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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Luke 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ luke-9.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Luke 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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Luke 9:1. His twelve disciples.—A better reading is, “the twelve” (R.V.): the reading in the text is probably taken from the parallel passage in St. Matthew’s Gospel. Power and authority.—I.e. ability and right: the one applies to the endowment with special gifts, the other to the right of using them on fitting occasions.
Luke 9:3. Neither staves.—Rather, “neither staff” (R.V.). In the parallel passage in St. Mark the permission is given to take a staff. A comparison of the passages removes the apparent discrepancy. The apostles were to make no special preparation for the journey: if each had a staff for walking, let him take it, but not provide one specially. Scrip.—Leather wallet.
Luke 9:4. Whatsoever house, etc.—Not to seek for comfortable quarters, or to change about unnecessarily.
Luke 9:5. Shake off the very dust.—As a sign that all intercourse was at an end, and that the messengers of Christ left those who rejected Him to bear the full responsibility of their sinful conduct (cf. Acts 13:51; Acts 18:6). Against them.—A stronger expression than in the parallel passage in St. Mark, where we read, “for a testimony unto them” (Luke 6:11, R.V.).
Luke 9:6. Preaching the gospel.—Lit. “evangelising”: it is a different word from that in Luke 9:2, also translated “preach”—which means “to proclaim as heralds “the kingdom of God. The instructions to the apostles are given at greater length in Matthew 10:0.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 9:1-6
The Servants sent forth.—The very summary account of the trial mission of the twelve here given presents only the salient points of the charge to them, and in its condensation makes these the more emphatic.
I. The gift of power.—Miracle-working in various forms is specified. We may call that Christ’s greatest miracle. That he could by His mere will endow a dozen men with such power is more, if degree come into view at all, than that He Himself should exercise it. But there is a lesson in the fact for all ages—even those in which miracles have ceased. Christ gives before He commands, and sends no man into the field without filling his basket with seed-corn. His gifts assimilate the receiver to Himself; and only in the measure in which His servants possess the power which is like His own, and drawn from Him, can they prepare His coming, or prepare hearts for it.
II. Equipment.—The special commands here given were repealed by Jesus when He gave His last commands. In their letter they apply only to that one journey, but in their spirit they are of universal and permanent obligation. The twelve were to travel light. Food, luggage, and money, the three requisites of a traveller, were to be “conspicuous by their absence.” That was repealed afterwards, and instructions given of an opposite character, because, after His ascension, the Church was to live more and more by ordinary means; but in this journey they were to learn to trust Him without means, that afterwards they might trust Him in the means. He showed them the purpose of these restrictions in the act of abrogating them. “When I sent you forth without purse … lacked ye anything?” But the spirit remains unabrogated, and the minimum of outward provision is likeliest to call out the maximum of faith. We are in more danger from having too much baggage than from too little. And the one indispensable requirement is that, whatever the quantity, it should hinder neither our march nor our trust in Him who alone is wealth and food.
III. The disposition of the messengers.—It is not to be self-indulgent. They are not to change quarters for the sake of greater comfort. They have not gone out to make a pleasure tour, but to preach, and so are to stay where they are welcomed and to make the best of it. Delicate regard for kindly hospitality, if offered by ever so poor a house, and scrupulous abstinence from whatever might suggest interested motives, must mark the true servant. That rule is not out of date. If ever a herald of Christ falls under suspicion of caring more about life’s comforts than about his work, good-bye to his usefulness. If ever he does so care, whether he be suspected of it or no, spiritual power will ebb from him.
IV. The messenger’s demeanour to the rejecters of their message.—Shaking the dust off the sandal is an emblem of solemn renunciation of participation, and perhaps of repudiating of responsibility. It meant certainly, “We have no more to do with you,” and possibly, “Your blood be on your own heads.” This journey of the twelve was meant to be of short duration, and to cover much ground, and therefore no time was to be spent unnecessarily. Their message was brief, and as well told quickly as slowly. The whole conditions of work now are different. Sometimes, perhaps, a Christian is warranted in solemnly declaring to those who receive not his message that he will have no more to say to them. That may do more than all his other words. But such cases are rare; and the rule that it is safest to follow is rather that of love, which despairs of none, and, though often repelled, returns with pleading, and, if it have told often in vain, tells now with tears, the story of the love that never abandons the most obstinate.
Such were the prominent points of this first Christian mission. They who carry Christ’s banner in the world must be possessed of power (His gift), must be lightly weighted, must care less for comfort than for service, must solemnly warn of the consequences of rejecting the message, and they will not fail to cast out devils and to heal many that are sick.—Maclaren.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 9:1-6
Luke 9:1-6. The Commission of the Twelve.
I. What Christ bestowed on them.—
1. Power—ability to do their work.
2. Authority—the right to do it.
II. The instructions He imparted to them.—
1. They were to live very simply.
2. They were to be prepared for failures.—W. Taylor.
Luke 9:1-5.—The nature and the importance of this mission.
I. Christ the source of power and authority: able to deliver sinners from Satan’s bondage, and to sustain His servants.
II. The duty of the ministers of Christ to attend to the necessities, temporal and spiritual, of men, and to be indifferent to their own ease and comfort.
III. Men are inexcusable when they reject and despise God’s message, and every circumstance will turn to a testimony against them.
The Miracles and the Doctrine.—Miracles of mercy proved the doctrine to be of God; the doctrine calling men to repentance proved that the miracles were wrought by the power of God.
Luke 9:1. “Power and authority.”—Ability to act and the right to exercise it. The evil spirits will owe obedience because of the authority with which the apostles are clothed, and will pay it because of the power they possess.
Power in Proportion to Faith.—Power is given by God, but becomes ours only by faith, and is in proportion to our faith. In Luke 9:40 we read of this power proving ineffectual from lack of faith.
Luke 9:2. A Temporary Commission.—They are now sent to proclaim through Judaea that the time of the promised restoration and salvation is at hand: at a future period Christ will appoint them to spread the gospel through the whole world. Here He employs them as assistants only, to secure attention to Him where His voice could not reach: afterwards He will commit into their hands the office of teaching which He had discharged.
“To preach the kingdom.”—We may suppose that the apostles would give some narrative of the life of Christ, reproduce some of His teaching, lay stress upon the importance of the message He had charged them with, and summon all to repentance and faith. The preaching was largely in anticipation of great blessings to be wrought by Jesus: after Pentecost their preaching was, ‘we announce the redemption which has been fulfilled, in order that ye too may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ’ (1 John 1:1-3).
“He sent them.”—Christ sent the apostles just as the sun sends out its beams, the rose the sweetness of its scent, the fire its sparks; and just as the sun appears in its beams, as the rose is felt in its scent, and the fire in its sparks, so is Christ recognised and apprehended in the virtues and powers of the apostles.—Chrysostom.
Luke 9:3. The Spirit of the Instructions.—The general spirit of the instructions merely is, Go forth in the simplest, humblest manner, with no hindrances to your movements, and in perfect faith; and this, as history shows, has always been the method of the most successful missions. At the same time we must remember that the wants of the twelve were very small, and were secured by the open hospitality of the East.—Farrar.
An Ample Equipment.—This prohibition of all provision is, if narrowly examined, itself a glorious equipment; for He who thus forbids thereby permits and commands them to expect in faith what they need, and to be fully assured beforehand of that which they afterwards (chap. Luke 22:35) were constrained to confess—that they should lack nothing.—Stier.
Luke 9:4. Two Evils to be avoided.—
1. The apostles were to be careful not to seem to be unduly interested in matters concerning their own convenience and comfort during their stay.
2. They were not to excite jealousy by preferring one family to another, when all should be equally the objects of their solicitude. Great harm is done to the cause of Christ when His ministers come under reasonable suspicion of acting from selfish and interested motives, and when they fail to manifest the courtesy and tact which are necessary for successful work among different classes of people. Most, if not all, of the disputes that spring up in Christian congregations are due to neglect of the one or the other of these rules.
Luke 9:5. “Will not receive you.”—The despisers are guilty of two offences:—
I. Ingratitude in refusing the inestimable treasure of the gospel.
II. Rebellion in rejecting the message sent from their King. No crime is more offensive to God than contempt of His word.
“Shake off the dust.”—A solemn act which might have two meanings:
(1) we take nothing of yours with us—we free ourselves from all contact and communion with you; or
(2) we free ourselves from all participation in your condemnation—will have nothing in common with those who have rejected God’s message. It was a custom of the Pharisees, when they entered Judœa from a Gentile land, to do this act, as renouncing all communion with Gentiles. Cf. the symbolical action of Pilate (Matthew 27:24).—Alford.
Warnings to the Impenitent still needed.—The spirit of the injunction runs through all the ages, and has come down to our day. And hence a very heavy responsibility rests on that minister of the gospel who gives no intimation of any kind to the impenitent with whom he associates, that they are impure in the sight of God, and in danger of eternal separation from the good.—Morison.
Luke 9:7. Herod the tetrarch.—Herod Antipas (a son of Herod the Great), who now ruled in Galilee: of frivolous and dissolute character, with a vein of superstition and cunning running through it. He was at Jerusalem when Christ suffered, and was one of His judges. All that was done by Him.—The best MSS. omit “by Him”: omitted in R.V. It is probable that the mission of the twelve drew more widespread attention to the work and claims of Christ, and that this reference to Herod is an indication of the fact. Of some.—I.e. “by some.”
Luke 9:8.—Notice the apposite use of phrases relative to John and to Elijah: “that John was risen from the dead?” and that Elias had appeare?”—Elijah having been translated without tasting of death. One of the old prophets.—Jeremiah was expected by some to appear again (cf. Matthew 14:14). See 2EEsther 2:18; 2MMalachi 2:4-8; 2Ma. 15:13-16.
Luke 9:9. John have I beheaded.—The “I” is emphatic both here and in the second clause of the verse: perhaps it is not too much to say that the form of the sentence indicates the growing concern and alarm excited in the mind of Herod by Christ’s increasing fame. Desired to see Him.—Rather, “sought to see Him” (R.V.). His desire was at last gratified when Pilate sent Jesus to him as a prisoner; but his wish that Christ would perform some miracle met with no response from the Saviour (see chap. Luke 23:7-12).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 9:7-9
Herod Antipas.—The three synoptical evangelists furnish us with various details of the history of Herod Antipas, which, when combined, present a striking picture of the downward progress of one who has entered on a career of crime. He appears as an Eastern despot, capricious, sensual, and superstitious; who speaks with the pride of an Ahasuerus, and yet is the slave of a Jezebel; in whose earlier history there were hopeful elements, but who in the end seems to have outlived them all, and to have been hopelessly hardened and reprobate.
I. The hopeful period in his life.—He is affected by the widespread movement inaugurated by John the Baptist. Righteousness, though presented in its sternest form by the preacher of the wilderness, compels his respect and admiration. He cannot, either, be insensible to the power and authority which clothe God’s servant; and so he gladly listens to John, and even goes so far as to attempt to observe some of his precepts. So far he stands on the same level with the soldiers, publicans, and harlots, who were moved to outward reformation of life in view of the coming of the kingdom of God.
II. The turning-point in his life.—He is reminded by the Baptist of the unlawful connection he had formed with the wife of his own brother, and is forced to decide between the claims of righteousness and the promptings of evil passions. He silenees the voice of conscience, and imprisons the man who had had the courage to tell him of his sin. His vacillation between good and evil is shown by his treatment of the Baptist: he protects John for a time against the rage of Herodias, and though he keeps him a prisoner he allows his disciples to have access to him. But once he has failed to take up a decided stand against evil, he grows daily weaker and weaker, and at last he consents to give orders for the execution of God’s prophet. He is indeed entrapped into the murder of the Baptist, but the snare that catches him is of the weakest, flimsiest character. Infinitely better would it have been for him to break his word than to dip his hands in the blood of one whom he knew was holy, and to do this for the gratification of a hatred which was base and cruel, and with which he did not sympathise.
III. His final state.—He is shaken with superstitious fears when he is told of the mighty works of Christ and of His apostles. In place of the one preacher of righteousness whom he had slain, another and even greater has arisen, and is multiplying His work twelvefold by means of those whom He has sent forth through the length and breadth of the land. “He desired to see Him.” But it was the curiosity not of faith, but of unbelief—of a heart hardening, if not already hardened, against holy impressions. He doubtless heard of our Saviour’s heavenly discourses, of His deeds of love, and miracles of mercy; but the report of these things wrought none of those blessed effects on Herod which they produced on guileless and innocent hearts. His curiosity, when at length he saw Jesus as a prisoner, proved to be of the most frivolous kind: “he hoped to have seen some miracle done by Him” (chap. Luke 23:8). And he who had slain the Baptist became associated with Pilate in the murder of the Prince of life.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 9:7-9
Luke 9:7. The Cowardice of Sinners.—It is the curse of unbelief that a cowardly heart is given to sinners: “the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them: and they shall flee as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth” (Leviticus 26:36 : cf. Job 15:20-21).
Luke 9:8. “That Elijah had appeared.”—Elijah was expected to appear before the coming of Christ. Hence the inquiry in John 1:21, and in Matthew 17:11; hence also the suspicion expressed in Luke 9:19; and hence the scoff of the populace as our Saviour hung upon the cross—“Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save Him.”
Luke 9:9. “He desired to see Him.”—The desire was fulfilled; but no sign of grace to Herod was implied by this fulfilment. For Christ did not come to Herod of His own free-will, but was brought into his presence by those who had seized and bound Him.
Luke 9:10. Went aside privately.—The reason of this retirement is stated by St. Matthew (Matthew 14:13) to have been Christ’s hearing of the violent death of John the Baptist. It was a precautionary measure, rendered all the more necessary by Herod’s desire to see Jesus. St. Mark says that it was for the sake of quiet (Luke 6:31)—as the excitement produced by the teaching of Jesus and His apostles was very great. There is no necessary discrepancy in the narratives: the retirement in question may have taken place for more reasons than one. City called Bethsaida.—This is not the Bethsaida near Capernaum on the west of the lake, but Bethsaida Julias on the north, in the tetrarchy of Philip, near which was “a desert place.”
Luke 9:11. Followed Him.—Jesus went by boat, and the people, seeing the direction in which He sailed, went thither on foot (Mark 6:33). Received them.—I.e. did not dismiss them, though their following Him defeated one of the purposes for which He had sought retirement.
Luke 9:13. Five loaves.—I.e. barley loaves (John 6:9), the food of the poor. The miracle that follows is the only one narrated by all four evangelists.
Luke 9:14. Five thousand.—Men, besides women and children (Matthew 14:21).
Luke 9:16. Blessed them.—“Agreeably to the Jewish custom, by which it was usual for the head of the family, at every meal, to pronounce a blessing on the food, previously to partaking of it, commencing with the words, ‘Blessed art thou, O God, who bringest bread out of the earth,’ etc.” (Bloomfield).
Luke 9:17. Baskets.—The word used in all the narratives of this miracle is κόφινος—a wicker-basket, such as the Jews were accustomed to carry their food in when they were on a journey. The word used in the account of the other miracle of the kind (Matthew 15:37; Mark 8:8) is σπυρίς—a large rope-basket, capable of holding a man’s body (cf. Acts 9:25). St. Luke omits a long series of events which followed this miracle, and which are related in Matthew 14:1 to Matthew 16:12; Mark 6:45 to Mark 8:30; and John 6:0.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 9:10-17
Bread from Heaven.—The apostles needed rest after their journey. Our Lord suggested a brief retirement, and sought it at the Eastern Bethsaida, a couple of miles up the Jordan from its point of entrance to the lake. The curious crowd following on foot effectually destroyed all hope of retirement. Without a sigh or sign of impatience Jesus welcomed them. He received them patiently, because “He was moved with pity” (St. Mark), and saw in their rude crowding about Him the token of their lack of guides and teachers. They seemed to Him not merely a mob of intrusive sight-seers, but like a huddled mass of unshepherded sheep. Christ’s heart felt more lovingly than ours because His eye saw deeper, and His eye saw deeper because His heart felt more lovingly. If we lived nearer Him, we should see, as He did, enough in every man to draw out pity and help, even though he should jostle us and interfere with us. Coming to the miracle itself, we may divide the narrative into three parts: the preliminaries, the miracle, and the abundant overplus.
I. The preliminaries.—Our Lord leads up to the miracle by forcing home on the minds of the disciples the extent of the need, and the utter inadequacy of their resources to meet it, and by calling on them and the crowd for an act of obedience, which must have seemed ludicrous to many of them. The strange suggestion that the disciples should feed the crowd must have appeared to them absurd, but it was meant to bring out the clear recognition of the smallness of their supply. Therein lie great lessons. Commands are given and apparent duties laid on us, in order that we may find out how impotent we are to do them. It can never be our duty to do what we cannot do; but it is often our duty to attempt tasks to which we are conspicuously inadequate, in the confidence that He who gives them has laid them on us to drive us to Himself, and there to find sufficiency. The best preparation of His servants for their work in the world is the discovery that their own stores are small. Those who have learned that it is their task to feed the multitude, and who have said “We have no more than such and such scanty resources,” are prepared to be the distributers of His all-sufficient supply.
II. The miracle.—Like that of the draught of fishes, it was not called forth by the cry of suffering, nor was the need which it met one beyond the reach of ordinary means. It was certainly a miracle most plainly meant to strike the popular mind, and the enthusiasm excited by it, according to John’s account, was foreseen by Christ. Why did He evoke enthusiasm which He did not mean to gratify? For the very purpose of bringing the carnal expectations of the crowd to a head, that they might be the more conclusively disappointed. The miracle and its sequel sifted and sent away many disciples, and were meant to do so. He blessed the bread. What He blesses is blessed, for His words are deeds, and communicate the blessing which they speak. The point at which the miraculous multiplication of the food came in is left undetermined. The pieces grew under His touch, and the disciples always found His hands full when they came back with their own empty. The symbolical aspect of the miracle is set forth in the great discourse which follows it in St. John’s Gospel. Jesus is the bread of God which came down from heaven. That bread is broken for us. Not in His incarnation alone, but in His death, is He the food of the world; and we have not only to “eat His flesh,” but to “drink His blood,” if we would live. Nor can we lose sight of the symbol of His servants’ task. They are the distributers of the heaven-sent bread. If they will but take their poor stores to Jesus, with the acknowledgment of their insufficiency, He will turn them into inexhaustible supplies. What Christ blesses is always enough.
III. The abundant overplus.—Twelve baskets were filled: that is to say, each apostle, who had helped to feed the hungry, had a basketful to bring off for future wants. The “broken pieces” were not crumbs that littered the grass, but the portions that came from Christ’s hands. His provision is more than enough for a hungry world, and they who share it out among their fellows have their own possession of it increased. There is no surer way to receive the full sweetness and blessing of the gospel than to carry it to some hungry soul. These full baskets teach us, too, that in Christ’s gift of Himself as the bread of life there is ever more than at any given moment we can appropriate. Other food cloys and does not satisfy, and leaves us starving. Christ satisfies and does not cloy, and we have always remaining, yet to be enjoyed, the boundless stores which neither eternity will age nor a universe feeding on them consume.—Maclaren.
“Make them sit down.”
I. The command to make them sit down by fifties in a company was expressive of the authority of Christ over human multitudes whenever He comes into contact with them. There were five thousand men besides women and children present, and, according to three evangelists out of the four, special emphasis is attached to this command, “Make them sit down.” There was no doubt a growing confusion at this time: the night was at hand, and the multitude, wearied by a day of restlessness under a burning Eastern sky, and largely irritated by discussion, and carried away by the back-wave of the day’s excitement, had become well-nigh unmanageable. In the presence of that confusion the disciples had readily given their rough and ready solution, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place.” Christ, on the contrary, said in brief, “Nay, make them sit down.” He, as the master of assemblies, did not seek to rid Himself of the confusion by ridding Himself of the multitude. In this respect, as well as in a thousand other respects, He towered above all others. He was never excited, and never doubtful as to what should be done; but was always calmly confident amid the seething passions and conflicting voices of human multitudes. Thus, at the very outset, we find this distinctive attribute of Christ’s ministry. He never lost command, but was ever calm and masterful as the Lord of men.
II. But this command was not only expressive of the unique authority of Jesus Christ; it was also an illustration of His most tender consideration for those who needed it most. John tells us that only the men sat in fifties; and Mark intimates the same. There were women and children there, but, as Matthew too asserts, the five thousand consisted of men apart from women and children. Luke tells us that they sat down “by fifties in a company.” The words which Mark uses suggest that the multitude looked like a garden of flowers, well arranged in groups of living men, turning their faces as expectant to the Christ as the flowers turn theirs to the sun. But observe that women and children were not in these regular ranks of panting humanity. No one has been in a throng of five thousand men, when there has been rushing movement, discord, irritation, and weariness, without being impressed with the danger for women and children, especially when the overwhelming majority were men. Here we have one of the many beautiful touches of the Gospel narrative—the thoughtfulness of Christ concerning the weak. Order is the first law of heaven, and when Christ would perform this miracle order was the first essential. Thoughtful consideration for the weak who were in danger of being trodden underfoot was the second—“Make the men sit down”—so that in addition to the orderliness of their own ranks there may be opportunity for the women and the children to have their share. Christ never overlooks any section of the community, ignores no small one in the greatest mass of human life.
III. This command awakened new hopes and expectations in the hearts of the assembled multitude. They had walked along the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee into that desert place on the eastern coast, and were wearied by the journey and the fatigue of the day. The length of the journey would make it probable that the women and children were few compared with the men. This is another subtle proof of the accuracy of Gospel records. The few, however, were not overlooked. All were weary—especially the women and children—with the events of the day. Their hopes had to a large extent been satisfied, yet weariness and hunger had taken possession of them. Now Christ awakened new hopes in their hearts. No one awakens within the heart of man such expectations as Jesus Christ. They soon came to the conclusion that the great Teacher was about to feed them. Where all was to come from they did not know, save that it would come from the same source of power and of grace as many other provisions for the need and sorrow of men had come in that unique ministry; and so every one in that vast throng was encouraged to hope for and expect some wonderful miraculous provision.
IV. By this command Christ willingly subjected Himself to a new test of His Divine power and sympathy. There was no necessity for His doing this save the irresistible promptings of His great love. The multitudes might have been dismissed, and yet He would have preserved His character apart from this further manifestation of His divinity. No one expected it; even His own disciples did not. It was not, therefore, done in an emergency; but this command going forth subjected Him willingly and voluntarily to a new test. That is what Christ ever does. Almost every command He gives to men subjects Him to new tests. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” that is the command; “and thou shalt be saved” is the promise. He stakes His honour, and stands or falls by every command that He gives us which has a latent promise in its folds.
V. By this command Christ subjected the disciples to a new test. They had to exercise sufficient confidence in Him to go and tell the multitude to sit down and wait for their meal. They had just been arguing with Christ. Two hundred pennyworth of bread would not suffice, according to their calculation. There was a boy present, it was true, who had brought his five loaves and two fishes; but what were they among so many? Now that is just what is taking place every day. Every faithful messenger of Jesus Christ, who goes forth to meet the wants of men and women, knows that, apart from the power of the Christ behind him, his task is one of forlorn hope and sad humiliation. But every mission has its test, and every man of God who has gone forth at the Master’s bidding has gone forth with the full assurance that he cannot be disappointed or humiliated.
VI. This command, moreover, came as a test for the multitude. Every one in that great multitude had to obey in anticipation of the feast. Now that was pre-eminently an act of faith. They had confidence that Jesus Christ would not have sent the message to them unless He meant to feed them. And still that is all that is required—that men should just do as He tells them, namely, look for the blessing and wait for it. How many there are unprepared to do that, and yet are surprised if they are not fed! There was not a man among the five thousand foolish enough to act in that fashion. “Make them sit down by fifties in a company. And they did so.”—Davies.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 9:10-17
Luke 9:10. “A desert place.”—The two miracles of feeding the multitudes were performed in desert places: this circumstance
(1) brought out most impressively the greatness of Christ’s power, who could, apart from ordinary means, feed so large a number of people; and
(2) reminded those present of the miraculous way in which God had for forty years sustained their nation in the wilderness.
The Christian Uses of Leisure.
I. Communion with outward nature.
II. Intercourse with fellow-believers.
III. A closer converse with Christ Himself.—Ker.
Luke 9:11. “The people … followed Him.”—The unexpected arrival of the people defeats the plan Jesus had formed. But the Lord is deeply touched by the love towards Him manifested by this multitude, which were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34): He “receives” them with tender loving-kindness; and while crowds arrive one after another in the course of the morning (John 6:5), a thought springs up in His heart. What it was St. John tells us (ibid. 4). The Passover season was drawing near. Jesus had not been able to go up to Jerusalem with His disciples, so violent was the rage of His enemies. So then in this unexpected gathering, like that of the people in Jerusalem, He discerns a signal from heaven, and He resolves to hold a feast in the wilderness to take the place of the Passover for those who surround Him.—Godet.
Luke 9:12. “Go into the towns.”—This miracle was not urgently called for by the physical necessities of the multitude, as in the other instance of miraculous feeding (Mark 8:2-3). The disciples themselves were of the opinion that in the neighbouring villages and country the people might get food. “It was a symbolic, didactic, critical miracle. It was meant to teach, and also to test: to supply a text for the subsequent sermon (recorded by St. John), and a touchstone to try the character of those who had followed Jesus with such enthusiasm. It was meant to say, ‘I Jesus am the bread of life. What this bread is to your bodies, I Myself am to your souls’ ” (Bruce).
Luke 9:13-16. “Took … blessed … gave.”—The significant points in the action of that day were
(1) the provision accepted from the disciples,
(2) the blessing of it by Jesus, and
(3) the distribution of it among the people.—Laidlaw.
Luke 9:13. “Give ye.”—The words are emphatic, for the disciples had been counselling the people to get food for themselves.
“Give ye them to eat.”—Christ wishes His disciples to realise their own utter inability, in order that they might by-and-by realise more intensely the fulness of His ability.
“We have no more.”—Here we may learn, at least, not to be too confident in our reckonings, so long as they are made for plus or minus. How many great counting-houses have forgotten in their books the column for the blessing or—the curse of God!—Stier.
Luke 9:14. “By fifties.”—In which subordinate circumstance we behold His wisdom who is the Lord and Lover of order. Thus all confusion was avoided. There was no danger that the weaker, the women and children, should be passed over, while the stronger and ruder unduly put themselves forward. The apostles were thus able to pass easily up and down among the multitude, and to minister in orderly succession to the needs of every part.—Burgon.
“Made them all sit down.”—The apostles caused the people to sit down before they knew what Christ was about to do. They obeyed His command. They were weak and inexperienced, but still they were childlike, and allowed themselves to be led by His hand. “This is the true kind of obedience,” says Bernhard which does not look at what is commanded, but is content to know that it is commanded by God.”
Luke 9:16. “Blessed them.”—To be thankful for little is the way to obtain more. The action of the Saviour, if we compare the various narratives of this miracle, consisted
(1) of thanksgiving—acknowledgment of all the goodness of God, and an anticipation of the coming display of His power and love; and
(2) of blessing the food for the use of the people. “To bless means to speak well of. Our Saviour on the present occasion would doubtless speak well of His Father; and, coincidently, He would speak well of the provision, His Father’s gift, which He was about to distribute and increase. He might speak well, too, in reference to the people petitioning for their weal. He would thus coincidently bless the Father, bless the food, and invoke blessing on the people” (Morison).
A Like Miracle ever being wrought.—He conceals the miracle, and no one sees how the bread multiplies in His hands, any more than one sees the grass growing. “The same Divine Person, in a manner less striking, because more gradual and regular, but certainly not less wonderful, ripens all the seeds in all the gardens and orchards and in all the vineyards and meadows of this world, in successive seasons, ever since man dwelt in Paradise, to minister food to His creatures” (Wordsworth).
Inexhaustible Provision.—The Bible is little in bulk, like the five barley loaves and the two fishes. What thousands upon thousands has it fed, and will it feed, in every age, in every land of Christendom, to the world’s end!
Luke 9:17. The Teaching of the Miracle.—The miracle teaches us—
I. That it is our duty to do what we can to supply the bodily wants of others.
II. That those who follow Christ may trust to Him for the necessaries of life.
III. That it is becoming to thank God for His goodness before partaking of food.
IV. That nothing should be lost or wasted.
“Fragments.”—The food Christ gave differed from the manna; for
(1) the manna was only sufficient for him who gathered it, and
(2) could not be kept. The fragments are more in bulk than the original stock: in their being gathered at the command of Christ we have a beautiful picture of God’s bounty in nature, which is at once lavish and careful.
“That remained.”—A sign that there had been abundance. Twelve baskets, because at Christ’s command the twelve apostles gathered up the fragments. “We have thus a visible symbol of that love which exhausts not itself by loving, but after the most prodigal outgoings upon others abides itself far richer than it would else have done; of the multiplying which there ever is in a true dispensing; of the increasing which may go along with a scattering (Proverbs 11:24 : cf. 2 Kings 4:1-7)” (Trench).
Luke 9:18. It came to pass.—This took place on the way to Cæsarea Philippi: this was a town in the valley of the upper Jordan near Paneas, which had been enlarged and fortified by the tetrarch Philip. Praying.—This circumstance is peculiar to St. Luke. The people.—Lit. “the multitudes” (R.V.).
Luke 9:22. Elders and chief priests and scribes.—The three classes of which the Sanhedrim was composed.
Luke 9:23. To them all.—I.e. to the multitude as well as to His disciples. Will come.—I.e. “desire to come.” His cross.—A prophetic allusion to the manner of His own death: in it there is an anticipation of the part the Gentiles were to play in putting Him to death as the cross was a Roman and not a Jewish instrument of punishment.
Luke 9:24. Whosoever will save.—I.e. “desire to save,” as in Luke 9:23.
Luke 9:25. Be cast away.—Rather, “suffer damage,” as opposed to “gain”: R.V. “forfeit his own self.”
Luke 9:27. Till they see the kingdom of God.—As is evident from the connection in which it stands, the first fulfilment of these words was in the Transfiguration.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 9:18-27
The Divine Christ confessed.
I. The first section gives us Peter’s great confession in the name of the disciples (Luke 9:18-20).—Our Lord is entering on a new era in His work, and desires to bring clearly into His followers’ consciousness the sum of His past self-revelation. The excitement which He had checked after the first miraculous feeding had died down. Amid the seclusion of Cæsarea, far away from distracting influences, He puts these two momentous questions. The first question is as to the partial and conflicting opinions among the multitudes; the second hints at the fuller unveiling of the depths of His gracious personality, which the disciples had experienced, and implies, “Surely you, who have been beside Me, and known Me so closely, have reached a deeper understanding.” It has a tone of the same wistfulness and wonder as that other question of His, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me?” For their sakes He seeks to draw out their partly unconscious faith, that had been smouldering, fed by their daily experience of His beauty and tenderness. Half-recognised convictions float in many a heart, which need but a pointed question to crystallise into master-truths, to which henceforward the whole being is subject. Great is the power of putting our shadowy beliefs into plain words. “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Why should this great question have been preceded by the other? Probably to make the disciples feel more distinctly the chaotic contradictions of the popular judgment, and their own isolation by their possession of the clearer light. He wishes them to see the gulf opening between them and their fellows, and so to bind them more closely to Himself. It is the question the answer to which settles everything for a man. It has an intensely sharp point. We cannot take refuge from it in the general opinion. Nor does any other man’s judgment about Him matter one whit to us. Christ has a strange power, after eighteen hundred years, of coming to each of us, with the same persistent interrogation on His lips. And to-day, as then, all depends on the answer we give. Many answer by exalted estimates of Him, like these varying replies, which ascribed to Him prophetic authority; but they have not drunk in the full meaning of His self-revelation unless they can reply with the full-toned confession of the apostle, which sets Him far above and apart from the highest and holiest. The confession includes both the human and the Divine sides of Christ’s nature. He is the Messiah; but He is more than a Jew meant by that name—He is “the Son of the living God,” by which we cannot indeed suppose that Peter meant all that he afterward learned it contained, or all that the Church has now been taught of its meaning, but which, nevertheless, is not to be watered down as if it did not declare His unique filial relation to the Father, and so His Divine nature. Christian progress in doctrine does not consist in the winning of new truths, but in the penetrating further into the meaning of old and initial truths.
II. The startling new revelation of the suffering Messiah (Luke 9:21-22).—The gospel has two parts: Jesus is the Christ, and the Christ must suffer and enter into His glory. Our Lord has made sure that the disciples have learned the first before He leads to the second. The very conviction of His dignity and Divine nature made that second truth the more bewildering; but still the only road to it was through the first. The new teaching as to the sufferings was no new thought to Himself, forced on Him by the growing enmity of the nation. The cross always cast its shadow on His path. He was no enthusiast, beginning with the dream of winning a world to His side, and slowly and heroically making up His mind to die a martyr; but His purpose in being born was to minister to and to die a ransom for the many. Note the detailed accuracy of the prevision which points to the rulers of the nation as the instruments, and to death as the climax, and to resurrection as the issue, of His sufferings; and the clear setting forth of the Divine necessity which, as it ruled all His life, ruled here also, and is expressed in that solemn “must.” The necessity was no external compulsion, driving Him to an unwelcome sacrifice, but one imposed alike by filial obedience and by brotherly love. He must die because He would save.
III. The law which ruled the Master’s life is extended to the servants (Luke 9:23-27).—They recoiled from the thought of His having to suffer. They had to learn that they too must suffer, if they would be His. “If any man will” gives them the option of withdrawal. A new epoch is beginning, and they will have to enlist again, and do it with open eyes. He will have no unwilling soldiers, nor any who have been beguiled into the ranks. No doubt some went away, and walked no more with Him. The terms of service are clear. Discipleship means imitation, and imitation means self-crucifixion. A martyred Master must needs have for followers men ready to be martyrs too. But the requirement goes much deeper than this. There is no discipleship without self-denial, both in the easier form of starving passions and desires, and in the harder of yielding up the will, and letting His will supplant ours. Only so can we ever come after Him, and of such sacrifice of self the cross is the eminent example. When Jesus began to teach His death, He immediately presented it as His servants’ example. The ground of the law is stated in Luke 9:24. The wish to save life is the loss of life in the highest sense. If that desire guide us, then farewell to enthusiasm, courage, the martyr spirit, and all which makes man’s life nobler than a beast’s. He who is ruled mainly by the wish to keep a whole skin loses the best part of what he is so anxious to keep. Regard for self as a ruling motive is destruction, and selfishness is suicide. On the other hand, lives hazarded for Christ are thereby truly saved; and if they be not only hazarded, but actually lost, such loss is gain; and the same law by which the Master “must” die and rise again will work in the servant. Luke 9:25 urges the wisdom of such apparent folly, and enforces the requirement by the plain consideration that “life” is worth more than anything beside. Therefore the dictate of the wisest prudence is that seemingly prodigal flinging away of the lower “life,” which puts us in possession of the higher. Note that the appeal is here made to a reasonable regard to personal advantage, and that in the very act of urging to crucify self. So little did Christ think, as some people do, that the desire to save one’s soul is selfishness. Luke 9:26 confirms all the preceding by the solemn allusion to the coming of the Son of man as Judge. They surely shall then find their lives who have followed Him here. Luke 9:27 adds a confirmation of this announcement of His coming to judge. The question of what event is referred to may best be answered by noting that it must be one sufficiently far off from the moment of speaking to allow of the death of the greater number of His hearers; that it must also be an event, after which these survivors would go the common road into the grave; that it is apparently distinguished from His coming “in the glory of the Father,” and yet is of such a nature as to afford convincing proof of the establishment of His kingdom on earth, and to be, in some sort, a sign of that final act of judgment. All these requirements meet only in the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the national life of the chosen people. That was a crash of which we only faintly realise the tremendous significance. It swept away the last remnant of the hope that Israel was to be the kingdom of the Messiah; and from out of the dust and chaos of that fall the Christian Church emerged, manifestly destined for worldwide extension.—Maclaren.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 9:18-27
Luke 9:18. Opinions about Jesus Christ.
I. There are those who consider Him to have been the best of men that ever lived, but do not consider Him to have been perfectly sinless.—Three objections are fatal to this opinion:
1. It is contrary to the Saviour’s own claims.
2. It is founded on a prejudice against the miraculous.
3. It deprives Him of all place in connection with salvation.
II. That He was a perfect man, but not the God-man.—Two objections to this opinion:
1. It is opposed to the clear testimonies of Scripture.
2. The Christian Church has ever refused to rest in such a view.
III. That He was a Divine Saviour, but not a Saviour by atoning sacrifice.—But we have in Christ’s own teaching the doctrine of the Atonement.
1. We have a doctrine of penalty following sin.
2. It is taught by what Christ says of His own substitution.
3. It follows from our Lord’s connecting His death with the forgiveness of sins.
4. The fact that Christ connects His death with a covenant, and with a new covenant, brings it in His own teaching into line with the Old Testament sacrifices.—Cairns.
Luke 9:18-20. The Master’s Prayer and the Disciple’s Confession.—The time has come for an onward step. These twelve men must be made to gather into one, and to speak out the net result of these months of silent accompanying. They must be brought to book (so to say) as to their dim, floating ideas. The time is come for confession of Christ. How shall it be done? The Divine Master takes them apart by themselves, on a journey the farthest that He ever made northward in Palestine. He had brought them thither for a sacred purpose. They were to pass from an unrealised to a realised conviction—from the spiritual stage of “believing unto righteousness” to the further spiritual stage of “confessing unto salvation.” Can you wonder that St. Luke, the historian of Christ’s prayers, tells us that this step, this leap, this bound, was prefaced by one of the prayers of Christ? While witnessing His absorbed, engrossed, unconscious solitude, He put to them this question, “Whom say the people that I am?”
I. Surely there is Divine skill, and tenderness as well, in this way of putting the question.—He asks first, What do other people say? before He goes on to propose the vital question, But what do ye, My disciples, My near ones, My own, say and think of Me? Even when the time has come for fixing their floating thoughts, for getting an answer, positive and peremptory, as to the state of their own belief—even then He will approach the subject distantly, lest haply, even then, a too sudden and abrupt interrogation might startle, perplex, or deter them.
II. Well, they say, opinions are divided.—John the Baptist, risen again from the death in Machærus—that is one idea. Elias, come again to fulfil the last prophecy of the Old Testament—that is another. A prophet—one of the prophets—without pledging themselves to a name or an identification—that is a third. In the midst of all these ignorant or superstitious imaginings, what say ye?
III. The time has come for an answer from the disciples.—The brave, sometimes too brave, Peter, as usual, is the spokesman. “The Christ of God.” Was it not for this answer, this revelation, this unveiling, that the “effectual fervent prayer” had ascended? When we think what lay in that good confession—what for future generations—what for a world about to be bought with blood—what for a Church to be founded, as upon a rock, on that brief utterance, so vital, so boundless in the thing signified,—can we imagine an occasion more suitable for the exercise, by anticipation, even of the mediatorial office, than that which required, and waited for, an unveiling, not by flesh and blood, but by a Father in heaven, to men standing here in all the backwardness, and in all the boundedness, of a fallen humanity, of a mystery kept secret hitherto from eternal times?—Vaughan.
Luke 9:21. “To tell no man.”—For these, perhaps, among other reasons:
1. Because His work was not yet finished.
2. Because as yet their faith was very weak and their knowledge partial.
3. Because they had not yet received the Holy Spirit to give power to their testimony.
4. Because the public proclamation of the truth would have precipitated the workings of God’s foreordained plan.—Farrar.
Luke 9:22. “Must suffer.”—The gospel may be stated in two propositions.
1. Jesus is the Christ.
2. The Christ must suffer, die, and rise again; or Christ by death will enter into His glory.
A revelation of the Passion.—Christ reveals—
I. Who are to inflict the sufferings.
II. The form these sufferings are to take.
III. The necessity for His enduring them.
IV. Their issue in His resurrection.
Luke 9:23-26. Three Great Lessons:—
I. Not only Christ, but also His followers, must suffer and deny themselves.
II. That all have a life to save, more precious than all else to them.
III. That the great day of account should be ever before them.
Luke 9:23. The Christian’s Journey.—
1. Those things of which he takes leave.
2. The burden he carries.
3. The road he traverses.
“Will come.”—It is a matter of choice to follow Christ; but if the resolution be formed to do so, there is no choice but to deny oneself and take up the cross.
“Deny himself.”—As Peter said when he denied Christ, “I know not the man,” so say thou of thyself, and act accordingly.—Bengel.
“Deny himself … take up his cross.”—The one is an active, the other a passive, state. Self-denial is a man’s own act, and requires the strenuous exercise of the will. “Taking up the cross” implies patient submission to the will of another.
“His cross.”—If not
(1) contempt or suffering endured for the sake of Christ, then
(2) some form of affliction connected with this earthly life, or
(3) temptations from without, or
(4) inward conflict with sin.
Requisites for Discipleship.
I. The first requisite in a disciple is self-denial.
II. The second requisite is cross-bearing.
III. The third requisite is spiritual service, true and constant obedience.—Anderson.
“No cross, no crown.”
I. The cross is to be taken up, not simply borne, when laid on the shoulder.—This implies willing, cheerful suffering for Christ. Some people endure trials, but always with repining. The spirit of these words requires cheerfulness in suffering for Christ. Half the trial is gone if we meet it in this glad spirit.
II. It is one’s own cross, and not another’s, that is to be taken up.—The particular cross that God lays at our own feet. We are not to make crosses for ourselves, but we are always to accept those that are allotted to us. Each one’s cross is the best for him. If we knew what other people’s crosses were, we might not envy them, or wish to exchange our cross for theirs. What seems a flower-woven cross may be full of sharp thorns. The easiest cross for each one to bear is one’s own.
III. There is a way to remove the crosses out of our life.—Always gladly accept through love to God whatever trial, pain, or loss God sends. If my will acquiesces in His, there is no cross.—Miller.
Self-sacrifice.—Self-sacrifice represents more exactly than self-denial the idea intended to be conveyed by the Lord’s precept here. Not that “let him deny himself?” is other than a literal translation of the original phrase, but that in popular parlance self-denial has come to mean something much more superficial, much less thoroughgoing, than what is obviously denoted by Christ in this passage. Self-denial, in the sense in which it is an essential condition of coming after the Saviour, is the doing by self what St. Peter did by Christ—repudiating all connection with self, utterly disavowing it as our master.—Goulburn.
What is Self-denial?—The word is often and much mistaken in common use, as if it meant much the same as self-control—the control of lower elements of our being by higher; but this is not self-denial as Christ uses the word. To “deny” self means to treat it as non-existent. It means to ignore, to turn the back upon, to shut the eyes to self—something far different from mere self-control.—Moule.
I. There are few things in which people play more wretched farces than in their efforts at self-denial.—Very few seem to have the remotest conception of what it means. The giving up of meat on Fridays, abstinence from social dissipation in Lent, and many other useless and uncalled-for sacrifices—these things do not constitute self-denial. There is no merit in giving up anything for its own sake.
II. True self-denial is the yielding of the whole life to the will of Christ.—It is self coming down from the life’s throne, laying crown and sceptre at the Master’s feet, and thenceforth submitting the whole life to His sway. It is living all the while not to please ourselves, but to please our Lord—not to advance our own personal interests, but to do His work. It is the glad making of any sacrifice that loyalty to Him requires. Self gives way altogether to Christ as the motive of life.
III. Nothing is true self-denial which is done merely as self-denial.—True self-denial, like all other forms of Christlikeness, is unconscious of self, wists not that its face shines. We deny ourselves when we follow Christ with joy and gladness, through cost and danger and suffering, just where He leads.—Miller.
Luke 9:24-26. Three Reasons for Cross-bearing.
I. We must sacrifice something—either the lower or the higher life, animal happiness or spiritual blessedness (Luke 9:24).
II. The incomparable value of the soul.—He who gains the world at the cost of his soul is a loser by the bargain (Luke 9:25).
III. At the second advent cross-bearers will receive a crown of righteousness.—To cross-spurners will be assigned shame and everlasting contempt.—Bruce.
Luke 9:25. Profit and Loss.
I. The gain here spoken of is nominal, imaginary.
II. The loss is real, and it is the greatest conceivable.
1. The soul is lost by not being exercised.
2. The soul is lost when it is perverted and corrupted.—Service.
Luke 9:26. “His own glory,” etc.—The glory is threefold:
1. His own, which He has to and for Himself as the exalted Messiah.
2. The glory of God, which accompanies Him as coming down from God’s throne.
3. The glory of the angels who surround Him with their brightness.—Meyer.
Ashamed of Christ.—This is what men are guilty of when Christians are in a minority, or when earnest Christianity is powerfully opposed. There is no temptation to be ashamed of Christ when all the world around you is, at any rate, professedly devoted to Him. But the temptation was a very formidable one when the Church was young, and when Christians carried their lives in their hands. Wonderful, however, it is how, in these first ages of the faith, men and women, boys and girls, in all conditions of life, joyfully accepted a painful death rather than be disloyal to their Lord and Saviour. But the wheel of time brings strange revolutions, and we no longer live in times when it could be said with entire truth that no one is ashamed of Jesus Christ. Many in all Christian countries professedly reject His name. And that this is so surely imposes on all true Christians the duty of explicitly confessing Christ before men.—Liddon.
Luke 9:28. About an eight days.—I.e. including the day on which the words were spoken and the day on which they were fulfilled. St. Mark says “six days,” reckoning the intervening time. Took.—“Took with Him” is a better reading (R.V.). A mountain.—Rather, “the mountain” (R.V.). It is probable that this was Mount Hermon, as it is the only place within the neighbourhood of Cæsarea Philippi that satisfies the requirements of the case. The summit of Tabor, which is the traditional site of the Transfiguration, seems to have been occupied by a fortress at this time. Besides, Tabor is in Galilee, while from Mark 9:30 we would understand that Jesus and His disciples went into Galilee after this event. To pray.—This is peculiar to St. Luke.
Luke 9:29. White and glistering.—The “and” is not in the original: the phrase might be rendered “sparkling white.” There is perhaps a reference in the word translated “glistering” or “sparkling” to the lightning-flash.
Luke 9:31. Spake of His decease.—Lit. “departure” out of the world—a word which probably includes His resurrection and ascension. The other evangelists say that Moses and Elijah “talked” with Jesus: St. Luke alone tells the subject of their conversation.
Luke 9:32. Heavy with sleep.—This seems to indicate that the vision took place at night: in accordance with this, we read in Luke 9:37 of their descending from the mountain “next day.” And when they were awake.—R.V. “when they were fully awake,” or “having remained awake” (margin). The idea seems to be that they struggled successfully against the inclination to sleep.
Luke 9:33. As they departed from Him.—I.e. Moses and Elijah. A better rendering would be, “as they were parting from Him” (R.V.); or, “as they were being separated from Him.” Good for us.—Good, delightful, pleasant. Tabernacles.—Or, “booths.”
Luke 9:34. A cloud.—Matthew, “a bright cloud”: probably we are to understand the Shekinah—the symbol of God’s presence.
Luke 9:35. My beloved Son.—Another reading is, “My Son, my chosen” (R.V.): this is a very probable reading, as, apart from MS. evidence in favour of it, it is more easy to imagine “beloved” (which occurs in Matthew and Mark) being substituted for “chosen,” than “chosen” for “beloved.”
Luke 9:36. Was past.—R.V. “when the voice came,” with “was past” in the margin. Lit. the phrase is, “when the voice had been,” i.e. had ceased. They kept it close.—According to the command of Jesus (Matthew and Mark).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 9:28-36
“In the Holy Mount.”—All the accounts of the Transfiguration carefully date it with reference to Peter’s great confession and Christ’s subsequent plain announcement of His sufferings. “These sayings” made an epoch in our Lord’s life both as regarded Himself and His followers, marking for Him a new step towards the cross, which was henceforth perceptibly nearer and still more familiar, and for them a new pain, which might easily become apostasy. The Transfiguration seems to have a bearing both on Him and them.
I. The change in our Lord’s appearance.—St. Luke’s special contribution to this part of the narrative is the mention of Christ’s praying. It connects His prayer immediately with the glory shining in His face. Prayer and communion with God will imprint a glory on a homely face yet, which, though it be nowise miraculous, does none the less show where the man has been. If we lived more habitually in the secret place of the Most High, our faces would oftener seem like those of angels, and a pure and quiet heart would make itself seen there. The glory that shone on Christ’s countenance and whitened even His garments did not fall on Him from without, but rose, as it were, to the surface from within. “The veil, that is to say, His flesh,” became partially transparent for a moment, and revealed not only the glory of grace and truth, but the lesser glory, which could be made visible, at least by symbol. It was a gleam of Deity, like a stray sunbeam through a rift in a clouded sky. So could He always have walked among men; and that brief flash increases our sense of the continual voluntary humiliation of His humble manhood, and tells us that “there was the hiding of His power.”
II. His converse with the mighty dead.—They came before the apostles were awake, and that mysterious colloquy had lasted for an indefinite time before human ears caught some fragments of it. St. Luke gives the fullest account of this incident. He alone tells us that our Lord’s companions were “in glory,” robed in like lustre to His, and “walking with Him in white.” He alone tells us the subject of their speech. They did not come as to tell Him that He must die; for His plain declaration to that effect preceded this event. Did they come to learn it from Him, and so to bear back to the dim regions whence they came the glad tidings that the long-waited-for hour was ready to strike? They stand there surely rather as learners than as teachers. The legislator and the great prophet represented all the earlier revelation, and fitly stand at His side to whom it had all pointed. The “departure which He should accomplish at Jerusalem” was the goal of law and prophecy. The loftiest organs of revelation in the past were His heralds and servants, honoured by being allowed to attend on Him. The depths of the worlds of the dead were moved at His coming, and “the people that walked in darkness” saw “a great light.” Jesus, too, needed strengthening, and the presence of these two may have been for Him what the angel from heaven was in Gethsemane. The continued conscious existence of the dead, the purpose of all “the sundry times” and “divers manners” of the past speech of God, the sovereign completeness and supremacy of the message in the Son, the central place of His death in His work—are all set forth in that wondrous interview between these three.
III. The attesting voice from heaven.—Peter’s foolish speech was, according to this Gospel, called out by seeing the two majestic forms in the act of “parting from Him.” The apostle was half-awake, stunned, and bewildered, and would fain have kept them there. There is something very naïve and childlike in the proposal to make the three tabernacles, as if these might be an inducement for the strangers to stay awhile. Inconsiderate as the speech was, it was very full of love to Jesus, and it said something for Peter’s loyalty and reverence for Him, that he put the Lord first, before Moses and Elijah. His preposterous proposal was interrupted by the descent of the cloud. One reading of St. Luke’s words makes all six to have entered into it, whilst another, more probably, leaves the disciples without. The remark about the voice coming “out of the cloud” seems to imply that the hearers were not within its folds. If so, then that visible symbol of the Divine Presence, which had dwelt in the first Temple between the cherubim, and had been absent for long ages, now again appeared. The disciples saw with terror Jesus and Moses and Elijah lost in its folds. They were alone, and might well wonder whether they were ever to see Jesus more. The Divine voice was meant altogether for the disciples, both in its first part, which declares Christ’s dignity, and in its second, which commands their attentive acceptance of His word. In them the whole world is spoken to, and the command is for each of us. The strange light had faded from His face when He came to them, the mysterious two had vanished, the cloud had melted into the blue, the silent, bare hillside was as it had been, and “Jesus was found alone.” So all other teachers, helpers, guides, are lost in His sight, or drop away as the ages roll on, and He only is left. But He is left, and He is enough and eternal. Happy are we if in life we hear Him, and if in our experience Jesus is found alone, the all-sufficient and unchanging companion and portion of our else lonely and restless spirits.—Maclaren.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 9:28-36
Luke 9:28-29. The Transfiguration Prayer.—This great scene left its mark for ever on the three chosen witnesses of it. The evidence of the Transfiguration must of necessity have been more impressive to the three spectators than it can be to the readers of their account of it. Marvellous, miraculous revelation! What mysteries gather round the scene! Jesus had gone up into the mountain to pray. It was as He prayed that He was transfigured. Can we at all interpret this prayer? We cannot. We know not what that prayer specially asked. But we may know some of the Divine intercessions specially needed by us in seasons of which the Transfiguration is for all time the august and solemn type.
I. Seasons every life has of a brighter experience than the common. Seasons of natural or spiritual exhilaration, in seclusion or in company. How natural to wish to prolong these seasons, neglecting every-day duties, heedless of other men’s sorrows! Is it wrong for us to think at such moments of the gracious intercession above, which would ask for us to use as not abusing, even if it be the Christian intercourse or the spiritual happiness? These things must come and go; duty before pleasure, even in the soul.
II. How sorely do we all need the Transfiguration view of Christ—were it but for once—never to fade again out of the memory, the soul’s memory, of the beholder! St. Peter thought of that one night when he was drawing near to his own “exodus,” and said that it assured him of the truth of his preaching, and of the truth of his Gospel, on to the very end. Which of us does not want just that something, if it might be so, to turn faith into sight and hope into knowledge? It would perhaps come to us—or something of its kind—if we watched for it as men watch for the morning—if we had the patience and the earnestness to say to the Divine Visitant, “I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me!” Shall we use the record of the Transfiguration prayer as giving us hope that the heavenly intercession may ask that indeed beatific vision, the spiritual sight of Christ, even for us?
III. Do we not all need that firm hold of the two revelations, the cross and the glory of Jesus Christ, which He enforced so strongly by the teaching and the prayer of this memorable moment? May the prayer of Christ in heaven reconcile us to this twofold condition: a Divine Lord dying to save, a Divine Love humbling itself to suffer—a cross uplifted to draw all men to Him who hangs upon it, a cross to be borne now by all who would enter into the glory!—Vaughan.
An Answer to Prayer.—The Transfiguration was an answer to prayer. We do not say that Jesus was praying for this alteration in. His countenance and raiment, or even for the privilege of talking with these wise and sympathetic spirits about the work which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem. But yet all this was in answer to the prayer He was offering when it came. To lift up the soul to God calms and ennobles it.
Luke 9:28-36. The Meaning of the Transfiguration.
I. The Transfiguration is an illustration of the efficacy of prayer.
II. It demonstrates the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ.
III. It brings into clear view the voluntary character of His submission to sufferings and death.
An Aid to Faith and Patience.—The Transfiguration was an aid to faith and patience, specially vouchsafed to the meek and lowly Son of man in answer to His prayer, to cheer Him on His sorrowful path to Jerusalem and Calvary. It supplied three distinct aids to faith.
I. It gave a foretaste of the glory with which He should be rewarded after His passion for His voluntary humiliation and obedience unto death.
II. It gave assurance that the mystery of the cross was understood and appreciated by saints in heaven, if not by the darkened minds of sinful men on earth.
III. A third and chief solace to the heart of Jesus was the approving voice of His heavenly Father.—Bruce.
Luke 9:28. “Peter and John and James.”—Those now chosen to witness His glory on the mountain of transfiguration afterwards witnessed His agony in the garden of Gethsemane.
Luke 9:29. A Light from Within.—It would appear that the light shone not upon Him from without, but out of Him from within: it was one blaze of dazzling, celestial glory; it was Himself glorified. What a contrast now to that “visage more marred than any man, and His form more than the sons of men”! (Isaiah 52:14).—Brown.
Luke 9:30. “Moses and Elias.”—The two who appeared to them were the representatives of the Law and the Prophets: both had been removed from this world in a mysterious manner—the one without death; the other by death, indeed, but so that His body followed not the lot of the bodies of all; both, like the Greater One with whom they spoke, had endured that supernatural fast of forty days and nights: both had been on the holy mount in the visions of God. And now they came, endowed with glorified bodies before the rest of the dead, to hold converse with the Lord on that sublime event, which had been the great central subject of all their teaching, and solemnly to consign into His hands, once and for all, in a symbolical and glorious representation, their delegated and expiring power.—Alford.
Moses now admitted to the Land of Promise.—Moses had not been permitted when alive to enter the land of promise; but here we see him brought into it to do homage to Christ.
Preparation for Death.—When, in the desert, He was girding Himself for the work of life, angels of life came and ministered unto Him; now, in the fair world, when He is girding Himself for the work of death, the ministrants come to Him from the grave—but from the grave conquered—one from that tomb under Abarim, which His own hand had sealed long ago; the other from the rest into which he had entered without seeing corruption. There stood by Him Moses and Elias, and spake of His decease. And when the prayer is ended, the task accepted, then first since the star paused over Him at Bethlehem, the full glory falls upon Him from heaven, and the testimony is borne to His everlasting Sonship and power—“Hear ye Him.”—Ruskin.
Witnesses to Immortality.—Here we have two thoroughly trustworthy witnesses, in Moses and Elias, that the dead are not dead, and that those who die in faith only pass out of this poor, wretched life into a better.—Luther.
Recognition in Another World.—St. Peter knows and recognises Moses and Elias, whose features he had never before seen. Perhaps we have here an intimation of the fact that saints in glory will know each other.
Luke 9:31. “Spake of His decease.”—
(1) The adoring gratitude of glorified men for His undertaking to accomplish such a decease;
(2) their felt dependence upon it for the glory in which they appeared;
(3) their profound interest in the progress of it;
(4) their humble solaces and encouragements to go through with it; and
(5) their sense of its peerless and overwhelming glory.—Brown.
“Decease.”—The striking word “departure” which St. Luke uses, and which is here translated by “decease,” suggests ascension rather than death. It is doubly significant, as being both an appropriate term in the case of the Son of God, and as alluding to the new exodus in which He delivers all who believe in Him from worse than Egyptian bondage. There is something deeply tragic in the allusion to Jerusalem—“the city that slays the prophets” (chap. Luke 13:33).
Luke 9:33. “Good for us to be here.”—The words contain an admixture of truth and error.
I. Truth: a recognition of that wherein felicity consists—in a vision of the Redeemer’s glory, and in hearts aflame with love and joy.
II. Error: a certain tinge of carnal self-love, and great ignorance of that which is needed to fit us for everlasting happiness. The vision is a means, and not an end; it is given to prepare for tribulations, and to sustain the disciples under them—to strengthen them for self-denying service.
“Three tabernacles.”—His desire was foolish, because—
I. He did not comprehend the design of the vision.
II. He absurdly put the servants on a level with their Lord.
III. He proposed to build fading tabernacles for men who had been already admitted to the glory of heaven and of the angels.—Calvin.
Luke 9:33; Luke 9:40; Luke 9:45. Three Incapacities.—
1. Speech without knowledge.
2. Action without power.
3. Hearing without understanding.
Luke 9:34. Fearing as they entered the Cloud.—Men are impatient of clouds, and are slow to learn their uses, until they get a period of unbroken sunshine. Men do not see much in the clouds; they are generally unwelcome visitors. They are not ready to learn that clouds are often the bearers of blessings, and harbingers of good.
I. They are slower still to learn the revealing power of clouds. Job said, “Men do not see the bright light that is in the clouds.” “In the clouds”; not fringing the clouds, but in them. We look for light by the dispersion of clouds; God’s greatest sons have looked for it in the heart of clouds. When God gave the law, He did it amid clouds and thunderings. At the heart of the densest cloud was God Himself, and it was from the midst of that cloud that Moses came with his face reflecting a glory greater than the glory of the sun. These three apostles on the mount were not afraid of the glory of the Transfiguration and the brightness of that light that touched the summit upon which they stood: they were only afraid of the darkening cloud into which they were called to enter. They had no idea that there was a burden of glory, but had a very keen conception of the burden of darkness. Paul exclaimed, “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
II. In such circumstances as this the cloud very often reveals more than the glory. I know it is hard to believe it. You will remember that in Eden it was in the cool of the evening that our first parents heard the voice of God—just when the shadows were lengthening, and the brightness of the day was departing, and the darkening hour was drawing near, so full of solemnity, because so full of subdued light suggestive of mystery. And we may follow that a little further, and sometimes find that when the darkness is thickest round us, and we can see nothing, God often reveals Himself to us as He does not when our vision is distracted by the beauties of creation around us. We have seen Jacob ascending the hill as the night gathered and the darkness descended, and laying his head upon a stony pillow to sleep, and when asleep having a grander vision than he ever could in his waking hours. We see too much sometimes to see at all. The world with its thousands of objects, while all given to us that we may see them, very often fail to give us the truest sights; and the night must come and the darkness gather round us, so that, closed in with God, we may have some revelation we had not in the glaring and blinding day.
III. They, however, feared simply because they did not know the capacity of the cloud to teach them the lesson they needed to learn. It was in the cloud that they learnt to give undivided attention to what Christ had to tell them; and His first command was to keep the memory of that revelation to themselves, and meanwhile to come down, in the inspiration of it, to the foot of the hill, and there heal one of the world’s sufferers. The people at the foot of the hill should be better for the Transfiguration at its summit.—Davies.
Luke 9:35. “My beloved Son: hear Him.”—Two titles bestowed on Christ.
I. Beloved Son—as distinguished from servants like Moses and Elijah.
II. The supreme and only Teacher of His Church.
Luke 9:36. “Jesus was found alone.”—Moses and Elias vanish. Christ is left alone. The law and the prophets were for a time, but the gospel remains for ever to the end.
Luke 9:37. Much people.—Better, “a great multitude” (R.V.).
Luke 9:38. A man of the company cried out.—Rather, “a man [came] from the multitude [and] cried” (R.V.). Master.—I.e. teacher. Mine only child.—Peculiar to St. Luke: he notes the same fact in the case of the widow’s son at Nain, and the daughter of Jairus.
Luke 9:39. He suddenly crieth out.—The passage might be rendered, “it suddenly crieth out,” i.e. the evil spirit; but the A.V. is the more natural of the two. The symptoms described are those of epilepsy.
Luke 9:42. And tare him.—Rather, “tare him grievously” (R.V.); or, “convulsed him” (margin of R.V.). Delivered him again to his father.—There is a peculiar note of tenderness in St. Luke’s narratives of Christ’s miracles. Cf. chap. Luke 7:15.
Luke 9:43. Mighty power.—Rather, “majesty” (R.V.). But while they, etc.—“St. Luke places in marked contrast the wonder and admiration excited by the works of Christ and the announcement of His approaching death. The words of Christ were calculated to check the disciples’ hope of an earthly kingdom” (Speaker’s Commentary).
Luke 9:45. Hid from them, that they perceived it not.—Rather, “that they should not perceive it” (R.V.). The writer clearly refers to a Divine purpose that they should not at present be aware of the full meaning of these words.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 9:37-45
The Power of Faith.—The narrative of this miracle which St. Luke gives is much briefer than those in the two first Gospels, and omits a number of details which give special interest to this manifestation of Christ’s power and love. The side-lights of the story are full of instruction: e.g.—
I. The vicarious power of faith.—The success of this poor father for his child is typical of a whole class of our Lord’s acts of mercy. One-half of the detailed healings in the Gospel history were wrought at the prayer of friends. A considerable proportion were cures of those who could in nowise appeal to Jesus on their own behalf, and who, therefore, so far as receptive faith was concerned, were represented by their intercessors. Among the countless undetailed healings the proportion of such cures must have been great. Indeed, this was evidently a principle of the Lord’s healing ministry. What a gospel, this, the Author of which plainly says by His deeds, “Not only come, but bring! Come for yourselves and find rest. Bring also the halt, the blind, the weak, the little ones, that they too may get the blessing, and My house may be filled.” How far-reaching this principle is will appear when we consider the gracious teachings of Christianity as to infant salvation, its still wider teaching as to the place of representative faith for those who can own and confess nothing for themselves; also the marvellous spiritual results of patient, persevering, intercessory prayer. Nor should the reflex action of the principle be forgotten. The father stands beside the Christ of history, a monument of faith, timid yet true, because his love for his boy set him there. His “Have mercy on us and help us” like the heathen mother’s “Have mercy on me,” was highly honoured by Jesus. The parental love that identified itself with the suffering child was used by Him as a step to the faith which united child and parent both to the Healer. Thus will true spiritual affection for those committed to our care draw ourselves and them into closest bonds with Christ.
II. The situation of the unsuccessful nine.—Their failure had been conspicuous, and rankled in their minds. The cause of it was unbelief, want of faith, or rather of the watchfulness in prayer which keeps faith ready for action. Does not the situation recur? Are there not social evils preying on the body politic, “open sores,” even of the modern world, with which Christianity—at least the Christianity of the Churches—seems unable to cope? Are there not times when their failure threatens to shame the cause of Christ, if not Christ Himself? But the Church is not Christ. His working is not to be measured by that of any human representatives, official or unofficial. We must not repeat the mistake of the multitude that day, and, because the disciples have failed, think that Jesus will fail. There are evils not to be met successfully without exceptional devotion and self-sacrifice in His followers. There are kinds of demonism—how many of them are still with us!—in face of which ordinary easy-going Christianity breaks down. To cast them out heroism is needed; and surely Christ and His cause have never wanted for heroes and heroic devotion when the need came.—Laidlaw.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 9:37-45
Luke 9:37. A Great Contrast.—Very remarkable is the contrast between the scene on the Mount of Transfiguration and that which met the eyes of Christ at its foot: on the one hand the open heaven and the presence of glorified spirits, and on the other a vale of tears, with the worst forms of misery, pain, and unbelief. In his well-known picture of the Transfiguration Raffaelle has depicted this contrast in the most striking manner.
Luke 9:41. “Faithless and perverse generation.”—The censure must have been felt
(1) by those who had hastily argued from the impotence of the disciples to that of their Master;
(2) by the father of the child, whose faith was so weak;
(3) by the disciples who had attempted in vain to exorcise the evil spirit.
“How long shall I be with you?”—What a contrast for Jesus between the hours of holy peace which He had just passed in communion with heaven, and the sight of the agony of this father and of the agitated crowd!—Godet.
“How long.”—He was hastening to His Father, yet could not go till He had led His disciples to faith. Their slowness troubled Him.—Bengel.
Luke 9:42. “The devil threw him down.”—That the devil should rage with more than ordinary cruelty against the child, when he is brought to Christ, ought not to excite surprise; for in proportion as the grace of Christ is seen to be nearer at hand, and acts more powerfully, the fury of Satan is the more highly excited.—Calvin.
Luke 9:44. “Let these sayings sink down into your ears.”—The disciples are to bear in mind these admiring speeches on account of the contrast which His own fate would now appear with the same. They are, therefore, to build no hopes upon them, but only to recognise in them the mobile vulgus.—Meyer.
“Delivered into the hands of men.”—If men offer thee a wreath of honour, be careful to intertwine with it a bunch of myrrh, and thus remind thyself, as thy Saviour did, that men are changeable, and their praise fickle and destitute of power to give strength or comfort in death.—Besser.
Luke 9:45. “They feared to ask Him.”—Why did they fear to ask Him? Because they had an idea what the answer would be, and did not wish to understand what was exceedingly disagreeable to them. In this we can see how the will governs the understanding. Our Lord has still, alas! too many of such disciples who know not because they will not.
Luke 9:46. A reasoning.—Rather, “a dispute.”
Luke 9:47. Perceiving the thought of their heart.—The word “thought “is the same as that in Luke 9:46, translated “reasoning.” We are naturally led to understand that the disputation was not carried on or fully spoken out in the presence of Jesus. A child—Rather,” a little child” (R.V.).
Luke 9:48.—Meyer explains the idea of the passage as follows: This child, the child whom Jesus sets before His followers, stands as a type of the humble and childlike disciple; and (the dispute having been about the comparative greatness of the disciples) such a disciple is the greatest: he is so honoured by God that he stands on earth as the representative of Christ, and of God Himself, since “he that is [willingly] least among you all, the same shall be [truly] great.”
Luke 9:49. In Thy name.—The words “in My name” (Luke 9:48) evidently suggested to John what he and others of the disciples had seen being done in the name of Christ. He was shocked at seeing one who was not of their company doing work which was not always possible for them to do (Luke 9:40).
Luke 9:50. Against us is for us.—A better reading is, “against you is for you” (R.V.). The meaning of the two is, however, virtually the same: “us” includes both Christ and His people. Another, and at first sight a contradictory maxim is found in Matthew 12:30 : “He who is not with Me is against Me.” The whole section (Luke 9:51 to Luke 18:28) is the record of our Lord’s last journey from Galilee to Jerusalem; and most of the incidents related in it are peculiar to St. Luke. It was evidently not a direct journey, but a “slow, solemn, and public progress,” covering a period of some months. In John 10:22 we find our Lord in Jerusalem at the feast of the Dedication (about the end of December). After that feast He retired to Bethany beyond Jordan: from this retreat He came to Bethany near Jerusalem to raise Lazarus from the dead: then He again retired to Ephraim, and six days before the Passover He returned to Jerusalem for the last time.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 9:46-50
Humility commended; Jealousy reproved.—In very different frames of mind did Jesus and the twelve apostles return from the Mount of Transfiguration to Capernaum. His thoughts were fixed upon the cross, theirs upon places of honour in the kingdom which they believed He was about to establish on earth. This difference came out in their respective utterances. Jesus spoke for the second time about His coming sufferings, while the disciples disputed among themselves which of them should be the greatest. This dispute is a humiliating revelation of the mood in which the disciples of Jesus were, and showed how far they were from obeying the command so lately heard by three of them on the holy mount—“Hear ye Him.” The cross of which He spoke they thought not of; or, rather, they banished it from their thoughts, and fixed their attention upon the honours and rewards which could scarcely fail to be theirs when their Master had set up His kingdom. It was therefore most needful for Jesus to banish this spirit of selfish ambition from the minds of His disciples, if they were to co-operate with Him as ministers of the kingdom of God.
I. The lesson of humility.—He chose a little child, and presented him to the disciples as a type of the feeble, the ignorant, and the poor, whom they were in danger of slighting and driving away by assuming airs of superiority, and also as a type of the humble in spirit. It is of the very nature of ambition to render him who cherishes it harsh and contemptuous towards others, especially towards those who are too weak and insignificant to be rivals. And hence, in order to be kind and gracious and loving in their relations with those to whom they ministered, the disciples needed to cast out from their minds the selfish schemes they were forming to secure their own advancement and high places in the kingdom. It is significant that Christ does not put an end to all strife by saying that there would not be difference of rank in that kingdom—that in it all would be equal. On the contrary, He distinctly says that there are grades of distinction there as well as in the kingdoms of the world; and He enunciates the principle according to which promotion would be given. “He that is least among you all, the same shall be great.” This child in its unpretentiousness, and simple trust and love, represents the type of character He would have them to imitate; and he who came nearest to it would become worthy of high rank in the kingdom of heaven.
II. Jealousy reproved.—The consciences of the disciples seem to have been touched by the reproof of Christ. It recalled to the memory of some of them the attitude they had recently taken up in dealing with one who was a believer in Christ, but who, for some reason or other, had kept aloof from their company. So far from “receiving” him and approving the good work he was doing in Christ’s name, they had forbidden him to proceed further in it. They tell what they had done, apparently with an uneasy feeling that their action would not meet with their Master’s approval. Perhaps the man whom they had interdicted was after all “a little one” whom they should have taken to their hearts, and not an enemy to be silenced. The same self-seeking spirit that had led them to dispute among themselves as to who should be greatest, had led them to resent any apparent encroachment upon their prerogatives as accredited ministers of Christ. The lesser fact that the exorcist followed not them over-shadowed the greater fact that he was a follower of their Lord. The reply of Christ, in which He claims as allies those who in faith in Him do good work, and in which He passes no censure upon those who are unattached to the visible Church, contains a lesson which His followers in all ages have been very slow to learn. Had it been learned, there would not have been the many exhibitions of bigotry and uncharitableness which have marred the history of the Church and diminished its power for doing good in the world. All would have been approved, encouraged, and helped who in the name of Christ strove against evil, and proved the genuineness of their attachment to Him by the success of their work. As it is, it is a defect of every organised form of Christianity that those connected with it look on all who are outside it with a certain measure of suspicion and jealousy and ill-will.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 9:46-62
Luke 9:46-62. Lessons to the Twelve.
I. Humility (Luke 9:46-48).
II. Tolerance (Luke 9:49-50).
III. Mercy (Luke 9:51-56).
IV. Self-sacrifice (Luke 9:57-62).—W. Taylor.
The Disposition which Christ Approves.—The aim of this whole section is to show the mind which our Lord desires to see in His disciples.
I. Childlike humility.
II. Gentle love.
III. Resolute self-devotion.
Luke 9:46-56. How Christ rebuked Pride.
I. Pride is a common sin.
II. It takes various forms.—
1. Pride of place (Luke 9:46-48).
2. Pride of party (Luke 9:49-50).
3. Offended pride (Luke 9:51-56).—W. Taylor.
Three Faults rebuked.—Three wrong dispositions rebuked:
(1) ambition to be greatest;
(2) intolerance, in forbidding even exorcism;
(3) vindictiveness, in proposing to avenge an insult by calling down fire from heaven.
Luke 9:46-50. Exclusiveness and Bigotry.—The same spirit of pride that led the apostles to vie with each other as to who should be greatest prompted them to manifest exclusiveness and bigotry in forbidding exorcism in the name of Christ because the exorcist did not belong to their circle.
Luke 9:46. “Which should be the greatest.”—The disciples were guilty of a double fault:
1. They were inclined to dispute about the rewards of victory before they had accomplished their warfare.
2. They were animated by selfish ambition and jealousy.
The Crown and the Cross.—The Saviour’s repeated predictions of His sufferings had not sunk into the minds of His disciples: they were thinking of the crown, while their Master’s eye was fixed upon the cross.
Luke 9:47. “Set him by Him.”—They knew that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is he who is nearest to Christ; but they asked which of them had the best claim to the place. Probably the rest of the apostles envied those who had been with Christ upon the mount, and this was the origin of their strife.
Luke 9:48. “This child.”—The central point of comparison is the child’s humility. This humility
(1) frees the child’s understanding from vain imaginations,
(2) the child’s heart from rivalry, and
(3) the child’s will from stubbornness.—Van Oosterzee.
Luke 9:49. “We forbad him.”—Cf. the jealousy of Joshua against Eldad and Medad, and the noble answer of Moses (Numbers 11:27-29).
Luke 9:50. “Forbid him not.”—
1. A reproof for the past.
2. A direction for the future.
“He that is not,” etc.—When, in applied morals, we sit in judgment on ourselves, we should in ordinary circumstances apply the law stringently, “He who is not with Christ is against Him.” But when we are sitting in judgment on others, into whose hearts we cannot look directly, we should in ordinary circumstances apply the law generously, “He who is not against Christ is with Him.”—Morison.
Two Complementary Sayings.—In Matthew 12:30 we have a saying which is at first contradictory to this: “He who is not with Me is against Me.” Yet both are true. In the contest between good and evil neutrality is as bad as enmity, so that those not for Christ are against Him; yet we can recognise all as on our side who are striving against evil, even if they are not using our methods or formally taking their place beside us. While the apostles were taught this lesson in toleration, the man receives only negative praise. There are always earnest Christian labourers who decline to be orderly in their methods. Their irregularity calls for toleration, not approval.
Inward Unity and Outward Conformity.—The saying in Matthew refers more to inward unity with Christ: this one to outward conformity with His people. The former may exist independently of the latter, and its existence unites real Christians, whatever their name and outward differences.
Lessons taught by the incident.
I. Beware of hasty conclusions concerning men’s spiritual state based on merely external indications.
II. “Forbid him not” reminds us of the sorrowful fact that too often in the history of the Church it has been the spirit of the twelve rather than that of their Master which has predominated.
III. Outward union among Christians may be impracticable, yet the duty remains of recognising from the heart all who truly love Christ, whatever Church they may be in; they should be dearer to us than those in our own Church who may be in spirit and life not with Christ, but against Him.
A Lesson of Mercy.—This text teaches us a lesson of mercy. It guides our estimate of others. It says: “Do not make a man an offender for a word; do not let your sympathies be narrowed to the circle of those who express the same convictions in the same phrases, or seek the same end by the same precise means, as yourself. Be prepared to believe and act upon the belief that God is not limited to one field of action or to one kind of character, but can aid and bless the work, and will eventually accept the person of all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and who avail themselves of His help in combating evil within and around them.”—Vaughan.
Luke 9:51. When the time was come.—Rather, “when the days were well-nigh come” (R.V.). That He should be received up.—The word translated “received up” means His assumption or ascension into heaven. He stedfastly set His face.—A Hebraism, with reference probably to Isaiah 50:7. Sent messengers.—The action, which contrasts with His former avoidance of publicity, is to be explained by His now formally avowing Himself to be the Christ.
Luke 9:52. Village of the Samaritans.—Samaria lay in the direct route from Galilee to Jerusalem.
Luke 9:53. Did not receive Him, etc.—The question as to the comparative claims of the Samaritan temple at Gerizim and the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem was distinctly involved: Christ’s preference of the latter led to the Samaritans’ rejection of Him.
Luke 9:54. James and John.—Whom He had surnamed “Sons of Thunder” (Boanerges, Mark 3:17):this ebullition of fiery zeal highly characteristic of them. Even as Elias did.—See 2 Kings 1:10-12. This phrase is omitted from R.V., as it is not found in some of the earliest MSS. It may be a gloss, but if so it is of great antiquity, as the words are found in nearly all other MSS., versions, and writings of the Fathers. They may have been omitted accidentally, or on dogmatic grounds—to avoid apparent disparagement of the Old Testament. The recent vision on the mountain (Luke 9:30), when Christ received honour from Moses and Elijah and from God, may have suggested the proposal to chastise the inhospitable Samaritans.
Luke 9:55. He turned.—Christ was evidently walking at the head of the company of disciples when the messengers returned with the tidings that the Samaritans refused to receive Him. And said, Ye know not … save them (Luke 9:56).—These two sentences also are omitted in the R.V., on the ground that the most important MSS. do not contain them. They do not, however, read like interpolations: they breathe too Divine a tone of thought, and are too characteristic of the Saviour, to have originated in any such way. So far as MS. evidence goes there is less authority for the doubtful sentence in Luke 9:56, “For the Son of man,” etc., than for the other in Luke 9:55. Ye know not.—I.e. “Ye think ye are animated by the Spirit that moved Elijah, but ye are mistaken: it is personal irritation, and not zeal for God, that underlies your suggestion.” Some prefer to take the sentence as a question, “Know ye not,” etc., i.e. that the Spirit of Christ is different from that of Elijah? It is doubtful, however, whether this rendering is grammatically possible.
Luke 9:56. Another village.—Probably a Galilæan and not a Samaritan village—as, if it had been the latter, we should have expected some remark upon the more noble character of its inhabitants. It would appear that when this incident occurred Christ and disciples were on the border between Galilee and Samaria.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 9:51-56
The Spirit of the Old Testament and of the New.—We have here one of the memorable incidents of our Lord’s last journey to Jerusalem. Very solemnly and very sweetly does the Evangelist introduce the reference to His passion—“when the time was come that He should be received up.” It mitigates the bitterness of His Lord’s sufferings and death, looking on as it thus does to the issue and the end, to the taking up of Christ into heaven, to His reception in His heavenly home and into His Father’s glory.
I. The insult.—“He sent messengers before His face” as harbingers, to use that word in its most proper sense. “And they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him. And they did not receive Him, because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem.” This refusal of theirs was no piece of ordinary inhospitality such as the Samaritans were wont to show to Galilæan pilgrims on their way to the feasts at Jerusalem. It was not merely as such a pilgrim that they shut their doors against Him; for this we must remember was Christ’s solemn progress from Galilee to Judæa as Messiah, with these messengers everywhere announcing Him as such. But, as the Samaritans esteemed it, a Messiah going to Jerusalem to observe the feasts there did by His very act proclaim that He was no Messiah; for on Gerizim, as they believed, the old patriarchs had worshipped, consecrating it to be the holy mountain of God—which, therefore, and not Jerusalem, the Christ, when He came, would recognise and honour as the central point of all true religion.
II. The anger of the apostles.—The sons of Zebedee were probably with the Lord when the tidings were brought back of the village which, refusing to receive Him, had missed the opportunity of entertaining, not angels, but the Lord of angels, unawares. Upon this provocation all their suppressed and smouldering indignation against the schismatics, through whose territory they were journeying, breaks forth. At this instance of contempt shown to their Lord and to themselves (for no doubt a feeling of personal slight mingled with their indignation, however little they may have been aware of it themselves), the “sons of thunder” would fain play Old Testament parts. They feel that a greater than Elias is here; for they are fresh from the Mount of Transfiguration, where they had seen how the glory of Moses and Elias paled before the brighter glory of Him whom they served. An outrage against Him, and a rejecting of Him, should therefore not be less terribly avenged. With all of carnal and sinful which mingled with this proposal of theirs, yet what insight into the dignity of their Lord, and the greatness of the outrage directed against Him, does it reveal—what faith in the mighty powers with which He was able to equip His servants! And yet it might almost seem as though, with all this confidence of theirs, there was a latent and lurking sense upon their part of a certain unfitness in this their proposal; and thus out of no desire to intrude into their Lord’s office, but only out of a feeling that this avenging act might not exactly become Him, they proffer themselves as the executors of the judgment. It will become the servants, though it might not perfectly become the Lord.
III. The disciples rebuked.—“He turned, and rebuked them: Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” “You are missing,” Christ would say, “your true position, which is, having been born of the spirit of forgiving love, to be ruled by that spirit, and not by the spirit of avenging righteousness. You are losing sight of the distinction between the old covenant and the new, missing the greater glory of the latter, and that it is the higher blessedness to belong to it.” It behoves us to see clearly that there is no slight cast here on the spirit of Elias. Both spirits, that which breathed through and informed the prophets and saints of the old covenant, as well as that which should inform the disciples of the new, are Divine. The difference between them is not of opposition, but only of time and degree. The spirit of the old testament was a spirit of avenging righteousness; God was teaching men His holiness by terrible things in righteousness. But the spirit of the new covenant, not contrary, but brighter, is that of forgiving love; in it He is overcoming man’s evil with His good. Each economy has one predominating tone from which it takes its character. The two apostles were for the moment failing to recognise this. In a confusion of old and new, and not knowing of “what manner of spirit” they were, they had fallen back on the rudiments of God’s education of His people, when it was their privilege to go on unto perfection, and to teach the world the far greater might of meekness and of love. In their missing of all this there was a fault and matter of blame, yet blame by no means so severe as some are disposed to find. They were rebuked for choosing that which, perfectly good in its own time, was only not good now because a better had come in, for returning to the lower level of the old covenant when Christ had lifted them up, if only they had understood this, to the higher level of the new.—Trench.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 9:51-56
Luke 9:51-56. The courage and meekness of Christ.
I. The Divine courage and firmness of Christ in despising death.
II. The deadly enmities produced by differences about religion.
III. With what headlong ardour the nature of man is hurried on to impatience!
IV. How ready we are to fall into mistakes in imitating the saints!
V. By the example of Christ we are called to the exercise of meekness.—Calvin.
Luke 9:51. “Received up.”—Our Lord’s agony, cross, and passion were at hand; but He looked through them all to His glorious ascension.
Luke 9:52. “To make ready for Him.”—An indication of the dignity which was mingled with the humility of the Saviour. He required some preparation to be made for His coming, attended as He was by disciples, and did not choose to subject Himself to the inconveniences of haphazard arrangements made after His arrival, when a little foresight and management might prevent confusion and discomfort.
Luke 9:53. “Did not receive Him.”—Note the disastrous effects of religious prejudice.
I. It leads to a rejection of the Saviour.
II. It prompts a rudeness and discourtesy of which worldly people would be ashamed to be guilty.
III. It robs those who are blinded by it of those rich blessings which would result from communion with the Saviour and with His true disciples.
Luke 9:54. “James and John.”—Christ had surnamed them Boanerges, or “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17), and their present proposal strikingly harmonises with some aspects of the character that gained for them the name. We should do them wrong if we imagined that their proposal was a mere outburst of personal annoyance. It sprang from sincere jealousy for the honour of their Lord, though with it there may have mingled party passion—some remains of old-standing dislike of Jews to Samaritans.
Luke 9:55. “Ye know not.”—James showed, when he suffered in patience death by the sword, that he had learned the meek spirit of Christ.
“What manner of spirit.”—
1. They thought they were actuated simply by zeal for Christ, but pride and anger vitiated their zeal.
2. The spirit they manifested was not such as became the apostles of the gospel, who were sent to proclaim mercy even to the chief of sinners.
Elias’ Spirit.—Elias’ spirit, I hope, was no evil spirit. No; but every good spirit, as good as Elias’, is not for every person, place, or time. Spirits are given by God, and men inspired with them, after several manners, upon several occasions, as the several times require. The times sometimes require one spirit, sometimes another. Elias’ time, Elias’ spirit. As his act good, done by his spirit, so his spirit good in his own time. The time changed; the spirit, then good, now not good. But why is it out of time? For the Son of man is come. As if He should say, Indeed, there is a time to destroy (Ecclesiastes 3:3); that was under the law, the fiery law, as Moses calls it; then a fiery spirit would not be amiss. The spirit of Elias was good till the Son of man came; but now He is come, the date of that spirit is expired. When the Son of man is come, the spirit of Elias must be gone; now specially, for Moses and he resigned lately in the mount. Now no lawgiver, no prophet, but Christ.—Andrewes.
Luke 9:56. Give People Time.—“They went to another village.”
I. Christ’s action here illustrates the importance of giving people time to accept His claims.—This need not involve any surrender of the truth. No good is done by speaking as if the truth were less certain, less supremely important, than in our hearts we believe it to be. But who are we, that we should dare to foreclose the time of others’ growth? The impenetrable reserves of truth, its distances of unapproachable light, make us incapable of judging how God may lead men on to it. Who can tell how he may help others by his own reverent and hopeful patience!
II. This example of Christ ought to help us in the ordinary affairs of life.—How much unsuspected beauty might be disclosed around us if we gave people time! Remember that they who would foreclose the case for others would themselves be without light and hope if God had not borne with them. They are depending moment by moment on His long-suffering. And think how much forbearance we have received from others! So much, that we have been often unconscious that we needed any. If we considered these things, we would gladly give others time to amend.—Paget.
Salvation.—The love of God can pursue and convict the most lost and erring. It goes after lost sheep. But how? By our accepting the yoke of Christ we come in touch with this store of vitality. The prime aim of the new creation is to take the will of God as the motive of life. “Thy will be done” is the acceptable prayer for salvation. Salvation from what? From the crushing or subtle power of temptation—from all that harms us. Do not associate salvation merely with deliverance from a future hell: salvation is deliverance from evil habit, from disappointment, from worry. This incoming saving power of God is for daily use.—Jones.
Luke 9:57. In the way.—Perhaps to the other village. It may be, however, that this is an indefinite form of expression, owing to the fact that St. Luke here departs from chronological order. St. Matthew distinctly states that these incidents occurred at an earlier time (Luke 8:19-22). It is unlikely that the same requests or proposals should have been made to Christ, and should have been answered by Him in the same way, on two separate occasions. I will follow Thee, etc.—His self-confidence is akin to that of St. Peter (John 13:37).
Luke 9:58. Nests.—Rather, “shelters”: birds do not take refuge in their nests.
Luke 9:60. Let the dead, etc.—Any one, even one spiritually dead, could attend to this subordinate duty of burying the dead: a higher duty, which he could not delegate to another, was incumbent upon this disciple. Some have interpreted the man’s request as his asking for permission to remain at home until the death of his father; but this is improbable. Had his father been lying dead at that moment, the disciple would scarcely have been among the crowd. Farrar suggests that his desire was to go and give a farewell funeral feast and put everything in order. Some detail which would have made the matter clear has perhaps been omitted. It may be that the father was hopelessly ill, so that the delay in all probability would not have been for long.
Luke 9:61. Bid them farewell.—Cf. with this the circumstances of Elisha’s call (1 Kings 19:20). What was granted in one case, it might not have been safe to grant in another. This is a more reasonable explanation than to hold that Christ demands a more complete self-devotion than Elijah had any right to command. This third case is peculiar to St. Luke.
Luke 9:62. The plough.—The kind of plough used in the East was easily overturned: a labourer who looked back regretfully, with his heart fixed on other things than his work, would be of little profit to his master.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Luke 9:57-62
The Three Aspirants.—The manifold wisdom of Christ, which displayed itself in His drawing and attaching of souls to Himself by ways the most different, must often fill us with devout admiration. It can never fill us more with this than when there are brought before us in quick succession moral and spiritual conditions, with much apparent similarity, which yet are most diversely treated by Him. Such we have here. There are three who, either in their own intention or in the Lord’s, are candidates for admission into the inner circle of disciples—into the circle, that is, of those who should not merely themselves receive the truth, but, as Christ’s witnesses, should be actively employed in imparting the knowledge of that truth to others.
I. The offer repelled.—First there offers himself a scribe (Matthew), and his words sound fairly: “Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.” They a little remind one of the great-hearted words of Ittai to David: “Surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be” (2 Samuel 15:21). Nor is there any reason to suppose that this aspirant to discipleship and to all which discipleship might involve meant at the time otherwise than he spoke. Yet there is not in him that true devotedness to Christ which shall lead him so to follow that Lord in this world that in the world to come he shall be free to follow Him whithersoever He goeth (Revelation 14:4). These words have more in them of Peter’s confident asseveration, “Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death” (chap. Luke 22:33). At all events, they inspire Him, who knowing all things knew what was in man, with no greater confidence than those other words of Peter hereafter should do; for, not welcoming this volunteer, but rather repelling, He answers, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.” In other words: “Lookest thou for worldly commodities through the following of Me? In this thou must needs be disappointed. These cannot be My followers’ portion, since they are not Mine. The Son of man is homeless and houseless upon earth.” Nor does this answer of Christ come out to us in all its depth of meaning till we realise that hour when upon His cross He bowed His head, not having where to lay it, and having bowed it thus gave up the ghost. Whether this scribe withdrew and went away, we are not informed. That he did withdraw is certainly the impression left upon our minds. But whatever was the issue, this reply of Christ was not meant merely and only to repel. It was intended rather to throw back this candidate for the honours of discipleship on deeper heart-searchings, that, having made these, he might either fall off altogether, or else that he might attach himself to the Lord in quite another spirit from that in which he made his present offer of service.
II. A summons to heroism.—The Lord, who has checked one, incites another; for He knew there was more truth in the backwardness of him to whom He addresses Himself now than in the forwardness of that other who had just addressed Him. He has for him that significant “Follow Me” which He had for a Philip, a Matthew, an Andrew, a Peter. It is in answer to such a summons that this one replies, “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.” This may mean, “My father now lies dead; suffer me, before I attach myself to Thee, to render the last offices of pity to him.” And Christ’s answer we may interpret as implying, “The spiritually dead, those who are not quickened as thou hast been with the spirit of a new life, are yet sufficient for the fulfilling of this office which would now call thee away from Me—namely, the burying of the naturally dead; they can perform it as well as thou, and, under present circumstances, thou must be contented to leave it to them.” When duties come into collision, sacred duties such as that which this man pleaded must give way to those more sacred yet. Christ had said to this man, “Follow Me”; so that now that saying held good, “Whoso loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” And then Christ justifies His withdrawal of this man from attendance on the dead. He had a fitness for work which, if not directly with the living, was yet with those who were capable of being made alive: “Go thou, and preach the kingdom of God.” As though He had said: “Another task is thine—namely, to spread far and wide the glad tidings of life, which as many as hear shall live. One of My royal priesthood, a Nazarite of Mine, having fellowship with Me who am the Life, thy occupation is henceforth with the living, and not with the dead.”
III. Half-heartedness blamed.—A third offers himself for discipleship; yet this with conditions, and craving time for farewells which he would fain interpose. He, too, must learn that there is no dallying with a heavenly vocation; that when this has reached a man, no room is left him for conferring with flesh and blood; to him, too, as to the king’s daughter of old, the word of that precept has come, “Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house” (Psalms 45:10); while, as it may only too easily prove, his worst foes, those who will most effectually keep him back from God, may be those of his own household (Matthew 10:36-37). The Lord, therefore, will give no allowance to his request, shuts out at once all dangerous delays and interludes between the offer of service and the actual undertaking of it. He who holds the plough must not look behind him; if he does, he spoils the furrow, and mars the work which he has undertaken. The discipleship of Christ is such a putting of the hand to the plough, for the breaking up of the hard soil of our own hearts, for the breaking up of the hard soil of the hearts of others. The image sets forth the laboriousness of the work better than the more usual image of sowing; and, so to speak, carries us a step farther back in the spiritual husbandry. But he who, having put his hand to the plough, and thus begun well, shall afterwards, Christ does not say turn back, but even so much as look back, in token that his heart is otherwhere than in the task before him, he may still have his hand on the plough, but having fallen away in heart and affection from his work, he traces no straight furrows, he breaks not up aright any fallow ground; he “is not fit,” or rather, is of no service and profit, “for the kingdom of God.” Indeed, unless kept to his work as an hireling, it is likely that he will presently leave his plough in the half-drawn furrow, and be found to have exchanged toil and exposure abroad for the comforts and ease of his own hearth.—Trench.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON Luke 9:57-62
Luke 9:57-62. Would-be Disciples.—A slight examination of the three cases suffices to show that they practically break into two classes marked by the broad distinction that Christ warns and repels the one, but calls and insists upon the services of the other. One man is discouraged by Christ; two are pressed to enter on the instant into Christ’s service. And this, even though the first seems the most ready, and the other two show a desire to shirk the call. This varying treatment must turn upon some underlying contrast in their spiritual condition; for Jesus has not two sets of terms, He is no respecter of persons who picks and chooses arbitrarily, and so His methods of treatment, though opposed, are quite consistent.
I. See how He deals with uncalculating readiness.—It was a striking thing for a scribe publicly to offer to become Christ’s scholar. But he only took Jesus for another, a wiser scribe than himself—a very shallow qualification for Christian discipleship. His dilettante admiration and transient enthusiasm were unfit to stand the test of practical service. He knew nothing of the life of exposure and privation which this great Scribe led. The Son of man was often homeless and shelterless. His disciples were drawn to Him and kept by Him with a hold which made them indifferent to privation. It was a heart-hold. He had won them for ever to Himself. And to be a Christian now means separation for Christ’s sake from the spirit of the world, and makes a man more or less of an alien and a pilgrim here. It calls him to deny himself and to toil for the salvation of others. Your easy-going scribe will not do that.
II. See how He deals with reluctance.—Under this term the second and third cases are to be reckoned. The first of the two is no volunteer; but he has received the call. Concealed discipleship is no longer to be maintained. Open confession, public service, consecration of himself to the work of Christ—this is what the Lord claimed from His hesitating but genuine disciple. Such a moment comes to every true disciple. It comes as a summons to decision for and open confession of Christ. It comes as a call for testimony and service, where irksome, unpleasant toil is needed. The feeling of duty is Christ’s call, and it leaves you ill at ease until it is obeyed.
III. The great lesson taught by both instances is that such clear, imperative call from Christ sounding in the heart and conscience takes precedence of everything else.—Neither of the two of whom Luke tells us wanted to go. When called, they made excuses for not complying. They did so on the ground of something which seemed to have a prior claim. One urged a domestic duty, the other domestic affection. The first had a dead father to bury, the second had a family circle who as yet knew nothing about his new call to higher work. Yet family life, as Jesus views it, is for the present only, and not for eternity. The interests and claims of the living, spiritual world must take precedence of the dead one. In this man’s case the two duties were made to conflict that there might be a lesson to you and me for all time. Summoned to the holiest of all duties, the disciple is absolved from the holiest of earthly duties. As for the second man, it is evident that the lower affections of the natural heart were straining his devotion to higher duty in a quite perilous degree. Men who cannot steel themselves against such allurements are not fit for the work of God. Jesus is a very exigent Master. What portrait of ourselves do we recognise in these three disciples!—Dykes.
Enthusiasm, Reluctance, Compromise. Three Types of Character.
I. Enthusiasm repressed.—The prayer is not welcomed. The disciple spoke unadvisedly, and was rebuffed by Christ’s answer. We must not diminish where Christ has spoken. This is His own description of the homelessness of His ministry. It is a parable. Unrest is the trial of trials to His people. To some the words come true literally, to all spiritually. Think of it ere thou speakest the “whithersoever.” Jesus meets enthusiam with warning. None shall come after Him by mistake or in misunderstanding.
II. Reluctance stimulated.—The direct opposite. Christ takes the initiative here; summons to instantaneous decision. We know not the reasons for this special peremptoriness; but He repels the disciple’s plea, and claims pre-eminence for the reign of God in man’s heart and life. Christ is jealous of earthly duties, even the most sacred. His mandate is stern and imperious.
III. Compromise rebuked.—A wonderfully composite character! He is a volunteer, but he stipulates; an enthusiast, but he procrastinates. His prayer is denied. Christ will not allow natural affection to divert from His service. What is there in your home, your heart, your life that cannot stay there with Jesus? Count the cost. Put the hand to the plough, and look not back!—Vaughan.
Three Types of Character.—Each of the three sayings of Christ brought together in this place by Luke contains a distinct principle applicable to a particular type of character.
I. The word spoken to the scribe suggested to an inconsiderate enthusiast the lesson that one must count the cost before entering on the career of a disciple.
II. The second word is adapted to the case of a man thoroughly in earnest, but distracted by a conflict of duties, and virtually enunciates the principle that in all collisions between the duties we owe to the kingdom and those arising out of natural relations, the former must take precedence.
III. The third word meets the case of a divided heart.—The ploughman who looks back does not give his undivided attention to his task, and therefore fails to draw a straight furrow. The man who desired to bid farewell to his friends was hankering after home enjoyments, and the reply to his request taught the lesson that no one who is drawn two ways by his affections is fit for the service of the kingdom, because it demands the whole heart and mind. The very harshness and inexorableness of Christ’s sayings serve to show how exacting and inexorable is the demand of the kingdom for heroic devotion.—Bruce.
The Three Disciples.
I. The self-confident disciple.—His estimate of what Christ’s service required was far from complete.
II. The diffident disciple.—Finds himself in a dilemma which seems to warrant, if it does not necessitate, delay. Our Lord teaches that every duty, no matter how sacred or momentous, is subordinate to the primary one of following Him.
III. Offers like the first, but in general character resembles the second.—He is not constrained by any sense of duty. He does not appreciate the gravity of the moment, the pressing and august character of our Lord’s work. This is no time for saying farewells. Love dictates the sternness of our Lord’s words. He insists on wholehearted service.—Moinet.
Christ wants Followers—
I. Who have counted the cost.
II. Who are ready to follow Him at once.
III. Who will follow with an undivided heart.—W. Taylor.
Luke 9:57. The more eager the less prepared.—We must bear in mind that he was a scribe, who had been accustomed to a quiet and easy life, had enjoyed honour, and was ill-fitted to endure reproaches, poverty, persecutions, and the cross. He wishes, indeed, to follow Christ, but dreams of an easy and agreeable life, and of dwellings filled with every convenience; whereas the disciples of Christ must walk among thorns, and march to the cross amidst uninterrupted afflictions. The more eager he is, the less he is prepared. He seems as if he wished to fight in the shade and at ease, neither annoyed by sweat nor by dust, and beyond the reach of the weapons of war.—Calvin.
Luke 9:57-62. Three Would-be Followers.—Christ deals with three proposed followers:
(1) the ambitious self-seeker;
(2) the procrastinating time-server;
(3) the hesitating and half-hearted compromiser.
Luke 9:57-58. An enthusiastic disciple checked.
Luke 9:59-60. A laggard disciple stimulated.
Luke 9:61-62. An irresolute disciple summoned to choose between the world and God.
Three Impediments.—The three impediments are:
(1) earthly desire;
(2) earthly sorrow;
(3) earthly affection.
Luke 9:60. “Go thou and preach.”—Jesus forbade him to go, in order to show that nothing, not even the most important work of natural duty and affection, is so momentous as care for the kingdom of heaven, and that nothing, however urgent, should cause us to be guilty of a moment’s delay in providing first for that.—Chrysostom.
Luke 9:62. The True Follower.—The true motive to follow Jesus must absorb every other.
“Plough.”—An intimation that the ministerial life is like that of a tiller of the ground (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9). The Christian minister is a feeder of sheep, a dresser of a vineyard, a masterbuilder, a watchman; all these names imply duties requiring diligence, vigilance, and toil.—Wordsworth.
Reluctance for the Work.—Our Lord knew quite well that if he went away he would not come back again; it was not so much love for those at home as reluctance for the work that was in his mind.