however, does not limit itself to man's necessities, but takes occasion by them to show the great grace of God. Under law it would have been defiling: but we shall never understand the Gospel unless we see that He Who was pleased as man to come under the law was really above law. And we find these two things running through the account of our Lord's life on earth — dispensationally under law, and in His own person above it. Nothing could overthrow the rights and dignity of His person. But now we find Him displaying both what man ought to be towards God and what God is towards man. In the first case He is found under law, but this course of miraculous manifestation was the display of what God is — God present and active in goodness among men, and this in the reality of a man's soul, mind, and affections. So Christ stretched forth His hand and touched him, and, so far from defilement accruing to Himself, the leprosy departed from the man. He "enjoined him to tell no man,121 but go, show thyself to the priest." Thus we have in the injunction a man under law, as truly as we have, in the Lord God Who healed the leper, One above man and consequently above law. "Go, show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, as Moses ordained, (Lev. 13:49.) for a testimony to them." Until the cross, Jesus rigorously maintains the authority of the law. To have been merely under law would have defeated the whole object of the Gospel; it would result in leaving man under his leprosy, under the utter loathsomeness of sin, the hopeless and defiling ruin that sin produces. Therefore if grace was to be shown, Christ must be infinitely above man, must in a human body put forth a hand which is the natural emblem of its work, and touch the man that was lost in sin beyond all human remedy. "I will" — which only God was entitled to say — "be thou cleansed." Divine power at once accompanies the word. Power belongs unto God."
The Lord would make the healing known, but according to law. "Go, show thyself to the priest," whose business it was to inspect. The priest would have known the reality of the leper's case, and would be the best judge among men of the reality of the cleansing. "Offer for thy cleansing, [according] as Moses ordained,122 for a testimony to them."
There was no provision under law for healing leprosy, but there was provision, when a man was healed, for his purification, his cleansing. None but God could heal. When, therefore, the healed leper came and showed himself to the priest with his offering, it was a proof that God was there in power and grace. (Ps. 103:3.) When had such a thing been known in Israel? A prophet had once, with characteristic difference, indicated a cure from God, outside Israel. But God was now present in the midst of His people. The conviction would thus be forced upon the priest that God was there in Christ, above law, but yet not overthrowing the law's authority. "Go, show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing, [according] as Moses ordained, for a testimony to them." If that testimony were received, they would themselves (and in due time openly) enter the ground of grace. "By grace ye are saved," as it is grace, too, that enables us to walk according to God. "Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Rom. 6:14.) This is the Christian's ground.
Again, the more the Lord forbade his speaking, so much the more went there a fame abroad of Him: and great multitudes came together "to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities."
The Lord, however, instead of yielding to the applause of the multitude, "withdrew123 himself, and was about in the desert and praying." Nothing can be more beautiful than this retirement for prayer between these two miracles. However truly God, He was man, not only in maintaining the authority of the law, but also in practising dependence upon God.
Matt. 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12.
"And it came to pass on one of the days that he was teaching, that there were Pharisees125 and doctors of the law sitting by, who were come out of every village of Galilee and Judea, and [out of] Jerusalem: and the power of [the] LORD was [there] to heal them.* And lo, men bringing on a couch a man who was paralysed: and they sought to bring him in, and to put [him] before him." Now we have the other form in which sin is set forth, not so much in its defiling influence, but in the impotence which it produces — in man's total powerlessness under it. Sinful man is not only defiled and defiling, but also has no strength. The Lord accordingly proves Himself equal to meet this result of sin as much as the other. There were difficulties in the way; but what are these to the sense of need and faith? "And not finding what way to bring him in, on account of the crowd, going up on the house-top, they let him down through the tiles,126 with his little couch, into the midst before Jesus."
*"Them": so Blass, with ACDΧΓΔΛΠ, Syrr., Old Lat., etc. Others (as Revv.) "with Him to heal." according to ℵBLΞ, Aeth., and Cyril.
Wherever real faith exists, there is earnestness. Here the difficulties and obstacles only increased and made manifest the desire to meet with Jesus. Accordingly the man submits to all these efforts on the part of those who carried him. He was let down into the very midst of the crowded assembly where Jesus was. "And seeing their faith,126a he said, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." Not, Man, thy palsy is healed; but, "thy sins are forgiven thee." This is very instructive. In order to reach the powerlessness of a sinner he must be forgiven. There is nothing keeps a man feebler, spiritually, than the lack of a sense of forgiveness. If I am to have the power to serve the living God, I must have the assurance that my sins are forgiven. (Cf. Hebrews 9.) Accordingly the first word of the Lord took up his deepest need, that which, if not supplied, would always leave him without strength. "Man, thy sins are forgiven thee."
But forgiveness on earth at once aroused the incredulous opposition of the scribes and Pharisees. They "began to reason, saying, Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who is able to forgive sins, but God alone?" As God alone could heal a leper, so God alone could forgive sins; so far they were right. The great mistake was that they did not believe Jesus to be God. But then in both these miracles Jesus is man as well as God, and this comes out distinctly here. For, "Jesus, knowing their reasonings, answering, said to them, Why reason ye in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?" One was as plain as the other. He could have said either. He had a true and a gracious spiritual motive for dealing with the real root of the evil first. The deepest necessity of man was not to rise and walk, but first of all to have his sins forgiven. "But that ye may know that the Son of man127 has power upon earth to forgive sins,128 (he said to the paralysed man,129) I say to thee, Arise and take up thy little couch, and go to thine house." He did not say, "That ye may know that God in heaven will by-and-by forgive sins"; but "that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins." Jesus is God; but here it is in His quality of the rejected Messiah, the Son of man, that He has power on earth to remit sins. He has authority from God, as indeed He is God; but still it is as Son of man, which adds immensely to the grace of His ways. The despised Messiah of Israel had authority on earth to forgive sins. Thus, the strength that is imparted by the Holy Ghost to the believer is not at all the ground of the remission of his sins, nor is to be the proof to himself that he is forgiven, but "that ye may know," etc. Others sought to know the reality of this forgiveness, and, above all, of the Son of man's authority to forgive man. This is God's great object. It is not merely doing good to man, but the display of the rejected Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. God is putting honour on Him, not only in heaven but upon earth. Now He is exalted in heaven; but even as the Son of man, the rejected Christ, He has authority on earth to forgive sins; and this the Gospel proclaims. Then the strength to rise up and walk imparted to the poor powerless sinner is just a witness to others of the forgiveness of his sins; but the great thing for such an one is not merely what others see and judge of, but what pertains to himself alone, that none can absolutely know outside, that which is a word from the Lord to his own soul — "Thy sins are forgiven thee."
The public fact, however, acts powerfully upon the beholders. "Immediately standing up before them, having taken up that whereon he was laid, he departed to his house, glorifying God. And amazement seized all, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things today."
They had not the sense of forgiveness, but at least they were filled with fear. It was a new thing in Israel.
Matt. 9:9-17: Mark 2:13-22.
We have seen the grace which both cleanses and forgives. The soul needs both. God is "faithful … to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9.) But now it will be found that it is not only grace which characterises the power of God, but the direction in which it works. The cleansing and forgiving might have been solely within Jewish precincts. It is true that the latter of the two — the forgiving — is tied to the person of the Son of man ("The Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins"), and that the title of Son of man supposes His rejection as Messiah. This, therefore, at length, opens the way for His working in grace among men as such — not merely in Israel. But all comes out far more distinctly in the new scene.
"And after these things he went forth, and saw a tax-gatherer, Levi by name, sitting at the receipt of taxes; and said to him, Follow me."
The Jews had an especial horror of tax-gatherers. They were their own countrymen; and yet they made themselves the instruments of their Gentile masters in gathering the taxes. Their position constantly gave occasion to the improper exercise of their authority, to oppressing the Jews, and to extorting money on false pretences or to an unlawful amount. Hence, as a class, the publicans were peculiarly in disfavour.
But when grace acts, it calls the evil as well as those whom men would count good. It goes out to the unjust no less than to persons just (as far as men could see). The Lord calls the tax-gatherer, Levi (who is named by himself Matthew, the inspired writer of the first Gospel). He was called, as it were, in the very act, "sitting at the receipt of taxes." We hear nothing of any antecedent process. There may have been: but nothing is revealed. All we know is that, from the midst of this work, naturally odious in the eye of an Israelite, Levi was called to follow Jesus. This was a very significant token of grace, going out even to what was most offensive in the eyes of the chosen people. When God acted in grace, it was necessarily from Himself and for Himself, entirely above the creature; there was no ground in man why such favour should be shown him. If there were any reason in man, it would altogether cease to be the grace of God. Grace means the Divine favour, absolutely without motive save in God Himself, to a good-for-nothing creature, miserable and lost; and the moment that you come down to that which is utterly ruined, what difference does it make what may be the nature of the ruin, or what the means of it? If people are needy and ruined, this is enough for the grace of God in Christ, who calls such that they may be saved and follow Him.
Thus Levi quits all for Jesus: "He forsook all, rose up, and followed him." But more than this: his heart, gladdened by such undeserved and unlooked-for grace, goes out to others. He "made a great entertainment for him in his house — and there was a great crowd of tax-gatherers and others who were at table with them." This was a further carrying out of the same grand truth. God was displaying Himself in Jesus after a sort entirely unexpected by man. It is difficult for us to conceive the light in which the Jews regarded the publicans. But here was a great company of them, and of those who were associated with them; and, wonderful to say, Jesus the Holy One of God, sits down with these publicans and sinners, Jesus was now making known the grace of God. Man never understands this — never appreciates it. On the contrary, he charges grace (implicitly at least) with being indifferent to sin. The truth is, that self-righteousness covers sin, and is always as malignant as it is hypocritical, imputing its own evil to others, especially to grace. There is nothing so holy as grace, nothing which supposes sin to be so very evil. Nevertheless, there is a power in grace which calls and raises entirely above the conventionalities of men. It supposes total guilt and ruin when it comes to deliver; and if it comes to deliver, why should it not work among the neediest and the worst? Were it human, the effort would be unavailing. But it is the revelation of God Himself, and therefore it is efficacious by the gift and in the cross of Christ.
Man, however, objects. "Their scribes and the Pharisees murmured at his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with the tax-gatherers and sinners?" They had not the honesty to complain to Jesus, but vented their spleen against His disciples. But the Lord answers for His people. "Jesus answering said to them, They that are in sound health have not need of a physician; but those that are ill" — a simple but most satisfactory and impressive answer. Grace always enables even a man, a believer, to speak the whole truth; it is the only thing that does. How much more did He, Who was full of grace, speak in the power of truth! Granted that they were sick; they were just the persons for the physician. It is not even said that they were conscious of their sickness. At least God knows the need, and God seeks the needy, and Jesus was God Himself as man presented in grace. As He said, "I am not come to call righteous [persons], but sinful ones to repentance."*130
*It is instructive to observe that in the parallel passage of Matthew and of Mark the best authorities omit "to repentance." How far from the truth is it that repentance is a Jewish thing! Luke, according to the deep moral design of his Gospel, has these words.
Then comes in another truth of immense importance. In reply to the question, "Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make supplications in like manner to those also of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?"*131 "He† said to them, Can ye make the sons of the bridechamber132 fast while the bridegroom is with them?" They were ignorant of the glory of the person of Him Who was present, as much as of His grace. Had they known the singular dignity of Jesus, they would have seen how incongruous it would have been to fast in His presence. At ordinary times, in view of the evil of the first man, in the sad experience of his rebellion against God, to fast would be appropriate. But how strange would be His people's fastings in presence of their longed-for King! His very birth was announced by angels as good tidings of great joy, and the heavenly host praised God, saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men." Certainly, then, His disciples should act in consistency with the presence of such a glorious Person, with such a spring of joy to heaven and earth. Would a fast be in keeping with the circumstances? The Lord therefore answers, "Can ye make the sons of the bridechamber fast while the bridegroom is with them?" Gladness of heart suits both the grace and the glory of the Lord: "But days will come when also the bridegroom will have been taken away from them, then shall they fast in those days." The Lord had the full consciousness of what was at hand — of man's fatal, suicidal opposition to God, and to God above all manifest in His person. His rejection would soon come,133 and sorrow of heart for the disciples. "Then shall they fast in those days."
*"Why … drink?": "Why" (Διαστί) is in ℵpmCD, etc., Old Lat., Syrr., etc., but Edd. omit, as ℵcorrBLΞ.
†"He": so A, etc. Edd., "Jesus" after ℵBCDLΞ, 33.
But He furnishes more light than this. He points out the impossibility of making the principles of grace coalesce with the old system. This He sets forth by two similes.134 The first is the garment: "No one puts a piece* of a new garment upon an old; otherwise, he will both rend† the new, and the piece which is from the new will not match‡ the old." There can be no harmony between the old thing and the new: law and grace will never mix. But next, He sets it forth under the figure of the new wine. "No one puts new wine into old skins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be poured out, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine is to be put into new skins, and both are preserved."§ He shows that there is an energy in the new thing which is destructive to the old. Just as the new wine would burst the old skins, and thus the liquor would be lost and the bottles perish, so would fare that which Christ in the Gospel introduces. Where there is the attempt to connect grace with anything of the law, the old no longer retains its true use, and the new completely evaporates. "New wine is to be put into new skins." Christianity has not only an inner principle peculiar to itself, as flowing from the revelation of God in Christ, but also it claims and creates forms adapted to its own nature. It is not a mere system of ordinances and prescriptions. It has living power, and that power makes new vehicles for itself. But man does not like it.
*"No one puts a piece," etc.: so AC, later uncials, most cursives, Old Lat., and some other versions. Edd. adopt "No one cuts a piece out of a new garment and puts it upon an old one; else he will both rend the new and the piece," etc., after ℵBDLΞ, 1, 33, Syrr. "Will rend," so Edd. with ℵBCDLΞ, 33.
†T.R. "rends" is found in AE, etc., Amiat., Syrr., Memph.
‡"Will not match": so Edd. after ℵABCDL, 33, etc. "Doth not match" is in E, etc., Amiat., Syrr., Memph.
§"And both are preserved": so ACD and later uncials, most cursives (69), Old Latin, Syrr., etc. Edd. omit, following ℵBL, 1, 33, Memph. (from Matthew).
Accordingly the Lord adds what we have at the close of the chapter, and what is peculiar to this Gospel, the general maxim: "And no one, having drunk old wine [straightway]* wishes for new; for he says, The old is better."†135 The legal system is far more suited to the fallen nature of man; it gives importance to himself, and it claims his obedience, and falls in with his reason. Even a natural conscience owns the rightness of the law; but grace is supernatural. Though faith sees how perfectly suitable grace is to God as well as to the new man, and how it is the only hope for a sinful man who repents towards God; nevertheless it is wholly above the reasonings of man, and it is constantly suspected by those who know not its value and power. Man's nature cleaves to its old habits of prejudices, and distrusts the intervention of grace.
*"[Straightway]": so ACcorrE, etc., most cursives (33, 69), Syrr. Edd. omit, after ℵBCpmL, 1, Aeth., Arm., Memph.
†"Better": so ADΔ, etc. Edd. adopt "good," following ℵBL, Syrrpesch, Memph. The verse is left out by D and some Western copies of Old Latin.
Matt. 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 274-278.
The Evangelist is inspired to introduce these accounts of two Sabbaths here. Very probably also they took place at this point of time. If so, it is because the moral object of the Spirit in Luke coincided here with the historical order. This we may infer from a comparison with the order of Mark, who, as a rule, cleaves to the sequence of events. In Matthew, on the contrary, these facts are reserved for a much later point of his Gospel (Matt. 12). A vast compass both of discourses and miracles is introduced by him before he speaks of these two Sabbath days. And the reason is manifest. Matthew here, as often, departs from the order of occurrence in order to show the long-continued and ample testimony to the Messiahship of Jesus, before he makes use of these incidents on the Sabbath, which even the Jews themselves felt to slight their sabbatical practice, and threatened the legal covenant. Ezekiel speaks of the Sabbath as a sign between Jehovah and Israel (Ezek. 20:12, 20). And now this was about to vanish away. Hence these actions on the Sabbath day are extremely significant. They occur in Matthew, in the chapter where our Lord announces the unforgivable sin of that generation, as also at the close He disowns His natural ties, and speaks of the formation of a new and spiritual relationship, founded on doing the will of His Father in heaven. Then forthwith, in the next chapter, He shows the kingdom of heaven and its course, which was about to be introduced because of the utter apostasy of Israel and the consequent rupture of that economy.
In Mark and Luke this is not the immediate object. They are given, it would appear, as they occurred, and Mark had to tell. Still, it is evident that their mention here falls in with Luke's design remarkably. He takes notice, we saw in the last chapter, of the working of Divine grace, which calls not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Nor will the new things of Christ, the Second Man, mix with the old things. Yet man's preference is undisguised for the old because it suits his habits and self-importance. Grace exalts God, and must be paramount.
In this chapter we are told, "It came to pass" that not on the second Sabbath after the first, but "on the second-first Sabbath"* — a very peculiar phrase, which has perplexed the commentators and critics immensely. It is found in no place or author but here. The only thing which really explains it seems to be a reference to Jewish customs and their feasts.
*(Verse 1) "Second-first Sabbath." The word δευτερωπρώτῳ (or δευτέρῳ πρώτῳ, as in some copies) is, in my judgment, part of the inspired text, as exhibited in the vast majority of manuscripts, uncial and cursive [ACDEHKM(R)SUVX(L)ΔΛΠ, almost all cursives], as well as the Amiatine of Vulg. and other Latin copies, the Gothic, the later Syriac[hcl], etc., not to speak of ample citation and comment in Greek and Latin fathers. The Sinai and Vatican, with L of Paris, omit the word, as do seven cursives [including 1, 33, 69] and several versions [Syrrsin pesch hier, Memph., Aeth.]. For this we may easily account by the difficulty of the phrase and its absence, not only in the corresponding passages of Matthew and Mark, but everywhere else. All attempt to show how so singular a word could have slipped in and have spread, so generally and soon, is a failure; though it may be fair to state that Schultz conjectures that it arose out of insertions, by some of πρώτῳ, by others of δευτέρῳ, which were in the next stage joined together (B.T.).136 It was retained by Tischendorf in his last (eighth) edition, as it is by Blass. See further in Scrivener, ii., p. 347ff. W. H. App., p. 58f, and note 47.
On one of these occasions (Lev. 23:10-12) the first cut sheaf of corn was waved before God. The disciples were now going through the cornfields. Thus the connection was evident. It was the earliest Sabbath after the first-fruits had been offered. This adds to the striking character of the instruction. The Passover took place immediately before, as we know: the paschal lamb was killed on the fourteenth of Nisan between the evenings. Then followed the great Sabbath immediately, and on the day after, the first sheaf of corn was waved before the Lord. It was the type of Christ's resurrection. The corn of wheat had fallen into the ground and died, but was now risen again. (John 12:24.) As the killing of the lamb was the type of His death, so was this wave sheaf of His resurrection. From the day on which it was offered, seven weeks were counted complete (of course with their Sabbaths), and then came the next great feast, or that of weeks. The first of these Sabbaths in the seven weeks, counted from the day of the wave sheaf, was not the great paschal Sabbath, but it followed next in succession. The Sabbath that opened the feast of unleavened bread after the Passover was the first, and the following Sabbath day was "the second-first." It was "second" in relation to that great day, the paschal Sabbath, but "first" of the seven which immediately ensued. Thus it was the first Sabbath day after the wave sheaf; and no "Israelite indeed" could have counted it lawful to have eaten of corn till after Jehovah had received His portion.136a
On that Sabbath, then, the disciples, in passing through the cornfields, "were plucking the ears of corn, and eating [them], rubbing them in their hands." This was always allowed, and is still, in Eastern countries round the Holy Land — no doubt a remaining trace of the old traditional habit of the Jews. It is allowed as an act of charity to the hungry. What a condition for the followers of the Lord Jesus to be in! What a proof of His shame and of their need!
But nothing moved the Pharisees: religious bitterness steels the natural heart. "But some of the Pharisees said to them,* Why do ye that which is not lawful to do† on the sabbath?"137 The Lord answered instead of the disciples, "Have ye not read so much as this, what David did when he hungered, he and those who were with him; how he went into the house of God, and took the showbread, and ate and gave to them also who were with him; which it is not lawful that [any] eat unless the priests alone? "The Spirit of God here takes up only David — not the priests of whom also Matthew treats, which was very suitable. He, writing for Jews, would use a proof of the folly of their objection which was before their eyes every day. But Luke refers to the moral analogy in the history of the great king David, who, after his anointing, and before coming to the throne (which was just the Lord's position now), was reduced to such excessive straits that the holy bread was made profane for his sake. God, as it were, refused to hold to ritual where the anointed king and his followers were destitute of the barest necessaries of life. For what did it imply? The depth of evil that ruled the nation. How could God sanction holy bread in such a condition? How could He accept of the showbread of the people as the food of His priests, when all the foundations were clearly out of course? Was not this evident in the hunger of His anointed and of His trusty band? Was not the rejected Son of David as free as the rejected David?
*(Verse 2) "To them so AE, etc., 33, 69, Amiat., Syrr. Edd. omit, after ℵBCpmL, etc., Old Lat., Memph., etc.
†"To do": so ACEL, with later uncials, Syrr., Memph.; but Edd. omit, as BDR, 69, and Amiat.
The Lord closes this part of the subject with the declaration that "the Son of man is Lord of the sabbath also."* Thus there is another reason yet more powerful. David was not the Son of man as Jesus was. The Son of man had, in His own person and position, rights altogether superior to any ritual. He was entitled to abrogate it. He would do so formally in due time; for this attached to His personal glory. "The Son of man is Lord of the sabbath also," which David was not.
*Codex Bezae Cantab. transposes verse 5 to the end of verse 10. But this licence is small compared with the singular addition which it exhibits in place of that transposed verse 5: — Τῃ αὺτῃ ἡμέρᾳ θεασάμενος τινὰ ἐγαζόμενον τῳ σαββάτῳ εἶπεν αὐτῳ Ἂνθρωπε, εἰ μὲν οἶδας τί ποιεῖς τί ποῖες, μακὰριος εἶ, εὶ δὲ μὴ οἶδας, ἐπικατάρατος καὶ παραβατὴς εἶ τοῦ νόμου. On the same day having beheld one working on the sabbath, he said to him: Man, if thou knowest what thou art doing, thou art happy; but if thou knowest not, thou art cursed and a transgressor of the law." It is surprising that any thoughtful Christian should be rash enough to regard this insertion as authentic; for while the Lord always met the faith of the Gentiles or Samaritans to whom grace gave a deeper perception of His personal glory above law, He does not anticipate, in His dealings in the Gospels, that deliverance of the believer from law which is based on His own death and resurrection as now revealed (B.T.). See, further, note 138 in Appendix.
Matt. 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6.
Nor is this all. The Lord Jesus on another Sabbath enters the synagogue and teaches, where "there was a man whose right140 hand was withered." And now the scribes and Pharisees with deadly hatred are watching141 to see "whether he would heal on the sabbath, that they might find something of which to accuse him." Such was man on one side: on the other there was a Stranger come down from heaven; a Man also, to fallen man, and with a heart to display heaven's and God's mind perfectly. But those who prided themselves upon their righteousness and wisdom are afraid lest men should be healed by Him at the expense of their ceremonies, and they seek to fasten an accusation against Him. "But he knew their thoughts,142 and said to the man who had the withered hand, Rise up and stand in the midst. And having risen up, he stood [there]." The thing was not done in a corner, but boldly, in presence of them all.
The Lord even challenges them publicly, and says, "I will ask* you if it is† lawful on the sabbath‡ to do good or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy [it]?" They were doing evil; it was His to do good. They were seeking to destroy His life; He was willing to save theirs. "And having looked around on them all, he said to him,§ Stretch out thy hand." It was enough: the man did so, "and his hand was restored as the other."|| How simple, and yet how truly Divine! Was this, then, a work done? Was the Son's healing what God had forbidden? Was this unworthy of God? Was it not, on the contrary, the very expression of what God is? Is not God always doing good? Does He forbear to do good on the Sabbath day? Was not the very Sabbath itself a witness how God loved to do good, and a pledge that He will bring His people into His own rest? Was not Jesus doing so to this sufferer, and giving a witness of the gracious power that will do so fully by and by?
*"I will ask": so AD, later uncials, most cursives, Syrr., Arm., Aeth.; but Edd. adopt "I ask," from ℵBL, Amiat., Memph.
†"If it is": so Edd., after ℵBDL, Syrr., Amiat., Memph. A and many cursives, "what is."
‡"Sabbath": so ℵBDL; for "sabbaths" (T.R.).
§"Him": so Edd., following ABEΔ, etc., Syrr. "The man" is found in ℵDL, 1, 33, 69, Amiat., Memph.
||"As the other": so AD, etc., 1, 69, Syrr. After "restored" some later uncials with 69 insert "whole," which Edd. reject, after ℵABDKL, many cursives (1, 33), Old Lat., Vulg., Syrr. Memph. (from Matthew), whilst ℵBL and some cursives (33) leave out also "as the other" (so Edd.).
And what was the effect upon unbelief? "They were filled with madness, and spoke together among themselves what they should do to Jesus"; and this because He had shown that God never foregoes His title to do good even on the Sabbath day in a world that is ruined by man's sin and Satan's wiles. A superior power has entered and manifests the defeat of Satan. But, meanwhile, the instruments of Satan are filled, first with his lies, and secondly with his murderous hatred. "They spoke together among themselves what they should do to Jesus." For indeed they had no communion with God and with His mind. They were only filled with madness, and communed one with another how to injure the Lord, the manifest children of their father: such did not Abraham.143
The pronounced enmity of the religious leaders led our Lord to special prayer. From man He turns to God. But there was another reason. He was about to call others to take up the work in which He had been engaged, and to carry it out to the ends of the earth. "And it came to pass in those days that he went out into the144 mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God." This special prayer suited both the circumstances of evil on man's side, and the fresh mission of grace on God's part. "And when it was day, he called his disciples; and having chosen out twelve from them whom also he named apostles."145 These were to be His chief envoys in the work.146
Matt. 4:23-5:1; Mark 3:7-12.
"And having descended with them, he stood on a level place." This has been often misunderstood, and some have contrasted the discourse in "the plain" here with the discourse on "the mountain" in Matthew 5, 6, 7. There is no ground for this. The expression does not really mean a plain, but a plateau or level place on the mountain. It was the same discourse, which Matthew set down, without presenting the special circumstances which led to particular parts of it — questions, etc.; whereas Luke was inspired to give it in detached portions here and there, and generally with the questions or other circumstances which led to each particular part.147 The two inspired writers, I doubt not, were governed in this by the special design of the Holy Ghost in each.
It has been irreverently asked whether Luke could thus have written with the Gospel of Matthew before him. The answer is, It would be the highest degree of improbability on mere human principles. Had his Gospel no higher source than a skilful use of existing documents, he could not, in my judgment, have ventured to differ so widely from Matthew, in the disposition of facts and teachings, if he regarded his apostolic predecessor as inspired, and desired to strengthen his testimony, not to perplex souls, nor to furnish objections to men of speculative mind. The course he has pursued is the weightiest conceivable proof of his own direct inspiration, as the fruit of a special design on the part of the Holy Ghost, whether Luke had or had not the Gospel of Matthew in his hands. This I say, accepting fully the identity of the two discourses; for the attempt of the late M. Gaussen and others to establish their difference has long seemed to me a failure, not only in fact but in principle, from reducing the function of the Spirit to that of a reporter instead of an editor, in either case of course unerring.
Here, then, Jesus stood, where a vast multitude might hear Him. "And a crowd* of his disciples and a great multitude of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and the sea-coast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases. And those that were beset by unclean spirits148 were healed. And all the crowd sought to touch him; for power went out from him and healed all."
*"Crowd": so AD and later uncials, most cursives, Old Lat. and Vulg. ℵBL 1, and Syrr. insert "a great."
Matt. 5:3-4, 6, 11, 12.
But now we come to what was still better, not for the body nor for this world, but for the soul in relation with God. "And he, lifting up his eyes149 upon his disciples, said, Blessed [are] ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." There is this remarkable difference in the manner of presenting the discourse on the mount here and in the first Gospel. That in Matthew gives it in the abstract, presenting each blessing to such and such a class. "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Luke makes it a more personal address: "Blessed be ye poor.
The reason is manifest. In the one case it is the prophet greater than Moses, Who lays down the principles of the kingdom of heaven in contrast with all Jewish thought, and feeling, and expectation. In the other case it is the Lord comforting the actually gathered disciples, addressing themselves as so separated to Himself, and not merely legislating, so to speak. It was now the time of sorrow; for as bringing the promises in His person, man would not have Him.
Again, it is always "the kingdom of God" in Luke. "The kingdom of heaven" is more dispensational, and finds its perfect place in Matthew. Luke, as ever, holds to that which is moral. Certainly the poor were little in man's kingdom. "Blessed," were they, said the Lord, "for (theirs) is the kingdom of God."
Further, it may be remarked that there is no such fulness here as in Matthew, where we have the complete sevenfold classes of the kingdom, with the supernumerary blessings pronounced on those persecuted, whether (1) for righteousness' sake, or (2) for Christ's sake.
But here we have another difference very notable. There are but four classes of blessing — not seven; but then they are followed by four woes, which in Matthew are reserved to a still greater completeness in Matthew 23, at the end of His ministry, for the same dispensational reason which is adhered to throughout his Gospel. Luke, on the other hand, presents at once, first, the blessings: and immediately after, the woes. It was not the time of ease; judgment was coming. This flows from the moral character of his Gospel, just as we find Moses in Deuteronomy, which has a similar, purpose, telling the people that he sets before them the blessing and at the same time the curse (Deut. 28).
The first blessing, it will be noticed, is that which man always counts the greatest misery. So the poor in this world look to be despised; but "yours is the kingdom of God."149a The next blessing is hungering now, with the certainty of being filled. The third is present sorrow — with joy promised (that is, in the morning).150 Lastly, "Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you151 [from them], and shall reproach [you], and cast out your name as wicked, for the Son of man's sake." Luke, it will be noticed, leaves out entirely persecution for righteousness' sake, which finds its fitting, though not exclusive, place in Matthew. "Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for behold, your reward is great in the heaven: for after this manner did their fathers act towards the prophets." This supposes exercised faith, with the greatest resulting blessing. But the fact that Luke confines himself to the blessedness of those persecuted for the Son of man's sake, beautifully accords with the direct addresses in his four classes. As the blessed here are immediately before the Lord, so the persecuted here are only for His sake. All is intensely personal.*
*Cf. "Lectures on Matthew," p. 122.
Then follow the woes. "But woe unto you rich! for ye have received your consolation." Nothing more dangerous than ease and satisfaction in this world — there is no greater snare even to the disciple. So again: "Woe unto you that are filled!* for ye shall hunger." This, of course, has its moral bearing. There is leanness for the soul where the heart has all that it desires. "Woe unto you† that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep." A still further carrying out of the danger of man's heart. "Woe‡ when all men shall speak well of you!" Here it is not personal only, but relative satisfaction.152 "For after this manner did their fathers to the false prophets." In all respects it is a complete picture of that which is spirituality desirable or to be dreaded. And thus our Evangelist closes this part of the discourse.
*"Filled": so AD, etc., Old Lat., etc. Edd. add "now," following ℵBL and later uncials, 1, 33, 69, Memph.
†"Woe unto you": so A, etc. ℵBKL, etc., 1, 13, 69, have "Woe ye."
‡"Woe": so Edd. with ℵAB and later uncials, 1, 33. — DΔ, 69, Memph. add "to you."
There is no such open contrast with the law as in Matthew 5-7. The reason is manifest. Matthew has the Jews full in view, and therefore our Lord contrasts "Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment; but I say unto you," etc. All that Luke says is, "But I say unto you that hear, I say." The disciples actually addressed were Jews, but the instruction in its own nature goes out to any man, and is profitable for all the faithful, to the Gentile as much as to the Jew. Notwithstanding it was pre-eminently important for a Jew who had been formed on the principles of earthly righteousness. None the less was it full of instruction for the Gentiles when they should be called to hear. The Gentile believer has the same heart as the Jewish, is in the same world, has to do with enemies and those that hate. Hence the value of such a word, "Unto you that hear I say, Love your enemies, do good to those that hate you, bless those that curse you, pray for those that use you despitefully." This is entirely contrary to nature; it is the revelation of what God is, applied to govern the heart of His children. "Love your enemies, do good to those that hate you." It is this that He was doing, and showing in Christ, and the children are called to imitate their Father. "Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children." (Eph. 5:1.) This is of the deepest importance practically, for Christ is our real key according to that revelation of Him which is given in the New Testament; and this alone enables us to use rightly and intelligently the Old Testament. The Christian who is under grace understands the law far better than the Jew who was under law; at least, he ought to enter into it, as a whole and in all its parts, with a deeper perception of it, than the saints who had to do with its ordinances and ritual. Such is the power of Christ and such the wisdom of God which is our portion in Him.
But, besides these unfoldings of truth, there are the affections that are proper to the Christian. "Bless those that curse you and pray for those that use you despitefully." The Lord looks for the activity of good, and the looking to God on behalf of those who might treat themselves despitefully. Thus it is not only kindness and pity, but there is the earnest and sincere pleading with God for their blessing.
Verse 29 is remarkable as compared with the corresponding portion (verses 39, 40) of Matthew 5. They both deserve our particular consideration and well illustrate the difference of the Gospels, and, what is also of the greatest importance, the manner of inspiration generally. It is a mistake to think that the Spirit of God is limited to a mere report even of what Jesus said. He exercises sovereign rights, while He gives the truth and nothing but the truth; and inasmuch as His aim is to give the whole truth, He is not tied down to the same expression, even while He is furnishing the substance of all that is needed for God's glory.*
*Cf. "Exposition of Mark," p. 10f, and note 6 in Appendix here.
Thus in the Gospel of Matthew the case is of one who sues at law. In that case the object is to take away the coat; and the Lord bids the disciple to let the cloak be taken also. Luke, on the contrary, writes, "him that takes away thy cloak, forbid not to thy vest also." It is not a case of legal suing, but of illegal violence; and the spoiler who would take the outer garment is not to be resisted if he proceeds to take the inner one also. This clearly gives a far greater fullness of truth than if the Spirit of God had restricted Himself to only one or other of the two cases. The apparent discrepancies of the Gospels are therefore their perfection, if indeed we value the entire truth of God. Only thus could the different sides of truth be presented in their integrity. The Jew would require especially to be guarded on the side of law; but there is also violence in the world contrary to law; and it was necessary that the disciples should see it to be their calling and privilege to hold fast their heavenly principles in the face of man's force, no less than law. To maintain the character of Christ in our practice is of greater consequence than to keep one's cloak or coat also.
Then the Lord says, "Give to every man that asks of thee." It is no question of foolish prodigality, but of an open hand and heart to every call of need. "From him that takes away what is thine ask it not back." It is of all consequence that, as there should be the patient endurance of personal wrong — "unto him that smites thee on the cheek, offer also the other" — so there should be also the testimony that our life does not consist in the things which we possess. At the same time, He adds for our own guidance towards others, "As ye wish that men154 should do to you, do ye also to them in like manner: and if ye love those that love you, what thank155 is it to you? for even sinners love those that love them." To love those who love us is not the point for a Christian; it is a mere human principle — as the Lord emphatically says here, "sinners also love those that love them." It is not as in Matthew, publicans or Gentiles, but "sinners," according to the ordinary moral tone of Luke. This was true of man everywhere, and the word "sinner" has a great propriety and emphasis. Not only men, but bad men, may love those who love them. So, too, the doing good to those who do good to us is but a righteous return of which the evil are capable; as indeed lending, when they hope to borrow or to receive. Sinners do quite as much.155a But for us the word is "love your enemies, and do good and lend, hoping for nothing in return*; and your reward shall be great." Nor is the reward all. "And ye shall be sons of [the] Highest." How soon it was made their conscious relationship! Thus it becomes the desire and aim — to acquit ourselves according to the relationship grace has given us. "For he is good to the unthankful and wicked." How truly Divine! We ourselves are the witnesses of it in our unconverted days.
*"Hoping for nothing (μηδέν) in return": so W. H., etc., after ABLD, Latt., etc. Tischendorf adopted μηδένα (Revv. marg. "despairing of no man"), following ℵΞΠpm. Syrr. (sin.: "do not cease hope of men"). We cannot reason on the use of the word [ἀπελπίζειν] elsewhere in the N.T., for this is its only occurrence. What influenced the Revv. is the fact that the word occurs in Polybius in the sense of despairing or giving up in despair … But even Liddell and Scott furnish from Diog. L. i. 1-59, an instance of the modification, hoping that a thing will not happen. … Verbs compounded with ἀπὁ admit of flexibility enough in sense to cover the meaning attached to the word in our old and other versions. The question then mainly turns on the requirement of the context. And when one weighs verses 30-34 with care, it seems surprising that a sense so unnatural here should be attached to the word in verse 35. Especially consider the immediately preceding verse: what can be simpler than the converse call of grace, love, do good, lend, "hoping for nothing again"? (Cf. Luke 14:12.) What worthy sense in such a connection is there in "never despairing"? Does it mean that, whatever we may give thus unselfishly in faith, we are to have no fears of coming short for ourselves? If so, it seems needless, mean, and out of character with all the rest. Never despair because of giving or lending to others! Even a generous man might be beyond such fears, not to speak of a son of the Highest exhorted by the Only-begotten of the Father. And what here is the force of the margin "despairing of no man"? If the Revv. understand despairing of no man's honesty or gratitude in repayment, it seems quite contrary to the spirit of verse 30, not to mention that the sequel of verse 35 casts the believer wholly on God's great recompense [B.T.].156
Hence the call in our Gospel does not follow as in Matthew, "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," but "Be ye therefore* merciful, even as your Father also is merciful." The perfection in Matthew seems to be in allusion to the call on Abraham, whose perfection was to walk in integrity, confiding in the shadow of the Almighty. The disciple, instructed of Jesus, had the Father's Name declared, and his perfection is to illustrate his Father's character in indiscriminate grace — not in the spirit of law. Writing for the Gentiles, Luke simply calls them to be merciful as their Father was merciful. This would be obvious even to such as had not a minute acquaintance with the Old Testament, and therefore incapable of appreciating the delicate allusions to its contents here or there. Any believer could understand the force of such an exhortation as "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged." The tendency to censoriousness, the imputation of evil motives, and the danger of sure retribution, are here brought before us. "Condemn not, and ye shall in nowise be condemned."156a
*"Therefore": so AEPXΔ, etc., Amiat., Syrr. (exc. sin.). Edd. omit after BD LΞ 1, 33, Syrsin Memph.
On the other hand, says our Master, "remit, and it shall be remitted unto you." It is the spirit of grace in the experience of wrongs. "Give, and it shall be given unto you." It is the spirit of large generosity; and who ever knew a giver with nothing to give or receive? Yea, "good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over shall be given157 into your bosom." Men are very far from giving thus; and the Lord leaves it entirely vague. It might be by men or by believers: certainly God thus acts. Whoever gives will find his account sure in the far-surpassing goodness of God. "For with the same measure* with which ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" — whatever the means that He employs and whatever the time of recompense.
*"With the same measure": so AC, later uncials, most cursives, Old Lat. Syrr. ℵBDL, 1, 33, Aeth. Memph. read "with what measure ye mete."
The first principle that the Lord here lays down is the necessity of a man himself seeing in order to lead others aright. This has been constantly lost sight of in Christendom. It was not in the same way necessary to priesthood in Israel, though there were duties of a priest which needed discernment, to judge between clean and unclean. Still, their function lay in mere outward things, which required no spiritual power. But it is not so in Christianity, though there are moral principles — first principles of everyday life — which are unchangeable. Yet as a whole, Christianity does suppose a new nature and the Spirit of God; and he who has not that nature and the power of the Spirit is incapable of rightly helping others. Now, ministry demands this, even in the Gospel. There are varying states; and unless a man is capacitated by his own personal faith as well as by the Word of God, he will misapply Scripture. But it is still clearer in the instruction and guidance practically of believers. He who is called to help them on must necessarily be taught of God, not in mind only but in heart and conscience, well and thoroughly furnished in Scripture, so as rightly to divide the Word of truth. The blind, therefore, cannot lead the blind. Neither is it Christianity that the seeing should lead the blind. The true principle of our calling is, that the seeing should lead the seeing — the very reverse of the blind leading the blind.
Although every believer is supposed to see, yet he may not see clearly. He has the capacity, but may not yet have been exercised in using it. But when the truth has been brought clearly out, he is able to see it without more ado, and, it may be, as distinctly as he who had taught it. Thus that which he receives (whatever the means employed) stands on the Word of God and not on the authority either of Church or of teacher. If the teacher is removed or goes astray, still he sees the truth for himself in the light of God.
Thus it remains true that the seeing, whom God has qualified to lead others, teach the seeing who have light enough from God to follow, and who know that they are not following man but God, in that they intelligently follow those who are taught of God, and who lead them according to His word, that which commends itself by the Holy Spirit to the conscience. So far is ministry therefore from being incompatible with Christianity, that it is characteristic of it. Strictly speaking, it was not a distinctive feature of Judaism. They had priests to transact their religious business for them; but Christians have ministry in order to guide and cheer them on, and strengthen them by God's grace, in doing that which pertains to the whole body of which ministers are but a part. "Can a blind [man] lead a blind [man]? Shall not both fall into [the] ditch?"158 This is precisely what Christendom, by confounding Christianity with Judaism, is falling into rapidly. Some take the side of infidelity, some of superstition. But they both fall into the ditch, on the one side or the other.
On the other hand, "the disciple is not above his teacher." Our portion is according to Christ. Christ was despised, and so are we. Christ was persecuted, and so must the disciple be content to be. He has Christ's portion: if above, so upon earth. "Every one that is perfected shall be as his teacher."158a
Then there is another danger, and that is of censoriousness. The habit of always seeing faults in others is exceedingly to be deprecated and watched against. "And why lookest thou on the mote that is in thy brother's eye?" What is the true root of it? Invariably, where there is the habit of beholding faults in others, there is an overlooking of our own. "Why lookest thou on the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" In that state of things we cannot help others: we must have our own evil dealt with first. "For how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, allow [me], I will cast out the mote that is in thine eye" (love would meet another's want: self is blind and busy, forgets its own faults, but can be zealous in correcting others for its own glory) — "thyself not seeing the beam that is in thine eye?" Our own fault, unjudged, always obstructs our affording real aid to another. Whereas, where we have judged ourselves, it is not only that we can see more clearly, but we can enter upon the work more humbly and lovingly. It is this that makes a man spiritual. Nothing but self-judgment can ever do it, coupled with the sense of the Lord's great grace and holiness, which is the crown of self-judgment, by the Spirit's power. But it is only the sense of the Saviour's grace and regard for His holiness, which produces self-judgment; as, on the other hand, the exercise of self-judgment increases our sense of that grace, and keeps us bright in it, instead of letting ourselves be lowered to the level of surrounding circumstances, and the state to which the allowance of flesh would ever reduce us. The Lord speaks very severely of such — "Hypocrite!" and I believe censoriousness as a rule does tend directly to hypocrisy. It leads persons to assume a spirituality which they do not possess; and is this truthful? A person who is continually commenting on others you may set down as more or less hypocritical in pretending to a holiness which is certainly beyond his measure. Such is the Lord's judgment; and you may be sure that the word which He has spoken will so decide at the last day. People forget that there is no way of pretending to spirituality more cheap and more imposing on thoughtless minds than this readiness to speak of the faults of others; but there is scarcely anything that the Lord Jesus more sternly refutes and condemns. "Hypocrite! cast out first the beam out of thine eye, and then thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote that is in thy brother's eye."
Then He shows how clearly it is a question of nature. "For there is no good tree which produces corrupt fruit, nor* a corrupt tree which produces good fruit." (Cf. Matt. 7:17-20.) You cannot change the nature. "Every tree is known by its own fruit; for figs are not gathered from thorns, nor grapes vintaged from a bramble." The Lord did not as yet show the action of two natures, and the way in which the fruits of the new creation might be hindered by the allowance of the old. He simply points out the fact that there are two natures, but not their co-existence in the same person, which is the matter of fact even in the real believer. "Every tree is known by its own fruit." This is peculiar to Luke — I mean the putting it in so strong a manner. Matthew says, "By their fruits ye shall know them." Luke makes it more comprehensive and emphatic. "Every tree is known by its own fruit." "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and the wicked [man] out of the wicked† brings forth that which is wicked: for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." This is another addition of Luke's in this place. Our words are very weighty in the sight of God, as Matthew reveals in chapter 12 of his Gospel, quite in a different connection: "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." He had in view particularly the great dispensational change when the Jews should be cut off, not only for speaking against the Son of man, but for blaspheming against the Holy Ghost — the sin that cannot be forgiven, into which also the Jews fell. They rejected, not only the humbled Lord Jesus, the Son of man, but they refused the Holy Ghost's testimony to Him when He was glorified. They rejected every evidence that God gave them, and all advance in the ways of God was utterly loathsome to them. The consequence was that they broke out in violent rejection, according to their own evil, of God's good things. "Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."158b Their mouth spoke, and they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment, even as men generally shall; of every idle word they shall give account. The Jews have thus lost their place for the time, and God has brought in a new thing.
*Edd. after "nor" add "again," following ℵBΞ 1, 69, Memph. — ACDΔ Syrr. Goth. Aeth. omit.
†"Treasure of his heart": so AC and later uncials, most cursives (33), Syrr. Aeth. Memph. Goth. Edd. omit after ℵBDLΞ, 1, 69, Amiat.
But Luke presents the matter far more as a moral principle. It is true of every man, that out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks: and this is an important test for the state of our souls. Our lips betray the condition of our heart — of our affections. Then there is another thing. If we own Christ to be Lord in word, how come we not to do what He says? The very saying that He is Lord implies the obligation of subjection to Him. "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord; and do not the things that I say? Every one that comes to me, and hears my words, and does them, I will show you to whom he is like. He is like a man building a house, who dug and went deep, and laid a foundation on a rock." (Cf. Matt. 7:24-27.) Nothing could shake that house. "But a great rain coming, the stream broke upon that house." But in vain: when the flood arose, it could not be shaken; "for it had been founded on the rock."* The heeding the words of Christ is that which survives every shock of the adversary. He who proves his faith thus in his obedience shall never be moved nor ashamed. "And he that has heard and not done," which is precisely what has characterised Christendom and Judaism then and since — "is like a man who has built a house on the ground, without a foundation, on which the stream broke, and immediately it fell; and the breach of that house was great." So it shall be. The heaviest blow of the Lord returning in glory will fall, not upon pagans who have never heard, but upon the baptized who have heard and not obeyed the Gospel.
*"For it had been founded on the rock" so ACDXΓΔΛΠ, etc., most cursives, Syrrpesch hcl Old Lat. Goth. Arm. Edd. adopt "on account of its having been well built," after ℵBLΞ, 33, Memph. (from Matt.).
Moralising for others, or bare unfruitful hearing even of Christ's words, is but adding to one's own condemnation. Nothing can be substituted for real obedience of heart. Christ was the obedient as well as the dependent Man, the bright moral contrast of the first man; and such must be and are those who are His. In all respects the discourse supposes and insists on a reproduction of His character in His disciples. It is not only promise come and fulfilled in Christ, but the manifestation of God in Him, and this now forming the disciples who are thus morally and actually distinguished from the nation.159
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 278-286.
We have already had the leper in Luke 5, which Matthew displaces, in order to put it along with the centurion's servant, which opens our chapter; the one being used to show the dealings of the Lord Jesus and the character of His ministry among the Jews, and the other to bear witness to the great change which was about to take place in the going forth of mercy to the Gentiles on the rejection of Israel. Luke, as we have seen, was inspired by the Spirit of God to use it for a wholly different purpose. The leper was put with the paralytic man, not with the centurion, in order to bring out the different moral effects of sin, not the change of dispensation. Here, then, we find that the Lord has fully separated the godly remnant of His disciples and shown out the qualities of God's Kingdom as realised, and Christ's own character as looked for in them: this would extend to the Gentiles also when they were called.
Now He gives us, in the case of the centurion's servant, a manifestation of His power and goodness which carries out the truth still further. There are certain points of difference here, worthy of all note, as compared with Matthew, which we might not expect at first sight. The manner of its relation by Luke brings in two things, one of insertion and the other of omission, both very different from Matthew.160 First, the embassy of the elders is mentioned here, not in Matthew: "A certain centurion's bondman who was dear to him was ill and about to die; and having heard of Jesus he sent to him elders161 of the Jews, begging him that he would come and save his bondman." This brings before us, not only the officer's affection for his servant, but his employment of the elders of the Jews. "But they, being come to Jesus, besought him diligently, saying, He is worthy to whom thou shouldest grant* this, for he loves our nation, and himself has built us the synagogue.162 And Jesus went with them." Then we have a second embassy: "But already when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent to him friends, saying to him, lord, do not trouble thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof." Second thoughts are not always best among men. They constantly mar the simplicity of the first impression, which is apt to be direct from the heart or the conscience. But the mind which sees the consequences continually affects to correct these early impulses, and not seldom for the worse. Simplicity of purpose is ruined by secondary and prudential considerations. But it is not so with real faith, which makes us grow; as it is said, "Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18.) In this case we have what is beautifully characteristic of our Evangelist, both in the first embassy and in the second. The first is his reverence for God's dealings with the Jews shown in his employment of the elders, of those who were the leaders of Israel, to send to Jesus. But next also we see his employment of friends, who more spoke of his own heart. Matthew mentions the case, but far more succinctly. We should not even learn from the first Evangelist but that he came himself: "A centurion came to him, beseeching him." Whereas it is clear there was the intervention of both elders and friends. The clue to it is that old maxim of law or equity, that what one does by another one does by oneself. The second occasion brought out more fully the reconsideration in his soul of the glory of Jesus. It was natural that in sending the Jews he should ask for His presence. For not a Jew only, but a faith that leaned upon Israel, that laid hold, as it were, of the skirt of a Jew, was always bound up with the personal presence of the Messiah; but when he spoke out his own proper feeling, and when friends consequently were the medium of his second mission, he says, "Lord, trouble not thyself; for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof." This brings out two things — the deep sense of the Lord's glory, and a corresponding sense of his own nothingness. "Wherefore neither did I count myself worthy to come to thee." This is left out in Matthew entirely; because Matthew, summing it all up, simply speaks of the centurion. If we had had this alone, then we might have thought that the centurion actually came, and that there was only one message to Jesus. But it was not so. Here as we have the embassies mentioned, it is added by the Spirit of God, "Wherefore neither did I count myself worthy to come to thee."
*"Is worthy … thou shouldest g": so Edd. after ℵABCD, etc., with twenty-one cursives. "Was worthy … he should g" (T.R.) follows GΓΔ and most cursives.
And that was just his state. It looked the saddest case. He was not worthy that the Lord should come: and neither did he think himself worthy that he should go to the Lord. How could mercy flow? Faith finds in each extremity the opportunity for grace worthy of God, and for the glory of such an One as Jesus. "But say by a word, and my servant shall be* healed." Thus the "word," as we habitually find in Luke, has its paramount place. The turning-point is not the bodily presence even of Messiah, but the word. Jesus was man, but He was the vessel of Divine power; therefore He had only to say in a word, and his servant should be healed. His coming to the spot was in no way necessary — His word was enough. "For I also am a man placed under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say to one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my bondman, Do this, and he does [it]." That is, his faith owned that Jesus had the very same power, and indeed more; for he was only a man under authority: Jesus, the perfectly dependent and obedient Man, could command all, ever to the glory of God the Father. Even he, under authority as he was, nevertheless had authority himself to order this one and that one, especially his own servant. All things were but servants to Jesus — all subserved God's glory by Him. He had only to speak the word: disease itself must obey. "Say by a word, and my servant shall be healed." "And Jesus hearing this, wondered163 at him, and turning to the crowd following him said, I say unto you, not even in Israel have I found so great faith."
*"My servant shall be": so ℵACD, etc., with cursives and Syrsin. Edd. adopt "let m. s. be," after BL (T.R. regarded as correction from Matt.).
But, there is an omission — and this was the second point of difference I wished to mark — an omission of what Matthew adds: "But I say unto you, That many shall come from [the] rising and setting [sun], and shall lie down at table with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens. But the sons of the kingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth." At first sight one might have expected this, particularly in Luke; but a closer inspection will show that its proper place is not here. The Lord does bring it in elsewhere in Luke, namely, in Luke 13, when the time was come for distinctly indicating the chance; and this on moral considerations, and not on dispensational ones only. Whereas Matthew, being intent on the impending change for Israel and the Gentiles, is led of the Spirit to introduce it in this place and time, where no doubt it was uttered. But with equal wisdom Luke reserves it for another connection. I do not doubt that the moral reason for that reservation was this, that while the Lord did acknowledge, if I may so say, the simplicity of the faith of the Gentile — and simplicity in faith is power — while He exceedingly valued that faith which saw much more than a Messiah in Him, which saw God in Him (man though He really was) — saw His power over sickness, even though at a distance from it, which is so effectual a bar to all human resources, but which only displaced One Who was man, but far more than man. Such was to be the faith of the Gentile, in due time, when Jesus should be actually absent from this world, but when all the virtue of Jesus should be as, or even more, conspicuous in some important respects. Such is Christianity; and the Gentile centurion was an illustrious type of the character of this faith. Nevertheless Christianity being brought out, specially among the Gentiles, as Romans 11 shows us, the continual danger is for the Gentile to account that the Jew has been cut off that he might be grafted in. Hence there was the wisdom of God in not introducing that solemn judgment upon Israel, as well as the strong expression of the substitution of the Gentile for him in this place. It was evidently to correct Gentile conceit. It is true the Jews were to be judged — in fact, were already under judgment; but that sentence was to be executed still more stringently when the Gentiles were to be gathered in. But the Lord waits a more fitting season for announcing it. Thus the Gentile is taught by this scene the proper feeling towards a Jew. Faith would not despise them. It may go beyond Jewish intervention, but it should honour the Jews in their own place. At the same time, his own danger of presumption, as if he were the exclusive object of God's purpose, is guarded against by the omission of any such sentence here.164
It is needless to say that they that were sent, returning to the house, found the bondman whole who had been ill.165
But there follows, the day after, another scene of great interest, carrying out the picture of our Lord's power more completely; and it is a scene peculiar to Luke. "It came to pass afterwards,* that he went into a city166 called Nain; and many† of his disciples and a great crowd went with him. And as he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was carried out, the only son167 of his mother, and she a widow." Two touches very characteristic of our Evangelist, as indeed the whole scene is peculiar to him: he was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. It is the heart of a man touched by the circumstances of desolation, and open to the affections that suited such a case. The Lord of glory deigned to feel, and to bring out by the Holy Ghost these circumstances. "A very considerable crowd [was] ‡ with her." Even man showed his sympathy. What did the Lord? "And the Lord168 seeing her, was moved with compassion for her, and said to her, Weep not."169 He came to banish the tears which sin and misery had brought into the world. I do not say that He came not to weep Himself; for, in banishing it, He must weep as none other wept. But to her He would say in His gracious power, "Weep not; and coming up he touched the bier,170 and the bearers stopped. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Wake up." Vain words had they not been His words, or from any other mouth! What a difference it is who says it! That is what men forget when they think of Christ, or speak of Scripture. They forget it is God's Word, they overlook God in man and by man, the Man Christ Jesus. "And the dead sat up and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother."
*"Afterwards": so W. H., Blass, as AB, Syrsin. "The day after": so Tisch. after ℵCDKM. Nearly all cursives, most Syrr. and other versions.
†"Many of": so Tisch. with ACXΔ, most cursives, Goth. Other Edd. omit, after ℵBDLΞ and some versions, as Syrsin and Old Lat.
‡["Was"]: so Edd. after ℵBLΞ, 33, 69, Syrsin Memph. AE, etc., Latt., other Syrr., and Goth. omit.
God was there; God was with that Man in His own power: for what is more characteristic of God than raising the dead? It was even more wondrous than creation. That God should create is, so to speak, natural. That God should raise the dead to life again, after that which is created is fallen into ruin, that He should show his all-compassing power of retrieving to the uttermost, supposes indeed man's weakness and evil, and the enemy's temporary success, but God superior to all circumstances of hostile power in the creature, and His own just judgment of sin. And this is true most evidently in the Gospel. It is viewed as the quickening voice of the Son of God, and this in view of sin and of eternity. But the Lord shows it in matters of time here. "And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Wake up." And our Evangelist closes with words in keeping with all his spirit: "And he gave him to his mother." If he was a man acquainted with grief, He was a man acquainted with the power of sympathy. He knew how to minister to the heart that was bereaved.171 "And fear seized on all and they glorified God, saying, A great prophet has been raised up* amongst us; and God has visited his people." He had the power of life in the midst of death. He was a prophet, and more than a prophet. God had anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, Who went about indeed doing good.172 "And this report went out in all Judea173 concerning him, and in all the surrounding country."174
*"Has been raised up" so Edd. after ℵABCΙΞ, 1, 33. ERXΔ, 69, Syrsin have "is risen up."
Up to the end of Luke 6, the Lord is still within the precincts of Israel, though undoubtedly there are principles of grace which intimate much more — the outgoing of Divine mercy towards every soul of man. Yet until the end of that chapter the Lord does not actually go beyond the godly Jews now associated with Himself, and in mission too, as the apostles. If He gathers, He sends out from Himself to gather unto Himself: and their moral traits, which distinguished them from the nation, are laid down with great emphasis and direct personal application to the close of that chapter. Then we have a Gentile's faith, who owns Christ's Divine supremacy over all things, whether even disease or distance here below. Nothing could be too great for Him. Jesus, the day after, proves His power over death. Most truly man, He is nevertheless above nature, so to speak, and that which sin had brought in as God's judgment on the race. Clearly therefore in all this we have what goes beyond Israel as such, and expressly so in the case of the Gentile centurion's servant.
This, accordingly, brings in deeper things. John's disciples reported all these things to their master, who calls two of his disciples and sends them to Jesus,* questioning whether he were "he that is coming, or are we to wait for another?" The Lord, in the same† hour‡ that they stated their errand, cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits, and unto many that were blind He gave sight. And then He "answering said to them, Go, bring back word to John what ye have seen and heard: that blind see, lame walk, lepers are cleansed, deaf hear, dead are raised, the poor are evangelised; and blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me." It was a solemn answer, and should have been a very touching reproof to John. Here was One Who sought not His own glory, yet He could not but point to that which God was doing, for God was with Him. He "went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him." (Acts 10:38.) God meant this for a witness. But was it not sad and humbling that he who was raised up specially to render witness to Jesus should require witness from Jesus?175 And Jesus, in the overflowing of His grace, gives witness, not only to what God was doing by Himself, but to John also. Thus no flesh glories in His presence. He that glories must glory in the Lord. John himself failed completely in the object for which he had been sent, at least at this crisis. None can bear utter rejection but the Spirit of Christ; nothing else can go through it undimmed, unstained. Christ is not only the great doer, but greatest sufferer; and John did not look for this. He had known what fidelity of witness was in an evil world: but the testifying of the Messiah that He should be a sufferer, and consequently his own share of it as His herald in prison, seem to have been too much for his faith or that of his disciples. He needed at the very least to be confirmed; he needed to have proof positive that Jesus was the predicted Messiah, for himself or for others.175a We have seen the answer given him by our Lord.
*"Jesus": so ℵAD, later uncials, most cursives, Syrr. Old Lat. Memph. Edd. adopt "the Lord," after BRLΞ 33,69, Amiat., etc.
*"In that": so Edd. after ℵBL 1, 69, Memph. AD, 33, Syrr. Amiat. Goth. Arm. have "in the same."
*"Hour": so Edd. following ℵcorrBL, 1, 69, Memph. ℵpmL, 69, have "day."
Observe here that there was no point more remarkable in the ordinary ministry of Jesus than His care for the poor. To the poor the gospel was preached. His concern about them was the very reverse of all that was found among men before. If others had cared for the poor, it was but an evidence of the working of His Spirit in them, and nothing characteristic; in Jesus' case it was opening out His heart, if possible, with greater care to them than to any others, the bright hopes that the gospel announces, the display of that which is eternal for the eyes of believers in the midst of present need among those who were most liable to be overwhelmed by it.176 "And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me." There we find a rebuke, couched certainly in the gentlest terms; nevertheless, it was that which was intended, no doubt, to deal with the conscience. John seems to have been stumbled; but blessed was he whosoever was not offended in Jesus. There was nothing that so grated upon every natural thought of a Jew as the rejection and shame accompanying the Messiah, or those that bore witness of Him. Man was wholly unprepared for it. They had been waiting for long and weary years for the Messiah to bring in deliverance. Now that He was come, that evil should fall with apparent impunity on His servants, and even upon Himself — that they, and He too, should be despised of men — was too much for their faith. They were "offended" in Him.177
Christianity, let me say, has given immense range to the display of all this. Indeed, it is the glory and blessing of the Christian. He is not stumbled at the rejection of Christ. He sees the Cross in the light of heaven, not of the earth; he knows its bearing on eternal things. Present things are not the question. God has brought in the unseen things, and the Christian is familiar with them even now. He accordingly rejoices in the Cross of Christ, and boasts in that which is the overthrow of all the natural thoughts of men, and the judgment of the world, but which is really, by the grace of God, the judgment of sin, and the vindication of His own moral glory. Therefore the Christian triumphs in it. Besides, it is that which gave occasion to the infinite grace of the Lord Jesus, and in all these things he delights. He therefore has the blessing fully; and is strengthened, not offended, by the Cross.
When the messengers of John go away, the Lord can speak in vindication of His servant. After all, viewed, not in connection with what was coming, but according to that which had been and was, who was found among men worthy of such honour? He was no reed shaken with the wind: this they might see any day in the wilderness. Neither was he a man clothed in soft raiment: they must look to kings' courts to find men gorgeously apparelled and living delicately. There is no moral grandeur in any of these things. A prophet then he was, and much more than a prophet. Such is the witness of Jesus: "This is he concerning whom it is written, Behold, I* send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee." (Mal. 3:1.)178 He was the immediate forerunner of the Messiah. God put singular honour on him. There were many prophets; there was but one John, but one who could be the messenger before His face. Consequently our Lord adds, "Among those that are born of women,179 there is not a greater [prophet]† than John [the Baptist]."‡
*"I" (ἐγώ) is found in AEXΔ, 33, Syrr.; but Edd. omit after ℵBDLΞ, 1, Old Lat. Memph.
†["Prophet"]: inserted in AEGH, later uncials, most cursives, Syrr. Goth. Edd. omit, after ℵBKLM and most Old Lat.
‡["The Baptist"]: ADΔ, etc., most cursives (33), Syrr. and Old Lat. insert. Edd. reject, after ℵBLΞ, 1, Memph.
Yet this, be it noted, brings out so much the more the superior blessing of those who were to be in the new state of things, when prophecy or unfulfilled promise should be no longer, but the basis of the kingdom should be laid on the work of Christ. That new order was coming in, first to faith, then in power; and Luke gives great force to that which was revealed to faith, because it is known through the Word of God and the power of the Holy Ghost. It is not yet the visible manifestation of the Kingdom, but none the less God's Kingdom, which was to come in through a rejected Son of man. Redemption may be the basis of better and still more glorious things, but it is the basis of the Kingdom of God: and in that Kingdom the least was greater than the greatest before — greater even than John. The least in that Kingdom would rest on redemption already accomplished; the least would know what it is to be brought to God, sin put away, and the conscience purged. John the Baptist could only look onward to these things. The Christian knows them to be actually come, and by faith his own portion. He is not waiting for them; he has them. Thus he that is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John.
At the same time, we are told that "all the people" that heard John the Baptist, "and the publicans" too — that is, the mass, even the despised tax-gatherers — "justified God,180 being baptized with the baptism of John." They were right so far. It was a witness of what was coming: it was a confession of their own sin. Thus far they justified God. But the prudent and wise, the religious, learned, and great, "the Pharisees and lawyers," rejected and "frustrated the counsel of God against themselves," because they refused even the preparatory work of John the Baptist. Having refused the lesser testimony, they never passed into the greater things — the reality from God. Having refused that which their own consciences ought to have proved to be true, they were not prepared to receive the gift of His grace. Christ can only in the conscience be received to salvation. Feeling and understanding will never do alone. There must be conscience. Those whose slumbering consciences had been aroused Godward concerning their sins were only too glad to receive Christ. Those whose consciences slept, or were roused but for a moment, were never brought to God savingly. When Christ is received by faith, the conscience is active toward God, the mind and heart rejoice as they enter into and appropriate the blessing, but not otherwise. Where there is no work in the conscience, all is given up speedily. They are "offended" by this or that. Thus, the men of that generation181 were like captious children, "sitting in the market-place, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped to you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned [to you],* and ye have not wept." Whatever God called to was offensive. If God brought in joy, they would not dance: if God brought in a call to mourn, they would not weep. Thus, when John the Baptist came, neither eating bread nor drinking wine, the expression of no communion, because sin was in question (and how could God send one to have communion with sin?), they said he had a demon. "The Son of man is come eating and drinking." Now there could be communion: the rejected Christ is the foundation of all true fellowship with God. But they said, "Behold, an eater and a wine-drinker, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners!" Man, thinking well of himself, counts the grace of God to be allowance of sin. When God calls to righteousness, it is too severe for man: when He calls to grace, it is too loose for him. Every way man likes not God: he shrinks in presence of law, and he despises in presence of grace. "And wisdom is justified182 of all her children." And the incident that follows is a striking proof of it in both its parts — the witness of it, not only in her who was a sinner but is now a child of wisdom, but also in him who could not appreciate the One Who is the wisdom of God.
*"To you" (second time): so AP, Syrr. (including sin.), Aeth.; but, omitted by Edd. after ℵBDLΞ, Amiat. Memph. Arm.
As illustrating wisdom justified of all her children, as well as the superiority of the new system of grace, the kingdom of God as it was about to come in, the Spirit leads Luke to give the story of the woman who followed Jesus into the house of the Pharisee (it would seem in His train). All was arranged to bring out the truth and the grace of God with great precision. "One of the Pharisees183 begged him that he would eat with him." The Lord goes into the house and takes His place at table. "A woman in the city, a sinner," evidently of notorious character,184 "when she knew that he was sitting at meat in the Pharisee's house, took an alabaster box of myrrh, and standing at his feet behind [him] weeping, began to wash his feet with tears, and she wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed [them] with the myrrh."184a
Faith makes a soul very bold; at the same time, it gives great propriety. But its boldness is inspired by the attractive power of the Object looked to. It is from no qualities of our own. What, for instance, could be more beautifully in season, what more modest and right in feeling and act than the conduct of this hitherto abandoned woman? Now, at least, so much the more glory to the Object of her faith Who brought about this immense change. When she knew that Jesus was invited there, she went too. It was the last place where she would otherwise have ventured. It was Jesus Who emboldened her to go there without invitation. But when she found herself there, she did not ask Peter or James or John or any of them, as the Greeks asked Philip, to see Jesus. She went at once: not merely her own deep sense of need, but her sense of His ineffable grace — the grace of Jesus — gave the entrée at once, and introduced her without further form or ceremony. Completely absorbed in an object, which she may not have defined to her mind to be a Divine Person, but which proved itself to be none the less Divine by its all-overcoming power over her soul, she must have instinctively shrunk from the Pharisee's house under any other circumstances. Ordinarily there was everything to repel, nothing to attract her, in that house. Yet she made no apology for the intrusion; she knew without being told that Jesus made her free to draw near; and there she was found, standing at His feet behind Him, weeping.
Remark, too, how every way, every act, every feature of the case was perfectly suited to express without a word the real truth of her past as well as present, and of His goodness. She began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment. Mary did it another day — did that, which was so similar, that some have even fancied this to be Mary.185 But that is a profound mistake. We hear nothing at all of her tears. We do hear of her anointing the feet of Jesus, as well as His head, and wiping them with the hair; so that the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. In both it was an act of devotedness to Jesus; and devotedness does not imitate, but like devotedness to the same object, produces similar effects, though each with its own peculiarity. But besides devotedness, there was in this woman confession of her own self-abasement, of her horror at her sins, of her repentance towards God, and her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That was not the question with Mary. Mary was filled with a sense of the danger that impended over Jesus. She had a vague but true consciousness of His approaching death, so that the Lord counted it an anointing for His burial, gave it Divine value, and expressed what her heart had not uttered even to Himself, but nevertheless what she could not but feel, though she could not articulate it. But in this woman's case it was the unaffected pouring out of a burdened heart, which felt its only relief in thus washing his feet with tears and wiping them with the hairs of her head. Thus, a sense of grace produces effects very similar to a deep sense of His glory. They are both Divine, both of the Spirit of God. A sense of His grace, shaded by the sense of her own sinfulness, was the predominant feeling in this poor woman's mind; as a sense of His glory, shaded by the feeling of approaching danger, was of Mary's.
All this was lost upon the Pharisee; or rather, it stirred up the unbelief of his heart. "When the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that touches him, for she is a sinner." His thought was that the being a sinner would unfit for Jesus. Yet he had no adequate notion of the glory of Jesus, nor of His holiness, nor, of course, of His grace: he would not even allow Him to be a prophet. Had He been so, as he thought, He must have seen through the woman who touched Him. Simon knew that the woman was a sinner. It was known commonly in the place. If Jesus had only known her character, it was inconceivable to Simon that He would have allowed her to take such a liberty with His person. But Jesus thoroughly knew her as well as Simon; and if she was a sinner He was a Saviour. Alas! the Pharisee neither felt the sin nor saw the Saviour according to God. Phariseeism is an attempt to take a middle ground between a sinner and a Saviour, and this ignores both the misery of the one and the grace of the other. All worldly religion avoids a real, deep confession, as of sin so of a Saviour. It contents itself with generalities and forms. It admits sin, and it acknowledges a Saviour, after a sort: but the golden mean which in the world's things is so valuable is fatal in what is Divine. This is what Christianity was intended to bring people out of. It is what the faith of God's good news disproves and banishes: for the gospel of salvation stands expressly on the ground of total ruin through sin. Now man, religious man, dislikes all extremes, likes moderate views; but by this moderation of view the depths of sin are unfelt and the Saviour is unhonoured. The Pharisee shows it out in contrast with the woman. He was not a child of wisdom: "wisdom is justified of all her children." He found ignorance where she found perfect grace; and she was wise. She was a child of wisdom. Wisdom was not justified by him. It was unseen and denied. "This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that touches him, for she is a sinner." He did not know: such was the Pharisee's account of Jesus.
But Jesus answered what he did not utter. — "Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee;185a and he says, Teacher, say [it]." And the Lord then tells him the parable of the creditor. "There were two debtors of a certain creditor: one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty" — one a comparatively large and the other a small sum; but neither could pay, and he186 "forgave both of them [their debt]." Who would love him most? The Pharisee would answer on human ground with correctness, "I suppose he to whom he forgave the most." The Lord owned that he had rightly judged, and then He at once applies it. "Seest thou this woman? I entered into thy house; thou gavest me no water for my feet."
After all, the entertainment that even a Pharisee — a religious man — provides for Jesus is very short. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks: the poor reception betrayed how little his heart welcomed Jesus. Yet he thought to patronise Jesus. This is what natural religion always does. He thought he was doing honour to Him, but instead of that he was nourishing himself, and proved the low conception he had of Jesus by the measured scale of that which he provided for Jesus. "I entered into thy house; thou gavest me no water for my feet" — that was an ordinary thing in these countries — "but she has washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with her hair.* Thou gavest me no kiss" — in these lands no strange reception — "but she, from the time I came in, has not ceased kissing my feet; my head with oil thou didst not anoint"187 — but here again how entirely she went beyond "but she has anointed my feet with myrrh." Not even a king was so entertained. "For which cause I say unto thee, Her many sins are forgiven, for she loved much; but he to whom little is forgiven loves little."188
*"Her hair": so Edd. after ℵABDLΞ, Syrrpesch hcl. Old Lat. Memph. "The hair of her head" is in ED, etc., most cursives (33, 69), Syrrsin cu.
It was evidently not the woman's first sense of the grace of Christ. What she had done was because with her heart she did believe in Him. She believed before she came. Her faith had brought her, but she did not know that her faith saved her. She loved before she came, and all that she did was the fruit of her love; yet not her love, but her faith saved her."189 She loved much, because she was forgiven much; and she felt it. Thus she was led to this love by the deep sense of her sin, and of the attractive grace of the Saviour; and so she must hear how truly she was forgiven. The Lord says to her, "Thy sins are forgiven." This drew out the inward question of those around, and not Simon's only: "They began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgives sins also?"
Here, again, also, it was not the first time. The Lord had said publicly to the palsied man, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." But there was a difference, and a weighty one, between that forgiveness and this. There it was within the bounds of Israel, and it was specially in reference to this world. I do not mean to say that the man may not have been forgiven eternally; but that it was emphatically the forgiveness of sins — proved by the healing of his body, and both in connection with the earth. Thus it was what may be and has been called governmental forgiveness, and after this sort I suppose it will be that God will act in the millennium. It may or may not be eternal. The millennial reign of Christ will be accompanied by the banishing of diseases and the forgiveness of sins. There will be nothing but blessing everywhere. But whether it be eternal or not will depend, no doubt, on the reality of the work of God in the soul (i.e., on faith).189a
In the case before us the forgiveness has nothing to do with the present life. It is absolute, unconditional, and eternal; and assuredly this will be found by and by in the kingdom of God, as it is now brought out in the power of the Holy Ghost. It was what ought to be in Christianity — a kind of little anticipation or example of what was to be proclaimed in the Gospel; and it is peculiar to Luke. He said to the woman in answer to these doubts, "Thy faith has saved thee; go in peace"190 — words nowhere said to the palsied man. It was not her love that saved her, but her faith. Love is the exercise of that which is within us — of that new nature which the Holy Ghost imparts, and of which He is Himself the strength. But faith, although of the Spirit of God, nevertheless finds all in its object, in another. Love is more what people call a subjective thing; whereas the essence of faith is that, though in man, it is nevertheless exercised on what is outside him. The whole of that which it depends on is in its object — even Christ. "Thy faith has saved thee; go in peace." Thus there is present salvation, and this in such power that the Lord can bid her "go in peace." This is precisely what the Gospel now announces freely, and unfolds fully, according to the value of an inestimable, exhaustless Christ and His work.191
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 287-291.
The last chapter broke out into the widest sphere, and brought in Divine power over human sickness and death — yea, more, Divine grace in presence of nothing but sin. Nevertheless moral ways are produced according to God's own nature. Grace does not merely forgive. Those who are forgiven are born anew, and manifest their new life in suitable ways, and this in due season by the power of the Holy Ghost.
In this chapter we find how grace goes forth in service. "It came to pass afterward, that he went through [the country], city by city, and village by village." How indiscriminate is His "preaching and announcing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God"!192 Anywhere and everywhere grace can go as to its sphere, but it distinguishes according to God's will; because He must be sovereign. He pardons whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. The twelve were with Him; and not they only, but "certain women who had been healed of wicked spirits and Infirmities, Mary, who was called Magdalene,193 from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who ministered to him* of their substance." Thus we find grace produces fruits now, in this present life. I think it plain and certain that Mary Magdalene is not the person described in the last chapter as the woman who was a sinner. Tradition fluctuates, some supposing that the forgiven woman was Mary Magdalene, others Mary the sister of Lazarus; but to my own mind the internal evidence is conclusive that she was neither the one nor the other. In fact, there is evident moral beauty in the absence of her name. Considering that she had been a notoriously sinful woman in the city, why name her? The story was not to inform anyone who she was, but what the name of Jesus had been to her. It is His name, not hers, that is the great matter. And hence all the effect produced in her by the Spirit of God is according to this. She does not go before His face, but behind Him. She is at His feet, weeping, washing His feet with tears and wiping them with the hairs of her head. The Spirit of God, therefore, casts a veil over her person. However much she might be the object of grace, there is no indulgence of human curiosity. It was a part of the very plan of the Spirit that her name should not be mentioned. Mary, sister of Lazarus, stands before us in Scripture (whatever legends feign) a character evidently and altogether different, and remarkable, I should judge, for moral purity, as well as for that insight into God's mind which was brought about by the grace that gave it to her.
*"To him": so Wellhausen, with ℵAL, etc., 1, 33, Memph. Arm., Aeth. Edd. (So Harnack) adopt "to them," after BDE and later uncials, 69, Amiat. Syrrpesch cu sin.
So also Mary Magdalene, although a desperate case, manifested evil of a wholly different nature. It was not corruption, but Satan's power. She was possessed; as we are told here, "from whom seven demons had gone out." This was her scriptural description, and uniformly so wherever she is brought before us. Never is moral looseness attributed to her.
But besides Mary Magdalene, one of those who ministered to the Lord of their substance was Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward.194 Thus God called where one might least expect it: and she who was connected with the Court of the false king rejoiced to be permitted to follow the despised but true King, Jesus of Nazareth.
But others were not wanting — "Susanna and many others," but of whom we know nothing, save that which grace gave them, in honouring Jesus to find their everlasting honour. They were attracted by the Lord Jesus, and ministered to Him as they could.
Matt. 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20.
"And a great crowd coming together, and those who were coming to Him out of each city, he spoke by parable."196 He was not come to be a king, though the King. He was come to sow, not to gather in and reap. This He will do by and by at the end of the age. He was come to produce what cannot be found in man — to give a new life that should bear fruit for God. "The sower went out to sow his seed." It is the activity of grace. "And as he sowed, some fell along the way; and it was trodden under foot, and the birds of the heaven devoured it up. And other fell upon the rock; and having sprung up, it was dried up, because it had not moisture; and other fell in the midst of the thorns; and the thorns having sprung up with [it] choked it: and other fell into* the good ground, and having sprung up, bore fruit a hundredfold. As He said these things, he cried, He that has ears to hear, let him hear."196a It is remarkable that we have not here, as in Matthew, "Some thirty, some sixty, some a hundredfold." We have only the complete result of grace: the modifying causes are not taken into account. There was good seed sown upon good ground, as He afterwards said, "That in the good ground, these are they who in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." The other cases are cases, not of good seed producing fruit imperfectly borne, but we have the moral hindrances to any fruit at all. Luke brings out the sad and painful fact that it is not Satan's power only that hinders souls from being saved and receiving the Word of God. The world hinders, flesh too, as well as Satan. Those are the three enemies that are brought before us.
*"Into": so Edd., following ℵABLΞ. D Syrsin have "upon."
The first is the open and evident power of Satan: "As he sowed, some fell along the way." There was no pretence of receiving it; it was simply dealt with contemptuously — "it was trodden under foot, and the birds of the heaven devoured it up."
The next class is, "And other fell upon the rock." There was an appearance here. It sprang up, but it was dried up, "because it had not moisture." These represent the persons who, "when they hear, receive the Word with joy, but having no root they believe only for a while, and in time of temptation fall away" — a very serious description; because there is apparent reception, but there is no root. They receive the Word with joy — not with repentance, but only joy. Now, there may be joy; but where there is no spiritual action in the conscience there is no root. This is exceedingly serious, especially in Christendom where people are apt to be taught the elements of Christian truth, and where they may be received on the faith of a parent — not of God's Word, but of a father, or mother, or teacher, brother, sister or anybody, the prevalent religion of the country, the common creed of Christendom. All these things may operate, but it is mere nature. It is the seed sown upon a rock:197 there is no real root; for conscience is the real door. Without conscience the Word of God has no abiding effect. The Spirit of God does not make great scholars, but leads poor sinners to believe and be saved. It matters not who the person may be; scholar or not, he must come as a sinner, and if as a sinner, with repentance towards God. Now, repentance in its own nature gives a chastened feeling, horror of self, judgment of the whole man, certainty that all one's hope is in God, and the judgment of all that we are. This does not produce joy.198 Other things may gladden the heart, spite of and along with it. The mercy of God seen in Christ is most assuring; but "godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of." They are mistaken who suppose that repentance is sorrow; but, nevertheless, such is its effect, where according to God.
That which fell among thorns represents those who, "having heard, go away, and are choked under the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to perfection."199 Luke views the matter in its full result, not in an individual, not the new nature hindered, but the new nature producing its full results. It is the Word not received from one cause or another; and where it is received, it is said to be those who, "in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." Along with the Word of God, there is the operation of the Spirit. It is these that produce this honest and good heart.200 Thus the heart is purified by faith, and that, working by the feeling and confession of our sinfulness. Luke, as always, brings out the moral roots, both of that which hinders and also of that which receives the Word. These "having heard the Word,201 keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience."202
There is another point I would just observe. Matthew speaks of understanding — that is the great point with him who speaks of the Word of the kingdom. Luke speaks of the Word of God (not so much of the Kingdom, though we know it was the kingdom of God). But it is the Word of God — "the seed is the Word of God," that they who believe (not they who understand) should be saved. Matthew speaks of hearing and understanding, Luke of believing and being saved. This admirably suits the different objects of the Gospels. Matthew shows us already a people of God dealt with, put to the test by the Messiah proclaiming the kingdom of heaven; and those whose hearts were set on worldly objects did not understand the Messiah, nor care for the word of the Kingdom. But Luke shows us the Word of God dispersed; and although within the limits of Israel as a matter of fact for the time being, yet in its own nature going out to every city and village in the world. In principle already they are tending towards it, and about to be sent out actually in God's due time. Accordingly, it is not merely the Kingdom, but the Word of God. It is for man as such; and hence as the great mass of men outside Israel were wholly ignorant of the Kingdom, it was a question of believing, not of understanding. It is not a word they had already, or knew things either, that they could not understand, but it is a question of believing what God was sending. It was a new testimony to those who had been wholly in the dark, and consequently it was a question to them of believing and being saved. Thus we find, even in the minutest particulars, Luke was inspired to hold to that great design which runs through his Gospel — deep moral principles, and at the same time the going forth of grace towards man from God. It is as it were the Gospel of God in the salvation of men — just what we find in the Epistle to the Romans; and Luke, we must remember, was pre-eminently the companion of the Apostle Paul.
Then there are some further moral principles added. "No one having lighted a lamp, covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a couch: but sets it on a lampstand, that they who enter may see the light." To receive a new nature by the operation of the Word of God is not enough. God raises up a testimony for Himself. Where a candle is lit, it is not meant to be covered: it is to shine, to give light, "that they who enter may see the light." God loves that the light should be apparent. Is it not there to be seen?203 "For there is nothing hid which shall not become manifest." Darkness shrinks from the light, and man is in the dark, and loves darkness rather than light, because his deeds are evil. But God's resolve is that all shall appear. "For there is nothing hid which shall not become manifest; nor secret which shall not be known and come to light.204 Take heed therefore" — not only what, but — "how ye hear." The mingling of truth and error makes it of the greatest importance what we hear; and in Mark this is the warning: "Take heed what ye hear."205 But Luke regards the heart of man; and it is not only of importance what I hear from another, but how. I hear it myself. My own state may expose me either to receive error or to reject truth. It is not always the fault of what I hear, but my own. "Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever has, to him shall be given." Having is a proof of valuing. "And whosoever has not, even that which he seems205a to have shall be taken from him." Where any do not really possess, it is not for want of God sending, but because of the unbelief that either has not at all or only seems to have. Nothing but faith possesses: and if I possess a little really, God will vouchsafe me more. "He gives more grace." James 4:6.
Matt. 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35.
Jesus was going everywhere preaching and evangelising, followed by the twelve, and not without the worship of grateful hearts in the women who ministered of their substance. He came not a King as yet, but a Sower, and instead of governing in righteous power, was but creating a light of gracious testimony. He next disowns any association with Himself after the flesh, were it even His mother and His brethren. Whatever love to all, and even subjection to His mother, He owed, He most surely paid in full; but now it was a question of the Word of God, and nothing else would suffice. Thus even before His death and resurrection there was a complete moral break. Flesh does not understand the things of the Spirit. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:6.)207 "It was told him [saying], Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, wishing to see thee. But he answering said to them, My mother and my brethren are those who hear the Word of God, and do [it]."*208 Natural links were proving themselves to be nothing now: all must be of God and grace; and this exactly falls in with the tone of our Evangelist.
*["It"]: EX, etc., 69, Memph., express this; but Edd. omit, after ℵABDLΔ.
Matt. 8:18, 23-27; Mark 4:35-41.
Then we find the circumstances of those to whom the Word of God and the testimony of Christ was committed. Jesus goes into a ship with His disciples, and tells them to go over unto the other side of the lake. "And as they sailed he fell asleep; and a sudden squall of wind came down on the lake; and they were being filled [with water]." Humanly speaking, they "were in jeopardy." This was ordered of the Lord, and the enemy was allowed to put forth all his resources; but it was impossible that man should overthrow God, impossible that the Christ of God should perish. All the blessedness of the servants, if wise, would be seen to be concentrated in the Master, and all their security derived from Him. There was therefore no ground to faith why they should be alarmed. He fell asleep; He allowed things to take their course: but whatever might happen, the ship in which Jesus was could not be unsafe for those with Him. Jesus might be tempted of the devil, and might encounter all storms; but He came to destroy the works of the devil and to deliver; not to perish. It is true that, when the time came, He went down Himself into depths of sorrow, suffering, and Divine judgment — far, far greater than anything that the winds or waves could do; but He went down to the death of the Cross, bearing the burden of our sins before God, and enduring all God felt against them, in order that, rising again, He might righteously deliver us to God's glory. The disciples, knowing nothing as they ought, through unbelieving anxiety for themselves (for this it is that blinds the eyes of God's people), come to Him and awake Him with the cry, "Master, master, we perish!" They told the secret. Had their eyes been upon the Master, according to what He was before God, impossible they could have spoken of perishing. Could He perish? No doubt, separated from their Master, they might, nay, must perish; but to say "Master, master" to Jesus, and "we perish" was nothing but unbelief. At the same time they showed, as unbelief always does, their intense selfishness. Their care was for themselves, not for Him. "Then he, rising up,* rebuked the wind and the raging of the water,209 and they ceased, and there was a calm." Any other would have first rebuked them. He rebuked the raging of the wind and water; and when there was a calm He asked them, "Where is your faith?" And, being afraid, they were astonished, saying to one another, "Who, then, is this! that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?" It is evident that all depended upon the Master. The disciples were to be sent forth on a most perilous mission; but the strength was in Him, not in them; and they from the very beginning had to learn that even Jesus inquired, "Where is your faith?"
*"Rising up": so AD and later uncials with cursives, and Syrsin; but Edd. adopt "awaking," after ℵBL, 33.
Matt. 8:28-34; Mark 1-20.
Then we find another scene: not the enemy's power shown in stirring up what we may call nature against Christ and His disciples, but the direct presence of demons filling a man. We have this desperate case set forth in one who had been thus possessed for a long time.* He had broken with all social order; he "put on no clothes, and did not abide in a house, but in the tombs." A more dreadful picture of human degradation through the possession of demons could not be. "But seeing Jesus, he cried out,† and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beseech thee, torment me not."210 The demons had the consciousness of the presence of their Conqueror, the Conqueror of Satan. They dreaded to be bruised under His feet; for Christ had commanded the unclean spirit to go out from the man and then we have a further description of this power of Satan: "For very often it had seized him; and he had been bound, kept with chains and fetters; and breaking the bonds, he was driven by the demon into the deserts." Jesus was led of the Spirit there, but the devil led this man in misery; whereas Christ went in Divine grace, and in order righteously to break the power of Satan.
*"Had demons a long time": so A, later uncials and most cursives, Syrr, etc.; but Tisch. and W. H. (Revv.) adopt the order of ℵBL, 33, etc., Memph. "For a long time he put on, etc."
†"He cried out": so Edd., with ℵBDL, etc., 33. — AEΔ, etc., 1, 69, have "and crying out."
That the awfulness of the case might be more fully brought out, Jesus asks him, "What is thy name? And he said, Legion: for many demons had entered into him. And they besought* him that he would not command them to go away into the bottomless pit."211 They dreaded their hour. There was the instinctive sense in these demons that Jesus would commit them to the abyss. "And there was there a herd of many212 swine feeding on the mountain; and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into those; and he suffered them. And the demons, going out from the man, entered into the swine; and the herd rushed down the precipice into the lake, and were choked." This at once roused those who had the charge of them. "But they that fed [them], seeing what had happened, fled, and told† [it] to the city and to the country." They come out, and find the man from whom the demons had gone out, "sitting, clothed and sensible, at the feet of Jesus."213 "They were afraid." Now the state of the people discloses itself. Had there been one particle of right feeling, they would have given thanks to God; they would have been in the presence of One Who, though to be bruised by him, was to break Satan's power for ever. But though they saw "the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting, clothed and sensible, at the feet of Jesus, they were afraid," though they knew how the demoniac had been healed; still, their own hearts were not won, but the very reverse appeared. "All the multitude of the surrounding country of the Gadarenes‡ asked him to depart from them." Ah, foolish Gadarenes! who bewitched you? They all had, alas! a common interest; but the common interest of men was to get rid of Jesus. That was their one desire. After the certainty of His gracious power, after the plain overthrow of Satan's energy before their eyes, after the deliverance of their fellow, restored now, and sitting, clothed and sensible, all their thought was to beseech Jesus to depart from them, "for they were possessed with great fear." What a proof of the delusion of men! Whatever might be their terrors in presence of the man possessed with a legion of demons, they had greater fear of Jesus, and their hope and object was to get rid of Him as fast as possible. He brought in all that was holy, true, loving. He fed, He healed, He delivered; but man had no heart for God, and consequently sought only how to get rid of Him Who brought in the power of God. Any other person was more welcome. What is man! Such is the world.
*"They besought (παρεκάλουν)": so Edd., after ℵBCD, etc., 1, 33, 69, Memph. Arm. — A, etc., have παρεκάλει (Stephens and Beza), as if "he besought," which is treated as a correction from Mark 5:10. The classical conjunction of neut. plur. with sing. verb, the Hellenistic Greek of the N.T. does not always follow.
†Before "told" some minuscules have "departing," which Edd. reject after ℵABCDLΞ, 1, 33, 69, Syrr, etc. (from Matthew).
‡"Gadarenes" (Cf. Luke 5:26): so Blass, after corr, AD, etc., Syrr cu sin. — "Gergesenes" is the reading (followed by Tisch.) of ℵpm, Ccorr, L, etc., 1, 33, Memph.; "Gerasenes" (W. H., Weiss) of BCpm, D, Old Lat.
Not so with him that was healed. He besought Jesus that he might be with Him, and thus stood in moral contrast with the whole multitude which besought Him to depart from them. He had been in far more awful circumstances than they. But such is the power of God's grace. It creates and forms what we should be. If any one, according to natural antecedents, might have been expected to keep far away from Jesus, it was this demoniac, so completely had he been led captive of Satan at his will. But he was delivered, and so perfectly from the first hour, that his one desire was to be with Jesus. This was the first-fruit of the Spirit's action in a man whom grace had delivered — the untutored instinct of the new man to enjoy the presence of Jesus. The simplest soul that is born of God has this wish.
"But he sent him away, saying, Return to thine house, and relate how great things God has done for thee." He will have his desire later; meanwhile "Return to thine house." This is of price with the Lord, to show God's wonderful works, not merely to strangers, but to one's own house. Such as they would know best the shame, and sorrow, and degradation to which he had been reduced. Therefore Jesus says, "Return to thine house, and show how great things God has done for thee." The man in faith bows and understands; whatever might be his heart's desire, he is now to do the good, holy, and acceptable will of the Lord. "He went away through the whole city,214 publishing how great things Jesus had done for him." Mark, it is of Jesus he speaks. Jesus would have him to tell what God had done; and God would have him to tell what Jesus had done. This could not have been had Jesus not been the Son of God Himself. Though the lowliest servant of God, He was none the less also God. The man was right. He was not contravening the will of God, nor breaking the command of Jesus. Its spirit was the more kept, even if in the letter it might sound somewhat differently. God is honoured best when Jesus is most shown forth.
Matt. 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43.
Two other scenes (interwoven, it is true) close the chapter. The Lord is appealed to by Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue. "He, falling at the feet of Jesus, besought him to come to his house." This was the way in which a Jew expected to be healed — by the coming of Messiah to his place. "Because he had an only daughter about twelve years old, and she was dying."215 Such was the condition of the daughter of Zion now. Israel was proving that there was no life in them; but Christ is entreated, and He goes for the purpose of healing Israel.
While He is on the way, a woman crosses His path, having a most urgent need — "a flux of blood216 twelve years, who having spent all her living* on physicians, could not be cured by anyone. It was therefore a hopeless case, humanly speaking. Nevertheless she comes behind Him in the desperate sense that now was her opportunity, and "touched the hem217 of His garment. And immediately her flux of blood stopped." The Lord was, of course, conscious of that which was done. If faith feels the grace and power of Jesus in any measure, and applies ever so feebly, hesitatingly, and tearfully, Jesus knows it well, and yearns over that soul. His heart was towards her, and He would have her know it. She touched Him from behind. Jesus would bring her into His presence, face to face, and would have her to know that His hearty consent went with the blessing which she had seemed to steal but really acquired by the touch of faith. Hence He says, "Who has touched me?" It was in vain that Peter or the others sought to explain it away, when all denied. It was in vain to say that the multitude thronged, and therefore why ask who touched Him.† The Lord stood to it: somebody had touched Him. It was not a crowd's pressure: it was not an accident. It was distinctly one who had touched Him. There was the real recourse of faith, however weak. "Jesus said, Someone has touched me, for I have known that power has gone out from me." The multitude thronging could extract no virtue: not thus did Jesus heal. No such external pressure is of avail to bring blessing out of Him. But the soul that finds itself near to Jesus, and touches, however timorously, never fails to gather blessing from Him. "And the woman, seeing that she was not hid [this was not the state in which the Lord would leave her, nor any who are blessed], came trembling, and, falling down before him, declared [unto him]‡ before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was immediately healed." The glory of God was thus secured, and a bright testimony to Him was rendered; but her heart needed also to be thoroughly restored. She must learn what love God has, and how completely Jesus would give her communion with Himself in the blessing conferred. Thus is the Giver known, and the gift enhanced infinitely. It was not something stolen, but freely imparted. Therefore says He, "Be of good courage, daughter."§ He uses the term of affection expressly to banish all terror and uneasiness. "Be of good courage, daughter; thy faith has healed thee; go in peace. "What a joy it would be to her ever afterwards to know that she had not only got the mercy her body needed from God, but that the Saviour, the Lord God who healed her diseases, the ever blessed Physician, had spoken to her, given her His own warrant, comforted her when her heart was utterly afraid, used terms even of such endearment towards her, owned her faith, feeble as it was, and finally sent her away with a message of peace.
*"Having spent all her living on physicians": so Tisch., from ℵACDL and later uncials, cursives. — W. H., Weiss and Blass omit, after BD, Syrsin, Arm. (reminiscence of Mark 5:25).
†"And sayest thou, Who has touched me?": so ACD and later uncials, cursives, Old Lat. and Syrr. Edd. omit, after ℵBL, Sahid. Memph. Arm. (from Mark).
‡After "declared." Cpm, E, and some later uncials have "to him," which Edd. omit, after ℵABCcorr, DL, 1, 33, 69, Syrrpesch cu sin, Old Lat. Memph.
§["Be of good courage"]: so AC, etc., most cursives (33, 69), Syrrpesch hcl, Goth. Aeth. Arm. Edd. omit, after ℵBDLΞ, 1, Syrrcu sin, most Old Lat. Sah. Memph. (from Matthew).
"While he was yet speaking, there comes one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher. But Jesus hearing it, answered him, saying,* Fear not: only believe, and she shall be made well."
*"Saying": so ACD, etc., Syrsin, Memph. Goth. Arm. — Edd. omit, after ℵBL, etc., 1, 33, Syrcu.
Such turns out to be the real condition of Israel, not sick only, but dead. But Jesus carried within Himself the secret of resurrection. He is equal to all emergencies, and knew infinitely better than they both the maiden's need and His own mighty power. He did not come down to do what others might have done. An angel may trouble the pool of Bethesda for a man not too infirm to step in immediately. The Son quickens whom He will. And the Jews, long rebellious in unbelief, long seeking to destroy His name Who by such a claim makes Himself equal with God, will yet own the despised Messiah as their Lord and their God, and the dry bones shall live; and all Israel, at length saved, shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit! Isa. 27:6. Of this the sick and now dead maiden is the pledge; and He, Who then bids her father fear not but believe, will redeem the pledge He gave of old.
"And when he came to the house, he suffered no one to go in,* but Peter, and John, and James,†218 and the father of the child and the mother. And all were weeping and lamenting her. But he said, Do not weep; for‡ she has not died, but sleeps.219 And they derided him, knowing that she had died. But he, having turned them all out,§ and taking hold of her hand, cried, saying, Child, arise. And her spirit returned, and immediately she rose up; and he commanded [something] to eat to be given to her. And her parents were amazed, but he enjoined them to tell no one what had happened." The spirit of scorn then and there was but a little sample of what is to be; but such can have no portion in the blessing permanently. For while many of Israel that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, with some it will be to shame and everlasting contempt, as surely as with others to everlasting life. Dan. 12:2. For they are not all Israel that are of Israel. But the word of gracious power shall go forth from Him in Whose eyes the virgin daughter of Zion was not dead, but sleeping; and she shall arise. And He Who at length wakes her up from her death sleep, shall care for her and strengthen her for the great work to which Zion will then be called. It was, however, but a passing act of power then; the time was not yet come for more; and Jesus charged them to tell none what was done. If He were not received Himself, if His word were refused, it was vain to publish His power; unbelief would only turn it to worse evil.
*"Came to": so most texts (Edd.); D has "entered into." — After "to go in," Edd. add "with him," as in BCpmD, etc., 33, 69, Memph. Aeth. which ACcorrR, Syrcu, Goth. Arm. omit.
†"John and James": so Edd., after BCDERΔ, etc., 1, 69, Old Lat. — ℵAL, etc., 33, Amiat., Syrrpesch cur sin, Memph. have "James and John."
‡"For": so Edd., following ℵBCDFL, etc., 1, 33,69, Syrr. Memph. — AER, etc., and Amiat. omit.
§"Having turned them all out, and": so A and most later uncials, etc., 33, 69, Syrrpesch hcl. — Edd. omit, following ℵABDLX, and cursives, with Syrrcu sin, most Old Lat. Aeth. (regarded as from Mark).
Matt. 10:1-7, 9-11, 14; Mark 6:7-13.
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 292-316.
The last chapter showed Christ's testimony to the change that was coming. This chapter gives us the twelve entrusted with the same testimony. They were to go forth representatives of Christ everywhere, invested with the power of the Kingdom. They had both "power and authority over all demons and to heal diseases," as well as a mission "to proclaim220 the kingdom of God." The Lord gave them their authority. They were to be manifestly dependent on the King, and in a remarkable way the King's power would open and none should shut, and shut and none could open. Nevertheless, this sovereign power of the King over the hearts of His people Israel was not without the maintenance of their responsibility. Whoever rejected Him must bear his burden. The word, however, is, "Take nothing for your journey, neither staff,* nor wallet, nor bread, nor money."221 It must be manifestly the resources of God, however He might work by men. They were not to care for themselves, not even to have two coats (vests) apiece. "And into whatsoever house ye may have entered, there abide, and thence go forth. And as many as may not receive you, going forth from that city, shake off even† the dust from your feet for a witness against them." Thus then they departed, "and passed through the villages, announcing the glad tidings, and healing everywhere."
*"Staff": so Edd., after ℵBCpmDLΞ, 1, 33, 69 Old Lat. Syrcu, Sah. Aeth. Arm. — "Staves" (Meyer) is found in ACcorrΔ, and other later uncials, many cursives, Syrsin, Goth.
†"Even (the very)": so Tisch., after ACcorrEΔ, etc., Syrr (including sin.), Amiat.; but other Edd. omit, following ℵBCpmDLXΞ, 1, 33.
Matt. 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-16.
Then we find the working of conscience in Herod. "And Herod the Tetrarch heard of all the things which were done [by him]:* and was in perplexity, because it was said by some that John was risen from among the dead; and by some, that Elias had appeared; and by others, that one of the old prophets had risen again." Herod's conviction was that he had beheaded John: he knew this too well. "John," he said, "I have beheaded: but who is this of whom I hear such things? And he sought222 to see him." But desire in Divine things, unless it be accompanied by the action of conscience in the sense of sin on the one hand, and of grace on the other on God's part, never comes to any good. Many a man has heard God's testimony gladly, and given it all up. Many a man has had respect for the witnesses; but, as we see in Herod's case, first as to John, it did not hinder him from beheading John; and next, as to Jesus, it did not hinder him from taking his part in the last scene of the uttermost humiliation of the Lord. There was nothing of Divine life in the action of his conscience. There was no working of grace, because there was no sense of his own sin and need in God's sight, which might drive him to God.
*["By him"]: so AE and most later uncials, nearly all cursives (1, 33), Syrrpesch, Amiat. Edd. reject, after ℵBCL, 69, Syrrsin cu, Vulg. Sah. Memph. Aeth. Goth. Arm.
Matt. 14:13-21; Mark. 6:30-44; John 6:1-13.
The apostles return, telling the Lord of all that they had done. But it is evident that they knew not how to avail themselves of the power that was entrusted to them. So Jesus takes them, and goes aside "apart223 into224 [a desert place of]* a city, called Bethsaida." And now we see how perfectly Jesus wielded the power of which He was the vessel as man. For although He had turned aside privately, the people follow Him there; "and he received them, and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those that had need of healing."224a No one ever came amiss to Jesus. No need ever was presented without drawing out His grace. No retirement led Him to treat those who came as intruders. But the difference between the Master and the servant appears. For "the day began to decline,225 and the twelve came and said to him, Send away the crowd, that they may go† into the villages around, and the fields, and lodge, and find victuals: for here we are in a desert place." But this would not suit Jesus. "He said to them, Give ye them to eat." Unbelief begins at once to reckon. They counted the loaves and the fishes: there were but five loaves and two fishes, except they should go and buy meat for all this people. Thus those who ought to have been the witnesses of the power and grace of God are ignorant of the Lord's present resources, and only think of what might be procured by money from man. The Lord says to His disciples — so great was His grace that He would put honour upon them even in their weakness and want of faith — "Make them sit down in companies by fifties. And they did so, and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fishes, looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave226 to the disciples to set before the crowd." Viewed as the Son of man, and the Son of God as man (and so Luke does view Him), God was with Him, not only when He went about doing good, but when men followed Him into the wilderness. There was no difference. Everywhere the grace of God was upon Him, the power of God with Him. So He blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. He fed His poor with bread. It was not the true Bread which came down from heaven, because He, and He alone, was this. But He Who was the true Bread loved to feed them even with the bread that perishes, though He would have loved still better to feed them with that Bread which is unto life eternal. The Lord Jesus alone knows, therefore, how to use all the resources of the kingdom of God. He waited for no special time and for no special circumstances. He is able to bring in the blessing according to need now; for God was with Him, and He was with God touching all circumstances. "And they all ate and were all filled; and there was taken up of what had remained over and above to them twelve hand-baskets." There was more at the end than at the beginning, though five thousand men, besides women and children, had partaken. Such was Jesus; and such will Jesus be when the kingdom of God appears — the furnisher of all the nourishment, and joy, and blessing of the kingdom. Nor is He less, or other, but the same now,227 though the manner of exhibiting, His gracious power is according to the present purpose of God in the Church. But He is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. Heb. 13:8.
*["A desert place of"]: so ACΔ and other uncials, most cursives, Goth. Aeth. Arm. Edd. adopt "(into) a city called Bethsaida," with BD ("village") LXX, 33, Sah. Memph. — Amiat. and Old Latin have "a d. p. which is B."
†"Go": so Edd., after ℵABCDL, etc., Syrsin. 33, 69, — Δ, etc., "go away" (which is in Mark).
Matt. 16:13-28; Mark 8:27-9:1.
The Lord is again praying alone, as we have found Him in previous parts of this Gospel, and indeed in others. So it was at His baptism, when the Holy Ghost descended on Him, and afterwards in His ministry, when we are told that He withdrew Himself into the wilderness and prayed. This was when multitudes came to hear and to be healed, when the power of the Lord was there to heal afresh. So also before He chose the twelve apostles, it is said, "He continued all night in prayer to God." It was after men were communing to kill Him, and before the appointment of the apostles and the discourse on the mount.
Now He is about to disclose His death. The sense of His entire rejection filled His soul, because of the unbelief of the people; and the Father was about to give the most direct personal witness of His glory, as well as to show what was reserved for Him in the Kingdom. He would own Him as Son of God now, He would display Him by and by as the Son of man. Accordingly "it came to pass, as he was praying alone, his disciples were with him; and he asked them, saying, Who do the crowd say that I am? But they answering said, John the Baptist; but others, Elias; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen again." This elicited from Peter, in reply to the direct question of the Lord — "But ye, who do ye say that I am?" — the confession that He was the Christ of God.*
*Syrsin omits "of God," as also the Curetonian, and Old Latin, Codex Vercellensis.
It is remarkable how Luke here omits what Matthew records. In point of fact He owned Him to be the Son of God as well; but this is peculiar to Matthew. The reason why it is given in Matthew seems to me because that is the title of Christ's personal glory, which is the joy of the Christian. The Church of God delights in Christ as the Son of the living God; Israel will hail the Christ as the Son of David. The world, all mankind, will be blest by Christ as the Son of man; but the Christian and the Church have their joy in Him as the Son of the living God. It is clearly the most elevated and properly Divine of His titles. It is intrinsic and personal. Along with this we find in Matthew, and in his Gospel alone, the revelation from the Lord Jesus that upon this rock He would build His Church — that is, on this confession of His name. Consequently as Matthew is the only one who gives us His name, and the confession of it by Peter, so the Lord is represented only there as about to build the Church.
All this disappears from Luke. Here Peter simply says "The Christ of God." The Lord "earnestly charging them, enjoined [them] to say this to no man." This is a remarkable word. Why withhold from people that He was the Christ of God? Why this reserve as to His Messiahship? It was useless to bring it forward. Some said one thing, and some another. No man had faith in Him except those who were born of God. Man, as man, rejected Him. The Jews rejected Him. The disciples confessed Him, Peter pre-eminently; but it was no use to go on preaching Him as the Christ or Messiah of Israel. He was the Anointed of God, but in truth He was going to suffer, and consequently the Lord introduces another title in connection with His cross. "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up." It was particularly this very title that the Lord habitually gives Himself. So in Matthew: "Who say ye that I the Son of man am?" Peter then confesses Him as really the Jewish Christ, but also "the son of the living God." The Lord intimates that they must drop the first. It was useless to speak about it, it was too late. Had the people received Him, He would have reigned as Messiah. But, morally speaking, that could not be. On the one hand man was unbelieving, wicked, and lost; on the other hand it was according to the counsels of God that Jesus was to be put to death on the cross, and to rise into a new creation in which He would have men His fellows. If Jesus had not been crucified, it would have proved that man was not altogether so evil as God had said. But as man really is profoundly bad, according to the Word of God, it was a moral certainty that man would crucify the Lord Jesus, and so God predicted by His prophets. The Lord now reminds them that the old proclamation as the Christ must close. He was going to die as Son of man. He had His death always before Him. It was the settled counsel of God the Father, and the settled purpose of the Son. He came to die, not only knowing it, but with his heart fully devoted to the accomplishment of the will of God, cost what it might, as it did cost His own death and rejection. In His death He wrought atonement for our sins. Here, however, His death is simply viewed as rejection from man: "The Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected of the elders, and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and the third day be raised up." God's part in the matter, either in judgment of our wickedness or in introducing redemption, is not stated. Assuredly it was then and there, as it was always destined to be; but sometimes the one side of truth, sometimes the other, is presented in Scripture. He is rejected by the heads of the Jews. It was a sad and humbling fact that they should cast off their own Messiah, who was, adds He Himself, to "be raised up the third day."
This suffering of the Son of man at once defines the path for the disciple. "He said to [them] all, If any one will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,* and follow me."229 It was in no way enjoyment of earthly things. That would be all suited and seasonable in the Kingdom when He reigns as the Christ, as well as Son of man, according to the hopes furnished by the prophets. There we find every kind of proof of God's beneficence, and men's hearts will be filled with gladness. But such is not the character of Christianity. The Cross shows us our true path. If Christ suffered, the Christian cannot expect to be above his Master. Christ was going to the cross; therefore if any man would come after Him, "let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever shall desire to save his life230 shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, he shall save it. For what shall a man profit if he shall have gained the whole world, and have destroyed or come under the penalty of the loss of himself?"
*"Daily": so Edd., following ℵABKL, and later uncials, 1, 33, 69, Syrrpesch cu, Amiat. Goth. Memph. Arm., CDEXΔ, etc., many cursives, Syrsin and most Old Latin omit.
The truth comes out. Everything now depends on eternal life. It is no longer a question of living long on the earth. This was, and will be, all very well for the Jew. But the Cross of Christ is the burial of all Jewish thoughts. Hence if a man is careful to save his life now, he will lose it. He may save it in a lower sense, but he will lose it in a deeper. He may save it in this world, but lose it for eternity. But if I am willing to lose it in the lower, I shall save it in the best — the eternal — sense. The death of Christ brings everything to a point: all then becomes the momentous question of eternal life and salvation. The Jews did not think of this. They panted for a great king that would raise them to the pinnacle of earthly greatness. Christianity shows us the One on Whom all turns, Himself crucified; and those who come after the Crucified cannot escape from the cross. Each Christian must deny himself, and that not merely once, but daily taking up His cross, and following Him. "For whosoever shall have been ashamed231 of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man232 be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and [in that] of the Father, and of the holy angels."
There lies the solemnity of the issue. If ashamed of One rejected and of His words, He will be ashamed of us in glory. We have not Christ personally, but we have Him by faith, His name, and also, as a test of our truth of heart, His words. A man might plead the words of Moses and the prophets; but these would not avail now. A man who merely attached himself to the words of the law and the prophets, to the exclusion of the New Testament, could not be saved. When God brings out the full revelation of Christ, I must go forward and be subject to what God gives. The Jews hold on to the truth of the unity of God in order to deny the truth of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. True faith now values all that God gives. It is not real if it does not value what He gives for the present time. Hence the test is truth freshly used of God for the actual moment, and not merely what was known of old. Unbelief is always wrong; it takes advantage of what is traditional to deny what was newly revealed.
"Whosoever shall have been ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his glory." There we find the proper glory of the Son of man. It is a rejected Man Who is exalted on high; but He will come in His own glory, and "[in that] of the Father, and of the holy angels." His being a man did not at all touch His Divine rights. The angels were all subject to Him as man, He had a title above them because He was God; and He had won a title superior to them, because He had died on the cross. Thus by a double title the Lord Jesus has not only all mankind but angels subject to Him as man. "But I say unto you of a truth, there are some of those standing here who shall not taste death233 until they shall have seen the kingdom of God."233a This was a bright witness calculated and intended to strengthen those who were meant to be forward and at the head of things in God's testimony and in the Church. The reference is to Peter, James, and John, who were permitted a sight of the kingdom of God before it comes in power.
Matt. 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-9.
Eight days after,234 when the glory was about to appear, the Lord prays. "And as he prayed, the fashion [aspect] of his countenance became different, and his raiment white235 [and] effulgent." Luke is the only one of the Evangelists who mentions His prayer here, and that, as He prayed, He was transfigured. "And lo, two men with him, who were Moses and Elias," the representatives of the saints dead and raised, living and changed. Moses died and is here seen as risen, and Elias as the pattern of those who shall be changed. "Who appearing in glory, spoke of his departure which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.236 This is the great topic of heavenly discourse. There can be no fact above so precious as the death of Jesus. It will be the grand theme throughout eternity. It is the foundation of all the ways of God in redemption, the highest moral glory of God as it is the fullest proof of His love. "They spoke with him of his departure which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem." On earth Jesus takes the highest place, as alas! the lowest also for us and our sins, yet He is, too, the highest in grace, as He will be in the ways of God. It will be so in the days of the Kingdom, when God's counsels shall appear for the earth as well as the heavens.
"But Peter and those with him were oppressed with sleep."237 They slept in the garden when Christ was going through His agony, and they were heavy with sleep when Christ's glory was being revealed. Thus man is utterly worthless for communion, whether with suffering or glory, and this, not man without life from God, but the chosen disciples, the future pillars of the work, the most worthy and excellent of the earth. Yet these, as they could not watch one hour when it was a question of the sorrows of Jesus, so they were oppressed with sleep when His glory in His kingdom was revealed. So wholly incapable of answering in his soul to God's display is man of the grace of Christ or of the glory He intends for him.
"But having fully woke up (or kept awake),238 they saw his glory, and the two men who stood with him. And it came to pass as they departed from him, Peter said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles,238a one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said." Indeed, he did not know. It was sheer forgetfulness of the personal dignity of Jesus. "Let us make three tabernacles," one for his Master and the other two for His servants, Moses and Elias. Would he, then, put his Master, the Lord of all, on the same level with the head of the law and the chief of the prophets? Peter thought this would be great honour for Him! He was altogether astray. The root of all wrong is depreciation of Jesus. The power for all that is good is faith in His glory. Thus Peter, in a human way, seeking to honour Jesus, in reality lowers Him; and this God the Father would never allow, specially in a disciple. "But as he was saying these things there came a cloud and overshadowed them," the well-known symbol of Jehovah's presence in Israel: it was not a dark, but a bright, cloud, as we are told in another Gospel: "and they feared as they* entered into the cloud," meaning, I suppose, that the disciples feared as they saw Moses and Elias enter the cloud239 They could not understand that men, even glorified, should be within the circle of the peculiar presence of Jehovah. The pavilion of His glory might tabernacle over man; but it seemed too much to them that men should thus be at home there, even though it were men in glory.
*"They" (αὐτοὐς): so Edd., with ℵBCL, Memph. Blass, "those" (ἐκείνους), as ADΔ, 1, 33, 69, Sah.
More follows: "There came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him." It is no longer a question of Moses and Elias. The law and the prophets were admirable forerunners, and not a tittle can fall unfulfilled to the ground; but the Son of God comes and necessarily takes precedence of all. "This is my beloved* Son: hear him." Do not put Moses and Elias on a level with Him. They were to be heard as the finger-posts which point to Christ; but when Jesus the Son of God is there, He is to be heard. This is Christianity. Almost every working of unbelief in Christianity now consists in lowering Jesus to the law and the prophets, or, at any rate, to man, the first man. No one born of God would slight the law and the prophets; but it is one thing to own them as having Divine authority, quite another to put them on a level with the Son of God. They were Divine witnesses, but the Son must have His own due supremacy. In all things He must have the pre-eminence. (Col. 1:18.) And so God the Father here insists upon it. "This is my beloved240 Son: hear him."
*"Beloved": so ACDΔ and most later uncials, all cursives, Syrrcu pesch, most Old Lat. and Amiat. Edd. adopt "chosen," after ℵBLΞ, Syrsin, Sah. Memph. Arm.
"And as the voice was [heard] Jesus was found alone." This is really the very strength of our souls — that we have but one Person who is or can be the full objective revelation of the mind of God to us. We honour most the Father and we show best the power of the Holy Ghost when we have Jesus before us, and we are following Him day by day. "This one thing I do," says the apostle. (Phil. 3:13.) "And they kept silence and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen."240a
Matt. 17:14-23; Mark 9:14-32.
The next scene plunges us at once into the realities of the world as it is, the more painfully felt because of the bright vision of the age to come on the mount of transfiguration, whether in the sample of the kingdom of the Son of man or the inner scene of those who entered the cloud. Here, on the contrary, we have the world as it now is through the power of Satan. "It came to pass that on the following day241 when they came down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. And a man from the crowd cried out saying, Teacher, I beseech thee, look upon my son, for he is mine only child: and behold a spirit takes him and suddenly he cries out; and it tears him with foaming; and with difficulty departed from him after crushing him. And I besought thy disciples that they might cast him out, and they could not." It was a picture, indeed, of Israel and we may say of man. Such was the power of the demon over him; and the fact most distressing was that the disciples were quite unable to meet the case. They were men of God; they were His most honoured servants, already sent out with power and authority by the Lord Jesus, as we saw in the beginning of this chapter: and yet they could not cope with this aggravated form of demoniacal possession.
"And Jesus answering said, O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and suffer you? bring hither thy son." The Lord had thus before His mind the vivid feeling of His approaching departure: "how long shall I be with you and suffer you?" It was for want, not of power but of faith, that they could not cast the spirit out. Faith always supposes two things — sense of the weight and yoke of evil that presses on man, and confidence in God as always superior to evil in His gracious power and supreme. There may be failure, but never final defeat where room is left for God to come in, and the heart cleaves to the certainty of His glory concerned in the matter. The lack of this was what grieved the Lord Jesus; their inability was due to want of faith and of self-judgment.
"But as he was yet coming the demon tore him, and dragged him all together. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and gave him back to his father." The Lord had thus before Him a fresh and, if possible, mightier effort of Satan; but His power, or rather the power of God, which He wielded as the self-emptied Son and obedient Man, rose above all the efforts of Satan. He rebukes the unclean spirit and heals the child. "And they were all astonished at the glorious greatness of God." Yet why should they have been? Jesus was God Himself manifest in the flesh. But the blessedness of Jesus was this, that He never did anything simply as God, but as the Man Who was dependent on God. Had He not preserved such a place and wrought by the power of the Holy Ghost as man, He would have failed to preserve the perfect place of man and of servant in the world. But this was His human perfection from the time He came born of woman. Nothing could be so powerful as either motive or example to us.
"And as all wondered at all the things which [Jesus]* did† he said to his disciples, Do ye let these words sink into your ears. For the Son of man is about to be delivered into men's hands." They were astonished with a wonder which, while it was a homage to what was done, was also an indication of a want of intelligence. The Lord now brings out a far deeper cause of amazement and of adoration, had they only felt it rightly. Alas! it is what unbelief always stumbles at. He who could rebuke all the power, not only of men but of Satan, was nevertheless to be delivered into the hands of men. Such was the purpose of God, such the perfect willingness of Jesus the servant of God and Lord of all! Whatever would demonstrate the truth of man's state and of Satan's power here below; whatever would evince the ruin of the people of God and the destruction of His glory through their ruin on earth; whatever would prove the vanity of all present hopes for man and the world — for this Jesus was willing to encounter all and to suffer from to the uttermost, that God might be first morally, then in power, glorified, and man be set in perfect peace outside it all, first by faith and at last in palpable fact and for ever. The work of atonement came within this most complete humiliation of the Son of man; but these words of Christ speak simply, it is evident, of His suffering at the hands of men.
*["Jesus"]: so AC, etc., Syrrpesch hcl. Edd. omit, after ℵBDLΞ, 1, Syrrsin cu, Amiat. Memph. Arm.
†"Did": so Edd., after ℵABCDL, etc., 1, 33, 69, Syrr. Old Lat. "Had done," EXΔ, etc.
"But they understood not this saying." Yet Scripture was full of it; but the will of man blinds him to what he does not like, and nowhere so much as in Scripture. The Jews greedily caught at the vision of glory and the promises for the people — the exaltation of their nation and the downfall of their haughty Gentile oppressors. And so the words of God, which described the humiliation of the Messiah, were quite overlooked in general and always misunderstood. Even when our Lord here told them, not in prophetic form, nor with any obscurity of figure, but in the simplest terms possible, they understood not His saying. How little the understanding of Scripture has to do with its language! The true cause of darkness lies in the heart. The only real power of intelligence is in the Holy Spirit, who makes us willing to bow to Christ sensible of our own need of such a Saviour and really in earnest that God should save us on His own terms.
Matt. 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-40.
This was not the case with the disciples — "They understood not this saying." They had not confidence fully in His love. Confidence in Him has much to do with intelligence of His Word; and even if we do not understand, confidence in Him leads us not to cavil nor to hurry, but to wait and count upon Him that He will surely clear up what we do not understand. He will reveal even this unto us. The disciples merely dropped the matter. "They feared to ask him concerning this saying." The real state of their hearts is brought before us in the next account: "And a reasoning came in amongst them, who should be [the] greatest of them. And Jesus, seeing* the reasoning of their heart, having taken a little child, set it by him, and said to them, Whosoever shall receive this little child in my name receives me; and whosoever shall receive me receives him that sent me. For he who is the least among you all, he is† great." This was what they wanted — to become as little children. It is not here presented as in Matthew, in order to enter the Kingdom, but in relation to Christ and to God Himself. They wished each to be greatest; there was consequently a discussion which of them should have the higher place. A little child does not think about this, but is content with its parents' love and with that which comes before it. It is not occupied with thoughts of itself, nor should it be. Indeed, this is just what is wrought in the heart by conversion; and especially by the subsequent power of the indwelling Spirit of God giving us to see Another's greatness and goodness, in the enjoyment of which we forget ourselves. "Whosoever shall receive this little child in my name receives me; and whosoever shall receive me receives him that sent me." The reception of Jesus is the reception of God Himself and thus the root of real greatness. But practically, flowing from this, to be least is the true greatness of the believer now. Such was Christ Himself. He was willing to take, and did take, the place of the most despised of all.242
*"Seeing": so ACDLΔΞ, etc. Edd. adopt "knowing," as in ℵB, etc.
†"Is": so Edd., with ℵBCL, etc., 1, 33, Syrrcu sin, most old Lat., Amiat., Memph. "Shall be" (Blass); AD, etc., nearly all cursives (69), Syrr. Arm.
"And John answered and said, Master, we saw some one casting out demons in thy name; and we forbad him, because he follows not with us. And Jesus said to him, Forbid [him] not; for he that is not against you is for you."* Here comes a considerably subtler form of self. The grossest form was in the question which of them should be greatest; but now comes a certain disguise of self, which consists in apparent zeal for the Master's honour. "Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he follows not with us." What a reason! It was well, it was an immense honour, to follow Jesus; but John betrayed himself by his very language "he follows not with us." Had he kept Jesus before his eye, he never would have uttered the complaint. He would have seen that it was for Jesus to call, as they had been chosen by Him in pure grace unto this honour. It was evident that John looked at it as an interference with the apostles, and a failure in acknowledging their importance. But Jesus, superior to everything of a fleshly nature, answers, "Forbid him not; for he that is not against you is for you."* Jesus, in the sense of His humiliation and looking for it even unto death, owns whatever is of God. It was not Satan that cast out Satan. It was the power of God that cast out the demons. Nay, more than this. The demons were cast out in the name of Jesus; why, then, should John have a jealousy so narrow and unworthy? Why should he not own the power that answered to his Master's name. Ah! was it really his Master and not himself that he was thinking of? "He that is not against you is for you." Where it was a question of the unbelief of the nation, Where Jesus was utterly despised, the word then was, "He that is not with me is against me." The converse principle is true, no doubt; but where there was a simple-hearted man, serving God according to the measure of his faith, the Lord vindicates his action in His name. By John's own account the power was there which answered to the name of Jesus. There was one who resisted the demons, using the name of Jesus against them. And there was power; for he did cast them out, and this through the name of Jesus. Had there, therefore, been a true care for the glory of the Lord Jesus, John would rather have rejoiced than have sought his prejudice. "Forbid him not," says the Lord, "for he that is not against you is for you."243
†"Against you is for you": so Edd., following BCDLΞ, 33, Old Lat., Syrrcu sin, Memph. Goth. Aeth. Arm. "Against you is for us," ℵpm AΔ. E (T.R.), etc., have "against us is for us" (Mark).
"It came to pass when the days of his being received up were fulfilled he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers before his face. And having gone they entered into a village of the Samaritans that they might make ready for him. And they did not receive him,245 because his face was [turned as] going to Jerusalem." There was no readiness for the Lord. Their dislike of favoured Jerusalem made them utterly forget the glory of Jesus and the testimony of His gracious power which these very Samaritans had every reason to know and to feel grateful for. But, "they did not receive him, because his face was [turned as] going to Jerusalem." How often circumstances bring out the state of our hearts! What they would not dare to do, were it simply a question of Jesus, some paltry selfish feeling arouses some latent jealousy and brings all to light. These same men stumble over the personal glory of Jesus; others, attracted by the world, prove that they have no heart for a Saviour, by seeking what it has of present things to bestow. Others, again disliking the inevitable shame of the Cross of Christ, shrink from the trial it brings them into, and prove that they have no faith because wherever this is real, it looks fixedly and simply to Jesus. Where other objects come in, there is a turning aside; but where real faith is, it welcomes the Cross and receives Himself, and to such God gives title to become His children.
What was the effect of Samaritan party-feeling now on the disciples? "And his disciples James and John seeing [it], said, Lord, wilt thou that we speak [that] fire come down from heaven and consume them, as also* Elias did?" Now it was not contrary to the principles of the disciples that Elias should thus be the instrument of Divine judgment; but how painfully did James and John (for now John was not alone), two that afterwards were of great weight and value in the Church of God,246 show their little perception of the grace of Jesus! The Lord of glory passes on, accepting His rejection, and bows to the ungrateful unbelief of the Samaritans. But His two servants, deriving everything of which they could boast, the only One that could take away their evil and bestow the goodness of God on them, under pretence of honouring Jesus, would command fire to come down from heaven and consume them like a Jewish prophet. How little love had they for souls! As little was it a true regard for Jesus. It was honest Jewish nature, though in apostles. It was no doubt indignation, but this far more springing from themselves than for Jesus. Jesus turned therefore and rebuked them. It was not now simply a correction of what they were saying, but a rebuke to themselves.
*"As also Elias did": so Blass, with ACD, all later uncials, 1, 33, 69, Syrrpesch hcl, Memph. Aeth. Other Edd. omit, after ℵBLΞ, and Syrrcu sin, Amiat. and Arm.
"Ye know not of what spirit ye are."246a The next verse would seem to be — the first part at least — an interpolation.* It was not a question of saving souls in this place. If inserted here, It would make man the reason and end; whereas the suggestion was contrary to the display of what God is, and inconsistent with His grace, which does not merely save the soul but fills the heart with the moral glory of the Lord Jesus. "And they went to another village."
*["And said, Ye know not of what spirit ye are"]: so Blass, after D (in part) F, and later uncials, most cursives (1, 69), Syrr, Amiat., etc., Other Edd. reject, following ℵABCL, etc., 33, Syrsin. See W. H., App., p. 59f. After "are," FKM, more than sixty cursives (1, 69), Syrrcu sin, several Old Lat., and Amiat. have "For the Son of man has not come to destroy men's lives, but to save [them]." Edd. omit, in accordance with ℵABCDL, etc., many cursives (33).
In all this context, since the transfiguration, human flesh is judged in its various forms. Indeed, even there the flesh was shown quite incompetent to appreciate the glory of God, or the new things of His kingdom. Thenceforward disciples and man manifest their unbelief and consequent powerlessness before Satan; their unintelligence as to the sufferings of the Son of man; their worldly ambition, cloaking itself under the Lord's name, though so utterly inconsistent with Him; the party-spirit that overlooks the Spirit of God Who deigns to work sovereignly; and the spirit of grace that God was now showing in Christ as contrasted with all that even an Elias did.
But now we have not the failure of the apostles themselves, but the judgment of those who either were or wanted to be disciples. This is brought before us in the close of the chapter in three different forms successively. "It came to pass,* as they went in the way, one247 said to him, I will follow thee wheresoever thou goest, Lord.† It was apparently a good confession, as it was a zealous resolution; but man never can go before the Lord. No one ever did give himself up to God — he must be called. He who says "I will follow thee" knows not his weakness. When we think what man is and what Jesus is, for man to say "I will follow thee wheresoever thou goest" is manifestly the grossest presumption, yet man sees no presumption in it. So ignorant is man, so besotted in unbelief, that to his eyes real faith seems presumptuous, whereas there is nothing so humble; for faith forgets itself in the goodness and might of Him on Whom it leans. It was the expression of self-confidence to say to Jesus, "I will follow thee wheresoever thou goest, Lord." Now he who does this always miscalculates. He overlooks the glory of Christ and the depth of His grace. He overlooks also his own total want of power and perhaps even his need of forgiveness. No man is competent till he is called by grace to follow the Lord. And when we are called, the Lord does not send us forth at our own charges. He gives liberally the needed wisdom and ability to those who ask Him; but He goes before us. To follow the Lord whithersoever He went, before His death (as in this case), was beyond man. When even Peter, at a later date, said something like it, it was just before he denied the Lord. Such is flesh. "I will follow thee to prison and to death," said Peter; but, in fact, the very shadow of what was coming frightened him. A servant-girl was enough to terrify the chief of the apostles. It made him tell lies with oaths; whereas the same Peter, after the death and resurrection of Christ, when his own conscience had been purified by faith according to the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, became bold as a lion, as he finally followed the Lord, not only to prison but to the death of the cross. But this was altogether the strength-giving effect of God's grace, not of his own power, which utterly failed. When his natural energy was gone, he was stronger than ever: he was only truly strong when he had no strength of his own. The Lord answers the scribe (for such we know him to be from another Gospel): "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven roosting-places, but the Son of man has not where he may lay his head." The man was judged. He came for what he could get, and the Lord had nothing to give him — nothing but shame, and suffering, and destitution. The foxes might have holes, and the birds of the air nests, but the rejected Messiah had not an earthly resting-place. There was to be found in Israel no man so poor as the Lord Jesus. When He wanted to teach them a lesson of subjection to Caesar, whom their sins had set over them, He had to ask for a penny to be shown Him. We do not know that the Lord ever possessed a fraction. "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have roosting-places; but the Son of man has not where he may lay his head." It was no use therefore for this man to follow Him in hopes of gaining by it. What could be gained by it on earth, but a share of His rejection? "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (1 Cor. 15:19.)
*"It came to pass": so ADΔ, etc., Syrrpesch, Goth. Edd. omit, after ℵBCL, etc., 33, 69, Syrrcu sin, Memph. Aeth. Arm.
†"Lord": so ACΔ and later uncials, nearly all cursives, Goth. Edd. omit, after ℵBDLΞ, 1, Syrsin, Amiat. Memph.
But now comes another case, considerably different, where the Lord takes the initiative.
"He said to another, Follow me." The flesh, so bold in its offers to go after Jesus, is really slow to follow when He calls; as this man, though called, instantly feels the difficulties, and says, "Lord,* allow me to go first and bury my father." You find this in true believers. When a person has Christianity before his mind as a theory, all seems easy. He thinks he can do anything. Ordinarily, where the faith is genuine, difficulties are felt; and this man pleads the very first of all human duties. What would seem not only reasonable, but so incumbent on him, as first to go and bury his father? Did not the law command the child to honour father and mother? To be sure; but One was there greater than the law. The God who gave the law was calling, and if He says, Follow Me, faith gives up everything, even be it father, or mother, or wife, or children, for Christ's sake. Believers must come to this sooner or later; generally in the long run, every one who thoroughly follows Christ. It is not felt at every moment; but the principle of Christianity is the sovereign call of God in Christ that takes one clean out of the world. Whilst still in the world one belongs to another — absolutely and only to Christ, to do the will of God. Hence all natural ties must be in comparison like the green withs with which Samson was bound, and which were no more than tow before his all-overcoming strength. The most intimate of natural ties are after all but of flesh; whereas flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The link with Christ is of the Spirit; and the Spirit is mightier than the flesh. Therefore, whatever might be the claim of a dead father, or of what was due to the feelings of a Jew — for the Jew regarded him who did not bury his father with suitable care and affection as lost to all that was proper and as unworthy of any association with them — yet if the distinct person and call of Christ come in, at that moment, surely He must be followed.
*"Lord": so ℵACL, later uncials, nearly all cursives, Old Lat, Goth. Memph. Edd. omit, after BpmDV, Syrsin.
This was a test; Christ knew all, and not without moral motive had called him at that point precisely rather than any other; and the question for him was whether Christ was more to his soul than any one or thing in the world besides. Was it really so, that standing well with the Jews and with his family was of more consequence to him than Christ, than heaven or hell, than eternity itself? This man may have honestly desired to follow Christ, yet he pleads for a delay on the road. But the Lord's answer to him is "Suffer the dead to bury their own dead,248 but do thou go and announce the kingdom of God" — a perplexing answer to a person whose eye was not single. Thus the Lord tries faith. He does not put things in the simplest possible form to faith or to unbelief — above all, where there is something allowed that hinders. The Lord will be inquired of. So He says here, "Suffer the dead to bury their own dead" — that is, let the dead spiritually bury their natural dead — "but do thou go and announce the kingdom of God." It was not only that this man was called to follow Jesus, but to be a witness for Him, to be a proclaimer of God's kingdom. How could it fare with others, if there was not faith in him to give up all for Christ? One of the reasons why there is so little power in the testimony of Christ is because there is so little faith in those who testify it. Mohammedans, etc., constantly tax Christian missionaries with this: "You profess to have a revelation from God in the Bible; but you yourselves evidently do not act according to that book. How can you seriously ask us to believe? How can we think that you believe it? We believe our books, and if we accept loyally the Koran, with its system of prayers and ablutions, we follow it. We scrupulously conform to the prescriptions of the Prophet. You affirm that Christ preached the sermon on the mount, for instance. Yet you constantly get out of the difficulty of not following it by the plea that the times are changed. We stick to the Koran every day and at all costs. God is the unchangeable God, and He has a constant claim upon the faithful."
Thus one of the main obstacles to the conversion of other religionists is the way in which ministers of Christ expose themselves by their want of faith to the mockery of their adversaries. This increases the heart's unbelief, because for the most part professing Christendom does not even pretend to adhere inflexibly to Scripture. They say that times have so altered that they can take only such parts as suit the present day. They think nothing of seeking the world and its glory and everything that will attract flesh. They think to draw some by this means and some by that; whereas the truth is, they are themselves drawn away by the world from the truth and will of God. To court the countenance of man, to seek what the world values, is practically to abandon Christianity for the will of man. It is the living mingling with the dead, instead of leaving the dead to bury their dead. The Lord's call must set aside every other.
The third case again differs somewhat. "I will follow thee, Lord; but first allow me to bid adieu to those at my house." There we have one who allows the amenities of life to be "first." It was no such serious detention. It was merely to pay them ordinary courtesy. But the Lord insists upon the absolute renunciation of every hindrance: "No one, having laid his hand249 on [the] plough and looking back is fit250 for the kingdom of God." If Christianity is anything, it is and must be everything. It admits of no rivals and of no delays. It could not be the kingdom of the true God if it tolerated the turning aside of His servants for ever so little. Christ is the first and the last, and must be all to the heart or He becomes nothing through the wiles of the devil.
LUKE 10:1-12. (To v. 37)*251
*Cf. "Introductory Lectures," pp. 316-320.
The mission of the Seventy252 is peculiar to Luke. It has in itself a character of grace about it, though really on its rejection the harbinger of imminent judgment to Israel. All things are now made manifest since the transfiguration of the Lord. The former mission preceded that great event and is given elsewhere; but Luke adds the mission of the seventy. His death, His suffering, His rejection have all been fully announced, and accordingly His departure from the world because of the inability of Israel or even of the disciples to profit by His presence in Israel, and then judgment of all the forms of human nature in hindering the following of Christ or His service. That we have had. Now as concluding the testimony to Israel, this new mission is sent out to announce not only before the revelation of His rejection, but since it, the kingdom of God.
Mark 6:7; Matt. 9:37f.
"After these things the Lord appointed seventy* others also, and sent them two and two253 before his face into every city and place where he himself was about to come."254 The Lord's heart felt for the people as He said, "The harvest indeed255 [is] great, but the workmen few." Now there are more labourers raised up by far as the pressure of the need was before His soul. "Supplicate therefore the Lord of the harvest." Nevertheless He was encouraging prayer, because before He tells them to pray He is Himself appointing these seventy to go forth. He was the Lord of the harvest. At the same time He warns them what they were to expect. "Go: behold, I† send you forth as lambs among wolves." He well knew, and they were to know, what man was, even in Israel. Flesh was completely judged. The Jews are no longer regarded as the lost sheep of Israel, but as wolves with themselves to prey on as lambs.
*"Seventy": so Tisch. Treg. and Revv., as ℵACL., later uncials, nearly all cursives, Goth. Aeth. W. H., Blass, and Weiss read "seventy-two," after BD, etc., several Old Lat., syrrcu sin.252
†"I" (ἐγώ). "It is I who": so CDLΔ. Edd. omit, as ℵAB (from Matthew).
But there is another thing. While they were thus sent forth in a spirit of grace, exposed to the evil of man, they were to go with the full consciousness of His glory. "Carry neither purse [pouch] nor wallet, nor shoes, and salute no one on the way." (Matt. 10:9ff; Mark 6:8ff.)256 The danger was imminent, the duty was urgent. There was no need of preparation and resources from without; they were entitled to count on the power of His name providing for them in Israel; for He was the King, let men reject as they might. So, on the other hand, there was no time for salutation. Such courtesy is all very well for the earth and for the present time; but eternity was coming more and more distinctly before the minds of the servants as it was fully before the Lord. "Salute no one on the way." Deeper interests were at stake, and everything that would occupy their minds with that which might be dispensed with was only a hindrance.
"And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace to this house." Thus there was the full word of grace sent forth to them. At the same time, so much the worse for those who rejected it. Nevertheless the peace should turn to them again. It was not war; they had nothing to do with that. "If* a son of peace257 be there, your peace shall rest upon it: but if not, it shall turn to you again." Peace rejected was returned to themselves. "And in the same house abide, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire."258 There was to be no covetousness, no self-seeking; but, casting themselves upon their allegiance of heart to the Messiah, they were to take such things as were given. While the Messiah acknowledges the worthiness of the labourer, the labourer is worthy of his hire. Those who were of Him would feel it and own it. They were not to go from house to house. This would be derogatory to His glory because it might be charged with a seeming indulgence of self-seeking. The grand point was the solemn claim of the Lord Jesus in Israel.
*"If": so Edd., after the uncials. Only minuscules have "if indeed."
"And into whatsoever city ye may enter, and they receive you, eat what is set before you:259 and heal the sick in it, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you." There was no want of power, but the word was, "The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you." This they were to say to them. It was not a question of miraculous exhibition to strike the mind or eye, or anything for present life merely, but "the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you." "But into whatsoever city ye may have entered,* and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, Even the dust of your city, which cleaves260 to us on the feet† we shake off against you." Thus the rejection of this mission would be most serious, and the very measure of grace out of which it springs would make unbelief the more perilous, and the judgment of it more peremptory. "Even the dust of your city, which cleaves to us on the feet we shake off against you: but know this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh."‡ It would not alter the truth. They might reject, but the kingdom of God had come nigh unto them.
*"May have entered": so Edd. with ℵBCDLΞ, 1, 33, Amiat. "May enter" is the reading of AΔ, etc.
†"Cleaves to us on the feet": so Edd. after ℵBD, Old Lat. Syrcu. Other uncial copies, besides many cursives, omit "on the feet."
‡After "come nigh," AC, etc., and most cursives (69), add "unto you," which Edd. reject, following ℵBDL, 1, 33, Amiat.
"I say* unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom in that day than for that city. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the works of power which have taken place in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they had long ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which hast been raised up to heaven, shalt be brought down† even to Hades." This is a solemn principle much too easily and too often forgotten. People are apt to pity the heathen and to think of distant lands; but while it is well for those who are thoroughly rejoicing in the Lord to feel for those who want Him, there cannot be a greater delusion than to suppose that when the judgment comes, men as such will be better off, e.g., in England than they are in Tartary. No doubt, wherever there is faith in a rejected Christ, it will bring into heavenly glory; but the rejection of Christ when He was on earth, or now that He is in heaven, is fatal. More particularly the rejection of a heavenly Christ is ruinous; even then the Lord could say, "It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you." Not that Israel was not privileged; but privileges despised or misused bring only a deeper perdition upon those who reject or pervert them.
*Before "I say," Tisch. adds "But," with ℵEΞ, etc., Memph., which W. H. and others omit, after BCL.
†"Who hast been raised up": so Weiss and Blass (ὑφώθης), after A, most later uncials, and most cursives (33, 69), all having ὑψωθεῖσα, with Amiat. Other recent Edd. adopt "shalt thou indeed be exalted (ὑφωθήσῃ)," after ℵBDLΞ, Syrcu. Old Lat. Memph.; of these, BD give καταβήσῃ (Treg. Marg., W. H., text, and Weiss), instead of καταβιβασθήσῃ (Revv. and Blass).
Therefore it is that these cities rise up before the Lord. It was bad enough for the cities Chorazin and Bethsaida inasmuch as there had been mighty works done in them and they had not listened, and the Lord said, "If the works of power which have taken place in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they had long ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes." Israel were more guilty than the heathen, and the Israel of Christ's day peculiarly so. No heathen had ever listened to such a testimony. To refuse the Word of God is to expose to the judgment of God. "It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you." And if there was one city that had even greater advantages than these, it was Capernaum, which is called His own city, (Matt. 9:1) where He was pleased to live and labour. And what as to it? "And thou, Capernaum, which hast been raised up to heaven, shalt be brought down even to Hades" — a still more awful judgment.
But it would not be a light thing now for those who rejected the disciples any more than for those who rejected Himself. He adds, "I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom in that day than for that city." Mark, not merely for Tyre and Sidon, but for Sodom. The Lord clothes the words of His disciples with a more awful judgment than His own, because the disciples were more liable to be despised than their Master. Men might take advantage of His disciples and say that they were only men of like passions with themselves, and had their faults, and so they had. But the question was, What was their testimony — their mission? and from whom? What were the blessings held out and what the penalties with which God menaced those who scorned them? They testified of God's kingdom at hand. There was nothing really that had ever been presented to man to compare with this. Others as prophets had borne witness of it, but avowedly from a distance; but now that it was at hand, to despise those who preached it would be to despise Jesus and God Himself, as to listen to them would be a true way of honouring Jesus.
"He that hears you hears me; and he that rejects you rejects me; and he that rejects me rejects him that sent me." It was contempt of God Himself, and this in all the painstaking of grace and loving desire that His people should possess the truth. It is still worse now where mankind refuse the Gospel, because its message is the revelation, not only of the kingdom, but of the grace of God that brings salvation. To put it away from the soul is to insult God in the depth of His love, and knowingly to reject His mercy for eternity. For now it is a question of heaven and hell, of eternity with God or away from Him. All depends upon receiving Christ, and the testimony that He sends. The principle of this was begun now in the mission of the disciples, although literally it was addressed to Israel in view of the kingdom. Still deeper things begin to manifest themselves; and whether it be then or now, to reject His testimony, by whomsoever it may be brought, is to reject himself and God.261
The seventy* came back, when their mission was ended and their testimony given, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us through thy name." This was a great witness to Messiah's power. Men in Israel always looked, and of course especially the faithful, for the manifestation of Divine power through Messiah over Satan in the world. It was not so much God as such to act directly, as through man in Israel, the Seed of the woman, the Son of David. And now what a sign and a seal was given, seeing that not only did He cast out demons, but they, His servants, through His name, did the same! Nevertheless, the Lord marked this the more to be a conclusory mission to the people and land, and that His Messianic glory, the object of promise, however true, was in no way the great truth that was beginning to unfold itself. Heavenly things were about to come in through His rejection and death. "And he said to them, I beheld262 Satan as lightning262a fall 262b out of heaven." It was quite true. The exaltation of Satan through man's fall was gone, as it were, before His eyes, and the Lord had the full vista of God's counsel in sight, the total destruction of the enemy's power. "I beheld Satan as lightning fall out of heaven." But while this was true to the Lord's vision who sees things that are not as though they were, suggested by His disciples' casting demons out of men, there were things even better than these, though He fully owned what there was then. "Behold, I give† unto you the power of treading upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall in any wise injure you." He openly confirms what He had given. There was thus authority to trample upon the well-known symbols of Satan's craft and torment for man, and over all the power of the enemy, whatever it might be. They were delivered from all calculated to injure; "nothing shall in any wise injure you." They belonged to the Saviour. "Yet in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subjected to you; but rejoice rather‡ that your names are written in the heavens." To belong to heaven, to be called to that seat of Divine light and blessing, was a far greater prize: the rest was Satan's power broken on the earth, a sample of the earthly kingdom, and the powers of the age to come. But a rejected Christ opens the door into the presence and glory of God. This was a matter of far more real and profound joy — that their names were written in heaven. To this the Jews were utterly blind, as man is still; for his cool assumption of heaven, as if it were a natural end for man, is even more evil and presumptuous. Present power and authority are great in his eyes; heavenly things are little, because they are distant and unseen. Nevertheless they are nigh to faith which beholds them, knowing that they are the great reality, and that present things are only the arena of sin and folly and distance from God. But the disciples must learn this; therefore the Lord would lead their hearts into this deeper joy: "but rejoice that your names are written in the heavens."263
*"The seventy": BD, etc., read "seventy-two," as above (verse 1).
†"Give": so Blass, following ADΔ, etc., most cursives (33, 69), Syrr.-Tisch., W. H., etc., adopt "have given," after ℵBCpmLX, 1, Old Lat. Amiat.
‡A few copies have "rejoice rather"; but the additional word is not in ℵABCD, etc., 1, 33, 69, Old Lat. Syrr. (Edd.).
"In the same hour Jesus* rejoiced in spirit† and said, I praise thee, Father, Lord of the heaven and of the earth, that thou hast hid these things from wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes: yea, Father; for thus has it been well-pleasing in thy sight." Now in a legal state of things the wise and prudent have their importance. The law admits of angelic media, and supposes human administrators; it desires things in due order, regulated in a way that commends itself to men's reason and conscience. But grace meets a ruined world when all this is set aside; and Jesus, rejected by those who boasted of the law, rejoices in the grace of God, and thanks Him as the Father, whom the law never revealed. He was Father in His own Divine relationship to the Son, entirely outside the ken of men or the scope of their thoughts or imaginings. The Jews who had the law never saw the reality of Divine relationship. It was dimly couched under various obscure forms and terms in the Old Testament. For all through God was a veiled One, dwelling in the thick darkness, not revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This comes out clearly in and through Jesus our Lord; as also light and incorruptibility comes to men through the Gospel, not through the law. In the law it was simply one God, the Jehovah-God of Israel, and He only behind the intricate barriers of the Levitical system. But the Gospel shows the veil rent, and, through Him who went down to the cross, the Father known by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Thus Christianity supposes the full revelation of the true God and the persons of the Godhead.264 Hence it was impossible to have a distinct or full, if any, knowledge of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost under the law. And it may be a question how far those who are in the spirit of the law enter into it fully now; they may be orthodox, and recognise the general certainty of it; but this is a very different thing from entering into and enjoying it practically as the known truth and blessing of the soul.
*"Jesus": so ACE, etc., 33; but Edd. omit, after ℵBDΞ, Amiat., Memph.
†"In (the, or His) spirit": so Blass, after AEGΔ, etc., nearly all cursives, Syrsin. Other Edd. adopt "the Holy Spirit," after ℵBCD, etc., 1, 33, Syrrcu pesch, Old Lat. Memph., which was the text followed in the Vulg., Wycliffe's, and the Rhemish versions.
Our Lord Jesus, then, perfect in everything and with Divine knowledge of all, says, "I praise thee, Father, Lord of the heaven and of the earth, that thou hast hid these things from wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes: yea, Father; for thus has it been well-pleasing in thy sight." It was no longer a question of Israel and the land; neither are wisdom and prudence of account now. Things that are highly esteemed among men are judged as an abomination in the sight of God. He had revealed His mind unto babes. Clearly this was grace. There was no claim; and babes would have seemed the very last persons to whom God would have revealed what was beyond the wise and prudent, what the vulture's eye had not seen. "Yea, Father; for thus has it been well-pleasing in thy sight." It was His pleasure; He took complacency in His own love. And grace does not find but makes objects proper to itself and for God's glory. Grace creates, the law does not. It does not give a nature capable of enjoying God, nor can it give an object, still less one worthy of God Himself to rest on; it can only press a claim on man from God. But grace does all this and more through Jesus, Who both gives us a nature capable of enjoying God and is also Himself the Object to be enjoyed.
Hear how He presents Himself even here: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father." It is not now merely the land of Israel or the Jewish people, but "all things"; the Son of man with all things handed up to Him — a higher glory even than dominion over all peoples and tongues (Dan. 7). It is the universe put under Him; and this because He is the Son of God. "All things (John 3:13) have been delivered to me by my Father." It is not merely the Ancient of Days giving the universal kingdom under the heaven to the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven; but the rejected Man on earth revealing Himself as the Son of God, the Son of man, who is in heaven, as is said elsewhere, to whom His Father has delivered all things.* We see not yet all things put under Him. But He speaks of a far deeper blessing and glory than even this universal inheritance. "No one knows* who the Son is, but the Father." He is a Divine person — the glory of His person is unfathomable; it is for the Father alone to know and delight in, though for us to know it unknown. No man knows; indeed, it is not merely no man, but "no man knows who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son is pleased to reveal [him]." It is clear that none but the Son knows of Himself the Father. But it is not merely true that the Son knows the Father, for He reveals Him to others — "he to whomsoever the Son is pleased to reveal [him]." This is Christianity; and to lead on the souls of the disciples from their Jewish expectations to the heavenly and Divine truths of Christianity is the object of the Lord Jesus henceforth, as of the Spirit afterwards. It is remarkable that it is said "no one knows who the Son is, but the Father," but it is not added he to whom He will reveal Him. Thus God envelops the Lord Jesus as it were with a Divine guard against the prying curiosity of the creature; and if the Son humbled Himself in grace to man, God forbids that man should approach that, as it were, holy ground. Not even with unsandaled feet can he tread there. God reserves the knowledge of the Son for Himself; He alone really penetrates the mystery of the Only-begotten. The Son does reveal the Father; but man's mind always breaks itself to pieces when he attempts to unravel the insoluble enigma of Christ's personal glory. All that the saint can do is to believe and worship. No man knows the Son but the Father. On the other hand, it is our deepest comfort that the Son not only knows the Father but reveals Him. The revelation of the Father in and by the Son is the joy and rest of faith. It is true even of the babes. The little children (παιδία), and not merely the young men and the fathers, know the Father (1 John 2:14); and this falls in with these unspeakably blessed words of our Lord in Luke 10:23f. "And having turned to the disciples, privately he said, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see. For I say unto you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye behold, and did not see [them]; and to hear the things which ye behold, and did not hear [them].† Thus the Lord Jesus, while He is preparing them for greater things, fully owns the blessedness of the present.266a
*As to the traditional reading in the present tense (γινώσκει not ἔγνω) here, see note 265 in Appendix.
†As to the last clause, see note 266 in Appendix.
Matt. 22:35-40; Mark 12:28-34.
The immense change from law to grace was set forth remarkably in the incident which now follows; and the more so, because the law was now directly introduced in order to show what man was under it, and that there is nothing which really fulfils the law but grace. Those who have only the law before them never accomplish it; they only talk about it, and would cover their self-condemnation by despising others if they could. Those who are under grace are the only persons who do fulfil it (Rom. 8:3-4); but they do a great deal more. They understand what is suitable to grace, while in them the righteousness of the law is fulfilled.
"And behold, a certain lawyer stood up tempting him, and saying, Teacher, having done what, shall I inherit life eternal?" He did not ask, "What shall I do to be saved?" The law neither supposes the ruin of a sinner nor proposes salvation. It cannot but address itself to man's competency, if he has any. The law is directed to those who assume that man can do what God requires; and consequently it is on God's part a command of that which is due to Him, what He cannot but ask if they take such a ground with Him. The measure of duty which God proposes to man who thinks himself capable of doing it is the law.267
The lawyer accordingly asks Him as a teacher, what he is to do "to inherit life eternal." The poor broken-hearted jailer at Philippi asked a far different question, and one more befitting a sinner — what he should do to be saved. The lawyer was not in earnest; he was a mere theorist. It was a subject for a discourse or argument. There was no real concern about his soul, no sense of his own condition or of what God is. "What shall I do to inherit life eternal?"267a The Lord answers him, "What is written in the law? how readest thou?" because, when he took this ground of doing something to inherit eternal life, he had betaken himself really to the law. Thus the Lord in His wisdom answers the fool according to his folly. A fool thinks he can keep the law, and that this is the way to inherit eternal life. The Lord accordingly says, "What is written in the law? how readest thou?" because he is going to convict him of the utter futility of all efforts on that ground. "But he, answering, said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with* all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thine understanding." That is, the whole man must love the Lord our God inwardly as well as outwardly, "and thy neighbour as thyself." This was excellent as a statement of duty: nothing could be better;268 but how had he done it? and what hope was there for his soul on any such footing as this? If he took the ground of doing something to inherit eternal life, this must be the way. He was wrong in the very starting-point of his soul, wrong in what he thought about this great concernment, because he was wrong about God; and indeed he that is wrong about himself must be wrong about God. The great fundamental difference of a soul taught of God is this, that, conscious of his own sinfulness, he looks to God and to His way of being delivered out of it; whereas a mere natural man in general hopes to be able to do something himself for God, so as to put Him under a kind of obligation of giving eternal life. Human thought always denies God's grace, as it denies its own sinfulness and need of grace. However, the answer was all right on that ground, and the Lord says to him to this effect, "Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live." But he was dead. Now, the law never deals with the man as dead, and therefore in Old Testament times there never was such a thing brought out as moral death. We never find a hint that this was known in the law or even the prophets. But in the Gospels and Epistles man is treated as dead and as wanting eternal life, which the Son of God alone can give; and He gives it, not by law but by grace — two totally opposite principles. Therefore it is by faith that it might be by grace: whereas the law appeals to that human ability of which man is proud. He deems himself competent to do the will of God and thus to live. The Lord answered him, "This do, and thou shalt live," but there is where he was wrong. He could not do it, and on that ground therefore he could not live. He was dead, though he did not know it himself, morally dead while he lived.
*"With." The reading generally approved the first time is ἐξ ("from"); afterwards, ἐν, which Blass has throughout, as D; but this editor, after D and Γ, omits "with all thine understanding." The last words are vouched for by the other copies.
"But he, desirous of justifying* himself," not to justify God but himself, "said to Jesus, And who is my neighbour?"270 This is the constant resource of a heart that is not obedient. It makes difficulties and starts objections. "Who is my neighbour?" One would have thought this a very simple question to decide, who one's neighbour was, but the plainest things are just those which the disobedient heart is prone to overlook. Had he entered into the obedience of Jesus (1 Peter 1:2) he would not have needed to ask the Lord; he would have known himself. He and all must be taught by a parable. "A certain man descended from Jerusalem to Jericho." This is just the course of man. From the place of blessing, Jerusalem, he goes down to that of the curse, Jericho, and there of course falls among thieves. Such is the world. Having no real unselfish love, it does not give, but violently takes where and what it can. He "fell into [the hands of] robbers, who also, having stripped him and inflicted wounds, went away, leaving him in a half-dead state." This is just the world. "And a certain priest happened271 to go down that way, and, seeing him, passed on to the opposite side." There was no kindness, no purpose of love in his heart — only a concurrence of regrettable circumstances for the poor man: it was not the priest's matter. There was no grace active there, and so the priest, this highest expression of the law of God, goes that way, "and meeting him, he passed on to the opposite side." He did not know who his neighbour was any more than the lawyer: self always blinds. Surely he ought to have known; but the law never gives right motives. It claims right conduct from those who have not right motives, in order to show that they are thoroughly and inwardly wrong. By the law is the knowledge of sin; it is never the power of holiness. The law is said to be the strength of sin. It simply shows a man his duty, but convicts him that he does not practise it. So with the Levite. "And in like manner also a Levite, being at the spot, came and looked [at him], and passed on the opposite side." He was next the priest in point of position, according to the law; but he looked on the man and did not recognise his neighbour any more than the priest. He too passed by on the other side. "But a certain Samaritan," who had nothing to do with the law at all, "journeying, came to him; and, seeing [him],† was moved with compassion,272 and came up, and bound up his wounds, pouring in273 oil and wine." There was grace before his eyes which had won his heart, and accordingly he at once finds out his neighbour. Love sees clearly, whatever the heathens may dream. The law merely speaks of his neighbour to a man without heart, who has not ears to hear or eyes to see his neighbour; but grace gives eyes, and ears, and heart. The Samaritan accordingly, when he seeks him, seeks him with the suited provision of grace for the future as well as the present. "He put him on his own beast, and took him to [the] inn, and took care of him." Thus the righteousness of the law was fulfilled in him who walked not after the flesh but after the Spirit. This was precisely the way of grace. It was so that God sent His Son in quest of those who were fallen among thieves, who were more than half dead. They were wholly dead; and the Son of God gave not only all that He had, but Himself. He far exceeded all that man or a creature could do. Only God could so humble Himself and so love; only He could work suitably to His humiliation and His love. And not only does this Samaritan do all the good he can, but he takes measures that, when he himself goes away, the needy one shall be taken care of adequately. "And on the morrow [as he left],‡ taking out two denaria he gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him,§ Take care, of him, and whatever thou shalt expend more, I will render to thee on my coming back." It is the provision of grace which not only furnishes the blessing with all freeness, but secures it fully when the giver is no longer here. And Jesus will repay when He comes again. He took care Himself of the sinner when He was in the world. He takes care of him now that he is brought in as His sole charge; and when He comes again, all will be repaid.274 "Which [now]|| of these three seems to thee was275 neighbour [had been neighbour] to him that fell into [the hands of] the robbers? And he said" — even this lawyer, because man has a conscience — "he that showed him mercy." Consequently it is not law that can avail. The great transition, then, is made plain to all who hear. Mercy, and mercy alone, can suit a lost man; but mercy is distasteful because it exalts God; whereas law is used by man to exalt himself and his capacity. It is only when we believe our own ruin, perhaps after efforts under law, that mercy first saves our souls and then opens our eyes and makes us see a neighbour in each needy soul, without asking who he is. Mercy makes us feel every one that wants our help and compassion to be our neighbour; whereas the spirit of legalism contents itself with asking, "Who is my neighbour?" Without Christ, law merely acts upon the natural man; though it shows a man his duty, it never gives him power or heart to do it. The spirit of grace alone gives Divine motive and power. "What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh," etc. (Rom. 8:3f.) Grace has shone in Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost works according to the same grace in those who have received Jesus, who are not under law but under grace.276
*"Of justifying." ℵBCpmDLΞ have δικαιῶσαι, adopted by Edd.; whilst δικαιοῦν is the form in ACcorrΓΔΛΠ, 1, 33, 69. See note 269 in Appendix.
†["Him"]: so ACDE, etc., 69, Syrr. Edd. omit, as ℵBLΞ, 1, 33, Old Lat.
‡["As he left"]: so ACE, etc., 69, Syrr. Edd. omit, after ℵBDL, etc., 1, 33, Old Lat. Syrrcu sin pesch, Memph.
§"To him": so ACE, etc., most Syrr. Edd. omit, after BDLΞ, 1, 33, Syrsin, Amiat. Memph.
||["Now"]: so ACΔ, etc., 33, 69, most Syrr. Edd. omit, as ℵBLΞ, 1, Syrsin, Amiat.