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(1) On the second sabbath after the first.—Literally, the second-first Sabbath. There is nothing like the phrase in any other author, and its meaning is therefore to a great extent conjectural. Its employment by St. Luke may be noted as indicating his wish to be accurate as an historian. He sought to gather, as far as he could, definite dates; and hearing, in the course of his inquiries, of this, as fixing the time of what followed, inserted it in his record.
It may be noted that the facts of the case fix limits on either side. The corn was ripe enough to be rubbed in the hands, and yield its grain. It had not yet been gathered. It could not therefore be much earlier than the Passover, when the barley harvest began, and not much later than the Pentecost, when the wheat was ripe. If it preceded, as it appears to have done (see Luke 9:12), the feeding of the Five Thousand, it must have been before the Passover (John 6:4). The conjectures, such as they are, are as follows:—
(1.) The first Sabbath of the second month of the year, taking Nisan (in which the Passover occurred) as the first month.
(2.) The first Sabbath after the second day of the Passover, that day being itself kept as a supplementary feast.
(3.) The first Sabbath in the second year of the sabbatic cycle of seven years.
(4.) As the Jewish year had two beginnings, one (the civil) reckoning from the month Tisri (including part of September and October); the other (the ecclesiastical) from Nisan, it has been supposed that the first Sabbath in Tisri was called first-first, the first in Nisan second-first.
(5.) The Sabbath in the Pentecostal week, the second chief or first Sabbath, as that in the Passover week was the first.
(6.) The day after the new moon, when, through some accident, its appearance had not been reported to the Sanhedrin in time for the sacrifice connected with it. In such a case the second day was kept as the monthly feast, i.e., received the honours of the first, and so might come to be known technically as the second-first. If it coincided, as often it must have done, with the actual Sabbath, such a day might naturally be called a second-first Sabbath.
In the total dearth of information it is impossible to speak decisively in favour of any one of these views. The last has the merit of at least suggesting the way in which St. Luke may have become acquainted with so peculiar a term. We know from Jewish writers in the Mishna that the new-moon feast was determined by the personal observation of watchmen appointed by the Sanhedrin, and not by astronomical calculation, and it was when they failed to observe or report it in time that the rule stated above came into play. We know from Colossians 2:16, that the observance of that feast had risen into a new prominence in the ritual of a sect which there is every reason to identify with that of the Essenes. (See Note on Colossians 2:16.) Among those whom St. Luke seems to have known at Antioch we find the name of Manaen, or Menahem, the foster-brother of Herod the Tetrarch (Acts 13:1), presumably, as many commentators have suggested, the son or grandson of Menahem, an Essene prophet, who had predicted the future sovereignty of Herod the Great. (See Introduction.) In this way, accordingly, if such a technical nomenclature were in use, as it was likely to be among the Essenes, St. Luke was likely to hear it. We may add further, that Manaen, from his position, was likely to have been brought into contact with the Baptist; that he could scarcely fail to have been impressed with a life which was so entirely moulded, outwardly at least, on the Essene type; and must have passed through the teaching of John to that of Christ. We find this incident following in immediate sequence upon one in which the disciples of John were prominent (Luke 5:33). May we not think therefore, with some reason, of Manaen having been among them, and of his having supplied St. Luke with the technical term that fixed the very day of the journey through the corn-fields? Combining this view with the fact that if this were a new-moon Sabbath it must have been the beginning of the moon of Nisan, possibly coinciding with an actual Sabbath, we have the interesting fact that the lesson for the first Sabbath in that month, in the modern Jewish calendar, is from 1 Samuel 21:0, and so contained the history of the shewbread to which our Lord refers. This coincidence, corresponding with what we find in the synagogue discourses of Luke 4:17, and of Acts 13:15 (where see Note), is another confirmation of the view now maintained.
It remains to add that one group of MSS. of high authority omit the perplexing word, and that some critics hold it to have grown out of an original “on the first Sabbath,” as contrasted with the “other Sabbath” of Luke 6:6; and suppose that an ignorant scribe corrected this in the margin to “second,” and that one still more ignorant combined the two readings. These arbitrary conjectures are, however, eminently unscholarly; and the very difficulty presented by the word must, on all usual laws of textual criticism, be admitted as an argument for its genuineness.
He went through the corn-fields.—See for the narrative that follows Notes on Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28.
Plucked the ears of corn, and did eat.—Better, were plucking, and were eating.
(6) It came to pass also on another sabbath.—See Notes on Matthew 12:9-14; Mark 3:1-6.
Whose right hand was withered.—St. Luke alone specifies which hand it was that was affected.
(7) The scribes and Pharisees watched him.—Better, were watching.
(8) Rise up, and stand forth in the midst.—Here again, and throughout what follows, we have another example of a narrative in which St. Mark and St. Luke agree much more closely than either agrees with St. Matthew.
(10) And looking round about upon them.—See Notes on Mark 3:4.
(11) They were filled with madness.—The expression is peculiar to St. Luke’s report.
Communed one with another.—It seems singular that Luke, who in other respects seems to have had so many points of contact with people connected with the Herods (see Introduction), should have omitted the fact which St. Mark records, that it was with the Herodians that the Pharisees took counsel. Possibly, however, his very acquaintance with the men so named may have made him reluctant to give a special prominence to the part they had taken against the Christ. St. Mark, it will be remembered, says that they “took counsel” (or, held a council) that they might destroy Him.
(12) He went out into a mountain to pray.—Better, into the mountain, or, the hill-country. The stress laid on the prayers of Jesus is again characteristic of St. Luke.
Continued all night in prayer to God.—The original, at least, admits of another rendering. The word translated “prayer” (proseuchè) had come to be applied to the place dedicated to prayer—the chapel or oratory by the river-side, or on the mountain-side, where there was a running stream available for ablutions, to which devout Jews could retire for their devotions. Such a proseuchè there seems to have been at Philippi (Acts 16:13). Another is named at Halicarnassus. Such, the language of Roman poets (in quâ te quœro proseuchâ, Juvenal, Sat. iii. 296) shows us, there were at Rome. The fact mentioned by Josephus that there was one near Tiberias (Life, c. 54) shows that they were not unknown in Galilee. The precise combination of words—literally, in the prayer of God—is not found elsewhere for prayer as offered to God.
(13) And when it was day.—In the place which he assigns to the choice of the Twelve, St. Luke agrees more closely with St. Mark than with St. Matthew, who makes it precede the narratives of the disciples plucking the ears of corn, and the healing of the withered hand, which here it follows. A precisely-harmonised arrangement seems here impossible, and is, happily, unimportant. We must be content to admit the possibility, whether accidental or intentional, of one or other of the Gospels, possibly of all three, arranging facts in some other order than that of chronological sequence. The point to which St. Luke’s record was obviously intended to give prominence is that the choice of the Twelve came as the result of the night of prayer, just as the prominent thought in St. Matthew (Matthew 9:36) is that it grew out of our Lord’s compassion for the multitude that were as sheep without a shepherd.
(14-16) Simon, (whom he also named Peter).—For the list of the Twelve Apostles see Notes on Matthew 10:2.
The only special points in St. Luke’s list are (1) that he gives Simon Zelotes, obviously as a translation, for Simon the Cananite, or Cananæan, of the other two lists, and gives James’s Judas, leaving it uncertain whether he means that the latter was son or brother of the former. His use of the same formula in the genealogy of Luke 3:0 is in favour of the former relationship.
(17) And he came down with them, and stood in the plain.—We are again confronted with harmonistic difficulties. In St. Matthew (Matthew 10:0) the mission of the Twelve is followed by a full discourse on their Apostolic work and its perils. Here it is followed by a discourse which has so many points of resemblance with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:6, Matthew 5:7, that many have supposed it to be identical. It is a partial explanation of the difficulty that St. Mark and St. Luke distinguish the choice of the Twelve from their mission, the latter meeting us in Luke 9:1, Mark 6:7, and that in a form which implies the previous existence of the Twelve as a distinct body; but we still have to face the fact that events which St. Mark and St. Luke place even before the choice, St. Matthew places after the mission. (See Note on Luke 6:13.)
Stood in the plain.—Better, on a plain, or on a level place. The Greek has no article.
A great multitude of people.—The description that follows has many points of resemblance both with that in Mark 3:7-12, and with that in Matthew 4:24, immediately before the Sermon on the Mount. It is probable enough that each separate report of any of our Lord’s great discourses dwelt upon the multitudes who were present to hear them.
(19) There went virtue out of him.—The use of the term “virtue” (or power) in this technical sense is peculiar to St. Luke, and may be noted as characteristic of the medical Evangelist. (Comp. Introduction.)
(20) Blessed be ye poor . . .—See Notes on Matthew 5:1. The conclusion there arrived at—that the two discourses differ so widely, both in their substance and in their position in the Gospel narrative, that it is a less violent hypothesis to infer that they were spoken at different times than to assume that the two Evangelists inserted or omitted, as they thought fit, in reporting the same discourse—will be taken here as the basis of interpretation. It was quite after our Lord’s method of teaching that He should thus reproduce, with more or less variation, what He had taught before. The English, “Blessed be ye poor,” is ambiguous, as leaving it uncertain whether the words are the declaration of a fact or the utterance of a prayer. Better, Blessed are ye poor. We note at once the absence of the qualifying words of St. Matthew’s “poor in spirit.” Assume the identity of the two discourses, and then we have to think of St. Luke or his informant as omitting words, and those singularly important words, which our Lord had spoken; and this, it is obvious, presents a far greater difficulty than the thought that our Lord varied the aspects of the truths which He presented, now affirming the blessedness of the “poor in spirit,” now that of those who were literally “poor,” as having less to hinder them from the attainment of the higher poverty. See Notes on Matthew 5:3. It seems to have been St. Luke’s special aim to collect as much as he could of our Lord’s teaching as to the danger of riches. (See Introduction.)
Note the substitution of the “kingdom of God” for the “kingdom of heaven” in St. Matthew.
(21) Blessed are ye that hunger now.—In the second beatitude, as in the first, we note the absence of the words that seem to give the blessing on those that “hunger and thirst after righteousness” its specially spiritual character. The law implied is obviously the same as before. Fulness of bread, a life abounding in comforts and luxuries, like that of the Rich Man in the parable of Luke 16:19, tends to dull the edge of appetite for higher things. Those who know what the hunger of the body is, can understand better, and are more likely to feel, the hunger of the soul.
Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.—The clause is remarkable as being (with its counterpart in Luke 6:25) the only instance in the New Testament of the use of “laughter” as the symbol of spiritual joy. In James 4:9 it comes in as representing worldly gladness; but the Greek word was too much associated with the lower forms of mirth to find ready acceptance. It is probable that the Aramaic word which our Lord used, like the mirth or laughter which entered into the name of Isaac (Genesis 21:6), had a somewhat higher meaning. Hebrew laughter was a somewhat graver thing than that of Greek or Roman. It had had no comedy to degrade it.
(22) Blessed are ye.—See Notes on Matthew 5:10-12. The clause “when they shall separate you from their company” is peculiar to St. Luke, and refers to the excommunication or exclusion from the synagogue, and therefore from social fellowship, of which we read in John 16:2.
(23) Leap for joy.—The word is peculiar to St. Luke in the New Testament, and occurs elsewhere only in Luke 1:41; Luke 1:44.
(24) But woe unto you that are rich!—Better, woe for you, the tone being, as sometimes (though, as Matthew 23:0 shows, not uniformly) with this expression, one of pity rather than denunciation. (Comp. Matthew 23:13; Mark 13:17; Luke 21:23.) We enter here on what is a distinct feature of the Sermon on the Plain—the woes that, as it were, balance the beatitudes. It obviously lay in St. Luke’s purpose, as a physician of the soul, to treasure up and record all our Lord’s warnings against the perilous temptations that wealth brings with it. The truth thus stated in its naked awfulness is reproduced afterwards in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19).
Ye have received your consolation.—Better, simply, ye have your consolation—i.e., all that you understand or care for, all, therefore, that you can have. The thought appears again in the words of Abraham, “Thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things” (Luke 16:25). The verb is the same as in “they have their reward,” in Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5.
(25) Woe unto you that are full!—The fulness is, as the context shows, that of the satiety of over-indulgence. The word is closely connected with that fulness (rather than “satisfying”) of the flesh of which St. Paul speaks in Colossians 2:23.
Woe unto you that laugh now!—We note here, as so often elsewhere, an echo of our Lord’s teaching, in that of James the brother of the Lord. He, too, presents the same contrast, “Let your laughter be turned to mourning” (James 4:9).
(26) So did their fathers to the false prophets.—The words are of very wide application, but it is probable that there is a special reference in them to the time of Hezekiah and the later kings of Judah. (Comp. Isaiah 30:10; Jeremiah 5:31.) They open a wide question as to the worth of praise as a test of human conduct, and tend to a conclusion quite the reverse of that implied in the maxim, Vox populi, vox Dei. Truth, in matters which, like religion or politics, impinge on men’s interests or prejudices, is often, if not always, on the side of the minority, sometimes even on that of one who is as an Athanasius contra mundum. On the other hand, praise (Philippians 4:8) and good repute (1 Timothy 3:7) have their value as the witnesses borne by the moral sense of men, when not deadened or perverted to the beauty of holiness, the testimonium. animœ naturaliter Christianœ to the moral excellence of the followers of Christ.
(27, 28) Love your enemies.—See Notes on Matthew 5:44. It should be noted that the great command of the gospel is set forth in the Sermon on the Plain in its width and universality, without being formally contrasted with the Pharisaic gloss, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy,” as in the Sermon on the Mount.
(29) And unto him that smiteth thee . . .—See Notes on Matthew 5:39-40.
And him that taketh away thy cloke.—St. Luke’s report of the maxim points to direct violence, St. Matthew’s to legal process. It is noticeable also that St. Luke inverts the order of the “cloke” and the “coat.” “If he takes the upper garment, give him the under one also.”
(30) Give to every man that asketh of thee.—See Note on Matthew 5:42.
(31) As ye would that men should do to you . . .—See Note on Matthew 7:12. The very different arrangement of the precepts in the two discourses is obviously an argument against their identity.
(32) For if ye love them which love you.—See Note on Matthew 5:46, and note St. Luke’s use, as writing for Gentiles, of the wider term “sinners,” instead of the more specific “publicans,” which pointed the maxim, perhaps, for those who originally heard it, and certainly for St. Matthew’s Jewish readers. There is also a slight variation in the form of the closing questions—St. Luke’s “what thank have ye” pointing to the expectation of gratitude in return for good offices, St. Matthew’s “what reward” to a more concrete and solid payment.
(33) If ye do good to them . . .—Actual deeds of kindness take the place in St. Luke which in St. Matthew is occupied by the salutations which were but the outward signs of kindness.
(34) If ye lend to them . . .—This special illustration of the law of unselfish kindness is in this collocation peculiar to St. Luke; but it is implied in the precept of Matthew 5:42.
To receive as much again.—It is noticeable, as implying that the precepts were given in the first instance to Jewish hearers, that receiving interest on the loan is not contemplated at all. (See Note on Matthew 5:42.)
(35) Love ye your enemies.—The tense of the Greek verb may be noted as implying a perpetual abiding rule of action.
Hoping for nothing again.—Better, in nothing losing hope. It is possible that the Greek verb may have the sense given in the text, but its uniform signification in the LXX. (as in Sir. 22:21-24; Sir. 27:21), which must be allowed great weight in interpreting a writer like St. Luke, is that of “giving up hope,” despairing. And this gives, it is obvious, a meaning not less admirable than that of the received version, “Give and lend according to the law of Christ, and do not let the absence of immediate profit make you lose heart and hope.” There is a “great reward.” The last words at least remind us of the promise made to Abraham, and may be interpreted by it. God Himself is our “exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). One or two MSS. give a masculine instead of a neuter pronoun after the verb, and in that case the verb must be taken as transitive. We have accordingly to choose between in nothing despairing, or driving no man to despair. On the whole, the former seems preferable. So taken, we may compare it with St. Paul’s description of “charity” or “love,” as “hoping all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7), and his counsel, “Be not weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9).
The children of the Highest.—Better, for the sake of uniformity with the other passages where the word occurs, sons of the Most High. The passage is noticeable as the only instance in which our Lord Himself applies this name to the Father.
He is kind.—The generalised word takes the place of the more specific reference to the rain and sunshine as God’s gifts to all, in Matthew 5:45. The word rendered “kind” is applied to God in the Greek version of Psalms 34:8, quoted in 1 Peter 2:3, and is there rendered “gracious.”
(36) Be ye therefore merciful.—The form of the sentence is the same as that of Matthew 5:48, but “merciful” takes the place of “perfect,” as being the noblest of the divine attributes, in which all others reach their completeness. The well-known passage in Shakespeare on the “quality of mercy,” is, perhaps, the best comment on this verse (Merchant of Venice, iv. 1).
(37) Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.—See Note on Matthew 7:1. In St. Luke’s report there is something like a climax. “Seek not to judge at all. If you must judge, be not eager to condemn.”
Forgive.—Better, set free, release, or acquit; the word expressing a quasi-judicial act rather than the forgiveness of a private wrong.
(38) Good measure, pressed down.—The imagery clearly points to a measure of grain, so pressed and shaken that it could hold no more.
Into your bosom.—The large fold of an Eastern dress over the chest, often used as a pocket.
With the same measure that ye mete.—See Notes on Matthew 7:2, Mark 4:24, for the varied applications of the proverb.
(39) And he spake a parable unto them.—The verse is noticeable (1) as causing a break in the discourse which has no parallel in the Sermon on the Mount; (2) as giving an example of the wider sense of the word “parable,” as applicable to any proverbial saying that involved a similitude. On the proverb itself, quoted in a very different context, see Note on Matthew 15:14. Here its application is clear enough. The man who judges and condemns another is as the blind leader of the blind. Assuming St. Paul to have known the Sermon on the Plain, we may trace an echo of the words in the “guide of the blind” of Romans 2:19.
(40) The disciple is not above his master.—See Notes on Matthew 10:24, John 15:20. Here the application of the proverb is obviously very different. The connection of thought is somewhat obscure, and we may not unreasonably believe that some links have been omitted. As it is, however, we can infer something from what precedes and follows. We are still in that section of the discourse which warns the disciples against taking on themselves the office of a judge. They were in this to follow the example of their Master. He, in His work on earth, taught, but did not judge (John 8:11-15; John 12:47; perhaps, also, Luke 12:14). Were they above their Master that they should do what He had refrained from doing?
Every one that is perfect.—Better, every one that is perfected. The marginal rendering, “Every one shall be perfected,” is hardly tenable grammatically The implied thought is that the disciple or scholar who has been perfected by the education through which his Master has led him, will be like the Master in character and temper, i.e., in this special application of the maxim, will abstain from needless, or hasty, or uncharitable judgment.
(41) And why beholdest thou . .?—See Notes on Matthew 7:4. The two reports of the proverb agree almost verbally, as if its repetition had impressed it deeply on the minds of the hearers.
(43-46) For a good tree bringeth not forth . . .—See Notes on Matthew 7:16-21. Here again, judging by what we find in St. Matthew, there may have been missing links; but even without them the conjunction “for” does not lose its force. The good tree of a Christ-like life cannot bring forth the “corrupt fruit” (better, perhaps, rotten fruit) of censorious judgment; the rotten tree of hypocrisy cannot bring forth the “good fruit “of the power to reform and purify the lives of others. The tree of life (i.e., the wisdom of perfect holiness, comp. Proverbs 3:18; Proverbs 11:30), whose leaves are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2), is of quite another character than that.
(44) Of thorns men do not gather figs.—The form of the illustration differs slightly from that in St. Matthew, where the thorns are connected with grapes, and the figs with thistles. The word for “bramble bush” is the same as that used in Luke 20:37, and in the LXX. version of Exodus 3:2-4, and Deuteronomy 33:16, for the burning “bush” on Sinai. We may note further the use of a different Greek word (that specially connected, as in Revelation 14:18-19, with the gathering of the vintage) for the second “gather” in St. Luke’s report.
(45) A good man out of the good treasure.—See Note on Matthew 12:35. There the words are spoken in immediate connection with the judgment which the Pharisees had passed on our Lord as casting out devils by Beelzebub, and follow on a reproduction of the similitude of the tree and its fruit. The sequence of thought in that passage helps us to trace a like sequence here. Out of the “good treasure of his heart” the good man would bring forth, not harsh or hasty judgment, but kindness, gentleness, compassion; out of the “evil treasure” the man who was evil, the hypocrite who judged others by himself, would bring forth bitterness, and harsh surmises, and uncharitable condemnation.
(46) And why call ye me, Lord, Lord.—The teaching is the same in substance, though not in form.
(47-49) Whosoever cometh to me .—See Notes on Matthew 7:24-27. Here again the all but verbal reproduction of the parable shows the impression which its repetition had left on the minds of men. The variations, however, are not without significance. St. Luke alone reports that the wise man “digged deep” (better, digged, and made it deep), and so brings out the toil and labour which attends the laying the foundation. It is not a passing emotion of assurance, a momentary act of faith, but involves a process that goes deep through the surface strata of the life, till it finds a foundation in a purified and strengthened will, or, to anticipate St. Paul’s teaching, in the “new man” within us, which is one with the presence of Christ as “the hope of glory” (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 1:27).
(48) When the flood arose.—Here we have some-what less fulness of detail than in St. Matthew’s mention of “the rain” and the “wind,” as well as the rivers or streams. The word rendered “flood” referred primarily to the “sea,” but had been transferred to the movement of any large body of water.
And could not shake it.—Better, and had no power to shake it. Somewhat stronger than the form in St. Matthew, which simply states the result, “it fell not.” Here the result of the “digging deep” to the rock-foundation was that the house was not even “shaken.”
For it was founded upon a rock.—The better MSS. give, because it had been well built, the verse having apparently been altered in later MSS. to bring it into agreement with St. Matthew.
(49) He that heareth, and doeth not.—More specific than St. Matthew in adding “without a foundation,” somewhat less so in giving “on the earth” instead of “on the sand.”
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Luke 6". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30