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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Luke 3

Verses 1-38

Luke 3:2

Prophets have passed for something as well as priests in making God's will known; and Established Church priesthoods have not been generally on particularly good terms with prophets. The only occasion on which the two orders are said to have been in harmony was when the prophets prophesied lies, and the priests bore rule in their name.

Froude.

Luke 3:2

The young who are of healthy, lively blood and clean conscience have either emotion or imagination to fold them defensively from an enemy world; whose power to drive them forth into the wilderness they acknowledge. But in the wilderness their souls are not beaten down by breath of mortals; they burn straight flame there up to the parent Spirit.

George Meredith.

Luke 3:3

Friend Arthur was a Sadducee, and the Baptist might be in the wilderness shouting to the poor, who were listening with all their might and faith to the preacher's awful accents and denunciation of wrath or woe or salvation; and our friend the Sadducee would turn his sleek mule with a shrug and a smile from the crowd, and go home to the shade of his terrace, and muse over preacher and audience, and turn to his roll of Plato, or his pleasant Greek song-book babbling of honey and Hybla, and nymphs and fountains and love. To what, we say, does this scepticism lead? It leads a man to a shameful loneliness and selfishness, so as to speak the more shameful, because it is so good-humoured and conscienceless and serene.

Thackeray, in the sixty-first chapter of Pendennis.

References. III. 3. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, pt. i. p. 63. III. 4. J. Arnold, The Interpretation of Scripture, p. 10. H. Windross, Preacher's Magazine, vol. v. p. 508. III. 4, 6. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 458. III. 5, 6. E. W. Attwood, Sermons for Clergy and Laity, p. 28. III. 7. Expositor (6th Series), vol. vi. p. 379. III. 7-9. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 310. III. 7-14. Ibid, (6th Series), vol. i. p. 371. III. 8. Ibid. vol. ix. p. 215.

Luke 3:9

'The fourth captain' of Shaddai' was Captain Execution. His ensign was one Mr. Justice; he also bare the red colours, and his scutcheon was a fruitless tree with an axe lying at the root thereof.'

Bunyan, Holy War.

References. III. 9-17. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. p. 207. III. 11. Ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 487.

Suggestions Towards a New Kind of Economy

Luke 3:14

This is a time when it is quite certain we have not reached the summit of our striving, but when it seems to almost every one that we are very near it. Hence an unhealthy, feverish impatience. In slower days men took duties for theirs and left results to God. It is not easy to do so now. Duties have been done long enough; causes have been pleaded; mountains have been scaled; and it is for us now to enter into fruition. I. But the times and the seasons are still in the power of the Father, and with Him it is better we should leave them. Many causes have been sharply retarded because their leaders committed themselves to chronological prophecies. Three years and then cometh harvest said the man of the golden mouth; and, because of that, fifty years have come and gone, and the harvest is still unreaped. The mountain climber achieves one height to find another far above him. On the very verge of attainment some undreamt-of foe rises out of the earth, and our hopes are thrown back for years. Work is done poorly, hastily, nervously, and with grudging under these conditions. Let us return to the ways of the wiser workman into whose labours we have entered. They toiled on for long and far results. They thankfully accepted every sign and token, however faint, of progress. But they lived on little of such fare, and were stronger and calmer than we, to whom it often seems that summer is at the doors. Instead of always anticipating the end, let as toil on and feel no pang, though it is delayed till we are no more in these streets and beneath these skies.

II. It is hard to pay the price of honesty. It is not so much that a true man cares for himself as for his influence and for the cause dear to him. The party has probably given him at least as much as he has given the party. Outside he is accepted as its representative, and its adherents are ready with their 'loud huzzas' for everything he says. His comrades, whom he has acted with till they have become a kind of second conscience to him, are estranged perhaps embittered. Life is hardly long enough for such wrenches as these. But for conscience' sake they must be borne, though influence, reputation, friends, and career should all go. Whenever conscience is dead the grave is dug for all the faculties, however loud and busy they may be. We need this for our life as a nation men who will not sell the truth, and with it their own souls, to any party, ecclesiastical, theological, or political.

III. How is the practice of this economy to be learned? It is a sovereign remedy to remember that we can do with very little happiness of any kind of this kind among the rest. Arthur Helps has reminded us in one of his finest passages of what men have lived through, and not ignobly or complainingly 'in noisome dungeons, in studied tortures, in abject and shifting poverty, after consummate shame, upon tremendous change of fortune, in the profoundest desolation of mind and soul, in forced companionship with all that is unlovely and uncongenial'. Who are we that we should claim a better fate? In Metastasio's beautiful image the mind, like water, passes through all states till it is united to what it is ever seeking. Then, have we made the most of the happiness we have?

Consider Christ and His chosen vessel St. Paul. Both most dearly prized recognition; both thanked God and took courage at every token of cheer; both experienced the bitterest secrets of solitude. Through long tracts the life of Christ flowed on like the Nile, uncheered by the refreshment of tributary streams, to the lonely and awful end. St. Paul had no one to stand by him in an experience after which a man is never the same. Both deliberately provoked the violence of the forces by which their lives ended. Yet how much they made of the smallest token of affection; with what a wealth of promise and benediction our Lord welcomed kindness to Himself and others like Him when He said, He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward.

If duty is to be done steadily, calmly, and faithfully in our days, these are the examples that must guide us. The appointed end is sure; though the time and track of progress may be and will be at variance with our hopes and dreams. Jesus has yet many things to say to us; we could not bear them now.

W. Robertson Nicoll, Ten-Minute Sermons, p. 185.

Reference. III. 15-22. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Luke, p. 73.

Luke 3:16

'I begin to think,' says Glory Quayle in Mr. Hall Caine's novel, The Christian, 'that the real difference between preachers is the difference of the fire below the crust.'

References. III. 16. J. Keble, Village Sermons on the Baptismal Service, p. 10. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii. No. 1044. Expositor (7th Series), vol. x. p. 180; (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 7. III. 21. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, pt i. p. 120. C. J. Vaughan, The Prayers of Jesus Christ, p. 28. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ix. p. 451. Ibid. (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 98. III. 21, 22. J. Keble, Sermons for Ascension Day to Trinity Sunday, p. 176. III. 22. Expositor (6th Series), vol. v. p. 73. III. 23. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 286. III. 24. T. Sadler, Sermons for Children, p. 63. III. 38. S. Cox, Expositions, p. 27. H. Rix, Sermons, Addresses, and Essays, p. 1. III. 46. Joseph Parker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 17. IV. 1. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 189. IV. 1, 2. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 190. IV. 1-3. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1669, p. 391. IV. 1-13. Expositor (4th Series), vol. ii. pp. 303, 439. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture St. Luke, p. 78. IV. 2. W. Y. Fullerton, Christ and Men, p. 56.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 3". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/luke-3.html. 1910.