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Ch. 9:1 6. The Mission of the Twelve
1 . Then he called his twelve disciples together ] This was at the close of the missionary journeys alluded to in Matthew 9:35 ; Mark 6:6 . St Matthew gives a touching reason for the mission of the Twelve. It was because He pitied the multitude, who were like harassed and panting sheep without a shepherd, and like a harvest left unreaped for want of labourers (Matthew 9:36-38 ). The Apostles thus became, as their name implied, emissaries ( sheloochîm ), and this was an important step in their training.
and gave them power and authority ] Power ( dunamis ) is the capacity , and authority ( exousia ), the right to act. See 10:19; Revelation 13:7 .
over all devils ] Rather, over all the demons .
to cure diseases ] The word is not iasthai , as in vs. 2, but therapeuein , ‘to tend;’ but there seems to be no essential difference intended, unless it points to the curious fact mentioned by St Mark that they anointed the sick with oil (6:13; comp. James 5:14 ).
2 . And he sent them ] Two and two for their mutual comfort. Mark 6:7 .
3 . And he said unto them ] For a much fuller account of the instructions given to the Twelve see Matthew 10:5-15 . Some of these are recorded by St Luke as given also to the Seventy, 10:1 16.
neither staves ] Or a staff (as א , A, B, and many uncials). The plural may have been frivolously introduced by some copyist who wished to avoid an apparent discrepancy with Mark 6:8 , “save a staff only.” St Matthew also says, “not even a staff.” Minute and wholly unimportant as the variation would have been, it may turn on the fact that our Lord told them not specially to procure ( μὴ κτήσησθε , Matt.) these things for the journey; or on the fact that speaking in Aramaic He used the phrase כי אם ( kee im ), which might be explained “ even if you have a staff it is unnecessary.”
nor scrip ] i. e. wallet, a bag carried over the shoulder to contain a few dates or other common necessaries. 1 Samuel 17:40 .
neither bread ] which they usually took with them, vs. 13; Matthew 16:7 .
neither money ] Literally, “ silver .” St Luke uses the word because it was the common metal for coinage among the Greeks . St Mark uses “copper,” the common Roman coinage.
neither have two coats apiece ] i. e. do not carry with you a second tunic ( ketoneth ) which indeed is a rare luxury among poor Orientals. (See on 3:11.) If they carried a second tunic at all they could only do so conveniently by putting it on (Mark 6:9 ). St Mark adds that they were to wear sandals, and St Matthew that they were not to have travelling shoes ( hupodêmata ). The general spirit of the instructions merely is, Go forth in the simplest, humblest manner, with no hindrances to your movements and in perfect faith; and this, as history shews, has always been the method of the most successful missions. At the same time we must remember that the wants of the Twelve were very small (see on 8:3) and were secured by the open hospitality of the East (Thomson, Land and Book , p. 346).
4 . whatsoever house ye enter ] After enquiring who were the worthiest people to receive them, Matthew 10:11 , comp. infra 10:5 8. This injunction was meant to exclude fastidious and restless changes.
5 . shake off the very dust from your feet ] See Acts 13:51 , Acts 18:6 .
6 . preaching the gospel ] The word here used is “evangelizing,” in vs. 2 it is “to herald.”
healing ] In the other Evangelists exorcisms are prominent. Mark 6:13 . The special object of the mission of the Twelve is plain from St Matthew. Our Lord had now been preaching for nearly a year in Galilee, and multitudes still thronged to Him. He knew that He would soon be compelled to retire, and He sent the Twelve to give one last opportunity to those who had heard Him.
7 9. Herod’s Alarm
7 . Herod the tetrarch ] Antipas. See 3:1.
by him ] These words are omitted by א , B, C, D, L. The “ all the things that had occurred ” seems to be a special reference to the work of the Twelve which made our Lord’s name more widely known.
it was said of some ] i. e. by some. To this opinion Herod’s guilty conscience made him sometimes incline, Mark 6:16 . His alarm may have been intensified by the strong condemnation of his subjects, who, long afterwards, looked on his defeat by his injured father-in-law Aretas (Hareth) as a punishment for this crime (Jos. Antt. xviii. 5, §§ 1, 2)
8 . that Elias had appeared ] In accordance with the prophecy of Malachi 4:5 . The verb “appeared” is used instead of ‘risen again,’ because of Elijah’s translation to heaven. The Talmud is full of the expected appearance of Elijah, and of instances in which he shewed himself to eminent Rabbis.
one of the old prophets ] Comp. 7:16; Deuteronomy 18:15 ; Numbers 24:17 . The Jews thought that Jeremiah or one of the other great prophets (see vs. 19) might rise to herald the Messiah, John 1:21 . See 2 Esdras 2:10, 18, “Tell my people … For thy help will I send my servants Isaiah and Jeremiah;” 1 Macc. 14:41, “ Simon should be high priest … until there arose a faithful prophet ”. In 2 Macc. 2:4 8, 15:13 16, Jeremiah appears in a vision. It was believed that he would reveal the hiding-place of the Ark, Urim, and Sacred Fire.
9 . he desired ] Literally, “ was seeking ;” this agrees with 23:8, “he was desirous to see him of a long season.” St Luke may have heard particulars about Herod from Chuzas (8:3) when he was with St Paul at Caesarea Stratonis, or from Manaen at Antioch (Acts 13:1 ). The curiosity of Herod about Jesus does not seem to have been aroused before this period. A half-alien tyrant such as he was, belonging to a detested house, is often little aware of what is going on among the people; but the mission of the Twelve in all directions, and therefore possibly to Tiberias, produced effects which reached his ears. His wish to see Jesus was not gratified till the day of the crucifixion; partly because our Lord purposely kept out of his reach, feeling for him a pure contempt (“this fox,” 13:32), and for this among other reasons never so much as entered the polluted and half-heathen streets of Herod’s new town of Tiberias (which partly covered the site of an old cemetery); and partly because, after the news of John’s murder, He seems at once to have withdrawn from all permanent work in Gennesareth. During the mission of the Twelve we infer that He made a journey alone to Jerusalem to the unnamed feast of John 5:1 , probably the Feast of Purim. During this visit occurred the healing of the cripple at Bethesda.
10 17. The Feeding of the Five Thousand
10 . told him all that they had done ] This brief and meagre record, to which nothing is added by the other Evangelists, contrasts so strongly with the joyous exultation of the Seventy over their success, that we are led to infer that the training of the Twelve was as yet imperfect, and their mission less successful than the subsequent one.
went aside privately ] The reasons beside the natural need of the Twelve and of our Lord for rest were (1) the incessant interruptions from the multitude, which left them no leisure even to eat (Mark 6:31 ), and (2) (as we see from the context) the news of the murder of John the Baptist and Herod’s enquiries about Jesus. Perhaps we may add (3) the desire to keep in retirement the Paschal Feast which He could not now keep at Jerusalem. This event constitutes another new departure in the ministry of Christ.
into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida ] There are here great variations in the MSS. and the best reading is to a city called Bethsaida . The omission may be due to the fact that there was nothing approaching to “a desert place” corresponding to this description near the only Bethsaida which was well known to the copyists, viz. the little fishing suburb of Capernaum on the west of the lake (Bethsaida of Galilee, John 12:21 ), Mark 6:45 . This may also explain the variation of ‘village’ for ‘city.’ It is only in recent times that we have been made familiar with the existence of the other Bethsaida Bethsaida Julias (Mark 8:22 ), at the north of the lake, another ‘House of Fish’ which had been recently beautified by Herod Philip (3:1) and named by him after the beautiful but profligate daughter of Augustus, Jos. Antt. xviii. 2, § 1; B. J. ii. § 1. The ruins of this town still exist at Telui (a corruption of Tel Julias ), and close by it is the green, narrow, secluded plain of El Batîhah, which exactly meets the description of the Evangelists. This important discovery, which explains several serious difficulties of this Gospel, is due to Reland ( Palaest . p. 504), and shews us how easily difficulties would be removed if we knew all the facts.
11 . the people, when they knew it, followed him ] The ensuing miracle is one of the few narrated by all four Evangelists, Matthew 14:13-33 ; Mark 6:30-52 ; John 6:1-21 , and is most important from the power displayed, the doctrines symbolized (Christ the bread of life), and the results to which it led (John 6:0 ). Combining the narratives, we see that the embarkation of Jesus to sail from Capernaum to the northern Bethsaida had been noticed by the people, and as it is only a sail of six miles they went on foot round the head of the lake to find Him. He had barely time to retire with His disciples to one of the hills when a crowd assembled on the little plain which was momentarily swelled by the throngs of pilgrims who paused to see the Great Prophet on their way to the approaching Passover at Jerusalem (John 6:5 ), which Jesus Himself could not attend without danger, owing to the outburst caused by the Sabbath healing of the cripple (John 5:1-16 ). Towards afternoon He came down the hill to the multitude to teach them and heal their sick.
12 . to wear away ] Rather, to decline .
then came the twelve ] They were afraid that when once the brief twilight was over, the famished multitude might lose their way or come to harm, and some calamity happen which would give a fresh handle against Jesus. John alone tells us that He had compassionately suggested the difficulty to Philip, watching with gentle irony the trial of his faith; and that Philip despairingly said that it would cost more than 200 denarii (as we might say £ 10) to procure them even a minimum of food. Philip was “of Bethsaida,” but this had nothing to do with our Lord’s speaking to him, for he belonged to the western Bethsaida.
13 . We have no more but five loaves and two fishes ] Compare Numbers 11:22 . It was Andrew who first mentioned this fact in a tentative sort of way. The little boy ( paidarion ) who carried them seems to have been in attendance on the Apostles; evidently this was the food which they had brought for their own supply, and it proves their simplicity of life, for barley loaves (John 6:9 ) are the food of the poor (2 K. 4:42; Judges 7:13 ; Ezekiel 13:19 , Ezekiel 4:9 ).
14 . five thousand men ] “Besides women and children,” Matthew 14:21 . These would probably not be numerous, and would not (in accordance with Eastern usage) sit down with the men, but would stand apart.
by fifties in a company ] The vivid details of Mark shew the eyewitness of St Peter. He compares them to parterres of flowers ( prasiai prasiai , ‘by garden beds’) as they sat on the green grass in their bright Oriental robes of red and blue and yellow. St Luke’s word, klisiai , means literally in dining-parties , from klisia , ‘a couch.’ This systematic arrangement made it easy to tell the number of the multitude.
16 . brake, and gave ] The ‘brake’ is in the aorist, and the ‘gave’ in the imperfect, and although it is a useless presumption to enquire into the mode of this most remarkable miracle, these two words give us this detail only, that it took place between the act of breaking and the continuous distribution. But “Falleret momento visum … Est quod non erat; videtur quod non intelligitur” (Hilary). The marvel lay in the Doer, not in the deed. Aug.
17 . of fragments ] Compare 2 K. 4:43, 44. These were collected by the order of Jesus, who thus strikingly taught that wastefulness even of miraculous plenty is entirely alien to the divine administration.
twelve baskets ] Cophini , probably wicker-baskets ( salsilloth , Jeremiah 6:9 ). Every Jew carried such a basket about with him to avoid the chance of his food contracting any Levitical pollution in heathen places (Juv. Sat . iii. 14, vi. 542). The baskets used at the miracle of the four thousand were large rope-baskets, ‘frails’ ( spurides ). The accuracy with which each word is reserved by all the narrators for each miracle is remarkable.
At this point there is a considerable gap in the continuity of St Luke’s narrative. He omits the amazement of the multitude which made it likely that they would seize Jesus to make Him king; His compelling His reluctant disciples to sail back towards the other the western Bethsaida; the gradual dismissal of the multitude; His flight, ( φεύγει , John 6:15 , א ) to the hill top to escape those who still lingered, and to pray alone; the gathering of the storm; the walking on the sea; the failure of Peter’s faith; the very memorable discourse at Capernaum, intended to teach what was the true bread from heaven, and to dissipate the material expectations of the popular Messianism; the crisis of offence caused by these hard sayings; the dispute with the Pharisees on the question of the Oral Law or Tradition of the Elders; the deepening opposition and the one great day of conflict and rupture with the Pharisees (which St Luke appears to relate out of chronological order in 11); the flight among the heathen as far as Tyre and Sidon; the incident of the Syrophoenician woman; the feeding of the four thousand; the return to Galilee and demand for a sign; the sailing away, and the warning against the leaven of the Pharisees; and the healing of a blind man at Bethsaida Julias during His second journey northwards. These must be sought for in Matt. 14 16:12; Mark 6:45-8:30 ; John 6:0 . For my view of them, and their sequence, I may perhaps be allowed to refer the reader to my Life of Christ , i. 403 ii. 9.
18 22. St Peter’s Confession. Christ prophesies His Death and Resurrection
18 . alone ] Rather, in private , as the context shews.
the people ] Rather, the multitudes ; those whom Jesus had taught and healed and fed, or those who seem to have been always at no great distance. The two other Evangelists place this memorable scene in the neighbourhood of Caesarea Philippi. His life at this epoch had come to resemble a continuous flight. He did not enter Caesarea Philippi. He always avoided towns (with the single exception of Jerusalem), probably from His love for the sights and sounds of nature, and His dislike for the crowded squalor and worldly absorption of town-communities; and He specially avoided these Hellenic and hybrid cities, with their idolatrous ornaments and corrupted population. This event may well be regarded as the culminating point in His ministry. He had now won the deliberate faith and conviction of those who had lived in close intercourse with Him, and who, in continuation of His ministry, were to evangelize the world. See Matthew 16:13-21 ; Mark 8:27-31 .
that I am ] “That I, the Son of man , am?” Matthew 16:13 .
19 . John the Baptist ] See on vss. 7 9. The answer of the Apostle shewed the sad truth that Jesus had come to His own possessions and His own people received Him not; that the Light had shined in the darkness, and the darkness had not comprehended it. He had not come to force belief , but to win conviction . He had never even openly proclaimed His Messiahship, but left His works to speak for Him. God’s method is not to ensure faith by violence; as the Fathers say “Force is alien to God” ( βία ἐχθρὸν Θεῷ ).
20 . The Christ of God ] “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Matthew 16:16 . “The Lord’s Christ,” 2:26. After the estranging speech at Capernaum our Lord had asked, “Will ye also go away?” and then St Peter’s answer had been “we have believed and recognised that thou art the Holy One of God ,” John 6:69 ( א , B, C, D, L, &c.). Nathanael had recognised Him as “the Son of God” and “the King of Israel.” Later, Martha confessed Him as “the Christ, the Son of God,” John 11:27 . But now for the first time the revealed mystery was openly recognised and confessed. St Luke omits the blessing of St Peter, which whatever may be its exact meaning at any rate can have conferred on him no sort of primacy or superior authority among the Apostles. See 22:24 26; Matthew 18:1 ; John 21:19-23 ; Galatians 2:9 , Galatians 2:11 , &c.
21 . commanded them to tell no man ] For these perhaps among other reasons: 1. Because His work was not yet finished. 2. Because as yet their faith was very weak and their knowledge very partial. 3. Because they had not yet received the Holy Spirit to give power to their testimony. 4. Because the public proclamation of the truth would have precipitated the workings of God’s foreordained plan ( prothesis , Ephesians 1:9 , Ephesians 3:11 ).
22 . The Son of man must suffer many things ] It was necessary at once to dissipate the crude Messianic conceptions of earthly splendour and victory in which they had been brought up, and to substitute the truth of a suffering for that of a triumphant Messiah.
be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes ] i. e. by each of the three great sections which formed the Jewish Sanhedrin; by all who up to that time had been looked upon as religious authorities in the nation.
and be slain ] The mode of death, and the delivery to the Gentiles, were culminating horrors which He mercifully kept back till the last journey to Jerusalem, Matthew 20:19 . Hitherto He had only spoken of His death in dim and distant intimations, John 2:19 , John 3:14 , John 6:51 . His revelation of it was progressive , as they were able to bear it. Matthew 9:15 , Matthew 9:10 :38; John 3:14 ; Matthew 16:4 , Matthew 16:21 ; Matthew 17:22 , Matthew 17:20 :18, Matthew 17:26 :2.
be raised the third day ] In vs. 45 St Luke shews us (as events proved) how entirely they failed to attach any distinct meaning to these words, Mark 9:10 .
23 27. The Cross and the Kingdom
23 . And he said to them all ] The word “all” implies the fact mentioned by St Mark (8:34), that before continuing His discourse He called up to Him the multitudes who were at a little distance. St Luke here omits the presumption and rebuke of St Peter, which is alone sufficient to dispose of the unworthy theory of some German theologians that he writes with an animus against St Peter, or with some desire to disparage his position.
take up his cross ] A dim intimation of the still unrevealed imminence of His crucifixion, and a continuance of the lesson that to follow Christ meant not earthly gain but entire self-sacrifice, 14:26, 27; Acts 14:22 .
daily ] “For thy sake we are killed all the day long,” Romans 8:36 . “I die daily,” 1 Corinthians 15:31 .
24 . whosoever will save his life shall lose it ] The words imply whosoever shall make it his main will to save his life . See by way of comment the fine fragment (probably) of a very early Christian hymn in 2 Timothy 2:11 , 2 Timothy 2:12 , and observe that ψυχὴ means the natural, animal life of which the main interests are in the earth.
25 . if he gain the whole world ] It was by the constant repetition of this verse that Ignatius Loyola won the life-long devotion of St Francis Xavier.
lose himself, or be cast away ] Rather, destroy himself, and suffer loss .
26 . whosoever shall be ashamed of me ] Compare 12:9; 2 Timothy 1:8 , 2 Timothy 1:12 , 2 Timothy 1:2 :12.
27 . which shall not taste of death ] In the Arabian poem, Antar, Death is represented as slaying men by handing them a cup of poison. This was a common Eastern metaphor.
till they see the kingdom of God ] St Mark (9:1) adds “coming in power.” St Matthew (16:28) says “till they see the Son of man coming in His Kingdom.” It is clear that the primary reference of these words was to the three Apostles who, within a week of that time, were to witness the Transfiguration. So it seems to be understood in 2 Peter 1:16 , and by our Translators, who separate this verse to preface the narrative of the Transfiguration in Mark 9:1 . The significance of the “kingdom” was therefore mainly spiritual, and the verse has an important bearing on the prophecies of the Second Advent (see Matthew 24:14 , Matthew 24:15 , Matthew 24:30 ). It was again fulfilled at the Resurrection and Ascension; and in the person of one disciple St John it was fulfilled when he lived to witness the close of the Old Dispensation in the destruction of Jerusalem.
28 36. The Transfiguration
28 . about an eight days after ] See Matthew 17:1-13 ; Mark 9:2-13 . This is merely the inclusive reckoning which St Luke saw in his written sources, and means exactly the same thing as “after six days” in Mark 9:2 . (This explains Matthew 27:63 .)
he took ] The solemnity of this special choice is marked in the other Gospels by the additional word anapherei , “He leads them up” (cf. 24. 51). Matthew 26:37 .
Peter and John and James ] See 6:14, 8:51. The object of this occasion was to fill their souls with a vision which should support their faith amid the horrors which they afterwards witnessed.
into a mountain ] Rather, into the mountain . The others say “into a lofty mountain.” There can be little doubt that Mount Hermon ( Jebelesh Sheikh ) is intended, in spite of the persistent, but perfectly baseless tradition which points to Tabor. For (i) Mount Hermon is easily within six days’ reach of Caesarea Philippi, and (ii) could alone be called a “lofty mountain” (being 10,000 feet high) or “the mountain,” when the last scene had been at Caesarea. Further, (iii) Tabor at that time in all probability was (Jos. B. J. i. 8, § 7, Vit . 37), as from time immemorial it had been (Joshua 19:12 ), an inhabited and fortified place, wholly unsuited for a scene so solemn; and (iv) was moreover in Galilee, which is excluded by Mark 9:30 . “The mountain” is indeed the meaning of the name “Hermon,” which being already consecrated by Hebrew poetry (Psalms 133:3 , and under its old names of Sion and Sirion, or ‘breast-plate’ Deuteronomy 4:48 , Deuteronomy 4:3 :9; Song of Solomon 4:8 ), was well suited for the Transfiguration by its height, seclusion, and snowy splendour.
to pray ] The characteristic addition of St Luke. That this awful scene took place at night , and therefore that He ascended the mountain in the evening, is clear from vss. 32, 33: comp. 6:12. It is also implied by the allusions to the scene in 2 Peter 1:18 , 2 Peter 1:19 .
29 . as he prayed ] The enquiry whether this heavenly brightness came from within, or as when the face of Moses shone by reflection from communion with God, seems irreverent and idle; but we may say that the two things are practically one.
the fashion of his countenance was altered ] “His face did shine as the sun,” Matthew 17:2 . It is interesting to see how St Luke avoids the word “He was metamorphosed ” which is used by the other Synoptists. He was writing for Greeks, in whose mythology that verb was vulgarised by foolish associations.
white and glistering ] Literally, “ lightning forth ,” as though from some inward radiance. St Matthew compares the whiteness of His robes to the light (17:2), St Mark to the snow (9:3), and St Luke in this word to the lightning. See John 1:14 ; Psalms 104:2 ; Habakkuk 3:4 .
30 . two men, which were Moses and Elias ] The great Lawgiver and the great Prophet, of whom we are told that God buried the one (Deuteronomy 34:6 ) and the other had passed to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:1 , 2 Kings 2:11 ). The two were the chief representatives of the Old Dispensation. The former had prophesied of Christ (Acts 3:22 ; Deuteronomy 18:18 ); of the latter it had been prophesied that he should be His forerunner. “The end of the Law is Christ; Law and Prophecy are from the Word; and things which began from the Word, cease in the Word.” St Ambrose.
31 . spake of his decease ] The word used is exodos , ‘departure’ a very unusual word for death, which also occurs in this connexion in 2 Peter 1:15 . The reading doxan , ‘glory,’ though known to St Chrysostom, is only supported by a few cursives. Exodos is, as Bengel says, a very weighty word, involving His passion, cross, death, resurrection, and ascension.
32 . were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake ] Rather, had been heavy with sleep; but on fully awaking . The word diagregoresantes does not here mean ‘having kept awake,’ but (to give the full force of the compound and aorist) suddenly starting into full wakefulness . They started up, wide awake after heavy sleep, in the middle of the vision.
33 . as they departed ] Rather, were parting .
it is good for us to be here ] The word is not agathon , but kalon ; it is an excellent thing, or ‘it is best ’ (cf. Matthew 17:4 , Matthew 26:24 ).
tabernacles ] like the little wattled booths (succôth), which the Israelites made for themselves at the Feast of Tabernacles. The use of skenôma in 2 Peter 1:13 (Matthew 17:4 ) is another sign that the mind of the writer was full of this scene.
not knowing what he said ] Not knowing that the spectacle on Calvary was to be more transcendent and divine than that of Hermon, not knowing that the old was passing away and all things becoming new; not knowing that Jesus was not to die with Moses and Elijah on either side, but between two thieves.
34 . there came a cloud, and overshadowed them ] “A bright cloud,” Matthew 17:5 . Possibly the Sheckinah, or cloud of glory (see on 1:35), which was the symbol of the Divine Presence (Exodus 33:9 ; 1 Kings 8:10 ). If a mere, mountain cloud had been intended, there would have been no reason for their fear.
35 . a voice out of the cloud ] 2 Peter 1:17 , 2 Peter 1:18 . As in two other instances in our Lord’s ministry, 3:22; John 12:28 . The other Synoptists add that at this Voice they fell prostrate, and, on Jesus touching them, suddenly raised their eyes and looked all around them, to find no one there but Jesus.
my beloved Son ] Rather, my chosen Son ( eklelegmenos , א , B, L). Cf. Isaiah 42:1 .
36 . And they kept it close ] until after the resurrection, in accordance with the express command of Jesus given them as they were descending the hill. Matthew 17:9 . During the descent there also occurred the conversation about Elijah and John the Baptist (Matthew 17:9-13 ; Mark 9:9-13 .)
37 48. The Demoniac Boy. The Lesson of Meekness
37 . on the next day ] Proving that the Transfiguration took place at night: see on vs. 28.
much people met him ] St Mark records their “amazement” at seeing Him perhaps due to some lingering radiance and majesty which clung to Him after the Transfiguration. (Comp. Exodus 34:30 .) They had been surrounding a group of the scribes, who were taunting the disciples with their failure to cure the lunatic boy.
38 . of the company ] Rather, from the crowd .
Master ] Rather, Teacher or Rabbi .
he is mine only child ] See on 8:42.
39 . a spirit taketh him ] This was the supernatural aspect of his deafness, epilepsy, and madness. St Matthew gives the natural aspect when he says, “he is a lunatic, and sore vexed, &c.,” 17:15.
40 . and they could not ] Jesus afterwards, at their request, told them the reason of this, which was their deficient faith. Matthew 17:19-21 .
41 . O faithless and perverse generation ] Doubtless the Spirit of Jesus was wrung by the contrast so immortally portrayed in the great picture of Raphael between the peace and glory which He had left on the mountain, and this scene of weak faith, abject misery, and bitter opposition faltering disciples, degraded sufferers, and wrangling scribes.
how long shall I be with you ?] “He was hastening to His Father, yet could not go till He had led His disciples to faith. Their slowness troubled Him.” Bengel.
42 . rebuked the unclean spirit ] See the fuller details and the memorable cry of the poor father in Mark 9:21-24 . The child had been rendered deaf and dumb by his possession; in the last paroxysm he wallowed on the ground foaming, and then lay as dead till Jesus raised him by the hand. Interesting parallels to these strange and horrible paroxysms in a condition which may well be ascribed to demoniac possession may be found in a paper on Demoniacs by Mr Caldwell, Contemp. Rev. , Feb., 1876. The boy’s ‘possession’ seems on its natural side to have been the deadliest and intensest form of epileptic lunacy which our Lord had ever healed, and one far beyond the power of the real or pretended Jewish exorcisms. Hence the words of Jesus were peculiarly emphatic, Mark 9:25 .
43 . mighty power ] Rather, majesty . 2 Peter 1:16 .
while they wondered ] The power of the last miracle had rekindled some of their Messianic enthusiasm. Jesus had now reached the northern limits of Palestine, and apparently through bypaths, and with the utmost secresy was retracing His steps, perhaps along the western bank of the Jordan, to Galilee, Matthew 17:22 ; Mark 9:30 .
he said unto his disciples ] The imperfects in Mark 9:31 shew that these warnings of His approaching betrayal, death, and resurrection now formed a constant topic of His teaching.
44 . shall be delivered ] Rather, is about to be delivered (i. e. very soon).
45 . they understood not ] This ignorance and incapacity, so humbly avowed, should be contrasted with the boldness and fulness of their subsequent knowledge as one of the strongest proofs of the change wrought in them by the Resurrection and the Descent of the Holy Spirit.
46 . a reasoning ] Rather, a dispute .
which of them should be greatest ] Their jealous ambition had been kindled partly by false Messianic hopes, partly perhaps by the recent distinction bestowed on Peter, James, and John. Observe how little Christ’s words to Peter had been understood to confer on him any special preeminence! This unseemly dispute was again stirred up at the Last Supper, 22:24 26.
47 . perceiving the thought of their heart ] He asked the subject of their dispute, and when shame kept them silent, He sat down, and calling a little child, made the Twelve stand around while He taught this solemn lesson.
took a child ] This could not have been the future martyr St Ignatius, as legend says (Niceph. ii. 3), probably by an erroneous inference from his name of Christophoros or Theophoros, which was derived from his telling Trajan that he carried God in his heart (see Ep. ad Smyrn , iii. which is of very doubtful genuineness, or Eus. H. E. iii. 38).
48 . he that is least among you ] Comp. Matthew 23:11 , Matthew 23:12 . He perhaps added the memorable words about offending His little ones. Matthew 18:6-10 ; Luke 17:2 .
shall be great ] Rather, is great ( א , B, C, L, X).
49, 50. The Tolerance of Jesus
49 . And John answered and said ] Mark 9:38-41 . This sudden question seems to have been suggested by the words “ in my name ,’ which Jesus had just used.
casting out devils in thy name ] It was common among the Jews to attempt exorcism by many different methods; see on 4:35, 41; 8:32. This unknown person like the sons of Sceva in Acts 19:13 , Acts 19:14 , but evidently in a more faithful spirit had found that the name of Jesus was more powerful. Specimens of Jewish exorcisms are given in the Jewish Book of Jubilees , and in Shabbath , 67; Pesachim , f. 112 a, b ; see too Tobit 6:16; 17; Jos. B. J. vii. 6, § 3.
we forbad him ] Compare the jealous zeal of Joshua against Eldad and Medad, and the truly noble answer of Moses, Numbers 11:27-29 .
because he followeth not with us ] This touch of intolerant zeal is quite in accordance with the natural disposition which shews itself in the incident of vs. 54, and with the story that St John rushed out of a bath in which he saw the heretic Cerinthus. It was this burning temperament that made him a “Son of Thunder.”
50 . he that is not against us is for us ] Cf. Philippians 1:18 . The complementary but not contradictory truth to this, is “He who is not with me is against me,” Matthew 12:30 . Both are true in different circumstances. Neutrality is sometimes as deadly as opposition (Judges 5:23 ); it is sometimes as effectual as aid (Sueton., Jul. Caes. 75). See Vinet, La tolérance et l’intolérance de l’Évangile ( Discours , p. 268). Renan calls these “two irreconcilable rules of proselytism, and a contradiction evoked by a passionate struggle.” Guizot expresses his astonishment at so frivolous a criticism, and calls them two contrasted facts which every one must have noticed in the course of an active life. “Les deux assertions, loin de se contredire, peuvent être également vraies, et Jésus-Christ en les exprimant a parlé en observateur sagace, non en moraliste qui donne les préceptes.” Méditations , p. 229.
It is a great pity that the chapter does not end at this verse; since it closes another great section in our Lord’s ministry the epoch of opposition and flight. A new phase of the ministry begins at vs. 51.
Ch. 9:51 18:31
This section forms a great episode in St Luke, which may be called the departure for the final conflict, and is identical with the journey (probably to the Feast of the Dedication, John 10:22 ) which is partially touched upon in Matt. 18 20:16 and Mark 10:1-31 . It contains many incidents recorded by this Evangelist alone, and though the recorded identifications of time and place are vague, yet they all point (9:51, 13:22, 17:11, 10:38) to a slow, solemn, and public progress from Galilee to Jerusalem , of which the events themselves are often grouped by subjective considerations. So little certain is the order of the separate incidents, that one writer (Rev. W. Stewart) has made an ingenious attempt to shew that it is determined by the alphabetic arrangement of the leading Greek verbs ( ἀγαπᾶν , 10:25 28, 29 37, 38 42; αἰτεῖν , 11:1 4, 5, 8, 9 13, &c). Canon Westcott arranges the order thus: The Rejection of the Jews foreshewn; preparation, 9:43 11:13; Lessons of Warning, 11:14 13:9; Lessons of Progress, 13:10 14:24; Lessons of Discipleship, 14:25 17:10; the Coming End, 17:10 18:30.
The order of events after ‘the Galilaean spring’ of our Lord’s ministry on the plain of Gennesareth seems to have been this: After the period of flight among the heathen or in countries which were only semi-Jewish, of which almost the sole recorded incident is the healing of the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28 ). He returned to Peraea and fed the four thousand. He then sailed back to Gennesareth, but left it in deep sorrow on being met by the Pharisees with insolent demands for a sign from heaven. Turning His back once more on Galilee, He again travelled northwards; healed a blind man at Bethsaida Julias; received St Peter’s great confession on the way to Caesarea Philippi; was transfigured; healed the demoniac boy; rebuked the ambition of the disciples by the example of the little child; returned for a brief rest in Capernaum, during which occurred the incident of the Temple Tax; then journeyed to the Feast of Tabernacles, during which occurred the incidents so fully narrated by St John (John 7:1-10:21 ). The events and teachings in this great section of St Luke seem to belong mainly, if not entirely, to the two months between the hasty return of Jesus to Galilee and His arrival in Jerusalem, two months afterwards, at the Feast of Dedication; a period respecting which St Luke must have had access to special sources of information.
For fuller discussion of the question I must refer to my Life of Christ , ii. 89 150.
Ch. 9:51 56. Rejected by the Samaritans. A lesson of Tolerance
51 . when the time was come that he should be received up ] Rather, when the days of His Assumption were drawing to a close (literally, were being fulfilled ). St Luke thus clearly marks the arrival of a final stage of our Lord’s ministry. “His passion, cross, death, and grave were coming on, but through them all Jesus looked to the goal, and the style of the Evangelist imitates His feelings,” Bengel. The word analêpsis means the Ascension (in Eccl. Latin Assumptio ). So ἀνελήφθη of Elijah, 2 K. 2:11; Mark 16:19 .
he ] Rather, He Himself also .
set his face ] Jeremiah 21:10 ; Jeremiah 2:0 K. 12:17 (LXX.), and especially Isaiah 50:7 .
52 . sent messengers ] Some think that they were two of the Seventy disciples; others that they were James and John.
into a village of the Samaritans ] On the way to Judaea from Galilee He would doubtless avoid Nazareth, and therefore His road probably lay over Mount Tabor, past Little Hermon (see 7:11), past Nain, Endor, and Shunem. The first Samaritan village at which He would arrive would be En Gannim (Fountain of Gardens), now Jenîn (2 K. 9:27), a pleasant village at the first pass into the Samaritan hills. The inhabitants are still described as “fanatical, rude, and rebellious” (Thomson, Land and Book , ii. xxx.). The Samaritans are not mentioned in St Mark, and only once in St Matthew (10:5).
to make ready for him ] As He was now accompanied not only by the Twelve, but by a numerous multitude of followers, His unannounced arrival would have caused embarrassment. But, further than this, He now openly avowed Himself as the Christ.
53 . they did not receive him ] The aorist implies that they at once rejected Him. The Samaritans had shewn themselves heretofore not ill-disposed (John 4:39 ), and St Luke himself delights to record favourable notices of them (10:33, 17:18). But (i) there was always a recrudescence of hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans at the recurrence of the annual feasts. (ii) Their national jealousy would not allow them to receive a Messiah whose goal was not Gerizim, but Jerusalem. (iii) They would not sanction the passage of a multitude of Jews through their territory, since the Jews frequently (though not always, Jos. Antt. xx. 6, § 1) chose the other route on the East of the Jordan.
as though he would go to Jerusalem ] This national hatred between Jews and Samaritans (John 4:9 ) still continues, and at the present day it is mainly due to the fanaticism of the Jews. In our Lord’s day the Jews called the Samaritans ‘Cuthites’ (2 K. 17:24), aliens (17:18), ‘that foolish people that dwell in Sichem’ (Ecclus. 50:25, 26), and other opprobrious names. They accused them of continuous idolatry (2 K. 17), and charged them with false fire-signals, and with having polluted the Temple by scattering it with dead men’s bones (Jos. Antt. xx. 6, § 1, xviii. 2, § 2; B. J. ii. 12, § 3). No doubt originally their Monotheism was very hybrid, being mixed up with five heathen religions (2 K. 17:33, 19:37); but they had gradually laid aside idolatry, and it was as much a calumny of the ancient Jews to charge them with the worship of Rachel’s amulets (Genesis 35:4 ) as for modern Jews to call them ‘ worshippers of the pigeon ’ (Frankl. Jews in the East , ii. 334). But the deadly exacerbation between the two nations, which began after the Exile (Ezra 4:1-10 ; Nehemiah 4:1-16 , Nehemiah 4:6 ), had gone on increasing by perpetual collision since the building of the Temple on Gerizim by the renegade priest Manasseh and Sanballat (Nehemiah 13:28 ; Jos. Antt. xi. 7, xii. 5, § 5), which was destroyed by John Hyrcanus b. c. 129.
54 . James and John ] “What wonder that the Sons of Thunder wished to flash lightning? “St Ambrose. But one of these very disciples afterwards went to Samaria on a message of love (Acts 8:14-25 ).
fire to come down from heaven ] To avenge their helplessness under this gross and open insult of the Messiah. “Christ wrought miracles in every element except fire. Fire is reserved for the consummation of the age.” Bengel.
even as Elias did ] These words are omitted by א , B, L. But (i) they are singularly appropriate, since the incident referred to also occurred in Samaria (2 K. 1:5 14); and (ii) while it would be difficult to account for their insertion , it is quite easy to account for their omission either by an accidental error of the copyists, or on dogmatic grounds, especially from the use made of this passage by the heretic Marcion (Tert. adv. Marc. iv. 23) to disparage the Old Testament. (iii) They are found in very ancient MSS., versions, and Fathers, (iv) The words seem to be absolutely required to defend the crude spirit of vengeance, and might have seemed all the more natural to the still half-trained Apostles because they had so recently seen Moses and Elias speaking with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. They needed, as it were, a Scriptural precedent, to conceal from themselves the personal impulse which really actuated them.
55 . Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of ] The whole of this passage down to “save them” is omitted in א , A, B, C, and other manuscripts; but it is impossible to doubt its genuineness, because it breathes a spirit far purer, loftier, and rarer than is ever discernible in ecclesiastical interpolations. It was omitted on the same grounds as the words in the last verse, because it was regarded as ‘dangerous’ to the authority of the O. T. It is quite impossible to believe that the narrative abruptly ended with the unexplained “He rebuked them.” Ecclesiastical censurers have failed to see that “religionis non est religionem cogere” (Tert. ad Scap . 2), and that, as Bp Andrewes says, “The times require sometimes one spirit, sometimes another, Elias’ time Elias’ spirit.” The Apostles learnt these truths better when they had received the Holy Ghost (Romans 12:19 ; James 1:19 , James 1:20 , James 1:3 :16, James 1:17 ; John 3:17 , John 12:47 ). They learnt that the spirit of Jesus was the spirit of the dove; and that there is a difference between Carmel and Hermon, between Sinai and Kurn Hattîn. It is possible that the words may be a question Know ye not that yours (emphatically placed last) is the spirit of Elijah, not of Christ ? Our Lord quoted Psalms 12:0 and 31 on the Cross, and yet prayed for His enemies. Bengel.
56 . For the Son of man is not come , &c. This clause is omitted by the majority of uncials, and some editors therefore regard it as a repetition of 19:10 or Matthew 18:11 . However that may be, we have the same sentiment in John 3:17 , John 3:12 :47; 1 Timothy 1:15 . The Sons of Thunder were shewing the spirit of the Talmud (which says, “Let not the Samaritans have part in the Resurrection”) rather than that of the Gospel (10:33, 17:18; Acts 1:8 ).
they went to another village ] The word heteran (not allên ) perhaps implies that it was a Jewish , not a Samaritan village. Numbers 20:21 ; Matthew 2:12 .
57 62. The Three Aspirants
57 . as they went in the way ] St Matthew (8:19 22) places these incidents before the embarkation for Gergesa. Lange’s conjecture that the three aspirants were Judas Iscariot, Thomas, and Matthew is singularly baseless.
a certain man ] a Scribe (Matthew 8:19 ). The dignity of his rank was nothing to Him who had chosen among His Twelve a zealot and a publican.
whithersoever thou goest ] There was too little of ‘the modesty of fearful duty’ in the Scribe’s professions.
58 . Jesus said unto him ] “In the man’s flaring enthusiasm He saw the smoke of egotistical self-deceit” (Lange), and therefore He coldly checked a proffered devotion which would not have stood the test.
nests ] Rather, habitations, shelters . Birds do not live in nests. In this verse more than in any other we see the poverty and homelessness of the latter part of the Lord’s ministry (2 Corinthians 8:9 ). Perhaps St Luke placed the incident here as appropriate to the rejection of our Lord’s wish to rest for the night at En Gannim. Was this Scribe prepared to follow Jesus for His own sake alone?
59 . Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father ] An ancient, but groundless tradition (Clem. Alex. Strom. iii. 4, § 25), says that this was Philip. This man was already a disciple (Matthew 8:21 ). The request could hardly mean ‘let me live at home till my father’s death,’ which would be too indefinite an offer; nor can it well mean that his father was lying unburied, for in that case the disciple would hardly have been among the crowd. Perhaps it meant ‘let me go and give a farewell funeral feast, and put everything in order.’ The man was bidden to be Christ’s Nazarite (Numbers 6:6 , Numbers 6:7 ).
60 . Let the dead bury their dead ] i. e. let the spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1 ; John 5:24 , John 5:25 ) bury their physically dead. “Amandus est generator, sed praeponendus est Creator,” Aug. The general lesson is that of 14:26.
61 . let me first go bid them farewell ] The incident and the allusion closely resemble the call of Elisha (1 K. 19:20). But the call of Jesus is more pressing and momentous than that of Elijah. “The East is calling thee, thou art looking to the West,” Aug. Neither Elijah nor Elisha is an adequate example for the duties of the Kingdom of Heaven, of which the least partaker is, in knowledge and in privileges, greater than they.
62 . No man having put his hand to the plough ] He who would make straight furrows must not look about him (Hesiod, Works and Days , ii. 60). The light ploughs of the East, easily overturned, require constant attention.
fit ] Rather, well-adapted . By way of comment see 17:32; Psalms 78:9 ; Hebrews 10:38 , Hebrews 10:39 . The general lesson of the section is, Give yourself wholly to your duty, and count the cost, 14:25 33. Christ cannot accept ‘a conditional service.’ Neither hardship, nor bereavement, nor home ties must delay us from following Him. Is it more than a curious accident that the last four incidents illustrate the peculiarities of the four marked human temperaments the Choleric (51 56); the Sanguine (57, 58); the Melancholic (59, 60); the Phlegmatic 61, 62)?
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the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24