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Luke 6:1. Second Sabbath after the first.—Or, “second-first Sabbath.” This is an almost unintelligible phrase. It is omitted in some very ancient MSS., and is relegated to the margin in the R.V. The fact that it is a difficult phrase is in favour of its genuineness. It is easy to account for its omission in some MSS., but not easy to account for its insertion in others if it were not in the original text. One of the many suggestions as to the phrase is that it means “the first Sabbath of the second month”: this is the month Iyar, corresponding to our May—a time when the corn in that district of Palestine is ripe. His disciples.—He Himself did not pluck the ears of corn. It was permissible to do this (Deuteronomy 23:25): the objection here taken was to its being done on the Sabbath.
Luke 6:2. Not lawful.—As work of all kinds was prohibited, reaping and threshing corn was unlawful: plucking the ears was virtually reaping; rubbing them in the hands was virtually threshing.
Luke 6:3. Have ye not read, etc.—There is a touch of irony in the question. “Are ye who study the Scriptures so devotedly, unacquainted with this?” What David did.—1 Samuel 21:1-6.
Luke 6:4. The shewbread.—“Lit. ‘loaves of setting-forth’; ‘bread of the Face,’ i.e. set before the presence of God (Leviticus 24:5-9). They were twelve unleavened loaves sprinkled with frankincense set on a little golden table” (Farrar). They might only be eaten by the priests (Leviticus 24:9). The plea of necessity justified the action of David and of the high priest in setting aside the ceremonial law; so too the hunger of the disciples justified their plucking and rubbing the ears of corn. Another circumstance in the incident quoted from the Old Testament made it specially appropriate to the present argument, and that was that it took place on the Sabbath. From 1 Samuel 21:6 it seems that David arrived on the day when the old bread was taken away and the new bread put in its place. This was done on the Sabbath (Leviticus 24:8).
Luke 6:5. Lord of the Sabbath.—“The reasoning is as follows: There are laws of eternal obligation for which man was made, and whose authority can never be set aside. There are others of temporary obligation, made for man, designed for his discipline, till Christ should come and the shadow give place to the substance. Christ, as the Son of man, the Messiah, the Author and end of the law, is its Lord, not indeed to destroy, but to make perfect—to change its observance from the letter to the spirit” (Speaker’s Commentary).
Luke 6:6. Right hand.—Evidently a circumstance noted by an eyewitness. Withered.—Not only paralysed, but dried up. An apocryphal gospel, quoted by St. Jerome, says that this man was a stonemason, that his hand had been injured by an accident, and that he appealed to Jesus to heal him, in order that he might be able to work and not have to beg his bread. Though it is not distinctly stated, the narratives in the Gospels seem to imply that he had come to the synagogue expecting to be healed by Jesus.
Luke 6:7. Watched Him.—The question as to whether it was lawful to heal or attend to the sick on the Sabbath was one on which the Jews were divided: the Pharisees held strict views of the Sabbath, and their opinions had great weight with the people, so that Jesus ran the risk of losing popularity as a religious teacher if He differed from them.
Luke 6:9. I will ask you one thing.—This implies that a question had been put to Him. The question is given in Matthew 12:10, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days?” To do good, or to do evil.—“He was intending to work a miracle for good: they were secretly plotting to do harm—their object being, if possible, to put Him to death” (Farrar).
Luke 6:10. Looking round about upon them all.—St. Mark adds the very vivid touch, “with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Luke 3:5).
Luke 6:11. Madness.—Lit. “senselessness, wicked folly.” One with another.—St. Mark says and with the Herodians also (Luke 3:6). They were willing even to ally themselves with their enemies to attain their end of destroying Christ.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 6:1-11
The Pharisees’ Sabbath and Christ’s.—We have here two Sabbath incidents, in the first of which the disciples are the transgressors of the Sabbatic tradition; in the second, Christ’s own action is brought into question. The scene of the first is in the fields, that of the second is the synagogue. In the one, Sabbath observance is set aside at the call of personal needs; in the other, at the call of another’s calamity. So the two correspond to the old Puritan principle that the Sabbath law allowed of “works of necessity and of mercy.”
I. The Sabbath and personal needs.—The disciples, as they and their Master traversed some field-path through the corn, gathered a few ears, as the merciful provision of the law allowed, and began to eat the rubbed-out grains to relieve their hunger. Moses had not forbidden such gleaning, but casuistry had decided that such action was virtually reaping and winnowing, and was therefore work of a kind that violated the Sabbath. Our Lord does not question the authority of the tradition, nor ask where Moses had forbidden what His disciples were doing. Still less does He touch the sanctity of the Jewish Sabbath. He accepts His questioners’ position, for the time, and gives them a perfect answer on their own ground. He quotes an incident in which ceremonial obligations give way before higher law. It is that of David and his followers eating the shewbread, which was tabooed to all but the priests, and perhaps the incident is chosen with some reference to the parallel between Himself, the true King, now unrecognised and hunted, with His humble followers, and the fugitive outlaw with his band. This shows that even a Divine prohibition which relates to mere ceremonial matter melts, like wax, before even bodily necessities. It may reasonably be doubted whether all Christian communities have learned the sweep of that principle yet, or so judge of the relative importance of keeping up their appointed forms of worship, and of feeding their hungry brother. To this Christ adds an assertion of His power over the Sabbath, as enjoined upon Israel. His is the authority which imposed it. It is plastic in His hands. The whole order of which it is a part has its highest purpose in witnessing of Him. He brings the true “rest.”
II. The Sabbath and works of beneficence.—In His former answer Jesus had appealed to Scripture to bear out His teaching that Sabbath observance must bend to personal necessities. Here He appeals to the natural sense of compassion to confirm the principle that it must give way to the duty of relieving others. The principle is a wide one: the charitable succour of men’s needs, of whatever kind, is congruous with the true design of the day of rest. Have the Churches laid that lesson to heart? On the whole, it is to be observed that our Lord here distinctly recognises the obligation of the Sabbath, that He claims power over it, that He permits the pressure of individual necessities and of others’ need of help to modify the manner of its observance, and that He leaves to the spiritual insight of His followers the application of these principles. The cure which follows is done in a singular fashion. Without a request from the sufferer or any one else, He heals him by a word. His command has a promise in it, and He gives the power to do what He bids the man do. We get strength to obey in the act of obedience. But, also, the manner in which the miracle was wrought had a special reason in the very cavils of the Pharisees. Not even they could accuse Him of breaking any Sabbath law by such a cure. What had He done? Told the man to put out his hand. Surely that was not unlawful. What had the man done? Stretched it forth. Surely that broke no subtle Rabbinical precept. So they were foiled at every turn, driven off the field of argument, and baffled in their attempt to find ground for laying an information against Him. Their hearts were not touched by His gentle wisdom or healing power. All that their contact with Jesus did was to drive them to intenser hostility, and to send them away to plot His death. That is what comes of making religion a round of outward observances. The Pharisee is always blind as an owl to the light of God and true goodness, keen-sighted as a hawk for trivial breaches of his cobweb regulations, and cruel as a vulture to tear with beak and claw. The race is not extinct. We all carry one inside, and need God’s help to cast him out.—Maclaren.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 6:1-11
I. The Sabbath.—How did our Lord spend His Sabbaths? In regular attendance at the synagogue services, public preaching, private ministrations of mercy to the sick and suffering. How different the Sabbaths of the Pharisees! They had added to the fourth commandment many childish and burdensome rules.
II. A Sabbath incident in the cornfields.—
1. The charge of Sabbath-breaking.
2. Our Lord’s reply.
III. A Sabbath incident in the synagogue.—
1. A new charge.
2. A new reply. Christ gives us two simple tests. What is necessary may be done. A work of mercy may be done.—W. Taylor.
Luke 6:1. “Plucked the ears of corn.”—The incidental mention of the hunger of the disciples, which they were seeking to satisfy by plucking and eating the ripe corn, is very affecting (Matthew 12:1). It was on the plea of necessity that Jesus justified their so acting on the Sabbath day. Probably to most, if not to all of them, this degree of poverty was a new experience, since they had forsaken all to follow Jesus. Two of them at least, James and John, seem to have belonged to one of the higher strata of society—they had had servants, and were on terms of intimacy with the high priest; Matthew had followed a lucrative calling; and the other apostles had been, though perhaps poor, not in destitute circumstances. But doubtless the sacrifices they made in obeying the command of Jesus were counted but light, and the hardships they occasionally had to endure but trivial, in comparison with the blessedness of association with Him. No life can be called destitute in which there is true fellowship with Christ.
Luke 6:2. “Not lawful to do.”—The strict observance of the Sabbath had become the marked characteristic of the Jews in the time of their exile. After their return it had become interwoven with national feeling; so that the measure of freedom which Jesus took in connection with the observance of the day gave great offence both in Judæa and in Galilee. The vast number of rules and the hair-splitting casuistry associated by the Jews with Sabbath observance are well known: they made life almost intolerable. A devout Jew was afraid to lift his finger, for fear of breaking some Rabbinical precept. “A woman must not go out with any ribbons about her, unless they were sewed to her dress. A false tooth must not be worn. A person with the toothache might not rinse his mouth with vinegar, but he might hold it in his mouth and swallow it. No one might write down two letters of the alphabet. The sick might not send for a physician. A person with lumbago might not rub or foment the affected part. A tailor must not go out with his needle on Friday night, lest he should forget it, and so break the Sabbath by carrying it about. A cock must not wear a piece of ribbon round its leg on the Sabbath, for this would be to carry something! etc., etc.” (Farrar). The very idea of the purpose of the Sabbath had been lost. God had given it as a boon to man, and it had been made into a burden. And upon an observance of these fantastic and self-imposed rules devotees thought they could build up a holiness which would justify them in the sight of God.
Luke 6:3-4. The Authority of the Scriptures.—In all questions of moral and spiritual principles Christ treats the word of God as the supreme authoritative guide for man, and from it now He confutes His opponents, as in the desert He had by its aid overthrown the tempter.
“Have ye not read?”—There are different ways of reading:
(1) that which results merely in acquaintance with the text, and
(2) that which penetrates to the true significance of the record. The Pharisees had read the history of their great national hero, David, but they had not grasped the principle which underlay and justified his action and that of the high priest on this occasion. Jesus does not discuss the petty school question as to whether plucking the ears of corn and rubbing them out were virtually the same as reaping and threshing, but settles the dispute by laying down the great principle that the word of God which prescribed ceremonial laws laid greater stress upon moral duties than upon them, and taught that mercy was better than sacrifice. The bread consecrated to God in the holy tent was not profaned when given to relieve the hunger of His children. He implied, too, that Scripture to be of use must be interpreted by Scripture, in order that its true spirit and teaching might be learned. A single text of God’s word is not therefore necessarily authoritative, but the general strain of Scripture teaches principles that are so. In accordance with the spirit of the history in 1 Samuel 21:0, which Christ here quotes, was the action of Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester. “In a time of famine he sold all the rich vessels and ornaments of the church to relieve the poor with bread, and said ‘there was no reason that the dead temples of God should be sumptuously furnished, and the living temples suffer poverty.’ ”
Luke 6:5. “Lord also of the Sabbath.” Jesus vindicates the conduct—of the disciples on two grounds:
(1) that there were occasions when the ordinary rules of Sabbath observance might without blame be set aside; and
(2) that He, as Son of man, had power to modify those very rules. His decisions were to be taken as authoritative, and the same weight attached to them as to the law concerning the Sabbath given through Moses. “Since the Sabbath was an ordinance instituted for the use and benefit of man, the Son of man, who has taken upon Him full and completed manhood, the great representative and head of humanity, has this institution under His own power” (Alford). This teaching is illustrated and expanded in Romans 14:5; Romans 14:17; Colossians 2:16-17. Christ did not abolish the Sabbath, just as He did not abolish fasting, but He changed it from being an external ordinance observed in a rigid and servile manner, as it had become among the Jews, and made it a means of grace. Not because of a commandment binding us to certain outward conduct, but because of an inward spiritual need, do we, therefore, keep the day holy. To do good upon the Sabbath, and not merely to abstain from work, is the best way of observing the day. An indication of the lordship over the Sabbath which Christ claims is given in the change of the day of rest from the last to the first day of the week. Under the guidance of His Spirit, if not at His command, given on some occasion after His rising from the dead (cf. Acts 1:3), His followers made this change.
“Lord of the Sabbath.”—This title teaches us—
I. That there is still a Sabbath day for us to observe.
II. That we should look to our Lord’s teaching and practice for the due observance of the Sabbath.—W. Taylor.
Luke 6:6-11. The Withered Hand.—The man with the withered hand is a silent but steady example of faith. There are two things in his conduct which cast a special lustre upon it—the one more external, the other more internal and spiritual.
I. He obeyed God rather than man.—By his prompt obedience he takes the side of Jesus against the Pharisees, and submits himself entirely to His direction. His readiness to go with Him in a matter of external obedience was the proof of that instinctive and deeplying trust in Christ which made him a fit subject for His healing.
II. He obeyed where obedience was an act of pure trust.—The first command, “Rise up,” tested the courage of his faith; the second command, “Stretch forth thine hand,” tested the inner, deeper faith of the spiritual nature. Had he not been completely reliant upon Christ, he would at this point have doubted. But he implicitly obeyed, and in obeying was healed. It is an impressive illustration of the way of life. There is none that casts a clearer light on the foolish puzzles men make to themselves out of the doctrines of grace. God never bids us of our own strength to believe. It is Jehovah-Jesus who commands. Is it for any one of us to say, “I cannot”?—Laidlaw.
Luke 6:6. Irritation against Jesus.—The incident here related marks the final stage in the irritation of the Pharisees against Jesus: the result of the miracle was that they “communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.” The parallel passage in St. Mark (Mark 3:6) says “they took counsel against Him, how they might destroy Him.” In the section immediately preceding this St. Luke records several stages in the growing enmity of the Pharisees:
1. The accusation of blasphemy (Luke 5:21).
2. The murmuring at favour being shown to publicans and sinners (Luke 5:30).
3. The fault found with the disciples for plucking the ears of corn on a Sabbath (Luke 6:1-6). A sign of increasing intensity of feeling is given in Luke 6:7. Jesus was now watched by His enemies, in order that an accusation might be brought against Him. They were prepared to take undue advantage, and if necessary to lay a trap for Him.
Luke 6:7. “Whether He would heal.”—As mentioned in an earlier note, healing the sick, or even doing anything to alleviate suffering, on the Sabbath, was proscribed by the more rigid of the Pharisees. St. Matthew says that they asked Jesus whether it were lawful or not to heal on the Sabbath. This is not inconsistent with St. Luke’s narrative, which, indeed, implies that Christ spoke in answer to some such question.
Luke 6:8. “He knew their thoughts.”—That He was being exposed to espionage, and that they were beginning to form plans for putting Him to death.
Luke 6:9. “I will ask you one thing.”—Jesus makes His adversaries decide the question they had themselves asked, and He so states it that they could give but one answer, and that in approval of healing on the Sabbath. He identifies omitting to do good with committing evil: not to relieve pain was to prolong or virtually to inflict pain. He states the matter in the most startling manner: “not to heal is to kill” (cf. Proverbs 24:11-12). And doubtless He implied that their machinations against Himself were known to Him: while He on that Sabbath day was intent upon healing, His adversaries were thinking how best to compass His death. Who could doubt as to which of them was the better employed on that day? The Pharisees were thus caught in the snare they had laid for Him, and were unable to reply. If the question were asked, “Why not postpone the work of healing to tomorrow?” the answer would not be far to seek: “The present only is ours: to-morrow may never come” (cf. Proverbs 3:27-28).
Luke 6:10. “Looking round about.”—The heart of Jesus, as St. Mark tells us, was filled with grief and anger—with grief because of their unbelief, and with anger because that unbelief sprang from malice and culpable prejudice. These feelings appeared in the glance He cast upon His silenced adversaries.
“Stretch forth.”—With the command the promise of ability to obey it was implied, if there were but faith in the heart of the hearer. In the remarkable command, to stretch forth a withered hand, we have an illustration of such seemingly unreasonable calls as these: “Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:4); “Incline your ear, and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live” (Isaiah 55:3); “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14). It was by a sheer act of will that Christ healed the man: He did nothing—did not even touch the withered hand. So that His enemies could not fasten upon any outward action of His which could be construed into a breach of the Sabbath. The stretching out of the hand was a proof that the miracle had been already wrought.
Luke 6:11. “Madness.”—The word implies senselessness—the frenzy of obstinate prejudice. It admirably characterises the state of ignorant hatred which is disturbed in the fixed condition of its own infallibility (2 Timothy 3:9).—Farrar.
Causes of their Hatred.—Various causes contributed to inflame the Pharisees with this blind hatred:
1. Jesus had broken through their traditions.
2. He had put them to silence and shame in the presence of the people.
3. Though they were enraged at His action, He had avoided doing any overt act on which they could found a charge against Him.
Luke 6:12. Went out.—I.e. from Capernaum. A mountain.—Rather, “the mountain” (R.V.)—that is, the mountainous country, the high table-land above the Lake of Gennesaret. Prayer to God.—The expression in the original is rather peculiar, but there is no doubt that this is its meaning. The idea that by the word translated “prayer” is meant a proseucha or place of prayer is far-fetched and incongruous. The narrative seems to imply that the prayer had reference to the coming selection of those who were to be set apart by Christ to do His work.
Luke 6:13. Twelve.—There can be no doubt that the number twelve was intended to correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel. Apostles.—Messengers, persons sent on a mission.
Luke 6:14-16.—In this as in all the other catalogues Peter is first, Philip fifth, James the son of Alphæus is ninth; so that the names of the apostles are given in groups of four: all give Judas Iscariot as the last of the list. Simon.—Also called Peter and Cephas—the one being the Greek, the other the Aramaic for “rock”: the name given by anticipation (John 1:42), formally conferred when he was chosen apostle (Mark 3:16). Andrew.—The name probably from a Greek word, meaning “manly.” James.—Same name as Jacob: usually called James the Elder, to distinguish him from the other James: the first of the twelve to suffer martyrdom (Acts 12:2). John.—The last survivor of the twelve: the name Boanerges—“Sons of Thunder”—conferred on him and his brother (Mark 3:17): his father was Zebedee, mother Salome: in John 19:25 it is probable that the sister of the mother of Jesus refers to Salome; if so, he and his brother were cousins of our Lord. Philip.—Greek name: the first summoned by Christ to follow Him (John 1:43). These first five apostles were all of Bethsaida. Bartholomew.—I.e. son of Tolmai: probably to be identified with Nathanael, as from John 21:2 Nathanael appears to have been one of the twelve, and is named in conjunction with Philip (John 1:45), as Bartholomew is in all the lists of apostles.
Luke 6:15. Matthew.—The writer of the first Gospel: in his own list he enters his name as “Matthew the publican,” in reference to his former occupation. Thomas.—A Hebrew name meaning “the twin,” the Greek for which is Didymus (John 20:24): frequently mentioned in St. John’s Gospel. James the son of Alphæus.—Called James “the Less,” or the Younger (Mark 15:40). The name Alphæus appears in another form in St. John’s Gospel—as Clopas (John 19:25): of him we know nothing except that he was the husband of Mary the sister of the Virgin Mary, and that James and Jude were his sons. Simon called Zelotes.—I.e. the Zealot: the Zealots were a sect of fanatical Jews, noted for their intemperate zeal in maintaining the Jewish law. By St. Matthew he is called the Canaanite or Cananæan, another form of the name “zealot,” from Hebr. kineâh, “zeal.”
Luke 6:16. Judas the brother of James.—This apostle has three names: Judas (brother or son) of James; Lebbæus, from Hebr. lebh, “heart”; and Thaddæus, from Hebr. thad, “bosom”: either a son or a grandson of the above-mentioned Alphæus: author of Epistle of Jude. Judas Iscariot.—Probably a man of Kerioth, a city of the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:25): in St. John’s Gospel he is described as son of Simon or (R.V.) of Simon Iscariot (John 6:71; John 13:26). If this Simon were the apostle, he and Judas would be father and son.
Luke 6:17. Came down.—I.e. from the mountain mentioned in Luke 6:12. The plain.—The word can mean a level space on the mountain-side. Out of all Judæa.—“St. Matthew adds Galilee (which was to a great extent Greek), Decapolis, and Peræa: St. Mark also mentions Idumæa. Thus there were Jews, Greeks, Phœnicians, and Arabs among our Lord’s hearers” (Farrar).
Luke 6:19. To touch Him.—Cf. Luke 8:44; Matthew 14:36; Mark 5:30.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 6:12-19
The Choice of the Twelve.—It is probable that the selection of a limited number to be His close and constant companions had become a necessity to Christ, in consequence of His very success in gaining disciples. It was impossible that all who believed could continue henceforth to follow Him, in the literal sense, whithersoever He might go: the greater number could now only be occasional followers. But it was His wish that certain selected men should be with Him at all times and in all places—His travelling companions in all His wanderings, witnessing all His work, and ministering to His daily needs. They were, however, to be more than travelling companions or menial servants. They were to be, in the meantime, students of Christian doctrine, and occasional fellow-labourers in the work of the kingdom, and eventually Christ’s chosen trained agents for propagating the faith after He Himself had left the earth. The number of the apostolic company is significant. A larger number of eligible men could easily have been found in a circle of disciples which afterwards supplied seventy auxiliaries for evangelistic work; and a smaller number might have served all the present or prospective purposes of the apostleship. The number twelve happily expressed in figures what Jesus claimed to be, and what He had come to do, and thus furnished a support to the faith and a stimulus to the devotion of His followers. It significantly hinted that Jesus was the Divine Messianic King of Israel, come to set up the kingdom whose advent was foretold by prophets in glowing language, suggested by the palmy days of Israel’s history, when the theocratic community existed in its integrity, and all the tribes of the chosen nation were united under the royal house of David. In a worldly point of view the twelve were a very insignificant company indeed—a band of poor, illiterate Galilæan provincials, utterly devoid of social consequence, not likely to be chosen by one having supreme regard to prudential considerations. Why did Jesus choose such men? Was He guided by feelings of antagonism to those possessing social advantages, or of partiality for men of His own class? No; His choice was made in true wisdom. If He chose Galilæans mainly, it was not from provincial prejudice against those of the south; if, as some think, He chose two or even four of His own kindred, it was not from nepotism; if He chose rude, unlearned, humble men, it was not because He was animated by any petty jealousy of knowledge, culture, or good birth. If any rabbi, rich man, or ruler had been willing to yield himself unreservedly to the service of the kingdom, no objection would have been taken to him on account of his acquirements, possessions, or titles. But such men would not condescend so far, and therefore the despised One did not get an opportunity of showing His willingness to accept as disciples and choose for apostles such as they were. It mattered little, except in the eyes of contemporary prejudice, what the social position or even the previous history of the twelve had been, provided they were spiritually qualified for the work to which they were called. What tells ultimately is, not what is without a man, but what is within. If it be thought that a number of apostles were undistinguished either by high endowment or by a great career, and were in fact all but useless, the wisdom of Christ’s choice of them is virtually impugned. The following considerations may serve to modify this opinion:—
I. That some of the apostles were comparatively obscure, inferior men cannot be denied; but even the obscurest of them may have been most useful as witnesses for Him with whom they had companied from the beginning.—It does not take a great man to make a good witness, and to be witnesses of Christian facts was the main business of the apostles. That even the humblest of them rendered important service in that capacity we need not doubt, though nothing is said of them in the apsotolic annals. It is not to be expected that a history so fragmentary and so brief as that given by St. Luke should mention any but the principal actors, especially when we reflect how few of the characters that appear on the stage at any particular crisis in human affairs are prominently noticed even in histories which go elaborately into detail. The purpose of history is served by recording the words and deeds of the representative men, and many are allowed to drop into oblivion who did nobly in their day. The less distinguished members of the apostolic band are entitled to the benefit of this reflection.
II. Three eminent men, or even two (Peter and John), out of twelve are a good proportion—there being few societies in which superior excellence bears such a high ratio to respectable mediocrity. Perhaps the number of “pillars” was as great as was desirable. Far from regretting that all were not Peters and Johns, it is rather a matter to be thankful for that there were diversities of gifts among the first preachers of the gospel. As a general rule it is not good when all are leaders. Little men are needed as well as great men; for human nature is one-sided, and little men have their peculiar virtues and gifts, and can do some things better than their more celebrated brethren.
III. We must remember how little we know concerning any of the apostles.—It is the fashion of biographers in our day, writing for a morbidly or idly curious public, to enter into the minutest particulars of outward event or personal peculiarity regarding their heroes. Of this fond, idolatrous minuteness there is no trace in the evangelic histories. The writers of the Gospels were not afflicted with the biographic mania. Moreover, the apostles were not their theme. Christ was their hero; and their sole desire was to tell what they knew of Him. They gazed steadfastly at the Sun of righteousness, and in His effulgence they lost sight of the attendant stars. Whether they were stars of the first magnitude, or of the second, or of the third made little difference.—Bruce.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 6:12-19
Luke 6:12-49. The Busy Christ.
I. A night of prayer.
II. A morning of work.—Calling, choosing, healing, teaching.—W. Taylor.
Luke 6:12-16. The Choice of the Apostles.—Note the difference between discipleship and apostleship. He called to Him the disciples, and of them He chose twelve to be apostles. A disciple is a learner; an apostle is an emissary. The one is still in the school; the other has left it to become a teacher and an envoy. The night between discipleship and apostleship was so critical that our Lord devoted the whole of it to prayer. These men were to be nearest to the person—to form the innermost circle—of the Saviour. From that choice sprang the little volume of the New Testament, words of eternal life; from it the real Christianity of Christendom; from it every word and work, during these eighteen centuries, of piety, of purity, of charity; from it the great multitude which no man can number. Well might that be a night of prayer upon which was to dawn the ordination, or the consecration, of the twelve apostles. Was there not matter for His night-long intercession at the throne of grace for the disciples about to become apostles, henceforth to be entrusted with this latest and largest interpretation of the mind, and the will, and the heart of God to men?—Vaughan.
The New Organisation.—This is all we are told of the planting of that germ of which the upgrowth is the Church of Christ. The organisation thus introduced was just enough to make of the disciples one body. Henceforth they could speak of themselves as “we”; but as yet they were only pupils, chosen to be about their Master’s person, entrusted with special powers for the good of those among whom they ministered, but with no authority over the rest of the disciples.—Latham.
Luke 6:12. “Into a mountain to pray.”—High mountain-peaks are in the Bible consecrated as places of communion with God. Almost all the secrets of God have been revealed on mountain-tops. Jesus prayed on this mountain for the disciples whom He was now to choose. He asked God to grant them to Him. Well has this been called the vigil before the laying of the foundation-stone of the Church—this night through which our Lord watched and prayed. We can guess the contents of this prayer from that which our Lord offered as our High Priest (John 17:0). He who prayed thus in the days of His flesh sits now on the right hand of the Majesty on high, and blesses His Church, both as High Priest and King, with gifts and offices (Ephesians 4:11).
A Crisis in the Ministry of Jesus.—St. Luke indicates in the most impressive manner that the choice of the twelve apostles marks a critical time in the ministry of Jesus. He had spoken of a new order of things, and had incurred the enmity of those who were devoted to the old order. He now regards it necessary to organise His followers, and to found a new society based upon faith in Himself and devotion to the interests of God’s kingdom upon earth. The calling of the twelve marks the beginning of the spiritual Israel, in a separate and distinctive form. The choice of the twelve and the institution of the sacraments were the only definite acts of organisation which Christ judged it necessary to perform.
The Apostles divinely chosen.—Great stress is laid by St. Luke upon the night of prayer and communion with God which preceded the choice of the twelve, and by this he would have us to understand both the importance of the occasion and also the fact that these individuals were selected under the special direction of God Himself.
The Laying of the Foundation-stone of the Church.—Thus then it would appear that our Redeemer prepared Himself by nocturnal prayer, and then in the morning installed the twelve apostles. If we consider that the election of this body of men, in whose hearts the first germs of truth were to be deposited, depended upon a careful selection of persons, we shall then be able to form an idea of that momentous act; it was the moment in which was laid the foundation-stone of the Church. Only as the discerner of all hearts was it possible for our Lord to lay the foundation of such a body of closely united minds, which might exist and represent the whole spiritual creation, that was to be called into existence. In His own person all was concentrated in one holy unity; but as the ray of light divides itself into its various colours, so in like manner went forth the one light which emanated from Christ into the hearts of the twelve in various modified degrees of brightness.—Olshausen.
Labourers sent forth by God.—As Jesus had told His disciples to pray to God to send forth labourers to gather in His harvest (Matthew 9:38), so now does He Himself commit the matter of those to be chosen as labourers in prayer to God.
Great Importance of this Choice.—If the passage before us teaches anything, it teaches us that the sending forth of His apostles was in our Lord’s judgment a matter of great importance: He does not at all treat it as though it belonged to the subordinate details of His work.—Liddon.
Luke 6:13. “Of them He chose twelve.”
It is a striking fact that the whole of the twelve were chosen by our Lord near the beginning of His ministry. He did not begin with a small number, to be afterwards enlarged; He completed the college of apostles at once.
1. This shows us how mature His own mind was as to His work, and as to the men best fitted to aid in it.
2. This plan had the advantage, too, of securing a united testimony and an intelligent co-operation all through.—Blaikie.
Little More is Heard of These Men Afterwards.—So little is saint-worship countenanced by the practice of the early Church, that we hear little more of any of these men—of some, indeed, nothing whatever. Two things are noticeable of them as a body:—
I. Their variety in education and acquirements.
II. How few they seem for the task assigned to them.—Markby.
“Apostles.”—The special title conferred upon the twelve, that of those “sent out,” derives its dignity from the fact that those who bear it are in a sense representatives of Him who sends them. They are not so much messengers as ambassadors. The name is used elsewhere in the New Testament in a general sense, and applied to persons who were not of the twelve (Galatians 1:19; Acts 14:14; Hebrews 3:1), but it is only of the twelve that Christ, so far as we know, used it.
Not all Equally Intimate with Jesus.—It is a very striking fact that all the apostles were not on equal terms of intimacy with Jesus: Peter, James, and John were on several occasions honoured above the others in being taken into closer fellowship with the Lord (Luke 8:51, Luke 9:28; Matthew 26:37). “The disciples thus surrounded our Lord in wider and still wider expanding circles; nearest to Him were the three, then came the other nine, after them the seventy, and finally the multitude of His other disciples. Undeniable, then, as is the difference which existed between the disciples of Christ, yet this does not imply that there existed any more intimate initiation for those standing nearest to Him. The secret, or the mystery of Christ, at once the highest and the simplest truth, was to be preached from the house-tops. It is not to be doubted, however, that some penetrated infinitely deeper into this mystery than the others, and hence became far more fitted to move in more intimate proximity to our Lord” (Olshausen).
Characteristics of the Apostles.—None of those chosen seem to have been of high social rank. James and John were still fishermen, though, as pointed out in a preceding note (Luke 6:1), they were evidently “better off” than their fellow-apostles. Nor do the twelve seem to have been distinguished by intellectual gifts, or learning of the kind acquired in the schools (Acts 4:13). Their moral and spiritual faculties and attainments seem rather to have been called into being, and cultivated by association with Jesus, than to have belonged to them when they were first chosen to be apostles. But they were men of simple, unsophisticated characters, and devoid of those inveterate prejudices which blinded the eyes of scribes and Pharisees and hardened their hearts. They loved their Master and believed in Him, and had religious aspirations which He alone could satisfy. The sense of duty was strong in them; and they conscientiously desired to do what was right. “They had also the excellent quality of persistence, or holding-out. Other men had also enrolled themselves as Jesus’ disciples, and had given Him up; but the twelve had held on. No mere adventurers, or time-servers, or self-seekers would have stayed with Jesus.”
The Men chosen.—
1. Christ chooses simple-minded yet already measurably prepared men.
2. Few yet very diverse men.
3. Some prominent to go with several less noticeable men.—Lange
The Apostolic Office.
I. They were sent to do a given work.
II. They were to be witnesses—as to what their Master had been, and had done, and had suffered, while they were with Him. They carried out their mission
(1) by their words—they preached Christ;
(2) by their work—they built up the Church, the temple of redeemed souls;
(3) by their sufferings—they died for Christ.—Liddon.
Luke 6:17-18. “A great multitude of people.”—Three classes of persons were now about Jesus:
(1) occasional hearers (the “multitude of people” from all parts);
(2) permanent disciples (“the company of His disciples”); and
(3) the apostles. The first represented mankind as summoned to enter the kingdom of God; the second the Church, or the body of believers; and the third the Christian ministry.—Godet.
A Characteristic Scene.—The whole scene is a highly characteristic one: we have—
I. The company of sinners—of various nations, oppressed by various evils—ignorance, disease, and Satanic power—but desiring and seeking redemption from Christ.
II. The Saviour—moved with compassion, and able to heal and to deliver.
Luke 6:19. “Power came forth … healed them all.”—There is something unusually grand in this touch of description, giving to the reader the impression of a more than usual exuberance of His majesty and grace in this succession of healings, which made itself felt among all the vast multitude.—Brown.
Miracles a Seal to the Message from God.—Miracles preceded and followed the Sermon on the Mount. The sermon was like an epistle sent from God: the miracles were its seals, impressed with the Divine image and superscription.
Luke 6:20-49.—Though various opinions have been held on the subject, the balance of probabilities seems in favour of the supposition that the discourse commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount, recorded by St. Matthew, is given here in a shorter form. It is probable that St. Luke, in placing it after the choice of the twelve apostles, follows chronological order more exactly than St. Matthew, who places it before that event. A strong argument in favour of the identity of the two discourses is to be found in the fact that both evangelists mention the healing of the centurion’s servant immediately after the delivery of the sermon (Matthew 8:5; Luke 7:1). It is true that the scene seems to be differently described in the two narratives: St. Matthew speaks of Christ going up into a mountain (or rather, “the mountain,” i.e. the mountainous region above the Lake of Gennesaret), and St. Luke of His coming down and standing “on a level place” (R.V.). But there is nothing to forbid us to suppose that Jesus came down from one of the higher peaks where He had been engaged in prayer, and took up His stand where He could best be seen and heard—the place He chose being still on the mountain-side.
Luke 6:20. Blessed be ye poor.—In St. Luke the beatitudes and woes are addressed to the persons, and not uttered concerning them. St. Matthew adds “in spirit”: there is every reason to suppose that St. Luke refers to literal poverty, it being among those afflicted with it that Christ found most numerous adherents. Of course spiritual qualities of humility and meekness are presupposed as springing from and promoted by poverty. The “poor” are spoken of frequently in the Psalms in the sense of humble and trustful servants of God. A great deal has been made of the supposed Ebionitism in St. Luke’s Gospel as indicated here and in such passages as Luke 1:53; Luke 12:15-34; Luke 16:9-25. But any such tendency is highly improbable: it is utterly inconsistent with the Pauline spirit which may be recognised in the Gospel, and is by no means necessarily implied in the passages referred to.
Luke 6:22. Separate you.—I.e. excommunication or expulsion from the synagogue. Thus early is the separation between Judaism and Christianity foretold. Your name.—“Either your collective name as Christians (cf. 1 Peter 4:14-16), or your individual name” (Alford).
Luke 6:23. In the like manner, etc.—“Elijah and his contemporaries (1 Kings 19:10); Hanani imprisoned by Asa (2 Chronicles 16:10); Micaiah imprisoned (1 Kings 22:27); Zechariah stoned by Joash (2 Chronicles 24:20-21); Urijah slain by Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:23); Jeremiah imprisoned, smitten, and put in the stocks (Jeremiah 37:0; Jeremiah 38:0); Isaiah (according to tradition) sawn asunder, etc.” (Farrar).
Luke 6:24-26.—This section is peculiar to St. Luke. Notice that these four woes are in all respects the antitheses of the four preceding beatitudes.
Luke 6:24. Consolation.—Cf. Luke 16:25. This is a warning addressed to the disciples themselves.
Luke 6:27.—Even in the Old Testament checks had been put upon the spirit of enmity. See Exodus 23:4; Proverbs 25:21. We find the teaching of this passage very beautifully reproduced in Romans 12:17; Romans 12:19-21.
Luke 6:28. Pray for them, etc.—St. Luke records two great examples of obedience to this precept—in the case of Christ (Luke 23:34), and of the proto-martyr Stephen (Acts 7:60).
Luke 6:29. Him that smiteth thee, etc.—That we are to act according to the spirit and not merely according to the letter of this rule is evident from our Lord’s own procedure in circumstances of the kind (John 18:22-23). Cloke … coat.—Cloak is the loose outer dress, the coat the inner and more indispensable article of dress. St. Luke’s order is more logical than St. Matthew’s.
Luke 6:32. What thank have ye?—What claim to recompense from God?
Luke 6:35. Hoping for nothing again.—R. V. “never despairing,” and with the marginal note, “Some ancient authorities read despairing of no man.” The rendering of the A.V. is, however, as good as we can get. Notice that the precepts “love,” “do good,” “lend hoping for nothing again,” correspond to Luke 6:32-34 respectively.
Luke 6:36.—The best MSS. omit “therefore”: it is omitted in R.V.
Luke 6:37. Judge not.—I.e. in a harsh, censorious spirit. Cf. with the teaching of the whole verse, Matthew 18:21-35.
Luke 6:38. Good measure.—The figure is evidently taken from measuring corn. Bosom.—The loose folds above the girdle served as a pocket.
Luke 6:39. Ditch.—R.V. “pit.”
Luke 6:40. Every one that is perfect.—Rather, “every one when he is perfected” (R.V.), i.e. no disciple on passing through the full course of training rises above the teacher from whom he has learned. The figure was evidently one frequently used by Jesus, and is employed to illustrate different aspects of truth. Cf. Matthew 10:25; John 13:16; John 15:20. The general idea of Luke 6:39-40, is: “The blind cannot lead the blind better than he can guide himself: the scholar will not be better than his teacher: the judgment which one sinful man passes on another can never raise the standard of moral excellence in the world” (Speaker’s Commentary).
Luke 6:41.—Notice the two different words “behold” and “perceive”—R.V. “behold” and “consider.” As it were, he sees at a glance the defect in another, but the most careful observation does not reveal to him his own defects. Mote.—A dry twig or stalk, as distinguished from a beam of wood.
Luke 6:48. Founded upon a rock.—A better reading is “well builded” (R.V.). The reading followed by the A.V. may have been taken from the parallel passage in Matthew 7:25. The point of the figure is often missed: it is not that rock is a good foundation, and earth or sand (Matthew 7:26) a bad (for sand may be a good foundation), but that the one man took pains to get a good foundation, while the other did not, or built at haphazard.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 6:20-49
The Sermon on the Mount as given in St. Matthew’s Gospel may be taken as setting forth
(1) the character of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven (Luke 5:3-16);
(2) the new law that is given to them (Luke 5:17-39), and the new life which they live, with its duties, aims, dangers, and responsibilities (6, 7). A like general scheme underlies the sermon as reported by St. Luke. In the fuller report of Christ’s words as given in the first Gospel, the tone is more polemical than in St. Luke—as Christ contrasts the spirituality of the righteousness which He commends to His disciples with the external and artificial righteousness of scribes and Pharisees. (For a full analysis of the Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew’s Gospel, see Westcott, Introduction to the Study of the Gospels, p. 386).
I. The dispositions of those who are inclined to enter the kingdom of heaven, and of those who shut themselves out of it.—Four beatitudes are announced to the former, four woes uttered against the latter (Luke 6:20-26).
1. Beatitudes. Those that are in poverty, and live hard, laborious lives, and are crushed down by affliction, if they are under the influence of the spirit of religion, are likely to abound in that humility and meekness which qualify men to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven. The rich and prosperous are apt to be proud and haughty, and harsh in temper. Doubtless the mass of those now listening to Christ belonged to the former class. The beatitudes do not belong to them in virtue of their earthly poverty and misfortunes, but in virtue of their piety. For these were not simply poor men and women, but poor men and women seeking blessings from the Saviour, and thereby confessing their own insufficiency and their reliance upon Him. (So that the gloss in St. Matthew’s report of the first beatitude, “poor in spirit,” is not in conflict with the words here.) The evil circumstances of their lives become naturally under God’s blessing a discipline to prepare them for receiving an infinite reward. Their blessedness is partly in the present (Luke 6:20)—they possess the kingdom of heaven, they are enrolled as citizens of it, and have a right to all its privileges; and partly in the future (Luke 6:21; Luke 6:23)—their present misery will be exchanged for happy outward conditions, their griefs will be exchanged for unending joys, the only misfortunes they will know will be persecution for a time of a kind like that endured by God’s true prophets in all ages, to be followed by “a great reward in heaven.” In view of what is in store for them they may well be pronounced “blessed,” in spite of all in their present lot that seems sordid and unhappy.
2. Woes. These correspond exactly to the foregoing beatitudes: over against the “poor” are set “the rich,” over against “the hungry” are “the full,” over against “those that weep” are “those that laugh,” over against those that are hated by the world are those that are loved by the world. The words “for ye have received your consolation” show us what we are to understand by “the rich”: they are those who find all their satisfaction in the present life. It is not mere riches that are cursed—just as in the preceding section it was not mere poverty that was blessed. Men like Joseph of Arimathæa and Nicodemus, who were rich, were not disqualified for being disciples of Jesus. But as a matter of fact the wealthy and those of high rank, as a class, set themselves against Jesus, and therefore shut themselves out of the kingdom of heaven. The woes now uttered were amply fulfilled in the sufferings that accompanied the overthrow of Jerusalem and the fall of the Jewish state a generation later, and have no doubt reference also to a reversal of lot in a future state (cf. Luke 16:25). A similar passage is found in James 5:1 ff.
II. A proclamation of the new law by which the society Christ founds is to be governed, and of the spirit by which it is animated (Luke 6:27-45).—The new law or principle by which Christ would have the society He founds to be directed and animated is that of charity or love, and He sets it forth in concrete form (Luke 6:27-30), and then as an abstract rule.
1. Practical manifestations of charity (Luke 6:27-30). It is to be more than merely not rendering evil for evil: it is to be a rendering good for evil (cf. Romans 12:21), or an overcoming evil by good. To every fresh exhibition of malice, a stronger and more intense exhibition of love is to be opposed. “Do good,” “bless,” “pray for,” are ascending degrees of love in its outward manifestations—just as the words “hate you,” “curse you,” “despitefully use you,” mark increasing degrees of maliciousness. It is to be the source of beneficent actions, and under its influence the Christian ceases, if need be, to insist upon his rights (Luke 6:29-30). Both to do good unceasingly and to bear wrong unmurmuringly are commended to him.
2. The golden rule (Luke 6:31). “As ye would that men,” etc. In its negative form, “Do not to others what you would have others abstain from doing to you,” the rule has been found in more than one system of morality outside the Christian; but in none does it have the prominent place that Christ gives it—in none is it commended to men by an example comparable with His. Further,
3. Christ lays stress upon the disinterestedness of this virtue as compared with ordinary affection (Luke 6:32-35 a). Ordinary love is quenched by want of sympathy, and naturally seeks a return of kindred feeling. But there is no stain of selfishness or alloy of worldly-wise calculation in the love which Christ commanded and exemplified.
4. He describes the great example of this disinterested love in the Divine love which is shown even to the unthankful and the evil (Luke 6:35 b, Luke 6:36). The reward won by manifesting this love is not some external recompense, but it consists in the love becoming purer and more intense, and in the possessor of it sharing the blessedness of Him who is love itself.
5. The effects of this love as manifested towards men: it leads to the formation of merciful judgments concerning the sinful (Luke 6:37); to generosity and helpfulness towards all, which God will bountifully reward (Luke 6:38); to ability to guide the erring and correct the faulty,—actions which the proud, unloving Pharisees were incapable of performing (Luke 6:39-42). It is only from a nature that is itself good that these good results can proceed. A proud man cannot teach humility, a selfish man cannot teach charity, any more than a thorn can yield figs or a bramble bush grapes (Luke 6:43-44). If we are to teach others holiness, we must be holy ourselves: it was the holiness of Jesus that gave Him pre-eminence as a teacher, and His disciples must be like Him if they would continue His work (Luke 6:45).
III. The necessity for sincerity and thoroughness in discipleship, and the disasters incurred by the opposite faults (Luke 6:46-49).—To hear and not to do the sayings of Christ is to give them intellectual acceptance, but not to allow them to penetrate and govern the whole being—conscience, will, feelings, and conduct—in short, all that constitutes one’s true personality. Our spiritual life is an erection we set up; and if it be not well built, it will fall before the assault of temptation or trial, and will not stand the final test by which the Divine Judge will bring to light the value of our work (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15).
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 6:20-49
Luke 6:20. The Qualifications for the Kingdom of Heaven—poverty, hunger, etc.,—we do not possess of ourselves, but Christ imparts them to us by awakening in our hearts, which have grown weary under the pressure of worldly things, the longing for spiritual food. This longing shall in very truth be satisfied. One of the traditional sayings of Christ preserved by Clement is, “Will, and thou shalt be able.”
Spiritual Poverty.—Spiritual poverty, a heart that feels its need, is the first thing that makes us fit for the kingdom of God. He who does not have this first qualification cannot have those that follow. “There are many,” Augustine says, “who would rather give all their goods to the poor than themselves become poor in the sight of God.” The source of true humility is found only in Him “who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor.”
“Blessed be ye poor.”—This is indeed an admirably sweet, friendly beginning of His doctrine and preaching. For He does not proceed like Moses … with command, threatening and terrifying, but in the friendliest possible way with pure, enticing, alluring, and amiable promises.—Luther.
The Poor inherit the Kingdom.—St. James seems to give a paraphrase of this beatitude when he speaks of “the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God hath promised to them that love Him” (Luke 2:5). As a simple matter of fact, the poor seem to have been the class that was most forward to receive the Saviour, and in which He found the most devoted of His disciples (cf. also 1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
Luke 6:21. “Ye that hunger now.”—An anticipation of this beatitude is to be found in the song of Mary: “He hath filled the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:53). Cf. also Psalms 107:9 : “For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.”
“Ye that weep now.”—In the eye of Heaven blessedness begins at the point which, in human estimation, is reckoned the extreme of misery.
Luke 6:22. “Shall hate you.”—In the manifestation of hatred towards the followers of Jesus a climax is observable.
1. The feeling of dislike.
2. A breaking off of intercourse. 3, Malicious slanders.
4. Excommunication. Cf. John 9:22; John 9:34; John 12:42; John 16:2.
“Your name.”—I.e. the name of Christian. St. Peter alludes to these words in 1 Peter 4:14; 1 Peter 4:16, and St. James in Luke 2:7, as in Luke 6:5 of the same chapter he has alluded to Luke 6:20 of this. “ ‘Malefic’ or ‘execrable superstition’ was the favourite description of Christianity among the Pagans, and Christians were charged with incendiarism, cannibalism, and every infamy” (Farrar).
Luke 6:23. “Rejoice ye in that day.”—A very striking fulfilment of this command, and a statement of the ground on which the joy of the apostles was based, are given in Acts 5:41 : “Rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” In several other passages in the New Testament “glorying in tribulation” is commended as a Christian duty, and various beneficial results are described as flowing from patient submission to suffering for the sake of Christ. See Hebrews 11:26; Romans 5:3; James 1:2-3; Colossians 1:24.
“Reward in heaven.”—An indirect hint that they were not to expect too great a reward for their faithfulness in the present life.
“Did their fathers,” etc.—“If the empress,” said Chrysostom, “causes me to be sawn asunder, then let me be sawn asunder, for that was the fate of the prophet Isaiah; if she casts me into the sea, I will think of Jonah; if she casts me into the furnace of fire, I think of the three holy children; if she throws me to the wild beasts, I will think of Daniel in the lions’ den; if she cuts off my head, I have still St. John as my companion; if she causes me to be stoned, what else happened to Stephen?”
“The prophets.”—It is especially noticeable how the Saviour at once places His newly chosen apostles in the same rank with the prophets of the Old Testament, and in the demand that they should be ready for His name’s sake to suffer shame shows the sublimest self-consciousness. It scarcely needs pointing out how completely the idea that they were to suffer in such society, surrounded by such “a cloud of witnesses,” was adapted to strengthen the courage and the spiritual might of the apostles.—Lange.
Luke 6:24. “Woe unto you.”—In this passage, as in Matthew 24:19, the words perhaps imply commiseration rather than anger: “Alas! for you.” In Matthew 23:13-16 the same phrase is used in denunciation of evil-doers.
“Rich.”—Not all the rich, but those who “receive their consolation” in the world—that is, who are so completely occupied with their worldly possessions that they forget the life to come. The meaning is—riches are so far from making a man happy that they often become the means of his destruction. In any other point of view the rich are not excluded from the kingdom of heaven, provided they do not become snares for themselves, or fix their hope on the earth, so as to shut against them the kingdom of heaven. This is finely illustrated by Augustine, who, in order to show that riches are not in themselves a hindrance to the children of God, reminds his readers that poor Lazarus was received into the bosom of rich Abraham.—Calvin.
“Received your consolation.”—“For ye, who trust in your riches, and accounting them sufficient for your happiness, neglect the spiritual treasures which I offer you, may be assured that you have received all your enjoyment in this world, and have no ground for expecting any in the world to come.” Cf. chap. Luke 16:25.
Luke 6:25. “Full.”—Those who possess all that the heart can desire, and do not hunger and thirst after righteousness. The danger in which they stand is that of losing all that they possess at present, and thus of being destitute at once of both earthly and heavenly goods. See again an illustration in the fate of the rich man in the parable, who had been accustomed to “fare sumptuously every day,” and who found himself both excluded from the heavenly banquet and stripped of those luxuries in which he had placed all his delight.
“Laugh.”—Senseless, frivolous, ungodly mirth is rebuked here as in Ecclesiastes 2:2; Ecclesiastes 7:6; Proverbs 14:13. Yet, on the other hand, the Christian is described as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10), and receives exhortations to maintain this spirit of holy gladness (cf. Philippians 4:4).
Luke 6:26. “Speak well of you.”—Cf. James 4:4 : “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” John 15:19 : “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own.”
“False prophets.”—“Universal praise from the world is a stigma for the Saviour’s disciples, since it brings them into the suspicion
(1) of unfaithfulness;
(2) of characterlessness;
(3) of the lust of pleasing. False prophets can ever reckon upon loud applause” (Van Oosterzee). Cf. Micah 2:11 : “If a man walking in wind and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink: he shall even be the prophet of this people” (R.V.).
Luke 6:27. “Love your enemies.”—The word here used generally denotes “complacency in the character” of the one loved, as distinguished from personal affection; but the sense in which it is here employed is that of maintaining kindly feelings and conduct towards another in spite of his enmity. The connection between this precept and the foregoing words is well brought out by Meyer: “Yet although I utter against those these woes, yet I enjoin on you not hatred but love towards your enemies. It is therefore no accidental antithesis.”
“Do good,” etc.—A climax is noticeable in the precepts which describe the manner in which love to enemies is to be displayed.
1. In deeds—“do good.”
2. In words—“bless.”
3. In prayers for their Welfare—“pray for them.”
A New Departure.—Although it cannot be denied that love to enemies is in a certain sense required even by Jewish and heathen moralists, it must yet be remembered that the thought of requiting acts of enmity with devout intercession could only arise in the heart of Him who has Himself prayed for the evil-doers.—Lange.
Luke 6:27-38. Christ’s Law of Love.—A seemingly easy but profoundly difficult section. We must keep in mind—
I. That the address is given to Christ’s own followers.—It can neither be understood nor practised by any others. The contrast is between true disciples and sinners who will do nothing but what will bring an immediate reward from men.
II. It is to be obeyed in the spirit, and not in the letter.—Christ gives us here some examples of how the true spirit of Christianity is seen. Had He intended these examples to be practised by His followers in literal obedience on all occasions, He would not have been content with merely giving instances. He would have gone over the whole range of possible circumstances, and shown us how to act in every case. But this is impossible, and contrary to the very spirit and essence of Christianity.—Hastings.
The Law of Love proclaimed.
I. The extent of love (Luke 6:27-30).
II. The golden rule of love (Luke 6:31).
III. The Christian’s standard of love (Luke 6:32-36).
IV. Love’s reward (Luke 6:37-38).—W. Taylor.
Luke 6:28. “Pray for them.”—Many imagine what is here commanded to be impossible. But Christ never commands impossibilities; but He prescribes such kind of perfection as was attained by David in the case of Saul, and by Abraham and by Stephen the martyr in praying for his murderers, and by St. Paul in wishing to be accursed for his persecutors (Romans 9:3).—Jerome.
Luke 6:29. “Turn to him, the other also.”
I. Do not return blow for blow.
II. Bear the blow in silence.
III. Lovingly lay thyself open to receive another blow.
Public Rights.—This precept does not require or permit any one to surrender public rights, which are not his own “cloke” or “coat,” much less Christian principles and Christian truth, for which we are to contend earnestly (Jude 1:3), and of which we are not to divest ourselves; or to allow any one to strip us, for then we should be naked indeed; nor allow any one, as far as in us lies, to strip others, and to rob Christ.—Wordsworth.
Luke 6:30. “Give to every man”—The promise is made to us by Christ that He will give us whatever we ask for (John 14:14). Yet it is not always literally fulfilled. We do not receive what would be hurtful for us, even if we ask for it; and are often constrained to confess thankfully that our disappointment is better than our wish. “So in his humble sphere should the Christian giver act. To give everything to every one—the sword to the madman, the alms to the impostor, the criminal request to the temptress—would be to act as the enemy of others and of ourselves. Ours should be a higher and deeper charity, flowing from those inner springs of love which are the sources of outward actions sometimes widely divergent, whence may arise both the timely concession and the timely refusal” (Alford).
“Ask them not again.”—We must remember that we ought not to quibble about words, as if a good man were not permitted to recover what is his own, when God gives him the lawful means. We are only enjoined to exercise patience, that we may not be unduly distressed by the loss of our property, but calmly wait till the Lord Himself shall call the robbers to account.—Calvin.
“Asketh of thee … ask them not again.”—It is to be noted that in this verse two Greek words are translated “ask”: the first of them means to ask as a favour, the second to demand as a right.
Luke 6:31. The Golden Rule.
I. We must consider how we should like other people to treat us, were they in our circumstances and we in theirs.
II. It is not what others really do to us, but what we wish them to do, that should be our rule.
III. That which we wish others to do to us must be lawful and reasonable.
The excellence of the rule is evident from its reasonableness, and its intelligibility, and from the fact that it is readily applicable to all persons in all circumstances. The Saviour gathers up His detailed instructions into “a little bundle which every man can put into his bosom and easily carry about with him” (Luther). We all love ourselves, and therefore we can all know the love our neighbour requires from us. The natural man loves himself, and that love blinds him to the wants of his neighbours: the Christian loves himself, but that love enlightens him as to what is due to his neighbour.
Luke 6:32-34. “For if ye love them” etc.—Our Lord means to say that in all these things nothing has been done for the love of God, and therefore no thanks are due. The world’s view of returning love for love is well put by Hesiod: “Those who love will be loved in return, and those who visit will be visited in return; he who gives will receive gifts, and he who does not give, will receive nothing. One gives willingly to the giver; but no one to be sure gives to him who refuses to give.” In the same way Socrates teaches that it is allowable to cherish a grudge at the good fortune of your enemy, but that envy only consists in grudging the good fortune of a friend. Plato speaks of it as impossible to love an enemy. Such is the wisdom of the heathen.
Luke 6:35-36. “Children of the Highest.”—Our Father in heaven more than any one else meets with the ingratitude of men, and it should not depress His children on earth to have to experience it also. The great reward which the Lord of love promises to the children of God consists chiefly in this, that they taste the blessedness of being able to love. “To give is more blessed than to receive.” It is sweet to be loved from the heart, but it is much sweeter and inexpressibly blessed to love with the whole heart. One is more blessed in the love which one feels than in the love which one inspires.
Luke 6:36; Luke 6:38. The Christian’s Duty as Man to Man.
I. The pattern of mercy, of justice, of forbearance and forgiveness, of generosity, which we ought to take.—This is the example of Almighty God. “Be ye therefore merciful,” because “the Highest is kind,” etc.
II. The rule of God’s government and judgment in matters between man and man.—“With the same measure,” etc. Words well known and familiar, but some of the most awful words in the Bible. For
(1) we feel they must be true, but
(2) we cannot see or guess how they will be carried out.—Church.
Luke 6:37. “Judge not.”—
1. We can only go by appearances.
2. We can never be sure of the motive which has prompted the action in question.
3. We cannot fully estimate the circumstances in which the man was placed whose conduct we arraign.
4. We are only too liable to be influenced by our prejudices, and by considerations of self-interest, and are to a corresponding extent disqualified to act as judges.
Luke 6:39-40. Blind Leaders of Blind. Note:—
I. The presumption of the leaders.
II. The delusion of those who trust themselves to their guidance.
III. The inevitable fate which be falls both.
Luke 6:40 explains why the fate is inevitable: the disciple, even when perfected, when he has learned his whole lesson, can know no more than his teacher, and the very care with which he follows will ensure his falling into the mistakes his master makes.
Luke 6:41-42. The Literal and the Figurative Beam.—In the physical region a beam in the eye does not sharpen its sight: in morals the case is different. Those who are corrupt in mind are very quick in detecting corruption in others, even in cases where innocence would discover nothing amiss. The man with a beam in his eye has two faults:
1. He does not know the beam to be there.
2. He assumes airs of moral superiority, and carries himself as a judge instead of a brother.
Correcting the Faults of Others.
I. It is a delicate operation to correct the faults of other men.—It may be likened to the feat of taking a chip of wood out of an inflamed eye. A clumsy operator may easily make things worse. The case supposed is one of visible and undeniable fault. Still it is a delicate task to judge of it: it is a difficult operation to correct or remove it.
II. Self-ignorance and self-conceit incapacitate one for performing this operation.—Most accurate and pungent moral strictures often proceed from men who are quite aware that their own lives will not bear close inspection. Christ strongly disapproves of such conduct.
III. An honest Christian reserves his strictest judgment for himself.—Fraser.
Luke 6:42. “Let me pull out the mote.”—A subtle form of harsh judgment of others is that which assumes the appearance of solicitude for their improvement. Our Lord teaches that all honest desire to help in the reformation of our neighbour must be preceded by earnest efforts at amending our own conduct. If we have grave faults of our own undetected and unconquered, we are incapable either of judging or helping our brethren. Such efforts will be hypocritical, for they pretend to come from genuine zeal for righteousness and care for another’s good, whereas their real root is simply censorious exaggeration of a neighbour’s faults; they imply that the person affected with such a tender care for another’s eyes has his own in good condition. A blind guide is bad enough, but a blind oculist is a still more ridiculous anomaly. Note that the result of clearing our own vision is beautifully put, not as being ability to see the faults of our fellows, but ability to cure them. It is only the experience of the pain of casting out a darling evil, and the consciousness of God’s pitying mercy as given to us, that make the eye keen enough, and the hand steady and gentle enough, to pull out the mote.—Maclaren.
Luke 6:43-45. Good and Bad Fruit.—Christ here speaks of the inner nature—the heart—of man and of its outward manifestations, and asserts that in all cases the inner is the maker of the outward. A good heart will infallibly reveal itself in holiness of word and deed: in like manner an evil heart will disclose itself, in spite of all hypocritical attempts to conceal the true state of matters. We have here therefore—
I. A law which is bound up with the nature of things, and which we cannot control; and—
II. A test of character of the most stringent yet most reasonable kind.
Luke 6:46. “Why call ye Me, Lord?” etc.—Acknowledgment of Christ’s authority is to be accompanied by obedience to His commandments.
Four Classes of Men may be described by their Relation to Christ.
I. There are those who neither call Him Lord, nor do the things which He says.
II. There are those who call Him Lord, but do not the things which He says.
III. There are those who do not call Him Lord, but do the things which He says.
IV. There are those who both call Him Lord and do the things which He says.
Luke 6:47-49. The Wise and the Foolish Hearers.—The point of the contrast between the two men in the parable is not, as often supposed, in the selection made of a foundation on which to build. The contrast is that between two men, one of whom makes the foundation a matter of deliberate consideration, while the other never takes a moment’s thought about a foundation, but proceeds to build at haphazard, on the surface, just where he happens to be. St. Luke brings this out clearly by saying that the latter built “without a foundation.” The one builder is characterised by considerateness and thoroughness, the other by inconsiderateness and superficiality. Two points of difference between the two builders are clearly hinted at:—
I. The wise builder has a prudent regard to the future.—He anticipates the coming of storms, and he aims at being well provided against them. The foolish builder, on the contrary, thinks only of the present. If all is well to-day, he recks not of to-morrow, and of the storms it may bring.
II. The wise builder does not look merely to appearances.—The question with him is not, What will look well? but, What will stand, being founded on the rock? The foolish builder; on the other hand, cares for appearances only. His house looks as well as another’s, so far as what is above ground is concerned; and as for what is below ground, that, in his esteem, goes for nothing.
The man who has regard to appearances only never considers the future: he acts from impulse, imitation, and fashion, and the use of religion as a stay in temptation and trouble is not in all his thoughts. With the genuine disciple religion is an affair of reason and conscience—of reason looking well before and after, and of conscience realising seriously moral responsibility. The spurious, too, look only to what is seen, the outward act; the genuine look to what is not seen, the hidden foundation of inward disposition, the heart-motive, out of which flow the issues of life. The outward acts of both may be the same, but the motive of the one is love of goodness, that of the other is vanity. While we can on paper discriminate between these two classes, it is a difficult and delicate task to discern and judge between them in real life. We can only judge by appearances, and are apt to think better of the pretender than of the genuine man, for the former makes appearances his study. False disciples often gain golden opinions, when true disciples, with their faults all on the surface, are of little account.
The elements decide as to the merits of the two builders. By these are meant times of severe trial, the judgment days which overtake men even in this world occasionally, and in which many fair edifices of religious profession go down. The forms in which the trial may come are very diverse. There are trials by outward calamities, by religious doubt, by sinful desires—trials in business, by commercial crises and the like—trials by tribulations, such as overtake professors of religion in evil times. The thing to be laid to heart is that trial, in one form or another, is to be expected. It will come, and may come suddenly.—Bruce.
The Wise Builder and the Foolish.—An admonition for all who read Christ’s words as much as for those who originally heard them. The peroration of His sermon employs a double illustration, which must have told with graphic power on an audience accustomed to the sudden tempests and sweeping floods of the climate of Judæa.
I. The two builders.—To the first is likened the obedient hearer of the words of Christ. Those who follow Him are believers, as He is their Saviour—disciples, as He is their Teacher. To the second is likened the disobedient hearer of the words of Christ. He listens, and seems to honour and approve, yet does not keep or do the word. How frequent are such builders in every Church!
II. The day of trial.—In fair weather the two houses are equally safe. The day of storm reveals the difference. In the Day of Judgment all hollow discipleship will be exposed. How great the fall! How piteous the ruin!—Fraser.
The Two Houses, and their Fates.—These words apply to all the subjects of the kingdom, and not to teachers only. Obedience is the only safety. We are all builders. The houses we build are our characters. The underground work is the main thing in estimating stability. No house is stronger than its foundation. Real building on Christ is practical obedience to His commandments. Only such a life is firm whatever storm comes. There are lives which look like true Christian lives, and are not. One little “not” expresses the awful contrariety in the experience of two builders whose houses it may be stood side by side for years. So the sermon ends, burning these two pictures into our imagination.—Maclaren.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Luke 6". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13