Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Luke's account in this chapter reveals: (1) how Jesus refuted the false charge of sabbath-breaking (Luke 6:1-5); (2) that he angered the Pharisees by healing a man with the withered hand on the sabbath day (Luke 6:6-11); (3) Jesus' appointment of the apostles after a night of prayer (Luke 6:12-19); and gives (4) the content of one of Jesus' sermons (Luke 6:20-49).
REFUTING THE FALSE CHARGE OF SABBATH BREAKING
Now it came to pass on a sabbath, that he was going through the grainfields; and his disciples plucked the ears, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. (Luke 6:1)
On a sabbath ... There is strong textual evidence that this should read, "on a second-first sabbath" (English Revised Version (1885) margin); but the prevailing ignorance of what such an expression means has led to the rendition here. Even a great scholar like Robertson said, "We do not know what it means." To any American boy raised on a farm, however, such an expression is not arcane at all. From April or May into late autumn, farmers customarily gathered for a local auction called "the first Monday," an event taking place each month during a certain season. Thus, the first-first Monday was in April or May, and the second-first Monday a month later, etc. Now there were definitely two first-sabbaths recognized by the Jews: "One at the commencement of the year, which would be called "first-first," and the other at the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, called "second-first."
Plucked ... did eat, rubbing ... What Jesus' disciples did here was legal, being specifically permitted (Deuteronomy 23:25); thus, as Summers noted, "It was lawful to eat grain in this way when walking through another man's field." The charge of illegality, brought in the next verse, had regard to when this occurred, and not to WHAT occurred.
 Herschel H. Hobbs, An Exposition of the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1966), p. 111..
 E. Bickersteth, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), Vol. 16, Luke, p. 139.
 Ray Summers, Commentary on Luke (Waco, Texas: Word Books Publisher, Inc., 1972), p. 7O.
But certain of the Pharisees said, Why do ye that which it is not lawful to do on the sabbath day?
The sabbath commandment given by God in the Decalogue was simple enough. "Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy." A cessation of all work was required, travel suspended, except for short distances; and all chores, such as gathering sticks, were forbidden. To divine regulations, the Pharisees had added dozens of others, resulting in the most ridiculous requirements. In their view, Jesus' disciples were guilty of "reaping" by plucking the ears, "threshing" by rubbing them in their hands, and "carrying burdens" by conveying the grains to the mouth. It should be clearly understood, then, that what Jesus was charged with violating was not God's word at all, but the legal doodlings of the Pharisees.
Why do ye ...? In the Matthew parallel (Matthew 12:1-14), it is recorded that the charge was leveled against the disciples; but, of course the Pharisees charged both Jesus and the disciples, the latter for the actual deeds they misconstrued as violations, and Jesus for the actions he permitted and condoned.
It seems incredible that Christian scholars, in many cases, seem to be blind to the fact that both Christ and his disciples were totally innocent of these false charges. Even Ash writes that "their wrong was not theft," requiring the deduction that it was presumably something else; but the disciples did nothing wrong. Jesus emphatically said of them that they were "guiltless" (Matthew 12:7).
 Anthony Lee Ash, The Gospel according to Luke (Austin, Texas: Sweet Publishing Company, 1972), p. 111.
And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read even this, what David did, when he was hungry, he, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and took and ate the showbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat save for the priests alone?
The purpose of Christ in this citation was not to equate his actions with those of David. David's actions were "not lawful," as the Lord here stated; Jesus' actions involved no guilt whatever. The Lord in this appeal to the Scriptures stressed the unfairness, hypocrisy, and deceit of the Pharisees, who improperly accepted David's illegal actions as allowable, freely admitting that David's deeds required no reproof; but who nevertheless falsely charged Jesus and his disciples with the capital offense of sabbath-breaking, basing it on actions completely innocent. If this had not been the case, the Pharisees would merely have said, "Ah, so you admit that you are a sinner just like David." See fuller comment on this in my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 12:1-12. There is not the slightest hint that Jesus "legalized" David's unlawful actions, thus laying down a new law permitting God's regulations to be abrogated on the basis of "human need." Gilmour's deduction that "Human need can override the letter of the law" is a classical example of fallacious interpretations grafted upon this episode; and yet the same author admitted that "No formal charge of sabbath defilement was ever laid against Jesus." The Pharisees did not allege sabbath-breaking at any of Jesus' trials.
 S. MacLean Gilmour, Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1952), Vol. VIII, p. 111.
 Ibid., p. 113.
And he said unto them, The Son of man is lord of the sabbath.
There were a number of arguments by which Jesus responded to the Pharisees' false charge.
(1) He showed the biased and unprincipled motives of those making the charge, as evidenced by their approval of a real violation on the part of David, and yet alleging against the Son of David a "violation" founded on their hair-splitting interpretations!
(2) He showed that "on the sabbath day the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless," and that "one greater than the temple" was among them (Matthew 12:5,6). Jesus, the true and greater temple, of which the old temple was merely a type, was being served by his disciples; and, even if their actions were illegal (although they were not) they would have been sanctified by the holy purpose of serving the greater temple. In the old temple, priests continually did things which were not allowed otherwise than in temple service.
(3) He showed that the spirit of the ancient law of God should have been heeded, not merely the letter of it. "If ye had known what this meaneth, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless" (Matthew 12:7). This quotation from Hosea 6:6 reveals that the Pharisees had failed to read their own scriptures. To make the conveyance of a spoonful of wheat to the mouth a violation of God's sabbath, as carrying a burden, was contrary to the spirit of God's law; and, if the Pharisees had heeded the spirit of it, they would not have condemned Jesus' innocent disciples.
(4) Jesus also taught that keeping the sabbath day "holy" was not intended to be fulfilled merely by what men did not do on that day, but by what they actually did. Jesus asked, "Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good, or to do harm? to save life, or destroy it?" (see under Luke 6:9).
(5) Jesus claimed absolute lordship of the sabbath, as in the verse before us.
In the Greek, "Lord" comes first in the sentence, and so is emphatic. He controls the sabbath instead of being controlled by it. In the Jewish mind, this was tantamount to claiming deity. Jesus did not in these words set aside the law. He interpreted it in its true meaning.
The sabbath ordinance, rightly understood, was an expression of Jesus' own will; and, therefore, his expression of lordship over it was not in order to violate it, but to uplift it and free it from the folly of human abuse, and to restore it as a blessing to mankind. "The true sabbath rest," as Lamar said, "is found in him; it begins here in rest for the soul, and ends hereafter in the eternal rest."
(6) "The sabbath was made for man and not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27). What is true of the sabbath is true of all of God's laws. They were not given to hinder and limit men, but to free and bless men. Jesus in this statement called attention to God's intention in the giving of his holy laws; and it is not a statement that men may do as they please with regard to God's laws, violating them when they wish to do so, on the grounds of "human need." A somewhat fuller treatment of this question has been offered here because, of all the passages in the New Testament, this has become the most popular in the theology of those who would reduce Christianity to a basic humanism, the major premise of which is this: "If human needs are restricted by God's law, it is God's law that should be set aside; and, of course, `human needs' refers actually to `human WANTS'!" This is the great error of our generation.
 Herschel H. Hobbs, op. cit., p. 111.
 J. S. Lamar, The New Testament Commentary (Cincinnati, Ohio: Chase and Hall, 1877), Vol. II, p. 103.
And it came to pass on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man there, and his right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath; that they might find how to accuse him.
ANOTHER SABBATH CONFRONTATION
This miracle was performed under test conditions, with avowed enemies of Jesus present and observing it. Jesus, it would appear, healed every malady that came to his attention; for there seems to be no doubt at all on the part of the Pharisees that Jesus would heal this man; they only wondered if he would do it on the sabbath.
But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man that had his hand withered, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. And Jesus said unto them, I ask you, is it lawful on the sabbath to do good, or to do harm? to save a life, or destroy it?
He knew their thoughts ... Why downgrade this by a comment that "This required no special knowledge on his part"? The clear intention of Luke, in these words, was that of showing the omniscience of Jesus (John 2:25).
To save a life, or destroy it ... Jesus thus announced the principle that the withholding of good that may be done is equivalent to doing harm, and that refusing to save a life that could be saved is the same as destroying it. The Old Testament plainly taught that the life, even of a beast which had fallen into a pit, could be saved on the sabbath; and Jesus extended the principle, as should have been obvious to the Pharisees, as applicable to men also. Here too is subtle appeal to their consciences. The Pharisees had already decided to kill Jesus (John 5:18); and here they were, on a sabbath day, laying a net to capture Jesus with the intent of killing him and yet THEY would allege sin against Jesus for healing a man on that same day. As Miller put it, "While Jesus was saving a life on the sabbath, they were using the sabbath to take counsel how they might destroy him.
 Ray Summers, op. cit., p. 71.
Donald G. Miller, The Layman's Bible Commentary (Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press, 1959), Vol. 18, p. 77.
And he looked round about them all, and said unto him, Stretch forth thy hand, And he did so; and his hand was restored, But they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.
They were filled with madness ... The expression here is very strong, indicating that those religious bigots were out of their rational minds with malicious fury. And why were they so angry?
(1) Because he had shown his power to work a miracle; (2) because he had done so in contradiction of their rules; (3) because he had thus proved that he was from God, making them WRONG in their interpretations; (4) because Jesus had openly condemned THEIR views; and (5) because he had done these things in the sight of multitudes, - these were the reasons.
Evidently, Jesus deliberately challenged the religious hierarchy on the question of their sabbath regulations, the same being an excellent example of the manner in which they had made the word of God of none effect by their traditions. Trench observed that there were seven of these sabbatical wonders. These were:
(1) Curing the demoniac in the synagogue of Capernaum (Mark 1:21); (2) healing Simon's wife's mother (Mark 1:29); (3) healing of the man at Bethesda (John 5:9); (4) curing the man with the withered hand; (5) giving sight to the man born blind (John 9:14); (6) curing the woman with a spirit of infirmity (Luke 13:14); and (7) healing the man with dropsy (Luke 14:1).
Before leaving this, we note the pseudocon arising from Luke's attributing the question, "is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?" to Jesus, whereas in the other gospels, it is the Pharisees who ask the question. As Trench said, "Jesus answers question with question, as was so often his custom (Matthew 21:24; Luke 10:29)." Thus the true record is the composite of all that the sacred gospels recorded.
 Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1954), Vol. Luke-John, p. 44.
 Richard Trench, Notes on the Miracles of Our Lord (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1953), p. 337.
 Ibid., p. 346.
And it came to pass in these days, that he went out into the mountain to pray; and he continued all night in prayer to God.
THE NAMING OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES
The humanity of Jesus is emphasized in Luke, the frequent mention of Jesus' prayers evidently having that purpose in view. Since the God-man continued all night in prayer, who is there among his followers who need not to continue steadfastly in prayers? Frank L. Cox wrote:
Every great undertaking in our lives should be preceded by a season of solitude and prayer. This will assure us of God's presence and power in our undertaking.
 Frank L. Cox, According to Luke (Austin, Texas: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1941), p. 17.
And when it was day, he called his disciples; and he chose from them twelve, whom also he named apostles: Simon, whom he also named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Whom also he named apostles ... Gilmour is obviously in error in the assertion that "It is an anachronism on Luke's part to assert that Jesus conferred it (the title APOSTLES)." It is true, of course, that the word "apostle" is from a Greek term; but Jesus knew at least two languages; and the borrowing of this word from the Greek tongue was exactly what one might have expected of him who clearly envisioned the preaching of the gospel in the whole world (Matthew 14:9). Besides that, if Jesus did not bestow this title, then who did? It would never have been accepted by the primitive church unless Jesus had indeed given it.
Simon, whom he also called Peter ... For extended comment on this apostle, whose name appears first in all New Testament lists of the Twelve, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 16:18.
Andrew ... James ... John ... Philip ... Bartholomew ... For articles on these individual apostles see index of my Commentary on John.
Matthew and Thomas ... See the introduction to my Commentary on Matthew and comments on Matthew 9:9 with regard to the apostle Matthew, and under John 20:25 for discussion of Thomas.
James the son of Alphaeus ... This Alphaeus was different from the man who was the father of Matthew. "Had that not been the case, this James would have been more clearly identified as `the brother of Matthew'."
Simon who was called the Zealot ... There was a revolutionary group in those days which bore this title; but there is no proof that "Simon the Zealot was a former member of a terrorist group dedicated to the overthrow of Rome." As Ash declared, "(The term) Zealot probably indicated one with a particular zeal for the law ... It is impossible to know if the term was meant in a religious or patriotic sense here." If the word is construed politically, then it must have reference to Simon's former status, not that which he held while an apostle.
Judas Iscariot ... On this apostle, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 26:21,49; 27:3-10. Also, see under John 13:2 in my Commentary on John.
 S. MacLean Gilmour, op. cit., p. 114.
 Ray Summers, op. cit., p. 73.
 Herschel H. Hobbs, op. cit., p. 115.
 Anthony Lee Ash, op. cit., p. 115.
And he came down with them, and stood on a level place, and a great multitude of his disciples, and a great number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and be healed of their diseases; and they that were troubled with unclean spirits were healed. And all the multitude sought to touch him; for power came forth from him, and healed them all.
This is Luke's prelude to the Great Sermon generally identified with the Sermon on the Mount; but the conviction here is that there is no way, logically, to view this as a report of the same sermon Matthew recorded. This sermon followed immediately upon the naming of the Twelve; Matthew's was long before that time. This sermon was on the "plain," Matthew's on the mountain; here Jesus stood, there he sat. This sermon has thirty verses in the record; Matthew's has over a hundred. The beatitudes, as uttered here, are unlike those in Matthew. The woes given here are not in Matthew at all etc., etc.
Efforts of commentators to "harmonize" this account with the Sermon on the Mount usually discredit one or the other accounts, sometimes both of them. For example Gilmour suggested that "Luke took over the sermon much as it stood in `Q,' and Matthew expanded it." For those who are not familiar with such things, "Q" is the name assigned by scholars to an imaginary "source" which they fancy was used by the synoptic writers; what they forget to mention when they are referring to this imaginary "source" is that it has no historical existence whatever, has never been seen by anyone, and that it has no existence at all, in fact.
See the comments at the close of the previous chapter under "a" for discussion of Jesus' method of preaching the same sermon with variations at various times and places. "There is no reason why a teacher like Jesus would not repeat lessons as the occasion demanded." Furthermore, it is folly to suppose that any gospel author reported everything Jesus said on any occasion. The very idea that the extended sermon recorded here by Luke, and which Jesus delivered in the presence of so great a multitude, was a mere utterance of these thirty verses, and nothing else, cannot be logically supported. These verses may easily be read in less than three minutes! Therefore, if this record in Luke is a report of the same sermon recorded by Matthew, it must be allowed that Jesus said everything recorded in both; but if, on the other hand, these were two different sermons at different places and times, it is still true that Jesus said everything recorded by both authors. Efforts to "harmonize these sermons" as being one discourse are not satisfactory. The agreement here is with Ash who made this "The Sermon on the Plain," and with Boles, who said, "Luke gives a record of the sermon which was repeated at some later time than the record given by Matthew." Arguments based upon the similarity of content in the two sermons and upon the order and placement of various episodes contained in both are irrelevant, because a similar order and content would also have appeared in any repetitions of the sermon, whenever and wherever preached.
 S. MacLean Gilmour, op. cit., p. 112.
 Herschel H. Hobbs, op. cit., p. 116.
 Anthony Lee Ash, op. cit., p. 116.
 H. Leo Boles, Commentary on Luke (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1940), p. 134.
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed are ye poor; for yours is the kingdom of God.
THE SERMON ON THE PLAIN
Blessed are ye poor ... The poor of this earth are blessed in that they are not so much tempted to trust in riches which they do not have. Exactly this same truth appears in Mark 10:23, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God." What Matthew recorded with regard to the "poor in spirit" is equally true; but these beatitudes are not the same. They interpret each other, so that the misapplication of this beatitude by making poverty itself to be the equivalent of salvation is avoided.
The kingdom of God ... This is the same as the "kingdom of heaven" elsewhere in the New Testament.
Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
Hunger is a dreaded state among men; but Christ here pointed out that the hungry of earth are to be enriched by his teachings, that the alleviation of their hunger shall follow acceptance of his message. Has not this been true wherever Christianity has gone? The best good news the hungry ever had is that they shall eat. Christ's teaching assures this. A queen said, "Let them eat cake"; but Jesus said to the hungry, "Ye shall be filled." Wherever Christ is preached, there the hardships of the poor are relieved. This beatitude says, in effect, "Blessed are you hungry people; you shall be filled as a result of the compassion that shall flow from Christ's teaching."
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
This is a variation of the same thought of Matthew 5:10-12. "Blessed are the persecuted for righteousness' sake." In such a pronouncement, Jesus had in view the antagonism between light and darkness, the inevitable hatred of the carnal man of all that is holy and spiritual.
For the Son of man's sake ... This is the qualifier of the whole beatitude. It is not merely "the hated" who are blessed, but those who are hated because of their acceptance of the Son of man as Lord and Saviour. As Trench noted:
In no single passage of the New Testament where "Son of man" occurs (and there are eighty-eight in all) does it mean other than the Messiah, the Man in whom the idea of humanity was altogether fulfilled.
 Richard Trench, op. cit., p. 344.
Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for behold your reward is great in heaven: for in the same manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
See under preceding verse.
Your reward is great in heaven ... It has been alleged that Luke's emphasis in this passage is principally social; but this verse disproves such a view. The reason that the poor and the hungry are blessed, in the last analysis, flows out of the eternal reward stored up for them that love the Lord (2 Timothy 4:7,8). If one should take the hope of heaven out of the New Testament, there would be nothing left. Further comment on "heaven" is found in my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 6:9-13.
But woe unto you that are rich! for ye received your consolation. Woe unto you, ye that are full now! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you, ye that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets.
Regarding the four "woes" Jesus uttered here, Boles said:
These words were not the expression of anger, but of lamentation and warning. "Woe unto you," or "alas for you!" Jesus is not uttering condemnation as a judge; but as the great Teacher and Prophet, he declares the miserable condition of certain classes and warns them against it.
Here again, it is the eternal fate of men who live for money, entertainment, and fame which is in focus. This is not the prophecy of some social revolution that will destroy the rich, etc.; but it is a warning of the final judgment.
The false prophets ... Coupled with Luke 6:20, where it is made clear that the thrust of these verses is directed at the apostles themselves, there appears a contrast between the holy apostles who have become poor, leaving all that they had, and even hungry, as just seen in the grainfields, and the false prophets who were made rich by their sacrifice of truth and through pandering to the depraved desires of rebellious Israel. The false prophets did indeed receive the emoluments which adorned their apostasy: riches, food, entertainment and popularity. As Summers noted, "In the history of Israel, Amos, for instance, had been condemned while Amaziah was praised."
 H. Leo Boles, op. cit., p. 136.
 Ray Summers, op. cit., p. 75.
But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. To him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, offer also the other; and from him that taketh away thy cloak, withhold not thy coat also.
These same teachings, phrased a little differently, were recorded by Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount. For a full discussion, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 5:39-45.
The principles taught here are non-resistance to evil, the overcoming of evil with good, and patient submissiveness to encroachment against one's personal rights. Ours is an era when men are screaming demands for their "rights"; but the Christian way includes the renunciation of rights, rather than the violent defense of them. It is not indicated that Christ intended such an attitude to be maintained absolutely under all conditions. The application of them to the conduct of the Christian, however, should be as extensive as possible, and much further, no doubt than is usually the case.
Give to every one that asketh thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
Luke 6:27-31 have some of the most difficult teaching ever presented by the Son of God; and it is doubtful that any person has ever been fully confident of living up to the standards here exalted by the holy Saviour. Most of the religious commentators who have addressed themselves to an analysis of this passage have consciously aimed at softening their impact. Lamar wrote: "The precept is not thus absolute. Paul protested against the smiting of his mouth contrary to the law (Acts 23:3)." On "Give to every man" John Wesley made it "Give to every man `what thou canst spare!'" and in the same verse, "And of him that taketh away thy goods, `by borrowing, if he be insolvent,' ask them not again." Tinsley pointed out that Jesus had in view acts of physical violence and robbery; but that "these are not to be taken literally." Bickersteth commented that "No reasonable, thoughtful man would feel himself bound to the letter of these commandments." The tenor of these comments appears almost universally. Boles wrote that "This set forth a principle, and is not to be taken too literally." The viewpoint of this writer is also to the effect that these admonitions are hyperbolic for the purpose of emphasis, the meaning being that the principles of non-resistance to evil, submission to wrongs, and refraining from retaliation should be honored by Christians in whatever situation it is possible to do so. Perhaps Christ intended by such injunctions as these to show how far above the abilities of men to fulfill them are the divine laws of the kingdom of God.
The Golden Rule (Luke 6:31), as stated by Luke, is "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Negative statements of this principle were known before Christ came; but our Lord was the first to state the ethic affirmatively, thus making the doing of positive good to be the ideal, rather than merely refraining from evil.
 J. S. Lamar, op. cit., p. 112.
 John Wesley, One Volume Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), en loco.
 E. J. Tinsley, The Gospel according to Luke (Cambridge: The Cambridge University Press, 1969), p. 70.
 E. Bickersteth, op. cit., p. 147.
 H. Leo Boles, op. cit., p. 138.
And if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for even sinners love those that love them. And if ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? for even sinners do the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? even sinners lend to sinners, to receive again as much.
The message of this passage comes through with overwhelming impact: Jesus expects his disciples to demonstrate a quality of love, helpfulness, and compassion that exceeds everything that may be observed in the conduct of the natural man. This higher quality in the conduct of life must be visible in the total activity of the Christian. In such things as inviting guests, entertaining, giving favors, accommodating others, etc., the way of Christ includes the extension of such hospitality and entertainment beyond the circle of kinsfolks, friends, and acquaintances who will reciprocate them (see under Luke 14:12-14). One of the saddest things in any church is to see the same circle of friends entertaining themselves over and over without any regard to broadening the base of the relationship. Violation of the Saviour's law in this sector results in the establishment of cliques which are not Christian in any sense, and duplicates of which may be observed in every secular organization on earth.
But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
This teaching is an order for Christians to break out of themselves and their own little bunch and to include others in all of their plans and activities.
Love your enemies ... Summers noted that:
Two Greek words are regularly translated "love" in the New Testament. One word, [@fileo], relates basically to warm personal affection. The other word, [@agapao], means rational good will and recognition of the value of its object. It is this second word which is used throughout this section.
Thus that Christian love of enemies is that which designs and intends what is best for enemies; enemies being, in the sight of God, subject to the invitation of the gospel and prospective heirs of everlasting life.
Be merciful ... This word also is not the usual New Testament word for "mercy." "It means compassionate and pitying." The employment of it in this context indicates that the clannishness and exclusiveness so severely condemned above actually derive from a lack of pity toward the ones slighted. There is no way that this verse can be equated with Matthew's "Be ye therefore perfect, etc." Two utterly different imperatives are in view, although the one in Matthew surely includes this.
 Ray Summers, op. cit., p. 76.
 Ibid., p. 78.
And judge not, and ye shall not be judged: and condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: release, and ye shall be released.
The same attitudes one manifests toward others are reflected against himself. The thing proscribed is harsh and censorious judgments of the conduct and character of others.
Release ... The injunction against judging is amplified by two negative commands: (1)judge not, and (2) condemn not; and by two positive commands, (1) forgive, and (2) give. The word "release" has reference to holding an attitude of vengeance, or the keeping account of some injury with a view to retaliation. It was better translated "forgive" in the KJV.
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.
Give ... If there is a single word in the whole dictionary that summarizes the Christian life, this is it. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35); and the measure of the holy life is not getting but giving. This is the second of the positive injunctions (see under Luke 6:37) related to "judging," thus making this applicable to individuals who might have petitioned for aid or alms, which requests are to be ministered to, not grudgingly, but with overflowing generosity.
Pressed down, shaken together ... etc. The metaphor here is a measure of grain, the application being to a measure given, as well as a measure purchased. Short-changing the purchaser by making "the ephah small" (Amos 8:5) was condemned by God's prophets; but the great ethic of Christianity condemns short-changing the poor by skimping the measure of alms given. The current era needs to heed this. It is sinful for Christians to skimp their giving to the church and to individuals who should be aided.
Shall be measured to you again ... The double application of this gives promise to God's special blessings upon persons honoring his word and states that men themselves will respond in kind to such conduct.
And he spake also a parable unto them, can the blind guide the blind? shall they not both fall into a pit?
This truism was uttered on different occasions by Jesus, who directed it especially against the false religious leaders (Matthew 15:14; 23:19,24); and the essential message of it is that men should be careful not to follow religious leaders who themselves are blind spiritually (John 9:39f).
The disciple is not above his teacher: but every one when he is perfected shall be as his teacher.
This saying also was frequently used by the Lord to teach various lessons at different times and places. Significantly, Jesus also varied the form of the maxim, using it to foretell the slander of the apostles by unbelievers (Matthew 10:24), to encourage the apostles in the performance of service (John 13:16), and to prophesy the persecutions that would come upon them (John 15:20). Criticism of the gospel authors on the basis, either of the form of the maxim or of the occasion of its utterance, is due to failure on the part of critics to understand just how Jesus used this expression. Such criticisms are illogical and unscientific.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me cast out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.
For extended comment on this see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 7:3ff.
This is truly an inspired comparison. Of course, it would be literally impossible for a man with a plank in his eye to probe for the mote in his brother's eye; but in the moral and spiritual realm such a thing is going on all the time. Big Guilt always yells the loudest about the mistakes of Little Guilt! Members of a Congressional Committee to investigate a President were themselves also guilty of taking illegal contributions; but this did not prevent their going after the mote in the President's eye. True morality demands that such conduct wear the label which Jesus branded it, "hypocrisy"! (Matthew 7:5). Note also that "a mote" may be a very detrimental thing, despite the small size of it; therefore, there is nothing in Jesus' comparison to minimize any moral fault, however insignificant on the surface. A mote in the eye may be a disaster.
For there is no good tree that bringeth forth corrupt fruit; nor again a corrupt tree that bringeth forth good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
In Matthew (Matthew 7:17-20) this teaching was applied to the identification of false teachers. No corrupt teacher can produce desirable results. It would be as logical to expect a bucket of figs to grow on a thorn bush as to expect holy and beneficial results to follow from a teacher who is not faithful to the word of God. Social excellence, eloquent speech, personable appearance, fashionable attire, and charming demeanor on the part of a teacher are not sufficient reasons for following one who does not know, or will not proclaim, the true word of God.
The good man out of the treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth that which is evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
It is not the appearance of men, but their hearts, which determine their character; and the unfailing guide to what is in men's hearts is their speech. This verse is not in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, although Matthew recorded it (Matthew 12:35) as being used in a different context, where Jesus revealed that the evil conduct of the Pharisees sprang from inner corruption. It is likely that Jesus used the teaching of this verse many times during the years of his public ministry.
Out of the abundance ... The sentiment of Proverbs 4:23 is in this. The heart provides the motivation of life; and what is in it will invariably manifest itself. Of course, the mind is the scriptural heart.
And why call me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?
It is not in mere believing, nor in mere profession of faith, nor in the acknowledgment of Jesus as Lord, that salvation is received but it is through doing the things he commanded. This fundamental truth has been compromised and negated by religious theories from the Reformation to the present time; but the scriptures cannot be broken. There is no substitute for doing what Jesus commanded. A similar thought was included in the Sermon on the Mount, "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
WHY DO YOUR CALL ME "LORD; LORD" BUT DO NOT OBEY ME?
This question should burn in human hearts until the deeds of men more nearly resemble the faith professed; for this question is not merely an interrogation; it is an indictment, charging men with the unbelievable inconsistency of disobeying him whom they acknowledged as Lord.
Jesus did not here charge his hearers with lack of faith, but with lack of action, there being not the slightest suggestion that any of them were unbelievers. Thus is emphasized the timeless truth that "While unbelievers must be lost, believers may be lost." Ours is a generation which has accepted "faith only" as the "open sesame" of the gate of heaven; but "faith only" was not enough for the first generation that ever tried it; nor is it enough today.
The doctrine of salvation by "faith only" was born during the Reformation when civilization was in the struggle and travail of rebirth from the deadness of the Dark Ages; but, in all ages, the philosophy of merely believing has had its practical adherents. The generation to whom Jesus addressed this question were believers, but they were not doers of the Lord's will. It is to their credit, however, that they had not erected around their disobedience a theological bulwark of justification for it. Today, men not only say, "Lord, Lord, and do not," but they go further and preach that it is not necessary to do anything.
If one of those ancient sinners had been reproached for not being baptized, taking the Lord's Supper, or belonging to the church, he would have been embarrassed and might have made some promise of doing Jesus' will; but today, sinners reject altogether the necessity of obedience on the grounds that they "believe"! Yet, look again at this crowd that heard Jesus. Their everlasting shame sprang not from lack of faith, but from lack of action.
Not only were they believers; they were confessors of his name, calling him Lord, Lord. Theirs was no mere historical faith, but they truly acknowledged him as the Messiah; and in this they were correct. It is wonderful for men to say, Lord, Lord; for with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:10). In confessing Christ, those people had joined the ranks of the privileged; and from them Jesus had a right to expect obedience.
Not only were they believers and confessors, they were also religious workers, not idlers in any sense, being, in fact, busy with many things. It was precisely this class of persons Jesus had in mind when he said:
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:22,23).
From this it is clear that the people reproached by Jesus in this text were: (1) believers; (2) confessing believers; and (3) working believers. What was their fatal sin? It was as simple as it was catastrophic: they did not do the will of the Lord.
Of what did such a failure consist? The question is not merely academic; for the spiritual children of those multitudes are indeed legion: (1) Some do not his will because they are idle, doing nothing of any spiritual import. (2) Others do not his will because they are doing their "own thing." "Walking after their own lusts and denying the promise of his coming" (2 Peter 3:3,4). (3) Multitudes do not his will because they are busy obeying the commandments of men," or as Jesus said, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).
In a word, it is not enough to believe in Christ, to profess his holy religion, and to be busy here and there with religious activities. To win the everlasting reward, men must do the will of Christ as it is revealed in the New Testament. Even the fullest possible compliance with all Jesus' commands does not earn or merit salvation, which in the last analysis rests upon the gracious mercy of God; but willful disobedience thwarts even that mercy.
Every one that cometh unto me, and heareth my words, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who digged and went deep, and laid a foundation upon the rock: and when a flood arose, the stream brake against that house, and could not shake it; because it had been well builded. But he that heareth and doeth not, is like a man, that built a house upon the earth without a foundation; against which the stream brake, and straightway it fell in; and the ruin of the house was great.
This is similar to the paragraph that concludes the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew; but, even so, there are marked differences, due to the variation in Jesus' words from time to time and place to place. Both accounts are fully true and accurate.
My words ... This is the key to the paragraph. People who build upon Jesus' words build upon the solid rock; people who build upon anything else are doomed to disappointment. The word of Christ alone is the constitution of the church, the ground of eternal hope, the guide of faith, the source of redemption, and the true wisdom of God. All else is shifting sand. An infinite sadness follows the contemplation of religious precepts and traditions which have been incorporated into the historical church, traditions and doctrines which are no part of the Saviour's teaching, being contrary to it and refuted by it. If men indeed hope to receive eternal life, they must receive it of Christ and upon the terms laid down by him. Further detailed comment on this paragraph is found in my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 7:24-29; 28:18-20.
Sunday, August 28th, 2016
the Week of Proper 17 / Ordinary 22
Search This Commentary