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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
Luke 19

 

 

Verse 2

ZACCHÆUS

‘And behold, there was a man named Zacchæus.’

Luke 19:2

‘Behold’—here the history of a soul, its struggles into the light.

I. Zacchæus was ‘rich’: the sin is when money is used only for selfish ends. Christ never set the masses against the classes. He assumed there would be poor as well as rich: the rich man, however, was not to do as he liked with his money: he was responsible to God, in fact, he was only a steward.

II. Zacchæus wanted to see Christ.—It was evidently no lazy wish, so he climbed up into a mulberry tree. Robertson said that the motto of this story might be: ‘The successful pursuit of religion under difficulties.’ ‘To-day I must abide in thy house.’ Christ says to-day. Scripture says to-day. Men say to-morrow—or next year.

III. Zacchæus ‘received Him joyfully.’—Christ ever creates His Own welcome. So they said, ‘He is gone in to lodge,’ to stay, ‘with a man that is a sinner’—with a godless man. Carlyle said, ‘Christ calls heroes.’ Not at all. Christ calls sinners and makes them saints. Christ calls commonplace men and makes them heroes. Zacchæus was a hero when he restored fourfold. Four-fold was ordered by the Roman law. The Jewish Law required the principal and one-fifth more (Numbers 5:7).

IV. ‘This day’: here is a present salvation.—‘This house’: Zacchæus is to be a blessing to his family (Psalms 118:15; Acts 16:15-16; Acts 16:31). The whole thing was wholly unexpected. Of all people Zacchæus was the most unlikely to acknowledge the claims of Christ. This is not an old-world tale. It happens to-day. Love delights in surprises.

—Rev. F. Harper.

Illustration

‘I can picture to myself Zacchæus coming down to his office the day after his conversion. “Now,” says he to one of his clerks, “you overhaul the books with me while the other clerk draws up the cheques.” They haven’t been going into it very long before the clerk says, “There’s something wrong here, sir. This gentleman’s been overcharged considerable.” “I know it,” says Zacchæus; “I can remember there was something wrong there; how much do you make it?” “A matter of sixty pounds, sir,” says the clerk. “Is that so? Well,” says he to the other clerk, “you draw out a cheque.” “For how much, sir,” says the other, “sixty pounds?” “Why, no—for two hundred and forty pounds. It’s fourfold, don’t you remember?” The cheques are all drawn out before the morning’s over, and in the afternoon I fancy I see one of those clerks going his rounds with his pocket full of them. He calls at the house of the first gentleman named, and happens to meet him at the door. “May I speak to you, sir, for a moment?” says he; “I come from Zacchæus’ office on a matter of business.” “From Zacchæus! The old usurer! Hasn’t he got enough out of me yet?” “I’ve brought you some money from him this time, sir.” “Brought me some money! What! from Zacchæus! Come inside. Now sit down. What’s all this you’ve got to tell me about Zacchæus sending me money?” “Well, you see, sir, Zacchæus has been been overhauling his books, and he finds he has overcharged you considerable.” “I know he has, the old rascal; there’s no mistake about that!” “Well, you see, sir, that being the case, he is desirous to make restitution. He finds he has overcharged you about sixty pounds, and so he sends you this;” and he hands him the cheque. “Two hundred and forty pounds! What’s the meaning or this?” “Why, you see, sir, it’s four times sixty. The truth is, Zacchæus is restoring it to you fourfold.” “You mean to tell me this is really from Zacchæus, the publican?” “I do, sir; there’s no mistake about that.” “What’s the matter with the man? Is he going to die?” “No, sir; so far as I know, he is in very good health.” “Is he gone off his head, poor chap?” “No, sir; to the best of my belief he’s still of sound mind.” “Well, but how do you account for it? Whatever has taken the man?” “Well, sir, it appears that Zacchæus has been what you may call ‘converted’” “‘Converted,’ is he? Well, from this time forth I believe in conversion.” “Yes, sir, they tell me that he was converted suddenly yesterday, when Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.” “Suddenly, was he? From this day I believe in sudden conversions!”’


Verse 6

ZACCHÆUS AND CHRIST

‘And (Zacchæus) made haste, and came down, and received Him joyfully.’

Luke 19:6

When Christ was upon earth He dealt with every one severally in such a way as to promote in every one a growing and increasing devotion to His will. In the story of Zacchæus we see one who made a glad response to the demand that the Lord laid upon him. He added himself to the company of Jesus Christ.

I. We cannot postpone decision in spiritual things. The command is, ‘Make haste, to-day I must abideatthy house.’ May we humble ourselves to embrace His rule and His sovereignty readily and joyfully!

II. But we must count the cost.—The coming of Jesus to Zacchæus compelled a re-statement of his life. To accept Christ rightfully we must prepare ourselves for a re-ordering of our lives and a necessary disciplining of our characters. There must be a total surrender of self to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

III. Yet there must be no reluctance in the Christian life, but a great gladness. No loss can be thought of as loss when He has come to us.

—Rev. John Wakeford.

Illustration

‘It is precisely at the point mentioned in the text that the conversion of Zacchæus seems to have taken place. The unexpected condescension of such a famous teacher of religion, in offering to be a publican’s guest, was made the means by which the Spirit changed his heart. Nothing is so frequently found to turn the hearts of great sinners as the unexpected and undeserved tidings that Christ loves them and cares for their souls. These tidings have often broken and melted hearts of stone.’


Verse 10

CHRIST’S MISSION OF MERCY

‘The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.’

Luke 19:10

The justification of Christ’s conduct towards Zacchæus the publican is threefold:—

I. His own nature as ‘the Son of Man.’—This name frequently applied to Christ by Himself, never, in the Gospels, applied to Him by others, possessed peculiar force and peculiar advantages. It declared His special connection with the Jew, and also identified Him with the whole of humanity. The name is a Messianic name.

(a) The true Messiah is the Son of Man. No other could fulfil the promise made to Abraham.

II. The man’s condition as being confessedly lost.

(a) The description Christ gives of the man, and of every man through sin, is perfect. In a single word, He comprehends all that is dark and terrible, all that is helpless and hopeless. The darkest features in human life, the most painful events in the world, are suggested to our minds.

(b) The description Christ gives is merciful. The Pharisees said sneeringly, ‘A man that is a sinner.’ Christ’s simply says, ‘That which was lost.’ There is room for pity, for sorrow, in the word Christ employs.

(c) The description Christ gives is hopeful. Humanity, as it hears that Christ concerns Himself with that which was lost, feels that the vilest and worst of its children may hope in Him.

III. His own mission, in its purpose and method.—‘To seek and to save the lost.’ In calling Zacchæus, in going to his house, Christ was simply doing what He came to do.

(a) The work of the Son of Man is saving man. He came for no other purpose.

(b) The method of Christ is fitted to the purpose of Christ.

Illustration

‘Whittier lamented the tendency to read the Bible as though every sentence was written in the past. Do not read it, “He was able to save,” because it is written, “He is able to save.” Sir James Young Simpson was a famous doctor, and always so cheered his patients on entering a sick room that some of them said the charm of his presence was worth more to them than all his medicines. A young man once asked him, “What is the greatest discovery you ever made, Sir James?” He thought he knew what the answer would be, but it was not what he thought. “My young friend,” was the reply, “the greatest discovery I ever made was that I was a great sinner, and Jesus Christ is a great Saviour.” “I saw that I wanted a perfect righteousness to present me without fault before God, and this righteousness was nowhere to be found but in the Person of Jesus Christ.” So said John Bunyan in Grace Abounding. And very touching are the words of Charles Dickens: “Oh, may I, with a grey head, turn a child’s heart to that Figure yet, and a child’s trustfulness and confidence!” The great novelist knew humanity well, and from such a confession of faith I think we may say he knew the Lord too, and acknowledged Him as the only Saviour.’


Verse 13

A MOTTO FOR LIFE

‘Occupy till I come.’

Luke 19:13

The words have a threefold course: A constant, daily, life-long work; a sweet end, when that work is done; and the highest and most loving motive which can ever influence the heart of man: ‘Occupy till I come.’

A man, who wishes to be ‘occupied,’ must be first careful of this—that his life is not pre-occupied.

I. Get rid of pre-occupation.—The great hindrance to religion is a pre-occupied mind: affections already given, ends already fixed, life already determined. You must get rid of pre-occupation. There must be a disengaged heart, a very open, up-prejudiced, unbiased mind.

II. Realise your true position.—That done, the next thing to secure an ‘occupied’ life is to study and recognise the real position which you hold in the world, where you stand, what you are setting up for, in what relationship you are placed, what are, characteristically, your proper duties, and what you have to do those duties with. This is a matter which every man should solemnly settle for himself before God this day: ‘What is my place in God’s great household? Where am I in the graduated, ordered system of all creation? What part is assigned to me? What is my work?’

III. Appreciate little things.—This, once denned, it will be easier to go into details. The essence of ‘occupation’—the secret of business—lies in the appreciation and right management of little things. The year is made up of moments, of which it has been said, that ‘it is the only thing which God gives charily, for He never gives a second till He has taken away the first; and He never promises a third.’ Therefore ‘occupy’ moments. Time is the platform of life. Time is the circumference of action. And time is not years, not days, not hours—moments!

IV. Above all, ‘occupy’ Christ—as a man occupies his own home. Live in the very wounds of Jesus—in the very heart of Jesus. Appropriate the promises. Have the hand upon the Cross. Make all your Saviour yours. ‘Occupy’ Christ.

Rev. James Vaughan.

Illustration

‘When He comes, it will be joy to have something to lay at His feet, and it will make another note of praise, to the eternal glory of His grace. While He was so “occupied” for you within the veil, you too, in your measure, were “occupied” for Him; and when you “see the King in His beauty,” He will deign to accept, and own, even that poor, sin-stained offering of your “occupied” love.’


Verse 17

FAITHFULNESS IN LITTLE THINGS

‘Because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.’

Luke 19:17

‘Faithful’ is a larger and more comprehensive word than at first sight appears. It has two meanings; it has a double application. It means, first, one who trusts, and then one who himself is worthy to be trusted. And in this sense the word ‘trusted’ has a greater teaching. We must first trust that we may be trusted. In Bible language, we must have ‘faith’ ourselves in God in order that we may be furnished by Him with power to be ‘faithful’ in all our relationships with the world.

We will deal with one or two of the ‘little things,’ as men call them, which require, and are the test of, faithfulness.

I. Faithfulness to the conscience.

II. Faithfulness to self.

III. Faithfulness to man.

IV. Faithfulness to God.

Illustration

‘As a religious exercise. “little things” are a better test of character than great things. “Little things” come every day; great things do not. The world turns on small hinges; but for great things we brace ourselves up, and make exceptional efforts. “Little things” deal with reality, without any show; and what we call “little things” are often much greater than what we call the great ones, and therefore have much larger consequences. Attend to the “little things,” and you need not be anxious about the greater ones.’


Verse 38

THE COMING KING

‘Blessed he the King that cometh in the name of the Lord.’

Luke 19:38

All the city moved. As our whole nation stirred by the war, defeats or victories. Great things at stake.

I. The King coming in humility.—Are hearts stirred? What is at stake? Are we concerned in His life, work, and death?

II. How does He come?

(a) Anticipating victory. The way of the Cross necessary to the great overcoming. Victory in Christ’s time all through. ‘Joy set before Him.’

(b) Offering Himself for acceptance. Another opportunity for recognising Him.

(c) Deeply caring for men. ‘If thou hadst known.’ Tears.

III. What men thought of Him.—The multitude; passing excitement; interest of worldly gain to be got. The disciples. ‘Our King! to show His glory.’ ‘We have full confidence in Him. We know His thoughts. And how blessed His rule!’ Are these our grateful thoughts of our Saviour?

—Rev. F. S. Legg.

Illustration

‘It seems generally thought that our Lord’s principal object in thus entering Jerusalem was to manifest His kingly power and His dominion, when He thought fit to exercise it, over the wills of men. I cannot help thinking that this theory falls short of the true meaning of the event. I have a firm conviction that our Lord did what He did in anticipation of His approaching death on the Cross. Before dying for our sins He called public attention to Himself, and filled Jerusalem with the report of His arrival. The consequence was that when He was crucified a few days after, the attention of the whole multitude assembled at Jerusalem for the Passover was directed to Him. He was offered up as a sacrifice with the greatest possible publicity, and with the eyes of the whole nation upon Him. One of the greatest helps to this publicity, beyond doubt, was His remarkable entry into Jerusalem. Myriads of Jews from foreign parts came up to the holy city at the feast of the Passover. There was probably not one among them who did not hear that a wonderful Teacher had arrived, Who claimed to be the Messiah, and rode into the city in the manner predicted by Zechariah. His death on the Cross a few days after, would doubtless raise many thoughts in their minds, and in many cases would never be forgotten.’


Verse 41

WHY JESUS WEPT

‘And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it.’

Luke 19:41

How touching, but how solemn, to think of our Lord weeping! No doubt there were many occasions on which He wept bitterly (Hebrews 5:7). ‘He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’—but only two instances are recorded (John 11:35; Luke 19:41). In each case death was the cause. Natural death had grasped Lazarus, the friend whom Jesus loved. Spiritual death had grasped Jerusalem, the city that He loved. It is of the latter that our passage speaks, and we shall best enter into its teaching by dwelling on the three leading points thrown out by our Lord in reference to Jerusalem—

I. ‘Thy day.’—This is the time when we enjoy the light, and are able to work with all diligence (John 9:4). So in spiritual things, ‘the day of salvation’ is the time of opportunities. The Sun of Righteousness has risen, and sheds light on every hand (Malachi 4:2; John 8:12; John 12:35-36). It is the time for work (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Philippians 2:12). Nothing can be done if the opportunity is lost (Hebrews 2:3). Such a day of grace Jerusalem enjoyed in having Jesus (Luke 19:9-10; Isaiah 55:6; Hebrews 3:7-8).

II. ‘Thy peace.’—This follows the right use of the day of salvation (Romans 5:1). Only God can bestow it (2 Thessalonians 3:16). It is the desire of Jesus that all His people should have it (John 14:27). And each soul must appropriate it in receiving Jesus (Luke 2:29). He is ‘the peace’ (Micah 5:5). The Jews would not receive Him (John 1:11). They could not see in Him anything to desire (Isaiah 53:2-3; see Romans 11:8; Romans 11:25). In rejecting Jesus, Jerusalem lost her peace.

III. ‘Thy visitation.’—God had told the Jews to expect Jesus in many parts of the Old Testament Scriptures (Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 9:25; Malachi 3:1). But when He came, they were not prepared for Him (John 5:16; John 7:1). They knew not the day of their visitation (Deuteronomy 5:29; Psalms 81:13). What, therefore, did it bring? Judicial blindness (Luke 19:42; Acts 28:25-27); condemnation (Luke 19:43-44; John 3:18-19); and solemn rebuke (Luke 19:45-46; John 12:48).

Three things, then, we must lay to heart from this lesson—‘Now’ is our day (2 Corinthians 6:2). ‘Jesus’ is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). The day of visitation is coming (Acts 17:31). Are we ready?

Bishop Rowley Hill.

Illustration

‘There, before the Saviour’s gaze of tears, lay a city, splendid apparently and in peace, destined to enjoy another half century of existence. And the day was a common day; the hour a common hour; no thunder was throbbing in the blue unclouded sky; no deep vows of departing deities were rolling though the golden doors; and yet—soundless to mortal ears in the unrippled air of eternity—the knell of her destiny had begun to toll; and in the voiceless dialect of heaven the fiat of her doom had been pronounced, and in that realm which knoweth, needeth not any light, save the light of God, the sun of her moral existence had gone down while it was yet day. Were her means of grace over? No; not yet. Was her Temple closed? No; not yet. No change was visible in her to mortal eyes. And yet, for her, from this moment even until the end, the accepted time was over, the appointed crisis past; the day of salvation had set into irrevocable night. And if it were so with the favoured city, may it not be so with thee and me? What shall the reed of the desert do, if even the cedar be shattered at a blow? It is not that God loses His mercy, but that we lose our capacity for accepting it; it is not that God hath turned away from us, but that we have utterly paralysed our own power of coming back to Him. Life continues, but it is really death; and on the dead soul in the living body the gates of the eternal tomb have closed.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

CHRISTIAN RESPONSIBILITY

He who came to seek and to save lost sinners could not witness with indifference the sin and ruin of His beloved city.

I. These tears over Jerusalem flowed from His perfect knowledge.—Of her obstinacy and impenitence (Luke 19:42; Luke 19:44; Mark 3:5; Mark 8:12; Acts 13:45-46). Of her judicial blindness (Matthew 13:14-15; Acts 28:25-27; Romans 11:8). Of the complete measure of her iniquity (Matthew 23:32; 1 Thessalonians 2:16). Of the awful extent of her loss (Matthew 21:43; Romans 11:19-22). Of the irrevocable certainty of her doom (Luke 19:43-44; Matthew 23:35-38; Matthew 24:1-2; Matthew 24:34-35).

II. They were but an index of that heart of love, which caused Him—To leave the bosom of His Father (Philippians 2:6-7). To suffer the hidings of His countenance (Matthew 27:46). To endure the contradiction of sinners against Himself (Matthew 22:15; Matthew 22:46; Hebrews 12:3). To support unknown shame and agonies (Isaiah 1, 6; Galatians 3:13). To shed His most precious blood (1 John 3:16).

III. In the spirit of this blessed example, let us learn what our feelings ought to be towards those who neglect this great salvation.—We should be deeply concerned for them as St. Paul was (Acts 17:16; Romans 9:1-3). We should be earnest in prayer for them, as Moses was (Exodus 32:31-32; Deuteronomy 10:17-19; Deuteronomy 10:22). We should grieve and weep for them, as David and Jeremiah did (Psalms 119:136; Jeremiah 9:1; Jeremiah 13:17). We should labour for them, as the Apostles did (2 Corinthians 6:4-10). Do I pray for the conversion of my friends, neighbours, for the enemies of Christ and His Gospel (1 Timothy 2:1)? Do I let my light shine before them (Philippians 2:15)? Am I careful not to put a stumbling block in their way, by my own misconduct or inconsistency (1 Peter 2:16; 1 Peter 3:16)? Oh! how inexcusable is my indifference in that which cost my Saviour tears, agonies, and blood! How apt am I to feel disappointment, and even anger, at the hardness or enmity of my fellow-creatures, forgetting that such once was I! Lord, turn these sinful feelings into a holy compassion, that in this, as in every other feature, I may be conformed to the blessed image of Thy dear Son.

—Rev. C. Bridges.

Illustration

‘Let our work for the public weal be accompanied and sanctified and guided by patriotic prayer in public and in private. Do not forget Abraham’s intercession for guilty Sodom, and how he was assured that for ten righteous the city would have been spared. Do not forget the Psalmist’s passionate supplication for the “peace of Jerusalem.” Our own Book of Common Prayer strikes the right key-notes and puts the right words into our lips. Alas! they sometimes—it is to be feared—fail to awaken a responsive echo within our souls. Our so-called State prayers, and our prayers for Parliament, may fall upon listless ears and chilly hearts. Let there be more faithful spiritual concentration, and more holy enthusiasm in these devotions. A little leaven of earnest workers and of devout supplicants may leaven the whole lump. A handful of sincere Christian patriots may be as the salt of the earth, to sweeten and purify the towns, or even the country, in which they live. What wonders have been wrought by single-minded patriotic individuals! Elizabeth Fry reformed our prisons; Florence Nightingale reorganised our hospitals; Wilberforce and Clarkson freed our slaves.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

THE TEARS OF JESUS

I. The tears of Jesus Christ are compassionate tears.—Like His Heavenly Father, He has no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.

II. The tears of Jesus are admonitory.—He would not have wept merely because a little pain, or a little suffering, or even a little anguish and misery, lay before us. There was only one thing which Jesus Christ could not endure, and that was the real displeasure, the prolonged hiding of the countenance, the punitive wrath of God. It was because He foresaw that for impenitent sinners that He wept.

III. The tears of Jesus were exemplary tears.—As He wept, so ought we to weep. We ought to weep more exactly as He wept. He wept not for Himself: so also, in our place, should we.

IV. The tears of Jesus Christ are consolatory tears.—They say to us, ‘Provision is made for you.’ They say to us, ‘It is not of Christ, it is not of God, if you perish.’ They say to us, ‘Escape for your life—because a better, and a higher, and a happier life is here for you!’

—Dean Vaughan.

Illustration

‘If we think of what it was that evidently caused those tears of Christ over Jerusalem, we emphasise that special danger and that particular sin which, if unchecked and undetected in our midst, will bring its certain judgment on any congregation, town, or country that lies under its hand. There are few places in the Holy Land more movingly pathetic than that corner of the road from Bethany to Jerusalem which circles round the slope of Olivet and gives you in a moment the sudden view of the whole city of Jerusalem. Yet Jesus wept! He wept because the city’s doom stood out (in His mind’s eye) in dismal certainty; He wept because man’s fickleness could thus to-day cry “Hosannah!” and in a few days “Crucify!”; He wept because that “might have been” of the great possibility of Israel’s conversion swept like a mist of tears over His eyes; He wept because the sands of time were running out and the Judge stood before the fast-closed door, and Mercy had already raised her hand to hide her face, and Justice taken up the sword to smite the blow of judgment. And all the while the people knew it not.’

(FOURTH OUTLINE)

INDIFFERENCE

The whole picture of the text is the most moving evidence of God’s abiding sorrow for indifference.

I. A real foe.—And is not this the sin which seems above all others to be our special foe in this our so-called Christian age and in this so-called Christian land? It would be idle to dispute the fact that this indifference is a real foe with which the Church has to contend to-day—a foe of deadly strength, a mighty enemy of the Church’s growth and power. How God has warned us against this danger in His Word!

II. Causes of indifference.—How many causes go to make up the sum of man’s indifference?

(a) The attitude of the Church. The Church, alas! is not altogether irresponsible. Her voice, so often silent when men expect to hear her speak, her liberality and breadth of sympathy and freedom of opinion almost extending to a dangerous latitudinarianism, seem to give rise to it. And besides this there is her jarring strife of tongues when she is stirred to speak—her odium theologicum. And this makes men impatient, and they become further discontented, and then in their despair they stand aside upon the neutral ground of the indifferent.

(b) The attitude of the world. But, on the other hand, a far larger share of this indifference comes from the attitude and action, not of the Church, but of the world. For there must be much that the world cannot square with a religious life.

III. A foe to be fought.—Let us recognise and fight as a foe this cowardly indifference. Let us care more, and magnetise with a truer interest the vis inertiœ of worldliness. Let none of us affect indifference. Live in the things of God and you will grow to care for them. Stop nowhere short of Christ Himself.

IV. Christ’s care.—Above all, remember this: whatever you may feel or may not feel, whatever you may know of all that this world has to teach you, remember that He cares for you. He made you for Himself. He needs you for His work.

Bishop the Hon. E. Carr Glynn.

(FIFTH OUTLINE)

WOES OF A GREAT CITY

No inhabitant of a great city can read this narrative without great searching of heart.

I. City life is one of the great problems of the day, and in London it reaches its most acute shape. A large city is a loveless place; yet it cannot be that salvation for our cities is only to be found in arresting development. City life in itself is distinct from the evils of city life.

II. A city was meant to represent an aggregation of excellences. John set forth in the Apocalypse the ideal of a great city. Yet how far are we removed from that! There is much to deplore in the loss of the old spirit which consecrates work, and in the growth of a spirit of frivolity. A city should represent the ideal of mutual help and co-operation; yet what is there to compare with the isolation of the inhabitants of great cities? And what shall we say of those who are living to prey on their fellow kind? Every Christian man must see to it that negatively he is not a source of harm to, but rather a helper of, others.

III. There is still a beauty belonging to a city which still attracts crowds to visit. It was meant to be a beautiful place. Let us, then, purify our streets, our books, our plays, our life, and we shall see that a city may yet become a joy of the whole earth.

Rev. Canon Newbolt.


Verse 42

THE COMMANDINGNESS OF CHRIST

‘If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.’

Luke 19:42

There is a commandingness about the figure of Christ here which we at once feel, and for reasons of which we are mostly conscious.

I. The occasion itself in its historic importance demands it.—This is the Royal entry of the King of the Jews. They are around Him with the palm branch, the Hosanna, the acclamations which proclaim His Messiahship. This is a coming which brings salvation to the Jew. This advent, above all other advents of the Son of Man, is His advent, to His own.

II. It is the coming of the Son of Man as Man to men.—Other kings have come to claim from their imperial city the homage of their subjects. But no king on his triumph day shed tears over the fate of his city, and wept aloud over the picture of its fast-approaching doom. The imaginative tenderness of the scene, its intense humanity, its vivid picturesqueness, unite with its historic uniqueness in appealing to our attention. For this day is the triumph day of Jesus Christ’s Passion, the riding on in majesty of Him Who is about to ‘bow His meek head to mortal pain.’ It is for us the day of the coming of the Son of Man as Man to men.

III. It is the solemn assertion by Christ of His Lordship over all human history.—We behold Him in this scene as the Lord of the ages, the Master of prophetic fulfilments, the Prince of the kings of the earth. In that one prophecy which ushers in the Gentile age in which we live, Christ puts His seal upon all the long Jewish and Gentile history which had gone before, interprets to us and to all men its moral and spiritual meaning, impresses upon us its direct relationship to Himself.

—Rev. T. A. Gurney.

Illustration

‘Christ will be, must be, supreme. For our admonitions as Gentiles and Christians these warnings are given us upon whom the ends of the world are come. Jerusalem will indeed rise again. The hour is very near. Christ’s supremacy over history secures that. But as we look back over these long ages of her desolation the lesson of her ruin is a solemn one. Thus Christ asserted on one great typical occasion His supreme place in the lives of men. Thus He will once again assert it. Surely our desire must be that He should come and judge our faults and cleanse our characters, and mark keenly what is amiss now that we may have acceptance then. “There is mercy with Thee; therefore Thou mayest be feared.” Messiah of God, anointed as man’s Saviour, Son of Man touched with the feeling of my infirmities and weeping over my sin, Supreme, All-potent Lord of all human history, Masterworker in Whose hands the secrets of the ages lie, search my own heart now and see “if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”’


Verse 44

TIMES OF VISITATION

‘Thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.’

Luke 19:44

There is indeed nothing so saddening to the mind as the thought of great opportunities unrecognised and unused. Whether it is in the case of a nation, of a Church, or of an individual, we think of the glorious possibility which once presented itself, of the time of visitation, of trial, when God came to see what they were capable of, to know what was in their heart; and then we think how the whole life of a nation has been lowered, how the energies of a Church have been weakened or misdirected, how the career of a man has been spoiled and stunted by a single irrevocable mistake.

I. England’s opportunity.—And can we not see that to this nation in this age God has given a great, a magnificent opportunity? We have but to look around us to be reminded of what England is. But is it not certain that in the power, the influence, the wealth which God has put into our hands there lies a tremendous responsibility? We hear sometimes of the duty of asserting the national honour, of maintaining British interests; how could we better maintain our country’s honour than by letting it be seen that the only interests we care for are those of righteousness and peace? Have we not in our Indian and Colonial Empire a vast opportunity of promoting a high standard of political and social life? But then, what is our political and social life at home? Amidst the perplexities, the cross-lights of this difficult age, do we know the time of our visitation? ‘Naught shall make us rue,’ says Shakespeare, ‘if England to itself do rest but true.’ But is England true to itself, true to the great traditions, the noble memories, of the past life of the nation?

II. The Church’s opportunity.—But if for the nation, so too, assuredly, for the Church of England is this age a time of visitation. As the Church stands face to face with the new world, the question arises, Can the Christian faith meet and assimilate the scientific knowledge, the social upheaval, the new thought and the new aspirations which come upon us so thickly from every side? Is Jesus of Nazareth the Christ of the future as of the past, or do we look for another? Has the Church a message for our democratic age, or is she a feudal institution that cannot stand in the presence of the organisation of labour? These are the questions which the Christian Church has to meet; and if she has no answer to give to them, if she is content to rest upon her great past and to forgo the possibility of a yet greater future, shall we not have to confess mournfully and with bitter disappointment that the gates of Hades have prevailed against her?

III. The individual’s opportunity.—Each one of us has had, at one period or another, under one form or another, his time of visitation, upon which depended the whole course of his life, the whole direction of his character. It is so even in mere matters of worldly success. Every man has his chance, we are told, once in his life. But not once only, but over and over again do times of visitation come to us in our spiritual life. Not once only, but at intervals all through our life, does Christ come to visit us.

Rev. R. E. Bartlett.

Illustration

‘It is the moment when the great procession reached the ridge of the Mount of Olives, at the one point where the whole city of Jerusalem suddenly bursts into view. On that ledge of rock, the one absolutely authentic spot in Palestine, where we can say with entire confidence that our Lord’s presence passed, He paused and beheld the city. It rose before Him, in the combined effect of its buildings and its impressive situation, the most magnificent at that time of all the cities of the East—its palaces, its walls, its gigantic towers, and, immediately fronting Him, parted only by the deep ravine of the Kedron, the vast courts, enclosing the snow-white mass of the Temple, flashing back the sun from its golden pinnacles—the Holy City, the city of David and Solomon and Isaiah, the joy of the whole earth; and His soul was shaken at the sight, and He wept over it.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

IS GOD VISITING US?

Jerusalem would not know her hour of mercy and acceptance. It passed away, it was too late now; and the Lord saw, and wept as He saw, that it was gone.

I. Not to know the time of our visitation means—not to know when God is giving us opportunities of good; not to feel the blessings He is putting within our reach; not to see when the time comes, which is specially meant to suit our needs, and to open the door to peace and mercy.

II. There is one sort of visitation from God which many of us are going through now.—We are leading quiet, peaceful lives, with little apparently to disturb us; no great sorrow, fear, or disadvantage to struggle with, no great care to weigh us down. And in this kind of life we go on from year to year. I can well imagine people being almost frightened sometimes at the unbroken peace of their lives; thinking that something dreadful must be coming to make up for the long immunity from trouble and pain. But this is faithless fear. God does not deal with us in this way. He does not make a certain amount of evil weigh against and balance a certain amount of good. He gives good and evil by a different rule. Let us enjoy the blessings which He gives us—our quiet days, our health, and peaceful homes; and let us hope on in the mercy which has been with us so long.

III. But there are two things to be remembered, which we are apt to forget

(a) Without superstitiously vexing ourselves, yet it is true that all this quiet cannot go on for ever—that we must expect sooner or later some of the trials of life.

(b) This freedom from the burdens of sorrow and pain is a time of visitation, a time when God is visiting us—visiting us by many a blessing, as truly as He is visiting and searching others by His chastisements and judgments. In this time of peace and regular work, of quiet days and nights of refreshing sleep, He is preparing, He is testing us, He is giving us time, ample time, to fit ourselves to meet the harsher and heavier ways of His Providence.

Dean Church.

Illustration

‘There are many different sorts of these visitations of God to the souls of men. They are always the openings and beginnings of new mercies, more than had been vouchsafed before. But there is about them all this danger—that those to whom they come should not know the time of their visitation. And there is an additional danger of so failing when these visitations are not accompanied by any strange outward marks of God’s power. How easy to miss the opportunity, when it comes in the common course of our lives, without any appearance of what is extraordinary or wonderful! The days were when God’s Presence was revealed by visible miracle and judgment; the earthquake, the wind, the fire; now, these are passed away, and it is only the “still small Voice” in the heart which tells that the Lord is nigh. God’s real dealings with souls are out of sight. We cannot now, as in the days of miracles, say, “Lo, here,” or “Lo, there.” If, then, the blindness and selfishness of man were able to resist the outward call and manifest token, how much more the whisper of conscience and the gentle appeals of Providence.’


Verse 45-46

CLEANSING THE TEMPLE

‘And He went into the Temple … den of thieves.’

Luke 19:45-46

Our Lord twice had to cleanse the Temple. The profane practice grew up gradually until He put it down in His authoritative way. What is its counterpart now?

I. The encroaching spirit of worldliness.—God is practically dethroned. Think of the Sunday trading, Sunday travelling, Sunday excursions, in simple disregard of the day.

II. The growth of irreligion gives birth to all new forms of self-indulgence. Be careful to mark the beginning of careless, God forgetting ways. Beware, too, of ‘evil communications’; no doubt buyers and sellers encouraged each other.

III. The voice of conscience even among those buyers and sellers was only stifled—it was not destroyed. They shrank away at the words of Christ, ashamed and self-condemned.

The voice of God still makes itself heard above and against the voice of the people.

—Bishop Fraser.


Verse 46

A HOUSE OF PRAYER

‘It is written, My house is the house of prayer.’

Luke 19:46

A house of prayer—this is what the Jewish Temple ought to have been, this is what the Church of the living God is.

Why is it that we fail so miserably to use our churches as the houses of prayer which God designed them to be? It is obvious to say that we are deficient in faith. But ‘faith’ is one of those words which we think we understand when we really do not.

I. What do we mean by faith?—Surely without entering into the depth of the meaning of this mysterious gift of God, it may mean for us, in this connection, the power of realising the unseen; and this is a thing which some people never attempt to do. If we only realised the difference there is between what we see and what we do not see in this church at the present moment we should be surprised. And yet any of us might find it, if we resolutely pressed up any of those paths which lie before us in prayer. If we tried to enter into them, to pass up through their overstrained language as it seems to us, until we found something to correspond with such words as ‘Almighty,’ ‘Everlasting,’ ‘King of kings,’ ‘Lord of lords, ‘the Fountain of all goodness,’ ‘the Creator and Preserver of all mankind,’ ‘Father of all mercies,’ ‘Mediator and Advocate,’ ‘Eternal,’ ‘Invisible,’ what a difference this would make to us. We are terribly blind to all the beauty that is around us. We are terribly deaf to the sounds which are challenging our attention and wonder.

II. Why do we fail to realise the unseen?—There are really two reasons.

(a) Have we blinded ourselves by a careless life? Have we soiled our face by deeds of shame? The sons of Eli saw no vision, heard no voice such as that which was revealed to the innocent child Samuel. We prepare for prayerless hours and dry services and empty forms by worldly lives, by deeds of ill, and thoughts of shame. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,’ carries with it a monitory clause, which speaks only of gloom and an empty void, which awaits the soul which has lost sight of God in the paths of a vicious life. Like the seraphs, we need to veil our feet in penitence if we would find God Whom we would fain worship.

(b) And prayer has no message for the spiritually ignorant. We are not going to saunter into God’s presence as we might into a concert room. The seraphs used two of their wings for energetic flight, to keep themselves poised in an attitude of adoration befitting the service of God. Go into some large counting-house, some place of business in the city, and then into some House of Prayer. Compare the different attitudes of those engaged, the one in business, the other in prayer. And yet it is Coleridge who says, ‘Of all mental exercises, earnest prayer is the most severe.’

Let Christ arouse us from our spiritual torpor, and lift us up to the sense of our privileges. Life, then, will have a new joy, religion will have a fresh charm to the man who has awakened himself to penetrate the secret of those Divine words: ‘My house is the House of Prayer.’

—Rev. Canon Newbolt.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Luke 19:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/luke-19.html. 1876.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, February 19th, 2019
the Sixth Week after Epiphany
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