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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Luke 9

Verse 51

Luke 9:51

. While the days of his being received up, etc. Luke alone relates this narrative, which, however, is highly useful on many accounts. For, first, it describes the divine courage and firmness of Christ (586) in despising death; secondly, what deadly enmities are produced by differences about religion; thirdly, with what headlong ardor the nature of man is hurried on to impatience; next, how ready we are to fall into mistakes in imitating the saints; and, lastly, by the example of Christ we are called to the exercise of meekness. The death of Christ is called his being received up, ( ἀνάληψις) not only because he was then withdrawn from the midst of us, (587) but because, leaving the mean prison of the flesh, he ascended on high.

(586) “ La magnanimite et constance admirable de Iesus Christ;” — “the wonderful magnanimity and firmness of Jesus Christ.”

(587) “ Non pas seulement pource qu il a lors este enleve et comme retranche du milieu des hommes;” — “not only because he was then raised up, and, as it were, withdrawn from the midst of men.”

Verse 52

52. And he sent messengers. It is probable that our Lord was, at that time, attended by a great multitude of followers; for the messengers were not sent to prepare a splendid banquet, or to select some magnificent palace, but only to tell that a vast number of guests were approaching. They again, when excluded and repulsed, wait for their Master. Hence, too, we learn, what I remarked in the second place, (588) that when men differ among themselves about the doctrines of religion, they readily break out into hatred of each other; for it was an evidence of very bitter hatred to withhold food from the hungry, and lodging from those who were fatigued. But the Samaritans have such a dislike and enmity at the Jewish religion, that they look upon all who follow it as unworthy of any kindness. Perhaps, too, they were tormented with vexation at being despised; for they knew that their temple was detested by the Jews as profane, and that they were considered to be spurious and corrupt worshippers of God. But as the superstition once admitted kept so firm a hold of them, they strove, with wicked emulation, to maintain it to the last. At length the contention grew so hot, that it consumed both nations in one conflagration; for Josephus assures us that it was the torch which kindled the Jewish war. Now though Christ might easily have avoided that dislike, he chooses rather to profess himself to be a Jew, than by an indirect denial to procure a lodging.

(588) See our Author’s observations above on Luke 9:51.

Verse 53

53. He steadfastly set his face. By this expression Luke has informed us that Christ, when he had death before his eyes, rose above the fear of it, and went forward to meet it; but, at the same time, points out that he had a struggle, and that, having vanquished terror, (589) he boldly presented himself to die. For if no dread, no difficulty, no struggle, no anxiety, had been present to his mind, what need was there that he should set his face steadfastly? (590) But as he was neither devoid of feeling, nor under the influence of foolish hardihood, he must have been affected by the cruel and bitter death, or rather the shocking and dreadful agony, which he knew would overtake him from the rigorous judgment of God; and so far is this from obscuring or diminishing his glory, that it is a remarkable proof of his unbounded love to us; for laying aside a regard to himself that he might devote himself to our salvation, through the midst of terrors he hastened to death, the time of which he knew to be at hand.

(589) “ Estans victorieux par dessus ceste frayeur naturelle;” — “being victorious over that natural dread.”

(590) “ Quel besoin estoit il qu’il prinst sa resolution, et par maniere de dire s’obstinast en soy-mesme ?” — “What need was there that he should take his resolution, and, so to speak, persist in his own mind?”

Verse 54

54. And when His disciples James and John saw it. The country itself had perhaps suggested to them the desire of thundering immediately against the ungodly; for it was there that Elijah had formerly destroyed, by a fire from heaven, the king’s soldiers who had been sent to apprehend him, (Genesis 1:10.) It therefore occurred to them that the Samaritans, who so basely rejected the Son of God, were at that time devoted to a similar destruction. And here we see to what we are driven by a foolish imitation (591) of the holy fathers. James and John plead the example of Elijah, but they do not consider how far they differ from Elijah; they do not examine properly their own intemperate zeal, nor do they look at the calling of God. Under a pretext equally plausible did the Samaritans cloak their idolatry, our fathers worshipped in this mountain, (John 4:20.) But both were in the wrong; for, neglecting the exercise of judgment, they were apes rather than imitators of the holy fathers. Now though it is doubtful whether they think that they have the power in their own hand, or ask Christ to give it to them, I think it more probable that, elated with foolish confidence, they entertain no doubt that they are able to execute vengeance, provided that Christ give his consent.

(591) “ Une folle et inconsideree imitation des saincts peres;” — “a foolish and ill-considered imitation of the holy fathers.”

Verse 55

55. You know not of what spirit you are By this reply he not only restrained the unbridled fury of the two disciples, but laid down a rule to all of us not to indulge our temper. For whoever undertakes any thing, ought to be fully aware that he has the authority and guidance of the Spirit of God, and that he is actuated by proper and holy dispositions. Many will be impelled by the warmth of their zeal, but if the spirit of prudence be wanting, their ebullitions end in foam. Frequently, too, it happens, that the impure feelings of the flesh are mingled with their zeal, and that those who appear to be the keenest zealots for the glory of God are blinded by the private feelings of the flesh. And therefore, unless our zeal be directed by the Spirit of God, it will be of no avail to plead in our behalf, that we undertook nothing but from proper zeal. But the Spirit himself will guide us by wisdom and prudence, that we may do nothing contrary to our duty, or beyond our calling, nothing, in short, but what is prudent and seasonable; and, by removing all the filth of the flesh, he may impart to our minds proper feelings, that we may desire nothing but what God shall suggest. Christ likewise blames his disciples because, though they are widely distant from the spirit of Elijah, (592) they rashly take upon themselves to do what he did. For Elijah executed the judgment of God, which had been committed to him by the Spirit; but they rush to vengeance, not by the command of God, but by the movement of the flesh. And therefore the examples of the saints are no defense to us, unless the same Spirit that directed them dwell in us.

(592) “ De l’esprit et affection d’Elie;” — “from the spirit and disposition of Elijah.”

Verse 60

Luke 9:60

. But go thou and proclaim the kingdom of God. Matthew has only the words, Follow me: but Luke states more fully the reason why he was called, which was, that he might be a minister and preacher of the Gospel. Had he remained in a private station, there would have been no absolute necessity for leaving his father, provided he did not forsake the Gospel on his father’s account. (507) But the preaching of the Gospel does not allow him to remain at home, and therefore Christ properly takes him away from his father. While the amazing goodness of Christ appears in bestowing so honorable an office on a man who was still so weak, it deserves our notice, that the fault which still cleaved to him is corrected, and is not overlooked and encouraged.

(507) “ Pour faire son devoir envers son pere;” — “to do his duty to his father.”

Verse 61

Luke 9:61

. And another said. Matthew does not mention this third person. It appears that he was too strongly attached to the world, to be ready and prepared to follow Christ. True, he offers to join the family of Christ, but with this reservation, after he has bid farewell to those who are in his house; that is, after he has arranged his business at home, as men are wont to do when preparing for a journey. This is the true reason why Christ reproves him so severely: for, while he was professing in words that he would be a follower of Christ, he turned his back upon him, till he had despatched his worldly business.

Verse 62

62. He who, after having put his hand to the plough, shall look back, is unfit for the kingdom of God. We must carefully inquire what this declaration of Christ means. They are said to look back, who become involved in the cares of the world, so as to allow themselves to be withdrawn from the right path; particularly, when they plunge themselves into those employments which disqualify them to follow Christ.

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Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Luke 9". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cal/luke-9.html. 1840-57.